I've never really wanted power for its own sake. That's probably why I became a pharmacist, rather than studying the more... esoteric... possibilities available in my youth. I just wanted a place where I could support the cause, without spending all my time on the front lines.
Except, that makes it sound like what we do is part of a war, which isn't really correct. It’s just that the things we know about are dangerous, and the people who interact with them risk life, limb, and sanity. And that’s all I really wanted, I guess: to be one of the few people who know what’s really going on. I never wanted to be out there taking the big risks. Our life is risky enough as it is.
Except... every once in a while, knowing isn’t enough. If you need - or want badly enough that it becomes a need - to change something, you have to act. You have to take a risk.
We all dabble in the hidden knowledge. It’s what sets us apart from ordinary people. And we have our references, if we need to do something new. But instructions are no substitute for experience, which is why I had Mbata with me.
There is a warehouse on the outskirts of Austin. I can’t tell you anything more about it, but it’s there. Most of its business is legitimate, too. Every once in a while, though, one of the side rooms gets put to a more unusual use. Last night was one of those times.
The design on the floor was not complex, but the angles had to be precise. I had drawn it in... well, that doesn’t really matter. Mainly, it was a slow process: draw, measure, wipe, and draw again. It had to be done from the outside in, enclosing first Mbata and then myself. Mbata watched, and suggested two corrections - which I made, because it would be stupid to ask for his expertise and then ignore his advice.
Despite his apparent satisfaction with the overall design, he also added a handful of his own glyphs at his feet.
There were... well, the details of the ritual don’t really matter, even if I could tell you about them without drawing the Whisperers down on our heads. I’d made my preparations carefully, and even included a couple of Investitures that might come in handy if something went wrong. So, working carefully under Mbata’s supervision, I summoned Oracle. It was easily the most complex and dangerous ritual I’d ever performed.
The walls seemed to fall away, and the ceiling was gone as if it had never existed. I have no idea if we were transported - or translated - to some other reality, or whether some portion of Oracle’s home came to share a bit of space in our world, or whether the entire contact was entirely mental, and the impression of being elsewhere was something imposed directly on my senses. Mbata might know, but unless it becomes important I am not going to ask.
...You know, I can’t help wondering what it’s like for them. I mean, you’re an alien entity, you’re sitting in your living-room-equivalent, and all of a sudden some strange being comes out of nowhere, grabs your lapels, and starts asking you questions. How many of the answers we receive are gibberish, not because we’re speaking to things that don’t perceive time and space as we do, but because they’re too pissed off to form a coherent reply?
But I digress. Did I mention that by the time I managed to conduct this ritual, I hadn’t slept in something like thirty-eight hours? Work schedules and astronomy make for some ugly combinations. And so but anyway...
Oracle hung before me, floating on nothing, and somehow giving the impression that it was constantly drifting despite the fact that it never seemed to move. I gave it an image of my dream, and it responded. I don’t know how to describe that response, except to say that there was both something physical, and a hint of information. It doesn't speak, as humans do.
Then it withdrew, and I can’t help imagining that it returned to whatever book it was reading, movie it was watching, or meal it was eating. I can’t tell you exactly what it did to me - not because of the need for secrecy, but because I really don’t understand. Even the information it gave me is strangely inchoate - it’s like looking for a word I’ve forgotten: I know the concept is there, but I just can’t find it.
Mbata and I cleaned up the room, and we both went home. I slept for ten hours, and was violently ill the next day; Claire called in for me, and brought me chicken soup when she got off work.
She’s a good girl. I think I’ll keep her.