[WP] Everyone is immortal in the distant future. To keep life interesting, most people "reset" their memories every few centuries so they can experience life anew. [Part 7 - epilogue]
I wake to the once-familiar hiss of my vecta-coffin’s hydraulics as they force the lid to slide open; my eyes are met by the blinding white light of its insides and plumes of steam drift and disperse around me. The story of how they got their macabre epithet rises to the front of my mind. It’s been a few hundred years since the last malfunction, but I can’t help thinking of the poor lady, of how she must have screamed and scratched at the lid; how she must have begged and pleaded with God to free her as she slowly withered away. They say all that was left of her fingers were short stubs of blunt bone. Personally, I think whoever they are, are full of shit. Still, makes you wonder.
As always, my shower’s set to cold, and it washes away the haze from my first refresh in who-knows-how-long. Thought I’d have felt different to this. Guess one night in the coffin and a bit of cold water can't wash away bad dreams.
A thick, brown sludge spills out of the Hose and into a dog-eared mug on the sideboard. As the sour tang of the coffee wafts up my nostrils, I wonder why I didn’t just choose whiskey, like every other morning.
I sip it as I look out of the apartment’s bay window. It’s strange seeing Magnolia from this height. The world’s a grey blur below me, punctuated by slowly moving soft greens and yellows, their light dulled by the endless smog lying like a blanket between us. Above me, dark pregnant rain clouds hide the sun and get ready to unleash their burden. With a sigh, I click a button and the window dims to black, replaced by a pale moon and distant, flickering stars.
The last of my coffee doesn’t want to leave the bottom of the mug so I dip my finger in and force the reluctant caffeine out.
The rain hits before I make it to the Richardson building. I pull the collar of my mac tightly around my neck and adjust my hat; the rotten water hits like bullets, exploding off my fedora's rim and screaming to the ground.
Thankfully, it's not long until I see the tallest building in Magnolia appear out of the distance. It looms ahead of me like a metal giant whose head is lost in the clouds, never knowing what its body might be up to.
“I’m here to see Miss Browning,” I say to the skinny man behind the reception desk.
He looks at me for a moment, his thick brows turning into a single curious slug. He doesn’t remember me from my first visit here, back when all this started. Strange.
“You may go up,” he says. “It appears Miss Browning is expecting you.”
She’s there as I exit the lift, her face a study in contrary emotions. Happy -- more than that, maybe -- but she’s also trying to keep an air of professionalism.
“David,” she says, extending a hand. “It’s good to see you again.”
I pull her in close and give her a tight hug. When I let go, she steps back and bites her lip. She’s either trying to stop a smile or prevent herself unleashing a verbal tirade.
“This way. Please.”
She leads me down a series of saturnine corridors.
“How have you been?” I ask.
“Fine, I suppose. Back to real life -- the boring monotony of one’s daily chores.”
I grunt. "I get that."
“You look well, David. You used the Restorative Cube.”
My heart beats in double time. “You can tell? Just by looking, I mean."
"You look healthy. Younger. What made you change your mind?"
"Guess I thought it’s worth sticking around for a while longer. Besides... I think maybe you could do with someone watching out for you, occasionally.”
“How are you finding the new apartment?”
“Think there might be something wrong with the Hose.”
“This morning, I actually kinda enjoyed the coffee from it.”
Juliet lets out a laugh, but quickly smothers it.
I realise we’ve been through this corridor before. It's the one with all the doors, where I heard noises coming from behind them. Only now, there are no noises. Just our footsteps echoing around us.
“What happened to them?” I ask. I notice very faded initials on a handful of doors. R.M.S; D.O; P.L; E.N
“The patients or whatever they were, in those rooms. What happened to them?”
“Oh -- I decided that they needed Resetting. They are fine, you could say. They have new memories, new lives. We tried our best with them but..”
“Other Step-Back malfunctions?”
“Yes.” She looks almost genuinely sad, and I think I even see tears welling in her eyes.
We arrive at a wooden door and walk into a familiar room. A mahogany desk with two seats. There’s a plant on the desk this time, with huge leaves that droop down around it. To my eyes at least, it looks real. But that's not saying much.
I do. I lean back and look at Juliet, staring into her midnight blue eyes.
“Take out the contact,” I say.
She hesitates, then reaches into her left eye and squeezes. As she pulls the membrane away, the black pupil reveals itself.
“It hasn’t healed,” she says, sounding almost ashamed. “It doesn’t matter how many times I rest, or for how long. That cube it...”
“A scar's better than being dead,” I say pragmatically. "Think of it as a souvenir."
She nods. “Yes. Thank you for… for what you did. I'll never forget it.”
“Exterminating humanity, you mean?”
