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The Screen Behind The Mirror

It's cold.
He turned around on the ground under two layers of snow. "Why is it so cold? Does it have to be this cold?" It's snowing. "Yes, it is." It shouldn't be snowing. "I know." I better get out of here!
He rose to his feet and looked around. The chill from the air was getting through his shirt and pants. Snow was blinding his eyes, fogging the horizon. In the distance, he saw a flash of light. There must be people! He started running. The faster he ran, the slower he could move. Gushes of wind and snow froze his hands and feet; his nose and his ears lost all sensitivity ages ago. How long have I been sleeping in there? He did not know, but continued running. On the foot of the hill, there was a small house, the only house be could see through the blizzard. He ran to the door and turned the doorknob. It was open, and he walked in, collapsing on the couch.
It was warm. In fact, it was so warm that he took off his jacket and kept only his pants and his t-shirt. The heat from the fireplace was enough to fill the whole house. He started walking around. The house had two rooms, which were not really connected by anything but a narrow passage. There were two windows, one in each room, a door, and a latter up to the attic. It was just as warm there, with hay and blankets available for many visitors. Downstairs, instead of a wall, the fireplace was the divisor of the rooms. He was in the one on the right, with a larger area, and an open closet. The room of the left was smaller, but the fire was accessible from it, too. The sink and the drawers reminded him of a kitchen, and so he came to dividing the house into the Kitchen, and the Living Room.
The living room was also the bedroom, and the entertainment room. As he went through the stuff on the desk, he found nails and wires and screws and bolts, with decks of cards and papers and a single pencil. The pencil was almost out of lead. He went to the kitchen and sharpened it with a knife. Now, he could write.
The blizzard did not have any intention to lessen, as the skies grew darker. He searched for a television set, but instead found a very old radio. He tried to catch a radio station, but he was not successful. The lights were dim, but at least they hung on the ceiling. He never liked the desk lamps, because they were too dark for him. Furthermore, although the light on the lamp had a light bulb and was plugged into the outlet, it refused to turn on.
He was getting hungry. He went into the kitchen and found some potatoes. He washed them in warm water and peeled them with a knife; placed the frying pan on fire and sprinkled it with oil; and when it was hot enough, he dumped the slices and stirred them. In a matter of minutes, his dinner was ready. He added some bread and salt to it, and dined with a smile on his face.
Since the living room offered no entertainment (because he was alone), he played cards with himself and went to sleep early. The fire in the hearth was dying, but the temperature of the room did not change.
In the morning, as he woke up and opened the curtains, he saw that the blizzard had stopped, and that it was a nice snowy day. He put on his warm clothes, which he did not have yesterday, which he could not have had yesterday because when he needed them yesterday, he was not home to retrieve them, and walked outside. For miles and miles stretched the endless field of snow; except for the mountain behind the white brick house. He looked up the mountain, but as much as he squinted, he was unable to see the top. And while his clothes were warm, he knew that he would freeze if he tried to walk all the way to the top. After running around in the snow, enjoying memories from his childhood, he got tired and headed back. He changed into dry clothes, and sat on the couch. The radio still did not work. He looked around for books, but the only books he found were atlases and encyclopædias. He skimmed through encyclopædias and put away all but two, both about the world. He started reading. He read at an unusual speed, realizing that he already knew everything about the world that was printed. To his surprise, however, he could not find answers to any of his questions. When he looked up Greenland, he found it on the maps, but not in the books. The same happened with atlases: they were simply incomplete. He put all the books away in disappointment and sat on the couch.
I want to call someone. "Whom should I call?" He started remembering the names and phone numbers of his friends, but the harder he thought, the harder it was for him to remember anyone. After a minute of remembering, he gave up. His mind was blank. What's my name? My name… He could not remember that either. "I don't want to be here!" he exclaimed loudly. But where am I to go? Once again, he looked at the maps. Where am I going to go? Greenland? New Zealand? Australia sounds interesting… How about Japan? Yea, China, or Japan, or the Tibetan Mount… He suddenly stopped, as chills covered his whole body.
"I'm in Tibet!"
"He's still not back!" It was late Tuesday, or early Wednesday, and Sam still hadn't returned from his excursion. Chloe was worried about him. She re-read his message many times, and left him many more messages, but he had not replied. She calmed herself by thinking that he was so tired that he went to sleep, or that he'd come back even later. Taken over by sleep, she decided to wait 'til the morning. Getting up early the following day, she checked her messages again, but still, none was from him. She decided that it is too early for him to write, and went to school.
She could not calm her worries, but she could put them away behind a mask. Only those who knew her could tell that something was wrong; but she kept denying it. In the evening, still seeing no messages from him, she called his house and talked to his parents, telling them that she also did not know anything about his whereabouts. She decided to try her group. She told them everything that happened, and asked them for their suggestions. Everyone said that they would investigate the matter further, but presently, there were no results.
"I am in Tibet!"
He could not find the words to describe his joy, excitement, and feeling of supreme power. He has always wanted to go to Tibet, and now, he was finally there. Almost there.
He started thinking. He really wanted to visit the top of the mountain. He knew that there, he would find what he was looking for. He wasn't quite sure what he was looking for, but he knew he would find it up there, in the castle.
Light has left the day, and dark clouds surround the house. Blizzard's melody is heard in the dimly lit living room. It is accompanied by a pleasant sound of embers cracking in the fireplace, and by the happy dancing of energetic bursts of light, reflected through the holes in the grating. In the center, using the candles as the two main sources of light, he takes the pencil and starts scribbling careful words on paper, expressing his emotions into a strange journal entry.
"I am very excited about being in Tibet. I know that I can only stay in this house for a short time, and will have to go further, but I cannot do that now. The walk up the mountain is too long and too cold, so I will have to wait for the spring. But I am very excited about this trip. I wish my friends were with me now… I don't know where they are, but there is certainly enough room here for everyone!" He wanted to put the date and time, but there were no clocks, and he could barely remember the year, or the century, let alone the month and date. He was lost, lost in time, and lost in his mind.
But that was not his major concern. He was looking at the lamp, glaring at it, figuring out why it did not work. He made a vow to try to fix it, and now it was time for this try. He unscrewed the light bulb from the ceiling and tried to light the lamp. It did not work. Therefore, the problem was not in the bulb, but the switch or the wire. He unplugged the lamp from the wall and disassembled the switch. The switch appeared to work. All the wires were intact; and in fact, had he had an ohmmeter, the results would only reassure his hypothesis. He already tried plugging the radio into the same outlet, to make sure that the outlet was not faulty. It worked well. He toggled the switch and played with the wire, but could not get the lamp to work.
It was already dark, and he was hungry again. He looked around and found some cutlets in a plastic container. However, he still wanted some potatoes. He picked two round ones and peeled them, chopped them, and after adding viscous oil on the pan, he started frying them. The embers were cracking cheerfully in the fireplace, and similar-sounding fizzles and pops were coming from inside the covered pan. He turned the potatoes over and tried one. It was crunching as he chewed it, so it was undercooked. He continued to wait and stir, and soon, the potatoes had a delicious fried taste. He dumped them onto a plate and put the cutlets on the pan. It did not need any extra oil, but he decided to pour a little water. He covered them and inhaled the delicious smell of fried potatoes. They were steaming invitingly, waiting for the second part of the main course. Cracking oil droplets accumulated with condensed water vapor on the inside of the cover of the pan. As he lifted the cover, a burst of steam and delicious smell entered his nose and his lungs. Oil was popping happily, all the little bubbles singing in unison. When the warmth filled all the cutlets, he placed them on the plate next to brown crispy potatoes, and sat at the table. The dinner was superb! He finished everything, and wanted more, but decided to save it for later. He drank a little water, and headed back to the living room.
