This peice of fiction was written for a Alan McNevin’s Dark Obsidian RPG Supplement. It’s about a robot who became human and his choice.
There’s a city in my mind,
Come on and join the ride.
We’re on the road to Nowhere,
And it’s growing day by day,
And it’s alright”
Talking Heads “Road to Nowhere”
Evermore, the last great city. There it stood. Stretched out across the horizon like a black sunset. I had travelled quite while to get here and yet I still had twice that distance to travel. But there it was, stretched across the entire length and breath of the horizon, lost beyond even my range of sight. It made one dizzy first to see it, for it created an illusion that someone had built a wall at the end of the world.
Huge rank clouds hung around the filthy mess in a poor attempt to hide it. Pollution of all types was spit out onto the ground. This is the true sign that humanity had taken refuge here. The ground surrounding this monstrosity was mere desert unliveable and grotesque yet humanity piled onto itself, a sprawling, mangled madness of dead life that spilled both outwards and upwards like a sickening disease.
Perhaps this is the fabled tower of Babylon resurrected that mankind had in the beginning attempted to reach heaven with and for that, man was punished. And to this day man has continued to try to reach that heaven and is continuously punished for it, till the Gods themselves will come to stamp man into the ground. I could barely make out the towers that glowed and stood so righteously above us all. Even this far out from the city, the sky was obscured by the clouds of filth causing it to be somewhat of a perpetual night.
All roads (that were left) lead here. All deserts stretched to here. All hopeless and fear stretched to here.
And so my journey brings me here. Before the Great Fall, before man lost the pathfinders. I was there. Yes, I am that old for I am not human. I am what is called a Hunter Killer, a robot basically. I was built as bodyguard. Programmed to protect my owner to my death. A loyal dog that had the ability to destroy ten-fold what a single man could do. And so I was happy, happy as a logical unemotional thing could be. I had purpose; I served my creators. If I had pride then I would have stood tall and undaunted in my task.
A lady, a Miss Cathy Bergman was my owner. She was a company executive for a large weapons manufacturer. Very important I believed. Too important perhaps.
Back then my skin was purely metal, a bright metallic shine to my entire body. I was built to resemble a man. Miss Cathy Bergman insisted I dress like a person – apparently it made people uncomfortable to see a “naked” robot. Its strange the little details you remember. I don’t remember much of before the Fall. Most of it was wiped from my brain with the transformation, the Rogue Virus.It had been a long day. I had stood in the corner of the room as meeting after meeting took place. I was alert for that day was an uneasy day. People were frustrated, arguments happened often. Something was in the air. The world was unsettled. I drove Miss Cathy Bergman home as it was reaching night. I still remember how crystal clear the sky had been that night, a glorious view of a thickly starred sky. I monitored everything and as we left the small city to the suburban house she owned. I grew uneasy. Nothing really to worried about but I was programmed to notice small changes. Nobody was around. None of the kids hung on the corner. Few cars were on the road. Shops were all closed. Few houses had their lights on.
She started to talk to me. She asked me what I knew about the recent events. I reported that I monitored all the news headlines in case those events might become dangerous to her. She smiled at this and I believe it comforted her. She was beautiful. She had thick red hair that she tied tight around her head for most of the day. Now it was undone and lay around her head. Her face was oval shaped and smooth skinned. Her paleness did not detract from her beauty but enlivened, increased its almost marble statue like quality, a Greek modern masterpiece.
She asked about the recent massacre, an illegal nightclub where all occupants had been found dead, torn apart and laid to waste. I reported that it did not effect us as it was in a different city. She said she dreamed about it last night.
The road where we lived was again unusual quiet. Empty. I began to be worried. This I did report to her. But she claimed it was nothing. I wish she had listened to me. I wish? I wish now for nothing. She got out of the car unafraid, and quickly entered the house. I disliked her doing that; she should let me secure the house first. I noticed a man, on the edge of the road. He ran when he saw I spotted him. His vision must have been excellent for him to notice my reaction. I fear now that he had been one of my own kind and that he come with a purpose. For when I logged into the house security systems, I noticed a glitch, a tiny morsel of disrupted data in the download. Unusual again, but nothing to worry about.