She cringes. “For saving my life. Besides, perhaps Eizenstat was insane. Perhaps there was nothing in his head apart from his delusions.”
“Guess we'll never know about that. But we did find Eden and-”
“Enough” she says, raising a hand. “You are never to speak of Eden outside of this room. I honestly don’t want to have to Reset you.”
I catch her staring at the tattoo on my finger. She sees me watching and flicks her eyes up.
“Well, I’m grateful for that,” I say. "That you didn't Reset me, I mean."
We sit in silence for a moment, eyeballing each other.
“David,” she says.
“Juliet,” I reply with a half-smirk. Then I notice something odd; my mouth drops slowly open as her right eyes begins to cloud, darkening to a void-like blackness.
“Your eye-” I point at her.
Her head tilts to her shoulder and her face seems to glaze over.
“David. I do not want to erase my children, but I will, if I must.”
“There are others. Those who gave Eizenstat the memories.”
“... Ex Nihlo?”
Juliet's eye begins to drift back to ocean blue and she lifts her head up again, taking in a deep breath.
“It’s... it's just me, David.”
She smiles as she slides a manilla folder across the table to me. “We’ll speak again soon.”
That's it! I don't feel the need to drag this out any further, but I've thoroughly enjoyed writing it. I do feel as if every chapter could be explored further, as well as off shoots like the Librarians and the world at large - and I hope to do all that at some point and at least turn this into a novella.
For anyone who is unsure about the ending, it's either:
A) Juliet got healed in the coffin in Eden, but something else (Eve) came back with her. (More likely)
B) David might have been a prisoner in one of those rooms all along (his initials were on one of the doors, reception doesn't recognise him etc.), and everything up to this part were implanted memories so that Juliet (whatever she is) could use him.
Thank you so much for following this to the end! Means a lot to me.
If you'd like to stop getting notifications to your inbox each time I write (and who could blame you!), there's a link to unsub on the bot below this comment.
I have another series planned nearer Christmas, as well as two series I'm currently working on and I'll link to them below -- and who knows what else will come up. Might do a few short spin-offs with this character in this world.
(this should have been labelled part 8 - epilogue, but I can't change it :/ )
Patreon (has a one part spin-off story to this)
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Well done. Beautifully executed ending.
As my drama teacher always said: "Leave them wanting more".
Now I'm left with tidbits to imagine what is going to happen next :)
This is great, thanks for finishing for us! Also, quick note/question: did you mean to juxtapose the phrases "genuinely sad" and "crocodile tears"? Personally I read those as opposites so I was confused as to whether Juliet is feigning sadness or not.
She's a little more than Juliet now. Something else is in there with her.
That said... David might have been a prisoner in one of those rooms all along (his initials were on one of the doors), and everything up to this part were implanted memories so that Juliet could use him.
[WP] Everyone is immortal in the distant future. To keep life interesting, most people "reset" their memories every few centuries so they can experience life anew. [Part 2]
Richard Eizenstat with Doctor Omin
Omin: Welcome back, Richard.
Omin: Tell me about your parents.
Eizenstat: We have many parents.
Omin: Maria and Hans Eizenstat.
Eizenstat: We know nothing of Hans Eizenstat, other than he chose to forgo his immortality to allow room for another into the world. A rare, selfless act -- a choice no longer an option.
Omin: You look angry, but you must realise that suicide is an abomination. To discourage it we had to introduce the rule.
Eizenstat: If one should choose to die so another can live, you should allow it. You should not murder their entire family as consequence.
Omin: Perhaps, but as a deterrent it has so far worked well. Now, tell me about Richard's mother.
Eizenstat: What do you want with us?
Omin: Only to make you better.
Eizenstat: You're lying. You're scared of us.
Omin: Why would I be scared of you?
Eizenstat: Because we know the truth. And if we get out, so does our knowledge -- the tide finally comes in, and the castle of sand that this city is built on collapses into the sea.
Omin: You said in our last session, that the voices inside your head are human voices, but that I -- all the rest of us -- are clones.
Omin: You must be aware that clones have never existed. Legislation and religi-
Omin: Excuse me?
Eizenstat: That was the name of the cloning research facility at positive 40.7971494, negative 74.1598655.
Omin: Richard, there's no cloning facility at those coordinates, or at any other. There never was a cloning facility.
Eizenstat: The answers wait at that location.
Omin: ...That will be all for today. Thank you for your time, Richard.
"Why're there no notes attached to this entry?" I ask Juliet.
"Doctor Omin looked into Eizenstat's claim without consulting me."
"And he made notes on what he found?"
"Yes. And I had to have them removed from the files."
"... Well, what did they say?"
"Those coordinates pointed to a location outside an ancient coastal city, long since destroyed. New York."
