In the moments that followed, the land turned to ash and the sky to fire. I entered a world that was far different from my own, but it was far better. The lands I soon walked were green and plentiful. Everything within sight was radiating life. All that mattered in that moment, to me at least, was destroying it. To escape this false paradise.
The selected subjects, me and a few others, entered the virtual space. The containment pods that housed our still forms were airtight. A recycled oxygen filled our sleeping lungs. Our bodies kept alive by machines and intelligent computers. Yet, our minds were more active than they had ever been. I was the leader of the project.
While the true subjects enjoyed their play-world, I suffered with bitter knowledge. I knew it was all fake, I knew it would disappear. There was a fault in the machines that would end with our demise, sooner or later. The machines used every subjects mind to run the virtual space. Yet, even the mind had a breaking point.
The brain, although maintained, had a limit. The machine pushed the brains past their limits. The result was a machine that would soon overheat. What was important to me, was destroying this virtual world before our brains popped. I do not exaggerate, I have seen brains explode connected to the device. Yet, my superiors ignored such 'trivial problems'.
Instead, they threw me into the machine along with the rest of the subjects. These idiotic people believe they left an ice-box, to see a new world after the bombs dropped. Yet, I and I alone, knew better. There was no sleep, there was ice-box. There was only a large vat and wires connected to our wrinkly bodies. I wondered how long it would take for the first one to die.
After all, it would be a blink-
"Where's Harry?" I heard one of the group ask. It was Howard or Hunter. "He was standing next to me a moment ago. Did he wander off?"
"I didn't see him leave," Barbara murmured. "I-I...uh..where could he have gone?"
I looked at the panic in their eyes and tried to mimic it. There was only one way I was going to remain a nobody in this simulation. It was by pretending I knew nothing, that I could keep myself from this social distraction. It is this way I could find a way out of this digital hell.
"Hey, baldy, do you know anything about this?" Logan asked.
"Who? Me?" I replied. "I don't know anything, why would I?"
"I've seen you on the team for the place," Logan replied, pointing back at the bunker we were in. "You must know something about the process...what we should do."
I couldn't speak. My escape disappeared. All eyes were on me and I was a bad liar. Luckily, another blinked out of existence. Everyone saw it and the panic began. I joined them and ran. It seemed like a good idea, many others did the same. Yet, several subjects followed me.
As I ran, I began thinking of some device that could shut the simulation down. If I was fast, I could shut down the simulation, at least for me. My time was fast running out as well. If too many died the simulation would soon break until we all woke up. I couldn't take the chance that I would be one of the many that died on the spot.
"Hey you! Stop!" I heard one of the subjects shout.
I ignored him and imagined a switch behind a large stone ahead of me. I cut around the rock, but soon heard footsteps catch up with me. The subject was being pushed by his mental power. He believed he could catch up with me, so he was. I didn't focus on such a primal thought. I needed to reach the switch.
A hand breezed past me as he made to grab me. I yelled and that seemed to slow him down. These people didn't know anything. It was my opportunity to turn around the rock. There is was, the lever. I neared it, clutched the switch and wrenched it downwards. It was old school, but it did the trick.
The world blinked, I didn't.
Next thing I knew, I was in the vat. The wires attached to my skin held me in place, the electrodes measured my pulse and chemical levels. The wires were the first to go and they were the most painful. There was blood, I panicked, my heart was pounding. I felt the blood rush to my ears as I struggled to breathe.
With no wires holding me back, I swam to the surface. It felt like I was going to pass out, but my lungs inhaled fresh air soon enough. The vat of subjects hung limp on the wires. It was a strange sight from so high above them. My nerves shot and my fears starting to act up, I climbed out.
The lab was a mess, some pieces of roofing had fallen during the explosion. The bombs...the destruction. A bunker like this one made to withstand one, but not five. Yet, it did withstand it all. I was free and once strength had returned to me, I walked towards the entrance of the room.
The bunker housed many things to keep the average man going. Food, beds, water and so on. Yet, there was a stillness in the bunker. It was empty in the halls and as quiet as death. A few minutes later I saw why. I entered a boardroom to find a pile of skeletons and one more in a chair. A gun beside it.
I didn't have to be a detective to understand what I was seeing. Yet, what horrified me more were the skeletons. I checked the room, closed my eyes and tried to remember. Next, I ran through halls, taking specific turns. I found the bathroom and walked in, confronting the mirror.
When I approached it, I saw that I was no longer in my early twenties. The prodigy child of the company was not a child anymore. I was in my fifties, as I would soon discover from the computers. Every subject that disappeared, died of old age. The simulation gave them three days of freedom, while their bodies aged thirty years. I counted myself lucky at first, but then not so much.
There was nothing for me in this world of the dead.
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