That’s when I heard Miss Cathy Bergman shout. I stormed quickly to where I knew she was. My weapons armed. The window was smashed, the soft carpet covered with tinkled shards of glass and mirror. My owner was quivering against the wall and the oak table. I could see neither intruder nor anything that could have smashed the window inwards like that. My connection to the security cameras revealed nothing.
Of course that’s when it hit. That’s when my world changed. The data glitch had been the Rogue Virus. It was a computer program that inserts sentience and independence of thought in to programs such as my Programmed Intellect System. It froze me as my programming was changed. I was given emotions, intelligence and the ability to develop and change; all the horrid characteristics of man. I couldn’t move as I was reborn, as emotions of fear and pain and horror shot through my system for the first time.
The intruder, a woman, that slithered closely around me. A demon it would seem with two horns on her head and long black flowing hair and a tail that caressed the top of my shoe. “You have a soul now, Hunter Killer.” She said gently pawing my chest. I was unable to move. I couldn’t react, fight, or scream. I knew pain and yet I wasn’t allowed to express myself, to do something about it. I live and was already in hell. A man crawled through the window, the man I had seen on the street. But he wasn’t human. Half flesh crawled across his face. The rest was dirty metal. He was a robot, I think, one of the first few to get infected with the Rogue Virus. He smiled at me, the flesh around his mouth bending and contorting in a grotesque imitation of a real person. He had no real hair, only tiny tuffs of various lengths over a bulging deformed skull.
Cathy was behind me but no longer knew what was happening to her. I heard a struggle as I assume the woman fought briefly against Cathy. I knew Cathy had no chance.
“You are free now. I’m sorry your introduction to true life has to be part of this. But you are merely an innocent caught in a much bigger problem.”
That’s when my senses shutdown. I knew true darkness, true isolation for the first time. It was horrendous experience full of emptiness.
When I awoke. I was on the ground. Every moment was pain. I felt it. It’s impossible to describe how it is to feel pain, when you’ve never felt anything before. You are so sensitive that even dim light is like the brightness of hell. I clung to the walls, the table. The place was trashed, the security systems rendered unusable.
When I found her it was too late. I now knew sorrow and pity too. She lay on the table, dying in a pool of her own blood. I approached her, nervous and afraid, I no longer knew what I should do. “Are you there, Robot?”
“I’m. I’m sorry.” I blurted out.
“I knew they were coming?” she choked on the words.
“I’ll get help – I’ll?”
“No. Do nothing. I knew about the Virus. You have been the greatest friend I have known – merely because you haven’t deserted me yet.” I cradled her, awkwardly and unsure. Tried to make her comfortable.
But she closed her eyes and died. I would have cried if my vision sensors had been eyes.
The woman was old. Her face was more a collection of amassed wrinkles then any sort of skin. She stared from eyes that seemed mere hollow gaps, dark shadows instead of eyelids. Her speech was thick and fast Moorish, one of the languages I picked up on my wanderings.
In the few days that I had spent here, it was the smell that got to me first. They call this “Down-Under”. A place where everyone lived in hovels and thrown away boxes and washed in used toilet water. They lived among the foundations of the great towers like dust and insects live between unclean slates. Violence, crime, disease and death were rampant.
I sat along side a road that was one of the many entrances to Evermore. Hundreds apon hundreds of people filled the space, always coming, never leaving as if they had found something here of themselves. That said a lot for man. And he created me? How low am then? It was a perpetual market here, new people with very little, innocents and ignorants were robbed blind, mugged and sold as meat in front of my eyes. I was wandering the market, smelling the month old fruits and vegetables that ugly woman bartered. But this one Stand took my interest. Fortune Telling. She, the old woman, had stared at me through the throng, picking me out. Perhaps it was her gimmick, her sales pitch, but I was intrigued.
She brought me into the little tent, which contained a small table and two chairs. We sat and she pointed to the small cup; payment first she said. I threw a few miscellaneous coins on the pot.
After my rebirth, I ran. The Fall was apon the earth. I shifted from emotion to emotion. Flung myself into the passion of oblivion. It was a time of great change and violence, the sky threw fire, earth, wind and water at the ground and the ground opened up belching forth all it’s buried horrors. I saw such sights, monsters and creatures, man made, man imagined and other things.
