Erase

Far From Home: Chapter 10 – Coming Home

The water here is cold. Memories of a childhood I knew could not be mine flowered in my mind; giggles and splashes with fingers trailing in a steam and cold water flicked at friends. If I tried that now I wouldn’t even know if the few fingers I had left froze solid and snapped off. Now only the custom-made fleece-lined leather gloves kept what was left of my hands safe from injury and the elements. The childhood squeals of joy faded until only the quiet lapping of my oar in the river and the occasional bird cry from the bank remained. I liked it that way. Memories were useless out here, they would only slow me, make me careless, drag me down with them. What was gone was just that, gone.

I looked ahead, my landing point approached, a stream flowing into the river where the forest at the base of the mountain dipped to meet the lake. The trees in the forest were snow-draped as if a funeral shroud had been cast over them, white and smothering…

“You’ll have to wear this under your clothes,” the doctor from the slums stood in my room and held up long white underwear. He’d been coming every day since my return. The hospital in Caledon offered me accommodation in the local sanatorium, promised me a job, promised me rooms, promised me a prison with lunatics for cellmates. I declined. I had a home. I had a jungle. I left and I went home only to find it had gone, burnt to the ground, not a trace left. I sat on the sand and didn’t move for three days.

I saw things. They spoke to me. They pointed and they laughed and they danced.

On the fourth day the rain came. I sat on the sand and made believe the rain streaming down my face were the tears I could no longer weep. It rained for a day and a night.

On the fifth day I left the island. I didn’t know where else to go so I travelled back to where it all began. Back to the epicentre. Back to Steelhead.

People stared. They whispered and pitied and taunted and joked. In Steelhead my misery was compounded by the unruly children that inhabit an underworld no adult can hope to enter without their permission. Oh yes, the Steelhead Scamps thought me great sport.

I wasn’t sure where to go, so I went to the slums to find the doctor. He stared. They all stare. Still, he helped. I don’t know what he said and to whom but by nightfall I was in a comfortable room in a nearby hotel. From my window I could see Spirit Lake flowing out into the river as it passed through the wilderness of St Helens.

“You’ll have to wear this under your clothes,” I turned from the window (how many days had I stood there staring out into the isolation beyond?), “and these gloves I’ve had made for you. Likewise your boots and socks. You are going to have to protect yourself if you are insistent about going through with this.”

I stared at the while underwear in his hands and the other garments on my bed. “Thank you. Is everything else ready?”

He sighed, “Yes. There’s a canoe and supplies ready and Lunar has stamped your purchase order. You’re the proud owner of very remote, very isolated forest by the mountain. I’m guessing that will make you happy, eh?”

I looked at the man with concern etched across his brow and said nothing. He shook his head and placed the long thermals on the bed, “Well at least promise me you’ll make our agreed meetings. Every two weeks. If you miss one, I’ll only come looking for you and neither of us wants that; I hate the great outdoors with a passion, you know.” I tried a smile but my skin wouldn’t move like that any more so I just nodded and told him he had my word.

The next morning I set a hat on my head, wrapped a scarf around my face and walked away from the hotel, away from the city, away from the scamps and everyone and everything. I checked the canoe and set off rowing, I let the river take me for a while but I liked to row, the exertion warming me in the frigid morning air. Since the fire, since Shade, The Erase, the would-be killer, since my recovery, winter had come to these parts and it held the land fast in its white silence. There was no one around, not a living soul for miles, and it was perfect. I looked down at the river, clear and blue beneath me.

Steelhead St Helens

The water here is cold, I thought to myself…

****{}****

The End.
All the “Far From Home” posts can be read here.

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

Far From Home: Chapter 9 – The Erase

The meadow was burning.

The flames were licking up my body, my fur curling back and burning off.

A beautiful girl with wings of fire stood amid the conflagration and looked at me with cobalt stars where her eyes should have been.

My skin was bubbling and melting away like wax.

