You stay in the pocket dimension that you have created for yourself. Finally, you are free. Completely. You are yourself unfettered and you can go back to your own world, or explore the potential inhabitants of your realm. \n\nYou could even *make* inhabitants here should you want to. \n\nAnd the mark you saw a lifetime ago is only the first ink-blot, the first spot in the letter of the word of the sentence of the paragraph and page and book and series that you have always been and will be. \n\nNow, at this point, you finally realize that you refract yourself. \n\nA face sometimes comes to you in your eternal dreams, but it is hard to focus on just that one for so long. It is just a flit of a moment: of eternity. It is gone and you are left free to create and exist on your own whim. \n\nFinally, after countless millennia, you have finally gained a room of one's own. \n\nTHE END
You pause for a few moments. There is something that has been bothering you for a while. \n\n"Thelma Len," you address her. \n\nShe already saw you looking at her. Even without her eyes directly on you, she had always seen you. \n\n"Agent Red," she nods, "what have you decided?"\n\nDo you still [[choose]] to make another choice? Or are you going to go through with this.\n\nAll right. There is no turning back now. \n\nSo [[you tell her the truth]].
"You're remembering now, aren't you."\n\n"Yes," you tell Thelma Len, "Black Orchid."\n\n"Heh," she licks her lips and you can't tell whether it's because she's nervous or because she hasn't had her cigarette yet, "I spoiled you with those comics."\n\nShe's giving you her undivided attention now. Her eyes are always so dark. It's as though instead of refraction, Thelma Len's eyes contain her shadows, "It was necessary though."\n\n"Is this important somehow?" you ask her, getting to the point of the matter.\n\nShe smiles at you, "It's a Ghost Orchid you should be thinking about. Do you remember?"\n\nAnd you do. \n\n"The Ghost Orchid," you say, a small smile working at your lips, "When distilled, it's said to cause immense [[fascination]]."
You draw out your firearm and begin shooting the thing in front of you. You keep shooting it. Even as you do, even before you do, you already know that it is completely ineffectual. \n\nThe energies are absorbed by the creature. It is refracting all of itself onto you and you can barely narrow your own sense of feeling. \n\nJust as it becomes too much, someone pushes you out of the way. You realize that Thelma Len has been standing next to you this entire time. She is shooting the creature, while pushing you back. \n\nEventually, your firearms run out of ammunition. \n\nYou are both backed into a corner now. You have not ever truly used your refracting abilities. You were never trained to that extent. That said, the growing rift that eats the edges of reality seems to be illuminating everything. It seems easier somehow now. You can do something: perhaps raw and unstable. But something. Do you:\n\n[[Attack with your power]]\n\n[[Defend]]
You brace yourself and gather the energy around you, into you, and attempt to become a part of this. To survive and regroup. You feel another presence at your side and you feel Thelma Len. \n\nThe two of you stand against the massive bulk of the rift-being even as it flows over you like a tide. You are consumed with memories from the multiverse. \n\nAnd then, your refractions combine. And you are successful. You have joined with the being. \n\nThe only problem is that you succeeded far too well.\n\nThe last thing you know, before you are both completely consumed by the being that will take this world and everything in it is that you, the both of you and your fleeting sense of selves are still holding hands ... even as you become a part of something more.\n\nTHE END
You are Agent Red. You know the score: about what the world's become, the botched attempts to repair the damage, and the efforts that, even now, seem to already prolong the inevitable. But you had only heard about the spiral rift coming into existence not even a day ago, though you know that your organization has been aiming for something like this for ages.\n\nAnd Thelma Len has been guiding you the entire way. While the others have been content to teach you discipline, focus, firearms, self-defense, meditation and science they did not see it fit to teach you how to expand your mind: to do anything other than [[the basics of refraction]].
The being is immeasurable. You can't ... you simply can't fight, never mind damage or kill this being. It is too much. \n\nAnd as you look at it, at the luminiosity that makes up its existence you see it melding into this reality and refracting off of you. You see everyone and everything you have known and will ever know in its depth.\n\nYou see hormonal lust and frenzy and burbling orgasm. But you also see something else. Its tendrils are like quantum strings and DNA. \n\nAnd that is when you understand. \n\nAs it enters the place it left ages ago, this world, you see a savage beauty return to everything. It is so red and vital. Your sense of you breaks down and the membranes separating you begin to fray. \n\nThen you see someone, Thelma Len, running in front of you and become consumed: and you're not sure whether she did it to save you or if the agony of anticipation in reuniting with your mother is too much. \n\nIn the end, it doesn't matter as you fully rejoin the joy of your maker and continue on to restore the world into a harmony of gentle, writhing chaos and creation. \n\nTHE END
[[The Looking Glass]]
Of course, that isn't completely [[true]].
