Written as a challenge from my friend, Kris, who wanted a story – written in a strict time limit of 45-minutes – including an enchanted forest in winter, two squirrels and a problem.
An icy chill hung in the frozen air as Evitca stared up at the canopy of trees, almost obliterating the graphite-grey sky. Winter had finally arrived in this perplexing place and, as she pulled the woollen cardigan close to her skin, began to question her genesis in this place. The world was a mystery and, as she watched two squirrels frolicking together in the leaf litter below, her mind cartwheeled with questions as to how it had all begun. She remembered her first day in the forest, but couldn’t recall her life before that golden sunrise almost a year ago. Back then, the amber sun had filled the azure sky with the hue of midsummer honey and, even though she had known something was different even then, the warm embrace of a cathartic summer had whitewashed away the most pertinent questions. But now, as the sky threatened snow and the wind bit hard at her ears, Evitca pondered and her mind, laced with the cords of creativity, began to wonder. This world was different from the one she had left behind, but she didn’t know why? Only the faintest sense of a past life was left, hidden deep within her neural pathways, but she just knew half of the elaborate jigsaw, which told the story of her life, was missing.
One thing she did know was that she was alone. Even though she’d been in this wood for almost a year, in that time she hadn’t seen a single other human. When she first arrived in the wood, Evitca had found herself inside a beautiful log cabin, furnished in a comfortable alpine style with patchwork cushions and furry rugs. Rustic and warm, the house was equipped with electricity, running water and had a large supply of interesting books, as well as an re-filling stock cupboard that provided Evitca with a constant supply of nutritious food. Evitca lived the life she’d been forced into and, as humans know, after a length of time, we begin to accept what we have been given and stop asking the myriad questions which only create anxiety and destroy happiness. However, as the icy chill entered the unconscious sadness hidden within Evitca’s mind, she began to become aware of the threads she needed to untangle in order to make sense of this strange new world. Firstly, she knew she’d been in the forest a year, trapped within the confines of this enigmatic place. Secondly, even though she had no idea why she was there, or how she’d ended up alone, she knew something was keeping her cupboards continually re-stocked with food.
Staring up at the sky, Evitca felt the first flake of snow and, like a child experiencing their first winter, offered her tongue to the icy atmosphere. However, her body felt no cold as the flake touched her tongue and, as she took a gulp of the wintry air, she thought back to the previous summer. Even though Evitca recalled the rain, she couldn’t remember getting wet and, even though she knew her shower in the cabin was warm and cleansing, couldn’t imagine the feeling of water on her weary morning skin. Something wasn’t right and, as the snow stopped and a liquid-yellow sun peeked out from behind an opaque cloud, Evitca began to re-tie the broken strings in her mind.
This world, this cabin, wasn’t real. The snow, the rain, the shower, everything around her was a simulation, an elaborate idea to protect people from the dying Earth. Her mind, fragmented from a stolen reality, suddenly grasped the missing puzzle piece of why she was there and she recalled, almost instantaneously, the day when had she signed the paperwork and her consciousness was separated from her organic form. Back in the year 3030, when the last climate intervention programme had been deemed a failure, twenty leading scientists had been given the chance to participate in a unique experiment where their consciousness would be separated from their physical form and they would be fed into the motherboard of a supercomputer buried deep below the surface of a rapidly heating Earth. Evitca was one of those scientists and, all at once, her memories seemed to come flooding back, filling her senses as though she’d just read her own autobiography. Above her, in a world far away from the electrical energy of progress, a dying Earth was burning up under an unforgiving sun and the last of the humans, her and nineteen others, were trapped forever in the sterile binary of a supercomputer affectionately known as Rebyc 1. As her neurons connected reality and her situation became apparent, she knew, suddenly, why she was alone in this place. Even though the computer had been perfected and the programme worked perfectly, the system only allowed each human consciousness to exist in its own separate world. Way back Evitca knew she must have chosen an enchanted forest, although she couldn’t remember the exact reason why. As the leaden sky finally gave way to intoxicating sunshine, Evitca sat down, beneath her favourite oak tree and shed a dry tear for her lonely planet above.
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