All in the mind

Author: Glenn Leung

‘Activate Neuro-Computer link.’

I concentrated on the implants in my brain as I thought those words. I immediately got a sense that I knew more than I used to, and I mentally scanned for knowledge of the ship’s map. Having it in my head would not help me see in the dark, though it would fill my consciousness with annoying foreign thoughts. Normally I would have just told the main computer to turn the emergency power back on, but the aliens destroyed the relay.

‘Move ten meters forward and make a left.’

Imagine following somebody else’s instructions while moving through a maze blindfolded. By my estimates, I had about ten minutes before the ship sank to crush depth. If I had not destroyed my flashlight in the fight, that would have been plenty of time. It was too late for regrets now. All I could do was take rapid three-quarter steps, back bent and arms outstretched for the inevitable mishap.

I nearly fell over something soft as I made the left. A quick feel told me it was human, one of my shipmates killed in combat. There was a sickly warm patch which corroborated the smell. Just as I was about to throw up, I heard a ghostly moan. The shock made me swallow everything that was on its way out.

‘All in the mind,’ I composed myself.

Bonnet had warned me this might happen. Linking with the ship’s network while deprived of the senses could cause very vivid hallucinations, amplified by the combined computing power of the brain and the ship’s computers. Filtering out scary thoughts was difficult when the deadly battle was still fresh in my memory. Screaming ghosts of shipmates were not helping with the grotesque tripping hazards. At least some of those ghosts pointed me in the right direction, saving me precious time.

It would have been better if they had flashlights.

At long last, I arrived at the stairs leading to the emergency generator. I had never imagined that the sight of that old rickety thing would bring me so much joy.

I then realized I could see the stairs.

At first, I thought someone else had turned on the emergency power, but the ship’s engine was still silent. Were my brain and the ship’s computers working together to create an accurate projection? Maybe there is a separate generator for the engine room’s lights, just as there are for the computers and everything else. My excitement was dashed when I saw one of the aliens waiting for me at the top, its proboscis twitching in anticipation of my flesh. Did we not kill them all?

I had to assume it was not a hallucination. I pulled out my pistol and started shooting. Sure enough, blue blood sputtered from its head as it let out a piercing shriek. It fell down the stairs, splattering its goo across the guard rails.

‘Emergency power activated. Returning to surface.’

The shock of the sudden thought was an extra kick to my already frenetic heart. I would have shot at the figure that appeared at the top of the stairs had it not let out a very human cry.

“Sergeant! Stand down immediately! You just shot the Captain!”

Bonnet’s shouts awoke something within me. I looked at where the alien had fallen and saw the mangled body of the Captain. My head grew impossibly heavy and my vision went dim as I struggled to make a coherent deactivation command. I remember seeing Bonnet running down the stairs before all went dark again.


  1. Hari Navarro

    Wow… now that was as trippy as the title suggested and some. Really nicely done, Glenn.

    • Glenn Leung

      Thanks! This one was a lot of fun writing, so I’m glad you got the essence I was going for.

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