Little in life had ever seemed to make much sense to teknomage, even after he had assumed that identity. That had helped considerably, but mostly in a quasi-fantasy sort of way. Most of life, the world, and humanity was still beyond his ken. And then, suddenly, things began to clear. Things began to brighten. His life (real and otherwise) began to improve, and he himself began to improve.
This lasted perhaps a year. More suddenly than it had brightened for him, the world darkened. He tried to fight the darkness, tried to hold on to as much of the light as he could, but the light would not hold. There was nothing he could do, however hard he tried. Teknomage was alone and confused, frightened, and suffering unspeakable inner turmoil and pain. Things made less sense than ever before, and he didn't feel that he could go on. He didn't want to.
His problems were now many, and all seemed insurmountable. More problems kept coming, adding to his burden. And then, he found himself standing upon a stone bridge that spanned a terrible abyss. There was barely enough light to see the edge of the bridge on either side of him, and certainly he couldn't see the far ends.
"Where am I?" he asked. Though he added mentally, Not that I care much. Perhaps this is my chance to escape my pain. All I need do is jump...
And yet, instead he sat down. He didn't want to die in such confusion; he'd prefer to wait for at least a moment's clarity. His back began to ache, and he lay down where he sat, and closed his eyes. As he tried to make sense of his whirling thoughts, there came a voice.
"What is a 'teknomage?'" it asked.
He opened his eyes and sat up, peering in the direction from which the sound seemed to have come, but he could not see the owner of the voice. "Who are you? Where am I? Why am I here?"
"What is a 'teknomage?'"
"Oh, I can so totally hear you spelling that my way. I'm sure there are in many worlds and many ages, people who call themselves 'technomages.'" As he continued speaking, he rose to his feet. "It has to do with the fine line between science and magic, if such a line truly even exists. I spell it differently, and I do the whole technomage thing my own way. The derivation of the name comes from the enemy of my master, a monster called Teknophage. I've always wanted to fight him someday, but I fear I never have, and likely never will. I haven't heard in years from my master, Adam Cain, and fear he may have died at the hands of the Phage. And yet, I have adventures entirely apart from that circle of happenings. I... well, I have traveled between worlds and realities... But I think I haven't done any such thing in quite a while. Perhaps I had ideas about who I was, or wished to be, but I fell out of that mode. I became... myself."
"Who are you?"
"My name is David Alan Ward. I live in what presumably is the real world, a boring and annoying and frustrating and impossible and unjust world, filled mainly with people who fit that same description, or parts of it. I am apparently very unlucky. The Universe seems to hate me; I am its plaything, and it plays rough. It likes to throw me down, and then kick me. It doesn't like to give me much hope or happiness. It gave me happiness for a time; probably that was simply so that it could be snatched away from me.
"I am an unusual person in many ways, some of which I like, and some of which I hate. It is hard for me to make friends, especially in the real world. The people with whom I would be at all compatible are few and far between. And so I prefer fantasy, as well as the online world, where distance means nothing. There I can meet my kind of people, and make friends. I can pretend, in fun, to be what I would like to be. I can have my fantasies, as the other side of teknomage. There are two teknomages: one is me as magical adventurer, whose 'real' life in the 'real' world, apart from magic and adventuring, is still better than mine- he at least has some success as a writer of stories and comix, and has his own place somewhere. Not that I've given too much thought to his 'reality;' his own fantasy is what's more been explored, even though for him, fantasy actually is reality. ...Perhaps i should say there are at least three teknomages: at least two of the fantasy aspect of the name, and one of the real aspect.
"The second, the real aspect, is me as just plain old me, talking online to some of my friends. Other friends may know me by other names, which will also have two sides, the realistic and the fantastic. But in a way, both sides of all identities are an escape from reality, from the real world."
"But you are forced, in the end, to live within your true reality. Tell me of it."
"I cannot find work, though I could do it. Such simple little jobs that anyone could do, and pay so little, and I can't get them. It isn't fair! Eight months I've been trying! The Universe hates me! I'm not meant to live! I have nothing and I am nothing but a waste of space, of food and water and energy and money. I will never have anything. A few people would miss me if I were gone, but nothing about their lives would truly change. Except that some of them might save a little money. They might not think so, but they'd be better off if I were dead. I know I would be. No love, no job, no money, no computer, no car, no hope. And even if I did have anything, I'd still be stuck in a place I've always hated, exiled from a place I truly love and miss terribly."
"You know I can't. You know the reasons I can't. You know the pain of it, too."
Tek could sense the voice's owner nodding in the darkness. "Very well. Though of course this clearly demonstrates that you already know that-"
Tek swiftlly interrupted. "Of course I know! But we've got a scene to play out, and story is all. Move along, now."
