Random Freestyle Writing
Debate Rounds (5)
"Is that another list of casualties, father?" I ask my father, Alby. The kingdom ruled by my family"the O"Shea family"and the one ruled by the McNeil family have been at war for nearly two years.
Alby looks up at my, electric-blue eyes filled with consternation, and shakes his head. "No, my dear, it is not a list of casualties. I fear it is a threat on our kingdom." He hands the page to me. Reading the nearly-illegible scrawl on the page, my china-blue eyes widen in shock.
King Alby O"Shea,
It has come to my attention that your army is dwindling. Your defenses are weakening; I guess you have no more than a fortnight before they crumble, but they"ll probably fall much, much sooner than that. When they do fall, I will march my army into the heart of your precious little kingdom and kill every precious little villager. Yes, I will do all this unless you surrender immediately. I will be over to your castle, unarmed"of course"and alone, by the setting of the sun tonight. If you wish to surrender, do so then, and my kingdom will leave yours well alone.
--King Scotty McNeil
"Father, whatever shall we do?" I ask, handing the page back to him.
"Don"t you worry your pretty little head about it; I shouldn"t have even let you read that! A war is not the subject for a lady"s mind to be on. Now, go; I believe Prince Ian is waiting for you in the stables."
I nod once and walk out of Father"s study. Heading to the stables, I try to think of a war I can help. Here I am; Nessa O"Shea, Princess of Parsonstown, and I can"t even do anything to protect my kingdom from that brute of a man, Scotty McNeil.
Ian Coleman is waiting next to a snow-white mare with a grey mane named Annabel when I come in. Ian is my beloved. He has light brown hair which is in need of a trimming and always falls in front of his hazel-green eyes, and tanned skin dotted with dark freckles. He looks up when I come in, smiling broadly.
"Good evening, Nessa," he says amiably. "Are you all ready to go?"
"Yes, sir, I am ready," I say quietly; half my mind is still on the letter from Scotty McNeil.
"Then, get on up there," Ian says as he lifts me up onto the mare. He tugs gently on the reins and leads the horse outside into the pasture. He leads the horse in silence for a while, glancing up at me every few seconds. "So, what"s on that ever-changing mind of yours today?" Ian asks after a while.
"Huh?" I say, shaking my head. I had been so concentrated on trying to come up with a plan that I hadn"t even realized he was talking to me. "Oh, it"s nothing, sir, really." I put on a fake smile, hoping to reassure him, but as soon as he looks away, the smile slips away.
By this time, we were back at the stables, and Ian lifts me up off the horse to put Annabel back inside the stable. Closing the door after he put the mare in the stable, he turns back to me. I was staring at the horizon; the sun had already started to go down, and in the dim light, my ivory skin looks darker, and my golden curls take on an almost-orange shade.
"Ian, look, I"d love to stay for our walk, I really would, but I really have to get back to the castle; now!" I say insistently, refusing the hand Ian offers me. "I fear many people"s lives may be in danger, and I may be able to help!"
Ian hesitates for a moment, and I, remembering to be polite, stay still and watch as he thinks. Finally, after what seems an eternity, he nods slowly.
"Alright, you can go," he says and then kisses me gently on the lips.
"So, King O"Shea, do you wish to surrender, or will my army have to force you to abdicate?" Scotty McNeil is saying when I walk in.
Scotty is a muscular man of about sixteen years old. His black curly hair hangs in front of his chestnut-brown eyes and curls down his neck. His skin is tanned, the color of light oak wood, and a jagged scar lines his upper lip. He is nearly four inches taller than Alby, and is much taller than I am. He would be an attractive man if not for the look of pure hatred and animus that overtakes his face.
"Excuse us, your majesty, but I need to have a quick word with my father," I say; I drop into low curtsy, my curls falling in front of my face. Scotty eyes me for a moment before nodding.
"Nessa Talulla O"Shea, what are you doing here? I told you that this was not something you needed to be involved in!" Alby says; his voice is hushed as I pull him aside gently.
"Father, I will not let you surrender our kingdom to the likes of this man. Please, let me attempt to make a bargain with him."
"No, Nessa, this does not concern you."
Something inside me snaps. For so long, I have tried to be calm and lady-like: listening to my father, doing exactly as I was told to do, but now, in a time of greatest need, I am being forced to sit back and do nothing while my kingdom is put in danger? No, I won"t do it!
"Actually, it does concern me, father; it concerns everyone in this blasted kingdom! If you surrender, then everyone dies! We already know that McNeil can"t be trusted; how do we know that as soon as you surrender he won"t have his entire army kill everyone anyways? We don"t, do we?" I say this heatedly, leaning towards my father so Scotty won"t hear.
"No, Nessa," Alby repeats, "this does not concern you."
"Mother would have let me do it," I mumble.
"Your mother isn"t here right now, is she? True, she would have let you do this, but what exactly got her killed? Talking to this man"s father; trying to reason with him"that"s what got her killed! Do you think I"ll just let you talk to him, or even get close to him at all?"
"Excuse me," Scotty says suddenly, "I understand that your daughter wishes to try and reason with me. I also understand that you don"t want her to because of what happened to poor Alannah, so I have a proposition for you. I"ll make a proposal, and she can deny or accept my terms. Does that work for both of you?" Scotty looks from my father to me and back to my father. We both nod slowly, but Alby pulls me back away from him by my arm.
"How about this; I take the beautiful Princess O"Shea with me as prisoner, and the rest of your precious kingdom goes on as normal. I"ll call off my armies, you call off yours, and I take the princess."
