The first time he reaches you, it just feels like a new piece of your mutant thinkpan growing in. You are five sweeps and a bit. Your voice is cracking and your bulge is acting up and everything about your first round of puberty is hitting you like a sledgehammer. There are days when you can't sleep at all, and days when you can't wake up. Your horns are sore; your migraines have gotten a special effects budget; and you spend some otherwise perfectly good days locked in the apartment because you keep letting off unintentional optic blasts and you don't want to scorch anyone.
So nothing actually surprises you right now.
But this comes close. It's weirder, and it's disquieting, and something about it feels not quite natural. Even though it also feels like you and your brain. You're really not sure what to do about that.
The first time, you just dream of strange stars.
You’re lying on your back, floating in water that is so close to the temperature of your warmblood body that you can barely feel it against your skin, kicking in long measured strokes to propel yourself downriver. Stars rise at the top of your vision and arc lazily down to the bottom, constellation after constellation, galaxy after galaxy, and you wake with an effortless sense of great distance and deep calm that stays with you half the night.
Perigees pass before you’re willing to question it, to investigate what the hell that was all about, and by that time, things have gotten entirely out of hand.
This is Aradia Megido:
She is small and ruddy and you can barely remember a time when you didn't know her. You wonder sometimes if you helped each other out of the caverns as grubs. As kids, you found each other on Trollian, but it seems like you knew each other before that somehow.
All you know is that AA comes over sometimes, when you've been in hiding long enough to disappear from the face of Alternia, and you don't send her away. She's good; you're not sure about anything right now, but she's rough-and-tumble, she hugs you and strifes with you casually and you're pretty sure you won't hurt her by accident. So she's allowed the high privilege of digging you out of yourself.
She brings you to abandoned places where you can run around and relax and blow off steam. It's in one of those spots, a high cliffside built up with abandoned hives, where she tells you under the bright moon about the people who lived here and how they died.
"How do you know all this?"
"They're telling me," she says. "Right now."
The wind's stirred her hair into a wild cloud of black candyfloss and it looks adorably ridiculous, she looks like a shaggy potted shrub, short and stout with her two enormous curling horns sticking out like a trellis, and you would laugh but her words catch you up short. Your mouth hangs open and for a moment you don't breathe.
Not in the way like you're suffocating, but like everything goes so perfectly still that even your lungs don't want to move and startle away this strange sensation of someone understanding.
"You hear the dead?"
Your voice quavers and cracks. Smooth, Sollux, smooth. But right now you don't care.
"I... I sometimes do. But mostly I hear... the dying. The doomed. Premonitory. It's..."
"I know," she says, and she squeezes your hand, and the two of you sit there just feeling the cold wind and listening to things no one else can hear. You don't think you could stand if you tried, not for a while. It doesn't matter how she knows; it doesn't matter that she hears different voices than you do. The sheer not-aloneness is enough to make you stupidly pale for her.
She's not the most demonstrative person, and you haven't been sure how to read her, before. But if she already knew, she must have felt the same way all along. She knows you don't need a moirail who makes a big deal out of how you're feeling.
Just being in the room with your feelings is hard enough, sometimes, and with AA there it feels like it’s... okay to let everything wash over you, the voices and emotions and the stuff in your head you’re not supposed to know. Nothing is quieter, but it’s easier somehow, not having to brace against the possibility of reacting to something no one else sees or hears, not having to hide your tells, for a little while. A tension goes out of you that you hadn’t known was even there.
The night grows colder. You're not quite aware, until she says, "You're shivering."
You are. You don't want to admit that you're just grateful for the cold as an excuse, that as long as you don't go back to your hive and get a sweater you can just sit here burrowing into her jacket, into her warmth. If you were small and flat enough you could curl right up against her, become a living, breathing lining for her too-tall red jacket, and you're not quite that small and flat but you pretend you're not shivering and let her heat and the quiet of the night fill you.
