Chapter 1:


currently untitled story

There once was a girl afflicted with a curse. The curse made it so that everything she said came out tumbling backward and forward and every which way. No one knew what to think of her. In fact, they never thought much of her at all. She was so normal that she was non-descript. Recalling her face was like trying to remember the specific details of a dream--vivid and real in the moment, but formless and blurred after waking. Perhaps this, too, had been part of the curse. Bookmark here

With no one to talk to, all she could do was think. But then she grew tired of thinking the same thoughts. She began taking long walks outside, allowing the environment to fill her mind, instead. She walked through empty suburban streets; through the quiet industrial centers; past manmade rivers and reservoirs; over the foliage that formed beneath large, shade-bearing trees; feeling the wind of cars whizzing past; listening to geese trotting along in their gaggles.Bookmark here

One evening, she just kept walking. Everything was turning pitch black. Several faint lights appeared in the distance. She decided to follow one. Bookmark here

It led to a crater. In the center was some kind of shining, rectangular plate--perhaps a mirror. Or maybe it was a smartphone attached to an elastic band. It looked like neither of those things, actually. There were cracks in the ground where the crater had formed--that's where the white light had been seeping from. The other lights in the distance began disappearing one by one. Bookmark here

She looked back down at the object, picked it up, and put it on her head--it felt like the natural thing to do. The object latched on to her. Something thin and sharp pierced her skull. A red scribble of pain shot through the background layer of her mind. Bookmark here

Ouch. Bookmark here

She shut her eyes. The pain washed over her, tingling her skin all the way to her toes. It coursed through the vessels all the way up into her brain, up to her temples, like the electrified path of copper on a circuit board. The pace of her breathing became coarse and ragged. But focusing on the pain began to dull it--gave it a label, made it commonplace. It was already fading to the background as she regained control of her breathing.Bookmark here

When she opened her eyes, a digital overlay appeared in her vision. It was made up of several views represented by icons, bars, and trays. Text and numbers were loading in and filling up the views. Finally, an arrow appeared and blinked momentarily. Then it was solid and stayed fixed in front of her. Bookmark here

"Calibration is complete. Let us depart toward the waypoint," said two voices in her mind. The voices were overlapped on top each other, sounding both male and female at the same time. Bookmark here

She had a lot of questions... most people probably would. But she didn't want to intervene just yet. She wanted to see where this was going.Bookmark here

"It's been a while since I've had anyone to talk to," she said aloud in her mind.Bookmark here

"Let us proceed to the mission objective." It was unwavering in its demand, but its monotone intonation and insistence on using "us" tried to made it sound like a suggestion. Bookmark here

"Sure," she said. "We'll take a look."
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