The rift is growing. It is growing very fast. \n\n"Red!"\n\nYou don't need Thelma Len to show you what you are already sensing: what you are already seeing. A massive ... something is coming through the rift. The wall is bruising and expanding. \n\nYou ... can't even identify what it is. It is eternity meeting the finite. Something ancient becoming new and sloughing layers of reality like old skin. Its tendrils are different variants of the past and future and could have beens and never weres. \n\nIt makes a sound. You don't even know what to call that. It has a resonance that evokes horror and longing. \n\n[[You must fight this thing]]\n\n[[It is too much]]\n
And she does. You both do. The rift has saturated the area and you see the refracting nature of everything around you. You see the dissonance between the various structures of the world. Everything is in constant flux intermixed with unmovable, inflexible objects. \n\nSome of these are constants, but others are stagnant. \n\n"This has problems," you say, "but we don't need to destroy it. We'd be no better if we did. And we definitely don't have to leave it. This is just as much our place as it is anyone else's."\n\nAnd then you look at each other. With the light of the rift flowing through both of you, you see each other. She sees your dedication and willingness to learn. She sees the new core of you now. Perhaps you did see something in the middle of that spiral afterall. And you see her wryness, and sarcasm. Her knowledge and her love of philosophy and poetry and literature and life. \n\nYour parts, as they are in the purest metaphorical sense, are different but similar. You regard each other in this whole new light. \n\n"Neither of us is greater," you say.\n\n"And neither of us is less," Thelma Len smiles at you, "[[My Ghost]]."
The rift leaves some strange after-images in behind your eye-sockets. It is changing you: this long and voyeuristic fascination with a melted part of reality. It is like it's wet and pulsating ... slippery. Your thoughts can't completely stay on it. \n\n[[You find yourself looking away at Thelma Len]]\n\n[[You want to look away from the rift at anything else]]\n\n[[You gather your willpower and keep looking into the rift]]
I wrote this story for the 2014 Global Game Jam. The Jam theme was "We don't see things as they are. We see things as we are."\n\nI would like to thank Anna Anthropy for having indirectly introduced me to Twine through her Rise of the Video Game Zinesters as well as prismgasm, Christine Love and the Gaming Pixie for being so instrumental in showing me how to tell this type of story. I would also like to thank madamluna for the Twitter comment that inspired this Twine and allowed the ideas I had to form around it. \n\nAnd I thank the rest of you. I believe you know [[who you are]].
"It's twice as life," you hear in your mind, "and twice as natural."\n\nAnd you are refracting the rippling membrane and the still totality of the multiverse and existence. The power and joy flows into you. You expand through the cosmos and the cosmos, the space around you, becomes your own. \n\nAnd you understand. You are so much larger now than you were, but distant from whence you came. It occurs to you that you were so small and so cramped. But here, you are everything you can ever be. And, if you want, you can still affect that other world, even if there is so much to explore here in your domain. \n\nDo you stay in [[your new realm]]?\n\nOr does something still keen inside of you? Do you listen to [[the call]]?
You have had it. \n\nYour eyes narrow as the thing lumbers towards you. Before it can swallow you, you look at Thelma Len and then back at it. \n\nYou are not going to let this happen. \n\nYou feel the raw energy of the rift course into you, through you and the creature. White hot fury erupts through you as *impose* your refraction on the creature. It is a focused attention born from a lifetime and training of pure and utter fascination turned now into the obsession towards one goal.\n\nDeath.\n\nThe sound of longing and horror pierces through you again, but it only makes you refract more fiercely. You impose the idea that its segments do not exist. And its membranes and organs are rupturing. You even burn through its mind.\n\nThe creature roars in agony and writhes around violently. And then, it begins to grow still. And as you crush its heart, you sense something else, you ...\n\nIt reaches out to you. It reaches out as you bask in the power of its destruction and you feel nothing but sadness.\n\nIt just wanted to be reunited. \n\n"My Ghost."\n\nYou stand there, over the ruins of the creature that the rift gave birth to. Of the being that helped give birth to the rift and to everything here. To you. You realize, distantly, that the principle of Deism that Thelma Len told you about long ago: of a deity not interfering with their creation upon serious consequences might be true. \n\nAnd now you wonder, as you feel a vital part of you gone, as Thelma holds you feeling just as eerily bereft, as everyone else must also be, if the same can be said for creations that violate their own maker.\n\nTHE END
She reaches forward and strokes your hair. It is the first time she has ever done this and it feels like she did this, that you both did this just yesterday. \n\n"My Ghost," she says huskily, "you are a good woman." \n\nThelma Len acknowledged you as a woman. You try the word with your mind. It makes you sound powerful: something that *is* and should be. It sounds like something that is adult and mature. It shimmers in you like a wind-swept core of self-agency and will. \n\nBut more than that, you feel like a person that someone like Thelma Len is proud to know, and you are especially [[proud to be]].