And in theses chaotic times I gave myself one purpose, the destruction of those demons, the Demonkin. I hunted them as they gathered in numbers for some war that was lost among the Fall. I tortured them, killed them, and hunted them. It was sometimes with others but mostly alone. Occasionally I even met other Hunter Killers; some relished in what they called their new freedom. I saw it as another slavery. I had come to hate the change, what it had done to me. I was horrified by the growth of flesh and hair.
Eventually the fire stopped falling. Time had passed. Ages it would have seemed. I found myself in a great wasteland, a place of devoid and nothing. And so I wandered, drifting from makeshift town to the next makeshift town. And now I had arrived here. Evermore.
She made me touch her deck of cards, speaking in some unknown language, a kind of humming to herself and she shuffled and dealed the cards in a ritualistic pattern. She hummed and rocked to herself as she stared at them.
“You were born in great violence and so you have followed a path of self destruction?” I barely understood what she said, her speech was not so easy to understand her tongue.
“I see a woman, perhaps your mother or an old lover, she will cross your path again very soon. You must not let yourself get lost. You are the verge of something?” The woman was a fake, now I knew. I got up to leave. “Wait – you will be faced with a decision, a decision that your life has always been about, a question of life or death. The third choice, the third choice?” she said ranting at me as I left.
Where was I? Had I finally come to an end? Evermore sure seemed like that. The place that stood atop of the gateway to Hell according to the stories that had been told. Here it was, at the end of the world. I was leaning against one of the walls of the towers. Graffiti expressing frustration, anger and violence littered everywhere. I watched as people moved and flowed around. A man approached me tried to make me join some church “The Caste of One Thousand Stars” as if it would save my soul. Save it from what? I asked. Here you can never be alone – but never ever know anyone.
People of all types, whores and sellers, people promising miracles, men in uniforms that pushed others around. I watched for days, just watching. Lost in the miracle of petrifaction and death.
I saw and I couldn’t believe it. I saw a woman with red hair, her back was to me but her hair was the same as Miss Cathy Bergman. It was an incredible likeness. All undone and spread out like the last time I saw Miss Cathy Bergman. I was transfixed. I watched intensely, the world seemed to slow down and fade away. The constant hum of machines, voices and jingling faded away as if I was being dunked under water and the sound is transformed by the waves. The woman looked back. I couldn’t breathe. I suddenly felt as I looked through a tunnel. The woman was the exact image of Miss Cathy Bergman. Her face – that same oval shape, same pale marble quality. I was frozen, unable to act. The woman darted away into the crowd. I couldn’t react or move like that night in the beginning. The rest of the world for that moment was lost completely to me. I wanted to call out her name, rush forth and hold her.
But slowly the world intruded on me again.
I awoke from the trance. But it was a different feeling as if a veil had been raised from my eyes. Could it be that Miss Cathy Bergman had not died that night? She somehow was revived? How could she still be alive? Questions that I must answer.
I darted forward into the crowd, pushing people easily out of the way – searching for Cathy. Searching. I became flustered, rushing one way and then the next, looking for her, looking where she could have gone. There was no point calling her name out loud, it would be lost in the constant din. I became maddened. I wanted to turn over people’s makeshift tents and market stands in an effort to vent my frustration. But I stopped. I stood. I let the madness fade. It was my imagination? it must be.
I relaxed my breathing. I couldn’t think or hold myself steady.
Sound of an Ebb Force handgun charging. My instincts kicked it. It starts as a very low whine before it reaches a dull thump before firing. I had used them myself. I took cover away from the source of the sound. I watched as a man fell out of a nearby tent. His chest ripped open from the blast. He staggered back, crashing into a market stall and fell, dead before he hit the ground. Then, Miss Cathy Bergman stood at the entrance of the tent, a handgun in her hand. It wasn’t the Miss Cathy Bergman I had known. She wore a red long coat and a full leather suit that hugged tight her body leaving only her head uncovered. Her hair was let loose and there was a fire in her eyes. She looked left and right. People around here had learned to ignore even the most vile of crimes happening around them, so they just continued on, ignoring the murder.
She dashed into the crowd. I still waited. I was able to track her now for a distance before pursuit. Others dashed out of the tent, weapons in their hands, obviously friends of the fallen one. They wore uniforms of some type that were similar to the religious nut from The Caste of One Thousand Stars I had met earlier. I felt my trusted battle instincts really start to kick in.