"No," Alby says firmly, pulling me even farther away. "Your father took my wife, and my son; I will not allow you to take my daughter, too."
"As I remember, you agreed that your daughter could make the decision. So, Princess," Scotty turns to me, "it"s your kingdom"s safety, or your freedom; make your choice."
"I"ll do it" but only to save my kingdom. If you show any signs of wishing to go back on the bargain, I will escape and my father will kill you."
"We have a deal, then?" Scotty holds out a hand and I take it, despite my father"s protests.
As Scotty begins to pull me out of the room, Alby grabs my other hand and tries to keep me back. Scotty pulls harder and the force of it coerces Alby to let go. Pain flares in my shoulder and I cry out in pain. Scotty looks at me for a moment before pulling me out of the room. I can"t help but notice that he is being gentler than before.
When we get to Scotty"s castle, he hurls me into the dark, damp, musty-smelling dungeon. He shows no sympathy when I cry out in pain as I hit the stone wall.
"I shall come to bring you food at dawn," he says with a calmness that chills my very bones. He turns to leave, but calls over his shoulder at the last moment, "If I remember."
The Decoder Pt1
My parents dreamed of owning their own home. We lived in the Florence apartments. It was not a nice place to live because there were no building codes there - indeed, one time when my mother jumped to swat a fly, the floor almost broke right through to the people living beneath us. My mother's ankle didn't recover for weeks. Florence, like all apartments, was also an organised gang, seeking to loot homes, save up some money, and then escape the apartments. In practice, the only people who really benefitted were gang leaders, so I never participated, nor did my parents (although of course, once the gang leaders did get houses they became house-dwellers and as such were soon attacked by gangs). My parents often told me that if I was good to the corporations, they would be good to me. However, when I was thirteen, both were mistaken for Florence gang activists and killed by a corporate police drone.
As I was raised outside of the official facility for children, I appealed to the Florence gang leader to help me get work. Although Greg offered me a very good job in the apartment (manufacturing drugs to sell to vassal gangs) I explained that I really wanted to work for a corporation. Despite his personal convictions that corporations were bad, Greg helped me more than anybody else did in my life. I soon found work as a programmer at Terra, who built robots. The corporate bosses - who worked in a seperate office from us lowly programmers, always liked to give us lots of work to do and little time to do it. We had to work for very long hours, while the corporate bosses didn't give us much pay. But I believed in them. I could work my way out - my path to freedom, my sole hope, my religion, was Terra.
Years went by. The Florence gang grew stronger, although that meant our apartment had to house more people. My small room had three families in it, and still nobody had repaired the large dent in the floor that my mother had made. I, for one, was spending too much time at work. I didn't really see Greg after he helped me, but I did become very good friends with Margrita, a woman from one of the families living with me. Margrita was a drug smuggler who took Florence drugs to other markets. When she was home, she would entertain me in the evenings with stories of distant lands. When she was not home, we would all fear for her safety. She would tell us of other corporate controlled democracies like our own (or CCDs, as she called them). She would tell us about CCD vassals, who lived even worse than we did in Florence. She told us about fundamentalist dictatorships and so-called "closed-market" states. Nobody understood what a closed-market state was, including Margrita. Margrita had heard it was to do with something called "economics", a word that had been censored in the apartment edition of the dictionary. One day, Margrita promised to smuggle us a house-dweller dictionary.
Things weren't always this way. My parents were both raised in homes. They lived well. That was before the government building codes changed to deem their home "unsafe", primarily because it was difficult for law enforcement to raid if need be (despite the fact my parents were the nicest, most law-abiding people in the world, of course). The reconstruction would have costed more than the value of their property, so they were forced to move into the apartment buildings not covered by the codes. And that's how they met.
This was day in, day out for me. But my life would not be normal forever.
I was working late at Terra one evening, when an elderly co-worker - not a superior, a co-worker - approached me. This was naturally highly illegal, although I had seen this particular man before working at a terminal. Company rules said to ignore and report it. So that's what I intended to do.
"Hey" said the co-worker a little nervously "I'm Jacob."
I didn't answer. I was trained not to answer.
Jacob seemed to relax a bit. "I see you're working late. Even the bosses have gone home."
"You know they're always watching" I stated plainly. That was within the rules, I was sure. Reminding a co-worker to obey the rules.
"I'm off the hook" said the man "I live in a house. I guess you're from one of those gangs then?"
I was done. Saving my work, I turned off the computer. "I live at the Florence. Nothing more. And your address, sir?" That was bound to be useful when I report him.
Jacob laughed. "I told you, I'm a house-dweller." The rich didn't tell the apartments which house belonged to whom. Still I did not believe him.
"The house dwellers are in the corporate office, not the programming division, sir."
"That's because I'm a government spy" said Jacob casually while flashing me an ID card rapidly.
"Well, I've done nothing wrong" I said, and walked away from my terminal. Jacob did not follow, but I could hear him clearly as the office echoed unbelievably.
"That's not why I'm here. Let's talk."
"I have the right to remain silent."
"I don't think you'll want to, Adam."
I stopped. "Why?" I asked.
Jacob smiled and walked over slowly to where I was, right by the exit. "As a spy here, you get a lot of downtime. And I've been studying your code. You're very gifted."
There is a pause. "Thanks" I uttered slowly. My computer's fan stopped whirring.
"I wanted to repay the favor by showing you a program that I've written."