He played cards with himself and tried to read or write again, but it wasn't interesting. He was bored. He sat down and started thinking. What could he do? What did he want to do? He wanted neither to read, nor to write. He wanted to talk to someone, but no one was there. He wanted to play a game, but there were no games other than cards. He wanted to build a card-house, but it was too late, and he could not bring himself to concentrate.
What did he want to do? He was staring at the lamp. Why doesn't it work? It should, shouldn't it? Everything seems to be working. Well, I don't know for sure, but if there were a way to check… Was there a way to check? He could check all connections and find the source. But how would he do that?
He looked at the lamp. To check current, he could connect wires and see if a wire would warm up. Wouldn't work. He could try to connect the light-bulb via supplementary wires. Good idea, but it's too risky.
What would happen? He was visited by a wave of curiosity and bravery. What would happen if I were shocked? He didn't want to be shocked, so he was afraid of that. He wasn't afraid of being hurt, but he was afraid of pain. He wasn't afraid of death, but he was afraid of dying. He wasn't afraid of electricity, but he was afraid of electrocution.
But this is the only way to check! But it's dangerous. Maybe I can do something differently? No, I can't; this is the only way to do it. But it's dangerous.
He sat down and looked at the fire. He wanted to listen to some pretty music, or watch and adventurous movie. He wanted to dream. He was blocked, trapped, confined to this small house. It was a perfect location, but he did not want to be there. He wanted something else, which he did not know. He looked outside, and saw the blizzard, the same snowstorm that was there yesterday, the same storm that would be there tomorrow. Nothing would change on its own, and he wanted change. And he had the will to bring this change. He walked outside and dove into the snow. He was dancing in the snow, drinking melted snowflakes and eating crunchy snow. He had the will, and it was all that mattered.
He walked back inside and sat in front of the warm prancing cinders. They warmed him up; but he was already burning. He was angry, and infuriated at himself. He closed his eyes and inhaled, and turned his anger into a want. He wanted to fix the lamp. Was he still afraid? Yes. Damn it, what am I afraid of? Electrons flowing through my body? Death? NO! He jumped to his feet and felt the weariness take over him. He fought it. He walked to the fire. He was afraid of burning himself. He sat down and closed his eyes, and relaxed. He remembered, remembered as many of his memories as he could. He remembered music, songs, movies, games, books, rivers, fields, forests, forest fires. He'd been around fire before, he'd even burned himself accidentally. He had done all of it before, so what was he afraid of now?
He went to the kitchen and turned on cold water. He let it run all over his hands and forearms. He turned it off and went back to the living room. He sat in front of the fireplace and closed his eyes. I can do it. Of course I can, there's nothing impossible about it. It's not even about the water, or the fire. It's about me. I have to overpower myself. He took a deep breath and opened his eyes, narrowing them and staring at the embers. There was one. He was still afraid, and nervous; adrenaline was burning his legs and arms and stomach. But he's decided to do it, and there was no backing out. He wasn't even thinking about it. He wanted to do it. He had to do it. He was ready.
He reached over and grabbed a burning ember. Water was fizzling in his hands. It was steaming, creating a veil of steam. He clenched his hands tightly and flexed all of his muscles. His hands were burning. Let go of the pain. It was hot. Ignore it. He was playing with the ember and rolling it all over his hands, to cover as much moisture as he could. Relax. He relaxed. His hands were still burning. Kill it. He was fighting the fire, fighting the flame, fighting his pain, fighting his fear. His fear was at his highest, telling him to release, to let go, to stop and be happy. "NO!" he yelled loudly, gasping for air. "I WILL WIN, AND YOU WILL LOSE!" He held the ember even tighter. His enemy was the fire. He focused on the cinder that was already dark, and started squeezing it. He was squeezing it harder and harder, feeling it crumble in his palms. He started rubbing his hands together, and dispersed the black powder above the flame. His hands were red and black. He ran to the kitchen and turned on cold water and washed his wounds. He was panting and looking at his hands. He did not have any scars or any wounds, but his skin was still burning hot. He turned off the water and grinned. He defeated fire.
He lay on the bed and smiled. He felt lighter. His hands barely hurt, and his mind was happy. He's done it, he's fire. He could defeat electricity.
His fear was almost gone. He knew what he wanted to do: He wanted to see whether the wires worked, and the fault was in the switch. He unplugged the lamp and tied the extension wires to the extension cord of the lamp. Then, he wrapped the extension wires around the light-bulb, so that the electricity flowed through the extension cord, bypassed the switch and flowed directly through the filament. To test it, he only needed to plug this device into the wall and look at the bulb. He held the device in his hands and walked towards the wall. He checked his fear-he still felt slightly afraid. He ignored it.
He held the plug near the outlet. Almost there. It was millimeters away. As the potential between the outlet and the plug ionized the air around the metal, as oxygen molecules were ripped apart and turned into ozone, as the metal parts touched, the initial burst of current propelled the electrons through the thin copper wire. They split equally between the wires leading to the switch, and the extension wires that he attached to the extension cord. The electrons were now running through an aluminum wire, making it harder for them to travel, slowing them down. However, as much as they wanted to stay with the new medium, the constant flow never let them near each other: they were repelled, rushing towards the filament.
Tungsten was just about the worst thing that they have encountered. The tiny filament barely let any electrons go though, making them tired and weary from their swift course. They ran through the metal filament, warming it up so much that atoms began to shake quadrillion times a second, emitting all this energy as electromagnetic waves, also known as light.
The photons reached his corneas and entered his eyeball, landing on the retinas. There, the pigments in both the rod and cone cells started undergoing a chemical reaction, which sent a signal through the neurons into his occipital lobe. He saw the brisk flash of light, following the usual darkness.
He was perplexed. He saw the flash of light-so everything was working. But the light bulb was dark again. Nothing worked.
He devised another test. He noticed that he never felt helpless: he always had at least one more proposed solution to any given problem. Only when he completely ran out of options did he allow himself to feel helpless. Presently, however, he wanted to try another test. He held one wire and disconnected it from the light bulb; he did the same to the others. Next, he unplugged the radio from the outlet and started connecting the prongs to the exposed wires. He knew that as long as he did not touch both wires at the same time, and his feet were not wet (which they were not), he would not be shocked. The first wire encircled the first prong. He held the second wire and touched the second prong. The trick was to push it through the small opening in the prong and let it stay. He almost succeeded, but noticed that the two wires were very likely to touch. When he reached to fix the first one, the second one accidentally snapped and short-circuited through his fingers. The same current was traveling through the same wires, into his fingers and his arms, and through his torso and his heart, into the other hand and into the other prong. His muscles stiffened. He stopped breathing. His heart stopped beating. Panic was taking over him.
And then he heard a melody. The melody was coming through the radio: while most of the current preferred his body, some of it chose to traverse the resistors and inductors and vacuum tubes of the old machine. The antenna captured some noise and the circuitry lowered the frequency and sent it through the electromagnet, which sent vibrations, via air molecules, into his ear, where it was further carried into his brain and recognized as a melody, as tens of coulombs of electricity per second were on the course to bring him to death.
He recognized the melody. He has heard it once before, in his early childhood, and has never been able to find the song again. Now, he could hear it. It was so peaceful and beautiful that he almost forgot about the pain. And it was easy to forget about it, because it was diminishing with every second. With a huge effort, he forced himself to breathe again. He could feel his heart acquire the lost beat. He was still squeezing the two wires, but he feared that if he let go, the music would stop. He continued holding them, finding it increasingly easier to fight the current. With a little more effort, he blocked the current completely. The song ended; he released the wires and dropped on the couch.
"All right, everyone. Let's start." The noise quickly diminished. "I'm going to go straight to the point. As you all know, tonight's meeting is about Samuel Freeman, Chloe's friend. It is true that he was associated with Majestic, and that he was on one of their assignments. However, Chloe informed us that he does not work for them, and would rather, in fact, be on our side. He was last seen this Tuesday, right before going over to the Majestic laboratories; and no one heard from him ever since. Now, I ask all of you to help each other and find him. Some of you are wondering how this is going to be any different from your previous research-apparently, there is a connection between their interest in sulfuric acid (and kudos to Shawn for uncovering those charts), control, and kidnapping. We very well know that they never kill anyone; but now our focus will be on this kidnapping. Now, get to work."
The noise returned to its previous level. Chairs were moved and papers were shuffled. Everyone divided into a few teams, to take different approaches to find him. Chloe was the only one who was unaffected by the ruffling around her.
"Don't worry, we'll find him."
"I'm afraid of what they might do to him."
"No, Chloe, stop it." He gave her a hug. "He's going to be alright. You hear me? He will be okay. Trust me."
She smiled. "Thank you."
He was now lying on the bed. His eyes were closed, and his chest expanded and contracted in a peaceful rhythm. He was tired, very tired. After the song was over and he dropped the wires, weariness overpowered him. He had enough strength to walk over to the bed and to collapse into a deep dream.
It was almost noon. He opened his eyes and yawned, got up and stretched. He was hungry. He walked over to the kitchen and helped himself to some eggs and bacon (he did not remember where he learned to cook eggs and bacon), and a steaming cup of coffee with sugar and cream. He looked outside. The weather was improving. The sun was shining brightly onto a thick layer of snow. "It hasn't snowed at all during the night," he thought. He walked outside and breathed some fresh air, and looked at the mountain.
A strange feeling came over him. He was gazing into the distance, almost searching for something that was impossible to find. But he kept looking, mesmerized by the beautiful sight. Yet, it was not the sight that attracted him but something else. Something was calling him to leave this place. Something or, rather, someone.
He slowly realized that he was supposed to meet someone in this house, but that someone was not there. Where was this someone? Who was that someone? The more he tried to remember the person, the more assurance he had that the person was real. He was nostalgic for a past that he did not remember.
He returned to the hut and dove into the pool of warmth. But something about that warmth did not feel right. He was not comfortable: it wasn't warming him up. He opened the window to let in more fresh air, but even then it was either too wet or too dry.
Has my pickiness risen this high?, he thought. Or why is it that I can't be satisfied with the air? He continued brooding in his foul mood, trying to find the reasons for the way he felt. He couldn't. He pulled his knees to his chest and hugged them, and, bombarded by myriads of thoughts and flashbacks from the past, fell asleep.
When he woke up it was already dark. He walked around trying to find the time, but no clocks were around. He still felt no hunger, so it must have been around 6:30. He needed to finish something… The Lamp. The lamp that did not work. It disobeyed all the laws of physics and logic, and still did not work. The radio worked. So the wires conducted electricity. The light-bulb didn't. So the light-bulb did not work. It flashed for a second. That meant it worked. He tried to replace the light-bulb with other light-bulbs. They always worked. Before the experiment, he checked the contact between the light-bulb and the wires three times. The fault was not in them. The light could either work, or not. It did both.
"Why don't you work?" he asked the silent piece of glass. "What is wrong with you? Why are you so capricious?" Immediately, a déjà vu reminded him of the same word that was used to describe someone important. That someone was clearly not the bald glass barrier with a metal filament inside. But who was it? He suddenly felt his stomach sink to the floor. An emotion grabbed him and clenched him tightly in its claws. With every second, he felt more and more engulfed by depression. What was happening? Where was he? Where were all his friends? Why did they not help him? Why could he not remember? What was wrong with him? Was it all his fault? Why couldn't he fix it?
He was holding his head in his hands and wincing from a keen mental agony. Everything was a blur. He could not think. He could not feel anything other than the pain in his head. It was horrible. He wanted to cry but could not. He wanted to scream but could not. He could only squint, and wait for everything to go away. But the longer he waited, the less hope he had of feeling better. He wanted to hit his head to lessen the pain. He wanted to stick it in the snow to freeze all his neurons. He wanted to swallow some painkillers to stop suffering. Thoughts from the past were flooding his brain. He could remember words, sounds, smells, actions, but he could not remember anything about those memories. He still did not know his name. He did not have one.
Chloe stopped in the middle of the street. She was walking back from the organization, and paused a few blocks away from home. Something made her stop. The city was quiet. She looked around. Was someone watching her? She wanted to start walking faster, but there was no one to walk away from. It was something different. Sam was in her mind most of the time, but now, she could almost feel his presence. Was it fatigue? Depression?
He was alive. She knew that without a doubt. He was somewhere-but where? In the lab? This city? Have they imprisoned him in another country? Almost immediately, a five-letter word popped into her head and exited through her lips: "Tibet."
His pain dwindled quickly. He could open his eyes and walk around, but he still shivered as certain painful thoughts pierced his brain. He could only feel the pain; the substance of the thoughts eluded him. He wanted to know the substance. He wanted to know his past. But the more he thought, the more of the pain returned.
He decided to calm himself down. He closed his eyes and started breathing evenly. He tried to expunge all thoughts from his head-and think of nothing, nothing at all. He tried to take a nap, but it did not work. He turned on the radio. After a long search, he found a decent radio station. He tuned it to the best of his abilities and began to relax some more.
He wished for a hot tub, or a bubble bath, but he was all out of bubbles. He wished for a hug, but no one was there to give him one. He was alone. He hated being alone. Sometimes it was necessary, but most of the time, he was alone simply because he had trouble forming relationships, especially with other people. He realized, by imagining, that he was always shy in groups of people. He wanted to change that. And he also wanted to change something else: the light-bulb.
He was tired of it. He was tired of trying to figure out the impossible. All the odds were against him. He didn't understand why it didn't work, but it still did not work. It should have worked. He wanted it to work because…
He paused. "Why do I care so much about this piece of junk?" He saw how much time and effort he wasted on something that did not even work. "Of course I want it to work out of pride, to make me happy, but is that really why I'm doing this?" He thought and growled even more. "Okay, so now I know the technical matters; I don't care any more because this is something that has nothing to do with electricity." He stopped.
He cared. But he didn't know why he cared. He wanted it to work. Not for the light, not for the thought of a repair. I am arrogant. "No." I want it just to show off. "No!" Yes! "NO!" The faintest trace of smile disappeared from his face; he was now submerged in gloom. "No, stop it! Stop it! Why do I keep having these thoughts? Why do I go against myself?" Do I really? Isn't this what I'm like? "No, I'm not like that." How do I know? Do I remember it or something? "Stop it, stop confusing me!" He hit his head with a fist. "Shut up, go away! I don't need you! I don't need anyone, I can do this!" I know I can, but what's it worth to me? Nothing.
"What is it worth to me? It's just a lamp that I don't care about." He blinked. No, no one cares about me. I am alone. "No, it's not true!" Then where are all my friends? "I don't know, they're not here." Because I don't have friends? "I do! I do! Shut up, go away, leave me alone!" What's the matter? Can't remember my own name? "Shut up, just shut up!" He was plugging his ears with his hands and beating his head on the wall. A small stream of blood was dripping on the floor. He was squinting, his head was exploding; the voices inside urged him to end it all, to stop fighting for the unknown. He had no goals, nothing and no one to rely on; he was worthless.
He didn't need to live any more. His death would mean nothing; but his life meant even less. He wanted to end this torture and kill himself. He needed to kill himself. He hated himself. He wanted to stuff his stomach with sleeping pills, but there were none. He wanted to slice his veins and bleed to death, but it was too messy. What else could he do? He could jump. A cliff was very close by, and he knew that he had no chance of surviving the fall. He looked outside. His voices were right, they were finally agreeing with him. He was worthless, and alone. It was the right thing to do. There was no reason for his staying alive. He stepped outside and walked towards the cliff. That was it. The end of it. He stood at the edge and looked around, in hope to see clues to disprove his conclusion. Nope, this was it. The decision was final.
