Epilogue: Some By Dint...
Ambros dropped in to the Country Fair site in the Alcatraz Quiet Line. He had his tent, salvaged from his camp in the Swamp, and a pack full of food and drink. He walked slowly along the muddy or flooded trails, until he found an elevated booth, with what must have been a sleeping room well above ground level. He climbed slowly up, shoving his tent before him and following, grimly.
He set up his camp, laid out his sleeping bag and made himself a meal. While eating it, he contemplated: “I’m here, I told everyone, to get away from things for a while. I need some alone time, and a bit of deep meditation. Bloody PTSD. Fucking Squids.” He thought about what he’d said to the Ant when he’d upbraided it: “…raped my brainstem.”
“Yeah. This is probably something like how a rape victim feels. Can’t get the feelings out of my mind, little things set me off. Always lookin’ around for a damn Gate to pop up. Lose track of what I’m saying.
“I was good as long as I was busy. Armored up, with weapons in hand…Now everything feels scattered; I feel like I’m flailing around, and I’ve certainly seen some personal failures lately.
“Time to assess my strengths and weaknesses, and by extension the strengths and weaknesses of my side in the War. Probably spend a deal of time crying my eyes out, as they say. We’re gonna start, though...with a little trip.”
He extracted the little lump of mushroom sporoid he’d carried around for years. ‘It’s marvelously potent stuff, a mind-blowingly powerful hallucinogen, but the effects last only a couple-three hours. Or a day and a night, if I take enough. I better do that.
“Been about ten years since I took a trip into my subconscious, and I could sure use some insight about now. Fungus, don’t fail me this time...”
With his pocketknife, he carved away a hunk of the stuff. He’d got it so long ago that he couldn’t recall the date, from a fellow named Steinetz, a mycologist of some renown. In the thirty-some years since, he’d tripped on tiny bits of it about eight times: ‘About eight? I should check my journals, once I’m home again.’
He rubbed the sliver between his fingers to break down the fibrous mass a bit, rolled it into a pill, and downed it with a drink from his canteen.
He crawled into the tent and then into the sleeping bag. He wrapped a silk scarf around his ankles, and put his hands in the patch pockets on his thighs, maneuvering the velcro partway closed, so he couldn’t pull his hands out without concentrated effort. He closed his eyes.
He waited for the stuff to take effect. He felt himself drifting, and slowly fell asleep.
He could not tell whether he woke or not. He could not ascertain whether his eyes stood open or stayed closed. He seemed to float, in a sea or atmosphere of red.