The Second Truth

The short story that launched my novel Momentum. It is set in space and all the people are us, but they are not us, because life as we know it is a complete and total lie. Are we really here, typing away at our keyboards or are we just part of a giant simulation for an alien race?

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1. What is Real?

What if the life we were living was a complete and total lie? Everything, right down to the last tiny blade of grass, it was all fake and nothing you have ever said or felt or done meant anything. Are you ready to read this? Because if you want to keep living the lie, stop right now. Stop and go on to something else because you know what... someone says, ignorance is bliss.

     It all started for me on my fifteenth birthday. I went to bed, all excited about an upcoming party, and woke up hooked to some bad sci-fi looking metallic capsule with these weird creatures hovering over me. I couldn’t do anything but shiver nervously as their thin, silver forms slunk even closer. Long, bony arms reached out to me, brushing over my face and arms, working down my body and undoing straps until I was slumped on the cold, hard floor.

     My hands shook as I scanned my body; I looked like one of Them. I prayed desperately that this was a dream, just a sick, twisted dream and that I would wake up to a four-thirty birthday call from one of my relatives. The shaking was getting worse, and it wasn’t just fear. Soon I couldn’t sit upright, my head banged relentlessly against the cold metal until I couldn’t even find the strength to keep my eyes open.

     Instead of waking up in my nice, warm bed with the morning light spilling over my eyes, I woke to the pulsing pink light of a giant room. I wasn’t the only one. Hundreds of Them were on the soft and squishy floor. Some were waking up but most of them were sleeping still. I fought my way out from under the pile of bodies, escaping out a small tunnel that was a network of disjointed patterns. Everything was pink or silver and I couldn’t tell which way was up let alone where I was supposed to be going. It didn’t matter, I didn’t get far, as soon as I hit another chamber; I was ‘escorted’ back by more of Them. They chattered as they walked and it didn’t take long for me to realise that they were speaking, and that I could understand them.

     Everyone was awake now and a section of the wall had turned transparent and one of Them was projected up on it. This one looked more important somehow, it had golden markings that seemed to pulse in time with the walls. I couldn’t look away.

     “You have all been re-awakened in order to start the new cycle. You will not be aware of this life or the one you have just experienced. This experiment was a failure, but I am sure that we can learn new things from the next cycle. This one provided valuable insight for the further survival of our noble species. Your hard work and devotion will not be forgotten.” The voice was majestic and rang out with power, resonating against the almost-living walls of the humming room.

A great cheer went up from the crowd, and it filled my bones with a deep sense of dread. I felt sick, images were bombarding my eyes and memories of people, places and events flooded my poor senses.

     In minutes I knew everything, everything that I had forgotten over the fifteen years I had spent living another life. It was always like this at first, but it got worse each time. The more times I lived a ‘cycle’ the more memories there were to process and the harder it got to keep a hold of myself. When I lived over and over with new identities, new parents, new homes, new laws and views all clamouring for my attention and to be relived again and again. I had loved, lost, screamed in agony and danced in joy and I had done it again and again in so many different evolutions of the planet that had been called Earth in the last cycle. We had never been told what would happen to us. We had never been told that the memories would seize control of our bodies. That the emotions would try and take over, wiping away all sense of thought until we were overcome with the need to do something and could not control our actions. Every time I ‘woke up’ I wished that I could just go back. I wanted to be free to live in the cycle, away from the memories and the laws that governed our culture.

     We weren’t supposed to like the cycles, let alone the emotions. Emotions were a weakness and to be feared and hated, but I always wondered why. In every single cycle I experienced emotion and in every single cycle things happened, amazing things, beautiful things, wondrous things. Things that had never happened in my many centuries on this lonely ship. Not one of my memories of my ‘true’ existence had given me the overwhelming sense of utter peace and passion that I could find in the deep grasses of flowing meadows or when listening to music made my people who had felt. I could recognise those people now, cheering along with the rest. I wondered if they felt the same way. I wondered if they were haunted by their experiences and longed for more, longed to get back to that imaginary world and live again, or if they saw emotion as a weakness like they were supposed to, like they told us to.

     The Tai-ksan kept talking, it was the standard speech about how our dedication would bring about the breakthrough we needed in order to save our world from the choking chemicals that flooded the air and the heat that kept the water from liquefying. From the volcanoes that spewed more and more liquids onto the face of the planet and the growing threat of collision with one of its moons. I couldn’t remember the great forests and flowing rivers that he described dreamily. The luminescent moons and ‘glorious’ constellations meant nothing to me, all I could think of was the little blue planet and its single moon that could glow like white fire, almost as intense as the sun or with a blood-red film over it, casting an eerie glow over the whole world.

     Memories did come then, but not of a paradise that was choked by the products of a war greater than our capacity to fight, but of cities, great towering cities that were made up of dead rock and electricity. I remember looking to the sky, a cloth covering my mouth and nose, to see the hazy forms of three glowing forms, right before the bomb hit and I was sent flying. I remembered the escape and my first steps in this mighty beast. The deep, resonating sadness I had felt then came once more to grip my heart and make my eyelids grow heavy.

     It was as the last of my beloved cycles had ended, but this was no Earth. Before I could raise my voice, draw upon an inner strength that I had learned during the feminist outcries in several of my semi-cycles, the whole room went black and we were lead away. Back to our chambers to start the new cycle, and hope it would make a difference. That was all we could do, right?

     As the last needle slid into my body, I spared a thought for how many centuries I had been asleep, and for the people I once called family. How long had they been living their lives while I slumbered? Were they still alive? I slipped into darkness and my mind slid away.

 

The grass was waving gently in the breeze and birds were singing their screeching songs. The gentle rays of the sun settled lovingly on the forest, caressing my skin. The moment was perfected as warm arms slid around my waist, holding me to him.

     We gazed out on the camp and watched the children playing in the town centre, the elders telling them stories while hunters were busy at work in the bountiful depths of our mother forest, providing the means for our next meal, and another perfect day slowed to an end.

 

The End.

 

Or perhaps the beginning.

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