Joshua exhaled, feeling every possible molecule out in steady succession. The fragile, verdant light that filled the night rippled, undulating like muscular coils around him, closing more tightly with each measured breath. The pressure had been steadily building for longer than he could remember. He knew that it, whatever it was, had not always been there. He had vivid memories of the time before when the weight of it had not even been a blip in the back of his mind. All the same, he couldn’t pinpoint when it had begun to close around him.
With more effort than he thought he could muster, Joshua raised his arms, presenting them palm out in front of them. It was like moving through water, as he felt both resistance and weightlessness as his limbs responded to his mental command. A voice in the back of his head reminded him to breathe. Again, he knew that voice had not always been there, that there was a time when he didn’t obey its command. Or, at least, a time when he had not heard the command for such a routine action. But he knew that without its reminder, he might forget to draw the next breath. The light vibrated in response to his action, expanding outward to make room, before contracting in around him again. It settled back on him like a weight, slowly pushing the breath from his lungs. He could feel the substance of it, slipping into his nose, up towards his sinuses, and then down the back of his throat, thick and moist. The voice commanded him to swallow, and Joshua did. He could track the feeling of it all the way down, as it joined the dozens, hundreds, thousands, of others breaths he had taken before. It settled deep within him, joining the squirming, writhing mass inside his stomach, pulsing in time with his muted heartbeat.
Focusing his eyes, Joshua looked at his extended palms, though it took time for his eyes to focus in the green glow. He could see, more than feel, the sweat on his palm, beading and clinging to his skin with desperation. They too pulsed; erratic ripples just below his skin moved from the center of his palms outward, up to his wrist, then to his elbow, and to the tips of his fingers. This, the voice told him, was new. This was another step, another signal of what was to come, of what they had been preparing for with each exhale, each inhalation, and every swallow.
As he watched his hands, felt them lose touch with his body, weightless in the light, Joshua started to hear the faint rush of something in his ears. It followed his heartbeat, ebbing and cresting, growing louder. Coming closer as each moment passed. Be steady, the voice urged him, the reward was coming soon. Rising around him, the verdant coils pulled him in, tightening like an embrace around him. The rush of sound crescendoed, peaking like waves over him, drawing him down, deep into the glowing emerald void. Outside of his head, the voice rejoiced its triumph, and Joshua sunk down, pulled beneath the coils, as all began to fade.