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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

The Book of Ataniel

The Soul Cages

“Hello!” Jack called, drifting in a vast sea of nothingness. “Helloooooo--oooooooo!”

“So what you’re saying,” Ebreth said, “is this place is some kind of manifestation of my soul.”

“That’s right, pet.” Brett fluffed her hair. “That doesn’t mean you control it, quite, but it doesn’t control you the way Ataniel does either. You have more freedom here, in a way, but also more rope to hang yourself with. Time, logic, physics; these things are only as important here as you perceive them to be.”

“So I could stop time and dodge out of the way of bullets in midair, that sort of thing?”

She gave him a droll look. “You are the witty one, now, aren’t you, Tor?”

“You know, I probably should have waited for Khyrisse and Val,” Jack mused, squinting around at the dark and empty universe.

“What about Brett?” Ebreth asked. “Are you manifested from her soul or something?”

She shook her light head. “Brett Astra has returned to the mortal world... if you’re perceiving me this way it’s because that’s easier for your mind to handle. And if I’m wearing a short skirt that would be because you like short skirts. Do try and leave me wearing something during the rest of this, won’t you? The naked-spirit-guide thing is such a tiresome cliché.”

Ebreth tried very hard not to think about Brett naked. It was sort of like trying not to think about white elephants. Ebreth wasn’t sure he liked being in a place where you could literally undress people with your thoughts; being slapped by a destiny didn’t seem like it could be good for your spiritual health. He settled on trying to think about Brett wearing a red dress, and when he had gathered the nerve to look back up, to his relief, she was.

“Very good,” Brett said. “Why don’t you try it out on yourself now. Might as well decide your ultimate fate in something other than your bath-robe, don’t you think?”

Jack floated forwards.

“This is kind of reminding me of something,” he said into nowhere, “but I can’t put my finger on it.”

Jack floated backwards.

Ebreth concentrated, and then he was wearing pants and a loose-sleeved shirt. “Will you look at that,” he said, impressed. One boot, the other boot, and his blue cloak. “This place has the Holosuite beat six ways to Sunday.”

Brett laughed and shook her head bemusedly.

“All right, how about a cup of coffee. Black.” He held out his hand and concentrated. The floor rippled, and then a huge scaly head lifted itself from out of the carpet like a surfacing orca whale, and then a huge scaly neck, and huge scaly feet, and then the rest of the dragon. Ebreth stared up at it for a couple of unbelieving seconds, and it stared back, looking almost equally bewildered. Then it breathed fire at him, and he barely dived out of the way. “That is not a cup of coffee!” Ebreth screamed at Brett, over the crackling roar of the flames shooting off down the hallway.

“Oh well,” Jack said to the resounding emptiness of space, “I guess it could always be worse.”

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'Does the moon look bigger to you tonight?'

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