A feather floats above, slave to a fickle breeze…Pedestrians walk below with their intentions and destinations unseen.
Within this sea of people, there is one particular couple walking side by side, enjoying a sun not seen for months, its glow warm and comforting on their skin. Bathing in that spring ambiance inspires a man to speak a truth he’s been hiding for weeks…
-“Babe…” he says loudly enough to be heard over the many voices accompanying them.
“Yeah?” she answers casually.
-“What time is your flight tomorrow?”
“How many times do I have to tell you?? 5:45PM.
-“Ah yeah, okay…well that gives you enough time,” he says tentatively, the man’s face beginning to show signs of concealed truths. She noticed this quickly and her mind starts to turn…
“Enough time for what?” she inquires, looking up at him intently as they walk. He didn’t answer straight away, during that pause she could see their reflection in the passing windows of the high-street shops. Normally, she wouldn’t be able to resist checking herself out in the glass, but her fiancé’s peculiar demeanour focused her attention. After a few awkward seconds had passed he, broke his silence and spoke.
-“Okay well please don’t get mad Jen but, I went to see her again, a few weeks ago…”
“You’re joking…are you serious?? After everything, you went and saw her again?!” The women’s intuition had signalled he’d been hiding something, but this…she never saw coming. This realisation sent her into a red-hot rage. She couldn’t refrain from hurling obscenity-laden abuse at him, she had a volatile temper and her fiancé was taking the full brunt of it. He tried his best to calm her down, to explain his actions, but the judgemental stares of those around was proof of its futility.
-“Babe you don’t understand, just let me explain, she called me! She said it was important! I would never have gone to see her otherwise.” Word after word just fell upon deaf ears, as far as she was concerned, each syllable was just another thrust into the dirt covered grave he was digging himself. Jennifer’s fiancé, knowing her like he did, soon realised that she was past the point of rational thought and there was only one way to get her attention. He turns to face Jennifer directly and in one swift movement grabs her forcefully by her shoulders, his masculine strength rooting her to the spot. His abrupt halting of her incensed flailing sends a shock through Jennifer, snapping her out of a violent rhythm.
In her surprise, she looks at him with wide eyes, almost as if to say ‘are you sure you want to be doing that??’ Jennifer feels his grasp deepen along the five points of his fingers. At which point, even her elevated adrenaline wasn’t able to conceal the pain, she slowly looks down to her left and while staring at his hand says, “Joseph…you need to let go of me right now.” Her tone was cold and her expression one of deathly seriousness, combined, they delivered a piercing message of intent to Joseph. A voice nearby exclaims loudly, “hey man you need to let go of your girl! you can’t be about that life…that’s not a good look man!”
Joseph, upon hearing the man’s words, pauses to think for a second…before he can say his next words, something changes his expression from a pleading focus to concerned puzzlement. Jennifer, tired of waiting, begins to try and fight her way out of his grip, screaming repeatedly “LET GO OF ME!! LET GO OF ME!!” Joseph’s pupils suddenly dilate, his mind struggling to deal with the onslaught of incoming stimuli, rushes to a brutal conclusion. Within a fraction of a second, he’s shifted his bodyweight towards her, and thrown her towards the glass window of the store behind! Her body flew back, as if weightless, the gawking people around gasped in horror at her impeding plight. The seconds slowed in Jennifer’s mind, her anticipation of the impact was a brief torture, compared to what fate had in store for her…
A song called pain had just started playing at the scene, the people gathered here by his invitation move to its rhythm as they stare. She was the belle of this ball and was asked to the dance floor by the figure ‘in all black tux’. To be close to her was its desire, for It had been written in cosmic ink that she would dance with death, dance to a requiem called pain. But, before she could, another stepped in, taking her place in its hypnotic sway. He would surrender to its will and perform this art in sacrifice, dancing his final steps towards the grave. For Joseph had actually saved her from an oncoming car that had lost control. He paid a high price for admission…And now the song called pain was finished. Although Jennifer was saved from its melodies, another song began, only she could hear…a song called sorrow.
