Chapter 38: The world within the mask (2)

The dizziness didn’t last long but when Aleks opened his eyes, the world had shifted and he found himself in a dark space devoid of light. However, the dark that surrounded him began to dissipate and soon a large room with an enormous window overlooking a bounteous and beautiful planet came into view.

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Aleks was looking down at this scene but wasn’t really a part of it. The room itself was filled with luxurious furniture and many technological gadgets straight from his original memories in his earliest lifetime. There were gadgets of all kinds littered throughout the spacious room and it looked like the space hadn’t been tidied in some time. The sounds of someone tinkering with machines and frustrated mumbling permeated the space.

A sudden feeling of Déjà vu hit Aleks unexpectedly. As a matter of fact, he clearly recognized this room well because he had spent an inordinate amount of time in it when he was alive in that lifetime. It was his old home and private workspace, a large and spacious living space atop a tower that stretched beyond the clouds reaching the bounds of space, the Tower of Babel.

The tower was not just intended to be an empty tower built to reach the endless sky. It would eventually serve many purposes and would house many people. Countless millions would eventually live within and it would be filled with all the necessities of modern living. Within, they planned for businesses of all kinds, entertainment complexes, living spaces, engineering facilities, research facilities and all matter of necessary departments and wings. The tower would be entirely self sufficient in every way and was a marvel of modern technology and engineering.

Most importantly, it was a simple and efficient means of reaching that endless sky that stretched into the infinite horizons of space. It was a space elevator that allowed for relatively quick transportation to the very top of the tower which was, a beyond comparable, space station orbiting the planet.

From here, the people of the world would monitor the planet below as well as the vast expanse beyond. While the residents of this world had yet to successfully leave their solar system, many excursions and exploration missions had traveled throughout the solar system. From this massive space station they planned to expand into space seeking resources and potentially build installations on other planets. It was also where research of the highest order was conducted seeking ever new and advanced technology to progress their society and way of life.

However, currently, only a small percentage of the people planned to be living in the tower lived within. Only engineers, laborers, scientists and other important personnel currently lived within the tower because it was still in the construction phase and was not yet fully completed. The space station orbiting the planet was also being constantly expanded and upgraded to meet the needs of the world below. It was a massive project spanning many decades and only came to fruition due to the labor of innumerable people and an abundance of resources.

“What is this? Is this the inside of the mask? It doesn’t seem real. Is it just an illusion? But at the same time it almost does feel real. Perhaps this isn’t just a mere illusion, but something else entirely.”

Aleks felt as if he were currently an observer watching an old memory as if it were a video of some kind. However, amazingly enough, he could see everything in the space even things which were hidden from immediate view if he approached them. He was currently weightless and seemed to have no physical body but everything around him appeared so real. It was similar to a virtual space but even more visually tangible. It was as if he were a ghost actually present while this event was taking place.

His consciousness approached a man who currently sitting on the floor in front of a large sofa. Strange translucent screens with words scrolling across them, manuals and other technical research papers were strewed all across the floor haphazardly. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to any of it as the man tinkered with a small gadget. He seemed frustrated by something and was mumbling words to himself under his breath.

The man was seemingly in his early thirties, which at that time would still be considered to be relatively young especially for a man with his position and authority. At that time, the average age of death exceeded 150 and so a thirty year old would normally be someone just finishing their advanced education and entering a suitable career associated with their education and training.

In their world, children would be chosen at a young age based on their aptitude and sent to appropriate institutions of education until the age of thirty. It wasn’t just simple education either but also training. They would receive education and training in a variety of things as well. Their world had long been united under one government and culture, all speaking the same language and living similar lifestyles depending on their position in society. Everything was controlled by the government which was an enormous bureaucracy regulating every aspect of their world.

This particular man Aleks knew well, for it was he himself. Or at least, it was the man he once was.

The man continued his tinkering completely unaware of the consciousness that was carefully watching him. The room was brightly lit and there was a huge screen on the wall in front of the seated man which he hardly ever turned on. It was a viewing screen which had many purposes. It could be used for communication or for viewing entertainment. It also functioned as a control terminal for the A.I. that managed the living space when the owner wished. Of course the A.I. was omnipresent throughout the living space and was not confined to just the terminal.

