A short story from the world of FUTUREPERFECTED.
| DREAM |
The broad green leaves of a large tree moved slightly in the breeze that made its way through the land. It had stirred the flowers of wild rose nearby, lifting perfume from them and enveloping them in its unseen arms, carrying it off, then pouring it out like a libation throughout the nearby land for any that passed to share. Malat Zappran caught the subtle perfume and acknowledged it with a lifting of his head to better breathe it in through his nose. He leant against his staff of worked wood from a holly tree that stood as tall as he did. His hand gripped it, just below the top. His eyes took in the vista below the ridge as it dropped away smoothly to the rolling plains of patchwork fields, each different in size, each surrounded by entangled hedgerows. The sun stood just off-centre, to the right and beat a warm smile on the viewer and his view. Occasionally, seed heads floated on the breeze, completing perfect paint images before disappearing, emptying the canvas in readiness for a wheeling bird of pray high up or a flitter of smaller birds, nearer the tree branches. At Malat's back, the woodland provided a cool counterpoint to the sun and his musings. He felt he was the only person in the land but he knew this was not true and soon the Drefaar would come and he had to be ready. This was a last look, before the land was to be overrun by war. Earthier smells from the wood impinged upon the fragrance of rose, Falen's rose, as it was named; the smell of Wood Onion and moss and Bitter's Bite. How fitting he thought. He turned to his left to take the path back, through the woods and took in the range of hills that filled his vision that jolted, breaking quickly into regular squares of colour, then sharply back to hills. A 'fzztt-crk!' followed by a de-resolution of his view, blocks of squares shifting over each other, back and forth, left and right. 'crackle-shpt!'. Glitching meant the spell was broken, his mind reeling at being pulled back so quickly. He was laid on his back looking up at colourblock, intricate patterns suggesting a myriad of things. His mind, caught between an infinite dreamland and this one, stretched, blended, morphed back and forth like dough caught in a vat of gel, pulled at by invisible hands. Resolution broke again into regular rows of darkness, punctuated by faint light, warm colour. Fear came, presaging death. Panic and loss joined it as pallbearers. Glitching returned and he felt he could see his surroundings, snatches in the breaking signal, the dark room with faint cool lights low down, warm faint lights a little higher - solid squares, row upon row of colour, rippling pattern - and sharp searing white light, breaking from the middle - a bleaching of everything - 'crack!' - electric white to black!
| DEATH |
In the room, two rows of six recliners, each black and supple, moulding themselves to their occupants, each full, suspended reality for eleven 'dreamers'. The twelfth, a thirty year old man of moderate height (length more appropriate as he was reclined near horizontal), brown hair and blue eyes was neither in suspended reality or reality - he was dead.
A door opened silently and orange-yellow light streamed in from one end of the large room that was the Dark Sanctum of #InfiniteDreamland. It illuminated the plush grey flooring and black/white recliners; M370's with full invasive capability and two figures entered, their shadows moving around the walls, looming large. The figures made straight to the twelfth man, one to each side. One started uncoupling the headgear, after which he pulled the invasive probe out of the body's left arm, the other uncoupled the arm, hand and leg straps. The shadowplay continued against the walls but no-one in the room was in a position to appreciate its subtle forms. The equipment in the room provided it with an ever-changing scenery. The eleven continued in their chosen dreamlands, reality on hold whilst they lived in a place of their desire, as a person of their desire carrying out the actions of their desire. With the body uncoupled from the recliner, the two figures lifted it down, onto the floor and unceremoniously dragged it, out of the black into the orange-yellow glow from the doorway they had entered by. Their shadows grew and shrank across the walls whilst the 'dreamers' finished the play, oblivious of the matter-of-fact way their puppet-masters were disposing of the body. The door closed behind, cutting the orange-yellow to a fine sliver, then nothing, leaving eleven to dream.