It all began from a mark on [[the wall]].
"Yes, Agent Red, my Ghost." \n\nYou both smile, knowing that this was just an excuse for her to use her nickname for you, another small bit of affection in the midst of all the training you've undergone. But, just like that, her face immediately turns serious.\n\n"And this is why you've been chosen. You were always a really serious student, able to focus on one task at a time. That's we taught you to refract the world into you, as opposed to something outside. \n\n"We have the rift now. But we have to be careful."\n\n"'The Snow Queen,'" you remind her, now understanding, "You tried this before."\n\n"The more things that looked into the mirror, the more the mirror laughed and broke. And its very fragments can turn someone's eyes and heart dark. Just as another can turn a person into ice. \n\n"You are no spiritual figure, Agent Red. No chosen one. But we can't risk a large number of us doing anything with our spiral rift, in case the bloody thing becomes unstable, and we can't risk doing nothing, or something else might come through. You have to [[choose]]."
And there it is. In a world where the power of choice always existed, but has always been limited and whose limits grow stronger still, they are making you choose.\n\nWhether it is indeed your skills, or your attitude, or your relative youth, or even the fact that you weren't directly involved in this slowly revolving spiral in front of you doesn't really matter. \n\nNeither do the potential risks and dangers. You have your choice now. What will you do, Agent Red?\n\n[[Go through the rift]]\n\n[[Stare at the rift and do not go through]]\n\n[[Talk to Thelma Len]]
The Looking Glass
And you look around at her, and at everything and you realize that none of this a totality of a frozen mirror or the ripples across a raging sea. \n\nYou are in a variety of different forms and lights. You are in a reality of variety and change. You are Alice in the Kaleidoscope. \n\n"They will come after us, you know," Thelma Len says in a soft voice, "Those who won't agree."\n\n"Let them," you tell her with that new core of strength, "we will make them chase us."\n\n"We'll be running our entire fucking lives," she says to you, about to reach for the cigarettes in her front pocket.\n\nYou stop her with one gentle hand on hers, "Yes," you say to her and you are inches away from each other, "You won't need those anymore. We will get 'candy' back instead, and so much more."\n\n"Well, I guess the running will be healthier, and faster," she says, breathing softly onto your face, her lips glistening with the hint of a smirk, "either way, it certainly won't be boring, my Ghost."\n\n"I agree," you tell her, "No more games."\n\nA slow, genuine grin breaks on Thelma Len's face, "Nevermore." \n\nAnd as you close the space between your faces, the rift on the wall shrinks into a tear, into a mark, and finally into a spot that is neither womb nor tomb but rather another room of your very own. \n\nTHE END
It was supposed to be your way out, but the glimmering surface seems to be turning in on itself while, at the same time, it is expanding outwards. \n\n"This was [[the Bechdel Experiment]]."
There is no light emanating from you or coming into you. It continues to do so in everything else around you in imperfect ways, weakening and corrupting everything with lies. They didn't teach you to even begin to defend against refractive capacity like this. No, you have no light to refract now. Not anymore. \n\nYou look at Thelma Len. \n\n"I have to guard the rift, Thelma Len," you say coldly, without any emotion. You know why she was so cautious to have you here. But it is too late now. Even your fear and disgust, your hate, is gone now, leaving only purpose, "It is the only thing left for me to do."\n\n"Oh my Ghost."\n\nAs she holds you, you do nothing to dissuade or encourage her. Perhaps she hopes, like in 'The Snow Queen,' a girl's tears will thaw the infinity of reality from her heart.\n\nIf so, deep down you know that she hopes in vain.\n\nTHE END
It is too much. It is tempting too much with feelings that you can't understand. It is shining into you and your very sense of being can't tolerate it. \n\nYou look away just once.\n\nAnd then [[you sense something]].
