I was, eventually, able to catch up with the kid. But he seemed apprehensive – before I could speak, he quickly put his finger to his lips, bidding me to be quiet. Without looking down to see what he was writing, he scrawled a quick note and placed it in my hand. And walked away.
On the paper he'd handed me was the address of a school in via dormiens, and a date – the 21st of May, a Saturday, a couple weeks from then. But no time.
Over the next few days, I noticed quite a few kids wearing the same sort of glasses the one had. Seems they were fashionable with that age group. The immediately obvious differences, once I knew what I was looking for, however, were the short wire running from them, and the tint. Theirs were much darker than the "normal" pairs – I can't be sure, but I think they're actually opaque. I took care not to let my recognition show. I'd just have to wait and hope that I'd be able to clear things up at my secret rendevous.
At the end of the month, when it was time for me to move on to the next district, one thing was still bothering me – I still didn't have a time. Woud I have to wait all day? Was he going to wait there for me all day to show up? This was far too interesting to give up on now, even if it did mean losing time from my original goal. That said, my meeting was in via dormiens, so I decided it'd be easy enough to make that my next destination.
Try as I might, I couldn't find any more information on these kids, though. All signs pointed to the fact that this ... game? cult? passtime? was sweeping the district, but I couldn't actually find any of them. People I talked to in person denied any knowledge of it, though tellingly no one denied its existence. Supposedly they never take the hardware off, so you'd think it would be noticeable on the streets.
That is, until today. I caught a glimpse of a group of schoolkids down a side street, each wearing these cumbersome head units that completely covered their faces and ears. They were mounted with tiny cameras pointing in all directions, and wires ran down into backpacks protruding with various electronics. Interestingly, the facial hardware also included breathing apparati – as the things completely covered their mouths and noses – I hadn't realized that their setup was that hardcore. There were also no eye slits – all the visual information came from the cameras.
One of them noticed my interest, and they started running. Faster than I'd have expected them to be able to, but they weren't able to run at top speed so I was able to keep up.
As I was equally interested in seeing where they were heading as I was catching them, I tried not to overtake them too quickly. They kept to unpopulated side street, out of the sight of people. Which certainly explained why they'd been so hard to track down in the first place.
When the group of them split up & ran in separate directions, I decided to stay back for a bit and let them think they lost me. Noting that one of them had gone off roughly in the direction of my hostel, I waited as long as I dared just out of sight, and then peeked around the corner.
And I saw something interesting. He'd taken off the cumbersome headgear and stowed it in his bag, but he wasn't completely separated. He was still wearing large, dark glasses, with a small wire running down behind his ear where it met up with his headphone wires. I never would have noticed if I didn't know what I was looking for. So he was still hooked in, but no one would know, and he could blend in. I wonder where the camera is.
Turns out these stories were a cover of sort for some strange fad or cult popular with the youth in the area. Looks like some wise man of sorts came from the neighboring district, a priest or worshipper of Morpheus, and took some of the kids under his wing. Being resourceful teenagers with parents in the tech industry, they took his teachings and applied those resources to it.
From what I can gather, it seems like the ultimate goal of these kids is to re-wire their brains using AR technology, eventually making it so they can freely pass between the real world and dreams.
Though I'm reserving judgment on the efficacy of it, their methods are certainly interesting. Though I have yet to see any of the hardware in person, it seems it centers around the use of wearable computers that take in sensory information and filter it. They're constantly tweaking the filters, so that they never get too comfortable with a single mode of perception. And a large part of their method involves pinging the input from one sensor to different sensory organs. Sort of like a technologically-assisted synesthesia.
The scale in this spart of the city is a bit disorienting. Everywhere ekse so far has been comfortable; plenty of tall buildings but for the most part nothing like in a "big" city. This city is big, but because there's nothing surrounding it it's been able to spread outwards rather than upwards. Except here. Urbs speculorum, the "city of glass". It's named after the towering glass skyscrapers that rise above everything else in the city, even Apollo's temple on the mountain. I haven't been able to find out what it was called before they were built, though.
I spend some days going through the libraries, reading up on some of the myths peculiar to the area, myths centering around gods that I'm familiar with and have been since childhood, but stories I've never heard. Most interestingly, there's even stories of gods from entirely different cultures interacting, like Thoth and Morpheus.
Morpheus in particular is interesting, because asides from some pop cultural references he was never a particularly powerful or widely worshipped god in his time. And yet here he's been elevated to the core pantheon – I must remember to look into how he rose to such prominence while I'm here.
Even more interestingly, it looks like this myth has gained in popularity in the past couple years (taking advantage of the library's network, tracking which books are checked out or cross-referenced in journals or on the net). The story's pretty vague, though. It's only really mentioned in passing, and I can't seem to find the original anywhere... so why the popularity?
And before I knew it, the month is over and it's time to move on. Looking at my slowly developing map, it looks like I'm off down the hill into the business district, urbs speculorum.
I can see the glittering skyscrapers from here. This is where, according to the history of the city, the scribes all gathered, and over the years the libraries and printing presses turned to newer technology and eventually laid the network for the whole area, moving into software and telecommunications.
My room here is very modern, a departure from the homey atmosphere of my room in regio lunae. very clean, and instead of a bookshelf there's a small table with an ebook on it. Hundreds of titles, far more than I'd ever have time to read. Though libraries are still very common in this district, as the residents still have a high respect for books, they haven't shied away from embracing new forms of technology.