A Forgotten Dream

Reads: 21  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


This story is partially an actual recurring dream I had. I expanded it to where I thought the dream would have gone.

Submitted: September 18, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: September 18, 2018

A A A

A A A


CONFUSION

 


 

Where to begin? I guess the best place would be my first memory. It’s all confusing to me, and I’m sure to you. The first thing I remember is…

Silence…

Confusion…

Cannot move…

A high pitched sound shot through my ears, then slowly faded. As it did, I heard a faint low pitched hum. My whole body started tingling. I was confused and scared. I held my eyes tightly closed. The tingling faded. I felt a cold breeze sweep across my feet. I pulled them up closer to my body. I was extremely weak and that simple act took some effort. The hum grew louder. I was lying on the cold, damp ground. Another cold breeze across my feet. I pull them up further. Slowly, very slowly, I opened my eyes. Only a little. There was something in front of me. I can see an orange light through the cracks of whatever is in front of me. Eyes still not completely open. That hum is very loud now. Something moved! Something blocked the orange light just for a moment. It must have passed by, but which way? I don’t know. I opened my eyes wider. I can see that there are wooden crates in front of me. Some have words on them that I don’t understand. Pieces of wood all over me. An earthen wall behind. The light flickered again. There’s something out there moving around and making that hideous hum. More movement! Silent. Stay silent. That noise is far away now. The light is dimming. Not yet. Don’t move. So confused. So scared. Darkness.

My body jerked. Eyes wide open. I must have passed out. Through the cracks in front of me, I could see a gray haze. No shapes. The orange glow was gone. How long was I out? I need to find out where I am. What is happening. After what seemed like hours, but I’m sure was mere minutes, I started shifting the wooden pieces off of me. Listening intently for anyone that might be around. I could hear the crates as the scraped on the floor. But otherwise, nothing. As I got to my knees, I peek over the crates. Through the gray haze that just hung in the air, I could see what used to be a camp fire. There are some crates around it. A few are broken. Some sticks propped on one. Couldn’t see any further. Can’t see a ceiling. This haze it too thick.

I bent down to push myself up to my feet. A loud scream burst out of me. It echoed in all directions. I froze. The damp floor I had been lying on was covered in what looked like blood! After a few seconds, I came to my senses and dropped down behind the crates. Had anyone heard me? I was trembling. As I knelt there, I felt myself all over. I had a rather large lump behind my left ear, with a trail of dried blood going across my forehead. Otherwise, only a few bruises and scrapes. The lump didn’t hurt much. None of my injuries could account for the amount of blood on the floor.

After sitting in silence for a while, and sure I wasn’t heard, I stood. From the echoes I knew I was in a cave. A little wobbly and weak, I pushed aside some crates and made my way to the campfire. Scattered around the area were some wooden crates, some smashed. The sticks were pointed with charred ends. I assume for cooking over the fire. Some crates had some crimson stains on them. As did the ground around them. Dried blood. Whatever happened here, was quick. There were a few tin cups, empty of course. I looked around for a while longer. There was nothing of use here. I need to get out of here. I just had this feeling that if I stayed, something bad was going to happen. No way of knowing which way led out. So, I just started walking. I couldn’t see far in front of me, so my attention was mainly at the ground in front of me. My feet were bare and I thought it best to keep an eye on where I was stepping. After a few steps, I noticed there were no tracks or footprints. Unless whoever was in this cave could fly, which I doubt, they didn’t come this way. But the thing that made that noise. It came from one direction, passed by, and continued on. But there were no tracks. Nonsense. It must have turned around and went back. So I turned around and walked the other way.

I reached the camp fire, looked around some more in case I missed something earlier, then moved on. There were some tracks here going in this direction. Odd tracks. Not footprints. They looked as if someone had laid a small ladder on the ground, lifted it, and laid it back down again. On and on this track went. I followed.

The gray fog moved. Slightly but noticeably. I must be getting close to the way out. The haze is thinning slightly. I can now see that I am in a cave. I can’t tell how long I walked to get this far. The ceiling must be twenty feet up. From wall to wall you could stand thirty people side by side, with arms outstretched. Huge boulders scattered all over. Slowly, carefully, and as quietly as I could, I walked forward.

 

ENDING OF PLACE

Expecting sunlight, I was disappointed. As I walked slowly beyond the cave entrance, there were hundreds of smoldering tree stumps. The ground was covered in gray ash. For as far as I could see, a gray ashy wasteland. There was a slight breeze, but it wasn’t helping much. Just enough to move the gray haze slowly. Looking back at the cave, I could see it was set in a very large hill. Of course, this was also covered in smoldering tree stumps and gray ash. I thought of climbing the hill to have a look around, but I think I would just see more of the same. There were no tracks outside the cave. The ash must have covered them. I just started walking away from the cave. The ash on the ground actually felt nice compared to the stone floor of the cave. Still, I had to be careful. Didn’t want to step on a hot coal or sharp stick. That’s weird. I moved the ash aside with my foot. No sticks. No bits of wood. Just cold bare ground. The fire must have been swift, and intense, to burn the trees so completely and still leave the ground cool.

This must have been a great forest, at one time. A slight downgrade all the way from the cave. Nothing but tree stumps, and the ever present gray haze. I could be walking for days and not find anyone or anything. It was so quiet. Just the sound of my feet on the ground, and me coughing. Got to keep moving. Looking up, I could see a slightly lighter gray disk in the sky. I could see the sun. This must mean the haze is thinning out. It looks to be mid-day. Good. I have several hours of light left.

After walking for what seemed like several hours, I noticed far ahead, some dark figures. I stopped and watched them intently. They did not move. I couldn’t make out what they were through the haze. I slowly walked forward keeping my eyes on the figures. As I moved closer, I started making out several more shapes. Further away and much taller. To my surprise, what I was looking at were pieces of buildings. Brick and concrete walls broken and smashed. The figures were the parts that had not fallen down. Debris scattered all over. Bricks, pieces of metal, huge chunks of concrete, and here and there, bits of fabric. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. Not ash like the burned forest, but a gritty dust. As I walked further, the haze thinned out enough for me to realize that this was a ruined city. By the look of it, some of the buildings must have reached hundreds of feet high, and occupied huge areas of land. The path I was on seemed to be made of stone, and stretched far into the distance, with ruined buildings lining both sides.

This place was picked clean. I looked through some of the rubble and a few lower rooms that survived. Nothing of any use.

I walked along the path, passing building after building. This must have been an amazing city at one time. I wondered what had happened. The thought of a plague passed through my mind. No, that can’t be it. I found myself trying to convince me of something else. A plague can linger for years and that’s something I don’t want.

Off to my right, down a side path, I thought I saw a little puff of dust rise up. I’m sure it was just the breeze, or my imagination. I felt a sharp sting on my right thigh.

 

OLD MAN

I must have passed out again. I opened my eyes. Blurry at first, but as my eyes began to focus, I could see that I was in a small room. Candle light illuminated a small table next to the wooden bed I’m lying on. A wooden wall behind. That’s all I can see. I wonder if this is my room and the last day just a dream. I don’t recognize anything. I try to sit up. There is a rope across my chest holding me down. I move to untie it, but my wrists and ankles are also tied down. Should I cry out? Pretend to be asleep? I don’t know what to do.

A noise from the darkness. Coming from the foot of the bed. Someone is here. Someone is watching. What should I do? I’m scared. Something moved. I can see a figure. It’s coming this way.