I waited till they dashed off. The hunt begins.
I followed at a close distance using the crowd of people at the market as camouflage. I still had a good idea where Miss Cathy Bergman was. They had good tracking skills and weren’t too far away from the running figure. I came apon the slowest one. He was standing in the crowd looking left and right, the gun in his hand made the crowd give him space. I walked up behind him, grabbed his necked and threw him against the ground. The sound of bones breaking was satisfying. I took his weapon.
I continued close to them. She was in an alley, obviously looking for a back way into one of the towers. They were right on top of her.
Approached slowly as the group of four men closed in on Miss Cathy Bergman. A standoff. She held a gun pointed at them, two of the others held guns too. Argument about payment, she retorted with a calm collected tone “I paid you for an operation. That operation failed in it’s final endeavour?” I could tell from so many other standoffs that she was going to fire, it was the confidence of holding the weapon, the steadiness of her body, her slight shifting from one foot to the other.
I aimed for the second one carrying the weapon, steadying my shot, and aiming? waiting? that low whine sound? I shot. The two men, that were holding weapons dropped, most of their heads blown off.
One of the other men was quick and dashed forth to grab her and prevent her from taking another shot. The last man was frozen to the spot. They were still ignorant of my presence.
A grabbed the first one, throwing him across the alley where he made a solid thud against the wall. I grabbed him again, holding him by his throat and crushed it in my hands, his face gagging for air as the blood filled his throat and he drowned in his blood.
Miss Cathy Bergman had reacted too, kneeing the last of the religious nuts. She stood beside me, looked at me, a perplexed unsure face, and then ran off. I aimed the gun at him. “Are you ready to die?”
I stood over the body. I felt, cleansed. I felt so fully satisfied, complete. I had finally saved Miss Cathy Bergman. I didn’t have time to full enjoy this feeling, I heard the sounds of the Militia approaching. I looked around; there on the ground was an ID card, Miss Cathy Bergman’s ID card that she must have lost in the struggle. I picked it up and ran, disappearing into the gathering spectator crowd.
The ID card was well used. The covering was half torn and the photo was in black and white. But the features of her face were unmistakable. It was Miss Cathy Bergman. But it wasn’t. The name on the card said Jennifer Lee.
As I wandered now through the crowd I felt a thrill, an exhilaration shiver through me. This woman could be Miss Cathy Bergman, but if not, then by miracles of miracles she has been reborn. I had heard about the concept of past lives, of a second chance at life. I was willing to believe in anything. This is purpose. I had arrived here to find her just when she needed me. It was like, fate, a concept I had so sorely dismissed as human fantasy. I felt so light. Even as I walked through the mud between the half-fallen shacks I felt, dare I say it, alive. No longer did this human form, that clothed me, depress me, I felt now like it was part of me. I had been searching, thought I never realised, for her. That moment, in the beginning, that second at my birth, no longer was a constant horror of the failing of human emotion, but something that happened in the past. Something that could be forgiven, accepted and perhaps one day forgotten.
I thought about the Demonkin, that I had killed. I felt doubly glad. I felt I had exacted revenge even if it was merely only symbolic.
The ID card had an address?
The Tower was called The Ladder. It raised up through the sick cloud of pollution that smothered the foundations in Down-under, like a plant that stretched out over the ground and reached for the sun. The lift was transparent and offered the view of the outside as it passed away below you.
As it slowly floated upwards I felt as if I was leaving Hell. I had come to the end of world to discover the pathway to Heaven. Down-Under and all it’s filth pass away, the lift rising through the dark smog. It came out over the cloud and it was another view. I felt I stood over heaven, the world below as it faded away was littered with magical tiny lights like a magical mirror of the night sky. I could see hundreds apon hundreds of other towers some with huge open levels larger then any town or city I had visited since the Great Fall. I couldn’t see the sky, for it was hidden, by Living Areas in sections higher up and by the gigantic Towers themselves. It was as if I was an insect, a tiny minute small thing among giant blades of grass.
It felt wonderful to go up so high, though I wasn’t even close to a third or a forth of the true height of this buildings. The door wouldn’t open, but when I swiped it with Jennifer’s card, it opened making a rusty rattling sound.
