One of the benefits to playing serial Apocalypse World one-shots is that I've seen the psychic maelstrom manifest in different ways.
* In a game riffing a touch on The Stand, set along I-10 in New Mexico, the maelstrom was Hell.
* In a game set on a generational starship, where the characters were a middle generation well after it launched, and wouldn't be the ones to reach the destination (so, only there to further populate the species), the maelstrom was the ship's frightening AI. Very Hal 9000.
* In a game riffing off of Summerland, with small human enclaves surrounded by the encroaching forests, the maelstrom was the forest itself, angry at humans. (Which made playing my Brainer weird, as my allegiance felt very split between my friends and the forest that could talk to me. That's also the game where I got the 29 experience in one session.)
How has the maelstrom manifested in your games?