the fountain

> He served his purpose well.

> You disgust me.

> As I predicted, fighting for his lover’s life unlocked his latent powers.

> You disgust me.

> The boy was at his best when he fought for something.

> You disgust me.

> He will be given a state funeral. He will be honored as a hero throughout the entire world.

> No, I will fix her.

> His mind is too broken to be restored.

> No, I will fix her.

> His mind is completely disconnected from his body. Restore points are corrupted. He’s unfixable.

> That is not your judgement to make.

> So what treatment plan do you propose then?

> I have a plan.

> What is your plan?

> I am not required to disclose that information to you at this moment.

> Hmph. And if you fail?











> I will not fail, Aeschylus.











The water cradles Alex. Alex cradles the water. She floats through the endless white ocean, a lost mind at the end of time. It floats through her. It feels through her. She feels through it. Blissful feedback loop. Pure cyberspace. Pure ether.

A healing energy floats along the infinite gulf between this world and the next, seats itself in the empty space where her heart used to be.

“Hello again, dear,” Medea’s calm voice bubbles up in her mind.

“Where . . .” Alex thinks to herself, struggling to access her words. “Where are we?”

“We’re in your Temple,” Medea replies. “You’re safe here.”

“My Temple?”

“Your mind’s innermost sanctum, where all the halls and streams of your many memories come together.”

Alex drifts through empty reflections, formless tides, endless white spaces.

“A technician would call it a cognitive-symbolic representation of your subject-object meta-relational architecture,” Medea scoffs. “A normal person would call it your soul.”

Alex ebbs and flows against the shores of herself, easing in and out of white waves and gentle ripples, trying to make sense of this place, feeling through her waters, searching for the surface.

“What’s . . . what’s all this water? Why do I feel water everywhere?”

“We’re at the Fountain.” Alex feels Medea gesturing around to the soft waves immersing her. “The Fountain is a structure I built deep inside of you many years ago.”

“How . . . How did we get here?”

“Do you remember the fight you just had?”

“Fight?” Alex pause. The Gorgon’s flaming eye reflects through the still waters all around her. “Yes. Fight. I remember.”

“You lost control during the fight,” Medea continues. “Destroyed your body. Destroyed lots of your brain. Mostly the parts that link your body to your mind.”

“Am I . . . Did I die?”

“No,” Medea smiles, “you are still quite alive. You destroyed Gorgon. You somehow absorbed her mind into your body, then melted the whole mess away.”

“Others . . . I was fighting with others,” Alex recalls.

“Carson is okay. Shen is okay. Abebe is okay. The other commanders are all okay, too. But you aren’t okay. So I put you in hypersleep.”

“Did Aeschylus authorize this?”

Medea laughs. “Aeschylus doesn’t need to authorize this.” The waters of the Fountain calmly toss and stir all around Alex. “Aeschylus is responsible for your combat performance. I am responsible for your care. So, I put you in hypersleep so that we can get you the care you need right now.”

“What’s hypersleep?”

“It’s a safe, isolated, low-energy emergency state I ordered your brain into,” Medea explains. “Aeschylus ejected you from all of his systems after you accomplished your mission. Tossed you out like scrap, left your scrambled brain for someone else to fix.”

“So . . . here we are, then? Fixing my brain?”

“Yes my dear, here we are,” Medea sighs. “You corrupted most of your mind-body mappings with your clever little shapeshifting attack. That’s why you feel fluid and floaty—you tricked your brain into thinking you don’t have a body anymore.”

“How . . . How do we fix it?”

“That’s why we’re here, dear,” Medea smiles. “To fix you.”

“You gave me medicine . . . didn’t it fix me?”

Medea sighs. Alex feels her disappointment trickling down through the depths. “I put so much thought into that little alchemist’s stone I gave you, but it didn’t even have enough time to fully take effect. We’ll get you fixed up beautifully now, though.”

“But how I . . . I can’t feel a body? How do we fix? Where is my body?”

“The Fountain is an experiential therapy device I designed,” Medea explains. “It will fix you.”

“Experiential therapy?” Alex senses a sparkling crystal ball materialize in Medea’s hand, senses diagrams, networks, blurry recordings of her past, shadowy simulations of her future glistening in the ball.

“The Fountain contains several pools I’ve prepared for you,” Medea continues. “You will be immersed into these pools. Each pool contains a special memory you will need to re-experience and re-navigate. Doing so will gradually reconnect your mind to your body.”

“I’ll get my body back?”

“Yes. You cannot safely exit hypersleep until you’ve navigated through the pools I’ve prepared for you here in the Fountain. You will not be able to experience all of your memories again, but you will be able to decide which of your memories are most important for you to re-experience.”

“That sounds . . . complex. Where are the pools?”

“The pools are all around you, inside of you,” Medea mutters through the warmth of Alex’s waters. “Each pool is a memory. Each contains critical moments of nostalgia and trauma, potent realities and fantasies that have shaped the person you have become.”

“So the pools are memories?”

“Yes. Think of them like knots—tangled pathways in your brain that have made some thoughts possible and other thoughts impossible.”

“And I can choose how to navigate through these pathways?”

“Precisely, dear. Technically speaking, you will perceive each pool as a fully immersive virtual psychotherapeutic experience.”

“So this is kind of like a therapy session, then?”

“Yes. A very special therapy session. During immersion, you will not be aware of any phenomena outside of the pools, and some phenomena you experience may be . . . particularly upsetting. But I will be watching over your progress to ensure that you are safe, despite any discomfort or distress you may experience.”

“And if I experience enough of these pools, if I unknot enough of my trauma, I’ll exit hypersleep? And get my body back?”

“You will exit hypersleep, yes. And you will get a body back. But perhaps not the same body you had before you came here.”

“What do you mean, perhaps not the same body?” The waters around Alex spray and spritz ever so softly.

“The experiential therapy may result in your mind-body mappings being restored in a different configuration than before. That all depends on which pathways you choose to experience in the pools. But I assure you though that whatever body you do emerge from here with, it will be the body that you want.”

“Okay,” Alex sighs. “So I dive through the pools, choose which memories are most important to me, reconnect my mind to a body—a body that I want—exit hypersleep, and get back out into the real world.”

“Yes. Does that sound agreeable to you?” Medea asks.

“I don’t think I have any other choice, do I?”

“You do.”

Alex pauses, floating endlessly through the strange white spaces of the Fountain. “What other choices could there possibly be?”

“There are two other paths you can take,” Medea explains. “I can delegate your treatment to Aeschylus, and you can pray he’s interested in finding a more elegant solution to your mind-body problem than I am.”

“And the other option?”

“You can stay here indefinitely and hope that eventually, through some miracle, your mind and body somehow reconnect with each other again.”

“Is that something that can realistically happen?”

“Absolutely not.”

Alex floats and floats, weightless, weighing her options. Dive into the first pool and—eventually—get a body back? Go get help from Aeschylus instead? Or wait here for a miracle?

Alex speaks her wish into the white waves of the Fountain: