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Simulacrum Part X

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DinowCookie avatar DinowCookie
Event Host
Level 63 : High Grandmaster Dinosaur
Parts I - IX


There she was, floating. Her eyes wide open, seemingly staring into the distance. Amidst the chaos of blinking red lights and the wailing sound of the alarm, Andres was running around to collect as much data as he possibly could during this second occurrence of what they had named the 'lucid-dream' anomaly. Despite Andres calling for assistance, all Steven could bring himself to do was stand over the pod that his daughter has been in for the past several years, and stare into her deep brown eyes, wondering if this project was for better or for worse.

The whole endeavor started as a hopeful attempt by Steven to allow his daughter a happy life after the accident. Since then, the project has been more successful than he ever dared dream. After hiring his former co-student Andres, the scientist duo made major progress on a neuro-network and the development of avatars: clone-robot hybrids that are suitable to host human consciousness. During the last four years, these prototype avatars have been suitable for testing with Nadia's consciousness outside of the lab. The biggest challenge for the two scientists during testing was to make sure that Nadia's memories would not conflict and that her consciousness would remain stable despite all of the testing and the progression of time. Part of that process was, that each iteration of avatar prototypes had to be deployed in a different location to prevent the public from finding out about the project. Meaning a new home in a new place every single time. Some prototypes could be deployed longer than others. As of last year, Steven hired a Russian neuropsychologist, Ms. Stephanov, to look after Nadia while in her avatar, allowing Steven to work in the laboratory more intensively.

Ultimately the goal of the project is to provide a stable means for people to live happily past irreparable damage to their bodies. At the most recent point in research, the men were trying to develop avatars that might age like humans do so that switching between new ones would not be needed anymore. Until then, new avatars have to be designed to look a bit older with the passing of time. But the development of these aging avatars came to a hold when Nadia's brainwaves started showing anomalies more frequently during the avatar's simulation of sleep. Steven and Andres haven't yet been able to find an explanation for these anomalies.

However, the most recent 'lucid-dream' anomaly might give them a clue as to what is causing all of the brainwave anomalies. Since the accident, Nadia had never opened her eyes, nor shown this much brain activity, until this anomaly occurred.

There she was, floating. Her eyes wide open, seemingly staring into the distance. Not only did Nadia suddenly recall what happened that fateful day, it felt as though she was a spectator right there at that very moment:

Nadia sees a nostalgic scene of her young self in the front yard of her family's old house. She is playfully following cat Whiskers around, while dad is mowing the lawn and mom is inside preparing for lunch. She witnesses her young self carelessly walking onto the street after Whiskers who just crossed to the neighbor's yard. Then, the sudden sound of tires squealing on the concrete road instantly turns this idyllic afternoon into a tragedy. Young Nadia panics and collapses to the ground. Squatting and covering her head with her hands, she screams for her father.

Just before the inevitable would happen right in front of her eyes, Nadia fell right back into the setting of her worst nightmare. Amidst a surreal, glooming landscape she stood face-to-face with the shadow that is herself. Before her the mountains, behind her a deep, daunting pit to what must be hell. Rushing past her are shadows carrying her likeness, right toward the pit. Unlike before, the dream now had a kind of numb serenity to it. The only sound Nadia could hear were the footsteps of her shadow-self walking toward her. This shadow-self of Nadia gently touched Nadia's forehead and whispered: "It's time for me to go." After which she calmly walked right toward the pit, together with all the other shadows.

Nadia felt more in control than ever in this barren landscape. She walked forward, toward the mountains. She knew she could make it, for she had been there once before. This time no shadow could catch up with her, they didn't even try. What seemed an infinite loop of torture had finally been broken and Nadia was able to begin climbing the mountains. Progressing further she started hearing beeping sounds...

Suddenly she found herself in the next nightmare. Trapped in a water tank yet again. The beeping sounds all around were there, just like the previous time she had this dream. But now, she saw her father standing over the tank, looking her right in the eyes. Nadia felt paralyzed, held in place by an invisible force. She felt able to breathe but also felt like she was drowning. A sudden rush of adrenaline broke Nadia free from her paralysis, and she found the strength to pound on the glass of her water-filled prison.

"Andres! Open the pod, right now!"

Summary of what happened before. (Only for clarification!)
Note: this is my summary and my interpretation of the events in the previous chapters, which helped me get the timeline in order before writing the final chapter. The summary may not convey exactly what the other writers intended to tell in their chapters. I recommend reading the original chapters before reading my final chapter. This summary is shared here in the hopes it clarifies my chapter, in case I interpreted events differently than you (the reader).