I totally lost it. There was not a reason in the world why I shouldn't hate this man. "And why should I want that? Don't you house-dwellers know how hard life is for us!? I've got three families I need to cook for tonight and the only food the apartment shops stock right now is celery because you guys eat the rest! There a dent in my floor that has gone unfixed for twenty years! We don't have electricity! We get shot at every day, by you guys, by the police, and by other apartments! And you think I have time to look at your little programming experiments!?"
"Because my program can change all that. You translate virtual worlds to reality. Well, my program just does the opposite. It's a virtual world, encoded not in a virtual system, but in reality."
"Dream on" I said, leaving and slamming the door in his face.
"I've made it already" said Jacob.
Hang on - wasn't he just inside the building? Yet here he was, standing right in front of me. How did he do that? Probably a spy thing. Must have had some gadget.
"Get out of my way" I said calmly, pushing him aside as I walked. We from the apartments didn't have cars or buses or trains. We walked.
"If not that" called Jacob "How about going to the beach this weekend? I'll take you and the families you care for."
I had never been to the beach. I had heard that it was nice but I didn't trust Jacob. Not for one moment. His lot had killed my parents and many of my friends. He himself was a spy for them.
"Forget it!" I called "Go away!"
The walk home was tedious as ever. I walked quickly past the derilict company buildings towards the huge, sprawling apartments, like menacing monsters threatening to eat up the few corporate offices and factories that remained for us apartment people. We mostly made our money off killing each other with drugs or guns. We had no choice. It was that or the long, slow and painful journey of starvation. Trash was everywhere. Luckily, acid drizzle was streaming from the sky in slow motion. It made the walk less depressing, as it gave something to listen to. When nobody watched, I sometimes liked to engage in little childish pleasures, like jumping in the acid puddles. That was all I had.
After buying some celery and heading to my apartment, the young child of one of the families who lived with me almost knocked me over with a warm, genuine hug and smile. The highlight of my day.
"I can't believe you convinced a house-dweller to take us to the beach!" called her mother from the other room "Jess is SO excited!"
"Wait - what?" I shoved the kid aside.
"They reconnected our power and phone just to tell us you've been invited! Oh, I just can't wait to go! Can't you?"
Scotty sits on the floor in front of me and watches me for awhile. "Did I hurt you yesterday when I pulled you away from Alby?" he asks suddenly.
"Yes, my shoulder hurts," I answer meekly, touching my left shoulder.
"Let me see," he gets to his knees and comes closer to me. He gently pushes aside the sleeve of my dress and touches my shoulder. I cringe away from his hand; it hurts though he"s being gentle. "Sorry," he whispers and touches it again. I don"t cringe away this time, though it hurts terribly, and I whimper. "It looks like it"s just bruised. It should heal up soon."
"You"re very different than you were in my father"s castle," I point out.
"Yes, well, I"m not exactly fond of your father." Scotty sits down beside me. I don"t exactly protest, but I scoot a bit away. "You see, he killed my parents when I was only eight years old."
"That"s terrible!" I gasp.
"Yes, I know," Scotty looks for a moment like a lost child: sad and alone.
"Is that why you started the war?"
"I didn"t start this war; your father did. He broke into my kingdom, fully armed, and demanded that we surrender our army. We have the best army in all of Ireland, though, and I didn"t want to surrender. I told him that, and he began the war."
I think about that for a little bit, not quite knowing what to say. Everything my father has ever told me is wrong; Alby has lied to me too many times. Knowing that bit of information fills me with anger and distrust for my kingdom.
"I have to go, Princess Nessa," Scotty says, standing up. "I have many things to do today, but I will be back tonight at dusk to bring you more food." He walks out of the room and closes the door behind him.
I try to find something to pass the time before morning, but I just can"t do it. There"s nothing to do down in this dark, damp dungeon. I notice a single beam of light falling over a pile of hay, and I go over to see where it"s coming from. A small window is over a rather large pile of logs, nearly to the ceiling. I climb up on some logs and try to look through it, but it is mostly covered in grime. I brush away as much of it as I can with my hand, and peer through the glass. I see the vast hills of Birr, stretching over miles of land. There are small clusters of houses scattered around the hills and farmland in between the clusters.
I watch the farmlands for so long, captivated by the farmers and animals, I don"t notice how much time passes until I notice the sun going down. The heavy door to the dungeon opens suddenly, making me jump. Scotty comes in with a tray of food in his hands. He looks over and sees me at the window. I leap to my feet, afraid he"ll be angry with me for going near a window. He may think that I"m trying to escape. He doesn"t seem angry, though; he motions for me to come over and he sits down on the dusty floor.
When I sit down on the ground, he hands me the tray and begins talking. "So, I see you"ve discovered the window." I nod. "You"ve been admiring my kingdom? There"s not much to admire, but it"s probably not something you"re used to."
"No, I"m not used to it. I"ve never seen so many animals and so much farmland. It is very strange, but beautiful in a rural sort of way," I say as I finish the food and push aside the tray.
"Gosh," Scotty laughs. "You finished a whole meal worth of food in a minute."
"Maybe I wouldn"t be so quick about it if you fed me more than twice a day."
"My apologies, Princess," Scotty nods his head.
We sit in silence for a little while before I get up and go back over to the window. I look out of it again. "Will I ever get to go back home?" I ask quietly.
"I probably seem like a monster to you: taking you away from your home and holding you captive in a dungeon. Let me ask you this, though: what exactly do you think you"ll miss about Parsonstown? Is it life in the city, or Ian Coleman of Dublin?" I vaguely notice that he avoids answering my question.
