Fungal Halo

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Dreams So Real

The cameras watch her undress. They watch her brush her hair. They watch the rest of her awkward pantomime of her nightly routine.

It’s a dance that she knows all the steps to, but there is, in her body language, some visible uncertainty about performing for an audience.

The curtains on her windows are fastened securely closed, but even if she peered through them all she would see is the sterile laboratory environment in which this imitation of her bedroom has been constructed.

The curtains must stay closed, however, as a matter of safety.

All that’s left of Site 18—which didn’t know to take the right precautions—is a psychic scab that still oozes. A total loss.

“My dreams are too vivid,” she told them, and they didn’t consider what that could mean. This team learned from that one’s mistake.

Cameras for monitoring from a distance. Gold thread in the curtains, woven in patterns of strict mathematical regularity. The team’s own blood in the poured concrete of the mock apartment’s walls. Floor-embedded instruments capable of detecting minute ontological tremors.

They watch her lie on the bed, close her eyes, struggle for an hour or so to relax, and then nothing afterward as the cameras simultaneously cut to static.

The instruments report a spike of activity coinciding with the loss of camera visuals.

Activity within tolerances, they risk retracting the shielding on the observation window into the test environment.

From here, all they can see are the curtains pressed flat against the mock apartment’s window, as though from some tremendous internal pressure.

The silhouette of some slithering shape glides across it, and the fabric jerks, shivers, ripples.

Then the technician tasked with monitoring the instrument data yells something. The lab walls shudder, and a deafening crack sends the team into a panic.

The lead scrambles for the abort button, but as he runs, his legs feel as slow as molasses. The button slides out of reach. He stares at the monitors, trying to comprehend their readouts, but the text is scrambled, incomprehensible.

She’s leaking. The team is already lost.