The Remains {ANEWSIN 15 — JASON GARDEN}

The preceding story was written a few months ago with no plans for release. I have a different story that I am working on, and I really want to release something, so I hope this works!

The buildings were all dilapidated. The windows were broken, and the walls of the buildings were plush with the road. Frames stood proud where doors once shielded the inside from the unknown, and stood empty adorned with a hue of lapis lazuli blue.

The sky was red, like fire, but the air was cold. The wind was terrible, and cut through any attempts to guard against them was ill conceived and fruitless. Only the statues of old dared to weather out the impending storms of photons being released by an unrelenting sun.

There were no living things here.

My journey was to find you. Other things in my life may have been more pressing: more important. This need for your embrace was too overwhelming. It drove me to ignore my feelings of discomfort and allowed me to carry through this mission that, at the time, I believed to be of great importance.

Daunted by the silence, I picked up a stone. My intention was to throw it, but at that moment I was enamoured by its symmetry. It lay perfectly in my hand, ignorant of its intended fate. Who knew the reason that it was where I found it. Its story will be forever hidden from me, but I knew that this is how life had to be.

Life can be just as mysterious as the history of that rock. We jump through hoops, do things we know are fruitless and dumb, yet we end up where we have to regardless of what brought us to that point. No matter what forces we explore, and what life choices we make, events out of our control will stifle any attempts to lead a perfectly happy life. A life that we deem perfect in every way. This stone reminded me all of that. This stone, in that moment, reminded me just how chaotic everything was.

Against my better judgment, I threw the stone. I had to: I was starting to get too far into thoughts of existence. I was beginning to be consumed with expressions of impossibilities far too great to fathom. I was starting to loose any ability to maintain composure in the face of the world that I found myself engaged in. I started to notice the debris that build up at the sides of paths, and the concrete golems that line the path I was standing on.

I fall to my knees, face pointed towards the red sky. Tears flowed from my eyes as I relive all of the hate, the torment, that I had confronted over the last decade.

I had hurt so many people; either out of necessity, or greed. Never malicious, but always knowing what the outcome would be.

I had failed so many times. Some of the trials were failed out of flawed execution. Some of the attempts failed due to self-sabotage. All of them: premature.

I rose to my feet. I had to do this; I had to finish this journey. Even if it meant the end of everything, I had to find you. You deserved that, and I was the one who had to give you the reprise. You deserved the reprise, if not the world.

Is it possible that I hold you in too high regard? Have I blinded myself to your flaws and created an impossible manifestation in my mind of who you are? If that is indeed the case, will I flee as soon as you fail to live up to the incredible depiction that I have in my mind? Or, will I just blame you implicitly for all of the ways that you will fail me?

Is it possible that I am overthinking all of this?

I realize that I have stood in place now for almost five minutes. I chuckle to myself as I start to move forward. I must have looked completely broken to an outside observer. Glassy eyes, pursed lips, contemplating everything and nothing at the same time.

As I take my stride into the corrupted village, I find my mind wandering to places to distract myself from the wreckage around me.

I fixate on the eventuality and inevitably to death. A nice simple topic to dwell on. I call it that with no intent of sarcasm. People tend to dwell on the topic of what happens after. They create the grand fixations with ideas of eternal life, reincarnation, and a utopia where the good can live out a reality of there choosing. I choose to focus on the only provable direction: when we die, we die.

It is not that I have issue with every other decision to entertain the ideas that there is a greater purpose. I am envious, in fact. Call me someone with no faith or imagination, but I cannot begin to structure my life with the assumption that there may be a payoff in the end.

From everything I can see, this is it.

And, to that end, I choose to live my life as well as I can. I choose to be happier now than live as if everything I do will benefit me later. If I am miserable now, what is to matter if I live a better life later? What is even the point in self-improvement if I am not to enjoy whatever I achieve?

The streets are still quiet. Never have I dwelt on the idea that I could miss the sounds of birds, or even wind. Until you find yourself in isolation, those things are a kind of white-noise: an assumption that they will always be there. Some might even find them to be intrusive.

When they are absent, you truly notice how bleak reality can be. Paranoia sets in as every step one takes creates echos that seem to increase in volume. I keep looking over my shoulder just to make sure that I am just as alone as I thought I was just a moment ago.