Front of house, the carefully crafted image of #InfiniteDreamland wove its magic in the minds of passersby, throngsters and regs alike. The holo-veranda outside the building depicted a swampland scene with a cabin, enveloped in exotic fauna and flora, moodily but yet still upbeat. The phero-marketing adhered to its demarkation around the door and the whole of the holo-veranda, with only the allowed 5% seepage but the clever cocktail of pheromones the company employed ensured anyone passing would at least be intrigued. That, coupled with the poster marketing campaigns meant that anyone coming to Roxy would know about #infiniteDreamland before they arrived here. Swampland was due to change in about an hour and would see a totally different 'Dreamland', each one a starting point for the fully-customisable experience the company was renowned for. A young woman was at the desk, just inside the door, enquiring.'Yes, a 'Dream Environment' has just become available. Come in, relax in the lounge while reconfiguration takes place. It won't take long'.The woman paid and went in. The lounge was a stylish mix of bar, terminal access and advertising. At its far end, a door led to the Pre-dream area that led to Dark Sanctum. The woman ordered a drink from the bar, sat and waited her turn.
| ENGAGE |
Wolfram Escher worked for Ranhold, not the largest but one of the best software creator companies in The City. He had worked here for some time and was well thought of. This was about to change.
Wolfram stood at the coffee machine with his work colleague and good friend, Jonathon Kern. They had both worked on the same projects for several years now and the frown on Jonathon's brow emphasised the concern for his friend. 'I know it wasn't just an accident now and I'm going to do something about it!'. 'What?' asked Jonathon, the steam from his hot drink rising past his face, his right hand passing the cup to his left and then back again. 'I don't know yet, I need more information. I need to get that information'. 'Grief can twist things as you look for meaning and sometimes there just is no meaning' said Jonathon tentatively. Wolfram flashed a look 'it's not grief' clearly lying. 'I'm not asking you to help. You can't jeopardise your career because of what I will do'. Jonathon took a sip from the too hot cup of the too hot drink, 'forget I said that, I know it's true, I just don't want it to be true. I will help from this end. Any way I can'. Wolfram looked at him, was about to say something like 'you don't have to' or 'no' or 'it will be OK, I don't need help' but he didn't, he just nodded. They walked back to their respective cubicles and both knew, everything was going to change from now on.
Back at his apartment, Wolfram sifted through the replies and retrieves he had set in motion the previous night. He was running down a quad-secure, flicker-insulated connection on industrial-strength equipment he had put together himself, based upon the years of experience he had built up at Ranhold. It seemed to him that all his life had led to this point, it was here that everything came together. It was a dangerous thought, he could so easily slip into the role of a crusader or fanatic and wallow in the glory that erroneously brought. The keen pain of still too young grief stopped the thought dead in its tracks. His mind turned slowly to the remembered face of Merene, his wife. He cut the memory dead and gulped back the lump in his throat and cleared the sting in his eye. Out of all the information he had gathered, one line in one request stood out! 'I cannot accept the finding that my husband died naturally and let it end there. I need to know fully, what happened! Can anyone help?'
Out of everything on screen, this one line resonated with him. A year ago he wouldn't have even noticed it but it now it instantly pricked at his mind. It was a woman who had thrown out a call for help like a message in a bottle, tossed on the digital sea and his net had caught it. From what he could see, she had used no cloaking or security on her request so it appeared a genuine heartfelt plea. He of course had his own cloaking routine running so no-one would know he was reading it and no-one would see or be able to trace if and when he replied.
The request had a lot of information with it, too much which could attract attention - the wrong attention. Her husband had died, he had been at Roxy and had died of natural causes according to official sources. (Roxy was the free quarter of The City, uninhibited by the constraints of normal 'City' life. However, it was shunned by nearly all of the populous, due to its heavily publicised, negative reputation (a reputation perpetuated by those who had a vested interest in it remaining so). The other important piece of information he had been able to tease out of her had been in the man's personal effects, returned by the authorities. He had a tag for #infiniteDreamland, not something that meant anything to her but... He thought long and hard about his reply but after a while and several re-writes, he sent it. He made some food and flicked through a few streams then checked for a reply. He found one. The woman in question was Irana Tansun, no previous history of note (he had checked against several sources) and she wanted to meet. Wolfram suggested this was not a good idea as meeting could and would inevitably be monitored. She had been surprised by this and took it to mean that he believed her. Her replies were like distress flares, shot into the night from a marooned boat at sea but Wolfram keep his anonymity, seeming like some salvage operator, keen to set sail. He was however, not. He was to become some kind of detective but one with a personal involvement and he knew that this was probably not the best kind. Irana's messages subsided, all she could do was sit back and wait. Marooned still but her flares had attracted attention. It seemed an insane idea to follow this up but something inside him made him feel he had to do so.
