The Annihilation of Foreverland

BOOK: The Annihilation of Foreverland
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The Annihilation of

FOREVERLAND

 

Tony Bertauski

 

Copyright © 201
1
by Tony Bertauski

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

 

This book is a work of fiction. The use of real people or real locations is used fictitiously. Any resemblance of characters to real persons is purely coincidental

 

See more about the author and forthcoming books at http://www.bertauski.com

 

 

bertauski.com

 

In the Self-Center Dream Blog

 

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Novels by Tony Bertauski

 

CLAUS

Claus: Legend of the Fat Man

In Search of Grinch (
Coming!)

 

FOREVERLAND

The Annihilation of Foreverland

Foreverland is Dead (
In Progress)

Beyond Foreverland (
Coming!)

 

HALFSKIN

Halfskin

Clay (
Coming!)

M0therland
(Coming!)

 

SOCKET GREENY

The Discovery of Socket Greeny (#1)

The Training of Socket Greeny (#2)

The Legend of Socket Greeny (#3)

 

Novellas by
Tony Bertauski

Drayton, the Taker (Drayton #1)

Bearing the Cross (Drayton #2)

Swift is the Current (Drayton #3)

Yellow (Drayton #4)

 

Dedicated to things that matter.

You know who you are.

 

Where there’s needles, there’s pain.

The Needle’s Prick
by The Zin

 

 

ROUND

Local Computer Genius Arrested on Federal Charges

 

SUMMERVILLE,
South Carolina
. – Tyler Ballard, 37, was apprehended by authorities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for practicing federally banned computer technology.

Ballard is best known for inventing the controversial technique of Computer-Assisted Alternate Reality (CAAR) that ind
uces lucid dream states
. The program requires a direct connection with the user’s frontal lobe by means of a needle-probe piercing the forehead that results in a realistic computer-generated environment. Users reported no difference between their CAAR experience and flesh-body experience.

The controversial technology was later banned in most countries when all users began to suffer irreparable psychological damage that resulted in vegetative states.

Ballard was practicing CAAR in his basement with his wife, Patricia Ballard, 36. Patricia suffers from bipolar disorder and, Tyler Ballard claims, was responding well to CAAR treatments. Authorities dispute this claim since Patricia has been unresponsive to physical stimuli since the arrest.

Harold Ballard, 12, their only son, was placed in the custody of his grandparents.

 

1

Click-click-click-click.

The walls inched closer. Reed gripped the bars of his shrinking cell.

His legs, shaking.

The cold seeped through his bare feet. The soles were numb, his ankles ached. He lifted his feet one at a time, alternating back and forth to keep the bitter chill from reaching his groin, but he couldn’t waste strength anymore. He let go of the bars to shake the numbness from his fingers.

He’d been standing for quite some time.
Has it been hours?
Occasionally he would sit to rest his aching legs, but soon the cell would be too narrow for that. He’d have to stand up. And when the top of his cage started moving down – and it would – he’d be forced to not-quite stand, not-quite sit.

He knew how things worked.

Although he couldn’t measure time in the near-blackout room, this round felt longer than previous ones. Perhaps it would never end. Maybe he’d have to stand until his knees crumbled under his dead weight. His frigid bones would shatter like frozen glass when he hit the ground. He’d fall like a boneless bag, his muscles liquefied in a soupy mix of lactic acid and calcium, his nerves firing randomly, his eyes bulging, teeth chattering—
Don’t think. No thoughts.

Reed learned that his suffering was only compounded by thoughts, that the false suffering of what he
thought
would happen would crush him before the true suffering did. He learned to be present with the burning, the cold, and the aches.
The agony
.

He couldn’t think. He had to be present, no matter what.

Sprinklers dripped from the ribs of the domed ceiling that met at the apex where an enormous ceiling fan still moved from the momentum of its last cycle. Eventually, the sprinklers would hiss another cloud and the fan would churn again and the damp air would sift through the bars and over Reed’s wet skin, heightening the aches in his joints like clamps. For now, there was just the drip of the sprinklers and the soft snoring of his cellmates
.

Six individual cells were inside the building, three on each side of a concrete
aisle
. Each one contained a boy about Reed’s age. They were all in their teens, the youngest being fourteen. Their cells were spacious; only Reed’s had gotten smaller. Despite the concrete, they all lay on the floor, completely unaware of the anguish inside the domed building.

They weren’t sleeping, though. Sleep is when you close your eyes and drift off to unconsciousness. No, they were somewhere else. The black strap around each of their heads took them away from the pain. They had a choice to stay awake like Reed, but they chose
to
lie
down, strap on, and go wherever it took them. They didn’t care where.