I An Intelligent Moron: It’s a Monday morning. Nadia has a surreal nightmare of being caught in a stream of shadows running into a bottomless pit. Then she wakes up to her mother, Ms. Stephanov, instructing her to hurry up because they are going to the airport. Nadia has no clue why or where they’re going and follows her mom through the airport all confused. She asks her mother about her dad and about some weapons policy but her mother’s replies don't seem to make sense to her.

II Kwanatla: Aboard the airplane, Nadia still has no clue what is going on, but she refrains from asking any more questions to her mother who seems overcome with sickness from fear of flying. After a while, Nadia dozes off to sleep and has another nightmare of a surreal gloomy landscape in which she yet again gets dragged into a bottomless pit to hell by wind and shadows dragging her along. The landing of the plane awakes her: they land at a bigger airport in hot weather. Nadia sees hills overgrown with trees, and though the scenery looks welcoming, she feels it isn’t right. Mother won’t say anything about where they’re going except that Nadia will see it when they get there. They take a taxi to the outskirts of a town with tall old houses painted in warm colors. After about 10 minutes (which to Nadia feel like forever) they arrive at a house where Ms. Stephanov announces that they’ll be staying there for the next few days.

III Lemilas:
They arrive at a two-bedroom house. Nadia stays in a bedroom upstairs with a window overlooking the street. Looking out that window she notices a man sitting on a bench reading the newspaper and looking up at the houses. He seems to be taking notes. Later Nadia and her mom eat a meal but Nadia still gets no answers about the whole situation. After the meal, she goes back to her room, reads a little and then falls asleep after some time. She wakes up in the morning without having had a nightmare. After breakfast, she looks out her window again and she sees the same newspaper-man on the bench taking notes. She feels the man may be watching her and her mother. Nadia's mother calls for her to go get the mail that just got delivered. A few envelopes came including a letter for Nadia. A letter from her dad in which he apologizes for her confusion due to “complications” but that he hopes to see her soon.

IV lyliaa:
Standing outdoors, Nadia decisively rips her dad’s letter to shreds while adjusting her vision to an overwhelming brightness of the sun reflecting on the street. She looks inside the house and sees Ms. Stephanov moving around. Nadia contemplates why they would be in Arizona. Feeling lost, she starts walking away from the house aimlessly to finally drop down into the park’s grass. Laying down, Nadia thinks back to when her dad first started dating Ms. Stephanov after him being a single dad for years. She thinks about how these days, they frequently move to new homes, sometimes stay for longer times only to move again, without any explanation. Missing her dad, she starts daydreaming about the fun times they used to have. Then the newspaper-man interrupts the daydreaming by calling Nadia’s full name, after which Nadia instantly hooks him to the ground with her foot. Trying to keep him down with her weight she demands him to reveal who he is. The man introduces himself as Andres, the co-worker of Nadia’s father.

V ArcaneKnight:
Andres asks how Nadia is doing and she replies she’s still adjusting to the new place. Andres explains that he has come to take her to her father’s laboratory. He says that her father is proud of her “program” and that he wants to invite her to work at the lab after she graduates from school. Her father would explain more when they’d arrive there. Nadia agreed to come. In the car on the way there, she falls asleep and has another nightmare. This one different: she’s in a bath which transforms into a water tank that’s filling up, making Nadia feel like she’s drowning. Throughout the dream, she hears beeping noises around. She wakes up right before arriving at the lab. Once there, Andres escorts her inside. Nadia’s father, Steven, arrives at the lab shortly after.

First, there’s a private conversation between the two men about Nadia’s program which she is still unaware of and about an underdeveloped neuro-net interface that has glitches. Then Nadia and her father are reunited. He asks her about her trip and then he asks if she noticed anything strange. Nadia mentions missing a weapons policy at the airport and that she doesn’t remember why he, her dad, wasn’t traveling with them. Her father comforts her by saying it will all become clear soon.

Steven realizes that the neuro-net has memory problems over long distances. Then he speaks out a command which shuts down what turns out to be Nadia’s avatar. He walks over to a pod where his daughter’s damaged real body is kept and proudly considers his achievements but also the cost at which those came.

VI Bleyd:
Nadia is back in the surreal dream world: an immense mountain, dead trees, and shadows rushing past her. She collapses to the ground, screaming for her dad to come and make it stop. There’s a glimpse back to a memory of herself in that same pose bracing for impact. Then, with sudden resolve, she stands up, turns around and screams to the shadow in front of her: “What are you?”. The shadow looks and sounds Nadia herself and it asks the same question.