Wolfram wasted no time and set out to visit Roxy. He had never been there before. The rumours and negative connotations of the place had always kept him at bay (that and the long hours of his work). He had a feeling he would be doing a lot of things he had never done before as the future unfolded. He headed out from his apartment, dressed as what he thought of as casual, to blend in but what would inevitably scream out 'passerby!' in Roxy. He headed due South, winding in and around the blocks and 'GreenSQ's' (frequent squares of green and small public areas for relaxing, so De Riguer of The City's planning department). As night was falling, the lights were coming on and transforming the little areas creating backdrops to mini-communities, each slightly different more markedly so with increasing distance from your immediate locale. He had loved these and spent many nights in the down hour after the end of work, before the close of night. There had been many exchanges (the meeting between two or three GreenSQ residents) but this night, each one he passed through was empty and seemed vapid, without purpose in the real scheme of things. As he moved away from the built area, down toward the Main Pass, the noise of people was dissipated and was replaced with the flash of lights from vehicles as they traversed in front of him. He chose an overpass rather than an underpass (many routes existed across) and at the mid-point, suspended above the vehicles as they travelled silently underneath, with the failing light he paused to take in the many scenes. Warm squares of light from the public areas he had walked through, the stream of lights back and forth below his feet and already, the acid pulses, counterbalanced with swathes of coloured light of Roxy, ahead. It was as if the overpass was a bridge between past and future, ignorance and knowledge, dreams and reality. Change was coming, had come.
| INVESTIGATE |
Wolfram passed on, over and into the park, one of several that spread across The City walking over its neatly controlled grass and around its neatly controlled beds of flora. He continued on, through housing that edged the park, up the slope that rose to Poacher's Hill. The ridge of Poacher's Hill curved above Roxy. Beyond, it gave a view of The Sprawl which in turn gave way to Outland, spreading like some spilled green paint, in the distance as far as the eye could see. Wolfram had never been this far out to The City's edge and looking out and down he felt he could dive into the pool of pulsing, swirling light that was Roxy. The sea of another world. It looked intoxicating, dangerous and it drew him down over grass to a foot-worn back path that took him into the free quarter. A large wall of steel ridges shimmered in front of him and he passed to its right, along a wall of solid circular ridges. At the end of this building, the alleyway opened into a square and of another alleyway to the left, he could just see a red building through the clear corner of another, just beyond an open space of pale blue grass. He headed toward the building down the alleyway. As he entered the open area, people were milling about and he felt decidedly conspicuous. Everyone seemed brighter and larger than life. Some people projected what were obviously hologram costumes, others were flamboyantly dressed with shirts sporting exotic plumage, some in formal colour-change suits and some in more casual but equally outlandish dress. He felt like he had come to mend something. He walked around the edge of the grass on the yellow path heading left to where a building of metal, fused with Fabri-block like an arrowhead, split, joining only at its point. It stood tall, pointed and imposing. A floating sign indicated the direction to #infiniteDreamland and he went to the immediate building's right following the sign's direction, past a large opaque glass front that revealed people randomly as they sat drinking and talking behind its facade. Not being used to the atmosphere of Roxy with its heady cocktail of chemicals released into the air, Wolfram's head began to throb. He felt he was being pulled a hundred different ways. He had to focus all his concentration to putting one foot in front of the other just to get to the building a further 500 paces ahead which announced itself as #infiniteDreamland. The end wall of the building shimmered with moving graphics - Our reality is your Infinite Dreamland. The distinctive words became enveloped in a miasma of worlds, each rising out, then falling back into each other, like a mind floating in and out of consciousness. It was lyrical, hypnotic and Wolfram stood for a few seconds, mesmerised. He turned right, then walked down to the front of the building where the Holo-veranda depicted a scene of lush, rolling hills, with snow-capped mountains in the sun-hazed distance where a man in a long black robe holding a staff set off walking, his robe swirling like ink in turbulent water. The entrance to the building was just before the veranda, a single expanse of shimmering light through which 'Dreamers' passed, as if entering a forbidden world through a digital waterfall. He walked on past it, the pull from the building tugging at his senses. This building was bigger than many he had passed so far but he reached its corner and followed it left, where the holo-veranda's indistinctness gave way to solid, perfunctory wall. He was walking around the building to get a feel for it, once inside, he would be subject to its persuasion rather it to his investigation. There were two doors set into the building's side some distance apart. Both were closed shut and he passed them, on until he reached the end of the building. In the middle of the back of the building, stood an access bay, presumably where goods were brought in to and waste was removed from. He passed by it, a few other people on the other side of the street passed noisily. The recessed access bay had a large, shuttered opening with two smaller doors either side. The door on the left was slightly ajar. There was no-one around.
