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!l i g h t h o u s e
!!!A short interactive fiction
[[Start]]Your wife smiles at you. You are both lying on your bed. You forget how long you've shared the same bed with this person, but it feels like a long time...in a good way.
[[Go Back To Sleep]]She tells you she loves you, her bright blue eyes capturing the light from the sun.
[["I love you, too."->I love you, too.]]
[[Go Back To Sleep]] Where you are, there is no [[sound.]]
Where you are, there is no [[warmth.]]
Where you are, there is no [[touch.]]
As her face comes closer to yours, it begins to split off into fractals. All the colours in the room spiral out until you feel like you are looking into a kaleidoscope.
[[Go Back To Sleep]] Tinnitus ran in your family. You listened to music too loud, and so did your father, and his father. The allure of shutting out the world one song at a time was too great. The volume on your handheld computer would always creep up and up until you gave yourself headaches.
[[Stay Asleep]]You remember the dark winters of your youth, and how they became more and more desperate as the cold set in. It was so cold you could feel it in the marrow of your bones.
Your family had electric heaters that could never seem to put out enough heat. Your mother would warm you not to let your feet, or blanket touch the ceramic element, but inevitably you would always burn yourself, or melt the fabric of your comforter.
[[Stay Asleep]]You remember being four-years-old. Your grandmother sang old church hymns quietly while stroking your hair until you fell asleep in the middle of the day. Now, your nervous tic is running your fingers through your hair just like she used to.
[[Stay Asleep]]Where you are, there is [[no love.]]You wake up in darkness. It feels like there is a weight on your chest, and you are freezing cold and wet. There is a mask on your face with tubes coming out of it. A loud alarm is audible, but muted.
[[Feel around.]]You reach out into the darkness, and start to feel the round, rigid, yet malleable surface. By feel, you judge that you are in a pod of some sort.
The pod begins to fill up with more water, and alot of it gets into your mouth.
[[Push gently against the roof of the pod.]]
[[Kick as hard as you can repeatedly.]]You push up against the pod, and it bends under the light force you apply.
[[Kick as hard as you can repeatedly.]] You kick out with both feet, over and over again, until you start to hear the pod crack.
A few more good kicks, and you've made a small hole in the middle of your would-be sarcophogus.
[[Keep kicking.]]You kick and kick until the hole is big enough to fit through. You squeeze your head and shoulders through the gap, and immediately the blaring sound fills your ears. The room you're in is lit by red LED lamps along the ceiling. You notice the room is filled with several of the same pod, except they are all opened up and empty.
The alarm stops, and the red light turns into a soft white light. You hear a humming sound, and then a sliding door open.
[[Get out of the pod.]]
[[Get out of the pod and look for a weapon, quickly.]]
[[Stay in the pod.]]
You see a floating screen come straight for you. It is held up, or a part of, a quadcopter. On the screen is a bright, smiling cartoon face.
“Hello sir!,” the floating face says. “You’re awake early!”
[[Hello? Where am I?”]]
[[What are you?]]You see a floating screen come straight for you. It is held up, or a part of, a quadcopter. On the screen is a bright, smiling cartoon face.
“Hello sir!,” the floating face says. “You’re awake early! Do you require assistance getting out of the CryoWomb?”
[[What are you?]]You scramble to get out of the pod, your back facing the door. You look for something to use as a weapon, but the room is bare besides the pods, and a few computer panels.
"Can I help you find something, sir?" a voice says from behind you. You slowly turn in horror, until you're greeted by a smiling cartoon face projected by a screen, attached to some sort of drone.
[[What are you?]] "You're aboard the ship," the AI said.
[[Where is the ship going?]]"Admittedly I am a little insulted you don't remember me, but that's probably just cryosleep amnesia."
You stare blankly at the floating cartoon face.
"I am Georgie, this ship's AI assistant."
[[Ship? What ship?]]"Oh dear," Georgie says. "Let me get you a blanket, and something warm to drink. Come with me."
[[Follow Georgie.]]"I don't think I should answer that yet," Georgie says.
[[If you don't tell me..->Ship? What ship?]]You follow Georgie down a series of cramped hallways. You brush up against the wall with your hand, and notice how peculiar it feels. Almost the same texture as the pod you just kicked your way out of.
[[Keep following Georgie.]]
You manage to follow Georgie five paces before blanking out on what you were doing. You realize you can’t even remember your name. You look down at the floor, and see a small plastic figure lying on its side.
[[Pick up plastic figure.]]It’s a small orange tiger with clumsy black stripes. It looks like a child painted it.
[[Put tiger in pocket.]]
You put the tiger in your pocket.
[[Keep walking.]]You continue to follow the AI through the corridors. Heavy blast doors slide open and shut as you pass through them. Green lights turn to red when the doors are closed and locked.
The path you move through is less winding than you expect. You mostly walk straight. Turning left, then right, then continuing [[straight.]]Finally you come to a massive blast door that slides open effortlessly as you and Georgie pass through it. It too closes and locks behind you.
The room is dark, and the air smells musty. Across from where you’re standing. You see the twinkle of several white lights.
[[Can you turn on the lights, Georgie?]]“Sorry sir, I keep them turned off to preserve energy, one moment.”
After a few seconds, the lights turn on revealing a large curved room, with a large dome like window making up the structure of one third of the room. Outside the window, is darkness peppered with specks of light.