He turned around for the last time. He'd already said his goodbyes and was bending his knees for a jump. However, his instinct always told him to look behind before doing anything important.
There was a mountain. It was a tall and snowy mountain. Someone was on its peak. He forgot all about where he was and what he was doing. She wanted to meet him. He wanted to meet her just as much. He was certain it was a her, he felt her and knew that she knew him. He wanted to remember more of her, but, once again, could not. There was a reason. There was a reason for what she wanted; there was a reason for his being there. There had to be, because that was the only way anything made sense. There was a reason that the light would not turn on. And there was a reason for his wanting it to work.
And it wasn't to please himself. And it wasn't to please her, either. It wasn't to shut up his voices, it wasn't for the light. It wasn't for any rewards, or for fear of any punishments.
It was because it was right. He screwed the light-bulb back into its socket and put the shade back on. He inserted the plug into the socket and flipped the switch. A bright yellow spot appeared on the desk. He was right. The lamp worked.
She was hacking.
She has never been a good hacker, but at the same time there had never been a better time to learn. Everyone on the team had been putting in a lot of hours to get some information about where he was. Of course they tried to gather as much information about Majestic in their spare time as they could-but they had never known that it had this separate branch of kidnappings and… She did not want to think of it.
They had to be careful. Majestic itself was divided into many branches, most of which were localized, each in a large building, all of its computers networked. The higher the branches, of course, the more difficult it was to gain access to their files. They could get to level two, out of many more than two. In fact, no one knew how high this pyramid rose. They could only hack.
Hacking was simple. Of course not to her, simply because she was quite new to the whole experience of pinging servers and then flooding them with DDoS attacks for a mere hope of uncovering a core dump that just might contain an encrypted password; but as they gained access to more and more accounts, most of which were on the lowest level, they realized that even the information was shadowed: the simple emails contained nothing that they could use. That is why after countless hours of sieving through hundreds of emails of a few dozen users, they would rejoice at uncovering the tiniest piece of the puzzle. However, they believed that their efforts would pay off; and while many of them were in it just for the hacking challenges, they still persisted since they knew this was a real wargame. It was also their favourite game. Chloe enjoyed it the least.
He packed as much stuff as he could conjure up. The night was cold. He dressed up in warm clothes and looked at the lamp for a long time. He flicked it on and off a few times, just to make sure that he had not gone completely insane. The lamp worked. He looked around for the last time, having already cleaned up the place, and turned off all the lights except for the lamp that he fixed. He knew that as long as it was on, he had a place where he belonged.
He closed the door behind him and looked up the mountain. The night had just begun. He felt as if it were 11 at night, and it was the perfect time for him to start his journey. He waved to the house and started the ascent.
The wind and snow tried to put him on the ground and roll him off the mountain. The slope was steep and slippery. There was no one to support him. And he could always go back, as long as there was the light. He looked around. The tiny house still had one window lit. He went on.
Every step drained him of his energy. He was sweating, but if he stopped, he would freeze. He had to keep moving. Removing layers of clothes was an idea just as bad, because the chill would get him almost immediately. Right leg. Left leg. Inhale. Exhale. Right leg. Left leg. Inhale. Exhale.
He went on for a few hours. In the middle of the night, he stopped and looked back. There was a small glowing dot. But as the slope suddenly decreased, he was no longer in the line of sight with the house. His hope was gone; all of his goals were entirely in his mind. He felt weaker. He looked ahead, up the mountain, and saw no end to this night. The skies were dark, the stars were hidden. Why was he there? Why didn't he stay in his cabin? He tried to remember the voice, the spirit that was so close to him. But at this dark hour, even she was somewhere else. His heart irked. His journey was just an act of silliness. It had no meaning; it was stupid; it was pointless. Even the spirit, his best friend, left him. But why? Wasn't she there to help him? "Guess she changed her mind," he said out loud. Anger gave him more strength, and he continued his march.
He knew that he was now completely alone. He knew that if he fell asleep and froze and died, then no one would know. So he stopped thinking, and caring. They were gone. It wasn't their battle that he was fighting, it was his own. He was ready to fight the mountain, even to death, if that was what it took. And that was his goal.
By dawn, the snow began to lessen. He could now see patches of dirt and large boulders protruding from the ground. It was still fairly dark, but his long night was over. He didn't have any feelings in his legs or back; his arms were just as numb (he used poles to push himself upwards); but he continued to trudge through the snow. Luckily, the path was new and smooth and flat. In the distance, he saw a large cliff that marked the end of his mountain. However, he cared little for the scenery: his eyes were fixed on a nearby cave. He walked inside, and as soon as he realized that it was warm enough for him to sleep, he passed out.
The pieces of the puzzle were tiny drops of mercury that merged together upon contact. Along with the lists of places, they discovered a list of dates. Eagerly, they flipped their calendars back to the Tuesday when Sam was kidnapped. Four events happened on that date, one of which seemed to be a simple delivery, because the destination was the same as the downtown station. There were three more stations to take care of, and three more units. They never timed the events, so it was impossible to conclude which "package" indicated Sam. The list was printed out and posted onto a wall; the search was now directed towards those three locations. However, now what everyone knew what to look for, it became even harder to find it. The number appeared everywhere, just because there were two or three different systems of counting. Some log files indicated the story of 561, 1964, and 8191,
He opened his eyes. He was inside of a warm and dark cave. He must've slept for almost 12 hours-however, light from the outside was still blinding him, making the cave even darker. It was a very small and comfortable cave, which gave him a very familiar feeling. He was a little cold-he was only wearing a t-shirt-and he had no extra ones. The skies outside were dark-green… No, it was just his imagination, as were the howling noises and the moving red dots. They are from a laser pointer, he thought initially, before realizing that they were there because he stood up too quickly and blood rushed away from his brain.
But the cliff was quite real. It was a warm sunny afternoon, with a slight breeze of refreshing mountain air. Far in the distance, he could discern some form of vegetation, but at his level, which was rather high, he only saw large rocks, boulders, and the cliff. The mountains in the distance were a mixture of red and black, and deep below there was a tiny blue river.
He looked around once again. He had a sudden urge to look around to make sure that the place was safe, that there were no beeping turrets, and that he did not have to climb through sewer pipes. But his path turned out to be very different.
Actually, he did not even know if it turned out to be anything. He didn't know how it happened. He knew that he had to go up. He realized that if he thought about it for a while, he would've picked that way anyway, but it was not his own thought. It was foreign to him. And it puzzled him for quite a while. It wasn't her thought either. He never really gave up on her-but at the same time, he never really knew who she was either-but this was definitely someone else telling him what to do. But it was gone, and he stopped worrying about it. He wanted to climb up.
The ledge was getting increasingly narrow, and increasingly steep. He had to balance himself very carefully in order to not slip. In the very end of the ledge, after it ran around a curve of the mountain, there was a short ladder. It was a small red ladder that led directly upwards. He tugged it a few times to make sure that it was safe, and transferred all of his body weight onto it to get even higher.
The ladder was too short. On the top of it, the slope of the mountain was a little less steep, so by leaning all of his weight onto the rock, he was able to push himself up a few feet. Then he reached another ledge, and followed it around another curve. As he turned, he stopped and blinked a few times. He could not believe the change of terrain. The mountains in the distance were now mountains many miles away, and the drop down was completely vertical. It was impossible to move sideways any further, because it would mean suffering from a 2-mile-drop.
But the view was amazing. If only he had wings… He wished that he could fly, to soar above these beautiful plains and mountaintops… But he was already happy with what he saw, and where he was. Only he needed to go higher. He reached up and grabbed a stone. He placed his foot into a ridge and stood on it, and reached for another ridge in the mountain. He was already used to shifting his weight in a weird way, and he was superb at balancing. This was fun! He was climbing higher and higher, sometimes shifting to the left, sometimes-to the right. He did not think about anything other than his enjoyment of this activity.