Wolfram turned around and headed straight for the open door, he climbed three steps and went straight in through the it. Inside was dark and now here, he had no idea of what he was doing. The idea of being a detective was a lot different to actually being one. His heart felt like it was racing and attempting to leave his body via his mouth. His mouth was dry. He found he was in some kind of small office and as his eyes got used to the low level light he could see papers on a desk. Papers were piled one on top of the other, the pulsing light of a monitor hi-lighted random objects spread across the desktop; a pen, the wrapper from some bar, several containers with objects in them and a small necklace of fine gold. He went cold, shocked beyond any belief. He reached over and grabbed the necklace, there could be no mistaking, this was the necklace he had given Merene for her 25th birthday. The reason he knew it was hers and not just another (others had been manufactured, it wasn't unique) was that at the instant he saw it, he remembered it had not been handed over with all her other effects after her death. He had not even thought about it until that moment. His reeling thoughts and emotions were suddenly broken by voices, outside the room, the bang of something against the metal door and laughter. He flew to the door at the back of the room to his left , terror of what he had found out and terror of being found out at his heels. As he closed the door behind him, oblivious to what awaited him in front, the outer door opened and men came in. he closed his door silently, the sound of his heart pounding being the only noise.
He turned around in the new room and saw, nothing. The room was in pitch blackness and no amount of time would allow his eyes to adjust to it but then, from under the door, a light phased in. The men next door had obviously turned the light on in their room. It seeped from under the small gap the door made with the floor and various objects in this room glowed eerily. It appeared like some kind of storeroom crossed with a technical function. Wolfram looked around and made his way across to where he thought he saw a further door. He couldn't take the chance of the men not coming in and finding him so he had to move on, now while he had time and was not forced into another rush into a further unknown room. He had never felt this uncomfortable before but his instinct for survival was strong and he acknowledged this in himself, perhaps for the first time. Wolfram put his hand on the door's handle but did not push forward to open it. He pressed his ear against its cool, smooth surface but heard nothing. After a few seconds which counted as minutes he pushed upon the plate and the door opened with a slight 'fffttt' as the hermetic seal broke and a silent glow of orange-yellow bathed him. Grey flooring and black/white recliners, each with some body occupying them made him take a breath and his right hand tightened upon the small, gold necklace there. Monitoring lights flickered and pulsed and blinked as their programming demanded and Wolfram had a feeling that to intrude would have been disrespectful. These people were dreaming and dreaming here took on a kind of sacred right but the sound of the door opening in the room behind him and light streaming in made him forget all observance and step into what was Dark Sanctum, the door producing the 'fffttt' sound as it closed behind him. He walked quickly around the outside of the square of the room, avoiding as far as possible the ranked bodies like a rat would have done. 'fffttt', the door opened and a brighter light intruded upon the 'dreamers'' peace but they remained unaware. Wolfram dropped to the floor and crept under the nearest recliner using what little cover it afforded. 'It's nothing, everyone's sleeping'. 'Told you'. 'Gives me the creeps this place'. 'Shouldn't work here then, should you?'. 'You don't leave'. 'Why would you want to? People we get rid of for the company are all people who've got to go. Trying to ruin what the President's done for us. Don't want for nothing but there's always someone wants to rock the boat'. 'Yeah, yeah. Not all of them tho'? I mean, these people come here to dream'. 'Well, let them dream. While they're in fantasyland, we get to get our jobs done'.