She stands back and gives you your space. You breathe out. You want to turn around and say goodbye, or hear your commander call you her Ghost again, but you remember that you made a promise.\n\nYou have a job to do. \n\nAs you approach the rift, it seems much, much larger now. It is almost the size of your entire body. And as you gaze closer, you see that it is full of stars. \n\nAnd then it envelops you. \n\nYou feel cold and warm. Somehow you are falling and flying at the same time. It is a flurry of different places, eddies and whorls. There are so many chambers. So many corridors in this massive primordial everything. There is all of space and time and you absorb it. And then you understand. You know what you need to do. \n\nYou realize that you can still [[go back]] before the cold-warmth completely envelops you and you are nothing but crackling fire in the cool velvet of totality. \n\nBut you can't. You've gone too far now. Now, you are too deep. And going deeper. [[Deeper]].\n\n\n\n
"So," she says, "you know."\n\n"Yes."\n\n"I see," she pauses, "Then you also know that I can order you to go through the rift."\n\n"You could," you tell her, "Of course, you already determined most of my life here, shaping me into a weapon. Into your tool. But I'm better than that. And you know what? You are better than that too. \n\n"You didn't look into the Mirror of Reason. You still have your heart." \n\nThelma Len looks away. You keep at it before you lose your nerve.\n\n"I've seen you hesitate. You could have easily used the rift yourself or one of the others. But you didn't. The fact that there would be more than one person, one will involved, is irrelevant," she doesn't trust them or their focus is the unspoken implication that you don't put into words, "And even when you were training me, you were hesitant. And I know."\n\n"You know?"\n\n"Yes," you look right into her eyes, "Look around us."\n\n"Red ..."\n\n"[[Look around]]."
You don't move. For all the potential of going through the rift, you know that there are potentially serious consequences in doing so. After all, you could be incinerated in there or devoured. You could forget why you went in there to begin with. \n\nNo, it is too risky and so you stare at the rift. You can sense Thelma Len looking at you intently. From long experience with the other woman, you can tell that she is emanating some strong and very mixed feelings. \n\nYou eventually begin to [[blink]].
And as that elusive something slips into your hands, metaphorical or not, you leap away from this place of stars and the cosmos and find yourself back.\n\nYou are back in the room. You don't even have to look behind you to know that the rift is still there. Thelma Len is standing there. She was waiting for you. \n\nHer face twitches and a few expressions play on it: as rippling and varied as your time in the rift proved to be. Then her face grows still, but her eyes are smooth pools. You walk up to her. You blink and a smile, a slow easy smile comes to your lips. You understand what you have to do. You speak to her.\n\n"I understand," you tell her, "It was like looking at a rear-view mirror and seeing something far away, but close. Or maybe," you reconsider, "it was like a magnifying glass and my own time dilation, my own perspective, kept me from seeing what is hiding right in front of us. \n\n"I'll show you. I'll show all of what I know," you tell her, taking her arms in your hands, "And I'll show you how to make the word 'candy' belong to us once again."\n\nTHE END
Not like the others. Not like the ones who made this rift. You were different. You watched the world, sometimes acting but mostly observing. You took the world in as you forged the lens of yourself and 'refracted' it. \n\nIt was Thelma Len, which you suspect isn't so much a name of the blood but rather the heart, who taught you those basics: to take your sense of self and take it inside of you. It is a balance. \n\n"Remember 'Black Orchid,'" she told you, long ago now. In addition to philosophy, literature, and poetry she also snuck in a few comics classics for good measure, "remember how though she is more than capable of using violence, she decided to explore instead: to find out what and who she is now. Without her participation in the dynamics of that violence, her enemies either destroyed themselves, or forgot her, or forgot her in the way that they wanted to destroy her. Whatever the case, it allowed her to be free from their expectations. She was free in that brief story arc.\n\n"[[Free to choose]]."
"It's a spiral pattern," she tells you, "Think of the circular structure of Virginia Woolf's 'Mark on the Wall' or if you're a sci-fi buff," the corner of her mouth creases with a smirk, "Élisabeth Vonarburg's 'Chambered Nautilus.'\n\nShe turns around and you recognize the familiar Classical balance and symmetry of the high-cheeked face that belongs to Thelma Len: your commander. The black raven tattooed on her left cheek, its wing enveloping the space over her eyebrow, stares out at you from the writing desk of the mind behind her skin. \n\n"We had much more cause to attempt this before, but our world ... well, I don't have to tell you how bad it is. It's bad. Freedom, which we had tentative little of to begin with, almost doesn't exist. \n\n"I mean, for fuck's sake," she says, "We can't even speak freely anymore. We knew, the moment companies could actually own words like 'candy,'" she spits out with disgust, "we knew this wasn't a world we wanted to live in anymore."\n\n"And here we are, [[Agent Red]]."
This arrangement isn't new. Rather, it's a form that has been around forever and timeless. A reflective surface, [[a rift into eternity]].