As Aleks continued to observe quietly, since he could not actually physically speak, the man suddenly threw the tiny machine he was tinkering with on the floor and fell back towards the sofa and rested his head on it with a sigh. Aleks could clearly see the man’s face which was once his own. He was a relatively handsome man but his hair was quite disheveled and he appeared somewhat haggard. He clearly hadn’t washed his face for a long time and beneath his eyes were black bags showing that he hadn’t slept in an equally long time.

That’s me, or at least who I once was. What a fool I was then, thinking that my efforts would truly bring about change. Even though I had my brother Ishmael, I didn’t truly cherish the friendship and brotherhood that I had. I was stuck in the past, stuck in the memory of my parent’s death, and my hatred for the world. I blamed it on religion, on belief in gods, superstition and mysticism. Not without reason though. The great religious war almost caused the destruction of civilization itself, and even after the world was unified under one government, religious extremists continued their crusade. In reality, the conflict had never truly ended, it just moved to the shadows beneath the surface. I learned that the hard way when my own parents became victims of the violence at a young age. I became a ward of the state and later, a tool for their ambitions. This is what fueled my desires, and that mysterious voice deep within my mind and heart spurred me on. I helped build that tower as a means to an end, although the end I received was not at all what I had planned.

A loud ringing sound woke Aleks from his thoughts and the man in Aleks’s vision uttered a single word without changing his position in the slightest, “Open.”

The only slick metallic door within the residence slid to the side across the room from his location, and a man who looked very much like an elegant young scholar entered the room with a calm smile. He was a very handsome and charismatic individual who was the same age as the man leaning back on the sofa. He was wearing a white full bodied suit which fit snugly against his body showing off his lean muscles and well toned shape. For the people living in that particular society, he would be considered to have the ideal male physical form.

“An-Namrud! So you are here, as expected haha.” The man laughed warmly as he approached.

“Are you still tinkering with that toy? Every time you are stumped with something you have such a bad habit of playing around with some trivial new gadget without sleep or even considering your own well being. Isn’t it time you clean yourself up and spend some time with your colleagues? We are all worried about you.”

An-Namrud sighed with frustration again before replying in a somewhat hoarse voice, “Ishmael, I don’t have time to be fraternizing! This is something of the utmost importance. If I can’t resolve this problem…”

Ishmael couldn’t help but frown seeing his closest friend’s helplessness.

“Sometimes it is best to clear your mind and consider other things. Relaxing is important too, you spend too much time by yourself that even I am almost beginning to forget what you look like! If I didn’t force myself to come look for you every time, would I ever even see you? We are having a party to celebrate entering the final stage of the project, why don’t you come join us? The others are desperately hoping to see you. Jilliana has even been asking about you. She’s truly hoping to see you this time.”

“Jilliana? Ishmael, didn’t I tell you to stop meddling? I have no time for relationships. Don’t you feel it too? This feeling of urgency… it’s driving me mad. It keeps growing stronger as if there is some dire calamity heading our way. This project must be completed, we must stabilize the core engine within the Tower and it must be fully activated before this calamity comes.”

To others, he might sound like a madman but Ishmael couldn’t deny the fact that he too had been feeling a strange and foreboding presence driving them. He had even had unexplainable dreams which seemed all too real, but he never believed in such superstition and while An-Namrud too didn’t believe in superstition, he was much more motivated than Ishmael.

“Brother… I..”

“Forget it, just let me be for now. Please…”

“I see I won’t be able to convince you but you can’t continue to live like this. What is the point? What we are doing is truly magnificent work but what is the point if it costs you everything else… taking some time to enjoy the little things is good too.”

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An-Namrud could only shake his head, “I know you mean well brother but none of that matters to me.”

Seeing his beloved friend and brother being so obstinate he could only shake his head in frustration, “Fine, but next time you must definitely come.”

With that he left and once again An-Namrud was alone with his own thoughts.

Aleks remembered this moment clearly as if it were yesterday because the next time he saw Ishmael was also the last time. It was that night he finally realized what he needed to do, but it was also the beginning of the end.

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