"Neither," I answer honestly. "I"m not particularly fond of life in the city; it"s too crowded. And Ian... well, I"ll miss him, but it"s not like he won"t find someone else." I turn to Scotty; he"s standing closer to me now. "No, I think the thing I"ll miss most is the dance that father held every month. He would get the ballroom all decorated like it was a special occasion and Ian and I would just dance all day long. It was a bit ridiculous and childish, but it was the one day of the month when we actually had any fun." I smile a bit, remembering it all. "He only let other people in once every three months or so."
"It doesn"t sound ridiculous and childish," Scotty says. "Well, I"m sorry, but I have to leave now. But I promise you that I will be back tomorrow morning." Scotty leaves the room, closing the door behind him.
The Decoder Pt2
When my parents died, I made two promises: to escape the apartments as they had taught me, and to never break anyone's heart as mine had been broken. I could not bear to deny Jess or shatter her dreams and ambitions. Going to the beach was a once-in-a-lifetime oppertunity. It might not have mattered to me, but if it mattered to her, I had to go. I never understood why her mother was so OK with this. Perhaps she was won over by the spy's generosity, or perhaps she was tempted by the mystical allure that beaches had on us apartment dwellers. Either way, I didn't blame her.
Hesitantly, I announced over dinner that we were going to the beach. The applause was loud and clear. It was final. We would go.
I walked to work the next day as I always did. I wrote code. I walked home. Jacob didn't bug me, nor me him. It would have been against the rules anyway. I saw him once by the water-cooler that never seemed to have cups, just standing there. As much as I wanted to flip him off, I knew he didn't deserve the privilege.
He never told me how and when he would be picking us up. Jess woke up before dawn, and excitedly hurried everybody to get ready. Through her, the entirity of the Florence knew where we were going. People were calling me a traitor already, a quite accurate observation. I was heading out with the enemy. There was nothing I hated more either. I had more than enough time to contemplate this on Saturday before we finally got the call from the Florence lobby at about eleven. A bus was waiting for us.
There wasn't much to our bus. Red, with a great big plow on the front. The tyres looked unslashed, which was unusual, but I didn't have much time to look closely. The inside was nothing special either - but then again, I wouldn't know, as I had never been in a bus before. It was nothing more than some wooden benches, Jacob, and a wooden shell. The other families rushed inside, great smiles on their faces. I alone frowned, making a point to sit with arms crossed as far away from Jacob as possible, doing nothing but stare out of the window at the world rushing by.
Only to be met with the sight of the Florence. It is always tragic when your own home depresses you. But being in the bus here felt worse. I didn't belong in a bus. I didn't belong with Jacob. I could not share in the joy my friends felt. In fact, I felt sick.
The bus computer hurled us forward, and I discovered something new - driving. I soon saw others strolling down sidewalks and felt empathetic. We passed several of the other sorry apartments, although luckily none tried to kill us. Interestingly, the bus didn't take us through the housing district beyond the apartments at all. Instead, we came on to a very large road which took us directly to a place I had never been before. Out of the city.
The first thing you noticed was cold. We didn't have cold in the city except in the uppermost floors of the apartments, where we kept fires burning to combat it. It was uncomfortable, as the bus was clearly not built to the sensitivities of the apartment folk. The scenery, however, was amazing. We were in hill country, but the hills were filled with pale green grass instead of concrete, and cattle instead of people. I had seen this in books, of course, but to actually experience it was something different entirely. Once I adjusted to the cold, the sensation of riding in relative comfort while green farms flew by, under a sky so blue as I had never seen before, was actually pretty fun. I didn't want to admit it. I certainly didn't show it like the others did with their gasping and pointing out of the windows. But I enjoyed riding the bus.
Before long we reached the ocean, sparkling blue with waves to the horizon, lined with a perfect white sandy beach. It was somewhat warmer here, and every color shone with a radiance that appeared almost artifical. This place was beautiful.
As the bus climbed down the hill and drew nearer to the beach, however, I realised that I shouldn't have made a conclusion about this beach so quickly. Almost the entire town surrounding the beach consisted of shops and casinos. The litter here was worse than much of the city, and the people certainly. There were no houses in sight, and it struck me that none of the half-naked, drunk and wild young people that made up the vast majority of the town actually lived here. This, I surmised, had to be where the house-people went to spend their excessive wealth. Half of them, I guessed, would probably return home to find their house stolen by some gang leader. They were making the most of things while they lasted.
Only one thought crossed my mind - why? Why give up everything for a life like mine, when we would give up everything for a life like theirs? Couldn't we trade?
But looking around the town - unlike the thoughts of my fellow passengers - nothing was more repulsive. The people had lost their whole sense of morality. In the apartments, we stuck together. We looked out for each other. Most of us did drugs but not like this. In our world, others were trying to kill us, but these people behaved like they were trying to kill themselves. They were psychopaths. My parents often told me that if I was good to the corporations, they would be good to me. It was in this moment that I realised that these people were the corporations, and they would never be nice to me. They were not even nice to themselves.
Already, I longed to return to the Florence, with its charming dent in the floor and candle-lit rooms.
We did not stay long in the town, moving quickly to the beach despite my group's curiosity. All my friends rushed out across the rubbish and people infested beach to the crystalline sea. I left the bus last, and just sat down on a free bench, ignoring the gum that covered it. I probably looked like a freak to these people - excess was their norm. My mind, however, had bigger issues to worry about. What was I going to do with my life? If not Terra, what could I believe in? I was too lost. Margrita? She always kept a good overview on stuff, but she was away for another three weeks.