The banter between the two men receded, along with the light. Peace returned to Dark Sanctum, Wolfram stood up from under the recliner and edged back to the wall. His stress levels had been pushed to a maximum, at odds with the serenity of his surroundings. He looked around, barely taking in the equipment that ranked the walls and hung over the 'dreamers' like waiting dark ghosts. He had only one thought, escape.
At the back of Dark Sanctum a counterpart door to the one he had entered by stood as a diagonal opposite and he made for it. He attempted to open it as slowly as possible and it made the same 'fffttt' sound as its counterpart. A dark room, similar in size to the one he had passed through to enter Dark Sanctum presented itself, in darkness. He surmised that each were holding rooms servicing the Sanctum; this one holding people before they entered and the other for holding supplies required to support the 'suspended animation'. Although somewhat disoriented by the blackness he realised that if he continued, he would probably end up stepping out into the lounge area, full of people and his game, whatever it was, would be up. He would have to go back the way he came. He obliviously squeezed the necklace in his hand, the pressing into his right palm giving him some kind of hold on reality, barely.
He made his way back, passing the sleeping participants to the door that opened onto the store room. All seemed quiet, the two men whoever they had been had left. He waited what seemed a considerable amount of time (which was in fact seconds) before attempting to open the door. The store room area was empty, he crossed its carpeted floor quickly, his heart beating fast and hard. His only thought was of out. He came to the door that led back into the office, went through it and over to the loading bay exit door, the one he had entered by. The streaming light from outside on the loading bay hit his eyes and pain seared for a second as the muscles adjusted and his focus attuned from white blur to distinct architecture. He could see a block building straight ahead and the improbable point of the corner of a building to his left, a green circle of grass beyond. The ambient light of nighttime here was punctuated by sharp stabs of light and pulses and glows. There was no-one immediately in the vicinity so he stepped down, onto the road and headed for the green.
There were people here, some sat on the circular grass immaculately dressed in flamboyance, in front of an arcing building, the one he had glimpsed earlier which came to a sharp point. He ignored this and everything and just headed in what he instinctively knew was the right direction, out, away, back. He took the most direct route he could out of Roxy and headed up the rise to Poacher's Hill, not looking back once. The breeze of the evening ruffled his brown hair and gave him the air to breathe thoughts again. He stopped, turned around and looked out over the landscape below. The land seemed to dance, as if animated at his observance. He opened his right hand and studied the gold necklace in his palm, it glinted as the moonlight caught it. An aching pain pierced his heart as his mind made synaptic bridges between what he had found and what he had heard. The fluid motion of thoughts mixed to form a bitter cocktail, a cocktail he would have to drink for the rest of his life - #infiniteDreamland got rid of people - on behalf of the President - this is what maintained the status quo, dissidence was eradicated - it was probable that Irana Tansun’s husband was 'eradicated' for some reason - it was certain that Merene, Wolfram's wife was 'eradicated', she had worked directly for the President's Company; A-labs, it was the only reason her bracelet would have turned up at the place! The why of it all was lost as the effects of the cocktail numbed his brain.
After a while he looked up from his palm and he felt a profound sadness for the specs of people he saw down amongst the crowd of exotic buildings, bathed in ever-changing light - motes of dust, at the mercy of the winds of dominion.
He made his way back home but unaware of doing so.
| FINDING |
Wolfram had gone straight to bed upon arriving back home after his visit to Roxy. He had dreamed sadly. He had awoken and wondered in confusion for a few seconds before the wave of sadness flowed over him again. It had surged when he caught sight of the necklace on the table next to his bed. He went to make tea, he couldn't start a day without it, no matter the type of day. He sat now at his computer, the cursor blinking, emulating a bygone era - there was no response from Irana, not only no response but no record of her being online, ever! It was as if she had been erased. No. not erased, that could imply accident. Eradicated, she had been eradicated!
There was no way Irana could be traced back to him, not unless the security forces had suddenly become wizards overnight. However, if Merene (it bit deep to even think of her now) had been 'eradicated', he too could be under suspicion, under surveillance for whatever it was the, whoever it was (the who was spectacularly unclear!) deemed important enough to do so. He left his apartment for work and across the road a man, leant against a nearby building immediately aroused his suspicion. Ranhold's offices were not far from where Wolfram lived but the journey there seemed to take forever. He didn't turn around, not wanting to arouse suspicion that he was in anyway aware. Maybe it was all in his imagination and a few weeks ago he would have known this to be true but now...
