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It was working up to be a blizzard, the warnings nothing but an invitation. Beautiful.
The snow, the extreme cold, the lack of air. He loved it all. As near to oblivion as it was possible to get and still feel alive. For here, trudging on ever higher, everything could fade into insignificance. That was his hope. Time after time.
Plenty of time.
Keep pushing on, he told himself. Take it beyond sensation to where there is no limit, no pain threshold. Just a numbness. The disappearance of the self into the swirling white mass.
Almost but never completely. Today, he assured himself, would be different. The fear had gone now. He hadn’t truly acknowledged the fear before, it stopped him making that final push. And they had known that.
Usually it only all becomes clear near the end, someone had once written, a name he couldn’t now remember. All those lessons learnt, all that wisdom accumulated … and so much forgotten. He’d hoped to figure it out before that point. After all, those wise words applied to a standard lifespan. His was anything but.
What had become clear: no longer was death the worse thing of all. Not the faint prospect of his or the certainty of others’. Being left alone was the natural consequence, knowing they all had to go in the end (if he hadn’t had to leave them first). And the ones that don’t die, they just age.
Keep moving on. He had no choice. To the next career, the next project. The next One.
Always another chance?
Until the decline, Toramin felt he had endless chances. No end of existence to look forward to, not by any natural process, only by some extreme act of self destruction. To think you had reached the end only to have it denied.
Life’s a marathon not a sprint – he’d maybe read on a t-shirt. Except that meant a sense of a destination. No matter it was too distant to see. Better, he thought, for the end to be beyond the horizon but to know it was there, somewhere.
He felt them still working. Those things inside him hadn’t entirely given up, performing diligent operations to restore him to proper working order. Saved from the ravages of old age. For something.
But that time had surely passed. The machines were failing him. Finally.
He pressed on.
The snow denser now, swirling, obscuring his vision. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t see, he knew the terrain already, knew it well. Kept moving higher, rarely getting beyond this point. The one time he had, it was … beautiful. Not a rational word it seemed now to describe the slipping away into oblivion. But that was entirely the point: all this rational, analytical – if subjective – thinking faded to pure experience. He could still just enumerate the process of his mind shutting down.
Higher. Above the cloud layer. An eerily silence. The sun dazzled and gave maybe only the illusion of warmth. Cold was setting into motion his defence nano-machines, mindlessly restoring his body to homeostasis, boosting blood-flow, repairing damaged flesh. Eventually they would require an external energy source to recharge. In this desolate environment it hardly seemed possible there’d be anything they could extract. But even here there were molecules rich enough in energy from which to siphon.
Yet he knew there would come a point when the cold, lack of nourishment, lack of oxygen would finally take him. Theoretically.
He could only hope that this time his benefactors would understand.
Hours passed, he ambled on. Stumbled but refused to rest, refused to let those things do their job, extract their energy. They were intelligent enough to know not to extract it from him while he was on reserves. And so, in abeyance, the damage accumulated.
He fell finally. Lay there. Felt it all fading. Thought, in his hazy mind, he’d be allowed to die. And hoped when he saw the white clad figure before him – like a man made from snow – that it was merely a hallucination. He even tried to dismiss those accent-less words. ‘Toramin. You thought we’d leave you here? Is that really what you want?’
‘Yes,’ he thought he managed to reply. But knew he would not get his wish. Not even after eight hundred and twenty-seven years.
‘More and more each day it feels like I don’t belong here, in this life. That there’s somewhere else, a reality – a real reality.’
‘How long have you been feeling like this?’ Her voice did seem familiar: gentle, reassuring.
‘I don’t know,’ Torbin replied after a few long seconds. ‘A week, maybe. Ever since the repetitions happened. It’s not just deja vu.’
‘When was the last time?’
‘About ten minutes ago, as I walked into your consulting room. I am sure I’ve been here before. And doctor. You may say we have never met before, but I feel I know you.’
She looked at him quizzically, but only for a second until her professional composure returned. ‘What you describe does have a medical explanation,’ she said.
‘Some professional term for the beginnings of insanity? I actually wish it was only that.’
‘Then, what do you think it is?’
‘I wish I knew. But it’s like there’s a … a veil between me and something bigger, and every time I try to pass through it it recedes away.’
‘Do you mean an invisible veil?’
‘Invisible, yes.’ Now he felt faintly ridiculous for using a less than adequate analogy. Yet none better came to mind.
‘Interesting.’ She nodded. ‘I’d suggest you keep a record of anything strange.’
Torbin walked through the lush grounds of the institute. His mind somehow captivated by what was before him. He noticed the flowers, pinks and mauves vibrant in unbroken sun, let their soothing scent wash over him. Gentle sound of birds the perfect accompanying soundtrack. And wondered: why? Why question any of his life when it seemed so good?
