Mental Mazes
rating: +48+x

Probability in the Foundation's multiverse is a fairly fluid concept, able to be pumped and dammed as the higher players see fit. Some, such as a certain Nobody, are not entirely conscious of the eddies swirling around them. They simply plunge forward and leave others to deal with the resulting wake.

"Sir?" said a voice in Armenian. "Sir! I asked you what you think you're doing here."

Nobody eyed the Foundation employee disguised as a member of the Armenite State Forest Service. The words were lost on him, but he had the distinct feeling he should wait a moment. He felt a small pressure in the crown of his head, something distinct from all the kicking and screaming coming from Finnegan.

"Sir, nobody is allowed in this area."

The dam burst and Nobody rode the wave forward. The Foundation employee did nothing to stop him. As he entered the mouth of the cave, Nobody turned to see them scratching their head and returning to their patrol.

He ignored the Foundation Site and plunged into the heart of the cave system, into the main chamber. As he did so a voice crawled up his back and nestled in the base of his skull.

Such a direct invasion.

"Excuse me?" Nobody halted. Stared at the ceiling.

He felt a probing at his mind. You are not Breath's pawn. Who are you?


…Interesting. What do you seek?

"It's more how I can assist you. I've got someone's life story to tell." He tapped his temple. It felt like something tapped back. "All yours. Free of charge."

Nobody's spine tingled as the Spine of the World surveyed Finnegan.

6:17 PM

Finnegan checked the display for the third time in as many minutes. He cycled through several tabs before checking a fourth time. It was almost an hour beyond when Aldon usually returned home from work at the pizzeria. She wasn't answering her phone, either. In the few weeks she had crashed with him, she had never been this out of touch.

After several more minutes of fretting he heard a knock at the door. He minimized his browser, double-checked to make sure nothing particularly incriminating in view, and opened the door.

A wall of white greeted him. Along one side was what must have been Aldon's hand. She had lugged a mattress up several flights of stairs. And likely across town from wherever the hell she actually acquired the thing.

"Help me with this, would you?"

Finnegan swung the door wide open and helped tip the mattress through the archway. After some awkward sidling they tossed it down against the wall opposite the door.

"Get sick of the couch?" he asked as he took his seat.

"I swear there's something inside that thing. Several somethings." She plopped down onto the white fluff. "This is so much better. Oh- and here's first month's rent."

He nearly fell out of the chair from leaning over to grab the bundle of cash. "Thanks."

Aldon stretched and put her hands under her head. She seemed to sink several inches without actually moving. "Nah, man, thank you. Seriously."

"Heh." Finnegan went back to his music and Aldon dozed off.

Nobody clawed at the back of his head in a vain attempt to rip the Spine from his skull. It felt like a door was gaping open in the back of his mind, and it was only a matter of time before Finnegan was able to find it. It took Nobody several seconds to notice Spine had begun talking, having already released its weak grip.

Could fit into Frozen Canvas Wing. Hallway to your right. The path will be shown.

Only half paying attention where he was going, Nobody trudged forward. It took all he had to shut the door and keep it barricaded against Finnegan's incessant pounding. With each beat of his heart Nobody could feel his head pounding in more ways than one.

After almost an hour of walking the pain stopped. The door shifted slightly, and out of a mail slot came a small fragment of a memory. A witnessing of a memory, more like. A script, a note.

"Within every other iteration of reality that he happens to be born in, he subsequently leaves it roughly twenty-five years later. Can you guess why?"

"I be- I mean he, Finnegan, becomes Nobody."

"Or Reality tries to make him one, at least."

"What do you mean tries?"

"It doesn't always… take, so to speak."

Nobody leaned against the mental door and gritted his teeth. Was Finnegan hoping to distract him? Weaken his resolve to allow an escape? Well, it wouldn't work. Only a short while longer and Nobody would have his head to himself.

The door rattled and a second, smaller note shot out between his legs.

You're not a person, you're a coping mechanism.

Nobody ran.

He sprinted as far as he could as fast as Finnegan's legs would carry him. He only had to reach his destination, and then it would be over. After several turns his lungs burned and his legs ached, but his ears pounded to the drum of a pursuer.