You won't fail that easily. \n\nYou must be vigilant.\n\nYou think that you hear something, but you can't relax your guard. \n\nNo. Now is not the time for distractions. You keep staring. \n\n"Agent Red."\n\nThe rift is shifting and pulsating. It is very fascinating.\n\n"Agent Red."\n\nA drop of cold sweat runs down your back. Your hands are clammy. They close around your firearm. Not on your watch. Not now. Not ever. \n\n"Red."\n\nYou begin to see the rift as a true source of power and beauty. Compared to it, Thelma Len is right. Everything is corrupt and disgusting. Imperfect. You might have heard your name again, but you are intent now. You understand. No one can enter that rift. And nothing can come out of it. There is nothing good it can do for this world and this world didn't deserve it even if it did. \n\n"[[Ghost]]."
"I'm going through," you tell your commander.\n\n"I see," she looks at you and blinks once, "Are you sure? You can still [[choose]]." \n\n"No," you say to her, "This world needs to change or we need to leave it. It's too dangerous to leave it like this and we can't waste this opportunity." \n\n"I understand," perhaps you see a small, almost imperceptable twitch under her eye, the one on the side of her face with the raven tattoo, "Thank you, Agent Red."\n\n"Commander ..."\n\n"Please, it's Thelma Lem. We're past that now," she turns away from you, "Do one thing if you can."\n\n"Yes?" you ask.\n\nShe still doesn't look at you, "[[Come back]]." \n
"I don't think we need the rift," you tell her.\n\n"Pardon?" Thelma Len blinks. This may be the first time you have ever seen her taken aback.\n\n"We don't need the rift," you say, standing your ground.\n\n"Agent Red," she says, crisply, "you still have to [[choose]]."\n\n"And I already have," if you had doubts before, they are gone now."\n\n"The hell you have! Agent Red, you will--"\n\n"No, Thelma Len," you tell her, "I thought about it and I've realized that we do not need this."\n\nThelma Len brushes back a strand of indigo hair from the raven tattooed part of her face, "You need to stop playing around. The organization expects--"\n\n"No, you are the leader of the organization," you say, and her lack of response confirms it. [[The two of you look at each other]].
You look at Thelma Len. You look at the woman who has taught you so many things: for many years. And you see yourself, in her eyes, as you earned being Agent Red.\n\nBecoming her Ghost.\n\nYou always fulfilled her tasks with neither resentment nor complaint. You always wanted to make her happy. Make her proud of you. You want the others to be proud of her and see you as an accomplishment of hers. You want to spend the rest of your life with her.\n\nYou feel yourself refracting her memories and feelings. You walk towards her. There are a combination of different emotions in her ... your eyes. Hope, sadness, disappointment, protectiveness and more. \n\nYou come up to her and kneel. You kneel and you place your cheek against her belly. \n\n"My teacher," you say to her, to yourself, "You made me everything I am. Thank you. My teacher," you say again, "My teacher. Mine."\n\n"My Ghost," you feel her hand stroking your hair, "My beautiful Ghost."\n\nFor the last few moments, you can finally name that last deeper emotion from Thelma Len. It is resignation. And then, you feel nothing at all. Nothing but her. \n\nYour mirror. Her own. \n\nTHE END
Subatomic particles, like grains of sand exposed to intense levels of radiation, melted together to form a whole [[new shape]].
You keep moving. Every part of yourself strains against the continued momentum of your exit from ascension. \n\nAnd a bit of you sheds away. \n\nWhy are you here?\n\nAnd a little more. \n\nWhat is your name?\n\nAnd a little more.\n\nYou remember something about a Ghost and then ... consciousness reverberates, expands and fills everything, is consumed by everything and spreads out throughout existence. And the you, you, you, you of you is the last layer, the shell ...\n\nWhat is a name?\n\nAnd then there is nothing else. \n\nThere is nothing else but everything.\n\nTHE END\n\n
\n"This land like a mirror turns you inward."\n\t\t-- Gwendolyn MacEwen, "Dark Pines Underwater" \n\n"Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman."\n\t\t-- Virginia Woolf, [[A Room of One's Own]]
You see a short, pale woman standing at your side. She wears the same firm, crisp black uniform as per regulation: though one rank higher than your grey one. Her hair is long and even darker than her clothing, save for one long Phoenician indigo streak breaking the shadow of her.\n\nShe cuts an elegant side profile. Even though she's looking at the rift, you know that she is somehow examining you deeply. \n\n"We realized that we spent too much of our power making others stronger," she explains, "we made ourselves reflections of them. But then we learned that we could take that aspect and channel it into each other. [[Into this]]."