A figure of an old man walked into the light. He slowly walked up the side of the bed, stopping at my knees. He just stared at me. No hair on him. Spotted, wrinkly skin. So thin I could see his cheek bones. He wore and old black wool shirt. Black pants with a rope around his waist. We stared at each other. He slowly turned and walk away. Stopping just at the edge of the light, he fiddled with something, then another candle lit up. I could see more. It was a small room. No windows. Another larger table with a wooden chair next to it. Some pots and jugs on the table. A door. Nothing else. He turned and started walking back to me. He reached the side of the bed. Closer to my face this time. He just stared. I could feel beads of sweat forming on my skin. I was afraid. He bent down, never taking his eyes off mine. The rope around my chest loosened. He then untied my right wrist. He then pointed his spotted hand at my left hand and feet, turned and walked to the chair. I assumed he wanted me to untie myself, which is what I did. I sat on the edge of the bed. He sat in the chair, eyes fixed on me. My feet were caked with gray ash. It wasn’t a dream. He raised that ugly hand again and pointed towards the second candle. Next to it was a jug and some tin cups. I stood up. I was amazed at how much better I felt than yesterday. Was it yesterday? I don’t know how long I’d been here. The floor was earthen, but smooth. I walked to the jug. It was full of water. He nodded. I filled a cup and drank it. It was good. I drank another. Whipping off my chin, I looked over at him. He smiled a toothless smile. I held the cup up and nodded back to say thank you. I went back and sat on the edge of the bed, and wondered what was to happen next. For several minutes we sat there, staring at each other. He stirred in his chair, then whispered something. I didn’t understand. He whispered it again. I gave him a confused look. He pointed to the pot on the end of the table and whispered again. I walked over and looked in the pot. There was some kind of soup with green things floating in it. He whispered something different and waved his finger at the pot. Not seeing a bowl or spoon, I grabbed a cup and filled it. It was cold, but decent. Then again, when you’re hungry, anything will do, I guess. Felt good going down. When I finished, I nodded a thank you, and sat back on the bed. I looked around to get a better idea of where I was. There was nothing more. I let out a sigh. Seems like I will not get any answers here, wherever here is. I felt a wave of fatigue sweep down my body. I lay down and closed my eyes.

I woke some time later. The old man was gone. The candles were burned down almost to the ends. I drank several more cups of water, and another of soup. Now to find out where I was. I walked to the door, grabbed the wooden handle, and paused. I took a deep breath, let it out slowly, then opened the door.

 

IN BETWEEN

On the other side of the door was something completely unexpected. The smell of fresh, clean air. Lush green grass. Trees, full and green. Wildflowers in full bloom. I took several deep breaths. I felt invigorated. More alive.

A footpath lead away from the door, beaten down through the grass. A few feet away on the left was an old well with a wooden bucket. I walked down the path, weaving through the trees, for a few hundred feet or so. I came out to another wider path. Maybe ten feet wide, and winding of in either direction. I couldn’t see any tracks. The old man couldn’t have come this way. Only thing I could hear was the breeze in the trees. So what should I do now? I could go back and wait for the man to return. But not understanding what he says would be of no help. No. I must find someone that can help. I turned to the left, paused for a while to consider this way, or that. And just started walking.

The path was mostly smooth red dirt, cutting through a thick forest. It moved around large rocks and trees as if it didn’t want to disturb them. It was a beautiful place, but I was still uneasy. It really bothered me that there were no other sounds. Not even the singing of a bird. Nothing scurrying around. Just me and the forest.

After walking for several hours, I came into a large open area. The path ran along the edge, curving around to somewhere on the other side. The trees here had been cut down recently. The grass and wildflowers trampled. Brush and wood pieces scattered around. Some large piles of brush. Nothing like what I saw before.

 

I sat down on a log and leaned back against a stump. Rubbed my feet awhile, and wished I had brought some water. I began to think. Clearer than before. Try as I did, I couldn’t remember anything before waking up in the cave. I couldn’t remember what I was doing there. Damn! I don’t remember who I am! Who was I? What was my name? I can’t remember anything about myself. This questioning went on for quite a while. No memory, no answers.

I found myself standing and staring off at nothing. Shaking. I was deathly afraid. I knew nothing of myself, or of my surroundings. Alone and scared.

I was brought to my senses by a loud snap. Coming from the far end of the clearing. I dropped down behind the stump and peered over the top. Another snap. Then another. Getting closer. Something was coming this way. Not along the path, but right through the brush. I haven’t seen anything alive since the old man. Not even a bug. So what was this? Another snap. Louder. Closer. The brush moved. About a hundred feet away. The brush was high enough I couldn’t see what it was. I ducked down behind the stump. I had two choices. Wait for whatever that was to find me, or run. Which way? I looked around quickly. Nowhere to go but into the forest.

I decided to stay. Maybe I’ll regret it, or maybe I’ll get some answers. I stood up and awaited my fate.

 

OBJECTS

Pushing through the brush came the old man from the cabin. When he noticed me, he hunched down as if ready to run. I assumed he recognized me as he stood up straight and grinned. He looked around quickly and waved me to come to him. After I made my way through the brush, he hunched down. He pointed at his feet. Tied to the bottom of his feet were wooden planks. Each about three feet long, and one foot wide. That explains why there were no tracks before. The way the planks were on his feet, he left no tracks. I also assumed he hadn’t been walking on the path.

But why? Why go through all this trouble to hide? He quickly stood straight up, turned his head, and looked towards the path where I just came from. Stood still and silent. He grabbed my wrist and pulling on my arm, pointed with his other hand at the path I was just on, where it came out of the forest. Before I could make any sense of what was happening, we were running. Towards the place he pointed at. Through the snapping of twigs under our feet, I could barely make out a low hum. Coming from in front of us. Just then, we made a sharp left, and ran into the forest. We had doubled back on my trail, but were about fifty feet off the path. The old man astonished me as he moved like a man in his twenties. He slid down behind a large boulder. I followed. The hum was getting louder. The man was really scared of that noise. That noise? I know that noise. I heard it before in the cave. It was coming down the path. The old man was pulling large pieces of moss from the rock and placing it all over himself. I couldn’t help but to peek over the top of the rock to see what was making that noise. There was something moving along the path. But because the forest was so thick, I couldn’t make it out. A quick glimpse of shiny metal between the trees. I looked down at the man. He was blending into the ground. Even this close it would have been hard to see him. Turning my attention back to the thing on the path, it was almost to the edge of the clearing. I need to see it. I need to know what it is. I carefully started making my way towards the clearing. The man grabbed my ankle and shook his head. With a jerk, I pulled my ankle free, and crawled to the edge, hiding behind a large tree. I watched anxiously for the thing to come out of the forest. Where I was, the path was about sixty to seventy feet away. There were a few small piles of brush, but I had a good view. Along with the hum, I could hear a clanging noise. What emerged from the forest was beyond comprehension. I just stared from behind the tree.

I will describe it best I can. It was all metal. Very shiny. Smooth. No edges that I could see. The entire thing was about seven feet tall. The main part looked like two large pancakes stacked one on the other. From the lower pancake were two legs. Each leg had two parts that bent as it walked. The feet were long oval shaped. It wobbled slightly as it moved. From the upper pancake rose a series of oval shapes, stacked. Looked like five or six. They were positioned toward the front. From the top oval at the back rose a tail that stuck straight in the air. Probably three feet long and wagging as it walked. From the front of the top pancake came an arm. It bent at several places. At the end of the arm was a triangle. The thing was hideous. The arm moved over the path in front of it like it was sniffing the ground. A green light was coming from the triangle. It seemed, no… It was following my tracks. It was looking for me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It stopped at the point where I sat on the log, sweeping its arm over the area. I was stunned, scared, and amazed, all at the same time. It started moving off the path. When it reached some brush, the legs and feet moved into each other and seemed to become one large leg and foot. The giant foot started rolling over the twigs and logs, crushing them beneath its weight. It was moving towards where the old man and I met. It was tracking me. I didn’t have planks on my feet to hide my tracks. It could find me easily. I moved so the tree was between the thing and me. Blocking its view, and I ran. Glancing back every few seconds to make sure the tree was still blocking its view. When I reached the rock, the old man was gone. Just a pile of moss on the ground. I ran out to the path, stopping at the edge. In the path were the same tracks I had seen in the cave. I ran along the edge of the path, keeping in the grass. Hopefully it wouldn’t be able to track me this way. I reached the point where the smaller path led to the cabin. But the path was on the opposite side. I had to cross. I ran across the wide path, leaving heavy footprints in the dirt, then alongside the small path towards the cabin. In the path I could see the tracks from that metal monster. It must have gone to the cabin first, and not finding me there, continued to follow my tracks to the clearing. When I reached about halfway to the cabin, I seen above the trees, a large gray cloud. Just hanging there. My heart sank. I ran a little faster. I was horrified when I reached the cabin. It was gone. Completely gone. A square area of what was the earthen floor was all that was left. No debris. No tin cups. Nothing. Directly above where the cabin used to be was a gray mist. It just seemed to hang there except for the top, which was fanning out in the breeze. Stunned, I looked around and noticed the well was still there. I started walking to it in hopes of getting some water, but froze. There were crimson stains on the side of the stones, and on the bucket. The old man. I slowly walked forward and when I got to the well, I could see that it was indeed blood. Splattered all over the area. Memories of the cave came flooding into my head. I looked down. Sitting on the ground next to the well was one wooden plank. One that the old man had tied to his feet. He was gone. That thing must have done something to him. It was my fault. I left the tracks. I led that thing back here. I was filled with remorse. I sat down in the grass next to the well and just stared at the plank.