In fact, they wanted to go.

To escape.

Reed couldn’t blame them. They were kids. They were scared and alone. Reed was all those things, too. But he didn’t have a strap around his head. He stayed in his flesh.

He took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Started counting, again.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9…10.

And then he did it again. Again.

And again.

He didn’t measure time with his breathing. He only breathed. His life was in his breath. It ebbed and flowed like the tides. It came and went like the lunar phases. When he could be here and now, the suffering was tolerable. He counted, and counted and counted.

Distracted, he looked up at the fan. The blades had come to a complete stop. The air was humid and stagnant and cold. Around the domed ceiling were circular skylights that stared down with unforgiving blackness, indifferent to suffering. Reed tried not to look with the hopes of seeing light pour through them, signaling an end. Regardless if it was day or night, the skylights were closed until the round of suffering was over, so looking, hoping and wishing for light was no help. It only slowed time when he did. And time had nearly stopped where he was at.

1, 2, 3—

A door opened at the far right; light knifed across the room, followed by a metallic snap and darkness again. Hard shoes clicked unevenly across the floor. Reed smelled the old man before he limped in front of his cell, a fragrance that smelled more like deodorant than cologne. Mr. Smith looked over his rectangular glasses.

“Reed, why do you resist?”

Reed met his gaze but didn’t reply. Mr. Smith wasn’t interested in a discussion. It was always a lecture. No point to prolong it.

“Don’t be afraid.” The dark covered his wrinkles and dyed-black hair, but it couldn’t hide his false tone. “I promise, you try it once, you’ll see. You don’t have to do it again if you don’t like it. We’re here to help, my boy. Here to help. You don’t have to go through this suffering.”

Did he forget they were the ones that put him in there? Did he forget they made the rules and called the shots and forced him to play? Reed knew he – himself – he had gone mad but IS EVERYONE CRAZY?

Reed let his thoughts play in his eyes. Mr. Smith crossed his arms, unmoved.

“We don’t want to hurt you, I promise. We’re just here to prepare you for a better life, that’s all. Just take the lucid gear, the pain will go away. I promise.”

He reached through the bars and batted the black strap hanging above Reed’s head. It turned like a seductive mobile. Reed turned his back on him. Mr. Smith sighed. A pencil scratched on a clipboard.

“Have it your way, Reed,” h
e said, before limp-shuffling along. “The Director wants to see you after this round is over.”

He listened to the incessant lead-scribbled notes and click-clack of shiny shoes. When Mr. Smith was gone, Reed was left with only the occasional drip of the dormant sprinklers. He began to breathe again, all the way to ten and over. And over. And over. No thoughts. Just 1, 2, 3… 1, 2, 3… 1, 2—
Click-click-click-click.

Reed locked his knees and leaned back as the cell walls moved closer. Soon the fan would turn again and the mist would drift down to bead on his shoulders. Reed couldn’t stop the thoughts from telling him what the near future would feel like. How bad it was going to get.

He looked up at the luci
d gear dangling above his head.

He took a breath.

And began counting again.

2

“Danny Boy!”

Danny’s aunt’s voice was muffled. She was calling from his bedroom with that thick Irish accent, obviously thought he was still in bed. Eventually, she’d come up to the attic where Danny was hunched over the keyboard, eyes on the screen. His mother had cleared a space out of the corner just for him, no one else, and even when the weather was too hot or too cold, Danny would sit up there all day.

“Danny Boy! Where are you, darling?”

He couldn’t be interrupted now. He’d been acting sick for two weeks and got behind in school work. His mother trusted he was getting the homework done but he’d spent all his time modding the computer to do exactly what he was doing now.

People are stupid.

They used easy passwords and repeated the same one over and over.
Who thinks the word
password
is a password? Morons.

It wasn’t difficult to get past the school’s firewall. Danny broke the encrypted password – using a program
he
wrote, thank you very much.
In two seconds, he’d be a second grade, straight-A student. Once again.

Thank you very much.

Wait. I’m 13, not 7.

“Danny Boy?” The steps creaked. “Are you up here all ready? It’s not even six o’clock in the morning, sonny boy.”

Danny’s fingers danced over the keys.

“Danny Boy… what are you doing?”

One more stroke and—

CRRUNNCH!

Danny fell out
of
the chair. The sound was deafening, like a metal pole plunging through the roof, smashing wood and shingles. Dust swirled in the new light. The steps creaked again, but something had changed. There wasn’t insulation hanging from the ceiling anymore and there was a pile of boxes that wasn’t there before.

BOOK: The Annihilation of Foreverland
8.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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