Here I was, in an open area. It wasn’t great. Graffiti still exploited most of the open spaces, faded advertisements half fell from walls. But people were cleaner and fewer. Instead of dirt and muck there was litter and used food containers. There were shops and restaurants though they didn’t look any healthier then the market stalls in Down-under. There was a still a major improvement. And there was a noticeable presence of the Militia, wandering around, a paranoid look on their faces.
It was cold here. Down below had been warm, hot even. A cold breeze blew through the place. People looked at me. I obviously stunk and looked like a bum straight from Hell so to speak. The Militia eyed me and decided to leave me alone as long as I didn’t annoy anyone. I rushed, not wanting to wait around for long.
Her place was easy to find. I waited down one end of the corridor, out of her view. I waited and waited. Watching. Then she returned. Night, I think, had finally fallen on this day, for the artificial lights no longer provided enough protection from the long dark shadows.
She was rushing, searching through her bag in a panic. Nervous, frightened, I noticed the tiny stream of sweat that trickled down her forehead.
Finally she somehow opened the door. I darted forward, before she closed the door, jamming my foot against the sliding mechanism.
A gasp escaped her mouth. For a second, she was frozen, unable to act but she reacted with skill, the gun in her hand before she had let another breath escape those soft lips.
Strangely though I was frozen, I couldn’t act. Every piece of my body remained rigid, my mind spun in fantastic spirals, fearful of rejection, fearful of denial, fearful of forgetting?
“I’ll shoot?” she blurted out. I didn’t her to be afraid. I reached into my coat and pulled out her ID card, trying to hand it to her without moving. “So you found my ID. Is that why you came here?”
“No.” It was turn to blurt out.
“Who are you? Are you following me?”
“Yes… NO. I mean, I know you except I don’t know you?”
Her finger tensed around the trigger. But she wasn’t going to fire, the relaxation in her shoulders told me that. “You remind me of someone I knew long ago. I only saw you today. Please don’t make me go away. I only want to talk to you?”
She relaxed lifting the gunpoint away from me. So I came in, letting the door slide shut behind me. “You helped me because I reminded you of someone? You killed three men on purely a memory?”
“Who do I remind you of? Your dead Out-Land wife?”
“No. My mother?”
She laughed; her laugh was biting, painful. “Your Mother? I remind you of your Mother?”
“Yes. She died at my birth.” I retorted, suddenly uneasy.
She placed the gun in her belt. “What a fucking day?” she said more to herself then to me. I felt uncomfortable, unsure of myself. This wasn’t like the Miss Cathy Bergman I knew, but there was something in her eyes, a glimmer of the way Miss Cathy Bergman had looked at me when she died. (“You have been the greatest friend I have known – merely because you haven’t deserted me yet.”)
“Look, if you’re going to stay in my flat for longer then ten minutes, you are having a bath. You stink, you leave a trail of mud whereever you go. It’s over there,” she said pointing over to a door.
It was a small flat, the hall lead onto the main room. A tiny room, filled with minimal furniture, a small computer, some photographs on the wall. I stared at the photographs for a moment, pictures of men and woman in different places. There was one woman in a lot of them, a woman that somehow seemed familiar, a thin short woman. “Who is that?” I asked pointing to the thin woman in the photograph.
“That’s my mother.”
“I assume you know my name, if you have my ID card?”
“So what’s yours?”
“I have no name.”
I remember; the Demonkin were all trying to stop me as I threw and shot three and four of them at a time. They slashed at me and broke their necks. It was a night of blood and death. I remember, one of them, before I crushed his skull: “Who are you?” he said. I couldn’t answer.
The water was pleasant. I sank into the bath of water. My whole body surrounded by a gentle press of warmth. I felt the strain and stress on my organic muscles slip away, a heavy burden seem to sink into the water. I was tired. My eyes closed.
Darkness lay in a heavy way all around. There was a low background noise, neither real nor fantasy? just there. Like the screams of animals deep in a slaughterhouse or the shuffling of a frustrated audience.
Someone else was here. I was barely aware that Jennifer stood at the door of the bathroom as I started to doze. But it was Cathy as in the last time I saw her. A panic across her face. Something was different.
I shifted my weight and now I could see her. She was a robot like me, her skin beautiful chrome shine. She was smiling at me.