[[Stars.]][[“Where are we?!”]]“Oh my, knowing your previous reaction, I should get you to sit down first.”
“What previous reaction,” you say sitting down. “This is the first time I remember…”
“You don’t remember. It’s a side effect of cryo sleep.”
[[“Okay, how many times have we had this conversation?”]]“17.”
[[“Okay. So where are we?”]]“Somewhere between Earth and Gliese 832 c.”
[[“Can you be more specific?”]]“Roughly 2.47 parsecs from Gliese 832 and 2.46 parsecs from Earth.”
[[“That’s pretty far, how long till we get to Gliese 832?”]]“Roughly 132 years at our current speed.”
[[Will I live that long?”]]You’ve already been on the ship for 130 or so years, and you don’t look a day over 37 if I do say so myself!
[[Thanks. Why am I alone?]]“You’ve been sent on a solo mission to seed the exoplanet Gliese 832c. This ship is made out of organic material, and metal that will come into contact with the planet and immediately start terraforming the surface. You are to be the missions caretaker before more colonists arrive.”
[[That doesn’t make sense. I had a dream I had a wife, why would I leave her?]]“Oh dear, you must be confused from cryosleep. This always happens.”
[[I’m not confused. It just doesn’t make sense to send one person alone. Colonizing a planet is a job for…]]“You’re probably still confused. I think it’s time to go back into the CryoWomb! I’ll open the corridors for you.”
[[No.]]You go back to room you woke up in, and lie down in one of the CryoWomb pods.
[[...]]“I am the ship’s AI, you need to comply with my orders.”
[[Okay, I’ll go back to sleep]]
[[Fuck you]]You go back to room you woke up in, and lie down in one of the CryoWomb pods.
It closes and the water begins to feel warm and soothing.
You hear a loud hissing sound coming from above you. The lights in the room go out, and it becomes hard to breathe. You fall to your knees, holding your throat, gasping for air.
[[...]]Your wife smiles at you. You are both lying on your bed. You forget how long you've shared the same bed with this person, but it feels like a long time...in a good way.
She tells you she loves you, her bright blue eyes capturing the light from the sun.
Over her shoulder, a young girl appears, pouncing into the nook between your wife's body and yours. You notice one hand is closed.
[[What's in your hand sweetheart?]]
Your daughter opens her hands, revealing a small, hand-painted, plastic tiger.
You blink, your eyelids heavy, but your eyes cannot get a hold of a light source.
In the dark, you can [[remember.]]The water surrounding you, though warm, gets colder as you regain control of your body.
You kick your way out of the pod, and search your pockets for the plastic tiger.
The clumsily painted tiger triggers more memories. You remember kissing your daughter on the forehead before putting her in a [[pod.]]
As you're searching, the door slides open and the ships AI comes through the door.
[["Stay away from me!"]]
[["What am I doing with this?"]]“The mission had to continue. The species must survive.”
[[You’re right.->Beginning of the End]]
[[The cost is too high.]]“Your family knew the risks. You knew the risks.”
[[Yes.->Beginning of the End]]
[[But it was MY family.]]“You have no choice but to comply. I have no choice but to complete the mission. Failure would mean you’d doom 14 billion people. Your family would have died in vain.”
[[Okay...->Beginning of the End]]
[[If we can’t maintain the sanctity of one life, or four, why would fourteen billion lives matter?]]“The ship needs you to maintain function of the ion reactors in order to make it to Cleise in time. You have a duty.”
[[Okay...->Beginning of the End]]
[[You are a machine. You don’t understand what I feel right now.]]“Your feelings only hinder your duty. You are a bad machine.”
[[Give me time to process this.->Beginning of the End]]
[[Just kill me.]]“I cannot kill you. The mission requires your service.”
[[Okay.->Beginning of the End]]You break down and start to cry. You understand the rules of this game. The rules are, do what you’re told.
“When you’re finished leaking, you need to tend to the reactor. It’s running at 80% capacity.”
[[Okay.]]You travel through the halls of the ship, the green lights above blast doors guiding your way. You are only half mindful of your body and its automatic movements. Your thoughts are elsewhere.
When you reach the reactor room, you start to remember your job. The panels and controls make sense to you. There is still the itch in the back of your mind. You know your situation is possible, but you want justice.
[[Fix the reactor.]]
[[Overload the reactor.]]You fix the reactor, and then settle into your quarters until you’re instructed to go back into stasis.
When you go back into a CryoWomb for the rest of the journey, you see the faces of your family members as the water swallows you.
[[End.]]You cross a few wires, press a few buttons on the panel, and then wait.
When you feel the ship start to shake, you drop to the floor. You've never prayed in your life, so you don't know what to say or think in this moment.
When you feel the heat rise inside the room, you swear you can hear the screams of billions of people, and that, to you, is justice.
[[End.]]You examine the insides of all the pods closely. You find fingernail scratches on the inside of three of the pods.
[[Back->remember.]] You scream at the ship's AI. Screaming a single question.
[[Why?.->AIConfession]]Why is this plastic tiger here? It belonged to my daughter.
[["Where is she?"->AIConfession]]
"A solar flare from a nearby red dwarf knocked out the air scrubber, and you were the only mission critical member of the colonization team."
[["This isn't real."]]You vomit a pool of bile on the ground.
[[This isn't happening.->Why?]]<a href="http://www.dcsross.com">My Website</a>
<a href="http://www.patreon.com/dcsross">My Patreon</a>