But soon he got tired. The sun was already setting, and he'd used up most of the energy in his fingers and his toes. He was also using up his skin-this much friction was hurting him. He had numerous scratches on his wrists and elbows, but he continued to climb. He was drained; he could barely do anything else. The sun had set, and darkness had descended upon the mountain. The air was cool, not cold, and very pleasant; the bright stars and a crescent moon in the dark sky were beautiful. He was resting on his feet and his left hand, and gazing upwards. He was filled with excitement for being in this place. But he did not know what to do next.
After some more climbing (he was barely making any progress), he wondered if there were an end to this mountain after all. Maybe he could just go 100 feet to the right and find peace there? Maybe he'd been going the wrong way all the time? But something was telling him to stay on his track, and this something, this sense of security, made him happy.
A sudden sharp pain in the back of his head made him stop and shiver. He winced. His happiness was gone. He realized that something didn't make sense. Where was he going? What was he thinking when he started the ascent? He was listening to this voice that told him what to do. Of course it was fun at first, when he was ignoring everything around him, but now he was stuck on the mountain. He could fall and die, easily, and no one would be able to save him.
But there were no alternatives. He couldn't climb down anyway, and jumping into the river would kill him. If he stayed, he'd run of out ideas, and therefore, this urge of bravery was an attempt to save him. But it was someone else trying to save him. Why?
His feelings were mixed up. On one hand, this entity was helping him, but on the other, it didn't feel right. Should he trust his intuition? For a moment, he thought that this was ridiculous, being in this dilemma, trying to decide why he was up there, as opposed to finding a way to get out… But it was important to him. Besides, he was too tired to continue climbing, so this short break was necessary.
He closed his eyes and asked himself what he wanted. He wanted to go home. He asked himself what the voice wanted. He concentrated and listened.
The voice wanted to help him. It wanted to point him in the right direction. But why? Because the voice… Cared.
He was confused. Never in his life had he such an intimate contact with anyone. He didn't want to believe it, but it was just there. The voice cared. He did not know whether to be happy or scared. It made no sense. He wanted someone to just tell him what was going on. He wanted her to come back.
Chloe was getting frustrated. She had a hunch that 1964 was referring to Sam, but there was no way to verify that. Furthermore, the locations did not make sense either. They were scattered all around the globe (thanks to the list of coordinates that were acquired from a level-2 computer), but there were two or three types of them. They were referred to, respectively, as Type 1 and Type 2 locations. Some were untyped, so they were suspected to be of Type 3. "Either that or $_," said Shawn. Shawn was interested in PERL, and in torturing himself by spending hours looking at code that made no sense.
He was frustrated. He was mad. He was powerless over his situation, and that always made him frustrated and mad. He continued climbing slowly, but with every move, he was getting weaker and weaker. And at the same time, the idea of someone helping him was getting more and more attractive. He needed this help; he needed that someone to fix the situation.
He suddenly heard her. She was telling him to do what was right, to make the right decision.
And that was what he needed. He knew what he wanted to do, and he knew what someone else was offering him. All he needed was someone's faith and hope. And he had it. It was a very confusing feeling, and to deal with it, he had to attack it from many sides to get the full picture. It wasn't a battle, it wasn't a debate. It wasn't a matter of life and death, in fact, it was nothing like any cliché. She wasn't his guardian angel who would take care of him, and she wasn't someone over whom he was responsible. She was someone even closer than the voice, who had complete trust in his judgment and actions. And there was the voice, who wanted to help. But the difference was that this voice… This voice never wanted him to express himself. The voice didn't appreciate his sovereignty.
So what was he to do? He was not a pawn in anyone's hand; but he did have the option of siding with someone. Should he?
But for real, it wasn't really siding. All the voice did so far was tell him what to do. He felt smothered by its presence, by having it all around him. A déjà vu reminded him that he'd had that feeling when he was told things-opinions and beliefs-without descriptions or proof. He could not talk to people ruled by ambiguity; he had to be with those who were responsible for their behaviour.
And even though she was confused, she was giving him the respect that he was craving. And all he felt from the voice was fakeness.
He was deriving energy and strength from this point of view. He needed not be with anyone else, for he always thrived when he was alone and with someone in his mind. And now, he had her. He sneered at pain and spots of blood left by his fingers. His muscles could still work-so he still used them. He pulled himself up and up. The voice was persisting, it was telling him to choose it, to trust in it, to reciprocate its care. But he was getting full of these lies, for lies they were and nothing else. He was climbing higher and higher along this vertical wall. Sometimes he even got to segments where bumps made the slope negative, but he still managed to pull himself up, extend an arm and hold on to another bump, put his leg against something and push up and sideways. He was so tired that every muscle in his body was in pain; his sense of balance was wasted and over-trained. At first, he could feel his blood pump in his brain when he could use only two points to hold on to the mountain; he would be terrified knowing that if he tipped either way, he'd fall; but now, he felt a flow of energy from the rocks into his bones, he knew that he was getting stronger the more he relaxed and trusted in himself. And that allowed him to climb. Every pull-up scratched his stomach and bleeding knees, his face was a galaxy of cuts and dried blood; but he refused to stop. He wasn't doing it to avoid the voice; nor was he doing it because she trusted that he would. He did it because of what he got out of it, and that was himself. By climbing, he was rediscovering himself and redefining his strength and willpower. And he needed it.
The skies were getting brighter, and the cool air was warming up. The path of red was trailing down as far as he could see, and the top still wasn't there. And neither was the moment that he would give up. More pull-ups. More stand-ups. More pushing off the rock, more searching and scraping, more hugging the mountain. He was in love with it. It was giving him a form that he could feel. He was happy. Happy not because of the sight, and not because of his immediate ascent, but because of his accomplishments and of what it has given him. He found his truth.
Fragments of songs were entering and exiting his head. Sometimes, a Rhythm would be a Dancer for a few minutes at a time before being replaced by another song. But he kept climbing steadily, despite his inability to do so. He already realized that physically it was impossible for him to have gotten this high. He was supposed to have fallen to his death a long time ago. But even that did not affect his determination. He had the will. He wasn't going to listen to some stinking logic or anything else that tried to prevent him from reaching his goal. He stopped listening to the voice hours ago. Now, he was on his own.
His hand reached a flat surface. With a final pull-up, he dragged himself onto level ground. Relief, accomplishment, excitement, and perfection occupied his mind, his neck and arms and torso and legs. He relaxed and fell asleep.
Afraid that he is being brainwashed. Starts to hate Majestic.
He woke up on a beautiful plateau. The grass was green; the sun was shining brightly in a perfectly-blue sky; there were barely any clouds; the view of the horizon was stunningly beautiful. And far ahead in the distance there was a monastery. He had known about it for quite a while; that was the reason he was climbing up the mountain. Was it a monastery or a church in the Himalayas, he did not know. Frankly, he never even knew the difference between the two, because it never really mattered. What mattered was the city that was enclosed by large brown walls. He called it Cathedral City.
Cathedral City was a beautiful place. It was giving off a sense of adventure and excitement; everything beyond the mysterious walls was Unreal and seemingly perfect. However, there were no entrances. The only gate, marked by two large lime-coloured rhombi, had no intention of opening. He even thought of finding a secret brick to depress, but the wall was level and the task was impossible.
There was a pool. Small fish were playing chase with the playful rays of light on the bottom of the pond. Water lilies (or were they?) secreted a sweet aroma, just inviting him to take a swim. He dove, held his breath, and approached a large opening in the side of the pool. The opening was a twisted tunnel that in the end led under the wall into the Cathedral.