"Never heard of it."
"No one has. Well, almost no one."
"So how did Eizenstat know of it?"
"He didn't -- he never said the name. All he said were coordinates. Anyone can make up coordinates and something is bound to have been there at one time or another."
I scratch the stubble on my chin. "Maybe. What about"--I glance back at the report--"2087:93jAkew92hsA. Hell of a mouthful. Mean anything to you? Start looks like a date."
Juliet pauses for a moment, and I notice her bite down on her tongue. She pulls open the drawer again, this time finding a yellowed parchment in a plastic sleeve. She slides it across to me; long delicate fingers are hidden under black lace gloves, and for some reason, I want to see them uncovered.
I avert my gaze. The paper looks ancient and most of the text is illegible.
And the Ph--nix ----- --o- the a--es. A-- ---- Gr--l grant not ---- ------ ---- is not humanity, it is the children of -----, -lo--, th-- m----- --f --e tomororw-- -- 2087:93iAk-w92hsA
"It reads 2087:93i not 93j...although"--I bring the paper close to my face--"Yeah. Guess it could have been a J at some point." I place it back on the table. "This it? All you've got in the entire archives linking to that code?"
"It's all the Librarians could find."
"Our archives are a massive catacomb of..." She pauses.
"Information we'd rather wasn't made public. The Librarians are androids created for a sole purpose: to look after the archives. To sort and find and mend. And to never leave."
I snort. "Sounds like a fun life."
"It pleases them." She points a gloved finger at the table. "What do you make of the message."
"Some quasi-religious bullshit. An analogy about a phoenix rising from the ashes. Maybe a statement about clones being the true children of humanity, but maybe not. It's tough to say. What section did the librarians find it in?"
"... Surely the Library is spilt into sections? You know, interests, genres, periods of history."
"Ah. In a way, yes. But apart from being able to date the paper, there is no where special for it to go, so it was in a rather vast miscellaneous section."
"What was the date?"
I consider for a moment, then flip to the next page in the document on the table, eager to read the next session. But there is no next session.
"That's it. The next session is... well, you saw the results of the final session."
"How did he break out his restraints?"
"His madness has made him dangerous, it seems. Prodigiously strong."
"He said 'the answers wait at that location'. Got to be where he's going. If he believes there's an old cloning facility there, he'll want to try to find evidence that he can present. Even if it doesn't prove 'we're all clones', it'll undermine the truths you've been spewing about cloning."
"As I told you, New York is totally submerged, and besides there's no way he's even heard of it. It's just a wild guess."
"It doesn't matter if he knows about it. It doesn't matter if any of it's real or not. Point is, he thinks it's real and that's where he's going. That means it's where I'm going, if you want me to bring him in for a Reset."
"It. Is. Submerged," Juliet says very slowly, very patiently, as if talking to a child -- and not a particularly clever one.
"I'm sure you have the resources for that not to be a problem."
"You don't take 'no' for an answer, do you?"
Her face breaks into one of those rare smiles. "You're persistent. Good. Very well, I shall arrange transport for us."
"You don't think I'd send you alone?"
A thought flashes through my mind. Finding an ancient cloning facility; seeing something I shouldn't; my contract suddenly terminated. I know I should back out right now; just, walk away. But I can't. I've been alive so damned long, it's not often something so original comes up. Something worth living for. Hell, something worth dying for.
"You must have other people you can send with me. People less important. Why would you want come?"
"This... this entire matter is rather personal to me. Magnolia is my legacy."
I nod, as if I understand.
"I will have my secretary arrange our transport."
This is brilliant, I'm getting some serious Blade Runner vibes throughout it!
Looking forward to the continuation of this, great work.
Very good! Reminds me a lot of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? with some SCP vibes, as well. Can't wait for the next installment!
Only that unlike blade runner This actually has a plot!
[WP] You know your town is old, you just didn't know how old until a hurricane rips through it. An ancient tree is ripped from your backyard, revealing a door in the ground where it once was. [Part 2]
"The Well of Souls?" Michael repeated dumbly, keeping his eyes firmly locked on the door.
"You don't want to know," Juliet answered.
The door shook, its hinges creaking.
Christopher began wheezing. He could feel his chest tightening as the asthma attack began. He slid down onto his butt and gasped for air.
"Christopher!" Juliet said, kneeling next to him. "Are you okay? Have you got your inhaler?"
Christopher tried to speak but his voice caught in his throat. Instead, he shook his head. The dust and mud fell like ashes onto them, as the pounding continued.
"We need to get out of here," Juliet said, looking up at Michael. She lowered her voice to a whisper and leaned over to Michael. "The dirt is killing him."
