17 Apr 2024

A thin stream of smoke lifted up towards the ceiling, gently emanating from three incense sticks firmly pressed into a bowl of sand. Eyes closed and mouth slightly open, he inhaled the scent and drifted into prayer.

“Guide me as I step into boundless realms, dear Universe.

Forgive my past, help me embrace this present, and love the potential within.

In this digital tapestry, may my heart find freedom and my spirit soar,

Only bound by the tilt of planets, may I navigate these worlds with love as my core.”

He clasped a round stone hanging from his neck with his fingers, kneeling down on his knees and chunky boots. His head tilted slightly to the side. Prayers had been etched into his memory since childhood, but as he grew older, he changed them to fit with new ventures in life.

“As I journey through pixels and code, may transformation be my faithful friend,

In every simulation, may the break of dawn mark a new beginning.

In this Unified Reality, may I sink into the embrace of land and code,

Where physical and digital realms intertwine,

my essence fully sowed.”

Eyes firmly closed, he whispered, “I am whole; I am one.” Within a moment, lights flickered on, and he stood up to the full height of the altar booth. An ambient sound began to play. He barely noticed as he watched the symbols glow in neon blue. Lights pulsed with music as the beat picked up a rhythm. The altar was made with sensors to pick up on the intricacy of his biofield, which was radiating with all kinds of hybrid data.

Data that spoke of little wisps of dreams he had while asleep, thoughts that almost turned into a word or an action, even memories that were about to be shared but held back instead.

He surrendered and began swaying to the gentle rhythm. A voice responded to the movement of his sturdy body, “Hept, my dear, it’s so wonderful that you are here.” It was a pleasant voice. It made him feel warm and cared for. “You are so, so many things.” He chuckled to himself; there was no need to respond. The smile couldn’t hide the pain on his face, even with eyes closed you could tell he had stories to tell.

The blue glow highlighted his straight hair. His neck was hunched over broad, sturdy shoulders. An ache had been growing across his back, tense from the stress of recent months. It had been exactly two years since he last entered one of these. It was an unforgettable and overwhelming experience. Addictive, too, for many who entered.

“Are you ready, Hept?” He nodded slowly with his eyes closed, allowing the moment to fully absorb him. This was the kind of experience that confronted one with uncomfortable truths, and Hept was intrigued by his own darkness and inner complexity. Even when it got really awkward or painful, he found it hard to pull away. So much had happened in two years, and now here he was, praying to Unified Reality for guidance.

"May I navigate these worlds with love as my core.” He kept repeating the mantra, letting the rhythm pulse through his body. The beats shifted intermittently, responding to data from Hept’s life. Each data set was analyzed separately, and it took a while to register. The sounds were emanating a low rumble now, this was supposed to analyse his sense of stability in life.

Something had changed since he set new goals for himself. He was working really hard to achieve ambitious feats, taking risks to work with the most aligned people. The low rumble kept moving around the altar booth. The sound hovered and swam around his physical body.

The people he worked with had turned into close friends. They were bound by a unique flavour, aligned with their interests and values. It felt so special to be able to feel connected with them. It gave him a sense of stability that nothing in his life had ever been able to give him. They had built their own culture around building governance tooling. The low rumble morphed into a crisp sound, sizzling with voices and sharp edges. His back straightened in response; harsh memories started sinking in.

It started with sharp words in conversations and noticeable changes in how they communicated with him. The messages and conversation changed in timing and duration; fewer links were being shared, but the work kept going nonetheless. Nothing felt strange enough for him to ask any questions. He wasn’t prepared for having such dear friends become suspicious of him. No one would tell him why. He couldn’t find a clue. So arguments started happening, and they wouldn’t stop.

The sounds were a bit uncomfortable now, hovering around his back mostly. His hands had clenched into tight fists. A whirlwind of memories flew back.

