The planet was dying, and the people just watched. Shielded from reality by a blinding screen, a pinkie finger securely tucked underneath for support, and a worn out charging cord connected to the wall. Oceans, blue, for the most part, were sullied by plastic islands with no owners. Noxious fumes turned lungs orange. Glaciers were a thing of the past, thought to be a myth like the dinosaurs.
Their eyes looked away from the stars and fixed themselves on the ones and zeros. Something had to give: They stopped speaking to each other in person because they were unable to disconnect from the internet. Books that inspired free thought were outlawed, and libraries demolished. Sex, once a soul-information-sharing act, became devoid of connection because of dwindling attention spans; dinner dates turned into video calls, social media profiles revealed the persona and not the personality, and “love” became a double-tap on a photo.
This perfect system of destruction and social disconnection worked without a hitch, and this system required a designer to put all the nodes and modules together. This designer had many minds, faces, names and identities, but was known to the world as a single entity – The Hermes Group. An initiative of an unknown oligarch who envisioned the Group to become a leading force in the running of the global circus. With deep pockets, the Research and Development Department released a plethora of products which engraved the Group’s greatness in the history books:
A pill enabling the user to function without sleep for weeks at a time, virtual reality contact lenses fitted with night vision, and an invisible exoskeleton. The world bowed at these amazing feats of ingenuity. With these leaps came an influx of resources, awards, and television interviews. Then came “The Stream”.
This idea was born in the midst of a brainstorming session triggered by hard narcotics. It was to be a great distraction to the masses. The oligarch recognized the declining state of life on Earth and decided to escape with his friends. With an ocean of cash and the world’s greatest minds, he put the plan in motion, pulling strings from behind a curtain like a puppetmaster.
That’s when I came into play. The Hermes Group, through a shadow organization, “Cyclops Inc.”, created an online competition to “Seek out the hidden gods amongst the population.” The finalists were selected through a series of exams testing a range of abilities: intelligence, agility, speed, and peripheral vision. Cyclops sent invitations to the two finalists for a finalists’ meeting, which were instantly accepted.
The two – male and female – gathered at Cyclops Headquarters and were welcomed by assistants. The assistants sat them down in a bright empty room and said: “You will never be the same again. Wait here.” There they were, seated on a white leather couch, waiting for who knows what. Suddenly, the lights dimmed and the wall in front of them projected red text.
“Congratulations. You are the winners of the Hidden Gods search. We developed this initiative to find the most extraordinary living among the human population. In order to become a part of the next phase of human evolution, we need you to mate. Conception is the goal. There will be consequences for non-compliance. You have 2 hours to decide.”
They looked at each other in shock, both knowing that there will not be any coerced conception happening that day. Even though sex was then an empty act, people still had the right to choose their sexual partners. “Is this another exam?”, they asked together. A clock appeared, counting down hours, minutes and seconds. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock until it reached zero. A purple gas entered the room through the ventilation system, knocking out the pair within a few moments.
Doctors came into the room and prepared the female for surgery; the male needed none, tugging was enough. They extracted the female’s eggs and started the artificial insemination. Success. The male was cloned and then killed to cover their tracks. The female brought the foetus to full term, all while under heavy sedatives. They cloned her before the forced conception so it was only a matter of pulling the trigger.
I was conceived and born in a lab. I was engineered.
Fed on a strict diet of the best food one could find, my body grew strong, and at an accelerated rate. That, coupled with my parent’s abilities would make me the most sought after soldier in the military industry. But I was kept a secret, nobody besides the Group knew about me. The world was growing in its awareness of the declining state of life on Earth; the distraction was needed soon. I was fourteen years old when The Stream first went online.
Here’s how it played out: The Group manufactured and sent out free virtual reality goggles to every sighted person on the planet free of charge. There was a notification that would be sent to every user an hour before the Stream went live, and so people stayed on edge all the time, anticipating the next chime from the speakers.
All I had known was the four walls around me.
The only human interaction I had was through videos on a screen, and I learned language through a computer programme.
A deafening hum would wake me up every day, followed by instructions. This time, the burning light from the screen brought me out of my slumber. A door next to the screen opened, and breeze of fresh air filled the room. I couldn’t see anything outside the doorway. What was I supposed to do? Leave? I’d been in there for as long as I could recall. I felt exposed.
Chiming sounds rung in the ears of billions around the world. “One hour left,” said everyone. I stood still for the entirety of the countdown. Then the clock hit zero…
Boom! Boom! Boom! The floor tiles gave way, one after the other, getting closer each time. A part of the floor was missing, then the wall on the opposite side started moving closer to me, pushing me to the hole. I tried my best to stay on my feet, but the wall kept moving. I fell but caught myself on a ledge, I couldn’t hold on much longer.
I fell off the ledge and screamed on my way down, landing on a net. The camera angle was set up in a way that it looked like I had died, I might as well have died. The Stream’s users were tricked and no one was the wiser. I wasn’t the only test subject, I figured. In the vast darkness, I saw and heard other people fall on nets. The light from their rooms showed me everything.
The net seemed to be endless, and there was no point in me carrying on. I wasn’t alone but I couldn’t get to the other test subjects.
Flashes of red took over my peripheral vision, and the high-pitched hum rattled my eardrums. I couldn’t take it anymore. The space between the ropes was wide enough for my head to fit through; I put it through, made a loop and forced my body through the adjacent space. Yank! I jumped through, never to breathe again.
loop after loop
fall after fall
play after play
it keeps on re-playing
Nobody feels your pain
Nobody cheers your gain
Again and again
The loop keeps playing
Sometimes you feel invisible
Sometimes you wonder if they are blind
For how could no one see you’re hurting
Even if you are literally bleeding in front of them
Maybe the fall will kill me
Maybe the fall will heal me
Heal my wounds inside
Which are way worse than my outer scars.
The Lander one have been working on this for a while now. We decided to put together some pieces tackling certain mental health themes and this is the first collaboration on this fine issue. Do visit out the talented young fellow on his blogsite: https://spacewalker314.wordpress.com/ and be sure to expect more collaborations in the not so distant future.
P.S. Expect a revealing conclusion to these recent collaborations next week.