 

DARKNESS FALLS, OR DOES IT?

I sat only a few minutes, that thing might still be tracking me. I grabbed the plank and tied it to my left foot. I can’t hop around on one foot. I thought for a minute, then grabbed the bucked and broke it on the side of the well. It was made up of planks held together with a couple woven straps. I grabbed a plank that looked like it would cover my foot best and tied it on with the straps. I strode around seeing if I left any tracks. I didn’t. Good. I looked again at the well. Why did I do that? I should have got some water first.

I walked down the edge of the path, looking back now and then to make sure I wasn’t leaving tracks. It was working. I stepped onto the path, then off. I left a square imprint in the dirt, but it didn’t look like a footprint. So that’s why the old man avoided the path itself. If I were to walk down the path, it would leave square prints that could be tracked.

About fifty feet from the wide path, I heard that noise. That thing was coming. I darted into the forest on my left, and hid behind a large tree. The louder the hum got, the lower I crouched. Then I saw it. It was no more than ten feet away. Going up the narrow path towards where the cabin used to be. It was different. Fuzzy. Out of focus. I rubbed my eyes. The area around it was clear. From what I could make out through the fuzziness, it looked completely different. No pancake areas. No tail. A blob of silver. The green light was still there, off to the side. It was tracking me. As it moved away, it’s shape seemed to change a little. Although blurry, it kind of looked like someone walking. Wearing silver clothes and holding a green lantern. I must be losing my mind. This is all too much for me to handle. It went around a bend in the path and out of sight. Now is my chance to get away. I ran down to the wide path. The thing came from the right, and was heading left. If I go right I might run into more, unless it was heading home. In that case, left is not where I want to go. I thought about just going through the forest, but then I might get lost. I have a better chance of finding someone that will help me if I stick to the path.

I knew the clearing was to the left. That’s where the old man was. That’s the way I want to go. I walked in the grass along the edge of the path, still checking to make sure I wasn’t leaving tracks. I reached the edge of the field. Nothing around. I couldn’t go through the brush. I was on the wrong side of the path. So carefully, I walked along the edge of the clearing to the other side. Looked back to see if that thing was still tracking me. Nothing. Quiet. Good.

I entered back into the forest following the path. Everything was the same as before. Grass, rocks, trees, and silence. The sun was getting low and the air cooler. I could keep walking into the night, or find a place until dawn. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was tired and sore. And above all, I was confused.

I need rest. I looked around and found a stick, about three feet long, with a short branch near one end. I stuck it in the ground near the trail with the branch pointing in the direction I was traveling. A marker for myself. If I am confused in the morning, this will point the way. I turned and walked into the forest about ten feet. There were three trees growing close to each other. I could rest behind them without being seen, but still able to hear anything on the path. I found another stick like the first and did the same, only this one pointed towards the trail. I laid back in the thick grass and rested my head on the planks from my feet. So quiet. I could hear my own heart beating. No way I was going to sleep. Not after what happened today. I started thinking of that thing and what happened to the old man. I felt sorrow. He helped me and I caused him to get killed. Darkness…

 

BOUNDARIES

I opened my eyes. Directly in front of my face were blades of grass, dew drops on them. I was fascinated by the twisted images I seen in them. Contorted trees and grass, and a flicker of sunlight. It was mesmerizing. I thought of the thing and how its shape changed when it passed on by. Strange how two things so different could have something in common. I sat up and rubbed my eyes, looked at the stick. It was still pointing towards the path. I turned and grabbed the wood planks. As I tied them to my feet, thoughts of the old man raced through my head. He helped me. And now he’s gone. Wait! I jumped to my feet. He wasn’t gone, couldn’t be. That thing had left the cabin and came down the path, all while he was with me. I beat it back to the cabin. So the old man wasn’t dead. But whose blood was on the well.

Maybe someday I’ll see him again and be able to thank him. I followed my marker, and arrived at the path. The other marker was still there, pointing me on. The path was smooth, no tracks. It seems all the tracks from the previous day were erased. No, I know what this is. The path had been smoothed on purpose. Someone had not wanted to mix up new tracks with old ones. I’ll just stick to the edges and they’ll never be able to track me.

The path seemed to go on forever. I passed through an area where the banks of the path were over my head. At one time, it seemed, this path was used a lot. Enough to wear it down through a hill. On the other side of that area, I could hear water. I sped up my pace. Ahead of me was a wooden bridge crossing a stream. I crawled down the bank beside the bridge to the stream. It was about 4 feet wide, and just lazily flowed. I cupped my hands and drank as much water as I could. I lay back and looked up at the bridge. There were wood beams going this way and that. Didn’t look that old. I closed my eyes and just listened. The sound of the water sounded like an orchestra compared to the last few days of silence. I looked up and down the stream. Except for some rocks and tree branches hanging over the water, there was nothing. I waded out into the water. Oh my god that felt so good on my feet. A few minutes later I crawled back up, crossed the bridge, and continued on.

Several hours later, I started getting an uneasy feeling. Kind of like someone was watching me. The further I went, the worse it got. I couldn’t take it anymore and rushed into the trees. Looked around feverishly for a place to hide, and then just dropped down into the grass. As I did I heard a dull thud. I looked down but only saw grass and dirt.

A few minutes later another thud. That one sounded like it came from further down the path. Then the faint hum reached my ears. No, not again. The forest was thin here, trees further apart. Down the path I could see shiny metal, and… dark figures following. As it passed, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It looked like the pancake thing from the clearing, but there were people following it, about ten of them. Maybe it isn’t something bad. These people were following it, after all. I was just about to stand up when I noticed they were all looking at the ground, and not saying anything. Like they were being led, but had no choice. One of them, a man, third from the end, looked up and around. He had the appearance that he just realized where he was. He took off running back down the path. My eyes were fixed on him. I heard a loud whoop, then a thud. Before my eyes the man vanished into a gray mist. I was horrified. I pushed my face into the grass. I wanted to crawl underneath it to hide. I lay there motionless until I could no longer hear the hum. I lifted my head up to look. I just stared at where the man was for several minutes. Gathering my courage, I stood and walked to the path. There were ladder-like tracks in the path, trampled by human footprints. I walked along the edge to where the man was. The gray mist was high in the air and fanning out in the breeze. Where the man stood were some splattering of blood, on the path, on a nearby tree. Nothing else left of him.

I decided to continue down the path, but now I’m going to walk as far off the path as I could, but still keep it in sight. I walked maybe a half mile more, constantly checking the path for activity. The trees were thinning out. It looked like this area was cleared of trees many years ago. Only younger, smaller trees grew now. I could barely make out a humming noise. It didn’t scare me this time. It was different. It had a higher pitch. I moved forward carefully watching the path. The hum grew louder. The trees were now several hundred feet apart, and too small to hide behind. But the grass was about three feet tall. If something should come, I would just drop into the grass to hide. Crouching down far enough to still be able to walk, I moved from tree to tree. The hum was now a high pitched buzz, like a mosquito flying near your ear. I twisted my head back and forth, trying to find the source. It seemed to come from all directions.

Over by the path I saw a glint of metal, and dropped into the grass next to a tree. I lifted my head, but couldn’t see through the grass. I shuffled myself around as quietly as I could, and sat back on my heels. It was just enough to see over the grass. I couldn’t see anything on the path. I saw a glint, just above the path. On either side, hovering about ten feet in the air, were silver triangles. They were rotating slowly and as an edge caught the sunlight, it glinted.

What were these things? On the other side of the path, further into the forest, was another one. I looked around my area. There was another one just thirty feet away. There was several more hovering in the forest forming a line that crossed the path. That is where the high pitched buzz was coming from. I hadn’t thought to look up. My attention had always been on the path. I wondered if this was some kind of border, and these were markers. Also, what happened when someone crossed the border? Would an alarm sound?

I felt around and found a fist sized rock. I was going to test it, but I needed to get closer. I didn’t think I could throw it far enough, so staying crouched, I moved to within ten feet of the border. I sat back on my heels, took a deep breath, and threw the rock. I kept my eyes on the floating triangle to see what it would do. In the blink of an eye, the triangle spun, stopped, and shot out a green beam of light. The rock disappeared into a puff of gray mist. I ducked down, but kept my gaze on it. It resumed it’s slow spinning like nothing had happened. No chance of going that way. I don’t want to go back. I have a feeling the answers I seek are within this border. How can I get in with these sentries watching? Maybe the spot where the path enters is the doorway. But that doesn’t make sense. Why guard your border everywhere except there? No, the path is not the way.

