As Holly beheld a golden pyramid, Peter took turns dancing with Eun, Kora, and scores of others. For the first time in his tumultuous life, he was cutting loose; popping, locking, and b-boying with complete abandon. A loose circle formed around him, and DJ Wreckage began working her turntables like a woman possessed.
He picked up the pace, wind-milling and twisting into eye-catching air flares. A spontaneous cheer arose from all who were watching. 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 totally focused on having a blast.
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. His limbs were rendered into whirling beams of light; they left sparkling contrails hanging in the air as he contorted and flipped. Luminescent swoops followed his lips as his smile widened to epic proportions.
DJ Wreckage jumped off the podium and started breakdancing with Peter. She threw some power moves, shooting high into the air, eliciting a chorus of whoas and damns. The lines around 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.
Their influence began spreading out to the students. Possibility was blooming and shifting, taking form as a tangle of mandalas and rotating math. It moved through the crowd like otherworldly fog—a fog made of pure potential and untapped data. As it alit on each prom-goer, it broke into graceful tendrils that seamlessly integrated into that person’s aura. Symbols and characters were locking and forming into new geometries, brightening the students’ fields and expanding the reach of their personal energies. Peter and Wreckage were the locus of power, but through their joy and dynamic abandon, they were affecting everyone else in the immediate 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. All that remained was this ageless play, embodied in a whirl of legs and arms.
And then it was over. Peter and Wreckage both hit a freeze, balancing on their hands and crooking their legs.
The entire room erupted with applause.
The two dancers kicked to their feet, regarding each other with surprise and delight. They’d been taken by the spirit of the moment, and hadn’t been conscious (not fully, anyway) 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 been having.
“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, then 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 on the horizon. It 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. Get back to Earth.
Earth. Right. She shook her wizened head, clinging piteously to her battered memories. They were eroding steadily, like loose soil from a cliffside embankment.
Finally, after another decade, she arrived at the pyramid.