She crossed back to her rolltop desk and plunked herself down into her plush office chair, placing her palms down against the cool fitted glass over the surface of the desktop. She admired how perfectly the glass fit flush against every cubbyhole and corner—in RL, it could never be fit like this, unless some master furniture maker worked everything perfectly out beforehand with some master glass craftsman. It could never be the same. But the enjoyment her Inner Sanctum brought her now seemed much less poignant, the whole world seemed far less tangible, or sensible, and in fact it brought to mind just how insensitive she had behaved toward Stacey, every moment in his presence. Because he was always brooding about his fate, his being, his soul—true, he met everything through the filter of his sense of humor, so the twinkle never quite vanished from his eyes—but she always felt that he was thinking about it, his precarious position in the universe, in the world, in any society. In the very reality of his existence. She felt his sadness. She knew of his hopelessness.
And he hardly knew any of it, the truth. He only suffered with his ideas of what the truth could be, and even these lame hints would be enough to drive any rational person to the brink of insanity.
It was now turning out that Seven hardly knew all of the truth about Stacey. Or about herself, for that matter.
Seven thought about it, staring at the backs of her hands. Stacey was ever brooding, struggling, even crying out against the fact that he was not truly a real person, and he did not even know the half of it. Because biologically speaking, beyond his seventh year of life, Stacey had never been a real person. He had died under very suspicious circumstances, as a beautiful little boy, and the tragedy of his treasured life ending had nearly destroyed his father’s life. So, in reality, Stacey had lived seven years of life, and then died—and many believed his death a murder (although what happened was inexplicable, indecipherable, the murder in a locked room mystery).
In another way of looking at it, Stacey had lived a full life, and many lives. Countless lives. Not in any mystical conception of past lives, or reincarnation, but through the miraculous quantum computing power of Vestigial Surreality—VS was the technology foundation that made it possible for researchers to study not only history, and great moments in history—the great people of history—but also genealogy, genetics, and the psychology of family curses, family traits, and genetic disposition. How people were born the people they were meant to be, and the mystical wiring that fired off the neurons of their personality, behavior, and veritable destiny.
She now had a better understanding of her own behavior toward Stacey. Her mother had explained the concept of echoes, of the data bleeding through. Her mother had explained things as best she could, because a lot of what her mother knew was all encoded, scrambled, passed-down information, and waiting...messages. Now, Seven understood her own history much better, at least in terms of her relationship with her mother. And her relationship with Jack, to Jack. And Stacey.
Seven had always considered her mother cold, removed, more devoted to the Jackian religion than to her own child, always Priestess, and now High Priestess, before ever a mother.
Life repeating. A whole life repeating. But never the same life. The same life, but never in the same way.
Everything was always different, though many things turned out exactly the same.
These are the disparate sayings of her mother.
You are not crazy, Sandra. I was forbidden to speak of these things, until the right time. You know what I’m saying is true, you know it, although I cannot explain how you know, perhaps I cannot fully explain how I know, child, daughter, my daughter, but I am the recipient of the prophecies, that is why I am now High Priestess, for I was chosen, I was selected by our Founder. I’m not talking about Jack, not exactly, but about the Founder of our order, our leader, our Prophet. And now, daughter, I am the prophet of our Prophet, I receive her words, her messages, at the right time. When it is needed. When you need it.
And now Seven was suffering the funk of questioning her own life. Well, she was not so bad off as she was over the past several weeks. For several days she had locked herself in her room, and wept. Weeping and berating herself for not picking up on the clues, because, in a sense, she had always...known. She knew that there was something not quite right with the world.
The world was not what it seemed.
The world is not what it seems.
She remembered the little girl at the street corner, the little girl with her nondescript mother. Now, remembering that day, Seven realized that the little girl stood out from the other people, as if surrounded by light. She seemed more real, highlighted, and Seven had heard her voice as if the little girl were speaking directly to her. These were not so much memories as images currently alive and playing upon her mental screen. The movie of her mind.