He was in the antechamber of this ancient place. He did find the switch on the wall-it was a wooden lever with a loop on the end-and opened the front gate. The sun was glistening beautifully, and its warmth was drying him fairly quickly. After a few minutes of exploration, all the water evaporated.
A déjà vu, a strange feeling, buzzed in him as he headed from the antechamber into the main part of this Temple. (The main gate had already closed by a perfected mechanism.) There were a large stone gate and a small wooden door that led inside. His hand shivered as he touched the ring to open the door-nightmares ran through his brain and his limbs. He squinted, for a second, and then all came back to reality. He stepped through the door.
"Hello Mai."
"Mai Hasegawa. That's your name, isn't it?"
"Umm… No?"
The stranger looked confused. "But how do you know? You don't know your name!" He stood in shock. Only now did he have a chance to look at the stranger.
"You're me!" he yelled.
"What a surprise."
"But how?"
"No more time for questions little girl."
"Who the hell are you talking about? I am not a little girl, and my name isn't Mai!"
"But you are confused, and I am here to help you."
"Help me by confusing me with someone else? I don't think that's going to help me."
"Help you by telling you where you have gone astray, and pointing you in the right direction."
"You're lost. You don't know how you got here, or what you are supposed to do now. You're trapped in your mind."
"I guess that can describe how I feel…"
"You don't know who to listen to; you don't realize who helped you survive last night. I was there, I felt you, and I know how you achieved the impossible."
A shiver ran through his back. "How?"
"Even though you rejected the voice, the voice never rejected you."
"It still cares about you. It-"
"No, it wasn't the voice, it was me."
"You are mistaken."
"No, I know what I felt, and I felt my self; it was my own energy that I used to conquer that mountain."
"Is that what you really think?"
He was starting to doubt himself. He remembered her. "That is what I know."
"Why is it so hard for you to see that you are interconnected with everything around you?"
"I know that I am."
"Then why can't you accept the voice?"
"What is it about the voice? You sound like it was God talking to me or something."
"You're slow for someone who's supposed to be bright."
"And you want me to accept him?"
It was the climax of his emotions; all that he's felt last night was gathering into a single emotion, a single response. "No one shall ever tell me what to believe. I know what I felt last night, I know what it took to get up the mountain, and I know that I had no help from the being you mention. I have my own religion and my own beliefs, and I will not let you impose you opinions onto mine."
"You have spoken. In the end, there can only be one of us. You now shall see who will be favored." The stranger extended his arms towards the sky and flexed his muscles. He took a fighting stance and waited for the stranger, who was running towards him. The stranger jumped in the air and kicked his left foot forward. He strafed sideways. The fight began.
They were facing each other, he and the stranger, throwing and blocking kicks and punches. He didn't know that he that he could fight so well; but in the expression of the stranger he saw condescendence. Was the stranger really favored by some supreme power? Yea, right!
More punches followed. It was an unstoppable repetition of fists being blocked and ankles meeting to prevent a direct hit. He extended his arm; the stranger caught it and pulled it; and he performed a somersault, landed on his feet, and jabbed backwards with his elbow and his wrist. The stranger, about to punch, backed away, and they continued to face each other.
"Your potential is almost as great as mine," muttered the stranger. He bent his left knee, and thrust his right foot into the stranger's face. The stranger used both of his hands to catch it, and he jumped off his left foot and drove it into the stranger's stomach. The stranger fell backwards, raised his legs in the air, and sprung right back up. He got up as well.
"No more games." The stranger performed a giant leap and was about to land on top of him. He jumped towards the stranger; they met in the mid-air, and kicked each others' feet. He landed facing upwards, doing an arch supported by his hands and feet. He kicked his feet up, brought them over his head, and stood up. The stranger was charging towards him; and he jumped, twisted in the air, and planted a kick right into the stranger's chest. The stranger didn't even slow down, and punched him right in the stomach. He fell down a few feet away.
"Who the hell are you?"
"My name is of no consequence." They continued to fight. The stranger was getting increasingly stronger; and his punches were increasingly harder to block. As he was backing against the wall, he ran up the cliff and somersaulted over the stranger. The stranger wasn't giving up. As he dodged a punch, the stranger tripped him; he rolled sideways and jumped up on his feet and jumped again into the air. On his way down, he extended his feet to kick the stranger, but the stranger shifted his feet sideways; he kicked the stranger's feet and tripped the stranger over, kicking his right foot downwards right into the stranger's chest… The stranger extended his hands and blocked his kick perfectly. He fell on the ground as the stranger tripped him and planted a kick into his solar plexus. He rolled away and tried to catch his breath, blocking and dodging punches and kicks. He was panicking. He was losing the fight-and his life. He dashed sideways and rolled over and tried to get up.
His foot fell asleep.
He started bouncing on his left foot, trying to move his right one. He could not feel it at all. It stopped working. He was knocked down by a kick in the chest and landed on his back. Everything was slowing down. Stranger's footsteps seemed remote and Unreal; his own body started shivering. His foot was still asleep. He looked at it, questioningly, trying to understand what happened. It didn't seem right. He tried to reach for it but he had no energy left to move a muscle. The stranger approached and lifted him up. They were headed for the cliff.
He saw the end of his life. The stranger won. The stranger was going to throw him off the cliff, the cliff that he conquered by himself. His arrogance took the best of him.
Maybe he should've accepted the voice? It would make the stranger happy; it would make everyone happy. He'd still be alive!
But it was too late. His body was limp like a wet cloth; his foot was as stiff as tree bark. That darned foot. He tried to move it. It felt like flexing a muscle that does not exist, like reaching for something impossible to reach. But it is possible, it's my foot! He tried to feel it, unsuccessfully. He was dying moments before his death.
He could already see the cliff. He imagined flying down from this lofty mountain, air all around him, his insides tied in a knot.
His insides were already tied in a knot.
He was still alive.
He shivered. He was alive, and he wanted to fight for his life. He wanted to wake up from this horrid nightmare, to jump off the stranger's shoulder and to throw the stranger into the cliff. It was his foot; his foot was spreading poison through the rest of his body. He shook it, with no luck. He was too tense, too tense to move, too tense to think. He relaxed.
His body was already limp, but he relaxed. He relaxed every tiny muscle he could feel. He relaxed his neck and his shoulders and his stomach and his thighs. He made a conscious effort to stop all signals sent from his brain into his spinal cord. And he started feeling. He felt for a split second, and came back to his pain. He relaxed again, for half a second. Then for one second. His foot felt twisted, for even though he knew it wasn't, it didn't feel right. He gathered all his strength and relaxed, leaving space and stopping time. He pushed his foot forward one inch. He tried again, developing this muscle he had never used, and slid his foot forward. He gathered even more strength and kicked it. His body jerked and he fell off the stranger's shoulders.
For the brief minute that he lay on the ground, he regained total control of his body. He was completely relaxed-and completely powerful. He got up and looked at the stranger. The stranger threw a punch, and he caught it, merely holding the stranger's fist with two of his fingers. The stranger tried to kick, but he kicked the stranger's foot and the stranger flew backwards. The stranger was just as tense!
He took a fighting pose and indicated his willingness to fight. Not one of the stranger's attacks hit him; instead, they were advancing the cliff step by step. He threw a punch, the stranger flipped backwards, and took another step back-a step too far. The stranger's foot slipped, and he tipped backwards, quickly slipping from the edge of the cliff and falling backwards. He jumped forward in an attempt to help, but it was too late.
He turned around and headed into the castle.
Shawn takes her out. She realizes what a great friend he is. And has been for a while now. She also realizes that she is doing what is right because she is convinced that he is happy in this new state. Stops hating Majestic.
