Day 101. 113 pages, 48,345 words.
“I don’t know how much I can really tell you,” Predericon admitted. “I don’t remember very clearly and a lot of it was extremely abstract. No Voidsnakes or giant Flesh-Eaters or traumatic encounters with sentient darkness,” she realised this might sound inadvertently mocking or at the very least insensitively flippant, so she added, “obviously something has been done to me – but if it was traumatic, it was the sort of trauma I was fortunate enough to forget.”
“Just you and the Bookwyrm,” Gyden said. “I’m not sure I envy you.”
“I spent most of the time completely immersed in the archive,” Predericon said. “I honestly don’t remember much about running out of food and starving. And anything I do remember, I can’t really depend upon. I’m obviously a victim of perceptual overwriting.”
She did her best, then, to explain her study of the archives’ theria, and the network of flaws she had found, and the emergent archive-behind-the-archive it had begun to define. Before she’d even begun to describe it, she saw the polite non-comprehension on her friend’s face and realised she wasn’t getting through.
“I didn’t notice any flaws in the data,” Gyden admitted, “let alone an underlying pattern.”
“It all seemed so clear when I was inside the light,” Predericon sighed. “I was so certain when I came through.”
“Certain of what?”
Predericon frowned. “I don’t remember that either,” she said, troubled. “But the deeper into the light I went, the more it all seemed to make sense. And at the end, that was when I jumped through.”
“Alright,” Gyden said, “then can you tell me this: did your deeper understanding of the secret message in the archive’s errors coincide with the Bookwyrm starting to feed you its flesh?”
Predericon frowned again, in distaste this time. And annoyance – the very mention of the food had made her aware of the cakes in the bag by her side. She could smell them, sweet and enticing. She craved them, suddenly and sharply.
She focussed. “No,” she said, then paused, “…and yes. I began to see the flaws, and I remember still being dazed with hunger at that point. And sometime after that the Bookwyrm ‘figured out’ the whole mystery of us needing food, and how to sustain me.”
“Pretty basic information, isn’t it though,” Gyden said. “Organisms need food?”
“Yes,” Predericon said. “It never really registered that it was strange for the Bookwyrm not to know. Not to be able to feed us, sure – there was nothing there to make food with.”
“Until there was.”
“Until there was,” Predericon said. “After that, I had the strength to keep looking.”
“And looking deeper,” Gyden smiled and shook her head. “It’s somehow perfectly you,” she said. “The Bookwyrm picked its subject well. You always immersed yourself in problems rather than stepping back from them. Like that sculpture in your cabin.”
“You knew about that?”
Gyden shrugged. “I saw you in there a few times. Staring into nothingness, your brain working so hard I could have fried gadnisk on the top of your head. I find it very easy to believe that you did the same with the archives.”
“And the more sense of it I made, the deeper I progressed,” Predericon said, “and the more fully the Bookwyrm’s sustenance, its substance, was infusing me. Until finally I figured it out, and dropped through to this Segment.”
“It wasn’t a secret archive-behind-an-archive you were unpicking,” Gyden said. “It was the Destarion’s inter-Segment security measures as regarded the Bookwyrm’s essence.”
“Supposition,” Predericon instinctively said, then grudgingly added, “but compelling supposition. I am here, after all, with a pack full of … Bookwyrm matter.”
Gyden nodded. “Well, I don’t suppose there’s much we can do about it,” she said, “except gather more data. But if you start feeling like maybe you’re on the verge of figuring this Segment out, maybe think twice about what you’re trying to achieve – and for whom.”
“You watch me, and I’ll watch you,” Predericon smiled.
“Agreed,” for a moment it looked as though Gyden was going to lean forwards and extend a hand to shake, but then she thought better of it and curled a little tighter. Her ears dipped in embarrassment, but the look she gave Predericon was unapologetic.
Predericon nodded acceptance. Watch. From a safe disconnect. Just in case I really am contaminated.
“Agreed,” she echoed sadly.
– Posted from my Huawei mobile phone while waiting for the bus.