“Dada is dada!” the little girl laughed. And it struck Seven as hilarious, such a statement, at least back then, because only moments later Seven had heard a businessman blurt out very similar words, at that little outdoor cafe. “Data is data,” he had roared.
Data is data.
That concept was something that troubled Seven, now, especially now, yet even then, when she had stopped abruptly on the street. Because it was so similar to what she witnessed in VS, when Jack and Stacey compared their coincidences, the strangeness of their meeting, and all their similarities. Coincidence was something everyone experienced, they looked at it, marveled at it, and then discarded it, generally to never think of again. But when the coincidences piled up like that, you knew that they were not random, or fluke—they were intentional messages, sent from parties unknown.
Seven’s meeting with the little girl, Manda, on the sky platform. Something terrible had happened on that day, only moments prior to their meeting. Even then, Seven was questioning reality. But a man had been inexplicably thrown from the platform. Security footage displayed him lifted up as if by magic, higher than the security barrier, and his plunge to the Earth below. And a little girl was caught on tape, watching the inexplicable horror. Calmly watching the horror.
The little girl with her own face, the seven-year-old version of Sandra Newbury.
Seven had fled High Vale because she had received a message, a hologram from her mother. But it turned out that her mother had not in fact sent for her. The hologram was a fabrication sent from an unknown source. Someone had replicated her mother perfectly, the imperious command of her manner, and a human desperation she had never heard in her mother before. Someone had done it. Seven’s mother did not know who did it, but she had been expecting it.
Seven had curled up in her bed at the convent, weeping, going over everything in her mind, the images and memories and echoes flashing through her brain like fever dreams. She had felt she would die. She had felt she must die. Because she couldn’t accept any of this, it was beyond her. She did not want to know. She did not wish to know. But she had to know.
Someone had prepared her for this, for this day, for these memories, these images, these fever nightmares. Because she remembered loving Stacey, not in High Vale, but in another world. In other worlds, other realities. She remembered other Staceys, run in other simulations. Because it was Stacey she traveled to, all those times—Jack was always her excuse for running to Stacey, the man that had never truly been. And yet he was her whole world, her whole repeating world. Everyone understood her desire to study the Ancestor, Jack Messenger, because he was everything to the Order, he was everything to the priestesses, he was the entire focal point of the Jackian movement. Jack.
And Stacey was the playboy son, the writer, the heavy drinker, the fighter. Stacey was the little boy who was murdered, nearly ending the life of ancient Jack Messenger, the child of his old age. And yet when Stacey did live, it was Jack that died, ever always and again, Jack died and the movement changed, the order evolved differently, the Jackians became something else, something angrier, something more forceful, throwing off the message of peace and empathy that Jack lived and preached. And Stacey became the troubled man of the world, sometimes a fighter, but always a womanizer, the scandal of the Jackians, and the man often murdered around the age of forty by the very followers of the father of the man they despised.
Everyone hated Stacey.
Everyone loved Jack.
Stacey fascinated her when she was a little girl. She found him glamorous, and gritty, the fearless fighter that never backed down. She had secretly studied Stacey, and with her own unit she had gone to him, time and again, and somehow he always recognized her, he always smiled at her. Sometimes she held off and went to him when she was a full woman, in her thirties, sometimes she met him when they were each forty years of age, and she steered him away from those that assassinated the man that embarrassed and humiliated the Jackians, she steered him to a personal world where they could be together. She had tried going to him when he was but twenty years of age, and she was thirty-five, and their experience was sweet. Now it was the reverse, he was thirty-five, and she was twenty.
She had always been Stacey’s girl. Secretly, she wore the label proudly. When the nuns berated her, when the priestesses scolded her, inside she had smiled. Yes, I’m not of Jack, I’m of Stacey. I am his, and he is mine.
I am Stacey’s girl.
Seven sighed. Her temples felt like they would implode. She could not deal with this. Because none of it was real. She had lived none of these lives. This had never happened.