Her hand extended through the flames, reaching for me in the fire.

My bones exposed to the flames began to crack and split.

The girl was mouthing something to me, her face full of fear and concern, “Chosen Unit Antfarm! You must wake up! It is coming!”

Around me, the meadow was burning. The beautiful girl’s hand found mine, slender fingers webbed with fire curling around my dissolving bones. She pulled me forward through the flames and into her embrace. Her wings closed around me and she said {Chosen Unit Antfarm! You must wake up! It is coming! The Erase event is here!}

My eyes snapped open. Shade hovered and bobbed above me framed by a light brighter than anything I’d ever seen. I closed my eyes against it and was looking up into the girl’s face again {Hold on to me, Chosen Unit Antfarm. We must flee!} I wrapped my crumbling arms around her and held tight. Her wings unfurled and beat down into the flames of a world alight. We rose above the fire into the air and beneath us the meadow fell away into smoke and chaos. I closed my eyes.

The city fell away beneath us, Shade flew high and fast and I steeled myself for a glance behind us. A cry of horror stuck in my throat as my body froze. From horizon to horizon and standing over three hundred feet tall a wall of crackling energy roared towards us, its surface streaked with blots of plasma the colour of my nightmares it devoured and deleted everything in its path. It was if the universe itself had torn open and all the light in Heaven was flooding out, pouring itself on the earth and scouring it all away. It had reached the tower blocks on the far side of the city and I watched in awe as they simply dissolved and crumbled to nothing, erased as if they had never existed. The wall of energy roared unstoppably towards us with a sound like an entire ocean being poured over a cliff higher than eternity.

{You must wake up, Chosen Unit Antfarm!} Shade was shouting over the scream of his world being deleted.

“Wake up? But I am awake!” I shouted back.

{Not here! You must wake up in Not Shade!} He flew fast but my weight was too much for him and I could see the Erase catching us, screaming towards us as the city between us fell into its bottomless maw.

“It’s… it’s eating everything!” I gasped, my mind all but overcome with the terrible beauty of what was happening in front of my very eyes. How many people had it killed? How many lives had it snuffed out, deleted, erased from history? How many of those people must have stood, unable to flee, and gazed in both fear and wonder at the wall of screaming light as it washed over them?

{You must wake up! Shade is lost, but other worlds can be saved. This is why you were Chosen. You must wake up!}

“But how? How can I wake up?” I bellowed, “Tell me how and I will! Tell me!”

The light shot from the robot again, it drilled through my skull and the world around me was overlaid with another. My eyes saw two lives simultaneously, the light of never pouring from the Erase and the crowd of people in my hospital room. My ears heard both lives together, the roar of eternal obilvion closing in on me and the voice of the doctor in my hospital room “If he makes it through tonight it’ll be a miracle. After that, who knows my dear, who knows.”

{Youuuu must makkkkkkkke iiiiiiiiiiiit. I caaaan takkkke youuuu no fuuurther. Choooosen…}

The light snapped off, the worlds split and we fell from the sky. Shade’s light’s blinked briefly and went out forever. We crashed through trees, branches cracking like bones beneath us until we hit the ground hard. Shade bounced away out of sight with an empty metal crash. A moan eased from between my lips and I felt the edges of sleep curling around my skin…

NO! I would not sleep! I would not sleep!

I forced my eyes open. The light of the Erase powered towards me, the city now gone and the short stretch of countryside that led to where I lay would soon follow. I pushed up on my elbows, pain exploding inside me until I was facing the beast. “YOU WILL NOT TAKE ME! DO YOU HEAR ME YOU BASTARD! DO YOU HEAR ME!” I was but a speck of dust before the hurricane, but I felt far from powerless. I had squashed my rage down for long enough. Fear had paralysed my anger and kept me meek, but no more. My fury boiled over, rose to the surface and focused my mind like a falling angel. The Erase was not going to take me. I was going to take the Erase and no power in any universe could stop me. With the trumpet call of a capricious and cruel God seconds away from me, I closed my eyes.

