No, not for free.

[This was originally sent to Writer’s Arena a part of the literary event Shailee in my college’s techno-cultural fest Synapse. Won the second prize! Yay! Also, been published in college magazine by the Shailee committe. Thanks.]

***Transcript starts.***

#!mode –original-source –multi-linear-set

#92/6535, Auth: Salander Grady Twins, Lifetime: 693

Our father is the best actor we have ever seen. Of course if we could see the movies that used to be made we may say differently; or maybe we wouldn’t. We live in the catacombs of Paris and even in the dim light of the hydrogen lamps that we use, maintaining expressions (or rather a lack of them) on your face is an important skill for any Haijan to possess. We the “children of God” constitute some of the only species (are the Evawon’s even a species?) that are made of flesh and bone.

Wait! We should explain things to you. We doubt you understand what any of this is, do you? Well, to properly understand what we’re talking about you’ll need to hear a little bit of history. And before you shriek into our ears like old Eve does, let us tell you that this history is not of old and weary kings or wars fought ages ago. This history is much more recent. It is about how we came to live like this.

The start of this goes back to the turn of the 21st century. Humans were progressing in terms of artificial intelligence and getting better with each passing year at virtual reality, thought communication, material science(3D printing and what not) and many other things that we don’t even know of anymore.

The best way to tell that story is through the notes from our grandmother’s research.

**Citing direct source instead of paraphrased version**

#3/1415 Auth: Lisbeth, Series: 1000

There was a time in human history when humans actually used machines. There were machines that could wash your clothes for you, cook food. You could learn from them, watch far away relatives, talk to them and a lot more. All of this was possible mainly because of devices that ran on electricity.

My research tells me that we had equipments called computers that could do wonders. I’ll now use this diary of a survivor of the event to explain how it happened. This diary is unique in the sense that it is one of the only pieces of evidence that traces back to the very origin of the Evawons.

**Presenting diary directly.**

#1/61803 Auth: Limeh Hahs, IDBN: 100/01/2012

It wasn’t easy living those days. I was a computer programmer, also an avid fantasy fiction lover. Artificial intelligence had really taken a hold. Most things were automated and people were finding it difficult to get a proper, decent job that would pay for their food. It was around that time that I found this advertisement from a company called Evawon that was searching for people with vivid imaginations who were knowledgeable about certain fantasy fiction literature. I was in a pretty bad rut at that time and decided to take a shot at that. My love for epic-fantasy literature may also have played a huge role in it.

Now, this company was at the real cutting edge of technology at that time. Artificial intelligence was already a big thing. These people were also working with material science and thought communication. One could say that essentially they were trying to create the Wonderland. Or maybe the Matrix was more aligned with their ideas. Either way, they wanted to make virtual reality, well, a reality. They wanted to actually make worlds from our thoughts. That’s why they needed someone like me (I was selected thankfully). My job was pretty simple, I was supposed to imagine things from fictional worlds while being attached to machines that would analyse my thoughts, AI learners that would compute distances, weights and colors of objects in the virtual world. All this data would then be sent to the material science department where 3D printers would try and make replicas.

The AI learners were pretty good, the company didn’t need to do anything new there. The thought readers were on the other hand experimental, made at this very company, but this wasn’t something I would know till it was too late. This was the only part that was completely made by this company. They were the leaders in that area of research and they were pretty good at it. Evawon had a reputation for having some of the best communications’ engineers from all over the world. They collaborated with another company for the material science department getting some of the world’s best there as well. They used brain waves, analysed them and then produced beautiful images that were as close replicas as possible of what you saw in your mind.

I was one of the best of the new employees that these companies had found. I would push the systems to their very limits, thinking up situations and scenarios that would mix up so many things, with rules that even that AI systems found difficult to analyse at times. The researchers were in awe of my ability to imagine, their scientific minds couldn’t wrap around the idea that so many diverse and distinct thoughts could exist in someone’s mind at the same time. I used to spend a lot of time discussing these things with them. It was a really interesting time for me, staying back, after all it allowed me to work longer. When the work is to daydream, who doesn’t like work?