And that is Aradia Megido.
The dream of stars is strange enough as a single, sole anomaly – enough that you don’t quite catch, at first, the similarities of the other disjointed reveries that link them together.
They sneak up on you, because they’re nothing like normal daymares. They’re so anomalous you don’t even know how to categorize them; far from anything you’ve ever been told about in schoolfeeding, and none of your searching on the dark net turns up an equivalent.
You dream repeatedly of pure numbers, calculations flaring through your 'pan like pinwheels, and it's the structure of your mind, only moving powers and multitudes faster, geometry of a thrown-apart hyperbolic space – whiteness, and silence, and the barest instant of vertigo, and then the click of shifting coordinates, nothing more.
Once you dream that you must tend a vast garden. Tier above tier, silent and vaulted in balmy motionless air, your charges grow on catwalks and scaffoldings, the roots of each plant dangling into the arbor below. You can name barely half of your crops: pumpkins, beans, corn, staples that can stretch to feed a lot of people and that you’ve only had canned, living in the city. But monitoring the pipes that feed them nutrient-laced water feels familiar enough, like watching the vitals of a computer. The problem is at the greenhouse’s center: a cluster of stunted-looking shrubs studded with tiny thorns and dull-green drying leaves. All the plant’s energy is being devoted to its flowers – matesprit-flowers they’re called, deep red complex swirls of petals. A troll bends over the matesprit-flower bushes, her figure invisible behind a floor-length cascade of hair, and as you watch the plant swells with life, the shine comes back into the leaves and new buds form…
When you wake, you realize that you’ve never seen a matesprit-flower before, it’s just something that KK mentioned in one of his interminable rants about romantic gestures.
That’s when you start searching in earnest, trying to identify what might be happening to you. A picture of a real matesprit-flower is easy enough, and it matches. But it’s possible that you saw it in a movie, and you start doubting your own mind.
The ones with the highbloods, you almost write off as normal daymares, at first.
A circle of barely half a dozen trolls cloaked in gray, screaming insults and flashing sickles, fend off a platoon of subjugglators and their brutal infantry for long cacophonous minutes while you stare in suspended animation - you cannot think of what it is you want to do, or why, amid the chaos and slaughter, as the cloaked insurrectionists are run through one by one, you can't move, you don't know why you would want to move - and you half-wake, deafened by the echoes of shots, eyes pinned shut by a phantom weight, and it seems for hours you are paralyzed, suspended just beneath the surface of sleep, immobile as if the slime had turned to stone, thoughts stuck on repeat, You had your power, you could feel it, why didn't you strike?
It’s the corridors that connect that dream to the others. They echo and boom with strife instead of hissing vented air, but somehow they feel intimately familiar and there is something the same there, a common denominator between the violence of the uprising and the peace of the garden.
And that’s about the point at which you realize this is a thing, as inescapable as the voices, and you have no idea what to do about it.
The dreams don't become any less mysterious as you slip into them more often, soon every day, then more, until you wake exhausted from a dream of stars at noon then dream again of endless echoing corridors until evening. Kanaya tells you that you are crying out in your sleep on the golden moon, and you keep waiting to wake there again, thinking you're about to see spires and light and the anthropomorphic clouds of the planet above – but then the dreams envelop you again and the gates to the glowing city close over. You're hurtling through emptiness the first time you dream of flight. If Prospit is there, it's so far below as to be lost in the dark, and you're headed straight into a wind that slices at your face thin and resonant and autumn-pure.
You've hovered before, a little, cautiously circled your respiteblock, but you haven't flown awake, not yet, and you wake dizzy, skin stinging, reaching up as if someone above your recuperacoon might lift you.
That one stays with you, too; the feeling comes back to you in stray moments, a kind of physical deja vu and a sense of longing, and you’re not even sure what you’re longing for.
You start running searches for restricted material, through a proxy.
And you decide to tell someone about this, or try.