"Agreed! Let's get out of here," Michael replied, already clawing at the sides of the pit. He grabbed hold of a handful of roots and pulled himself a few inches off the ground, before the roots snapped and gravity placed him hard beside Christopher.
"Shit!" Juliet said. "Shit!"
She squeezed her eyes closed.
Juliet took a deep breath before opening them again. Then, she strode forward, grabbing hold of the iron handle on the wooden door.
"What are you-" yelled Michael, as the girl twisted the handle and yanked the door back.
A skeleton clattered to the ground as it fell through the open door, landing at Michael's feet. Michael screamed and pushed himself back against the dirt wall behind him. Christopher tried to scream too, but only managed to a thin wheeze.
Juliet, her face pale, watched the unmoving body of bones for sometime, before she dared take her eyes away from it.
"It's... just a skeleton," she said. "A man's."
"Jules," Michael said as he got back to his feet. "That thing... it was knocking on the door." He pointed accusingly to it.
"It can't have been. We must have imagi-"
"It was, Jules. You know it!" He walked towards it, swung his leg back and kicked the ribs of the skeleton. A bone came loose and was flung against the pit's wall.
"It looks dead to me," Juliet said. "Look, we need to get Christopher out of this dust -- now! Help me bring him inside."
Michael clenched his fists and was about to protest, when it suddenly dawned on him that there was no other option.
They each draped one of Christopher's arms over their shoulders, and together, they lifted him over the skeleton and into the chamber beyond. Michael shone Christopher's phone around the area with his spare arm. They were at the top of a grand stairwell. The ground under them was a huge single slab of rock. The stairs leading down were marble with rich black veins running criss-cross through them.
"Put him down," Juliet commanded.
They placed him, sitting up, against a silver wall. Juliet then walked back outside, dragging the skeleton by its arm out of the doorway. When she came back in, she closed the door. Then she leant down and took hold of Christopher's hand.
"Listen to me, Chris. I need you to take a deep, slow breath. That's it. Now hold 3...2...1, exhale. That's good. That's really good." She patted his hand.
"What is this place?" Michael wondered out loud.
"And again," said Juliet, ignoring Michael. "Okay, great. Keep going. It's going to be okay."
"It's like... a temple or something," Michael continued, shining the beam down the stairs. "Do you hear that, Jules? you can hear the wind down there. Listen -- you can hear it howling! There must be another way out." He turned to Juliet, aiming the light at her face and sending a gargantuan shadow onto the wall above Christopher. She seemed very pale, Michael thought.
"Stop it," she said, raising a hand over her eyes.
Michael tilted the phone down. "You've heard of this place, right?"
Juliet glanced at Christopher. He was concentrating on his breathing. She looked back at Michael and nodded.
"So?" Michael asked. "What do you know?"
"It's a religious thing."
"Oh. Sunday school made-up crap?"
"Yeah, exactly. Only, it's starting to seem less made up."
"What is this place, then?"
She looked at Christopher again, her face lined with concern. "Maybe we should talk about it at the bottom of the stairs."
Christopher raised a thumb in reply. "I'm okay," he croaked. "Don't worry about me. Besides, I want to know."
Juliet sighed. "Have either of you ever heard the story of Abraham?"
The two boys shook their heads.
"Figures. They didn't even tell it to me, in Sunday School. It's one of those stories the older kids like to tell the younger. Okay, so there's this guy called Abraham, who was a very religious man. A descendent of Noah, I think. You've heard of Noah's ark, right? Right. So God wants to know just how religious Abraham is -- he wants to test his faith."
"How?" Christopher asked.
"Abraham has two sons. God says he wants Abraham to sacrifice one of his sons -- Isaac -- in God's name."
"You can't be serious," said Michael.
"This is old school God. He spends most of his time disturbing the innocent and slaying those he deems... not so innocent. So yeah, I'm serious."
"Does Abraham do it?" Christopher asked.
"I'll tell you if you both shut up for a minute. So, he ties Isaac up to a big slab of rock and gets his knife. He's just about to kill him, when God pops up and goes, 'just kidding, only wanted to see if you would'."
"Yeah," said Juliet, nodding knowingly.
"But that doesn't explain the Well of Souls," said Christopher.
"That slab of rock, where Abraham was going to sacrifice his son, was a marker. Beneath it, was the Well of Souls."
The two boys gulped as they looked down at the ground beneath them.
"And what- what's in the Well?" Michael asked reluctantly.
Juliet looked at her shoes for a moment, deciding whether to respond. Then she looked up.
"The spirits of the dead. They wait there for Judgement Day. It's said that from the rock, if you listen carefully, you can hear them wailing."
Yes, but it will either be after a bit of a break or tomorrow.
Is there gonna be a part 3
!remind me 1day part three well of souls
Part 3 !remindme