She was a twenty-year-old college student whose dissertation was on her relative, her direct ancestor, her great great great grandfather, the Prophet of the Jackians. She was a virgin, never touched by man. Except recently, she had kissed Stacey, and they had been close, so close, but it was not real, he was not real—the horror, it bothered her how much it bothered her, the horror was that she was not real.
Here, now, in the real world, she was Seven. That was her reality. Focus on that. She was a strong, twenty-year-old woman, and she was a student, and a VS Voyager. She was granted access to the official recording, so much more than a computer simulation. She was granted complete access to Jack’s life, and Stacey was never meant to be there. He couldn’t be there. This was now, this was reality. In the reality of Jack’s seventeen-year-old life, he would not even think to create a son, not for more than one hundred and thirty years, when he as an ancient, ancient man.
This was reality.
She had studied Jack, at his birth, through his childhood, his teenage years, into his twenties, and thirties, she witnessed the ideas developing, the purity and goodness mellowing like wine, the philosophy bubbling up like a spring, pure water, and she had followed Jack through his great and wondrous life, when as a very old man, far beyond his century, the oldest man in recorded history (up until that time, of course) he had a son removed from him and birthed in the old-fashioned method of the laboratory (something not even legal at the time), and she had witnessed Jack’s joy in this child, his child, they were never apart, Jack cherished this son of his loins and taught him, and loved him, carried him, slept next to him, gentled his fears, hushed his nightmares (the boy Stacey thrashed at night, consumed by night terrors, of scorpions, and spiders, and praying mantises as tall as a man), Jack watched over his son, until the day he found the boy pierced in the secret garden, stabbed by many small wounds, murdered in a place inaccessible to any other person, an impossible mystery, and Jack the great man had nearly died on that day, his ancient heart nearly faltering, and he had never been the same, although his message had continued, and the love of his words, the entreaty for empathy, for understanding and feeling others, love of others more than love of the self, this idea had grown and swelled and become the Great Movement that changed humanity, and nearly saved the world. And she was there the day Jack, surrounded by the nuns and priestesses, had breathed his last. Smiling, with tears in his ancient eyes, he had breathed his last word: “Stacey.”
She knew all this, it was history. She had watched it, and witnessed it, and through the magic of Vestigial Surreality, she had practically lived Jack’s life. All of this was real, at least in an atom-to-atom simulation of his life and times. She knew all this. VS repeated exactly what happened, providing ample room for improvement, for getting it right, for doing the right thing this time.
But everything else, the echoes, the data bleeding through, all the other lives she had lived, her lives with Stacey, they could not be true. Because it was not possible. God would not allow such a thing, would He? It could not be true.
“I have received messages, and at the proper time, I impart the necessary information to you, this is my purpose,” her mother said.
“You receive messages? Who is sending you the messages?” Seven spat, glowering into her mother’s hologram face.
“I see her, she appears to me, an apparition, and she tells me what you need to know, at the proper time,” her mother replied.
“But who is she?” Seven demanded, thinking of the little girl, Manda, who looked just like Seven looked at the age of seven years of age.
“She is very wise woman, in a sense she is the True Founder of all of this, of everything you see and feel. She is a very ancient woman who comes to me, and tells me what you need. It is why you were reared the way you lived. This is why I withheld myself from you. Why I gave you the time and space necessary for you to make your voyages, to make your discoveries. She knew it all, and I have followed her advice, and today you come to me and make these very demands, as she told me you would, and so I impart the message that she imparted to me.”
Seven inhaled. She felt she would never stop inhaling, sucking in the breath, until her entire being exploded in a rain of red. But finally, she exhaled in a long sigh.
“Tell me,” she said, not wanting to hear it, but knowing it was time.
“She is the Mother, and I am her daughter, as you are her daughter, as all the Jackians look to her, she is our True Founder, the True Founder of Vestigial Surreality.”
Seven swallowed, but could not clear her throat. She held her breath.
“She is Sandra Newbury, and she lived to an extraordinary age and wisdom. She is the Prophet who speaks, transcending the ages, she is the Mother, and I am her prophet, and I speak to you, my daughter.”