When had it all fallen into place? The research grant for his work into applied negative energy for wormholes; the marriage of eight years to someone who could still make the day a joy to live, along with a son and daughter. Torbin the family man, more than just about able to cope. Who would have ever imagined?
It wasn’t that things had always been so good – he’d had failed relationships, and the post of chief researcher was not simply handed to him on a plate, others had gotten the promotion that he felt he was due. But at forty-two he could hardly consider himself a failure.
When was it he started to have doubts?
For a long time he had taken his life for granted. Then he focused on others’ lives, and, wow, his was good. Did he deserve it all? Of course. He worked hard for it. And still he had doubts. He’d learned of a condition – a state of mind, really – known as Paradise Neurosis, where the subject believes everything they have to be tenuous, dependent on something fragile and impermanent. Yes, he’d become obsessed with it; studied the accounts.
It made him question: was contentment the natural state of the human? He suspected not. Real lasting happiness, in millennia past, was the reward for the few at the expense of the many. And for those many only ever transitory, an interlude from the vigilance of whatever next threat emerged on the horizon. That, he understood, was the perennial human condition. Moreover it was by design. Design without a designer. The vigilant survives.
He stopped. Eyes closed now. A dream had come back to him. A dream so familiar it could have repeated a thousand times. A house near the edge of a cliff. A garden, scent of bluebells. First it was the sound, before he looked and saw the ground crumble away. He ran back into the house, as if by some instinctive act. Maybe the foundations were stronger. But even they gave way with the collapsing walls. He could have escaped to safer ground so easily. But he had frozen with terror. The last moments of life before awakening. As always. The dream reality.
He opened his eyes. The birds tweeting. The flowers. It was … lovely.
It will all be fine, in the end. What is there to fear? Just keep it hidden.
Only he hadn’t, he’d told her enough to make her believe he was… What? In need of medical adjustment? Insane?
Life is going well for Torbin. A successful career, a happy marriage. Then something strange happens … and again. So he begins to wonder: has it all been a lie? There is someone who claims to have the answers, a man returned from the past – from the dead. Only it seems someone else wants the truth to remain hidden.
Life is going well for Torbin. A successful career, a happy marriage. Then something strange happens … and again. So he begins to wonder: has it all been a lie? There is someone who claims to have the answers, a man returned from the past – from the dead. Only it seems someone else wants the truth to remain hidden….
Thanks to everyone who bought a copy, and all those who’ve written a review.
Physicist Torbin Lyndau warns of a mysterious threat — the erasure. But dismissed as insane, no one has taken him seriously. Until now.
While the people of Earth continue to advance, exploring new worlds, something invisible approaches from the depths of space. Spreading throughout the galaxy faster than light, it is set to erase everyone’s existence.
Why would anyone want to eradicate all sentient life? And can the threat be countered?
I never worried about the number of languages dying out. After all, the OED surely contains every descriptive word. Well, no, it doesn’t have a word for one of those days when one unlucky thing happens after the next. Unluckaday? Not that I’m describing anything major like being in a freak accident, but the things that no one except the subject thinks even matters (though often starting from something so eminently avoidable but for a second or two of misjudgement). OK, so it’s tempting to look for a pattern where none exists.
In my novel The Hidden Realm I’ve explored the nature of luck, particularly if good fortune were handed to you: your numbers came up, you met that fantasy lover, or just the kind of positive happenstance that occurs beyond the norm. The question I wondered and continue to explore in The Captured: how real can it seem? Is there a point when it falls apart, and your mind rejects it. But can there be such a thing as taking the blue pill (Matrix reference) and just buying into a utopian lie. It may mean sacrificing an element of your mental process.
An experiment was conducted to show how chance is understood. A group of people tried to fake random coin flips against those who did it for real. The faked results almost without exception underestimated the long runs of heads or tails of the genuine, thinking randomness should give a more even spread. But really there is no such thing as true randomness with anything that can be studied. Even with the lottery if you were to observe with enough precision the way the balls in the machine moved about you’d know which ones would be selected, even theoretically from the first second. Or a roulette wheel … Well, you get the picture.
So is bad luck avoidable from the things you can observe? No. I found however careful I was there’d always be that occurrence that I never could have envisaged (the information is not available). And yet, I’ve noticed how procrastination leads to bad luck, perhaps over-thinking a decision. But then we never know if what initially seems unlucky ultimately turns out to have a positive consequence.
Finally, on the serious scale, there are the cases where people who’ve sensed/dreamt of a disaster before it happens. So maybe that’s evidence that we are in a simulated reality, where that out-of-sight information is available – when there’s a short circuit in the system or glitch in the program.
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