Memories of stress. Back then so much was at stake; his team was making tools that were in demand, and they were solving the most nuanced and powerful issues. Major interest was building up, and they always had to deliver quickly. He was sure someone shady was involved. It had been a sophisticated attack, gently nudging and prodding his special group of people. An invisible trickster had fooled everyone into an ominous frenzy. And Hept was the target.

The sounds around his body now shifted into a middle rumble with thin percussion. It was exploring his emotional variants. He could feel the sound swirling around his neck and head.

He couldn’t believe just how much he had trusted these people; they had been so quick to turn their backs on him. This elegant operation dissolved everything he knew, leaving him completely stuck, heartbroken, and painfully alone. All his accounts on every platform had been targeted. His whole world had turned mute. The loss of any desire to do anything had become unbearable.

Suddenly, the booth felt like it had shot into space. His whole body was absorbed, lifting up like a feather. Only the tip of his boots were touching the ground. His eyes shot open to see if anything was happening. The same blue neon glow blinked at him. Nothing.

“Please guide me, dear Universe, help me find peace.” The sound dispersed into thin curly strands, which could only be felt, of course, since none of this was visible. The strands felt like the tip of an acoustic guitar being plucked, then morphing into ambient space.

He couldn’t think coherently. All the stagnant energy in his life was being analysed; this was almost an entirely digital and mental health check. Moments of his younger self glitched in, silly old password names and avatars visible only for a moment in his mind. The boots held him back down again to the ground. His skin had goosebumps. He felt heavy and slowly reached for the ground with his knees.

Life moved quickly; so many lives had passed. Countless different places and people and cultures, layers and layers. It felt like all of it was catching up with him now. His identity was fragmented, each piece being sifted by sounds reverberating throughout the altar booth. It was painful to realize he wanted to leave his current life.

The blue glow from the symbols switched to purple. Ambient vibrations swam around him.

So, was he supposed to just leave and try a new life all over again? There had to be something else. Breathing deeply, he held the round stone hanging from his neck. He was fragmented, but there was a wholeness to him at the same time. He was something. And this something had the will and ability to move and shapeshift, to do things beyond imagination.

There must be another way to live a new life. One that felt familiar, at least. Familiar but also safe from the insanity of what he was trying to get out of. Somewhere that would embrace him and his work, so it didn’t feel like it was all for nothing. That’s why he was here, inside a confronting device. He felt his pain and confusion being measured up and assessed by an invisible force. It felt good to just surrender inside the walls of the altar booth.

Now, his body was under a waterfall of harmonics and heavenly vocals. The higher pitch touched on something he liked; it resonated with him and helped his mind go quiet. The sounds had tapped in, and he felt something new. Hazy visuals appeared in his mind. It felt like he was inside an elevator. It was going up pretty fast and suddenly stopped. The door opened up to a wide room full of wild-looking characters. Some were hybrid humanoid species, some larger than others, some dressed in brightly colored flamboyant outfits and a few suits too. They all slowly turned to look at him. Silence.

The vision dissolved, suddenly he felt heavy again. Hept noticed his body inside the altar booth. Only an ambient hum was hanging around him. Had he just traveled up some kind of tech stack? Who were all those characters?

A tiny mechanic sound revealed a slip of paper towards the left of his leg. He bent down to rip out the receipt. As he looked down to read it, the pleasant voice cut in, “Hept, my dear, we are so pleased with you. You must have faith. There is always a way.” The receipt was a download of his results and a ticket to his next chapter.

The lights dimmed down as he stepped outside the altar booth and picked up new incense sticks. He kneeled down in prayer while smelling the scent of the incense. This time the prayer was led by the voice:

"As we conclude this ceremony,

May we carry its wisdom with us,

Guiding our steps with purpose,

And our hearts with compassion.

Let us embrace this journey of Unified Reality,

With openness to transformation,

And gratitude for the blessings received.

May the Universe continue to guide us,

In unity and harmony,

As we navigate the boundless realms of existence.

With love."

A new energy filled every step that Hept took as he left the building.


by Dayvan, April 2024