He entered Ranhold's offices and went to his office space on level 4, he looked out of the window which hung off the building as if in thin air, back the way he had come. There was no-one there, he relaxed, then he didn't. Just to the right of a building across, he could caught the glimpse of the shape of the man in black clothing, he had seen outside his apartment. He had been followed, was being followed! He went to speak with Jonathon Kern who worked in the next office space. Jonathon stood, smiled and was about to speak but didn't because of the look on Wolfram's face. 'I have to leave!' said Wolfram straight out. 'Leave? Why, what on earth for?' said Jonathon clearly shaken by the decision. Wolfram had walked on and around the intricately placed open office spaces to an open area in another bay window. He pressed the privacy button to his left which screened out everyone from the area. Jonathon walked in, over the threshold. It was like walking behind a waterfall, the outside mill of office life, killed in an instant. 'What?' he asked, the urgency hanging in his simple question. 'Merene was killed' said Wolfram simply and openly. 'What!' exclaimed Jonathon, his repeat stabbing at the privacy curtain but falling to the floor, spent. 'How do you mean? How do you know?'. 'I found her necklace. In Roxy. In #infiniteDreamland'. His answers were short statements but each filled with intricate depth of sorrow and pain and loss. 'Why would she have been in #infiniteDreamland?'. 'Because it's used, as a place to 'get rid' of people. People who don't tow the line'. Jonathon was reeling 'I... It's. Why?'. He kept coming back to that simple little question. Wolfram continued with his slow, deliberate outpouring of simple sentences 'The City provides you with everything you need. You couldn't want for anything else. Unless that anything else was truth. Merene worked for A-Labs. She seemed to find something out. It must have been a truth'. He was spent, he stood with his arms hanging loose down by his sides, his head was forward and down, there was nothing more. Jonathon looked at his colleague, as though he had just told him that the world had ended. It probably had, as they both knew it. After a pause, Jonathon asked 'What are you going to do?'. Wolfram looked up. He seemed serene now. 'I was followed here, I need to leave' he said. 'We can get you out of the building, there are several doors, they can't be watching them all' said Jonathon, 'I'll...'. 'That's not what I meant' interrupted Wolfram. 'I know' said Jonathon, 'I'll come with you'. 'I need you here, on the inside. You will be more help. It will be dangerous though'. 'That's not a problem, It's what we were made for but you, how will you...' his question tailed off into nothingness. 'I will go into Outland, into the green'. 'Will you be able to survive?' asked Jonathon, his concern was fuelled by the news streams and rumours that everyone in The City had been brought up on. 'I won't be going in unprepared' said Wolfram making toward the privacy button on the wall. 'You can count on me. Just let me know what you need and when, it will be there, I will be there, whatever the time'. Wolfram hit the button, the privacy screen was no longer there, he made his way to his office space. He didn't speak with Jonathon face to face again.
| DISAPPEAR |
Wolfram had left his office that last day by the front entrance so as not to arouse suspicion. He wanted whoever was watching him to think he remained blissfully unaware of their surveillance. Once back in his apartment however he wasted no time as he prepared for his exit, exit from his apartment, his job, his life. He planned meticulously, he gathered a suite of 'tools' and laid plans for the delivery of a whole host more. The trickiest part was leaving The City, it was not something most normal people did. He had had to think about this long and hard but in the early hours of the morning he had come up with a plan. He spent two days carrying on as if normal, being careful not to change routine but all the while amassing the means to disappear.
He had the larger pieces of equipment delivered to a different address, one with a large, unattended, secure delivery facility (most buildings in The City had this), closer to his point of exit and unlikely to cause an alert. He had also used secure, untraceable lines. He had a couple of things delivered to his apartment and configured some components and built items from them. He was purposeful, he had changed, he had evolved. He knew he was now ready. He had built a 'disappear' routine which cloaked all his purchasing and delivery activities and it would eradicate them totally once he was finished. There would be nothing left with which to trace his plan, he did not want anyone reading through his manifest and surmising what he was planning to do. He would just drop, no longer exist. He would be in contact with Jonathon in some form but that would be untraceable.