Suddenly I became aware that I was not the only person sitting on the bench. Jacob sat there too. For a long moment, both of us were silent. Jacob, I realised, was not like the people at the beach. What did he want me to see?
Jacob spoke up. "Would you like to see my simulation?"
"Am I looking at it?"
Jacob laughed. "Now what kind of idiot would I be to design this?"
I didn't say it, but I didn't think much of Jacob's intelligence. Or any house dweller's. Or my friends, playing as wildly as little Jess. Not that I didn't do that in the acid puddles. Sometimes I hated myself.
Jacob was smiling. "Come with me" he said.
I did. Sometimes I regret it, but I was curious, and searching for answers. We walked together slowly toward the end of the beach, where at the base of a small peninsula sat a rock pool.
"Now I must warn you. This simulation I made has a certain way about it. When you see it, you might not want to come back. And you don't have to."
I simply shrugged apprehensively as we walked. It didn't matter.
"Here we are"
We stopped right at the edge of the rock pool. Everybody else was some way down the beach, where most of the shops were, ignoring us. This was easily the most empty part of the beach. Jacob reached out his hand, grasping as if looking for something in mid-air. Then, quite suddenly, his hand disappeared. His arm looked as though it had become obscured by something, like an invisibility cloak - outside of reality itself. My mouth hung open as his hand moved along like he was pulling an invisible zipper with an invisible hand, first the one way, and then the other. And then - there's really no other way to put this - he unzipped reality right in front of me.
"Here we are" announced Jacob "This is my simulation. Inspired by your code and your story, my simulation within a simulation - a world where all are equal, all are good, and all have homes."
On the fourteenth dusk, he asks me, "Are you happy here?"
I have to think about that question. Though I am in a dungeon--a dirty, dusty, dark dungeon--I never go hungry, and he has supplied me with a straw mattress to sleep on and blankets to cover myself with to keep out some of the cold. Also, over the past fortnight, I have grown to trust him; I have even grown fond of him.
"I"m not specifically happy, but I"m not unhappy," I say at last. "I mean, you"ve supplied me with the essential needs for survival, so I can"t be unhappy, but I"m still being held captive in a dungeon. I think it would be inconceivable for me to be happy here."
"Do you think that if you weren"t in this dungeon you could be happy?"
I have to think about this question as well. Could I be jubilant here if it weren"t for this oubliette?
"I may be," I say quietly. Scotty is silent for a little bit. I"m afraid he"s going to leave. I have grown to enjoy his company, and I look forward to it every day.
"Princess Nessa, please follow me," he stands up and hold out a hand. I take it warily and follow him out of the dungeon. He pulls me by the arm up a spiral flight of stairs, leading out of the dust and gloom.
I stop walking when we reach the top of the stairs. We are in a room far grander than I would have thought possible in this small, rural kingdom. The walls are white with golden markings close to the floor all around the room. The floor is made of wild cherry wood and there is a rug on the wood in front of two thrones. The thrones are made of mahogany and one is taller than the other. This must be the McNeil throne room; there"s nothing else it could be.
"My mother and father sat there eight years ago, and I sit there now. Continue walking," Scotty says quickly.
He pulls me along again, up another flight of stairs. We reach a hallway lined with about eight doors. Every door has a copper plaque on it, identifying whose room it is. He leads me to the end of the hallway and opens a door.
The room is very small compared to the throne room, but I suppose the throne room is the largest room in the entire castle--probably even in the entire kingdom. The walls are a faded pink color, and the wild cherry wood floor is mostly covered in a threadbare rug of light blue. A bed was in the corner of the room; the blankets are light pink and there is a feather pillow the color of ivory with a golden embroidered pattern. There is also a mahogany wardrobe and rocking chair. I can"t help but wonder why so many of the wooden things I"ve seen here are made of either mahogany or wild cherry wood.
Scotty steps inside the room and motions with his hand for me to come in, too. I stroll in a bit warily, not quite sure what"s going to happen. "I believe you will find this room satisfactory," he says blandly, still standing in the doorway.
With that single statement, I piece it all together, and I"m filled with happiness. "You mean this is mine?" I turn back to him and smile.
Scotty nods once, "You told me that you were not happy in the dungeon. I am not a monster; if you are going to be staying a while, I might as well make you comfortable."
I hug him and kiss him on the cheek. "Thank you," I say and look up at him. His eyes are wide in shock and he looks taken aback. "Sorry," I mumble, stepping away from him.
He opens his mouth as if to say something, but closes it. He tries a few more times, and finally gives up. He turns on his heel and strolls out of the room swiftly, closing the door behind him.
I want to go after him, but I fear he"s angry with me. Instead, I sit down on the rocking chair and stare out the window for a bit. Dozens of thoughts rush through my head as I stare out at a view not dissimilar to the one I saw in the dungeon.
What if I messed everything up? What if I made him angry? Will he throw me back in the dungeon? No, of course he won"t; it was just a kiss on the cheek! Well, if he"s not angry, then why did he leave so suddenly? Oh, stop worrying, he just doesn"t like me that way. He isn"t fond of me; and why should he be? He is my captor; he is holding me as prisoner in his castle! My thoughts continue like this for a very long time.
The next thing I know, I am waking up. I don"t even know when I had fallen asleep! The door opens and I expect Scotty to come in, but a small girl rushes in. She is facing the ground and all I can see is her tangled mess of light brown hair. She is holding in her hands a tray of food.