I was above the meadow and it was burning. I opened my eyes and looked at the beautiful girl holding me above the flames. Thank you, I mouthed, but let me fall. Her cobalt eyes widened in horror, NO! she mouthed back. Please, I said silently, you must. I smiled at her and with tears of diamonds she let me go. As I fell back into the fire I closed my eyes…

****{}****

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

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

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The Great Erase is a tale told by Salazar Jack and you can read more here and here.

Far From Home: Chapter 7 – The Erasing, Part 2

“What the hell do you mean erased?” I was shouting, suddenly very, very awake. The word terrified me although I didn’t know why. It was something more than the connotation of death in erase, and it wasn’t the thought that Shade may be a killer. No there was something else, something deeper.

{All units have been deleted. Removed. Erased}

“You mean dead”, I demanded.

{Unknown. No evidence of death, only erasing}

I glared at the humming, hovering robot as I felt my old friends confusion and fear rise inside me. They had always been with me, living and feeding off me. They gave me my anger, my pure points of rage and fury and it was, I had long ago come to realise, a symbiotic relationship of equal dependence. For now I sat on them, squashed them a little deeper until I was in control; anger would come and anger would save me, but for now I needed answers. “When? How?” I asked through gritted teeth.

{Thirty two minutes and forty five seconds ago}

Precise. Robots. But that was… “How long have I been here, in Shade?”

{Thirty two minutes and forty seven seconds}

“Did I arrive at the same time, or just after?”

{The same time}

I hadn’t expected that. My rising anger sank a little, tamped down as I tried to form some sort of timeline. “I was in a meadow…”

{You awoke under the trees on the mountain} Shade added.

“No, before that. Before here. I was in a meadow… it was on fire I think… I’m not sure. I was in the meadow and I had,” my hands shot to my face, “fur! I had fur and horns! Oh god! I had horns!” I ran my hands over skin and through hair that wasn’t mine, “What happened to my horns?”

{Unknown}

“I wasn’t asking you!” I snapped and immediately felt bad. “Look… sorry, I’m… Tell me again, I arrived at the same time as the rest of the people were… erased?”

{Correct}

“Then why wasn’t this body erased?” I asked patting both hands on my chest.

{Unknown}

“You don’t know much, do you?” I said with bitter sarcasm.

Shade bristled. His hum increased and several of his attachments whirled and snapped {I am Shade. I am everything you see, hear, smell and touch. I contain enough data and knowledge to maintain a whole planet of ten billion people. The erase did not originate on this planet and I hold no data on it or similar events}

“What did you say?” I shot back at the robot, my eyes wide with recognition.

{I am shade. I am this planet…}

“No, what did you call the event? The erase?”

{Correct}

I felt the colour drain from my face and my legs buckle beneath me. The erase. What else could remove ten billion people? What else could eat up planets without stopping? The erase. The Great Erase. The name slotted into one of the many dark holes of my mind like a small but important jigsaw piece. The Great Erase. A terrible echo of massive power rippling through the multiverse deleting all in its path. And it was here. A thought stuck me. “Why are the buildings still her? Why is the city? You?” I tried to stand up but my legs seemed to want to sleep, “Why haven’t you been erased?”

{Current data indicates the erase continues. Expectation is for further, deeper erases shortly}

“Shortly? What do you call shortly?” my voice hard with panic.

{Do not sleep Chosen Unit Antfarm. You must remain awake}

“What?” I was confused, “Never mind that, I’m fine. What is ‘shortly’, tell me?”

{The event is returning. Expected arrival in ten minutes. You must not sleep!}

“I told you, I’m not tired.” I said as my body crumpled to the floor and the world winked out around me.

****{}****

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

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

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) The Great Erase is a tale told by Salazar Jack and you can read more here.

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.