Far From Home: Chapter 5 – The Erasing, Part 1

“Danger?” I asked the disembodied voice? “What danger? From you?”

{No. Not from Shade. Danger is to your other Unit, Chosen Unit Antarm}

I was confused, “Why do you call me chosen unit? What is my other unit?”

{Chosen Unit is you, you were chosen. Your other Unit is in grave danger, Chosen Unit Antfarm}

My thoughts were slowing, my head filling with water “I’m tired, you know” I said, “funny to be tired in a dream.”

{You are not dreaming Chosen Unit Antfarm. You are in grave danger. You must not sleep Chosen Unit Antfarm}

The voice no long pulsed through me, instead it wrapped around me like a warm blanket. The world faded out and the floor caught me.

**{}**

I dreamt.

I dreamt of the meadow.

I dreamt it was on fire. My nose filled with the stench of burning flesh.

I dreamt my skin was burning away, melting off my body like wax. The muscles and bone beneath gleaming in the hungry flames.

I dreamt I screamed and screamed and screamed.

**{}**

I opened my eyes and saw the face that was both mine and not mine looking back at me. Curious how it was curved, big and round. With a slight smile I realised I was looking into a large glass bubble the colour of steel. I moved my head back and could see I was looking into the lens eye of a beetle-like collection of metal and wires hovering above me. I was led on the ground looking up at what I guessed must be a robot.
Far From Home: Meeting Shade

{Chosen Unit Antfarm} it spoke to me, its mechanical voice urgent {I have stabilised the connection but you are in grav…}

“Grave danger, yes I heard. I remember.” I yawned a soul-deep yawn, “What is this danger? Who are you?” I struggled groggily to my feet.

{I am Shade. I am the city, the oceans, the forests, the sky. I am all you see here. The danger is to your other Unit in not-Shade. A non-you Unit wants to shut it down}

“But this is just a dream, Shade, just a dream.” I smiled.

The robot whirled and hummed, {Negative. Units have split. Chosen Unit Antfarm in Shade and not-Shade. Unit in not-Shade currently malfunctioning. Repair process started. Non-you Unit has begun shutdown attempt. Relay available. Download initiated}

“Huh? Downlo…ARRRRRRG!” I began to ask before a thin beam of light shot from under the robot’s lens directly into my eyes. My mind was filled with the image of a small hospital room, it was night and bent over the only bed in the room as a figure hidden by a dark hood and cape. Whoever it was had a small bottle in one hand a pipette in the other dripping something into the mouth of the patient beneath them. The patient was in a bad way with what looked like burns to his whole body. I knew without knowing that it was me and that the mysterious figure was not a doctor on night rounds. The image blurred, faded and was gone. The download was over.

“What the hell was that?” I demanded.

{Relay from not-Shade} Shade informed me as if the fact were simple enough to be understood by a child. I struggled to my feet, the hovering machine humming gently as it kept up with me.

“And not-shade is?”

{Not Shade}

“Of course. And I am there as well as here?”

{Correct}

“How? How is it possible?”

{Dimensional split evident. Reason for split unknown}

“So you are saying this not a dream?”

{Correct. Shade is real. Not-Shade is real. Split between two is real}

I had the strangest feeling that this all should surprise me, terrify me even, but it didn’t. Although not sure why, I took this information calmly, “Can we start at the beginning?”

The machine whirled slightly {Time is limited Chosen Unit Antfarm, yours and mine}

“OK, we’ll have to be quick then. Stop me if I’m wrong. I’m not dreaming, I’m really here but I’m also led in a hospital bed badly burnt and with someone there trying to kill me, correct?”

{Correct}

“Right, and here is a city called Shade and you are the city, or its monitor, correct?”

{Correct}

“Do you know how I got here?”

{No}

“But you said something about a dimensional split?”

{Correct}

I stared at the robot before realising that was the entirety of its answer. “Well, care to explain what that is?”

{A energy force large enough to achieve escape velocity would be required to break through the walls of the multiverse. Speculation is not within my nature, but evidence would lead to speculation that you encountered such a force and were transported to Shade dimension from your own and the process split your units in two}

“But how can I be here and there?”

{Unknown}

“Speculate?”

Again a long pause from the robot.

“Shade?”

It hummed briefly and gave a click {Your unit here is not your unit. Speculation is your other-unit consciousness is here in this not-you unit}

I looked down at my body, at hands I didn’t recognise and at a reflection of a face I knew was not my own, “Makes sense,” I said to no one in particular. “But then,” I addressed Shade again “where is the person who owns this body.”

{All units have been erased} It’s cool, mechanical voice could have been reading the shares index or shipping forecast.

“I’m sorry? What did you say” I struggled to make sense of what I had just heard.

{All units have been erased}

“All units?”

{All units have been erased}

The city was empty. I hadn’t seen or heard a single soul. Coffee steaming in cups. Half-eaten food. Not one single person. No bird calls. No dogs. Nothing. No one.

{All units have been erased} Shade repeated as I slumped against a wall on legs suddenly made from string…

{All units have been erased}

****{}****

To be continued…
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.

*****{*}*****

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Amarantis Belfire watches over the burnt man here.

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6 comments

  1. HMMMM. Now who would want to do in the crispy critter?

    I love conversations between automatons and biologicals–how even the machine can end up where it is obviously thinking, “Hmm, I’m not really getting through here…how do I put this?”

    There is so much fun to be had with the whole theme of two very different kinds of beings trying to communicate. Kind of a metaphor for us as humans–how we are all so disastrously separate and and different, and how actually being understood by another person, is a rare joy.

      1. well Hon, if your writing has depth and possible layers of meaning not because you cleverly built it that way, but because you write from the heart and depth of your own perspective and experience…that is a very good thing.

        The person who tires to cleverly make their writing into some kind of deeply meaningful metaphor for something or other is usually going to end up with something that feels contrived and clunky. Like Ayn Rand’s stuff, or much of CS Lewis.

        Nothing wrong with having made something that lets the reader apply their own meaning, or understanding framed by their own context.

        1. TY Dio 🙂

          I do try to make my tales clever, but like you say not in a deliberate way to thrust a metaphor on people. I’m pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of bloke and my writing reflects that. I try to add mystery, links to other tales, cross-over points, an internal logoc and, most importantly off all and hardest of all, emotional integrity.

          I’m planning, especially with HBA but also with Ryne, to have characters evolve due to their experiences. HBA has been through a lot – the realisation he isn’t ‘real’ the loss of his creator, death, his mind being split – that it would be daft to imagine he’d emerge unchanged. I see his upcoming time in Steelhead St Helens as a period of re-birth into a very different, more confident and much darker soul, especially when the Elemental shows up again 😉

          Ryne I want to play much more within the theme of Steelhead, but even there I want him to seem real – by which I mean emotionally real.

          It’s hard to do and I don’t always hit the mark, but when I do, it feels good 🙂

    1. Hi Marant and TY!

      I have a page set up to help people find their way through my tales – it lists them in order and gives an over view of each: https://headburroantfarm.wordpress.com/burro-tales/

      I also add 2 link sections to each story post – one lists all the posts in that story and the other lists links to other blogs where the tale crosses over.

      Oh, and if you want to see some background, the Steelhead Wiki has these pages about me:
      http://bandobast.wikidot.com/headburro-antfarm
      http://bandobast.wikidot.com/ryne-beck
      http://bandobast.wikidot.com/storylines

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