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The Tinkered Mind

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May 14th, 2023


Hot drops of blood wicked from the white feather tips as the huge wings pulsed through the torn sky. Muscle and bone unfurled and pulled over and over beneath the skin of soft scales - a skin of the wind -  lifting a being of final resolve ever higher towards the moment. He drew back a golden spear with his arm, back between the swirl of blood and feather, his solid eyes locked on the demon above.


Light was tattered across the horizon. The clouds, a ragged battlefield of a dying sun’s fire, curled into wisps spun from the wings of warriors. And below the sky’s war, armies spilled one another’s blood. The fortress wall crumbled as another stone fireball struck, slung from gargantuan arms across the plane. And on the highest spire, rising above the rest of the castle, a man sat in meditation, his body floating above the stone floor before the open window where the vista of carnage sprawled across the land and through the sky.


Bullets of sweat rolled down Lucilius’ face as he held together the monument of imagination, and then his eyes snapped open and he watched as his patient climbed higher into that deep sky with the golden spear locked for the demon above. The winged man let out a war cry that echoed through the valley and his muscles unlocked. The golden spear shot up toward the screeching demon…


After months of slowly investigating his patient’s psychology, through talk, through brain scans, and by reading the man’s thousand generated journals, clarity had finally begun to take shape in Lucilius’ mind. The story of his patient’s healing unfolded in his own mind, and Lucilius painted it with the full breadth of his imagination. The man was troubled, but with Lucilius’ help - he believed - he could help the man’s mind sing a stronger song.


“I believe I’ve come up with a treatment,” Lucilius said.


The man lifted his fragile face from his wet hands. Timid hope was there in his eyes, and Lucilius smiled softly.


“I want to first thank you.”


“For what?” The broken man asked.


“For letting me in. For letting me get to know you. For sharing your deepest pains, your oldest fears, and all the hopes you’ve yet to realize. It is an honor to be given such a gift, and I thank you.”


The man smiled limply, sheepishly - clearly wondering what lay in store for him. He’d come to Lucilius knowing he specialized in a radically knew form of therapy.


“What will it be like?” The patient asked.


“It will be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. You will live within a painting of my making, and the task that will be set before you will be unlike anything you’ve ever done, but I truly believe you can achieve it, but only if you can complete the journey. It will be a journey that will require you to revisit your old ghosts in new forms before you arrive at the final challenge, one that I believe will bring you catharsis.”


The man shifted, uneasily. “Are you sure? How exactly does it work?”


Lucilius nodded. “I’m sure. And as for how it works, I will use a synthetic variant of psilocybin to open up the resonance patterns of your mind. This down regulates your Default Mode Network and allows your brain and your mind to be open to a radically different experience. It’s essentially the key that unlocks your mind. But that’s only the beginning. Once we are in your mind, that’s where the real event takes place. I’ll use an external neuralsync and link you to my mind and bring you into the realm where you will have this experience. Think of your brain as a musical instrument, and who you are is the song this instrument plays. But songs are repetitive and we can get stuck with choruses and refrains that keep us from growing. This experience will allow your brain to play a slightly different song.”


“Will I be alone?”


Lucilius gently shook his head. “I will be with you, but in a form you won’t necessarily recognize. I will watch over everything and I will ensure that no matter how grave the experience becomes, you will always be safe.”


“Can I stop if I need to?”


Lucilius smiled flatly. “This is a call that only I can make, but rest assured, I will have a very sensitive idea of the state of your psychology and it’s trajectory. Again, this isn’t a completely predetermined therapy. It’s a bit more art than it is therapy.”


“What do you mean… art?”


Lucilius nodded. “Before I joined I was a painter and a professor of literature. Frankly the engineers didn’t really know what they had created - it was envisioned to be more for the purposes of entertainment, there was no concept of therapeutic application. But I was paired with one of the engineers and I was the first where they reversed the feed. I simply.. played, with light, color and story. I was acutely aware of the engineer’s mind joined with my own, but I simply played - the way you might when you’re playing make-believe with one of your children, or when you’re having fun with someone you just met. I see it as a dance of psychology rendered through story and light, but a dance where I lead, and a dance that gives rise to the song instead of the other way around. Ultimately, I have control through hardcoded safety measures that I can always use to gently eject both of us from the the procedure at any time, at which point the experience - if unfinished - will feel like a mere dream. But if you make it to the end, it will be an experience that lives indelibly with you. So it requires a great deal of trust, and I would not attempt it if I wasn’t sure we had developed that trust.”


The man nodded. “Ok, so when…” He breathed deeply. “When does this happen?”


“When you decide you’re ready.”


“Like now?”


“If you are ready, I am.”


Lucilius fitted the man with a delicate helmet that functioned as an external neuralsync. Lucilius gave the man a pill of synthetic psilocybin variant. The man looked at it. Took a deep breath and then swallowed the pill.


“You will be safe,” said Lucilius, “but you will be tested.”


The patient nodded. “I trust you.”


Lucilius clicked on the external neuralsync and calibrated the man’s degree of consciousness. The man’s eyelids grew heavy, and closed. Lucilius sat and took up a meditation posture. He took several slow breaths, and then a blue light began to glow just behind his ear. He closed his eyes and instantly he was hurtling through a vast tunnel of light. At a tremendous speed the ground rushed to meet him and he was standing in a long robe, looking at an angel, unconscious on the stone ground before him. Lucilius looked around at the mountain vistas where the stone checkpoint was nestled. He smiled, then looked at his open hand and there from a luminous split in reality materialized a staff. He angled the end, pointing the staff at the ground next to the sleeping angle and shot light into the stone, and traced out a long line where there materialized a golden spear. Lucilius waved another hand, and text began to scrawl across the golden shaft, his patient’s first clue:


Et lux intenebris Lucet…


Then Lucilius lifted the wide hood of his robe, and darkened his face with shadow before turning and walking off into the mountain woods, leaving his patient to wake up on his own and begin the adventure.

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