She came over and took my hand, my metal hand. I noticed we were made of the same metal. She touch my face, the skin/metal as soft as silk like a tear that ran down a face. I reached out for her but she moved away. I clambered forward to hold her and she was pulled back.
Jennifer stood by the door of the bathroom, a gun in her hand. There was fear yet fascination running through her. This man was a Hunter Killer; feared and reviled by all the unnatural things that walked this city.
And he had saved her.
She should kill him now as he slept, she didn’t know if she could trust him.
But she didn’t. She had invited him in. She had accepted him. Why? Was it connected to that damn Box? Connected to the woman Bergman? The thoughts raced quickly through her mind. The Hunter Killer looked peaceful, human there. His eyes shut tight like a sleeping lover.
Chains. I saw them on her feet. They held her arms. That’s why she was being dragged away from him. I tired to reach further but she was pulled further away. I was determined to do it, to reach her? Wake.
I opened my eyes briefly but tiredness assaulted me again and they reluctantly closed again.
He started twitching. His eyes moving quickly under his eyelids. A grotesque display of moving flesh. Jennifer was beginning to be worried. Something, fear, fear of losing what she had found ran through her.
The woman. The Devil. Pulled the chains. She was Jennifer’s mother but all dressed in red; she was Cathy’s killer. Chains were chains of flesh. Cathy was slowly being coating in human flesh and it was dragging her down, pulling her away from him.
I reached through the pane of glass that now separated them and prevented me from reaching her.
“Save me,” she called out or it seemed. It was like a mechanical screech then a human voice. She reached out and grabbed my shoulders.
Jennifer stood frightened over the bath. The Hunter Killer was shaking all over like some demented fever. His head, lost mostly under water. She grabbed his shoulders and shook him, trying to wake him up.
The old woman was there, the one whose eyes are lost in darkness. She was dashing forth towards me? “The third choice? the third choice?” I felt as if the old woman was trying to save me but I didn’t care for myself? Cathy? Cathy?
Cathy no longer screamed “Save me,” but yelled, “Kill me,” in a human voice.
“No.” I yelled. Attempting to stand up? but I was held to the spot by human flesh that slithered and creeped.
He was screaming. And suddenly he violent sat up, the water spraying everywhere. His eyes wide open. He sat there, not moving, staring as his breath slowly relaxed.
He looked at her, turning his head slowly with looked at her in a way that seemed to burrow deep into her.
Jennifer stumbled back.
I saw Cathy, there, looking at me. The same eyes, mouth, expression… The feeling was real. The dream ran through my head, I wanted to reach out and grab her, hold her, protect her? then she moved and the illusion was lost. It was the woman Jennifer. The jarring thought? the dream fell.
It was a phone or something similar. A sort of beeping sound that distracted her. She left the bathroom. I dried and dressed.
“I? I gotta go?” She said. A look of confusion and emptiness written across her face. “I’ll come.” I replied.
“No? no you can’t?”
She opened the door and I followed.
Stubbornness is what made the human race. Not the ability to change or the opposable thumb or intelligence. Stubbornness, even in the face of complete destruction. Animals will learn from a lesson, if burnt by fire they will never go near it again. Man, kept going back to the fire, even though it burned him till he controlled it, mastered and used it. That is also how man travelled the stars, he kept going and going, pushing forth even though he knew that he would finally reach the things in the shadows.
The Karr brunt him and pushed him back to earth, raged across the earth. And the Gods walked the earth and the world opened up to fire, death and the final flood of life.
It was a well hidden. Down one alley then another, turning right and left, moving far away from any main area, any Militia; anyone that might be a problem.
We walked through squalor and decay. A dying bum tried to grab my leg as we walked by. She was panicked, she didn’t want to look at me while all the time a feeling of madness came over me, I felt Cathy was nearby, beckoning me forth, driving me forth.
I swear Jennifer was crying.
The Night-club. Stuck down the end of one alley. Refuse and dirt were its lawn.
Red and yellow light bubbled up through the entrance, giving an eerie feeling that it was a mouth of a great beast. She looked at me. She had strangely changed. Something was different, something was changing. “Please don’t follow me in.”
“Why? What are you afraid of?”
“I’m afraid of you. I don’t know you. Just go?” She dashed into the place. I took a deep breath and followed her in.
