I stepped into a bright room. Yellow light seemed to come from everywhere. My eyes fought to adjust to the surroundings, and eventually I made out that I was in a cavernous hall that contained quite a treasure trove. There was gold to be seen in every knook and cranny. It hung from the ceiling and from the walls, and the floor was covered in the stuff. There was a mountain of golden objects in the middle of the room, the top of which nearly touched the ceiling. Upon a strange whim, I decided to climb the mountain of gold (which, as I've learned from many an action film, is not always the brightest idea. But this was a dream, right?).
Upon reaching the top, I discovered a small artifact perched neatly upon all the others. It was a lamp. I'd never seen a real one before, let alone one made of gold. I picked it up and examined it.
How predictable. At least with the other dimensions there was some mystery to the atmosphere. Just as Aladdin had done before me, I rubbed the lamp.
Confused, I rubbed it again. Still nothing. No smoke, no genie, no Robin Williams. I frowned and set the lamp back down. Where was I supposed to meet this dimension? Is he/she/it hiding somewhere?
I turned around to descend the mountain and nearly tripped over a woman who was sitting on the very edge.
"Whoa! What the hell? Where did you come from?"
The woman turned around and faced me, "Oh honey you nearly tripped, I'm so sorry! Would you like to give me a nice rub?"
I lost my train of thought and just stood there, staring at her for a few seconds. I began contemplating how to answer when the woman turned into a dash of smoke and flew up to the ceiling around me. A booming laughter resounded throughout the hall. It was a peevish, irritating laugh that instantly snapped me out of my trance.
"HAHOOHAHA! YOU SHOULDA SEEN THE LOOK ON YOUR FACE KID! 'WOULD YOU LIKE TO GIVE ME A RUB?' HAHAHAHOO!"
I furrowed my brow and sat down, trying to show that I was unimpressed. The cloud wizzed about, and eventually settled itself upon the top of the lamp I had rubbed just a minute ago. It took my form and floated in mid-air.
"Sorry kid, that was too good. Now, let's get down to business," a scroll and a pair of spectacles appeared out of thin air. He put them on and began reading (or perhaps he was pretending to read).
"I am the Persona, and I am your personal master of disguise. I shape-shift and transform to satisfy your desired appearance to others. When you are not in need of a mask, I am free to shape shift into whatever I desire (hence the lady). I usually only make an appearance on the first plane, but other times you require me on deeper, more personal planes*. I conceal your Self from others so that his and your own true identities may remain hidden."
I cocked my head, "So you're all the different personalities I have?"
The scroll and spectacles disappeared, and the Persona compromised his face in a manner that made me frown, "Eh, not quite, kid. I'm everything that your Self isn't. I'm the mask you wear between each plane of depth. When people see me, they ain't seein' you for what you really are."
I eyed him, "Show me."
In instant, the image of myself transformed into a wisp of smoke and darted off to the ground. It reshaped itself into my form again, except this time, he was wearing a purple jacket, a top-hat and he held a cane.
"Top of the mornin' to ya sir, can I getchya a drink that tickles yer fancy? Black tea? Green tea? Coke, sprite, lemon juice, whale bile?"
I had to admit, he was doing a good job. It was a perfect impression of my British impression (an impression within an impression. Inception?)
He turned to face me from below, "Let me show ya one that's a bit more common these days."
There was a ball of smoke, then there appeared a haughty looking young man with slick hair and a V-neck. He was examining his nails and whipped out a file from his pocket.
"I think women are overrated. All they ever do is complain and disappoint. We men are too good to have such inconsiderate stumbling blocks thrown in front of us," he blew off his nails, "why did God create them, anyway? It's not like man can't handle the world on his own. He could've just stuffed a few extra organs inside us and we would've been just fine."
Strangely, part of me vigorously agreed with every word that spilled from his mouth, even though I knew he was acting.
"All women are the same. They come, they go. No remorse. No looking back. For them, it's all about 'me, myself and I'."
The youth flipped the nail file between his fingers, then stylishly slipped it back into his pocket. He melted into a whiff of smoke, which shot back up to the top of the mountain. Once again, the Persona materialized above the lamp.
"Pretty good, eh?"
"A bit exaggerated, perhaps," I mumbled.
"Hey, hey now, I might be a master of disguise, but I ain't no liar. I tell it how it is. I know every little quirk aboutchya, kid. I may fudge the truth sometimes, but I never get carried away like some people, cough the Shadow cough. I'm surprised the Anima ain't fed up wit' you yet. I hear word she ain't too happy about this sexist thing ya got goin' on here."
"I'm not sexist."
"Hoho aaalrighty then. Anyway, you better get yourself back to the Sanctuary. Self don't like it when one of us to keeps ya for too long."
He pointed at the floor, and there out of thin air appeared a portal. I got up.
"Thanks, I guess."
"Hey kid, I'm just doin' my job. Oh, before you go, would you like to see that lady again? I think she could still use a rubbin'."
I shook my head, "I think I'm alright. Thanks anyway." I turned to leave.
"She likes ya for now, kid, but keep it up and it'll be some hell to pay."
He chuckled peevishly and gave me a hard shove off the mountain. I yelped in surprise and tumbled down into the portal.
*This is a reference to my work The Four Planes of Depth, which, in a way, is a daughter work to this story.