by Mr. A and Mr. G
The days are every color.
In this City of Restless Dreams, where the nights run black and silver, it’s best to enjoy the prismatic vistas of the glass landscape while you can. Here, the towers shine with the light of the distant sun, while beyond the borders of the city, the world is dead and sterile. As the light of the day fades, the people of Cathexis retreat to their beds, but only some are going to sleep. For the rest, the real work of the day is only just beginning.
As the streets of Cathexis become cold and still, youths fly up the starry stair of slumber, saunter along tower tops, and race through the phantom plazas of an echoing dreamscape. Gangs align in the astral realm, banding together around raw ideas for the future of humanity. In the waking world, these young men and women are but flesh and blood, attended by silent servants and spending their hours deep in books and philosophy. Here in the dream, they are soldiers in the war of concepts, pieces on the astral chessboard playing out the game of the Herculean entity that oversees all. These maniacal firebrands fight for honor, for purpose, and for the strength of the beliefs they hold, beliefs they want to impress on the world at large.
In the astral realm, the world explodes with light, energy and force. Psychic powers in the forms of beasts, gods, disasters and armies clash under the direction of philosophical gangsters. The brazen youth play a high-stakes game where the price of defeat is the death of your astral self – your will, ideology and reasoning are crushed out of you, leaving only a zombie to serve the next generation of dueling ideologues.
Cathexis is the city where humanity (of a sort) has reemerged following a global transcendence into the Collective Reexistence, the unified psychic ocean of all human identity. The city and its phantom rulers are the forerunners of the Collective Reexistence’s desire to return to physical form, to grow, to build and to create. Cathexis is the point of origin from which the New Realizing will spread: a testbed of ideas which will shape the rest of the world when the Collective Reexistence rejoins the material realm. The work of philosophers shaping the new template for human existence has manifested itself through these astral psychic street fights. The astral dead become living corpses that are the property of the city – the Decathex, who serve and raise the young, leaving these bright young minds free to learn and dream, but horribly traumatized from lack of emotional connection and all the more aggressive for it.
Before the city — exactly how long “before” may have been seems impossible to say — existed an era, a world, referred to as Maya: the great illusion of the past. What is known of Maya comes from the Grand Archive of Cathexis, a haphazard catalog of knowledge distilled from the most tangential and ephemeral rememberings of the Collective Reexistence. This library of assembled memory is the only evidence of Maya’s existence and nature in the glass city. Maya was a cage for the mind limited by the corporeal world, and its only laws were those of nations and necessities. The past, it is thought, was a place of gods and towers, fire and water, thinking machines and racing metal. Whatever it was, it has vanished into the great cold oceans of the wasteland, ruins and twisted skeletons of stone and steel its last physical testament.
Some believe Maya disappeared in the same instant that humanity ascended, while others say it must lie buried under the wasteland after millions of years of time, and still others claim it was scoured from the world’s surface by machines or gods (or possibly, machine-gods). Explanations for the city are just as varied, and just as uncertain. The majority of narratives claim that the first humans to awaken found Cathexis fully or partially formed, as if waiting for new masters. But if anyone living remembers the return, they’re as silent on the matter as they are well-hidden, so the true condition of the city and humanity when they stumbled upon each other remains unknown.
Today, humans are born in the city, and mostly they die in the city or die in the astral realm, becoming Decathex and often vanishing into the work of the city’s maintenance. Rarely, they go missing and are rumored to join with the Shadows, the faceless governing force that rules and manipulates Cathexis and its people, striving through the rule of law to keep it ageless and unchanging. Within these codes, history is measured not in years or generations as it was in ancient Maya, but in the astral struggles and victories that force change upon the city, its people, and its living concepts.
The Decathex are the psychically dead, a mix of mindless sleeper-clones created without will and those whose astral selves have been destroyed — either in psychic combat, or as the Shadow’s punishment for crimes in the physical world. Decathex have no wills or thoughts of their own, and are somewhere between philosophical zombies and vegetables. They are largely (if not completely) subject to the will of the most powerful psychic around, blindly accepting the input of other astral beings in the absence of their own.
In practice, this means they obey the Shadows, which declare any and all Decathex as property of the city from the moment they hollow. It uses them as slave labor, both skilled and unskilled; Decathex are without personality, but they are still human. What makes them true individuals has been eliminated, but a human being is more than just a soul. Decathex can be taught, and while they have no originality or intuition, they can perform tasks by rote with instruction, even very complex tasks like glassmaking and peacekeeping and child rearing. Decathex can sense need at a psychic level and are prompted to act on it like living tools. They can even communicate verbally, though they do so in a dull monotone.
Cathexis is the hub of all things, the future birthplace of humanity’s new existence. The forces manipulating the increasingly amoral, passionate and overconfident elites who dream of shaping the world are not to be taken lightly, however. The Shadows may have a plan for the New Realizing that they have refused to share, or they may have betrayed the Collective Reexistence, actively preventing the emergence of a consensus within the city that might prompt the remainder of humanity to awaken. Within the city, individuals have already defected from the role they were born to play. Some seek to rescue or revive the Decathex that was once a loved one; others believe there is truth in the wasteland among the bones of Maya’s civilizations or in the bizarre streams of orange that crisscross the wastes like blood vessels. One has heard the laughter of children on the astral winds and believes humans exist beyond Cathexis. And in the vast stellar void, the psychic beacon that is the Collective Reexistence has drawn the interest of other vast and inhuman intellects, which have begun to turn their minds toward the small and lonely planet and its city of theorist gangs.
Welcome to Cathexis, where the days are every color and the nights run black and silver. Join the cause. Make your mark. Bring forth the new world.
Worlds’ End is an article series that presents setting and adventure concepts that can be used as the basis for a game. Check back on Fridays for more Worlds’ End columns, and leave your feedback on today’s column on the forums.