Photomancy (from pho'to-, light and -man'cy, divination)
Enter once more; the descent is easy:
a pat, a kiss for each of the three snarling heads,
a bite from each layer of the colored apple.
From far underground, the trickle and drip of clear water.
The room you came from has vanished.
Your pupils expand in dimming light;
the greyscale of evening mist exhales from the oblong gate,
one eye or thousands to monitor your journey.
You hesitate, caressing the instrument of summoning.
You consult the book of spells once more, just to make sure,
and you continue downward.
The cavern is larger than you could ever dream,
not if you spent a billion years under the waters of sleep.
Stalactites of clouded crystal descend toward their duplicates;
two horned armies poised to discontinue peace talks.
Further into the darkness you stare,
and something gazes back.
You come to the underground lake, the source of power.
A tenuous reflection shimmers before you, illusory, beckoning,
transient substance tinting the lethal waters.
Now, the first command; a faint ripple disturbs the vision,
schlieren lines form and reform in curved and layered transparency,
tiny sparks of electricity coalesce from Nothing to One.
You continue to draw on memory, using all the secret enchantments.
Vapor streams up from the interface; the image rises, vibrating in the steaming air.
You have reached the limits of your knowledge; the influence of the distant tower wanes.
One misspoken word, one deviation from ritual and the invisible unraveling begins.
Under the waves, dread dreams swim toward you.
Filter: Distort: Ocean Ripple
The water laps closer: you don't notice a thing,
following your ghost home, forgetting all your intentions of saving her,
submerging unaware into her filtered smile.
Heel, ankle, calf, mid-thigh, gliding up your ribcage, nuzzling your neck and mouth...
Your oxygen is running out.
There is insufficient memory to complete this operation.
The warning comes too late.
Convulsions thrash out from the hidden deeps; a tsunami of distortion sweeps her away.
She whom you desired has flickered into forever, her bright body lost to the world.
(Did she scream once, before the end?)
Force Quit? All unsaved changes will be lost.
Cursing and spitting salt, you crawl to your knees,
clawing at the receding foam, trying to turn back the tide.
On grey sand, inside the glass, there is only a message of failure.
If only you had not burdened her with your ever-increasing need,
would she yet be with you, framed in light?
If an earlier simplicity had sufficed, would she tread the rainbow paths of the true world?
You will never see her again.
Your computer crashed or was not properly shut down
the last time it was used. To turn off your computer
press the power key on the keyboard.
©2000 F.J. Bergmann
"Photomancy" appeared in the anthology Connected Life in the Age of Computers
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