There’s chaos in the laboratory. Red lights everywhere and alarms ringing. An error: the neural net malfunctioned and now even though the connection between Nadia’s pod and her avatar was disengaged, the avatar itself is somehow still linked to Nadia herself. She is stable and there are no mechanical failures but there’s something going on with her brainwaves: similar to lucid dreaming. Steven looked at Nadia in her pod and saw that for the first time in a long time, her eyes were open.

VII morningblues:
Back in the dream world, Nadia and herself examine each other after which one of her turns around and starts walking toward the mountains in these foreign yet familiar surroundings. The other Nadia follows and then shadows start rushing past her again. It becomes clear that the shadows were Nadia and Nadia were the shadows all that time. The mountains feel like her way out but no steps can bring her closer. Except for one of her, the real her, who suddenly manages to come closer with each step. For a while. But then she gets stuck again and the shadows catch up. Each time again, looping. Nadia realizes that she needs to reach those mountains to break free, to wake up.

In the lab, Steven and Andres discuss the situation. Andres speculates that all of the tests may have put too much strain on Nadia causing the anomalies. Steven doesn’t see how that would be possible: they did nothing differently. They both try to find an explanation for the sudden spike in brain activity. They don’t know that Nadia is trying to break free.

VIII -Rae- In the dream world, Nadia has a conversation with the ghost that looks like her, her clone. They are trying to figure out who they are. They discuss their feelings. Nadia tells her clone-self about how she sometimes feels abandoned when her dad is not home, or when she has to move to a new place. Then Nadia asks her clone-self for help to reach the mountain which she thinks is her way out. All of a sudden, they are teleported toward the mountain. Not just the two of them but all of the clones. It comes clear that Nadia is the only of them who is human. After blinking her eyes, Nadia's clones seem gone. Now there are only shadows around her in all directions. Confused but relieved, Nadia realizes she should now be able to get out of the nightmare.

IX Chiaroscuro:
The brainwaves stop and the men are relieved. But Steven crashes down in a corner, desperate and losing hope of saving his daughter. Andres tries to talk some hope back into Steven, reminding him of the dream to make this work, and mentioning that these brainwaves spikes may point to a breakthrough. After what almost seemed to escalate to a heated argument about the ethics of the situation, Steven picks himself up and gets back to work.

Nadia finds herself waking up in the Arizona sun, on the sidewalk near the park. She vaguely remembers some events but is unsure of what they were. At loss but undeterred, she returns to the house to get the mail as her mom instructed. She finds some advertisements and enveloped letters which she brings to her mother. Nadia asks if there is any mail for her but her mother tells her no. Nadia questions why they are collecting mail at a house that isn’t theirs. She asks her mother and tells her about the experience of waking up on the sidewalk. Nadia's words first worry Ms. Stephanov greatly but after feeling Nadia’s forehead temperature she blames her daughter's confusion on the Arizona heat and she instructs her to drink enough water and lay down for a bit. Then she leaves her daughter alone.

Nadia panics. The touch of her mother brought a terrible sensation. In an attempt to understand what is going on Nadia tries to feel something by grabbing her limbs but she feels absolutely nothing at all. Consequently, she drops down, her mind experiencing everything and nothing at the same time until everything turns black.

The next moment Nadia opens her eyes in the laboratory.

Nadia Rivers is the protagonist. A young teenage girl.
Steven Rivers is Nadia's father, he works as a scientist.
Ms. Stephanov
is Nadia's "step-mother and former teacher. She and Steven "met through Nadia's school."

Andres is the "newspaper-man" and the co-worker of Steven.

Author's notes
Word count: 856

With this final chapter, I tried to answer most of the questions raised in the previous chapters. Hopefully, all the other authors will feel this does their story justice. Thanks for the opportunity to finish off this wonderful collective project!
CreditAuthors of parts I - IX

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03/21/2020 10:00 pm
Level 31 : Artisan Blockhead
-Rae- avatar
Aahhh that was so good! You really did well tying up all the loose ends and there were a whole lot of ends to tie lol. I liked the way you ended it :D
03/21/2020 10:04 pm
Level 63 : High Grandmaster Dinosaur
DinowCookie avatar
I'm glad you appreciate my conclusion. 😁 There were indeed a lot of ends to tie, which is why I wrote a summary before I started writing the final chapter. I tried to answer as many questions as possible. 😁
03/16/2020 4:16 pm
Level 55 : Grandmaster Procrastinator
morningblues avatar
I feel so privileged to have been part of this amazing project and this ending certainly did it justice! Great job :)
03/21/2020 10:03 pm
Level 63 : High Grandmaster Dinosaur
DinowCookie avatar
Thank you 😊 it was a wonderful project indeed and I am proud of everybody who made it such a success!
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