A mere glance over Finnegan's shoulder was all Nobody took, but he saw Finnegan following him through the tunnels. Hurdling over shattered statues and ducking under speakers jutting from the ceiling, Finnegan hounded him for what felt like miles. Under such duress several minutes stretched into what felt like well over several hours.

Whenever he blinked he was treated to images from his pursuer's perspective, alternating between the chase and a hodgepodge of assorted memories. He was aware enough to see the liquid crystal on the cave surrounding him, a droplet falling down and half-blinding him. One eye chased the other until it seemed Finnegan had caught him. He wiped his eye just in time to be almost blinded by a sea of white.

Twists and turns through snow, sand, stone, and salami. The last of which was a bit of an odd experience for both of them. Lunch meat collapsed underneath him and he fell into a jumble of instruments inside what looked to be a band room. Tossing aside trombones and trumpets in a haphazard effort to get away, tossing aside his own memories of Aldon with them, Nobody traversed the sea of brass.

Once free, he hit a dead run. He passed by columns of bookshelves and rows of pews, ignoring the clay humanoids that clawed at him. Nothing would stop him. Not this winding maze of a cave system, not Finnegan, not foreboding memories of his conversation with the devil himself, and certainly not-

Several thousand tons of rock hitting him square in Finnegan's forehead could bring him to a stop. Or rather, him running straight into one of the cave walls could. And did. Nobody toppled over and hit the back of Finnegan's head on the hard ground. Blood soaked into Finnegan's hair in several places.

Finnegan groaned.

What are you doing?

"Hurting. Bleeding. Possibly suffering from a concussion."

What were you doing?

Finnegan sat up as slowly as he could. His head hurt. His mind hurt. It felt constricted, like a net had been thrown over it and pulled taught. No doubt what little of his Nobody persona remained constituted said net. But it was still there. Squeezing, hoping to shove his entirety back into a little cage.

But Finnegan, unlike what seemed to be so many other Finnegans, had a compelling reason to stick around. Something to keep him from acquiescing to Reality's demand for another Nobody. Someone that made life interesting enough to be somebody with.

"Sorry, minor mental crisis," Finnegan said, picking up the hat. "I know… 'I' told you I had an artist's life story to tell. But how about a Nobody's life instead? That's gotta be worth something."

The cave was silent for a short time as something seemed to thrum in thought.

It would.

Finnegan grinned.

The memory of a Way is almost as good as the Way itself.

After stomping his way through a small flurry of snow, Finnegan could faintly feel the presence of a Way. It seemed to be located within a small wood cabin in the center of a snowy grove. While he had gotten this far without shivering once, his bones ached with cold the moment he was inside. He piled wood into the furnace, hurled books into the fire. Yet he still couldn't get warm.

With a secondhand sense of recollection he sat in the already smoldering coals. He shut the furnace door and withdrew a lighter he didn't own from his pocket. A few fumbled flicks later Finnegan stepped out into the Wanderer's Library. He rubbed his arms for warmth and set out to find the air filter he, as Nobody, had left behind.

After a stop at the Utterly Bazaar to collect his earnings for the ghost goo, he departed from his local Library and entered his local library. The walk home was uneventful, and Finnegan's mind was peacefully empty. So to speak.

The following days were likely unremarkable. He spent his days on his computer, going to work, and sleeping. It was oddly relaxing, to have the place to himself. Save for the golems and Everett, of course.

On the sixth day there was a rattling at the door. It swung open to reveal an exhausted looking Jakeob Aldon. Finnegan regarded her coolly for a moment before nodding.

"Have fun?"

"Ugh." Aldon slipped her pack off and stumbled over to her bed. She collapsed unceremoniously. "So ugh."

"Regret going?"

Aldon playfully poked at Copper. She was silent for a few seconds and then shrugged. "Nah. So what have you been up to without me to keep you company?"

Finnegan stared at her for a moment, his gaze drifting to his nearby mattress. There, instead of the room that was now Aldon's workroom. He looked into her eyes for a moment.

Then he shrugged.

"Eh, same ol', same ol'."

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