Shade City

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?”


“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?”


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


“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?”


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?”


“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?”


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


“Do you know how I got here?”


“But you said something about a dimensional split?”


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?”



Again a long pause from the robot.


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.

Far From Home: 4 – Compassionate Care

Room fifteen stank. A small room, it was hot and close and the air was thick with the smell of putrefying flesh; the young nurse could feel her revulsion rise and show on her face. She looked at the ward sister and received a narrow-eyed glare of disapproval in reply.

“Mr Antfarm,” the Sister said to the man in the bed before her, “Mr Antfarm, it’s Ward Sister Grace. I’ve brought Nurse Rain again. We’ve come to check your dressings before Doctor makes his rounds, Mr Antfarm.”

Her tone seemed cold and uncaring to the young nurse. This was her first week at Caledon Regency and she had a strong feeling she had found her way into the deep end from the off. Not only was she assigned to the fearsome Sister Grace’s ward, but she had landed the worst burns case the hospital had ever seen.

She looked down at the figure led beneath the damp gauze bandages and wondered what kept him alive.
Far From Home 5
His lungs were burnt almost beyond use, there wasn’t a scrap of skin left on his body, he could barely move and as of yesterday no longer able to communicate, his attempts to the wheeze and rasp a few exhausting words having slowly stopped. He must be terrible pain and she wondered if the opium Sister Grace administered could be strong enough to hold it at bay.

Again the sickly sweet taste of death hit the back of her throat and she felt her stomach heave. She dashed from the room, narrowly missed Dr Roundtree as he was coming in, and headed for the nearest lavatory.

Roundtree raised an eyebrow at a clearly furious Sister Grace but said nothing, instead he turned to his patient, “Hello Mr Antfarm, Dr Roundtree here. I see that Sister Grace here has been taking good care of you as ever. Now let’s see these dressings shall we?” He gently lifted one of the round pads that covered his patient’s eyes and peered underneath for a few seconds before replacing it and looking up at Sister Grace, his face lined with concern.

“Sister? How much opium have you given him?”

The woman bristled and shot an alarmed look at the doctor, “Just what you have prescribed, Dr Roundtree. It’s all here in his notes, dosages and times.”

“Well clearly something isn’t right, Sister. Your patient seems to have slipped into a narcotic coma, which you have failed to spot!” the doctor snapped.

Sister Grace felt her mouth flapping, but before she could say anything the doctor waved her protests silent, “There is nothing for it but to keep a watch on him and hope he comes out of it soon. His breathing is already so damaged that I can’t say I hold out much hope. Maybe his quietly slipping away would be for the best.”

The door opened again and a pale Nurse Rain sheepishly re-entered the room. Both Doctor Roundtree and Sister looked furious. The doctor pushed past the he and left the room whilst Sister Grace glared at his departing back. Nurse Rain looked up at Sister and began to offer apologies.

“I will deal with you later, young lady!” Sister Grace hissed at her, “In the meantime I want you to change this man’s dressings and clean this room. And while you are at it, maybe you should take a long, hard look at the suffering of this poor soul and try to remember why you came into medicine!”

“Yes Sister,” she managed meekly as Sister Grace also pushed past her out of the room.

And she was alone with the poor wretch. She gathered up all her courage and bound it tightly inside her chest before bending down and beginning the slow, laborious task of removing his dressings.


A few hours later, with the moon full and high in the cloudless inky-black sky, a nightwatchman slowly made his way down the corridor that led to room fifteen. It had been a quiet night and the lonely perambulations down dark, silent corridors were having a decidedly soporific effect on the man. Just as he reached the door to room fifteen a large an unstoppable yawn rose up from within him and erupted forth. The tired guard met the escaping harbinger of exhaustion with the back of his hand, his head tilting back and eyes closing tight as he walked. Three steps later and it was gone, the nightwatchman shook his head sleepily and walked on.

Those three steps had taken him past the door of room fifteen; a door that was ajar instead of tightly closed. Inside and quite unseen by the weary guard a hooded figure bent over the burnt patient and dripped a clear liquid into his lipless mouth…


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


Links to other tales:
1) Amarantis Belfire writes of the patient’s journey to Caledon here.

Far From Home: 3 – Shade

The city I dreamt of was large and sprawling.

Walkways stretched above me, bridges crossing the street I walked along. Waves washed ashore behind the buildings to my left, streets and walkways led to parks and fields behind the ones to my right. It occurred to me I had seen no one.

I called out. My voice seemed small and was quickly lost in the concrete that surrounded me. No one answered.
Far From Home 7

Shops stood open and empty. Doorways led to rooms that looked as if their owners had just left them. Here and there were signs of life, a steaming drink or a half-eaten pastry, but no one to claim them.
Far From Home 8

I called out. The concrete and stone swallowed the sound up. No one answered.

I turned and realised I no longer knew which way I had come. I tried not to panic, but fear rose inside me nonetheless. I began to run but the buildings that webbed about me held me fast. I could no longer hear my own footsteps and no matter which way I turned I was heading in the same direction.
Far From Home 9

And all the while, through the criss-crossing walkways and supports above me, the distant sky-scrapers kept a silent watch on my progress.
Far From Home 6

The city was large and sprawling but I saw no one.

{Hello Chosen Unit Antfarm}

The voice was everywhere, a metallic lilt that filled the air. Every wall and doorway, every window and billboard resonated with it. It filled my head and moved through me in a wave. I stopped dead and said “Hello?”.

{Welcome to Shade}

“What?” I asked, uncertain of the voice’s meaning. “What is shade? Who are you?”

{Welcome to Shade, Chosen Unit Antfarm. I am Shade}

“I don’t understand,” I said, “Where am I?”

There was pause and a barely perceptible click before the voice washed through me again.

{This is Shade and you are in grave danger, Chosen Unit Antfarm}


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


Far From Home: 2 – The City

I dreamt of a city.

I opened my eyes and the sun was bright. I was standing beneath trees in the foothills of a mountain whose peak seemed poised to pounce into the sea shimmering away at its base.
Far From Home 1

I looked down and followed the rolling fields through small woods and across a river and there it was, the city.
Far From Home 2

It was beautiful. Surround by water, it was angular, low and flowing. Shapes and shadows in the sun that stretched out away and folded over the landscape. Beyond its squat expanse a thousand thousand windows glinted in the sun from gleaming tower blocks that reared up into the shimmering sky. It was unlike anything I could remember. I had to go to it.

The journey was long and hot. For some reason my legs seemed weaker than they should and I grew tired and breathless long before I reached the river at the edge of the city. I bent to cool my face in the water and saw a reflection I didn’t recognise. I felt no alarm at this, merely a detached curiosity as I ran my fingers through my hair and found myself expecting to find something without knowing what.

The city called to me. I stood, my reflection forgotten and crossed a nearby bridge. The city’s concrete spans and walkways slowly enveloped me like the fronds of a web and I knew I could not go back. I had to find this city’s heart, a heart that was calling me, drawing me in, pulling me deeper and deeper…
Far From Home 3

Far From Home 4

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