I decided to walk along the border away from the path, keeping at least ten feet between myself and it. Maybe one had broken down and I could get through. I walked for several hours. Every triangle I saw was buzzing and rotating, keeping an ever watchful eye on the border.

I hear water in front of me. I walked a few hundred more feet, and sure enough, there was a stream. Kind of looked like the other one, except the banks were deeper here. I made my way down and drank plenty of water. I scooped some in my hands and rubbed it over my face and neck. I was dirty and sweaty and considered just lying in the stream. But it was only a few inches deep and wouldn’t help much. I crossed the stream and started up the opposite bank. I stopped. This might be my chance. The stream was fifteen feet or so below the forest floor. I couldn’t see any triangles, they were too far up and away. But I had to be sure.

I gathered some sticks and leaves and tied them in a bunch on one of the wooden planks. It was about a foot and a half high. I set it in the stream and let it go. It went passed the spot where I assumed the border was, and kept going. I triangles can’t see down here. This is my way in.

I took the other plank and tied it so the plank was at the back of my head. I lay down on my back in the stream, and began pushing my way towards the border. I reached the border and waited. I looked around again for a triangle, but didn’t see any. I held my breath and pushed on. I passed the border, and let my breath out. To be sure, I pushed several more feet. The plank was doing a great job of protecting my head from all the rocks in the stream, but my back was taking a pounding. When I thought I was far enough away, I stood and climbed the bank.

 

BLADES

 

Looking around I could see two triangles off in the distance. The stream led into a thick stand of trees, and off to my left was a large round hill. Almost looks like someone made it, even though it was covered in grass and a few small trees. I made my way towards the hill. Better have a look around or take a chance of getting caught by surprise. I’ve had too many close calls the past few days.

On top of the hill I could make out faint glints of metal far off behind me. They were the triangles and they seemed to go on for miles. In front of me was a very thick stand of trees. Something moved above the trees. I crouched down. There it was again. I watched a dark figure wave above the trees every few seconds. It looked like the blades of a large windmill. There must be someone there and maybe they can help.

As I started down the hill, I heard a dull clunk. I dropped into the grass and heard it again. There was a sharp pain in my chin. I felt a deep cut under my chin. When I pulled my hand away there was a lot of blood on it. My eyes followed a drop as it fell onto a metal plate. I covered my chin and stood. It was a dull black, square plate. Not shiny like those things. It looked like a part of the hill. I picked up a rock and tapped it. Clunk. A second later, a fainter clunk. An echo. The hill was hollow.

Wasting no time, I ran for the trees. If someone or something was in there, no doubt they would want to know who was knocking at their door. The first large tree I found, I slid behind, then waited and watched. Nothing. Maybe nobody was home. I tore off a small piece of clothing and using the strap, I made a makeshift bandage for my chin. I’m sure I looked silly, but it didn’t matter. I left the plank at the base of the tree. No use in having only one anyway. After waiting a while and not seeing any activity from the hill, I started for the windmill.

The stand of trees was larger than it appeared from the hill. The trees were close together and growing in rows. Someone must have planted them. Between the rows of trees were various wildflowers blooming through the tall grass. Strange too was that the ground seemed unusually flat. No bumps or grooves, no rocks either. Everything here looked as if it was done by design.

Ahead of me I could hear noise. Banging, clanging, and other noises that blended together. After days and days of near silence, it sounded wonderful. Every once in a while, I thought I heard voices. People! I was getting excited, but that was soon replaced with caution. After all, I was a stranger and don’t know how they would react.

I will need to sneak up to them and see what they are like. Other than the old man, I haven’t interacted with anyone. I figured the best way would be to take the stream. It was sunk into the ground and provided cover. I was about a half mile from the stream, so I carefully walked that way, stopping every few minutes to listen.

When I got close to the stream, I dropped. Up ahead I could hear scraping noises. Sounded like metal scraping the ground. I peeked over the grass, but could see nothing. More scraping. I crawled quietly through the grass, moving from tree to tree, towards the noise. I was almost to the stream when I saw something move. Slowly I rose, just far enough to see a woman. I couldn’t help but watch a while. She was wearing a ragged tan dress and an oval straw hat. It looked like she was working up the ground for a garden. She stopped for a second to wipe her brow. I could see her long gray hair flowing down her back.

Not wanting to give myself away, I crawled further away and into the stream. The water was a bit deeper than before, but there was still a bank to walk on. The closer I got, the noisier it got, and the deeper the water was. I was now wading in water up to my knees. Far ahead I could see a wooden bridge crossing the stream. Beyond that was what looked like a stone wall with a water wheel on one side blocking the stream. My heart jumped. This must be a village.

 

WELCOME

 

As I approached the bridge I could see people crossing every once in a while. Men and women, some pushing carts, some carrying things, some just passing by. They looked normal enough, unlike those few I seen following that thing along the path. The water was up to my neck as I maneuvered under the bridge. To my left, the water wheel was churning. It was connected to a stone building by a short wooden rod. There were several other wooden buildings huddled closely together with streets cutting through them here and there. I could hear the people above me talking as they passed. To my amazement, I could understand them. Some saying hello as they passed each other, some talking about a harvest, while others talked about their daily lives. Everything about them seemed normal enough. Still, I wanted to get a better view of things.

I moved downstream between the bridge and water wheel, crawled up the bank, and hid behind a bush growing next to a small building. All the people were dressed in a similar fashion. Tan pants and shirts for the men, and tan dresses and shirts for the women. Some had different designs and patterns, but still similar. They all wore tan woven shoes. Many wore straw or woven hats that varied from stiff and pointed, to saggy and floppy, also tan.

I must point out some peculiar things I noticed while watching the village. There were no chimneys on the building except one. The building on the opposite shore from the water wheel had a chimney with smoke billowing out. A whooshing noise and clunking noise emanated from it as well. I assume it was a blacksmith.

There were no animals. No dogs or horses, no cows or goats. Not even a bird flying by. There were also no children, which I find very unsettling.

Then there was the windmill. I had to sneak to a corner of the building and peer around to see it. The four blades spun smoothly through the air. At their highest, they must have been two hundred feet high, and swung to within ten feet of the ground. Absolutely huge. But that paled in comparison to the building they were attached to. It must have rose another three hundred feet above the blades, and was made of shiny metal. Definitely did not seem to belong in this village at all. Atop the building was a tall narrow tower that swayed slowly in the breeze. And atop that, a faint blue light.

In a split second I felt a hand over my mouth and a “shh” in my right ear. I was then pulled down behind the bush and held firmly. A hand came around my left side and pointed at the windmill. The side of the windmill slid sideways and one of those shiny pancake things emerged. It moved along the streets towards the bridge. The people it passed ignored it like it wasn’t there. A voice said “custodian”. As the custodian crossed the bridge it started shifting in appearance. “See!”, said the voice. This time it slightly resembled a wooden cart being pushed my a man, but was out of focus. “The others don’t see”, said the voice, “They don’t know”.

It moved to this side of the bridge and shifted again. I could see a metallic arm sweeping over the stream. It was looking for me. The triangle with green light now pointing in my direction, it started moving to the other end of the bridge. It was coming this way. “I’m sorry”, the voice said, “but I have to”. There was a sharp pain in the back of my head, then the world got blurry. Darkness…

 

PEOPLE BELOW

No. Not from this enclave.”

He can’t be from another.”

He must be from in between.”

Nobody can live in between.”

Where did you find him?”

In the dead area. I took him to the cabin.”

How did he get here?”

I don’t know.”

I found him next to the river behind a bush. He saw. He knows.”

What should we tell him?”

Nothing. We need to know where he came from.”

Understood.”

My head throbbed. I opened my eyes to find a man looking down at me. It was the old man from the cabin. He grunted, turned and walked into the darkness. I heard a creak and a slam. Looking around I could see that I was in a small cave. I was on a wooden bed and there was a small table next to me with an oil lamp on it. I sat up. The room spun. I lay back down. A few minutes later another creak and slam. A man walked into the light. With no hesitation, he came right up beside me, sat on the edge of the bed, and handed me a cup. “Drink this, he said, “It will make you feel better.” I said nothing and took the cup. It tasted nasty. The man grinned. “My name is Art. What’s yours?” I said nothing and sipped some more. “You get to feeling better, then we’ll talk,”, he said, “In the meantime, do not leave this room. There is food and drink on the table”. He turned up the oil lamp and the room filled with light. There was a wooden table and two chairs. “I’ll be back in a while. That medicine will help your head.” He rose and walked out. The wooden door creaked as it was opened, and slammed shut.