"Princess Nessa O"Shea," she says timidly, looking up at me. She has tanned skin and big brown eyes; she"s no older than maybe ten or eleven. "Scotty has told me to bring this up to you. He sends his apologies that he could not bring it himself, but he is very busy."
When I reach for the tray, she cringes away from me, as though afraid I"ll hit her.
"What"s wrong?" I ask her gently.
"Scotty has told me many things about your family. He has said you are a violent people." The girl can"t quite meet my eyes. "He has told me many times about how Alby O"Shea killed his parents."
"You"re frightened of me," I say with realization. I kneel down in front of her and look at her calmly. "What"s your name?"
"Rowan Connell, miss," the young girl, Rowan, curtsies nervously, not taking her eyes off me.
"Well, Rowan, it is true that my people are violent," if what Scotty has said about my father is true, then my people really are violent, "but I am not like them. I have never hurt anyone and I have no plans to do so. Do you understand?"
"You"re not like them?" Rowan repeats. I shake my head. She eyes me skeptically for a moment before nodding slowly. She hands me the tray of food and walks out.
After I eat the food--a bowl of potato soup and some bread--I quickly dress in one of the many dresses in the wardrobe. They are all servants" gowns, but I need no help getting them on as I do ball gowns. I throw on a shamrock-green dress that fits tightly around my torso but falls loosely and limply from my hips to my ankles. I quickly tie a green ribbon--also from the wardrobe--around my hair and head out the door.
My footsteps are reticent because my shoes had fallen apart in the dungeon, so I am barefooted. The wooden floor is cool under my feet as I walk slowly down the hallway. Each of the doors is open except for one. This door has a plaque that reads: "Nessa Tallula O"Shea."
Why is my name on this door? I wonder. Curiosity gets the better of me and I slowly open the door. Before I can even open the door enough to get a good look, Scotty comes up behind me and grabs my arm. He pulls me away from the room and down the stairs.
"You shouldn"t have tried that," he says to me as he walks. He seems nervous and angry.
"Why does that door have my name on it?" I demand, pulling my arm out of his grasp.
"Alby O"Shea really didn"t tell you anything, did he?"
"Let"s assume not," I say firmly. "Now, tell me, Scotty; why is my name on that door?"
"Before you were born, our two families were friends. They wanted to join the two kingdoms. I was betrothed to you before I was even three years old. You were betrothed before you were even born. Then, when you were born, my father saw that you were not what he wanted me to wed. He came up with many excuses as to why I should not marry you: your skin was too pale for Birr, your eyes were too light for the McNeil family, or you were too small. He told your mother this, and when she tried to reason with him, well... my father had a short temper; he killed your mother, Alannah, and began the long feud between our kingdoms."
He pauses a moment before continuing, "Your name is on that plaque because my mother had a servant make that room for you for once we were married. I don"t like people going in there to remind me of what should have been." He sounds wistful, and looks at me a moment before walking off.
The Decoder Pt3
I didn't understand what was going on. I saw Jacob pull away reality like it was all just a theatre set, not really disappearing but rather falling behind the invisible space where his hand was. It pulled in from all directions, without any sound or sensation. It was the same beach, only more - dull. Every colour was washed grey. The sun was obscured by both heavy clouds and fog. There were only a couple of small wooden houses at the far end of the beach, most of which looked to be in a state of semi-construction. Everything was silent, save for the waves crashing heavily on the shore.
"This is only a small simulation" explained Jacob "All I've programmed is this town. Since it's prototyped from your normal reality, the physical laws are the same. To get back, just come back here and do the opposite of what I just did."
After gazing around, I turned back towards him. "How did you..." I stopped. Jacob had disappeared.
I had nothing better to do. Despite being greyer, there was strange rustic warmth that seemed to emanate from the village at the other end of the beach. I casually strolled there. It couldn't hurt.
Since it was just a simulation, I knew all the creatures I would meet were nothing but robots. My first impressions of their village, however, made them out to be anything but. They did not shun me or shoot me, nor were they self-obsessed. They welcomed me. I knew right away that these - well, people - were a lot more like me than I could have imagined.
"Good day" said an old man shuffling by.
"Howdy!" called a boy, waving.
"You look lost" observed a young lady in formal attire.
I smiled. She reminded me of Jess, though somewhat older.
"I'm just new here" I said.
The girl smiled back. "My name's Kate. Pleasure to meet you."
"Pleasure's all mine" I laughed "Call me Adam."
Kate invited me back to her humble home, where surprisingly enough she lived alone. Only one room had in fact been finished already - her bedroom - and the rest was still under construction. She had already constructed most of the frame by herself.
"You're welcome to stay here if you help me build it" said Kate.
For a moment, I considered going back - back to a gangsterland that hated me, a job that hated me, a world that hated me. This world might have been fantasy, but perhaps there was meaning to it. I needed a world that makes sense. Jacob's earlier warning made me want to return just to prove I could, but what would be the point? My selfish pride?
Kate laughed. "You know it is rude to keep a lady waiting."
I didn't think for a moment longer. "Thank you so much, Kate. Of course I will help."
I didn't mean it at the time, but I ended up staying with Kate for a full week. She first tasked me with gathering driftwood from the beach, where there were indeed fallen trees in abundance. These, she explained, would be the beams for her home. When I finished I saw that she had built me a simple tent to sleep in, and made me some supper. It was delicious - she made real pumpkin soup served with real bread - flavours that celery could not even hope to imitate. The tent was just a basic canvas, however. Sleeping on the bare earth was not comfortable. I was used to the spiders, beetles and bugs, but the night proved immensely cold.