The huge gates of the ancient temple slammed shut behind him, leaving him trapped in this labyrinth of doors passageways. The temple was abandoned a long time ago and was unkempt; some of the walls, statues, and columns began to crumble; weeds were growing through the cracks in the floor, laid with huge stone bricks. He did not know where he was going, but the general direction was up. Staircase after staircase, through a few dark rooms, he was advancing to the top level of this immense castle. On one floor he found a room full of etchings and inscription describing the pictures. They told him that there was a battle long ago between the priests and the invaders, and the invaders killed all the priests and left the place. There was also a secret that the invaders did not find, a large crystal. The prophesy said that a stranger will wander through the temple and activate the crystal, giving the priests back their power. He was sad. He knew that he would find the crystal, but there would be no one to use it. The energy would go to waste. He continued looking at the engravings depicting the battle scenes between the priests and the invaders, and the secret crystal. It had three powers. The three pictures showed that it was connected to a device that looked like a huge laser gun that shone a laser at a small outhouse. Only it was more of an elevator than an outhouse. It was rising up into the skies, but he could not tell where exactly. The second picture showed the crystal being hooked up to another laser gun, only this time it was shooting a laser beam at a large tower and exploding it. He was awed at the power of this ancient technology. The third picture, however, only showed a person inside a crystal, and a crystal inside a person. Light was spreading from within the person, but no more conclusions could be made from this picture. He proceeded to other rooms, exploring the castle. He entered a dark passage. It twisted and turned so that no light could get inside. He placed his hand on the wall and walked forward. He was walking slowly, hearing his own footsteps, feeling the cold moist textures of the brick walls. The passage turned to the left and he almost bumped into another wall; however, his senses told him to stop an inch from hurting his nose.
He felt the wall. It was shaped very strangely, almost making a U-turn. He felt the walls to determine exactly what the wall was doing and encountered a large brick sticking out of the wall. He pressed it and opened a secret passage, letting bright beams of pink light fly out of the concealed room. He slowly walked inside, squinting and adjusting to the bright light. He was standing in front of the large crystal.
The crystal was warm. It was effervescent and translucent, filled with turbulences and made of condensed gas. It was hot, but as he was bringing his hands close to the crystal's surface, he felt kind warmth protrude from it. He touched it, with both hands, and almost collapsed from the amount of energy that passed through his body. He tried resisting it, but it was almost impossible. He relaxed. His hand was entering the insides of the crystal. He wasn't trying to resist, but just let this awesome energy control him. He raised his knee and stepped into the crystal, relaxing all his body parts and smiling with pleasure. He has never been this relaxed and this powerful. He felt a strange source of power, being consumed by a power stream. He moved his arms, slowly, trying to feel the walls of the crystal from the inside. He did not know how he continued breathing, but every breath filled him with more and more happiness. He arched back and turned sideways, cracking his spine vertebrae. He stretched, letting blood and life into his muscles. He looked at his hands again, and felt that while he was moving them in front of his eyes, he could touch and feel every inch of the wall just by looking at it. He looked at himself, and realized that he was growing taller and wider, expanding out of his skin and outside of the crystal. His physical senses were still confined to his own body; but he could just as well feel the area around the crystal-the crystal was inside of him. He had its energy.
He stepped outside and turned the lever, summoning the elevator. He had to go up. He ran through a few more passages and stepped outside, on the edge of a tall cliff. He looked up and saw the descending elevator. The door opened and he jumped inside. As it was carrying him upwards the door was closing slowly and leisurely. He relaxed and smiled, and tried to think of his home.
He was trapped.
He suddenly realized that he was trapped. His journey, from Tibet to this castle, has been nothing but a search for an exit. He was tired of being trapped in these amazing places; no matter how beautiful or fancy, they were not home. He wanted to go home. Although he didn't quite remember what home looked like, he knew-he was certain-that he would recognize it in a split second and remember absolutely everything-including his name. He thought of her. He didn't know her name either, but it would be nice to remember that as well.
He was remembering more people. He knew that he had more friends than just her; and that they needed him. He needed them. He wanted back. In fact, could they not be in trouble right now, while he was strolling through the elaborate hallways of an ancient temple? Why could he not just reach out to them and be there for them? Why could he not help?
Why could they not help him? Why was this temple abandoned? What was going on anyway? Someone knocked him over and dropped him off in Tibet, so that this someone wouldn't have to kill him directly. He was supposed to have frozen in the snowy planes, without ever reaching the hut. He wanted to come back, but what if someone tried to do the same? Someone did not want him back. Was it the voice? He did not understand the voice. While logically the voice wanted to guide him on his path back, he did not trust it. It was almost as if the voice threw him to Tibet to show off its abilities, expecting him to recognize and praise it. He wasn't going to praise any self-proclaimed entity.
But at the same time he felt that she didn't want him back either. He knew she did, but he also knew that if she didn't find him soon, she would stop looking and…
He stopped and leaned against the wall.
And find someone else.
What? No. She…
She knows I am alive. She…
Chills ran down his spine and he started shivering. He could see it, he could feel it. He needed only to think about her to picture her in his mind-not her appearance but her… Her… Her soul. She was there, never doubting him, always knowing that he is alive. But there was something around her, the combination of the voice and someone who tried to kill him. That was telling her otherwise. He wanted to touch her and to shout to her what he knew…
But his time was running out. Someone was trying to take her away from him. He wanted to run, to chase her, to make her turn around and see him…
But why? Why, why would he do that, if she didn't have enough faith in him, if she would never understand him and would never realize the truth? Why did he bother doing anything, if he knew that at the end he would die, and the world would be unchanged; that no one would remember him; that no one cared about his existence? Why?
Because he wasn't created for them; he didn't live his life for them. He was alone, always alone; but he was alone not because he had never succeeded in making friends, but because he found no need or interest in being with many people; he did not care for popularity or leadership, for he could acquire it rather easily; he didn't care for pleasing many people, because… Because he would do shallow and petty things to please people; and in return they would only treat him like their servant and only show up when they needed something… They would depend on him without ever offering anything in return. He only told them to be independent.
He wasn't going back for her either. Or for himself. He didn't know why, but it was the right thing to do. The doors of the elevator opened and he walked through a series of passages and corridors into the heart of Cloud City.
She finds a lead, Shawn offers to drive. Looks really suspicious. Her feeling inside is dormant.
Shawn asks her what is inherently wrong with Majestic. She has no info. She is happy, to be finished.
He was lost. He was lost and confused. He did not know what was going on, where he was headed, or even why he was where he was (which he didn't know either), but he distinctly remembered when it began. It began approximately thirty minutes ago, when he walked through the large portals into the Cloud City. He started exploring the large village houses filled with books and tables and candles and bedrooms and cellars and attics, and he tripped. He tripped and flew across the room and landed right by a chair and a table. They were both made of red oak and decorated with elaborate patterns. The top of the table was a smooth circular block of green marble. He sat on the chair and leaned on the table. He could feel the cold surface and bread crumbs on his cheeks as he put his head down; it was uncomfortable and strange. Strange was the best word he could concoct to describe that anti-homesick feeling that bubbled in his stomach. He got up and walked around the room, trying to remember and understand what was causing it. However, he kept descending via this downward spiral into the depths of discomfort. He was stiff and almost shivering; he wanted to get out of that place and he did, but the feeling followed him.
He felt regretful. Did he do something wrong? Did he say something wrong? He felt resentful of himself. Was he mean to other people? Did he hurt someone he loved? He felt guilty. Did he take a shortcut or not finish something he started?
He did not know the answers to those questions. He didn't even know his name, or the name of his friend. All he knew was that he wanted to get out and remember. He felt that only by remembering would he get out.
He walked around the village to the barricades, past which lay the edge of the city. He walked towards the edge and lay down on his stomach, looking downwards. He saw one of the most beautiful sights he'd ever seen in his life: he was floating on a tremendous rock, high in the sky, high above clouds. He was awed by the sight, but at the same time, he realized that he wasn't going anywhere from where he was: he was trapped.