Before his final breath, he left a parting message, “Babe…you have to go see her…I know we were moving on…but, she still has a piece of me. Forgive me…I really did want to spend the rest of my life with you, I never wanted things to turn out like this…”
Jennifer couldn’t calm her mind enough to understand the meaning of his words. By the time medics arrived in their blue and red lit chariots, Joseph’s broken body was pronounced dead at the scene. Watching the love of her life carried away left her inconsolable. The medics were attending to all her wounds- all but, the one that counted. She retreated into herself, looking for solace in memories of their time together. Yet only the unhelpful kept turning in her mind – “You said you’d never leave me…even after my 3rd miscarriage, you said you’d stay…Every time you came to visit me in rehab, I thought it would be the last…but you stayed. You said you’d never leave me…” This line of thinking was slowly circling her around the drain. she was on the precipice of a deep darkness…and unlike all those times before, he wasn’t going to be there to pull her out if she fell.
She was still, sitting on the edge of the pavement; the wreckage – behind a cocoon of screaming people that insulated her from the horror of the past minutes. Since she wasn’t the only injured, the medics took her tranquil gaze and bandaged wounds as sign that their work was done, and so moved on. A fatal mistake. In the confusion she invisibly slipped away, making her way back to the car they’d bought together. She sat in the front seat pensive, the subtle taste of her own blood still in her mouth. After a few seconds of silent waiting, she came to a conclusion. “You said you would never leave me…but you have…and its her fault. You would still be here if it wasn’t for HER. She can’t get away with this…I won’t let her.” she thought, bereft and angry. In that one moment this ‘other women’ had inherited all blame, become the focus of all hate…and now Jennifer was going to seal her fate.
20 mins later…
Jennifer arrives, behind her a trail of broken dreams and in front, a green wooden door. Its number – like her, barely hanging on. Three loud knocks signal her intent; the person inside senses it, tentatively comes to the door, and seeing who it is, feels compelled to let them in.
“Hi Jennifer…” She whispers, with shame in her voice.
-“Hello…” Jennifer replies, just as quietly.
“Do you want to come in?”
-“Yes…I think I should…”
In a vacuum of quite awkwardness, they both walk into the living room and sit down, Jennifer’s asked if she would like something to drink, but she doesn’t answer. Her mind is occupied by how much she hates the fact this women is prettier than her, how she would love to change that…with her bare hands. Gritting her teeth, she stares at the other women, who nervously eludes her gaze. She thinks Jennifer has come merely to discuss why she’d called Joseph, even after she claimed that she never would again. She was wrong, and soon would find out just how wrong. Knowing she had a lot of explaining to do, she began the conversation. “Erm…so I guess you want to know why I called him…well–”
The women’s explanation was cut short by a sudden breath-stealing surprise. Jennifer had just plunged a blade into her stomach. It was something she’d stolen from the medics treating her and was now trying to penetrate the women’s flesh as deeply as she could. Her face close enough to her victim’s to be able to kiss it with her warm murderous breath. The unfortunate women – in shock – didn’t even let out a scream…Until Jennifer wrenched the blade, turning it, dragging it across her stomach, splitting her open, exposing her insides. Screams of agony poured out of her just like the blood flowing across Jennifer’s unforgiving fists. She continued her brutal attack, every strike an accusation of stealing Joseph from her. In between the women’s flailing and screams for mercy, she was trying to tell Jennifer something. Something Jennifer’s temporary insanity would not let her hear.
“Please stop! STOP!!! You’re KILLING HIM!!!”
-“No B**** you killed him, YOU did!”
This blind rampage continued for a few, yet interminable minutes, before her victims life began ebbing from her body…fatigue had slowed Jennifer movements and mind, and at this pace she could finally hear it properly. “You killed him…You killed Joseph’s…” Blood and tears muffled the words, but their meaning was clear. “…Joseph’s baby.”
Those were the last words the women ever spoke, and with them, Jennifer understood the truth. She was the only person responsible for removing the last piece of her fiancé from her life, from the world.
Death’s song of sorrow started anew.
The Lonely Island Project
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.