This journey would be so much better if I was not alone. It has been days since I last spoke, let alone spoke to another living being. Every now and then, I will talk to a tree or a rock. I do this to make sure that I can actually still speak. It doubles as a reminder that the world still knows that I am here, as well. 

The Above {ANEWSIN VOL. 8 — Jason Garden}

//Edited by Luka Riot

“Why must we do this?”

A skinny girl stands smoking a cigarette in the midst of a collection of carnage. Machines pick through the gore, collecting as many valuables as they could.

A man steps forward. “You know that this is how we make our living. We need any sort of identification to prove we killed the right group. Now, hurry your smoke, Skylar. We gotta go.”

“Fuck you, Steve.” Skylar proclaims under her breath.

Several corpses litter the street around her. The smell of decay fills the air. Skylar takes one more deep drag of her cigarette and lets the smoke slowly leave her mouth. The cloud just hovered around her lips as there was no wind to replace the air.

The smell was putrid: flesh and steel flood the ground where the two stand, and it is not shielded by the elements. The area is bathed in the sun, and the temperature is sitting at a balmy 40 Celsius. Carnage as far as the eye could see.

Their job was simple. They just had to collect any valuables they could find. May that be rare metals, jewelry, or small electronics. Cellphones are the best find, as they contain a trace of gold. It wasn’t much, but it could be just enough to make the week affordable.

“I need a fuckin’ shower.” Skylar proclaims as she flicks the smouldering end of her cigarette off to the side, narrowly avoiding a machine picking over remnants of a cadaver. “Hopefully, the smell of the soap will clean the stench from my mind.”

Steve laughs. “How poetic of you! Soap. D’ya think we can afford soap? I dunno ‘bout you, but I can barely afford the water for a shower.”

Just then, an explosion behind a wall shakes the ground.

“Do you think they know we’re here? That sounded a bit too chaotic to just be construction.” Skylar asks, her expression showing mild fear.

This was the life they half chose to lead. The masses were forced underground decades ago, and a handful of people were chosen to be scavengers, looking through rubble. The corporations still feud over bits of what remains on the mainland, trying to get their hands on materials to manufacture things to sell to people so they can remain dependent on the corporations, so the corporations can exploit the masses and rape the lands they once inhabited. 

“The bombs sound close. Too close. We need to bail.” Steve is now right behind Skylar as he calmly exclaims this.

Skylar lets out a slight chuckle as her face softens. “You read my mind.” She pulls out a pad from her bra and pushes a button on the face of the device.

A small flying ship comes to their location. It has only two seats, and the full span of the wings is only five meters. The two get on and it leaps into the air. It doesn’t generate much air, yet moves with great power and speed. Skylar gets behind the steering wheel and Steve, in the passenger seat, keeps his eyes out towards the horizon.

“Did you collect anything?” Steve asks his comrade. “Your pack looks rather empty.”

“Sight can be an illusion. Size means little in this game, you know that.” Skylar takes her right arm and tosses a small satchel towards Steve. Inside is two rings and a cell phone. “We’re set for a bit, anyway. What did you find?”

“Some small stuff, but nothing this classy!” Steve’s tone is quite jovial. “We’re set for almost a month, even if we get half market value for this stuff!”

Steve puts the salvage into a bucket under the seat he is in. It clangs against a few other things that the two got from a previous venture. By Steve’s observation, they have the bucket half full.

The two of them soar through the air for a bit, keeping their elevation roughly a kilometer above the ground. They only remain at that height for a couple of minutes before Skylar suddenly drops altitude.

“I fucking hate this part.”

They enter a small cave, barely enough for their vessel to get through. It is far from well maintained. They ride the small entrance tunnel for at least an hour.

“Are the walls closing in around me, or am I just loosing it?” Skylar asks.

“You know you’re fine. You’ve done this a million times” Steve replies, sounding exhausted.

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Martha {ANEWSIN VOL. 6 — Jason Garden}

The journey continues into the cold, empty void of space. Martha’s voyage takes her far beyond the scope of what we have explored.

She leaves another mark faintly with a pencil on the metal of the cockpit wall. One for every 24 hours she is contained in this cage.

Space is a horrible place to be left alone. She started this voyage in hopes of finding someone, or something. When traveling at 95 percent the speed of light with no objects nearby, one loses track of everything: speed, direction, purpose and reason. Her metal sarcophagus continues to drift through the great beyond.