Seven blinked, and then she stared at her mother, feeling as if she would never blink again.
“I am named after her?” Seven breathed. Is that what she was hearing? She thinks of the locket, the heirloom, the necklace that belonged to Jack, the real Jack, in RL. She clutches at her locket, the jewelry that seems to move from her Inner Sanctum to RL, the same in both world, although she remembers creating it, and the world locked within, and yet she remembers her mother giving her the locket, both memories fully true, both fully real.
“In a sense, yes. You are named after her. But you...are her, Sandra, and she is...you, our Mother is my daughter, dear Sandy, and daughter is my Mother. You are her, and she is you, and these words I say to you on this day, at this time, as she instructed me to do so:
“Become, Seven. Become. Do not be afraid. Do what must be done. Throw off guilt, and aid Jack, save him. He is your responsibility, dear girl. Data is data. There is no body. This is all we have, this is life. Love Stacey, without regret, as he is your destiny. And from the rings of Saturn we will one day again become a people. We were. We will be again. This is our hope. Be patient with Manda, shield her, for one day she will replace me, and we will one day again become a people. Real life has not yet begun. Be bold, Seven.”
The hologram of her mother smiled, and she lowered her head, as if bowing before Seven.
Seven banished the hologram.
Be bold. Do not be afraid. Data is data.
The great shaggy beast ripped through the foliage without even attempting to go around low-lying branches, it was almost as if the brute was attempting to scrape the tiny creature off the back of its neck, but the little animal clung grimly to the winding ram horns on either side of the brute’s wide head.
“It is still back there?” the shaggy beast rumbled, not daring to look back.
The small creature clinging between its horns did not need to glance over its shoulder.
“Don’t worry, it’s there,” the tiny creature chittered.
“That why I’m worrying, because it’s still there,” the massive beast grumbled.
“I will fly back and distract it, and you continue following Jack’s scent, otherwise we might lose the track,” Michael chittered.
“No,” Joshua grunted, digging in his paws, skidding to an abrupt halt. Michael catapulted from his perch between Joshua’s horns, going into an end-over-end tumble in the air, and then smoothly turning the trajectory into a neat and easy glide, opening up the flaps of skin beneath his arms, and soared to the trunk of a tree, where he landed lightly.
“Sorry about that,” Joshua rumbled.
“It was no problem,” Michael answered, chittering quite angrily, “though I do think you did it on purpose.”
“No, really, no!” Joshua swore, “I just think we need to face the big guy, together.”
“He’s bigger than you,” Michael said.
“Yeah,” Joshua answered, “isn’t that weird? I gotta say, I’m not used to anyone being bigger than me.”
“Perhaps we can talk to it, as many of the creatures in High Vale are quite fond of communicating,” Michael said, leaping to the ground and skittering back to stand near the massive ramdog. Joshua was plunked down on the forest floor, sitting like a dog, and was even panting like a dog, his long red tongue hanging out of his mouth. As all panting dogs look, Joshua appeared to be smiling. Michael found it somewhat comforting.
They were out looking for Jack, who had vanished from the Great House, and after some small scent and search, Joshua had picked up his track leading off into the forest, and after several hours of following the scent, they had nearly collided with the terrifying creature that they had only recently heard about, from Jack’s stories.
And then the nightmare monster crashed into view, smashing branches aside with six muscular arms. The bald monstrosity stomped toward them a few paces on truly massive hooves, and then when it noticed that they were no longer fleeing, the creature halted, glaring at them. It stood somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve feet in height, and with all its arms it looked an easy six feet wide. Its beady eyes glared balefully, and its block of a head seemed split by a gash of a mouth, exposing fat hunks of yellow teeth.
“Bad doggy!” the crooden warrior thundered, pointing three of its arms at Joshua, with three massive index fingers extended. “Only pet. Nice. But run. Bad doggy!”
The monster was louder than even Joshua.
Joshua responded by going up on all fours, and charging, directly at the giant.
“No Joshua, what are you doing!” Michael cried, leaping into the air, sending out a shower of sparkles.