Well, not trapped. He always knew that there would be a way out of wherever he was. Only he didn't know it. He walked on a bumpy road along a curvy passage, eventually reaching a large round house. He looked up and saw that it was also the tallest house in the village, at least three stories high. He opened the door and walked inside. It was a tall structure with only two floors. It was very odd and clumsy; he could barely find the stairs to the second floor. From there (it only had a table and a few chairs), he climbed up even more, into a well-concealed attic. He felt like he was in the wrong place, in the wrong time. The building looked like an ancient church. He had nothing against churches; only this time, it didn't feel right, or real. Something was wrong. He quickly thought that maybe he should repent his sins… Only who would he repent to? He realized that the voice that pretended to be his guide really needed a guide of its own. In fact, at a certain point there could be no guide for him; he needed to discover the path by himself.
He suddenly felt sad and alone as he remembered his friends going away and not doing anything with him. He wanted to stop them, he wanted to hang around them; but they had to go. Sometimes it was by their choice, sometimes it wasn't; when it wasn't, he usually awaited their return with great hopes; but when it was, he felt like they had made an irreversible decision that built a wall between them. Maybe that was his fault?
He always had different ideas. He couldn't stand thinking like other people; and while he knew that he may not have been right, he still explored all his thoughts to learn. He yearned to learn, to know as much as he could remember. He wanted to experience, to feel; he wanted to be able to survive the most extreme situations, even though he knew there would never be any.
But there were. His journeys, from the cabin to here, have been extraordinary. Were they the tests for which he trained? Why tests, is life a test? No, a life is a life; and I really don't think that there is someone who controls us and tests us… I think we devise our own challenges, for whatever reason.
So, did I devise this one? If I did, then I should be able to solve it. But he couldn't. He was staring into the ceiling, into the cloudless sky filled with millions of dim shimmering stars. He wanted to escape his present. He climbed onto the roof of this chapel. He had a little more control of his mind now. He sat down and closed his eyes. He wasn't in the right place, but he had to manage. He had to make this the right place. But he was so new at this… And there was no help. But there was never any help; the moment that he started relying on other people was the moment he gave himself up. He still had his own life to run-and that was what he was planning to do.
He had to change his surroundings. He lay down and closed his eyes. He inhaled through his nose and exhaled through his mouth. He told himself to relax, picturing every tiny part of his body being filled with relaxation. Then with energy.
He pictured himself lying in a room. But he was on top of the chapel! No! It was a room, he wanted it to be a room. He was scared, terrified to imagine a vision he wouldn't be able to handle, and realize that it was true. But that's why he was there. Every time he felt tense, he relaxed; every time his visions became blurry, he forced his eyes shut even tighter and concentrated even more. He imagined himself in a room. He was lying down on a bed, or a couch, or something similar. Where was he? That wasn't important. He got up and looked around. There was a door. He walked towards the door and opened it, preparing himself for the outside world. He was standing between columns in front of the entrance to a large temple. What was inside, he didn't know; moreover, the outside interested him even more. He missed something about the fresh air, even though it was only fresh air that he'd breathed the past few days? Weeks? He didn't remember.
He saw her. She was there, walking around, trying to find him. She wasn't alone; someone was with her. Shivers ran down his spine as he sat up from his trance and opened his eyes. The vision was still in his head; and there was something about her companion that he didn't like. In fact, he felt that her companion was hiding a terrible secret. He lay down again and tried to relax, but he couldn't. That was his problem: he couldn't relax. He wanted to get up and run around, doing things.
But this was not the time to use his muscles. He forced himself to relax every muscle and see the same vision. She was looking for him, and he was in that room. He got back to himself. He was tired and exhausted. He wanted to move. He looked as his hand. He felt warmth travel to it as he concentrated on its surface. There was something itching on the back of his hand, and it wouldn't stop. He thought of his other hand. Then his arms. Then his whole body.
He could feel himself, in his new body, in a room in a temple. Now, if he could only remember his name…
His concentration died again. He sat up and rolled around. He thought of the crystal, of expanding beyond it. Was it just a dream? No, he decided, it wasn't. Suddenly Cloud City seemed so small! He looked around-he was sitting on the roof of its highest building-and saw that it was nothing but a huge rock floating-somehow-in the middle of the sky. And he was larger than the rock. He ran to the edge of the roof and jumped, and landed on the ground. He was not hurt, he had no broken bones. Matter was dissolving as he was gaining control over it. He concentrated-without using any strength-on a house. Then he walked up to it, and, without thinking about the force, punched through a wall.
He didn't know how he was doing it. All he knew that in the back of his head he knew what was supposed to happen. He was aware of every millisecond of this punch, from start to finish; he expected his hand to go through the wooden log, splintering it and leaving a large hole in the middle of this wall. It felt so strange and so unreal. He felt like he was writing the equations governing physical objects of the cloud world he inhabited.
But he knew what he was doing.
He was learning to change.
He changed the walls. He changed his fist. He changed the air and he changed the gravity. He was using this world's energy as his own source of power to exercise control. That was what he needed to learn; that was why he needed to come back. It was because he was a part of the universe, and he had to complete his personal quest. He wanted to make it a better place. He wanted to make things right. He wanted to use himself-and everything that he could use-to do what was right. He felt the deepest respect to this spirit, the World, which consisted of absolutely everything within it; he felt love towards everything and everyone around him, as they were also a part of this world; he felt extreme joy and happiness from knowing what he wanted to do, and doing it.
He thought of her and he finally understood. While she had faults and was not ideally "perfect," while she would never fully understand him or always be there for him, he knew that no person should've been like that; she was beautiful to him and he wanted to be with her. He lay down and closed his eyes and thought about her. She was trying to find a room, but couldn't because the room had a hidden entrance into it. He tried to tell her where to go, but he couldn't remember her name. He tried to feel his body again and see if he had an ID inside his pocket. Even if he did, he doubted that he would be able to read anything, or even move. He could only fly around as a ghost.
Could he change things in that new world? He tried, but he tried to use his body. It didn't work. His body-strange and foreign-was not the source of his power. His spirit was. What could he do? He concentrated on his forearm. He felt like he had a splinter; after trying to move his hand to take it out, he gave up; but after relaxing his "skin muscles" and imagining it fall out, it did. He felt some pressure on his head. He tried to push it away, but instead, he moved his bed forwards. He slid out of his helmet. He was free. He tried to push the door open but it was locked. She was the key.
But she could feel him. He was getting excited, and nervous. He got a hold of himself and told himself to stay down. He was getting tired of concentrating; he wanted to relax and to go to sleep. He had to fight; it was the only chance to get her to get to him. He panicked, but realized that he was too inexperienced to do anything. He wanted a guide. He needed a guide.
A warm feeling came over him suddenly as he realized that he was his own guide. He knew perfectly what he needed to do; he just hadn't learned it yet. He thought about her, entering her mind-from within his dream, from the ground of Cloud City. It was a piece of cake, telling her to turn around, to press a brick, to open a secret door to a hidden room; it was a piece of cake to get back to his own body in this dreamy new world and to get into his own mind and to think about himself. His new self wanted his old self back. She wanted him back. It was time for him to leave. He only needed to say the magic words.
"You are Chloe Gordon," he whispered.
"Yes, I am Chloe Gordon," she whispered back.
"And I am Samuel Freeman," he whispered again.
"Yes, you're Samuel Freeman, and I finally found you." Cloud city disappeared in a blink of his mind's eye, and everything turned black. He suddenly became aware of her soft hands as they were caressing his face and his hair; he opened his eyes and looked at her beautiful face. She leaned over and kissed his forehead, he smiled weakly in return.
"Hi," he whispered.
"Hi." They smiled. "Shh! Don't speak. It's going to be okay. You're with me now."

Part IV: The Gravity Of Love

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