“Just remember that your mission is knowledge for the masses. Not recognition. Not praise. ‘The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.’ You can do this.” Martha keeps repeating this to herself under her breath. She is alone with her thoughts. It would cost the agency too much to send anyone else on such a journey.

Recon and Discovery. That was her only criteria for the mission. She knew that it sounded too easy to be a good thing. One would imagine that sitting in front of flashing lights and knobs for hours would be the furthest thing from mentally taxing, but that is far from the case. There are times when she cannot remember not staring at them. There is a disconnection between reality and dreams. Just the other day, for instance, she saw everything go wrong: lights lit up warning of hull breaches and oxygen leaks. It was just a dream. She awoke to a completely ordinary spread in front of her.

Martha took this position with the promise of discovery, she took the job in spite of her dreams of reading over ancient texts discussing the possibilities of dragons. She wanted to better everyone, or at least she thought she did. She had to keep reminding herself that this was all to better the human race.

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding. You’re a fucking hero.” She was starting to question her beliefs.

It was clear at one time why she took this torch. She wanted to find something new in this vast universe. She could not believe that we are all alone. It would not make sense. She has been in the metal sarcophagus for over 100,000 hours so far, and found nothing. To assume that she would find the same in the next 100,000 hours is insanity.

She wasn’t expecting something as advanced as the human race. The idea of a civilization as developed as us in the same ways seems arrogant. The only way that could be possible is if there was some sort of agreement that we would remain ignorant on purpose, because we are a snapshot of evolution. She could not fathom that to be true for this long, unless it hasn’t been long in the grand scheme of everything.

We are just arrogant enough to think 300,000 or so years is impressive. Martha dwells on her view of the situation and realizes the irony in her declaration of arrogance.

Just then, the console lights start flashing. It is just like in her dreams. Martha feels the surge of sweat beads pouring from her brow as she scrambles to react to every warning. Then, something she was not expecting: the front window opens slowly to reveal a launch command centre.

“Martha.” A man with a name tag that reads Jacob is speaking loudly to get her attention. “Martha, you’re okay.”

The lights are bright. She is in a large metal panel room. For a moment, she wonders if this is what happens after death. Martha is faced with her own mortality for the first time that she can remember.

“Okay, she’s not calming down. We need a debriefing team here on the…” Jacob was mid sentence when Martha’s brain shut down.

When she comes to, Martha is in some sort of hospital room with only “Jacob” by her side, sitting on a white stool.

“What happened?” Martha massages her face with her hands. “Where am I?”

“That was a simulation, Martha.” Jacob starts to talk disregarding her condition. “That was the seventh one that you have been a part of. We tried something different, remember? The last one was too muddled with delusions flashing back to prior events, so you went into this with your mind blanked.” Jacob’s voice is calm and he is doing everything he can to be deliberate with his words.

“Why would I agree to that? None of this makes sense, and it seems unnecessary.” Martha could feel rage building inside of her. She felt as if she has been tricked. She felt like this “trial” was just a financial burden on the agency, and a mental burden on her.

Jacob did not say a word and swiftly pulled a recorder from his pocket and pressed play.

“This is Martha. I understand that my mind will be cleared in hopes of bettering the practice. This recording is to be presented to me if I question the practice when I wake up.”

“That was you just the other day.” Jacob said with a slight of empathy in his voice. “The idea was yours. We all thought it brilliant! We did see the flaws, however. So we asked you to make this tape to prove the procedure to yourself in the event you would need to.”

Martha leaned back into the pillow and locked her eyes to the ceiling.
“If we’re done for now, I’d like to sleep.”

“Of course.” Jacob got out of the chair, nodded his head, and turned towards the door. He stopped. “I just want to tell you, because you may not remember me saying it before, but I am honoured to be working with you.”

Jacob shut the door behind him. Martha’s head started to fill with ideas and worries that were not answered so far.

I know of this time, but is this the first time? How many times have I been in through that procedure? What is the mission even about?

Martha’s eyes welled with tears as she thought of the most daunting of all of the ideas.

Did any of that happen? Or was I just told that it happened?

I am proud to announce that this was edited by the amazing Luka Riot! Because of fantastic donors over at Patreon, I am able to employ her for ansP editing. I hope her and I work together for a long time.