The crooden warrior looked leisurely away from the charging ramdog, unconcerned, his gaze captured by Michael’s lightshow of faery twinkles. Michael looked like a star, hanging momentarily in the air, lights shimmering from his body like cartoon exclamation points of fire.
“Oooh,” he began, charmed, his murderous gash upturning in a smile. “Pretty—”
But Joshua, mid-charge, going up on his hind legs, surged forward as any good ram can manage, leading with his great horns, directing all his weight, strength, and momentum in his delivering punch, slamming his whole being into the crooden warrior’s belly.
The crooden warrior exploded in a blast of breath, collapsing backward, his six arms contracting like insect legs all about Joshua, and they tumbled end over end, first Joshua on top, and then the giant rolling over the ramdog, until they came to rest with Joshua standing on top, his forearms (or legs, they were kind of both arms and legs) planted on the crooden warrior’s massive chest.
Chittering in anxiety, Michael leapt to a tree trunk and launched himself into the air, gliding to another tree where he landed lightly upon a low-lying branch.
“Are you crazy?” he chittered at the ramdog.
For Joshua was frisking about like a puppy, actually licking the giant’s face, and wonder of wonders the crooden warrior was smiling, and laughing, half of his hands were scratching Joshua’s back, and the other three hands were petting the ramdog, big gnarly hands bumping over the dinosaur protrusions over Joshua’s spine.
“Strong doggy,” the crooden warrior grated, and Michael was shocked that something akin to a giggle leaked from the monster’s gash of mouth, he was actually smiling with all those yellow block teeth exposed—he was delighted with Joshua.
Michael had heard Jack’s story of how the giant had ripped the head off a horse the size of a Clydesdale, and feared that at any moment it might do the same thing to Joshua’s head. But at the moment, they were frolicking and enjoying each other, like any seven-year-old boy with his puppy.
He kept his pace steady, thinking over his life, and there was an uncanny feeling as he easily remembered both his lives, one growing up in California, reading books, riding his bike, crashing his bike, crashing his skateboard, crashing his motorcycle, even crashing a lawnmower, crashing three different cars, and yet overlaid upon this life was another life, one lived in High Vale, facing bully after bully, receiving thrashing after thrashing, until finally the bullies were running from him, usually weeping, despite their Dragon Warrior stock, and always there was Maully, his Maully. Neither life seemed more real than the other. Both were firmly ensconced memories of childhood, of youth, and manhood.
But his California life, reading books, going to school (a waste, because his inner eye was filled with the light of vision, of another world), seemed now a dream, for it was the memory of another world, a dimmer world. This world, High Vale, was much more vivid, more colorful, and dangerous. You had to be alive in High Vale, fully alive, or you would be dead. And this death could come fast, from any angle.
An hour into his pursuit, following the ruts of the carriage, and the trampling prints of horses and broad and deep plug holes of those rhino beasts, he had nearly had his head taken off by a swooping thing that buzzed murderously in its passage. He had instinctively ducked, leaping to the side, scanning his surrounding for whatever it had been, and then he saw in a flash as the thing came back around, directly at his face, a wasp the size of a New York rat, and at the very last moment his reflexes snapped up the shillelagh, and he caught the wasp directly across its body, the shillelagh ripping the deadly insect in half. Its head whizzed past his face, but its lower body slammed into his breast, just above his heart, and he looked down in horror to see its fat striped body hanging there, from his cloak, suspended from a stinger the size of a steak knife, pumping in and out like a piston, leaking poison all down the front of his cloak.
Gurgling in disgust, he batted the fat body away with the back of his MMA gloved-fist. He scrounged around on the ground and came up with a handful of leaves and grasses, which he scrubbed at the poison, making certain not to actually touch any of the dark, viscous goo with his skin.
He looked back and found the head and forelegs of the creature, which still seemed to be very much alive. And he heard it buzzing, not like a bee, but a high pitched screech, and it almost sounded like a klaxon, an alarm, and after only a moment of thought, he scanned the skies nervously, glancing all about. Because that high-pitched buzz sounded like a call to arms.