It was obvious to Kate the next day I hadn't slept well. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"Cold night" I replied laconically.
"Warm your heart" she said as she gave me hot toast for breakfast.
I didn't usually eat breakfast back in my world. I had no time due to the demands of my work. But it was really true. Her kindness warmed me even before I ate.
The next day was much the same. There was a lot of work to do. I collected more wood, cut some branches, and eventually ate a delicious burger Kate had cooked for dinner. I had not eaten meat in years. Home owners had no idea how good they had it, I thought.
Over dinner, I took the time to tell Kate about my world. I told her about our wars and our problems. I told her how I was confused and didn't know what to believe in.
"That's horrible" remarked Kate. She seemed to believe me.
"It sure is a land of the blind" I replied "Though I am no king"
"What I mean is" corrected Kate "Not that your world is horrible, but that nobody has the will to change it. You looked to your parents and to Terra for your salvation."
"And what saviour am I?" I asked.
"Even if you can't change the world you can change your outlook. It's all about this" Kate pointed to my heart.
"Well my world wasn't giving me much incentive to do that. I don't think I should accept misery."
Kate thought for a long moment. I hadn't really seen her think before. She was usually very quick. Then, at last, she held my hand. "I guess you're right" she said.
That night I slept much better.
So my routine went on for another six days. Living a lie. Escaping from reality. Being virtually happy. But as the days grew on, for some reason I grew more conscious of the fact that every detail here was a facade. It was comfortable, but reality was not. I told Kate of my world's horrors. But each time I told her, I began to feel sorry for those still trapped in the world as I was. I began to regret abandoning them. I just reminded myself of how selfish I was being here. And in a strange way, I missed life outside of my tent. Kate could bring warmth to my heart, but she was not real. I had to return. I had to.
It was so hard to finally tell her.
"But - they hate you!" said Kate.
"They may hate me - but they need me" I replied "You've made me realise that I'm never going to get over the problems from my old life by escaping from it. I must return."
"Why?" asked Kate.
"I came from a town hot with violence and fear, a world fuelled by passion. If that's what my people can achieve with cold hearts, imagine my world with warm hearts."
Kate sighed, looking deeply into my eyes. "Your mission will fail. You'll be rejected as always have been. You'll be laughed at. Hated!"
"I've been hated all my life" I said quietly "I must try."
"But what good will that do?" asked Kate "Stay here. I can keep you safe."
In that moment I became hot-headed. Kate was being possessive, as tears began to fall down her simulated cheeks. I kept reminding myself this world was not real, even if I would wish it. I wanted to believe it. I could not. "It would be a crime to stand by and let my people destroy themselves."
With that, I turned my back on her and walked toward the rock pool. She did not physically stop me. She just cried and called. I don't think she ever stopped crying or calling my name, telling me to come back, apologising, begging for me to listen. But hers was a simulated heart I just had to break. I loved Kate more than anybody else I had ever met, but I still had no regrets. In that moment, I knew the fate of the world was something I had to try to change, because selfishness and greed were destroying it.
I took one last look at the most homely place I had ever seen. Once I had called it grey, but now it seemed charming. This was a world I would never forget. With a heavy breath and a tear in my eye, I reached out into hyperspace and saw my hand disappear just as Jacob's had. Then, imitating him, I pulled myself back into the real world.
I never saw Kate again.
What happened next I remember only as a series of disconnected thoughts. Immediately I was struck by a syringe - and then next thing I knew, I was down.
I remember being dragged along the ground with my head covered. More needles. Being driven somewhere with my head covered. Being dragged up some steps, unable to speak. And then at last, my captors took my head covering off.
I had expected that perhaps I had been taken by Terra for talking with Jacob. Perhaps the government trying to cover up the death of my parents. The town pranking. Jacob not wanting me to tell people about the simulation. I had made so many theories that nothing could prepare me for the truth.
When my head was uncovered, I was on the top floor of the Florence apartments - face to face with Greg.
CierraNicole forfeited this round.
The Decoder Pt4
Greg spoke before I had a moment to think, a serious and grim expression on his face.
"We presumed you dead"
I collected myself. Greg sat behind his old heavy desk, the fireplace burning, three guards holding me. I felt tired.
"I'm sorry" I sighed "I was gone a week longer than planned."
"We missed you" said Greg sternly.
"I'm sorry" I insisted.
"Margrita killed herself."
"I'm s ... wait, WHAT!?"
Greg softened. "Please, I know this must be hard to take, but..."
I was overcome with grief and anger, though towards what I did not know. "How could she do this?" was all I could muster in between my sudden explosion of tears and memories of good times or dreams we had shared.
"She loved you very much" noted Greg "Your death shattered her."
"No!" I cried "She wouldn't have. You're lying!"
There was a long silence. I knew, somehow, that Greg told the truth, but how could I accept it?
After a while, Greg continued softly "She did. Jess..."
"Not Jess!" I shouted "What have you done with her, you monster!?"
The guards held me extra-tight.
"Jess tried to suicide after Margrita but failed" answered Greg "She is in our hospital."
I cried loudly. There was nothing more to say. I just cried. Greg patiently let me for several minutes, though not breaking his stern gaze. I don't think there was an emotion I didn't feel, but my world was forever broken. There was no going back to my stable reality of the past. Margrita was the last friend I really had, and she was lost forever. Those happy times would never return. And I deserved it. I abandoned her, even if I never knew how she loved me.
