by Old Man Time
This details the reclamation of humanity in a dispassionate, computer-controlled future.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
It was a cold December day when the Blue-Tinged Angel deigned to walk this earth. She walked the city streets, her hands clutching something tightly to her chest. Melding into the silence of her mind, she ducks under the oppressive air, seemingly lost in the crowd, but managing to get her head above the water, sea green in contrast to her brilliant blue eyes, to keep herself from drowning.
Slipping into a back alley, she leaves the crowds and the noise behind her, and stares up at a large, silver mirror which covers the entire expanse of the street, seemingly rising straight up into the rain clouds and high rises above. It is perfectly flat, as if it were a basin of water left undisturbed for centuries, and the sudden dullness permeating her thoughts is deafening. Somewhere in the high rises, a million dull red alarms are going off, sending Security shuffling their tired feet on the pale gray concrete.
A boy, head hanging low, chains shackling him to the four walls and ceiling in a tangled web of steel. He is monitored incessantly, having committed a crime too heinous for death. Yet still, they whisper, he is unrepentant. Even now, at the core of his being, the dream will not die.
Flailing for reality, he catches a strand of feeling, a tangible wisp of thought. It is impossible to concentrate: ever that low thud pounds on, reverberating at the bottom of his skull and reducing him to the base instincts of his being. A voice, calling out to him. He lifts his head up to heaven, crying out, and begins tearing down the fabric of this wretched illusion. With incalculable response time, the logic system of the mainframe computer carries out its functions, and dozens of indistinguishable lab coat wearing technicians hover around its monitors, nodding in response to its decision. The needle is removed, cleanly, having dispensed enough cyanide to extinguish even a dream.
Standing defiant in the central alley, the angel casts aside her outer cloak, which sloshes in the muddy puddle beside her. Extending her arms in an offering, in her outstretched palm is a single candle. She holds it up to the mirror, knowing that it will only be but a little longer.
A thousand years ago, a most miraculous event occurred. The swirling gray clouds, ever encircling the city sky, for but a second dissipated in a single spot, allowing for that one second the light of a star to shine through. All records of that event were erased, and the monitors quickly discovered any whose activity scans showed signs of witnessing that event. Since most of the world shuffles through life looking down at their feet, there ended up being but one who had seen the light.
The excess light was soon absorbed, and the machines established equilibrium effectively in the gaseous sky. However, the machines could not prevent the boy from learning how to Dream. He was immediately apprehended and put through the highest level of personality reconditioning, and he would never again open up his eyes. When the boy tapped into the dream, he learned another thing: somehow, somewhere, there was another who shared the same dream.
Like a knife lancing through her stomach, the girl almost doubled over with pain, gasping as it racked her body from the tips of her blue-tinged wings to the bottom of her weary feet. She held onto the pain as long as she could, and then clung to the memory of it, feeling it give her definition and showing her the reality that had for so long been denied. It coalesced into a searing white light in her mind, and she felt intoxicated by its power. It would only be a little while longer.
She had searched for the boy, traversing the sprawling city tirelessly, from its cold streets on the surface to the metal abyss of its foundations, and up to the heights of its tallest buildings, even touching the cold iron cage which holds us all in. For a thousand years she searched, systematically trekking the grid, managing not to get lost in its spiraling verticality or its drawn out underpinnings. And all the while, the dream kept her alive those long years. Now, she had found him, and he had led her to the mirror.
Miles below the surface, the boy lurches forward, exhaling sharply. He should be dead by now, the lab coats wonder, and soon dozens of needles are stabbing his body, bullets tear through him from every direction, and a single laser beam burns a uniform hole through the middle of his forehead. For the first time in a thousand years, the boy opens up his eyes, and, to the surprise of even the most sophisticated probability machines, reconnected to the System, an act that he had resisted for so long.
Rounding the corner, Security spies the girl through their scopes, and immediately fire their weapons at her from several hundred yards away. The concussive blasts smash into the back of her head, and send her forehead hurtling into the glass mirror, shattering it in a fountain of blood. Even in its current state, the computer remembers to alter the brain chemicals of the Security personnel, who feel duly rewarded.
Staggering up, the girl stares through the mirror, which is as cracked and broken as her blood-streaked face. Staring back at her, from the other side, is the boy, his brown eyes soaking in her pain, spellbound by her beauty. Out of his right pocket he pulls a single silver key, which he presses into the palm of her hand.
After looking first at the key in her hands, the girl says to the boy, “We…” Interrupting her quietly, the boy says, “I know.” She nods, and bends over to pick the candle off the floor, which is strangely burning still. Security is chasing them still down the long alley, and fire off repeated rounds of the concussive weapons, which send the mirror fragments, sides of buildings and ground level litter around them in a whirlwind of motion. The boy and girl, however, are oblivious to this, and are holding together in their hands the burning candle, and the silver key. Suddenly, the girl flings her arms tightly around the boy, sobbing, and traps the burning candle between their bodies. The boy holds her tight, resting his world-weary head on her delicate shoulder, as the flames begin to crackle.
By the time Security reaches them, they are engulfed in a raging inferno, consuming their flesh and blackening their bones. The Security personnel stop right before them, and through their eyes the mainframe computer watches as well, stunned and caught in a loop from which it cannot break. In minutes, they exist only as a pile of ashes on the cold, gray street, which are scattered by a howling wind that suddenly picks up and sweeps through the alley. The soldiers, having outlived their usefulness, are succinctly eliminated by a secondary computer system absentmindedly, a system whose logic programs are struggling with the lack of response from the mainframe.
Days pass. Billions pretend to live just as they have done for time immemorial, but there is a buzz, a sense of energy that pervades The City. It has been a thousand years since such excitement has been felt. If they had known the sound of wind whistling through a tree, they might have attributed it to that, but as it was, only two of them could dream of trees, and these two were nowhere to be found.
Three days later, the mainframe computer was killed and rebooted, coming back to life with a vengeance for humanity, immediately squelching the feelings of unrest it sensed in the population. At first it had much success, but there were many who could not return to their slumber now that they had had their shades opened and had seen the light of the new day. From these stirrings in their minds rose a wind, a wind whose calming fragrance returned to them lucidity and hope, free will and humanity. The past is dead: the future, however, holds unlimited opportunity.