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Simulacrum Part IX

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Chiaroscuro avatar Chiaroscuro
Level 58 : Grandmaster Ladybug
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After a long hiatus, the Simulacrum series is back and nearly complete. Please join me for the second to last installment of what has been a long and fruitful journey. You can find the thread here and the official collection here. Enjoy.

Suddenly, it all stopped.

The brain waves returned to their normal, rhythmic pattern and both Andre and Steven breathed a sigh of relief. In all of their troubleshooting and simulations, they could have never anticipated a problem of such magnitude.

“Everything seems normal?” Andre ventured nervously, occasionally glancing back at those hauntingly bright eyes that were now mercifully closed.

Hearing no answer but a soft crash, he rushed over to Steven’s side. His tall but slight frame had crumpled into a heap in the corner, giving him the appearance of a balled sheet of paper with in his over-large lab coat.

“I know it’s hard for you, Steven. But you have, we have, dedicated our lives to the pursuit of this and there’s no turning back now.”

“What’s the use anyway?” Steven asked desperately in between growing sobs. “She’s gone. No amount of poking or prodding or…whatever we’re doing…can undo that.”

“That’s not true.”

“It is, Andre. That wasn’t normal, what just happened back there. We’re creating a monster. You have to face it.”

“Why the change of heart all of a sudden? You were the one who came to me with the vision and the plan to make things work. You came to me when I was lost and without purpose, and you introduced me to this dream that you said would change the world. Have you given up on your dream?”

“It’s not just about…”

“I know it’s not just about the dream, Steven. But you knew coming into this that it wouldn’t be easy. Remember what you told me when we started? ‘It won’t be easy but just imagine all the smiles on people’s faces and you’ll find the drive in to keep going.’ Where’s that drive gone?”

“Andre, this is human lives we’re talking about. You can’t just toss those around like test tubes.”

Andre shook his head, a slight smirk forming on his face. “You really have lost sight of your dream.”

“I don’t want to hear that from you of all people,” Steven snapped back, “you who I picked up out of the gutter, you who’d lost your way and almost lost your degree with it. If I hadn’t been there, you would never have gotten this far.”

“I appreciate your help greatly. That’s why I’m trying to repay the favor back to you. I know that you have it within you to continue your work, it’s just a small setback. This, whatever that was, could have been a breakthrough. We can continue running more diagnostics if you feel that this is the correct thing to do. But I suggest that we try that again and see what happens.”

Steven let out a long sigh, seemingly deflating. Yet, after a long pause, slowly yet surely, he picked himself up off the ground, dusted himself off, and straightened his lab coat. In spite of his tear-streaked cheeks, the proud set had once again returned to his jaw. He quickly cleaned his glasses on his shirt, as he was wont to do, and set them back on his face with a sort of determination that Andre had not seen in the man for a long time. Perhaps this would be easier on him if it weren’t his own daughter he were worrying about, the man thought to himself.

With a grace belying his recent meltdown, Steven returned to his workstation and began scrolling through the contraption’s setup files, beckoning for Andre to join him.

---

Seemingly out of nowhere, Nadia found herself sprawled out on the sidewalk near the park with only a vague recollection of some events that had transpired. As to what those events were…well, she was at a loss. Undeterred, or perhaps simply unaware, she picked herself up off the ground. She went to dust off her clothes but found that even though she had felt the mild soreness indicative of having fallen, there was no dirt or any marks on her clothes.

She stood in place for a few seconds before coming to her senses. Get the mail, she thought to herself as she shook her head. The hot, unrelenting Arizona sun beat down on her as she crossed the street back toward the house, pausing in front of the mailbox to glance inside. Just a few advertisements and assorted enveloped letters, no doubt bills or offers to open new credit card accounts.

Nadia wordlessly reentered the house and set down the stack of mail in front of her mother. She shuffled through the stack quickly, then nodded to herself and dumped them in the recycling bin.

“Thanks, Nadia. Hey, why don’t you get out of your room for a bit and explore the world outside? Maybe we can find a nice restaurant that we can eat at tonight,” her mother said.

Nadia’s brow furrowed. “Is…is there mail for me?” she asked, unsure.

Her mother paused. “No, are you expecting something?”

Nadia shook her head. “I…I don’t know, I just had a feeling.”

Truth be told, she didn’t know why the question came out of her mouth. There was a nagging at the back of her mind, as if the world were trying to tell her something, but she just couldn’t hear it. However, the more she thought about it, the less sense it made. Why were they collecting the mail here? This wasn’t their house. Hell, this was the first time that they had even been there. Combined with the fact that she didn’t even know why they were there in the first place, something seemed so off to Nadia.

Yet, she could never quite place her finger on it.

“Do you need something?” her mother’s voice brought her out of her thoughts.

“N…yes, actually,” Nadia replied, trying to prevent her mother from leaving. “I have a question.” Her mother looked at her expectantly.

“What are we actually doing here? Like, I know it’s a weird question, but…”

Her mother chuckled. “What do you mean?”

“Something weird happened to me, I woke up outside on the sidewalk and I can’t remember anything, but everything here just seems off,” Nadia stammered.

Concern clouded her mother’s face. “Are you alright? Do you need me to take you to the hospital?”

Nadia quickly threw her hands up in protest. “No no no, it’s alright!” she protested altogether too quickly. “I don’t know what came over me,” she quickly deflected.

But her mother persisted, reaching a hand over to feel Nadia’s forehead. Nadia let out a yelp as the ice-cold hand seared a hole in her flesh, branding her with the proverbial crest of illness. She quickly moved a hand up, trying to assess the damage while simultaneously writhing away from the source of pain.

Unfazed, her mother drew back. “It’s okay, did I scare you? Nothing seems to be wrong, which is a good thing.” She turned to walk back toward the living room. “Maybe it’s just the heat, why don’t you have a lie down and make sure to drink plenty of water.” She disappeared into the bowels of the house, leaving Nadia alone and grasping for an explanation.

She’d felt it, for sure. How did it only seem to affect her?

Quickly, she grabbed her own arms by their biceps. Nothing. Then, shoulders, neck, forehead, thighs, back to the arms. Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, and nothing. No searing heat, no freezing cold, nothing. Not even feeling.

Suddenly, Nadia felt her knees buckling underneath her. She tried to catch herself as she fell, but her limbs were stuck fast, trapped in an invisible quicksand, pulling her down. Her breathing became laborious and shallow, and despite straining her hardest, she was locked in place, mouth partially open in a scream of desperation. Her eyelids fell, and her world turned to darkness. An eternity passed all in an instant, a never-ending non-dream state where it felt at once that Nadia was aware of all the fantastical things happening around her, yet that her thoughts and dreams were nothing. Shapes, figures, lined the pathways in her mind, infinitely long yet infinitesimally short, just one step but the longest step she’d ever taken, black figures watching her against the black background trudging along the black road, everything at once all black.

And just like that, Nadia’s eyes flitted open again. But not in the house.

Word count: 1387 words

The final writer in this series is DinowCookie. I'm excited to see what she brings to the table and how this story closes out!
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2
02/01/2020 12:37 pm
Level 31 : Artisan Blockhead
-Rae-
-Rae- avatar
Ooh, that was really good! :D
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