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. 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 his body into eye-catching air flares. A spontaneous cheer arose from the students. Blake and his goons were nodding 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 in the mix. Typically, Peter would have gloated or said something snide, but he was utterly focused on having the time of his life.
Prior to the dance, the three teen-heroes had taken a dose of double O negative, so Eun saw shifting patterns and fractalized equations cavorting around Peter. 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, luminescent swoops followed his lips as his smile widened to epic proportions.
DJ Wreckage jumped off her podium and started breakdancing with Peter. Toprock and downrock flowed through her body. Power moves propelled her high into the air, eliciting a chorus of whoas and damns. The lines of psychedelic possibility surrounding Peter turned luminous gold, while technicolor skeins formed around Wreckage. Their mutual elation 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 being edited…but they’re also editing existence as we know it. They’re…they’re…
Her thoughts fell away. Deep down, she knew that some things were best left wordless.
Thanks to the double O negative, Eun 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 moving through the onlookers like otherworldly fog—a fog made of pure potential and untapped data. Whenever it alit on one of the prom-goers, it would break into graceful tendrils that seamlessly integrated into the person’s aura. Symbols and characters would lock together and form new geometries, brightening someone’s field and expanding the reach of their personal energy. Peter and Wreckage were the locus of power, but through their joy and dynamic abandon, they were affecting everyone in their vicinity.
They were boosting the promise of reality itself.
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 whirl of legs and arms, the mile-wide grins on everyone’s faces.
And then it was over. The music stopped and Peter and Wreckage both hit an upside-down freeze, balancing on their hands and crooking their legs at crazy angles.
The entire room erupted with applause.
The two dancers stood up, regarding each other with surprise and delight. They’d been completely taken by the spirit of the moment, and as a result, hadn’t been fully conscious of what they were doing. Only now, after the music had ended and given way to time and space, were they able to recognize how much fun they’d had.
“Yo!” someone called. “Cue up the next one!”
DJ Wreckage hollered a command (her setup was keyed to her vocal signature) and the speakers pulsed with a follow-on song. She and Peter locked eyes, and they 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 and 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 to complete her journey. Now that her destination had come into view, it remained the exact same distance, making a joke of her endless trudge.
That fucking pyramid. Would it take her back to…
Earth, she reminded herself. You need to get back to Earth.
Earth. Right. She shook her wizened head. With an act of will, she clung to what was left of her fragmented memories. They were eroding steadily, like loose soil from a cliffside embankment.
Finally, after another decade, she arrived at the pyramid.