A few minutes later I was feeling better. The room didn’t spin when I sat up. On the table were various fruits and nuts, and a jug of water. There was also a bowl full of colorful leaves. I ate some fruit and nuts and drank some water. I didn’t know what to make of the leaves. A while later, I could hear voices outside the door.

We need to know.”

What if he’s been regrammed?”

He saw one change. I don’t think he’s been regrammed.”

We need to know for sure.”

The door swung open and in walk a tall, slightly heavy set man. He had gray hair to his shoulders and a thick gray beard. He wore the same clothing as the people in the village. He grabbed the other chair and sat across the table from me, and stared. “What’s yer name?”, he had a deep gruff voice. By now I was feeling a lot better. “I don’t know”, I said back. With a confused look on his face he said, “What do you mean you don’t know?”

I don’t remember.”

Have you been regrammed?”

What?” I was getting more confused than he was.

Where you from?”

I don’t know.” I found myself looking down at my lap.

His voice changed a little, “Look. Your not leaving this room until I get some answers.”

Still looking down I said, “I am also looking for answers.”

What do you mean?”

I looked up at him. His brown eyes focused intently on me.

I told him everything I could remember, from the cave to now. I skipped a few things here and there that I thought were not important. As he listened, I saw the confusion leave his face. Now, he looked surprised and a bit worried.

Dusty!”, he yelled, “Get in here!”

In walked a tall thin man with short gray hair. The other man, pointing his finger at me and said to Dusty, “Tell him. Tell him what you just told me.” I repeated my story. The other man got up and walked out the door. Dusty sat in the chair and slumped back. He looked kind of relieved. “So it appears you haven’t been regrammed. But where did you come from?”

I don’t know.”, I said again. In walked another man. Tall thin with short gray hair, but with a sense of authority. And right behind him was a familiar face, the old man. I felt a release of tension, and sat back in my chair.

My name is Trip”, said the tall thin man. He gestured for the old man to sit across from me. I nodded at him as he sat down, he nodded back.

Farn.”, Trip said.

What?”

That’s his name. Farn.”

Hello Farn.”, I said. He nodded back, but didn’t say anything.

He doesn’t talk.”, said Trip.

Why not?”

He has no tongue.”

What happened?”

We don’t know.”

Looking at Farn and leaning forward, I said, “Thank you for helping me.” He nodded again.

Trip broke in, “Let’s get to some rather important things now.”

You want me to repeat my story?”, I said reluctantly.

No. I was listening at the door and already heard it.”

Then what?”

Trip leaned forward on the table. His brown eyes locked on mine. “You seek answers. And we may have some to give you. But we also seek answers that you may have.”

I was utterly confused. How could I have any answers. I couldn’t even remember who I was.

I only know what I told you.”

I think you know a great deal more. You just can’t remember.” Trip straightened up and walked behind Farn.

How can I give you something I don’t remember?”

He put his hands on the back of Farn’s chair and said, “In time, you will remember. I will tell you a little something about this place. That might help you remember.”

He sat on the edge of the table. “The people of this enclave, “he was pointing up as he said this leading me to assume we were below the village, “have lived here for countless years. We don’t know how many, we lost count. We go about our daily lives, doing the things normal people might do. We grow our food, we pick fruit and berries, and the river gives us water. We have a blacksmith and a sawmill for making our tools and carts. We are very self sufficient.” He paused for a moment to shift, “But we are not allowed outside the barrier, for our own safety.”

Why not?”, I interrupted.

It is said that a long time ago, our world was devoured by a plague. The plague still exists, out there. The barrier keeps it out. It also prevents people from leaving so they can’t bring it back in.

But me? The old man?”, I said worried we had brought this plague into the village.

Don’t worry. Some of us know the truth. There is no plague. Well, at least not anymore.”

I was relieved. I found I was sitting up and on the edge of the chair. I relaxed and sat back again. Trip looked at me and through a grin said, “Tell me. Was there anything odd beyond the barrier?”

Without hesitation I said, “Yes. It was unbearably quiet.”

Ah. Just the beginning. Did you see any animals?”

No.”

What else seemed odd to you?”

I thought for a moment.

Think.”, Trip said.

I don’t know. Those things, um.. called custodians?”

No. They are everywhere out there. Tell me, did you get cold? Or hot?”

I was cold in the cave. Otherwise, no”. I hadn’t thought of it until now, but he was right.

Did it ever rain?”

“No. The weather was pretty much the same every day. ”

Just a breeze. A constant breeze, right?”

Yes.” I found it a bit dis-concerning that I hadn’t noticed any of this before. Maybe I was too hungry and tired. But now that I look back, there are a lot of odd things that I just can’t explain.

Now rest. We’ll talk again later.” And with that, the old man stood, and they both left. I was left alone until what I assume was the next morning.

 

GLIMPSE

Several hours later, Dusty entered the room. I was lying on the bed going over recent events in my head.

Feeling better?”, he said.

Yes, but I still don’t know anything more.”, I said expecting to be interrogated again.

Well”, he replied with a smirk, “Come with me. I’ve something to show you.”

We left the room and walked down several long tunnels. They were straight with smooth edges as if cut with a knife.

What are these?”, I said pointing at some cylinders that hung from the top.

Don’t know really. We don’t even touch them. These tunnels have been here for as long as anyone can remember. Nobody knows why they are here.”, Dusty replied.

We came to a place where a ladder rose up through a hole in the ceiling. The tunnel itself kept going.

Now, when we get up there, don’t talk to anyone and keep close. We should be OK.”, Dusty said.

I nodded and we climbed the ladder. It wasn’t far, maybe twenty feet, before we came to a wooden hatch. Dusty hammered on it a few times then listened. He then opened the hatch. Bright light streamed down blinding me. “Come on.”, he said as he climbed out. My eyes were starting to adjust to the light and I could see that we were lying in a grassy area next to the blacksmith shop. An old rickety fence surrounded the spot. “This is where the blacksmith used to pile his wood for the fires. Now it’s unused.”, Dusty told me. Closing the hatch and looking around he continued, “He doesn’t have much work lately. Mostly fixing things here and there. Come on.”

We stood and walked to the fence. He looked up and down the path. “Good. We’re good.” We hopped over the fence and onto the path. The people of the village were going about there business, paying no attention to us. We passed several houses and shops before reaching an intersection. “Hold up.”, Dusty said. He walked ahead and looked around the corner.

Here quick.” I walked quickly up to the corner. “Look”, he said pointing up the road. In the distance was the windmill. “Down there”, he said. At the base of the windmill, a doorway slid sideways and out came a custodian. I wasn’t surprised as I’d seen this before. As it turned to go up a path, the doorway slid closed. “They come from there. And they always return there.”, Dusty said.

What is it?”

We don’t know what goes on in there. What we do know is they return in twelve hours. When one returns, another leaves.”

How many are there?”

My guess is nine. We haven’t much time. They usually wander around the village for a while. This is what I want you to see.” He pointed at the upper part of the windmill.

I don’t understand. I see the top of the building and the blades and…”

Ah!”, Dusty interrupted, “Look at the blades.”

I looked closely at them slowly spinning in giant arcs, “What am I looking for? They seem to be ordinary windmill blades.”

As they are meant to be. Think about it, which way is the breeze coming from?”

In front of us.”

What does that tell you?”

The breeze is coming from the windmill?”

Yes. Windmills use the breeze to do something, like grind grains or pump water. But this one works in reverse.”

I don’t…”, I said confused, “But how? Why?”

We need to go. It will be coming by here soon. They have a pattern to follow.” He tugged at my shirt and we headed back towards the blacksmith shop. As we reached the fence, a familiar sound came down the path. The hum of a custodian. “Quick! Before your seen!”. We jumped the fence and ran to the hatch. Once at the bottom Dusty told me to follow the tunnel to the room and wait. “Someone will come see you soon. I’ve got to make sure you weren’t seen.” He walked down the tunnel in the opposite direction. I proceeded back to the room, my head spinning with new questions.

