Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Flash Fiction: Ready
* * *
Hey, readers! This is a science fiction short story I've written for a Flash Fiction challenge hosted by Rachelle O'Neil. In her flash fiction events, each participant gives a prompt to one other participant and receives a prompt from yet anther participant. I was given the following prompt by Leanne.
Reality is a prison.
This prompt was to be used anywhere in the story, as long as it was there. The story was to be kept anywhere between 500 and 1000 words. My original draft was 1,223 words long, but after some trimming, I managed to get it down to a precise 1000.
Thanks to Leanne for the awesome prompt! And thank you to Rachelle for hosting this fun event.
If any of you readers are interested in taking part in this event, check out Rachelle's blog in the link above! It's open to anyone who wants. :D
* * *
* * *
Dust sweeps across the street in the dry wind, making my eyes sting. I lower my head and keep going, never breaking my stride. All around me, silent people go about their own business. I'm invisible to them. Not literally- they can see me as well as they can see themselves- but they turn a blind eye to me. No one wants to draw any attention to themselves by taking interest in someone else.
That's the way things are. After the war, people sank deep into themselves, trying to escape this desolate ruin that has become our home. If you keep your head low, you can stay out of trouble. If you keep to yourself, there's no need to fear the wrath of A.R.G.E.N.T.
Living within their own minds gives them a sense of comfort. Reality is a prison, and by telling themselves that everything's okay, they feel free to live their own private lives and escape the ugliness of the world.
Despicable, yet it affords me a measure of safety; If no one's looking at me, then no one will to try and stop me.
I reach my destination. Casting a quick glance from side to side, I duck into a dark doorway and disappear into the building. It's cold inside, and the musty smell makes my nose itch. Reaching into my pocket, I pull out my handkerchief and cover my mouth and nose, taking comfort in its protection.
Jay mocks me for my weakness in that respect. But he's wrong. My physical weaknesses have made my mind stronger, which is why I've been chosen for this mission.
I descend a long, winding set of stairs until I am far beneath the city streets. When I reach the sewers, I stop and speak into the darkness.
“Stand down. It's Caravel.”
There is a shifting sound as the guns that were locked on me are lowered. Micah steps out and lifts his mask.
“Lilah,” he says, relieved, “You made it alright.”
I smile briefly. He never calls me by my code name unless we are with our superiors, or with Jay. I don't call him by his either; Viper sounds too mean.
“I'm fine,” I say. “Is everything ready?”
He nods. “This way.”
I follow him down the passage way, our boots sloshing through the filthy water. The other guards nod their respect as we pass. I lower my eyes. I know why they nod, but I'm not used the recognition.
Commander Falcon is waiting for us, and so is Jay- or Dead Eyes, as I should call him.
“Glad to see you safe, Caravel,” said Falcon. “We worried when we heard about the Truen incident.”
Dead-Eyes looks away and shifts uncomfortably. I'm not sure why, but I have no time to think about it.
“I had a close call, but I'm alright now,” I reply.
“You're sure you're not hurt?”
“Yes. I'll still be able to complete the mission,” I assure him.
Falcon nods, and beckons me over to a reclining chair. I sit down calmly and wait as the attendants attach all wires and tubes necessary to keep tabs on my health as I enter the Dream World.
Micah doesn't like this. For some reason it's easier for him to watch me risk my life in real combat than it is for me to go into the psycho-technic plane where this battle will be fought. Maybe it's because in combat I'd die quickly, but in the Dream World, it's my mind that will be destroyed.
I'm almost ready. I can see my physical and mental readings on the screens. Falcon, Micah, and Jay come to stand in front of me. I wish they'd sit down too.
“Remember, once you go under, there will be no coming back until the mission is complete,” says Falcon. “Remember the codes- your life and the fate of the mission will depend on it. Once you're able to hack A.R.G.E.N.T's midway firewalls, Dead Eyes will be able to come in after you, but until then you'll be on your own. Above all, you must reach the center of their defenses, and both of you will have to reach it together. The kill-code won't work unless each part is entered in sequence.”
I nod. “Yes, sir.” We've gone over this already, of course. With our psychs linked to the micro-technology, Jay and I will be able to infiltrate A.R.G.E.N.T's cyber network, where we will attempt to lower their firewalls, allowing us to shut down the shield generators from the inside. Once that's done, A.R.G.E.N.T will be defenseless, and our real-life troops will be able to take their city and free us from their control.
I look up at Jay, who's staring at me with his peculiar, pale eyes. In this light, they really do look dead. But now something stirs in them, and I don't know what it is.
Falcon smiles reassuringly and goes to oversee the attendants as they prepare to send me under. Micah watches, grimacing.
Jay hesitates, then leans down. He swallows. “Be careful in there,” he says, his tone flat, as always.
“You can count on me,” I say quietly.
“I know.” He straightens and becomes Dead Eyes once more. I swallow and take a deep breath, trying to still my nerves. This plan could save us all, or prove to be my undoing. Maybe both. Either way, I'm ready to face it. Maybe those people up there are right, and Reality is a prison- and by entering the Dream World, I can free us all.
“You ready?” Asks Falcon.
A light flashes, filling my vision. There's a wild, tingling sensation running down my spine, through my limbs, and my mind. I arch my back and gasp. I feel my mind drifting away, and the world melts away before my eyes. My breath slows, and my body relaxes. I know that I've entered the Dream World
If Reality's a prison, then I've escaped.
* * *
(DISCLAIMER: I do not own the pictures used in this post. All credit goes to their rightful owners.)