Eventually Greg spoke again. "I knew you were by the rock pool with that foreign spy, so..."
"Hang on" I interrupted "You said foreign spy?"
"Yes. Jacob Zazark. Isn't that right? Police told me they killed him shortly after he hid you. Anyway, I dispatched men to the rock pool in case you came back. That is why you are here. We all cared about you."
"So Jacob wasn't involved with the murder of my parents at all" I whispered to myself.
"And Terra hates our guts now since you didn't show up to work" added Greg "Their drones are targeting us more now. Dozens have been killed."
I came back to this world to be a good person. Now it seemed everything I had ever done brought only unhappiness and death. Even Jacob's code, built out of mine, left me feeling like a pretender inside and, now that I was released of it, a pretender outside. I had brought more destruction than any of the immoral beach-goers had a week ago. Greg still looked on me sternly. And I was sorry.
I was so deeply sorry.
If he could never forgive me, I would forever understand. I would have thanked Greg to kill me, for I did not desire to hurt anyone any more. A week ago I was but lost, yet blind hope and ambition took me to a place as heartless as any of the corporations ever were. I was a horrible, horrible person. Suddenly, the Florence seemed like a wonderful place, and that made me feel worse.
"What must I do?" I asked Greg.
Greg sighed. You could see that he was on the point of tears himself. Then, his stern visage suddenly broke, and he cried with me. "If you want me to forgive you" whispered Greg "I will."
Even the guards seemed to want to cry at the tragic sight. So much death and misery, though my heart was always in the right place.
"How could I let you forgive me?" I asked "How, when I can never even forgive myself? When I have brought such shame to the Florence? When I disrespected you all by not realising that love was right in front of my eyes this whole time, and all I could see was darkness? There is nothing for me here. All I can say is that I am forever sorry."
Greg wiped tears from his eyes. "I cry every day for my fallen people" he sobbed "Yet I must forgive every day. How else can I live? Of all my forgiveness, yours would be most deserved. That you have taken responsibility now - means more to me than anything."
Greg's words cheer me. But even in this broken world, nothing was more broken than my heart. Everything that my dear Kate had said was true. And now I had run from her like I had run from Margrita. Kate had been the only one to heal my heart before. Some strange feeling told me she wouldn't again, but I had to try. I always had to try.
"I think I need to go back" I said quietly.
Greg nodded. Somehow, he understood. "I will always be here for you, if you need me" he said "All I ask is that this time, you remember to say goodbye."
I smiled and hugged him right there. The guards did not stop me. Greg was an incredible man, and he deserved all my respect.
Greg was true to his word. He had me taken around the Florence to say goodbye. Many tears were shed. Some people gave me cards, hastily drawn on torn wallpaper, but heartfelt all the same. I even began to regret leaving again, but I could not turn back. I saw Jess in hospital. She was in a very bad way. She couldn't speak, but I held her hand and said sorry. She gripped my hand like a vice. It was almost impossible to let go. At last, in the lobby, I said goodbye to the families who lived with me in my room. Other than at meals we rarely saw each other, but at our farewell it was like we had known each other every second of every day, not just in my life but in all eternity.
I felt in that moment more at home at the Florence than ever. It was not a depressing sight any longer, but a cherished friend whose blessings I had long forgotten or ignored. I never knew how good I had it.
Greg smuggled me back to the rocks, and his guards simply left me there at night. The moon was out, and the world, for all its chaos and contradictions, seemed beautiful. I realised there, standing on the rocks, that saying goodbye had already healed my heart.
Greg and the others were still there in the background, watching me leave. Hesitantly I lifted up my arm, tears forming in my eyes. I didn't want to have to choose between Jacob's dream world and my life. All of a sudden, extending my hand into the void was a choice, not a responsibility. I loved Kate, and I believe in her heart she loved me. Once I would have said simulated heart, but Jacob's world of deception only made the truth shine the clearer. Kate's words were true. I knew that. I knew it with my head. I knew it with my heart. And I believed that with all I had.
But Kate had also said I would be rejected and hated. Now, for the first time in a lost world, I felt loved.
So was I real? Or was I fake?
I remembered what Kate told me once. "Even if you can't change the world you can change your outlook. It's all about the heart."
I won't pretend that I understood Kate, but I realised in that moment that I had read her completely wrong. I had thought she had said I couldn't change the world - I still don't know if she believed that. She was a wonderful contradictory person. But she had definitely said that my assumptions were wrong. I had assumed that the whole world was against me, and so I grew to hate the world with all its numerous problems. Never once had I stopped to explore the good in a world of pointlessness and idiocy.
Slowly, I moved my arm back down and turned to my friends. I had at last done what Jacob did. By understanding his world, I at last decoded mine. I had found as good a meaning to life as I could ever have hoped for. All my tears were gone.
Greg and I shared a smile. My life was not over yet, and before me was a whole world worth fighting for. At long last, having learned to say goodbye, I was ready not only to say sorry, but more importantly, to begin again. I owed it to Margrita. I owed it to my parents. I owed it to Greg. I owed it to Jacob. I owed it to Kate. I owed it to Jess. I had to trust in myself.
I belonged there. And I forever will.
I shook Greg's hand. I said no words for words had lost all meaning. I wanted to cry but couldn't, not in sadness but in joy.
This was the beginning of a life. I only hoped it would be a life worth living.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RyuuKyuzo 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: ff. Hopefully I'll be able to come back later and give a more in-depth analysis of this story-debate.
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