 

ENTER

I flopped down on the bed totally frustrated. I don’t know how long it has been since waking in the cave, but I had enough. Everyone I meet is either unwilling, or unable to give me answers. If anything, they bring up more questions. It’s time I find them myself. I am going to the windmill. The answers must be in there.

I walked to the door and pressed my ear to it. No sound from the other side. Now is my chance. They will think I’m resting. Slowly I opened the door, watching down the hallway for signs of anyone. Each turn I came to I made sure to peek around first before proceeding. There was nobody around. Being a bit more perceptive than before, I found that quite odd. I went up the ladder and out the hatch. There were a few people around but they paid no attention to me. I jumped the fence and ran down the path, turned at the intersection and ran straight towards the windmill.

They have a pattern to keep”, he said. So if they have a pattern, the next one to come out will move in the same direction. That will be my chance. I may be able to slip in the door before it closes. I need to find a place to hide until then. I found a bunch of thick flower bushes next to a house and crawled inside. The door was about two hundred feet in front of me and the path the custodian will take leads away. I sat in the bushes waiting for a few hours. Waiting and thinking. Flowers, but no insects. How do they pollinate? Have I really ever seen the sun go down? I’ve never seen it dark. Why is the breeze coming from the windmill?

My thoughts were interrupted by a familiar noise. A custodian was returning. I rose to my feet keeping hunched down, ready to run. Got to be quick. The door slid open and the custodian entered. After five seconds, the door closed. I took off running as fast as I could towards the door. I hope it works the same when one leaves. Stopping just a few feet from the door, I dropped to the ground and rolled against the building. I was hoping that if I was low and off the path, it might not notice me here. Just then the door slid open. I turned my head to have a look. There was a figure of an old woman pushing a cart, but out of focus. She turned and headed down the path. I crawled to the door and slipped in, keeping my eyes firmly on the custodian. As the door slid shut, my last images of the old woman had a triangle sweeping in front of her cart.

The inside of the windmill was remarkably bland. One large room with metallic walls and floor. No gears or shafts for the windmill, and no other custodians. I wondered if they came in here as part of their patrol, looked around, and left. I turned back to the door, but it was gone. just a smooth metallic wall. It had vanished. Now I was trapped. If Dusty was right, I have twelve hours until the custodian comes back.

I walked around the room, examining the walls and floors. Perfectly smooth. The strangest thing of all, these walls were mirror like, but cast no reflections. And the light. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I looked down. I wasn’t casting a shadow either. I started to panic. I couldn’t remember what wall the door was on so any chance of running when it opened were gone. I went to the center of the room and sat down. I had given up. Let the custodian come and take me away. I put my head down between my knees and waited.

 

UNDER

Many thoughts were running around in my head, bleeding into each other. I couldn’t keep them straight. So many questions, so few answers. Several hours I sat on the cold metal floor. I stood and looked around. I think I may have a plan. There is a five second delay from when the door opens, to when the custodian enters. If I’m quick, I can run to the door, wait for it to enter, and hopefully, run out before it can do anything. I have to stay alert. I stood there for quite a while. Feeling fatigued, I walked in small circles to stay alert. Watching and waiting.

Something was happening. The floor started to vibrate slightly. If my feet weren’t still bare, I might not have noticed at all. I stood ready to run, glancing from one wall to the next looking for the door to appear. I felt something move under my left foot. Looking down I saw a seam appearing and getting longer. Several feet away was another. A door was appearing in the floor. I moved to one side of the room and watched a large rectangle draw itself. Then, one end of it started to descend. It was forming a ramp. I watched it lower until there was a thud, and it stopped. On the wall at the upper end of the ramp, a rectangle started to form. The door was reappearing. I glanced down the ramp, then back to the door. It was almost fully formed. I ran down the ramp as fast as I could. At the bottom there was a long corridor as far as the eye could see. I quickly moved behind the ramp. There was a corridor here too. Along the walls were alcoves about three feet deep and three feet wide. In each alcove was a large metal ball that just barely fit. I could hear the custodian coming down the ramp. I frantically wedged myself in with a metal ball. Most of my body was still visible. The custodian reached the end of the ramp and continued down the corridor until I lost sight of it. To my astonishment, one of the metal balls near the ramp moved out into the corridor and started to hum. It changed its shape like water until it formed a custodian. Then, it went up the ramp, and I assume, out the door. I was petrified. There were thousands of these things down here. I watched at the ramp ascended up into the ceiling, and it’s seams vanished. Again there was silence. I moved out into the corridor to get a better look. There was light, but I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I started walking in the direction the custodian went. Metallic balls, perfectly smooth. Just to pass the time and to keep my mind occupied, I started counting them. I counted seven hundred fourteen when I came upon an empty alcove. I looked it over, but there was nothing there. Just smooth metal walls. Just then I noticed movement further down. A ramp was descending, this time, in my direction. I ran to the bottom just in time to see a custodian enter a door above. I ran behind the ramp and again, wedged myself into an alcove. I watched as the custodian moved down the corridor, stopped at the empty alcove, and liquefied into a metal ball. It then moved into the empty alcove and stopped humming. Another ball down a little further was already in the corridor. It changed into a custodian, came down the corridor, and went up the ramp. I ran to the ramp in an attempt to get out, but it was too late. The ramp was too high. All I could do was watch it ascend and the seams vanish.

There must be another windmill above me, and possibly, another village.

 

417

I decided to wait here until the ramp descended, then make a run for the door. Since I had plenty of time before that happened, I would get to know these custodians as much as I could. I walked to one and placed my hand on it. Cold, smooth metal. Seamless, like a solid silver ball. I slid my hand along it’s surface. When I neared the bottom, my finders began to tingle. I pulled my hand back and bent down to look underneath. It was hovering above the floor just enough for my hand to fit. When I did this, the tingling returned. I actually laughed a bit because it tickled. The alcoves were just as unremarkable. Smooth, seamless metal.

I tapped on one. It sounded solid. I moved to another one and kicked it. Nothing happened. I kicked it harder. It seemed like it was glued in place. I tried pushing another one, but it wouldn’t budge. After a while of repeating this, I sat down and leaned back against one, and waited.

Exhaustion must have got to me as I slipped away into sleep. For the first time in my short memory, I had a dream. I dreamed of a flowing silver world. People, plants, even the sky were of liquid silver. A large silver ball rolled up to me. I reached out and touched it. Ping! I pulled my hand back, then touched it again. Ping!

I jerked my head up and found myself back in the corridor with the custodians. What a strange dream. Why would I dream people as silver? Ping! I jumped to my feet and to the side of the corridor. Ping! came echoing down the corridor. Sounded like metal striking metal. Ping! Ping! Keeping to one side, I made my way towards it. Far ahead I saw movement. It was slightly darker and moved in a strange way. I couldn’t make it out, so I moved closer. It sort of resembled a man hunched over a custodian. It straightened up, and from what I could tell, looked to be about seven feet tall. It moved a little down the corridor and seemed to melt into the wall. I made my way down to where it disappeared. Nothing here except the number 417 etched into the floor.

I reached out and touched the wall behind the custodian. A small grid pattern appeared under my finger and started growing. I pulled my hand back. I reached out and touched the custodian. The grid pattern appeared again, but this time, I held my finger in place. The grid covered the custodian, then covered the wall behind. In the blink of an eye, they were both gone. Replaced by a doorway. Beyond, was a smaller corridor.

As I stepped through the doorway, the grid pattern covered the opening, and a solid wall took its place. I touched the wall and the grid started to appear. At least I knew where this door was, and how to open it. This was a short hallway, maybe thirty feet long, and narrow enough that I could touch both walls at the same time. I walked to the other end and touched the wall. Like before, a grid appeared under my finger and grew to cover the wall, then the wall vanished.

The area beyond was dark, very dark. The light from the hall did not go into the other area as if blocked.  I stepped through and was surprised by the darkness. I looked back just in time to see the doorway vanish. Suddenly, the room lit up. What I saw startled me to the point I let out a short scream. It was a small room, about ten feet wide and deep. In the center of the room were three human shaped machines. Two legs, a torso, and head. But unlike humans, they had four arms. They didn’t move, so I assumed they were asleep. These machines were different. They looked old, dull gray in color. I could see joints, seams, and fasteners. Where the face would be was a mesh of some kind. I must have seen one of these things in the corridor. Each one had a cable or hose coming out of their chest and into the ceiling. I walked around the room. Along one wall was a bench with various mechanical parts lying on it. A few looked charred. Must be spare parts for these metal men.