Teknomage sighed. "Right again. While I can't get online at home now, I can at least do so at the library. But I can't get there often, nor stay long. There are things that can't be done there for various reasons. Besides which, strange, unexplained things have been happening these past months. I lost access to my e-mail account, and eventually had to start a new one. One of my homepages disappeared, along with all my many image files. Many will be unreplaceable; most would require a great deal of effort to replace. Certainly I don't even remember most of them. I must start from scratch; and I can do nothing without my own computer and Internet connection. Also, I now cannot post at the place where I called myself teknomage. Nor can I access the file editor for my primary hompage at GeoCities, and so I must make a new one, copying code from each page and moving it to the new one. This will take a tremendous amount of time, and again, for the most part will have to wait till I get online at home, which I'm not likely to do without a job, which I seem incapable of acquiring.
"Speaking of my inability to post as teknomage, or by any handle, on the Dominion...?" It was a question he didn't quite know how to put into words, but he had a strong feeling the voice would know what he meant.
"Yes. You have been stopped. I will not explain that to you. You asked where you are. You want to know what this place is. It is a manifestation of the space between the real world and the online world; reality and imagination; the mind and technology. This bridge on which you stand, it is the bridge between the two aspects of 'teknomage' that you spoke of. On one side is simply a handle, a name to go by. On the other is an imaginary adventurer who seems real to himself, within his own fantasy. You have in the past referred to yourself as 'overperson Dave,' master of your personalities; or as 'the writer at the moment,' master of the characters of whom you write, including those whom you think of as personalities. You have talked to, or written as if talking to, fictitious versions of yourself, as teknomage and others. You have a very twisted and tangled mind which even you have realized you cannot fully understand, yourself. It is now coming unwound.
"You have been blocked from all aspects of yourself, real, fantastic, and virtual. This place will last a brief while before you return to the real world. Your problems will remain; perhaps in time they will be solved, perhaps not. Meanwhile, you have a choice. What do you want to do?"
"I don't know if I understand the question."
"It is many-faceted."
"Did you... are you the one blocking me from the Dominion? And elsewhere, perhaps?"
"I will not explain that to you. What do you want to do? Will you choose one aspect of teknomage or the other? Will you let this be the death of teknomage altogether? I know that as long as you live you will not abandon all hope of returning, somehow, someday, to the Dominion. I tell you, it will not be by any name you have used there before, most especially teknomage, or tek. If ever you manage to return at all, will it be as yourself, or a character? You have thought much these past months of killing off many of your personalities.... Starting afresh. What do you want to do?"
"I... I can't choose. Not now. My head is full of chaos, too much for me to handle. All is uncertain, it isn't in my hands. I must try... in the real world... to change things, but I have no control! Fate will do with me what it will, in spite of my best efforts. Choices cannot be made when I know nothing of my future."
"Nevertheless, now is the time to make this choice."
"No! I can't, damn you! Who the hell are you, anyway?!"
The speaker stepped forward, and flames surrounded him, so that now he could be seen, and all he was was darkness. "I am called Gorlab, but my name does not mean anything. I am a fiction within a fiction. I was created by a thief, as an attempt to explain that which he does not understand; but I cannot explain what my creator does not know. I am confusion personified. I am the inverse of all that is. I am nothing. I am the space we are in, I am all I have said of it. I am the situation in which you find yourself, and I have nothing to do with it. I am not real, none of this is real. I am all you ever had, or ever will, all you ever did or tried to do. I am words on a screen, as are you, as is this place. Written words are all you'll ever have, whatever aspect you may say you are using. Yourself, your characters, your personalities, your imagination, your fiction, your fantasy. All in your head, trying to get out, and this is the only way. You have nothing else. I am the interaction between all that affects you in life, and your perceptions thereof. I am antisynapses. I am you and everything that ever happens to you. I am every primitive mind's attempt to explain the unexplainable. I am a mystery. I am the quintessence of every god and every devil. I am the Boogeyman. I am nothing."
With a grin that could not be seen, as he is entirely unseeable, as he is nothing, he said, in a more casual, jovial tone, "But, like I say, you can call me Gorlab, if you like. What do you want to do?"
Teknomage sighed. "You know I can't choose without knowing what is or will be possible."
"Then I'll choose for you." Suddenly, Gorlab leapt off the bridge into the abyss. But he was in tek's mind, he was tek's mind, and confusion was a tether to his external noncorporeal manifestation. Teknomage was yanked over the side after him.
Didn't I read a scene almost nothing like this somewhere? tek asked himself as he plummeted towards oblivion.