As Holly laid eyes on a golden pyramid, Peter took turns dancing with Eun, Kora, and a host of others. For the first time in his tumultuous life, he was cutting loose; popping, locking, and b-boying with complete abandon in his custom-tailored tux. Students took notice; a loose circle formed around him, and DJ Wreckage began working her turntables like a woman possessed.
Peter picked up the pace, wind-milling his legs and twisting up into eye-catching air flares. A spontaneous cheer arose from the students. Even Blake and his goons were nodding along to the beat, trying to look casual as Peter stole the show. They looked like insecure kids marooned at a house party—too afraid to dance, but still wanting to be included. Typically, Peter would have gloated or said something snide, but he was too focused on having the time of his life.
Prior to the dance, the three teen-heroes had taken some double O negative. Eun could see the shifting patterns and fractalized equations cavorting around Peter. She stood on the edge of the dance-circle, part of it but apart from it at the same time, watching as him ditch the stagnant anger and long-held grudges and become a timeless expression of joy and acceptance. Her cross-dimensional perception rendered his limbs into whirling beams of light; they left sparkling contrails hanging in the air as he contorted and flipped. Tiny swoops of incandescence followed his lips as his grin widened to epic proportions.
Eun looked at Kora. The barbarian princess was watching Peter like the rest of the students, her eyes agleam with jubilation. Sentential calculus was flowing up and down her silhouette, brightening into miniature supernovas whenever one equation combined with another. Despite the impending conflict with Dissona and Blake, Eun felt perfectly at ease. Completely fulfilled.
DJ Wreckage jumped off her podium and started breakdancing with Peter. Toprock and downrock flowed through her body, power moves surged propelled her high into the air, eliciting a chorus of whoas and damns. The lines of psychedelic possibility surrounding Peter turned eye-searing gold, while technicolor skeins of rainbow potential formed around Wreckage. Their mutual potential merged and clashed, painting a glittering portrait of hope and capacity.
They’re editing reality, Eun realized in a sudden burst of wonderment. They’re letting it edit them…but they’re also editing existence as we know it. They’re…they’re…
Her thoughts fell away. Deep down, Eun knew that some concepts were best left wordless.
Thanks to the double O negative, she could see their influence spreading out to the students. Possibility was blooming and shifting, taking form as a tangle of mandalas and rotating math. It was spreading through the onlookers like an otherworldly fog—a fog made of pure potentiality and untapped data. Whenever it alit on one of the prom-goers, it would break into graceful tendrils that wove themselves into the person’s aura. Symbols and characters would lock together and form new geometries, brightening people’s fields and expanding the reach of their energetic fields. Peter and Wreckage were the locus of power, but through their joy and dynamic abandon, they were affecting everyone nearby.
They were boosting the promise of reality itself.
Time fell away, and so did Eun’s thoughts. She simply beamed as Peter and Wreckage danced for an eternity, syncing with all that was and all that would be. Their harmony was palpable; even Blake and his cronies were smiling and nodding, caught up in the transcendence that had filled the room. For this immortal, enduring moment, there was no prom, there was no Dissona, there was no time, even. It was just this ageless play, embodied in the snap and whirl of legs and arms, the mile-wide grins on everyone’s faces.
And then it was over. As the music stopped, Peter and Wreckage both hit a freeze, balancing on their heads and hands and crooking their legs at crazy angles.
The entire room erupted with applause.
The two dancers stood up and regarded each other, surprise and delight playing through their expressions. They’d been taken by the spirit of the moment, and hadn’t been fully conscious of what they were doing. Only now, after the music had ended and given way to this subjective stretch of time and space, were they able to recognize how much fun they’d been having.
“Yo!” someone called. “Cue up another one!”
The speakers were already pulsing with a follow-on song. Peter and Wreckage locked eyes, light gleaming off their sweat-sheened skin, and dove back into the rhythm and flow.
Holly was caught in a hellish monotony—step after step after goddamned step, toward the shining pyramid off in the horizon. It never seemed to grow, never seemed to near, no matter how far she walked, no matter how much she suffered. She’d spent a lifetime crossing this damned purgatory (forty years at this point) even though it should have only taken six months. Now that her destination had come into view, it was fucking taunting her, always remaining the same damn distance, making a joke of her endless trudge.
She didn’t even know if that pyramid was where she needed to go. Would it take her back to…
Earth, she reminded herself. You’re trying to get back to Earth.
Earth. Right. She shook her wizened head and clung to her memories, even though they were steadily eroding, like loose soil from a cliffside embankment.
Finally, after another decade, she arrived at the pyramid.