I walked over to one of them, and tapped on it. It sounded hollow. Just then, from the other side, I heard a sharp “Tscheeeee” noise. It startled me and I just froze. After a few seconds of silence, I looked around the metal man, and saw another one moving it’s three claw-like fingers. I crawled under the bench and hid. It’s arm reached up and pulled the hose from it’s chest. A few drops of bright yellow liquid dripped onto the floor. The floor made some tiny waves and the liquid vanished. The metal man then turn and walked to the wall, reached out it’s hand, and when the doorway appeared, went through. After the wall returned, I came from my hiding spot and frantically start touching the walls looking for another door. I found one and opened it. The area beyond was once again dark, with no light from this room entering. I could hear faint pinging noises behind me as I stepped through. The doorway vanished and the room lit up.

This room was huge. Maybe three hundred feet wide, and the same deep. I could not see a ceiling, but the odd thing here was the walls. Unlike the other rooms and corridors, they were bumpy like stone, and a deep black. I walked to the wall to my right and reached out. A small part of the wall reached out towards my finger. Almost like a liquid. I pulled my hand back. I walked to the opposite wall and tried again. Again, the wall reached out towards my finger, but this time I let them meet. The wall then retracted and returned to normal. What happened next was astounding.

 

WORLD

From above descended a large glowing orb that nearly took up the entire room, leaving just a few feet between it and the walls. I moved into a corner. On its surface I could see designs and images. It looked like a map. There were small images of windmills with networks of lines around them. They were connected by many other lines. They were villages. Thousands of villages. Each was the same size as the next, and surrounded by a smaller hex shaped line. This must be the borders that the triangles are guarding. Honestly, it looked to me like prison cells. There were hundreds of other images, along with words, that I didn’t understand. And little white dots. Millions upon millions of little white dots. Mostly moving along the lines, but there were a few in other areas. The dots seemed to move in a pattern. In one area, they moved the same as another, and in sync. In several areas, the windmills began to blink green, and I watched a white dot move into it. Several seconds later, a white dot emerged. These are the custodians. The world is covered by custodians. But why?

A small area near a village started blinking red. I noticed three white dots in a triangle formation were in there. I touched the red spot, and it seemed like I was falling from the heavens. I found myself looking at a small clearing from above, with three silver balls on the edges. In the center were two men. They seemed terrified. The custodians started moving towards them. Instinctively, I yelled “RUN!” One man started running towards the forest. Did he hear me? Just before he reached the edge, he glowed a bright green and vanished, leaving behind a puff of gray mist. It was surreal watching this unfold from above. The custodians were closing on the other man. He crouched into a ball on the ground. I touched the image of a custodian, and it stopped. I lifted my finger and it started moving again. I touched another one and it also stopped. I held it for a second, then moved my finger along the image into the forest. The custodian followed the path I traced. I did the same for the other two. I then tapped the image of the man and yelled, “Run!”. He stood and looked around. I still am not sure if he heard me, but he ran into the forest. I followed until I lost him in the trees. I watched as the custodians moved back into the clearing. The image on the orb then snapped back to where I was seeing the whole world again, and the red spot was gone.
I was stunned. Anybody in this room could have control over the entire world, but there was nobody here. Each village had a windmill at its heart. The windmills might hold the answers I’m looking for. I decided to touch one to see what would happen. As before, I seemed to fall from the sky until the entire village was in view. The village looked exactly like the one I was in before . Same bridge, same river, same blacksmith , everything seemed to be exactly the same, except the people were clothed in pale blue garments. I watched the tiny people go about their lives for a while, completely oblivious that they were being watched. I was going to touch one to see if they could really hear me from this room , when I noticed a white dot enter the village. I watch the white dot move through the village streets, completely ignored by the tiny people. When it got close to the windmill, the windmill started blinking green, and it entered. A few moments later, another white dot emerged from the windmill, moved along every street in the village, and then left.
I touched the windmill. A series of words and numbers glowing green appeared next to it . Below the windmill appeared a small box, blinking green. I touched the small box.
Once again, I was looking at the entire world. The villages, people, and streets , began to fade away . Just below the surface of the globe appeared hundreds upon hundreds of white lines , going from top to bottom and left to right. Every windmill had a line pass directly underneath it. I can only assume that these were the passages that had the custodians in them. Countless custodians must be in those passages. A few places where the lines intersected, there was a glowing green circle. I was about to touch one of the circles, when the room suddenly went dark.

A thin red line of light of light appeared from the far wall and struck me in the chest. Out of fright, I jumped to the right, but it was firmly glued to me. I ducked down, it followed. A blue curtain of light appeared in front of me as I stood up and swiftly passed over and behind me. I turned to look, but it was gone. When I turned back, the red line was also gone. There I stood, alone and unable to see anything.

 

BLUE MAN

A white light slowly illuminated the room. Just enough that I could see my hands, but not enough to see beyond. I reached my hands out and around me, but they touched nothing. I attempted to move forward, but found I could not. Looking down, I could see that my feet were embedded in the floor itself. I was firmly held in place. A few feet in front of me I could see a figure of pale blue light forming. A human form. In the blink of an eye, there stood a man. A young man roughly six feet tall, short black hair, and wearing dark blue robes all the way down and covering his feet. It was strange because he was glowing pale blue, yet I could still see him plain as day. He slowly walked closer, then passed around me, all the time he seemed to be examining me. He came back around and stopped in front of me. I didn’t know what to do. I was completely at his mercy. He raised his left arm and pointed in the blackness. A few inches away from his finger, a pale blue glowing square appeared.

On the square, images started to appear. Images I recognized. These were images of myself, from the cave. Then from the ruined city. The village. Everywhere I had been. Everything I had done. It was all here. I had been watched this whole time. But why? I desperately wanted to ask about before the cave, but thought it best to be quiet. For now at least. After all, I was in no position to ask questions.   The square faded away after it showed me an image of myself, looking at a square with an image of myself in a dark room.

I wasn’t sure if I was stunned, scared, or maddened by all this. At this point, I wasn’t sure of anything.

The man then pointed to his left and behind him. A larger rectangle appeared in the distance, again glowing pale blue. He then pointed at my feet, and the floor melted away just enough to free my feet. He then started walking towards the rectangle. I thought I should follow. He passed through the rectangle and disappeared. I bumped into a hard wall. I thought for a second, then touched the wall. The familiar grid pattern appeared, then an opening surrounded by a pale blue edge.

Without fear, I passed through the opening.

The next room lit up, and was surprisingly unremarkable. Smooth black walls, floor and ceiling. It was only about twenty feet in all directions, and as before, I could see no light source. The man was missing. I started feeling my way down one wall looking for another door, when I found myself standing in a meadow. Green grass and windflowers grew everywhere. In the distance were hills and snow capped mountains. It was quite beautiful. The absence of the breeze and the smell of the flowers led me to believe this was another image. I bent down to pick a yellow wildflower, and as I thought, my hand passed right through. Definitely an image. Why was I being shown this serene landscape? I wondered if I was being tested, like an animal in a cage.

My attention was taken by movement to my left. I could see, far off in the meadow, a group of animals running. They were large with four legs. Grey in color. I couldn’t make out any details, but they were running at an angle to me and would soon pass a ways in front of me. Just then, over a mountain behind the animals, came a wall of red and orange. It moved so fast that in the blink of an eye, it was upon me. My vision was blinded, first by a deep red light, then black nothingness.

Within a few seconds, I was far above the world. So far that the world could fit in a wagon. I saw a thin red line sweeping across the world. In front of it, green and blue, which I believe were continents and oceans. Behind the line, red, orange, and brown. There was no discerning between land and sea. From what was still left of the green areas, I could see tiny specks of light flying away from the world, leaving behind a faint gray streak. The red line had now encompassed the entire world, leaving behind an orange and brown ball.

I now found myself standing in a nightmare. The air was filled with brown smoke. In front of me was a wall, or what was left of one. It was four feet wide and six feet high, and glowing orange, even though it looked to be made of brick. In the middle was an opening where a window once was. The smoke was too thick to see beyond. I turned around and saw that I was in a ruined, burning city. Fire and smoke everywhere. It was eerily quiet. Everywhere I looked, burning, destruction. I was startled to the point of screaming when a burning body fell in front of me from the sky. I jumped back and just looked at it. It was definitely human, but unrecognizable. I turned to look away, and saw that I was in a wide open area where everything was burning as well. The mountains in the distance were glowing orange. Why am I being shown these images? The animals from before were strewn about, in flames.

