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Good News for Modern Man:
Sometimes the voices argued amongst themselves, included him as an afterthought if at all. They told him he was becoming schizophrenic— that they were nothing but his own thoughts, drifting at loose ends through a mind that had lost its bearings. Jim Moore wouldn't shut up about coherent self-models and switches in the head. Brooks thought his friend may have been right, but he couldn't remember whether those switches had been installed by the Bicamerals, or the vampires, or something else entirely.
Sometimes the voices were almost fearful. They'd whisper about something skulking in the basement, something brought back from the sun that stomped on the floor and made things move upstairs. Sometimes, if Brooks kept very still, he could almost hear it snuffling beneath the floorboards. He could see the basement door bulge just a little, with the weight of something on the other side.
It had a name, although he couldn't remember how he'd learned it: Rorschach.
He fought back. He lay awake at night and tried to silence the voices, force them back into sheaths of silent thought. He clenched his teeth and strained, through sheer effort of conscious will, to undo the renovations in his midbrain. Rorschach came to him in his dreams. You'll never win, it said. Better men than you have tried. The Bicamerals tried. Jim Moore tried. Everyone who tried to kill you was really after me; where are they now?
"Valerie," Brooks croaked, but Rorschach only laughed. She was on my side.
It was such an uphill struggle. The light behind the eyes has never had the upper hand; I was never more than the scratch pad for a moments' necessary reminders. Brooks may not have heard these voices before but they'd always been there, hidden away, doing the heavy lifting and sending their status reports upstairs to a silly little man who took all the credit.
Now the voices realized they didn't need that little man any more. He was only holding them back. When he was gone the brakes would come off; what followed would be the radical embrace of true transcendence. Evolution would bootstrap into the Lamarckian age, and everything would change in an instant.
He no longer sought his answers among the ruins. He looked for them across the whole wide desert. His very senses were coming apart; each sunrise seemed paler than the last, every breeze against his skin somehow more distant than the one before. He cut himself. The blood spilled out like water. He deliberately broke his little finger and felt not pain but faint music. The voices wouldn't leave him alone; they told him what to eat and he put rocks in his mouth, because he could no longer tell bread from stone. They tempted him with promises of reconciliation, with the resurrection of his woman from the bastard abomination of meat and machinery that had engulfed her.
One day Brooks found himself walking the edge of a cliff, high above the desert. The ruined monastery shimmered in the heat but he felt nothing. He seemed a million miles away, as though watching the world unfold through distant cameras. You have to crank the amplitude, the voices said. It's the only way you'll feel anything. You have to increase the gain.
But Brooks was on to them. He wasn't the first to be tempted in the desert; he knew how that story went. He was supposed to defy the voices. Do not test the Lord thy God, he was supposed to say, then step back from the precipice and into history. It was right there in the script.
But he was not an automaton. Not yet. He was still Daniel Brooks, and he was slaved to no one's stage directions. He would make his own fucking destiny.
He threw himself into space. He flew.