3.9 A Singular Mind

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Thomas craved the Megacosm with a psychotic level of need.

If he could access an internet of Earth, that might fill the void in his mind. Or a crowd of people whose minds he could feast upon. Even slaves. He wasn't picky. He'd even settle for a pack of wild zoved. Let them devour his flesh, if only he could experience something new and different.

Every second, every millisecond, every nanosecond, was an eternity of too little input. He yearned for new information. He shook with longing.

The slimy stones he was propped against gave him a little bit. So did the chilly, damp air. He couldn't see or hear, because a thick wrap muffled sounds and blocked his vision. But his nose and mouth were exposed, so he could smell and taste.

His environment was odoriferous. It was mostly his own filth.

His jailers, whoever they were, had a solid understanding of how to torture a mind reader with deprivation. They must be Torth. They almost certainly had to be. Otherwise someone friendly would have rescued him by now.

Was Cherise still alive? What about Kessa? What had happened to that inquisitive adolescent, Varktezo? Alex and Margo were probably dead from their wounds. They'd been dying, the last time Thomas had seen them.

But he didn't know for certain.

So many unknowns seemed obscene, to Thomas. Desperate for answers—for anything, really—he tried to ascend into the Megacosm. Sometimes, rarely, he managed to claw his way into someone's mental audience for a second or two, until they recognized his gigantic mind and his uncouth despair. Then they cast him out. A bedraggled orphan with festering wounds, starved and dying, was unwelcome among the gods. Nobody wanted to experience the devastating, incessant, lonely, tortuous curiosity that had become his existence.

How the Upward Governess must gloat whenever he showed up. At random—three times, now—she had granted him a nanosecond of her enveloping attention.

A crumb. It was never enough.

She didn't seem to be gloating overmuch, but her furtive curiosity was probably just a scheme to drive Thomas insane. After nearly two weeks of unending deprivation, he still had hope, because he couldn't guess whether his friends were alive or not.

It was hard to believe that most sapients endured their entire lives in such ignorance. 

He gave up on his latest attempt to ascend. It was growing more and more futile, and what was the point, anyway? He hardly soaked up any news during his forays, except for glimpses of fiery explosions. The Torth were carpet bombing the dead city.

His last clean-up, injection, and meal had ended seven hours, twelve minutes, and forty seconds ago. There would be another service visit soon. 

The bland prison gruel was disgusting, but Thomas had nothing else to look forward to. The mysterious service visits were his only source of new input, aside from his useless and sporadic jumps into the Megacosm.

Since Thomas contained the collective experiences of millions of different tastebuds tasting different foods, he was certain that the gruel was mushroom-based. That made it anomalous for a Torth prison. When Torth fed their prisoners—if they got fed—it was usually a paste made from ground-up alien crickets, or else it was semi-nutritious alien dung.

Thomas was cataloguing every anomaly he came across. He struggled to find patterns, reshuffling the puzzle pieces, desperate to glean something—a morsel, a tidbit, anything new—from his environment. He had to learn. He craved knowledge more than any shipwrecked sailor had ever craved water and food.

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