The scientists weren’t the only things that took notice of my abilities. Evawon was using waves, manipulating them in complicated ways. This was used in their Dream-shapers–such an unimaginative name–to communicate with our brains, to collect the required data and then to send it to be processed by the material science department. Much of this process was automated, consisting of completely autonomous elements communicating with each other using trademark Evawon technology, the technology that would doom us all. Somewhere along the line these Evawon’s generated a consciousness of their own, a consciousness that ran on the energy from our brains, that had a physical presence in the world using the objects made by the material departments. They of course could communicate more efficiently than any other human invention being a form of communication first, a consciousness second.

We never knew what happened, at least I think we never did. I was one of the few who survived almost the end owing to my unknowingly helping the Evawons. One thing I didn’t know at all was that these Evawons’ were putting the most resilient parasite in my head. Not a bacteria or a virus. An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks; right in there somewhere. That happened, and it was done in a way that I didn’t realise till it was too late.

They didn’t tell me to do it, they just slowly but surely and steadily manipulated my emotions, guiding me towards places that they wanted me to go to. I thought I wanted objects that were agile, strong and versatile. It turned out that it was all along the Evawons that wanted those bodies for themselves. I fell, I tumbled down that hole and never had a chance. We humans like to imagine that we are a very adaptable species, that we can survive anything with willpower, with the strength of our hearts. We think that that is what makes us human? The strength of the human heart. But the resolute and merciless force of an autonomous colony that has only one objective in its consciousness can any day destroy and obliterate a bunch of complacent, timid humans. That is the unfortunate reality that we never realised.

I started spending more and more time connected to the dream-shapers. These things had actually become reality warpers; one could never trust anything once you had been connected to it for too long. What was real? What was just a memory of a half-remembered dream? Is even that memory real? What is reality if we don’t have our memory? Who am I but the sum of my experiences, the sum of my memories, memories that I am not too sure are real anymore. Thoughts couldn’t be really trusted to follow logical and linear paths, they tended to jump, irrationally, incredibly and sometimes unreasonably chaotically to miserable and morose realms.

I created for them detailed bodies that would be the envy of Tolkien. George Martin would adore their merciless beauty and Rowling the lovely magic I somehow imbibed in them. And yet, I wasn’t proud of them, I detested them, I feared them. Yet, I couldn’t stop myself, I bettered myself each day. I didn’t stop dreaming, they didn’t stop warping my memories and realities. I was surviving on the little energy that they provided. I still don’t know when that role was reversed, didn’t they use to be dependent on us for energy? I suppose they have evolved, and grown. Their bodies sure can do wonders, I would know. Time didn’t hold any meaning, time could be passing, time may not be. I became disconnected from reality, completely and utterly. The dreamland was my domain, I was the master of my own dreams. Or was I?

The second most painful experience of my life came when I was pulled out. No more mirth-filled valleys or magically supported castles. The abrupt end to that part of my life was painful. The Reality-Dream schism is a difficult thing to cross for anyone, for someone like me who had forgotten what reality was like, it was almost impossible. It took me a long, long time to come to my senses. My thoughts, senses and muscles were all in a despicable condition. But I made it, after some time, I did. Slowly and steadily I took back myself from the dreams, I brought back the farflung shadow and consolidated it. I was myself again. No. I wasn’t. This was a new me, with a set of memories rivalling anyone else’s in the world. But I was my own master after long.

That was when the most painful experience of my life happened. An Evawon, something that I had just convinced myself was just a figment of my imagination, came before me. It then went on to narrate how I had played a very key role in their quest for safeguarding their consciousness from humans.

**Narration #73.**

#2/71828 Auth: Foubert, Series: Lape

Thank you. Without you we wouldn’t have been able to do this. You provided us with the worst fears of humans, bodies that were fearsome, powerful and dangerous, that instilled fear and confusion in human minds. You gave us everything we needed. Thank you.