"Stop", I yelled.

"You need to know", a voice pierced my head.

"What? What do I need to know?", I yelled upward.

"Where is all ended. Where it all began", the voice thumped in my head with every syllable, "Where it went wrong."

"Where what went wrong? What is going on? Why can't I remember?",  I hung my head in shear mental exhaustion.

I waited a while just staring at my feet. There was no more from the voice. The room went dark and millions of tiny specks of light sprang up. I lifted my head and there in darkness of a million lights, was a slowly rotating metallic ball. Circling the ball are thousands of tiny specks. The ball started rotating faster and the specks blurred away. Now, every few seconds a streak would fly in and hit the ball. This went on for several minutes, then the ball slowed and came closer. The metallic ball was now several shades of brown.

Hundreds of specks streaked from the ball, converging in three areas above it creating smaller balls. Within a minute, the balls began to glow yellow. Brighter and brighter. Down on the brown ball I could see green areas spreading out. The rotation sped up for a few seconds then slowed again. When it did, what I saw was astonishing. The ball looked exactly like the giant orb I had seen. Missing were the villages, windmills, and custodians. Also, no people.

 

Revelations, Sort Of

I started falling. Even though I knew this was an image, I still found myself covering my face as the ground approached. To my surprise, I did not stop there. I burrowed through miles of earth and rock, then a thick metallic shell. I was now deep inside the world.

There were miles upon miles of white cylinders laid out on platforms. Each was six feet long and three feet wide, with several lights and buttons. Looking up and down, this repeated itself as far as I could see. There were all sorts and sizes of machines scurrying about. Moving the cylinders, shining lights on them, pressing buttons. It was amazing.

The whole scene blurred, and after a few seconds, refocused. There were fewer machines than before, and they were showing signs of aging. Rusty bits on some, damaged limbs on others, and in a few areas were dead ones, left to rot.

The scene blurred and cleared again. Now there were only four machines that I could see. Each was a different type and they seemed to be talking to each other, though I couldn't understand what they were saying. They were gathered around three cylinders. I almost started laughing because, even though I could not understand them, they seemed to be arguing. Machines acting like people. I found that humorous, and amazing. Their chattering stopped and one, with a barely functional arm, pressed a button on a cylinder. Jets of steam shot from either end. It hummed and began to glow a dull yellow color for a few minutes. The top slid open lengthwise and the yellow faded. A man sat up from within the cylinder. These are people. An entire population stored away.

All went dark again, except for a glowing pale blue man. This time he spoke.

"Now you know the origin.", he said without moving his lips.

"I think I understand, but...", I was cut off.

"It took hundreds of years and only twenty percent were awakened. We were failing fast. Much knowledge was lost. There were a few that remembered. They built the new machines, with new minds, to care for the sleepers. They built new machines to help the awakened, and new machines to explore the top."

By now I had figured out that this was a recording not capable of answering my questions. It continued.

"Eventually, people migrated to the top, and with the help of the machines, built new cities, a new society, and a new culture. The underneath was forgotten. The people grew smarter, but not wiser. Dependence on the machines was blamed for this. So they built newer machines, with newer minds. Underneath, the older machines watched, and learned. When the top population fell, sleepers were awakened to take their place. The meshing of new minds with old minds was catastrophic. They killed each other by the millions. When they grew tired of killing, they built new machines to kill for them. The underneath could not keep up with the population falls. The older minds of the older machines were not corrupted by the will of people. A new directive was devised. In order to save the remaining people, they will need to be controlled. New machines without minds were created. They would be able to blend in with people and not be noticed. They were sent to the top to reformat it for a new population. They were under the direct control of the older machines. When formatting was complete, new areas were built for people. Smaller areas that were separated by borders, to keep them apart, and docile. A central processing core was placed within each area for the maintenance and care of the people and machines. These cores were then connected to the main core."

I imagine it was referring to the windmills, villages, and the custodians. But there was more.

"Reprogramming was next. New technologies were developed and tested. Organic tissue turned out to be difficult to program, and many millions were lost. In the end, the process was perfected and the top repopulated. Programming also had the effect of rendering the population sterile. It was decided that the people must never become aware of the machine influence. This could lead to more devastation. It was also decided that those who could not be programmed, or later, rejected programming, must be eliminated for the greater good. A few would be chosen to live underneath for advisory, reproductive, and specialized maintenance purposes."

I think I was in a state of shock. I didn't know what to think, or do. Was I to be eliminated now that I knew the truth? No, I wouldn't have been shown all this if that was the case. They must have a plan for me, but what? I was longing to be back in the cave, not knowing anything. I would rather be lost and ignorant, than be here, knowing what I know.

 

Now What?

"The shock to his system was too much. His body just shut down."

"Yes, he will recover."

"I don't know."

Slowly, I opened my eyes. I could see shapes, but nothing else. My eyes were blurry, my body sore, my head throbbed. I was tired, so very tired. My eyes forced themselves closed.

"Are you in there?"

There was a bright light, moving left and right.

"Hey, wake up!", a voice boomed.

The light backed off and there stood a man dressed in a long white coat.

"Don't worry. You'll be fine."

I tried to sit up, "Wha... what..."

"Easy", he reassured, "Just take your time. Sit up when you can."

I turned my head to look around. The room was tan in color, filled with all sorts of instruments, flashing lights, and images that hung in the air. The images were of human anatomy. I sat up and saw the man standing at the foot of the metallic bed I was on.

"That's better", he smiled, "You've had a mental overload. You'll be fine now."

He turned and walked out a rather ordinary door.

I turned on the bed to sit on the side. I was still weak and sore, but a lot better. I got to my feet. I was draped in thin robes and nothing else. I went to the door but it was locked. Looking around, I found a pile of clothes, neatly folder, on a countertop. Blue pants made of a heavy fabric, a white linen shirt with short sleeves, and cloth shoes with hard bottoms. Just after I was dressed, the door clicked, but remained closed. I checked and now it was open.

I stepped into a long corridor lined with doors on either side. Green lights on the floor were flashing in sequence, starting at my feet, and continuing down the corridor to my right. I followed. The doors had no windows, and the few I tried, were locked. The lights ended and a door to my left. Opening it revealed a room of complete darkness. Having been in this situation a couple times before, I entered without fear.

"Stop there.", came a voice from the black. My heart jumped and I had the sensation of falling. Looking down I saw a light rushing up from below. When the light reached me, I could see that I was in a clear box descending through level upon level of walkways and platforms. There were cylinders, many different types of machines, and in a few places, people. I was moving too fast to make out what they were doing. The box finally slowed and stopped. Outside on the platform were the number four one seven written on the wall. More astonishingly, there was a man. Ordinary in every respect except for his mechanical arms. The clear wall in front of me vanished, and the man waved me forward.

"This way.", he said in a surprisingly gentle voice. He led me down a platform lined on both sides with cylinders. For miles in any direction I looked, were platforms, machines, and a few people. There were small orbs flying around making a high pitched buzz as they passed.

I was led into a room with metallic silver walls, a metal table, and two metal chairs facing each other. The man then said, "Wait here.", and as he left, closed the door and I heard the click of a lock.

There was nothing more to do but wait. I have already figured out quite a bit. But I still have lingering questions. What happened before the cave? If I was one of the few that rejected programming I would have been eliminated long ago. I just sat in the chair listening to the noises of machines outside the door.

After a few minutes, the door clicked, and in came a small flying orb with a blue dot in the center. It came close.

 

Just A Dream

I woke up, sore and stiff. I felt like I had just run a marathon. Everything looked normal and familiar. I dressed and walked into the other room. I ate some breakfast and thought about the dream I'd just had. Strange dream. So vivid. I had a lot to do that day, so I went outside and gathered up my tools and cart and headed out. As I passed the main intersection in town I looked down the street at the old windmill. A thought passed through my head then faded. I crossed the bridge heading out of town and passed a man walking the other way.

"Where you headed today?", he said.

"I guess I had better go to that clearing out there and clear out the brush.", I replied back.

"Be careful outside the border. You know what's out there.", he said.

"Thanks. Have a good day.", I said.

We both went on our way. For some reason I looked back to the village and I could have swore I saw a man dive into a hole near the blacksmith. My mind must be playing tricks on me.

Many years later, I can still remember most of that dream, but some has faded. I often sit in my house at the end of the day, resting by the fire, trying to remember parts I had forgotten.

 


© Copyright 2018 ShadowVox. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

More Science Fiction Short Stories