045 - Illusion

Another Noctis Point universe 100 themes work. These are all short and deliberately display a photo, a moment in time. I should really concentrate on creating fully-encapsulated short stories, because it's something I find challenging.

045 - Illusion

Alex sat on the single hard chair, concentrating. In his mind, he could hear the lesson, his tutor’s voice quiet, hypnotic. 

“Picture a box.”

He furnished himself with a cardboard box. It wasn’t much. The bottom was sealed with brown packing tape.

“Into the box, place your thoughts about where you are.”

One by one, he tuned out his surroundings. Into the box went the hum of the terminal, the quiet hiss of the clone tube, the sound of music in another room, other people breathing.

“Place your thoughts and feelings from the day.”

This was harder. Visualising the events as solid objects helped, but even the small victory of still being alive this late in the day was something Alex desperately wanted to hold on to. It was some minutes before he felt composed enough for the next stage.


“In a moment, you will place my voice into the box and seal it, then bury the box into sand, or snow, or concrete. Something empty, desolate. A space to imprint yourself.”

The box was suddenly on a rocky plain, but it wasn’t Earth. Red dust, dark green algae forever tangled into it, blew around Alex’s feet, and he suddenly realised that he was there, somewhere he shouldn’t be. The realisation almost destroyed the fragile image. All day he had been attempting this self-hypnosis, the precursor to all psychic training.

He opened his hand into a sphere and there, in the centre, was a white ball of light. The light continued to talk, Dr. Barrett’s voice sounding even though a purely analytical part of him knew there wasn’t enough atmosphere to transmit the sound this clearly.

“I want you to imagine something simple. A sphere, perhaps. Colour it. Change its colour. Begin to modify its shape. When you are happy with it, I want you to picture me, sat in your mind-scene. You know how far away I am. The closer you place me in the scene to where I am in reality, the firmer the image will seem to me.”

Alex walked over to the box. It was empty, the day-things packed away into nothing-space. He placed the ball of light into it, then sealed the box down. Then he watched as the ground beneath the box opened up, sand spilling out of the way, and it dropped out of sight. Within seconds, the scene was pristine.

A sphere appeared in the air. It wavered, like an out-of-phase compad, but then it stabilised. It was grey, featureless, but as Alex exerted his will it changed. First red, then yellow, each colour blooming out of it like dye added to water. Then half of it was green, the other half blue.

He closed his eyes and opened them, pleased to see that the sphere still bobbed there in the air. He was about to bend his mind to imagining the professor sat ten feet away, but a motion on the landscape caught his eye. There was some sort of disturbance in the air approaching, quicker than anything should be moving, and Alex shaded his eyes to see it.

An enormous dust storm was moving across the landscape of his mind-scene, rushing closer with every heartbeat. The two-toned sphere fractured and faded away, and Alex barely had time to put his arm up and close his eyes before the roiling mass of dust overtook him.

He screamed wordlessly, and the dust was in his mouth in an instant. It clogged his nose and, as he tried to take a breath, rushed in to plug his throat. He fell to his knees, clawing at his throat, and then the scene shattered.

The classroom was around him, students looking at him with a mix of shock, anger and pity. Dr. Barrett was by his side, a worried look on her face. He took a deep breath, then another, heart pounding. He licked his lips, half expecting to taste bitter Martian dust.

Dr. Barrett helped him stand. “Alex, what happened?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. I was doing fine. Then there was a sandstorm, in my mind-scene. It… choked me. I couldn’t breathe.”

Barrett frowned. “You’re in control of that scene, Alex. There shouldn’t be anything there that you don’t control. You could have just willed it away.”

“I tried,” he said. She held his gaze for a moment, then turned away.

“Your evening work is to hold that mind-scene. Practise getting into that state, holding the scene, holding your composure and forming a variety of shapes.” She looked around, waiting for questions, then nodded. “Class dismissed.”