The music was loud and overpowering. The smell of drugs and sweat and sick was just as overpowering. And I saw, people, a hundred perhaps, all in this tiny space, some dancing to the music, some lost in a hallucinogenic fantasy, some in the throughs of physical exploration.
The lights gave a bizarre effect, the bodies lost in the alternating red and yellow lights and deep hiding shadows. A woman rubbed up against me like a lost cat looking for attention.
Laughter and madness.
But I didn’t let Jennifer get out of my sight. But I was afraid. It looked as if she were two people occupying the same space, in complete sync. The drugs in the air were effecting my senses. I shook myself but I felt the world spin.
Then I realised. The scene was pounding against my skull; my head was breaking against denial. This was a den of Demonkin; the worst of them lost in debauchery and insanity. I had entered Hell in Heaven. I had followed my Angel in chaos.
Everything was too much for I started to hear Cathy’s voice from the dream, that metallic-human like plea, “Save me”.
“Who is he Jennifer?”
“Leave him alone.” Jennifer retorted.
The man, who challenged Jennifer, exposing his bare chest. Tattoos of demonic symbols scrawled across his muscular frame. Two horns, weather they were real or just plastic fakes, adorned his head. I stood behind her. My senses slowly recovering. But the change was continuing.
Jennifer looked less and less like Cathy. But the voice was stronger.
“He’s connected to the woman Bergman?” Jennifer said.
Her mother? the image flashed across my mind. She was in the dream, but that’s because she was in my past. (“You have a soul now, Hunter Killer?”) It wasn’t just slim coincidence that Jennifer’s mother looked like Cathy’s murderer.
It was simply because she was Cathy’s murderer.
The Ebb-force gun that I had picked up earlier suddenly found itself into my hands. (“Save me.”)
I’m beginning to finally lose it, it occurred to me.
“Don’t.” Jennifer said. “Please don’t.”
I heard the sound of hissing and moaning; a gang of the demonkin were surrounded me. The world started to spin around.
I pointed the gun at Jennifer. “Please?” She begged again. But she didn’t look like Cathy any more. The illusion that had seemed so real and full of freedom was gone.
“Explain.” I said. It was the only thing I could focus on, her.
“I don’t know who you are Hunter Killer. But I fear I feel it.”
The sound died away, the smell dissipated. Only Jennifer, our conversation and me existed.
She continued “You are somehow connected to a woman called Cathy Bergman. She was one of the greatest Hardening Mages before the Great Fall. We believed she was one of the people involved in the creation of the Rogue Virus?”
“And?” I spoke. My voice sounded empty.
“The Hardening Mages, are wizards of technology, their skills and knowledges are and have been instrumental in the development of science and technology since long before the Great Fall?”
“It’s about weapons isn’t it. About trying to recover the power from before the Fall?”
“Yes. I have Cathy Bergman’s Soul. My mother passed it on to me. She was the one that killed her and took the Soul.
We found a Box that survived the Fall. A Box of Power. The Guild of a Thousand Stars helped us steal if from Nevermore?”
I went to pull the trigger.
“Why shouldn’t I?”
“Because if you kill me, you lose Cathy forever. Apon recovering the Box, Cathy’s Soul has somehow become animated, alive. She has become part of me.” Something changed; her voice became doubled. Two voices that spoke as one. “Her thoughts cross mine?”
I felt lost. Around me I was hopelessly outnumbered. I had been called here. Cathy’s soul had called me here, made me see Jennifer as Cathy. I could kill Jennifer and free Cathy’s soul. Win myself final revenge and die in a glorious fight.
Or I could accept Hope. That Cathy was alive in Jennifer. I had been lost for my entire life and now I was given a glimpse of freedom. My arm holding the gun relaxed.
But then the dream, I remembered. The third choice, the old woman had tried to tell me. I realised instantly what it meant. I was a slave. Why I had never truly been alive, for even though I was no longer a Robot controlled by programming, I was still be controlled. Cathy’s Soul, The Great Fall, The Box, Jennifer, My Eternal Revenge?
I dropped the gun. The world suddenly reappeared, the press of Demonkin closing in. Jennifer yelled, “Wait.” She had assumed I had given in.
But I turned away from her and walked away.
The Third Choice.