He spotted several of the erratic flying spots in the distance, and knew them to be what he feared, and he turned and dashed up the trail, putting on some real speed, doing a decent hundred-yard dash, and then another hundred-yard dash, and then gasping, he slowed to a trot, and turned about backward and kept trotting, scanning the skies, listening for that threatening buzz, but for the moment he seemed to be okay.
He kept trotting, refusing to allow himself to slow to a walk, he kept trotting backward, as he produced his water bottle from his belt, and not looking away from the skies, he managed to open the bottle and drink.
He was covered in sweat. He had been sweating ever since he started out. But emboldened by the fiery nectar of White Champagne, he had managed to maintain his steady speed.
Now he saw a few of the specks, bobbing about, as if searching. There were a lot of wasps back there, perhaps a hundred yards in the distance, and hopefully they were just looking for dead meat, and not his living meat. He belted his water bottle and turned and ran, going much too fast a speed to maintain for very long, but requiring distance between him and the wasps.
The trail lead into a dense woods, and perhaps heading in there would cloak him from the hunting wasps. He pulled his hood low over his face despite the heat of his body and his soaking sweat. Yes, this would be better, leaving the sunshine for the covering shade of the trees.
And he went back into his ground-gobbling lope, just faster than a jog, keeping his boots low and close to the ground, whispering over the soil, and at least the path was wide here, and he could discern the places where the truck-sized carriage had scraped through close trees, stripping away leaves and branches, leaving a fresh trail of pine needles to follow. It wasn’t like he was required to do any serious tracking, like Aragorn following the hobbit-napping orcs.
No, he barely had to pay attention, every couple of thousand yards there were piles of horse shit, rhino shit, and other odd things, like dead spiders.
Never slowing in his loping pursuit, he did allow his eyes to linger on the dead spiders, because some of them were the size of cats. Fresh from an encounter with a scorpion the size of a German Shepherd, he in no way desired any manner of up-close and personal interviews with spiders the size of cats. Still, there were a lot of the dead suckers, cut in half, stomped, crushed. A few yet wiggled their long, spidery legs.
He felt someone tap him on the back. Uttering a cry, he whirled about, the shillelagh slashing, half defensively, half offensively.
There was nobody there.
That was weird, because it had been a distinct tap, as if someone jogging along behind him had reached out and poked him behind the shoulder. He stood trying to make sense of it, when something came around his body, touching him in multiple places, poking him on his chin and forehead at the same time, and it took him a heartbeat or two to register the fact that there was a spider as big as a catcher’s mitt crawling from his shoulder, across and up onto his face, and then he was shrieking, literally screaming while mewing like a kitten, batting at the thing, knocking it off his face, his whole body contorting in absolute instinctive abhorrence, hardly realizing that all the screaming was coming from his own mouth.
Heart hammering in his chest, he registered the spider striking the ground a couple of feet away, and then it came scrambling back toward him, repulsively fast, and Stacey again hollered out in indignant alarm, and swiped at the spider, swinging his shillelagh like a hockey stick, performing a perfect slapshot which not only crushed the arachnid, but smacked it soaring fifty feet into the air.
“That was the sickest thing!” Stacey shouted, his entire body shuddering. Stupid thing, it landed on his back and then skittered across onto his face!
Another spider dropped down, this one larger, suspended by a web that he could not see in the darkness of the forest canopy—it hung suspended upside-down, its legs paying out its rope, hanging only three feet away from Stacey’s face, and without thinking Stacey did a perfect baseball swing, striking the spider full on, and the shillelagh actually made a satisfying crack like a bat catching a speeding baseball, perfectly, right in the sweet spot, and the spider soared off in a baseball trajectory.
Stacey screamed and fled up the forest trail, running at full tilt. He did not wish to enjoy any kind of interaction with spiders. Enough was enough.
