The year is 2055, the world has progressed in ways unforeseen by the brightest minds, becoming deformed in its social structure and economic powers. On this restructured earth, a group of prominent figures have used their celebrity to ascended to a monarchy of their own creation, referred to as The House of West. Though controversial and fiercely opposed this monarchy used their influence and wealth to create new wonders, liberate the oppressed and heal many of the planets social and economic wounds. Nevertheless, the success of these endeavours could not do enough to convince their enemies; and the 5 years following their establishment brought large-scale civil unrest in their home continent. Many factions of their society plotted and schemed for war and rebellion, although the true economic and political gravitas for change eluded them. The most influential of these factions were The Free Smokers Guild, The Peoples Republic and The Kardites. These social groups, by concealing their own agenda’s managed to unite against their common enemy, and with the funding of a mysterious fourth party began to oil the cogs of the largest civil war ever seen.
The continent’s political virtue ravaged by the unwanted advance of civil war, its resources choked into extinction by the weeds of espionage and treachery. The death toll amounting to half its original population…the continent is dying a death slower than the worst cancers…bleeding out its plague into the surrounding seas, neighbour’s sealing their borders in fear of infection. However The House of West still stands, and as has been proven throughout history the rich and powerful find ways to escape the fate of the poor and enfeebled. On these bleak and desolate lands lacking joy, hope and freedom the only form of escape is one manufactured, one forsaking the real and confining itself to the virtual. The House of West had created ‘The lonely island project’. Made from the majority of the remaining funds of the Federal Reserve and born from the minds of the their brightest Neurobiologists and physicists this was a virtual reality like no other before it, and the program was available only to the few left in the Monarchy’s favour. ‘The Lonely Island Project’ was an experience where an individual could travel to a choice of four different Islands, each one with its own social and economic properties. They were called; The Lonely Island of Choice, The Lonely Island of Warriors, The Lonely Island of XY, and The Lonely Island of The One also known as the Loneliest Island. The only restrictions imposed on the traveller were that only a single person could be present on each at any one time, and for a maximum duration of 24 hours. Although very different they had one important thing in common, they were not here, not in this broken, inhospitable purgatory of a place once called the Americas…yet, this was the very reason they were so dangerous. Though the embers of civil war were still burning, it had consumed most of its political fuel, finding itself in a near vacuum state of incident-less apathy. But with the birth of the Lonely Island Project, a window was opened, air rushed in and life was given back to the flames…who now had a whole new battlefield to burn into black.
A tall elderly women, is walking down a long red-carpeted path within a vast dimly lit hall. Her hair, long ago having relinquished its dark brown tone and vitality to the days and age, is now grey and straw like. That morning she’d casually tied it into a pony tail of lazy design, which was in stark contrast to the rest of her appearance. She was wearing a long violet dress of expensive fabric that shimmered; it was well-tailored and fitted to her still impressive physique. Her body was something that she still passionately looked after, it was in her DNA, and prevalent since her childhood days as a gymnast.
Although walking through an empty stone hall her steps were silent, the lush red carpet embraced every landing of her crystal heels muffling any potential sound. Eventually the red path ends, she arrives at an unassuming wooded door, knocks twice, and there is a brief pause…then a raspy voice calls out.
“Who is it?” The women replies firmly “ It’s Jess.”
“Ah hello Miss T, just hold on a sec, let me just find this damn key so I can let you in”
-“I don’t know why you insist on using those ancient things, figure print keys were invented for precisely that reason.”
“Yes I know but there’s just something very satisfying about hold a huge set of keys like an old-fashioned security guard”
-“You are such a weirdo John, and I don’t know why a scientist would want to play act at being a mall cop.”
“Being a mall cop is an honourable job! Well…If there were any such things left”
-“Yes yes lets not get into this again”
John finds the correct key and unlocks the door, his beaming face greeting her, as the door swings open, he then timidly steps back to make way for her entrance. As she steps in, she’s greeted by the familiar sight of the large white laboratory of a thousand apparatuses, each one more clichéd than the next. She had always been convinced that most were just decoration as she had never seen John use them, he was a man strangely attached to the past. But then again it perhaps wasn’t so strange considering his family history.