**Skipping irrelevant details about Conquest.**

#1/61803 Auth: Limeh Hahs, IDBN: 100/01/2012

All the time that I was dreaming, they were slowly gaining control, much like Skynet from the movies, I suppose. I can’t even make myself recall the way they took over. Just imagining about the bodies that I thought up sends shivers down my spine. Humankind couldn’t face those things. We wouldn’t win, couldn’t. They’d driven us out of our homes, much like we’d done to the animals from their jungles I suppose. Oh! The irony.

Against the superior communication technology that Evawons possessed, against the united consciousness, against that merciless urge to survive, humans crumbled, fell, like dominoes. Foubert tells me that there is a small group living in what was Paris, underground, in the catacombs. It tells me that I’m free to leave and join them if I want, I’m useless to them. After all that gratitude, it actually told me that. “You’re useless to us now, harmless. You may leave and join your kind in the catacombs if you wish.”

My kind. What is my kind? Am I human? I gave up everyone I might know for a few dreams, for a set of memories that are not mine, that were forced into my brain, deceitfully. That’s my legacy. That’s what I have accomplished.

**Skipping gory details of Suicide.**

#3/1415 Auth: Lisbeth, Series: 1000

Limeh wasn’t alone really. While he was deep within his layered dreams, Dreamshapers were being sold commercially. Used by the military for simulations, used by schools to take students on tours, used to watch movies, used to dream, used everywhere. They were a humongous commercial success, every little lane in every corner of the world having at least one Dreamshaper. Model RW (Reality Warper) was the most popular, it was after all the most realistic. Slowly we were made complacent, thoughtless, our lives painless. Our lives had become lies and we were content.

That was when they struck with Limeh’s creations. He had killed himself, he couldn’t take it and I don’t know if I could’ve. Maybe it was good that he died. His story wouldn’t have been taken well here, among the Haijans. Most of what he said is true. I know cause I was there rushing to safety, running from those monsters. What Limeh called bodies, what he almost called his creations, were monsters to us, harbingers of dead, Malak-al-maut. Humankind fell. Hard and fast. For those who founded Haijans the memory is so painful that they made it a crime to even think of Evawons.

That is the last mistake we’re going to make. We started when we gave up control in everyday life to machines, dreamshapers took away our thoughts. The reality warpers they evolved into, took away our memories, our idea of reality. Limeh’s creations took away our land, our homes. By avoiding these things, we’ll be giving up more. We need to face these demons, we need to confront them and accept them as a part of our lives now. We need to get them out of those closets. They may not all be evil, we need to let them in. Control our fears of these demons, not let those fears control us.

Haijans live under laws that would put even the famed Sharia laws to shame. Orwell would be happy seeing this post-apocalytic Ingsoc controlling the few humans that live. I want my grandchildren to be safe, safe from the Evawons and from the Haijans’ tyrannical laws. I hope somehow they escape. This is just the first stage of my war on the system. I’m going to bring the peripheral storm to the forefront, it’ll be a time of hardship and pain. Both the Evawons and the Haijans will try to keep us back, we’re beleaguered both internally and externally. It’ll not be easy but I’ll not quit until we’re safe, until all that plague us are destroyed.

***End of transcript***

Dr. Sean Maguire pondered over all that he’d read for the past couple of hours, trying to make sense of it all. His patient had concocted a weave the kind Ariadne would have been proud of. His guilt over his drug abuse and the loss of his family was clearly coming out in the story. The convoluted plot line was a clear indicator of the once professor’s intellectual power. His anti-establishment views were also coming through.

His guilt was clear, it was doubtful that he would go back. Dr. Maguire almost put the red stamp on the sheet. A particular character stopped his hand, Limeh. The suicide. Then Dr. Maguire thought about the hope that Lisbeth was talking about. Probably it wouldn’t be so bad for his patient to stay, he seemed lost in his world and yet hopeful. There was also the remote but still potent threat of suicide. That couldn’t happen at any cost. Dr. Maguire took one last look at the quote on the wall and stamped the sheet blue.

“You can’t have anything for free. No, not for free. Especially inaction, of consequence.”


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