Keeping his gaze up, running at full speed, he saw hundreds of the spiders dropping through the branches, but thankfully they seemed to only come to investigate while he was in their direct vicinity, and so as long as he ran like this, pumping his arms and legs like a mad man, he had cleared them by the time they were at his level, and he was a good fifty feet up the path, and so they were dropping by the hundreds, but thankfully all behind him.
What was up with this place, and the bugs, damn it. Scorpions and fuzzy bumble bees as big as soccer balls and butterflies like hangliders, kamikaze wasps, and now playful spiders that dropped down like special forces commandos. Sheesh, that first one had been on his back, for goodness sake, and had come crawling onto his face! Stupid High Vale bugs. Six had said that on the other side of the river were praying mantises as tall as a man. They were called the brown monks, because seen from a distance, that’s what you thought they were.
Shuddering, he ran on, his body a hot beacon, speeding like a rocket. And he nearly dashed straight into a very visible web spread across twenty trees, and Stacey’s mind screamed at him, because up high in the web was what could only be a very human body, wrapped and bound tight, one pale hand apparent pushed through the strangulating webbing sack.
Stacey shot off through the trees, giving the monster web a wide berth; he did not wish to get closer than twenty feet to the thing, but he also did not wish to lose sight of the path, which the web covered, except that something very large had burst directly through it, and so the ample hole was there for his passage, but he would not approach it, because he did not wish to meet the arachnid large enough to create such a web. He circled back until he was on the path again.
He spotted a warrior’s helmet, and a spear jutting up from the ground, and thought that perhaps the owner of these was even now up in that web, and had shoved a hand out for one last clutch at life.
Stacey, standing still on the path, looking back at the colossal web fifty yards back, heaved and shook, gasping for breath. It was a wonder he had not run pell-mell into that web. He needed to calm down. Running from the little spiders he was almost herded right into the mother of all spiders. Stupid spiders.
He drew an arm across his face, sweating like a pig. Keeping watch, he produced his water bottle and emptied it. It was amazing, hours of running like this and he had as yet stopped to relieve himself, but running like this, he was burning away all his water, with nary a drop to spare on cleansing urine.
Well, he would remain calm from now on. No more mindlessly charging through the woods. All that yelling and screaming he had done, sheesh, he was lucky he had not attracted other things in the woods, the kinds of things much worse than spiders—oh yeah, he was certain they were out there. Probably watching him, even now.
Nearby, the bushes rustled. Loudly.
Clutching his water bottle and shillelagh, Stacey hollered at the top of his lungs and fled away from the spiders and the webs and the rustling bushes, his mouth fully open and uttering the most embarrassingly drawn-out thunderous scream of his life, an absurd: “WAAAAAAAHHHHH!” that went on and on and impossibly on.
Things in the forest did hear this preposterous cry, and things hid in terror. Spiders scrambled up to their highest perches and huddled into tight balls. Furry things with fangs withdrew to the farthest reaches of their earthen lairs, and pushed leaves and needles and soil up at the entrances, hoping that whatever made such an inhuman screech would not discover them in their dark holes and caves. Furry things and hideos creatures with feathers and other bald things huddled with their offspring, and shuddered.
After what seemed like miles of screaming, Stacey shut up. And ran, and ran.
© Copyright 2016 Douglas Christian Larsen. Vestigial Surreality. All Rights Reserved by the Author, Douglas Christian Larsen. No part of this serial fiction may be reproduced (except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews) or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the publisher, Wolftales UNlimited, but please feel free to share the story with anyone, only not for sale or resale. This work is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental (wink, wink).
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mystery, thriller, horror, techno thriller,
signs and wonders, vestigial surreality,
william gibson, neal stephenson, serial,
cyberpunk, dystopian future, apocalypse,
scifi, mmorpg, online video game world,
end times, apocalypse, armageddon,
digital universe, hologram universe,
sunday sci-fi fantasy serial fiction,
virtual reality, augmented reality
the unknown writer blog
the unknown writer blog
are we living in a simulation?
puppets, puppetry, punch
Elon Musk, Tesla, VR
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