John walking over to his desk says to Jess “so which one will it be today?” She replies immediately “ The Lonely Island of The One please”. John turns back towards her in surprise and says “ really? That’s not like you miss T, are you okay?” She could sense the sincerity in his voice and so replies honestly “ Not so much…I’ve just been having some troubles with the gran kids and need some time away”. Not wanting to pry any further John ceases his line of questioning and instead leads her towards the far corner of the Lab. In this corner resided a grand chair of stainless metal finish and above it a semi-sphere casing with countless cables and circuitry protruding from it. Its wiring stretched all the way into a colossal structure that was situated on the opposite end of the lab. This huge black box and its two blue glowing lights were the brain and power source of the ‘Beach chair’, as its more frequent users knew it. It stood humming quietly in the background, its presence like that of a statue deity built by an indigenous people to watch over and protect them. Some seeking guidance from it, others solace and a few just permission to indulge in their carnal desires.
“Have a seat” John says calmly, Jess obliges. The chair was cold like always, but it never bothered her much, she gets as comfortable as she can and lays her head back. John slowly descends the VR head unit on her and recites the rules of The Lonely Island Project.
“No interacting with unlicensed objects, the time limit is 24 hours after which the experience will automatically end and what happens on the Island…”
-“…Stays on the Island” Jess replies with a smile as she closes her eyes. Hearing those rules always increases her pulse and sets lose a kaleidoscope of butterflies in her stomach. She begins the count down in her head…5..4…3…2…and with the count of 1 her mind was inundated with soft sounds and bright lights, which raced past like a night-time recording of a busy motorway played at high-speed. After several seconds of this Technicolor dream, the colourful light show slowed, it began to turn into a gentle blackness with an orange hue. It was a familiar thing and signaled that she had arrived, for it was the colour seen when you close your eyes to the brightness of a summer’s day. It was always summer on the Islands and she was eager to bathe in the heat of its rays again.
Jess slowly opens her eyes, expectantly gleeful. She had spent most of the morning pondering what this so-called ‘Loneliest Island’ would look like…? The sensory quality of the virtual reality program was always true to real life but never in her wildest dream did she imagine this. As her eyes accustomed themselves to the light, and her senses began to decipher the saturation of data she felt confusion become her. ‘What is this? Why am I here? Did John mess up the machine?’ she asked herself. She was not on an Island; tropical trees were replaced by architectural beams of metal and brick, sandy shores by tarmac, and Island birds by passenger planes. Jess knew where she was but it took her a moment to believe it, she hadn’t been inside a working airport in 5 years, let alone the number of people who were swarming around her like bees in a hive. This was the buzz of before the civil war, and it frightened her. She closed her eyes and tried to communicate with John via the cerebral ilink “John! What’s going on?? Where have you sent me? Is this some kind of new Island??” there was no answer.
“Erm excuse me?! Do you mind?! I’m trying to board a plane and you’re making me late?!” a women’s voice yells from behind her.
-“Oh sorry” Jess says as she steps aside apologetically. She was still trying to get her baring’s when dark voice spoke from inside her head.
“Jessica, listen to me very carefully, John is no longer able to help you. You are alone in this and the only way back for you is to do exactly as I say. Failure to do so will mean the death of not only John but everyone you’ve EVER known.” Jess was paralyzed to the spot; she could sense that the man’s words were not a bluff. Before she could find enough composure to form her next thought, the voice continued. “I’ll take your silence as compliance, now walk over to that newspaper on the seat in front of you and pick it up” She remembered that there was a screen in the lab that permitted who ever was operating the Beach Chair to see what ever the subject in it could, So she did as the voice asked. She slowly walked towards the folded newspaper that was resting precariously on the edge of the seat, making sure not to step on the feet of the people who were sitting, calmly waiting for their flight to begin boarding. She picks it up and feelings of nostalgia flowed through her, all news was now digital and she had forgotten how much she liked the texture of a newspaper. Jess was abruptly woken from her momentary daze by the dictating voice in her head. “What is the date on the newspaper?” She paused as she unfolded it to find the date…when she found it she promptly replied “It says September the 11th, but I don’t understand why a date has any meaning in a virtual reality program?”
-“you poor old women…you really have no idea what this program really is do you? Look around you…feel the environment around you…how could you think a computer simulation could have this level of authenticity?” Jess had always been impressed by its digital quality…thinking that the eerie realness of the experience was just her mind filling in the gaps. Little did she know that the Lonely Island Project was not virtual reality at all, but something else entirely. The voice ominously reaffirmed this to her “This my dear is an opportunity…an opportunity to succeed where others have failed…to exacerbate what was once underplayed and to begin the re-moulding of this broken world from its gluttonous insides. And thanks to you, September the 11th…the darkest day in your generations history is about to become a whole lot darker.”
To be continued
© Alpha Maurice Cidade Cauwenbergh – Storyteller, Poet & Intern at Wordsmith Inc. 2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Alpha Maurice Cidade Cauwenbergh – Storyteller, Poet & Intern at Wordsmith Inc. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.