It was the morning of the third day since he had met with Jonathon and told him he was leaving and all was prepared. He had purposefully not tried to see if he was being watched or followed throughout the time. He knew he would be less likely to give away the fact that he knew that way. It was five forty in the morning, the sun was just starting to play across the windows. He would leave in the next few minutes but not via the main exit, he would drop into the garden from the stairwell window which hid him from the view of the front of the building, he would leave via the top left of the garden, out through two boards that he had loosened previously and that would give him a clear run to the address where his other equipment was waiting for him.
The console sat on the desk in his bedroom, the cursor on the screen blinking, minimally. He looked around and then went into the main room. A drab black backpack stood in the middle of it, fully packed and strapped with a cord snaking out from underneath it across the flooring. He picked his jacket from the back of the settee and pulled it on. He turned, surveying this room for the last time. Everything was in its correct place, just as it would be were he just going out to work and would be returning this evening. He reached over and picked up the backpack and pulled it on to his right shoulder. He walked back into his bedroom. He stooped over the console and purposefully typed in the word 'disappear' on his sensorboard, waited a couple of seconds and then hit return. The program execution began. It ran for what seemed an inordinate amount of time for Wolfram, then ended with a red ellipsis, flashing at the cursor prompt. This would be echoed on Jonathon's screen at work when he got in later in the morning. After six pulses the red ellipsis disappeared. Wolfram then disappeared.
After checking the view from the stairwell window was clear, he opened it and lowered his backpack via its long strap to the ground below. He followed the bag, rappelling down the three floors via a line from his belt. It was a bit uncomfortable but he knew this wouldn't be the last or the least uncomfortable thing he would be doing as the future unfolded. He unhooked the line and retrieved it and made his way across the garden to the fence boards at the top left corner. He made sure that no-one had seen him, no early morning riser gaping out of his or her window catching a glimpse at the escaping Wolfram. He hadn't been seen. He lifted the two boards in the fence at the end of the garden and made his way though then put the boards back, pushing them securely into place with a stone. He went off, heading for his 'stash'; the house where other equipment that had been delivered was waiting for him. At this house he entered unseen via it's side entrance. The equipment was stacked against the wall. He had packed it well previously so all that remained was to take the two largest, perfectly balanced bags. He would return one more time for the last of the packs but that would be some time later. He made his way out, once again across the back of the property to avoid any detection. He passed through several empty GreenSQ's and down toward Main Pass. He had to traverse an open area to come up alongside the arterial route of The City, this was the only part of his journey where he was concerned about being seen. From here he would walk along side it as it ran out of The City until he came to a little used underpass. The underpass slid beneath the road, forgotten by time and people, nature did however know exactly where it was. It enveloped it in bramble and waist high grass and scavenger weed. Wolfram made it to the entrance; A semi-circular opening that bored through to the other side but which was blocked by greenery. He pushed through, using his bags as protection against the large thorns that barred his way. He emerged out the other side like some future prince Charming attempting to rescue Sleeping Beauty only to find he was at the wrong castle. Once here, he knew he would be in a lesser observed zone. He hoped to push forward, dip under The Cross (the only road that crossed Main Pass) unseen and from there move on to The Wall. He pondered the basic names given to the main structures in The City; Main Pass, The Cross, GreenSQ, A-Labs. He had never given this a second thought before but now, in a heightened state of awareness, afforded by what had happened he realised that this was a ploy by those that ran The City. Simple names, of no consequence, belying their function but to Wolfram, these were now significant, icon signposts in his break for freedom, break from the past, to discover a future of truth. He tramped across dead ground, went under The Cross (a similar tunnel to the one that ran under the Main Pass but unclaimed by nature) and on, toward the large boundary that was The Wall.
Time had moved on and the sun had risen slightly into the sky when he reached the gate in The Wall. There was a checking system in place with guards who they seemed wholly unimpressed with their lot but looked him up and down all the same. Wolfram presented his pass (wholly contrived but totally believable) and passed as if unseen out of The City into The Sprawl. From there it was but a weaving way, through a mass of people into Outland. He never faltered. Copyright © 2014, murpworks.com