/#: Apocalypse #/

/#: Day 3 #//

It’s so cold.

The wind moans in the corridors, cruelly leaching the heat from my body. i shiver and shuffle myself further into the corner, pressing into the cold and damp concrete. The discomfort is unbearable but the fear is pervasive, pressing me down and holding me in place, imprisoning me in this noisome place. The alternative is too terrifying to contemplate.

It’s three days now since the Event. Although i’ve no doubt it will be well documented by future historians i have decided to add my own few words for the record – if nothing else, these scribblings will help me to place things in perspective and maintain some sort of order in this chaos. Perhaps they will help me preserve my sanity and force me to focus on survival – dammit! i will survive.

The first we knew of the problems was the Gridwide stall – for six long minutes everything stopped: no movement, no sound, nothing – we stood, silently frozen in time and space. You hear stories of those who got away… those who shut down their systems escaping the pain that was to come, whereas we – the lost – waited, with our futile attempts to log off:  failing and cursing sl’s awkwardness.  How could we have known our fate?

It was plain at the Restart that something was badly amiss: whole inventories cleared; residents had lost their homes and Lindens; a lucky few, like myself, wearing their own creations got off lightly, others found themselves naked, or worse, limbless or ‘Ruthed’ parodies of their former selves. That was just the beginning, the worst was to come.

It was the noobs i felt sorry for – at Orientation Island they were like sitting ducks, the Elite just picked them off as they rezzed… they didn’t even see the light of day. At least established residents stood a fighting chance: the Elite had no way of knowing where they would log in and they were too few to be everywhere, even so, ambushes took place – the carnage was terrible. The carnage IS terrible.

We’re stuck here now, unable to leave, unable to log off – even a complete system shutdown no longer helps – we’re still here on the restart. Unable to communicate with the outside world – unable to warn them – we’re prisoners and, every day more log on, not suspecting what lies in wait for them. Every day the fear grows: when will we be discovered, when will we meet our fate?

They are few places that can be said to be truly safe – most sims are now ‘abandoned land’, not the property of Governor Linden: no, they’re abandoned, but still nominally owned by terrified avis who are in hiding, or worse de-rezzed. To the Elite, prims mean power and those who have been blessed with wealth are high on the list of victims. Me? – i have neither prims nor power – still i hide – if i’m caught, i’m worthless, they’ll snuff me out or tear me apart, pixel by pixel, for sheer amusement. i will not be caught.

The bunker is cold, draughty and damp. It stinks of rot and stale urine, but for now it is safe. The Elite are content, for the time being, to hunt down the landowners and power-mongers: those with private islands and large bank balances. For a time, at least, i am safe here. So i cower, shivering on the floor, not knowing what to do or where to go.

i wait, and hope.

/#: Day 7 #//

i can no longer stand this place. i am sick with fear, and sick from the putrid stench of these tunnels. The rats are breeding out of control – their sculpted forms scuttling down the tunnels, their rasping squeaking, a constant tinnitus in my ears. Better to die running, than to waste away in this hell hole.

Tomorrow i shall make my bid for freedom.

/#: Day 8 #//

i’m so scared – and yet the need to survive has overcome my instinct to hide. The bunker is far behind me – and the nightmare journey through the fetid tunnels is one i shall not be repeating. The exit to the outside world lies before me, an iron grating the only barrier between me and whatever now lies beyond. i know not what to expect, other than to expect the very worst. Where to go? – i don’t know… it will depend on what i find on the other side of this grating – that’s if i am not found first.

It’s been two days now since i left the sewers – at times i wish i never had (i can hardly believe i’m thinking that). i don’t think i’ve slept for more than 30 minutes at a time since then. The desire to be with people is so powerful and yet the fear of others is equally strong – those i have stumbled across are suspicious and fearful – many are confused and dazed, whilst others are angry, even violent. With every encounter comes the nagging feeling that people are not who they seem, that at any moment a stranger may be revealed to be serving the Elite.

None of us seems to have any purpose, other than to survive. It is safer to travel alone and avoid contact but it is oh, so lonely.

The city appears to be undamaged by the events of these past days… i have heard rumours of whole sims laid to waste, buildings toppled and structures destroyed but here, things appear eerily normal. Normal that is for a city devoid of life, other than shambling avatars with fearful gazes. Already, places are falling into disrepair and corruption is gaining a hold.

It is constant gloom here – nothing i can do will change the environment and controls appear to be locked on darkness. Not night: there are no stars or moon and no day, just dreary darkness.

The place is horribly silent – a silence interspersed with sudden bursts of noise. The staccato report of gunfire in the distance, the rumbling thunder of explosions – sometimes too close for comfort. There are other sounds too – screams, violent shouts and running feet – it is an uncomfortable place to be.

/#: Day 13 #//

i have taken to finding refuge in the underground places. In the dark and forbidding shadows of stairwells and subway tunnels. i know there are others around me but in the darkness we are all blind, we are all vulnerable, we are all equal.

Two days ago, i was ambushed – a close call – i would never have survived, had it not been for my choice of preferences… although teleportation and flight no longer appear to function, ‘always fly after TP’ apparently remains feasible and, in my panic to escape, hitting TP saved my life. Suddenly i was aloft, with the murderous crowd beneath me: i fled to safety. The temptation to remain in flight permanently is huge but, in the air i am an easy target for the Elite – it is too big a risk. At least i now have a means of escape, should i need it once more.

A plan is starting to form – the city centre is too dangerous… too many people. i shall escape this place and make my way to the suburbs – how, i don’t know – my map is of little use, other than for pointing to clusters of activity… places i wish to avoid. Of course, i am equally aware that i am plainly visible to others – i travel with care, below ground where possible, or at height, rarely remaining at ground level for long periods, it is simply asking for trouble.

/#: Day 14 #//

Whispers in the subway… the Elite are on the move… they are clearing the city centres.

Tomorrow i leave for the suburbs, for the edge of town.

/#: Day 16 #//

It is strange how the need to survive can change one’s character. In the past two days i have developed a callous disregard for my fellow citizens. It is true, i fear, that only the strong survive and so i have necessarily become strong, although i despise myself for it.

Here in the industrial outskirts of the city – a place i would once have called the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ – there is a kind of peace. Disaster has visited and left its calling card of emptiness and desertion, those few who remain – the real survivors – are cowed and frightened. Here, lost souls whimper in alleyways, no longer capable of fight, only flight. i caught one, a snivelling teen, dressed in rags and one half of an expensive trainer, hiding in a dumpster. It grieves me to think how i treated him, but in these days, knowledge is power – it is the currency of survival and must be garnered, whatever the cost.

At knifepoint, he told me how the Elite had appeared one morning, rooting out those in hiding. How groups were randomly herded away, collared and enslaved whilst the rest… the rest were just dumped out of the system, ghosted and left to decay, never to recover. He told me about the indiscriminate destruction of property and people – the Elite, it seems, are not interested in individuals, if you run from them, they won’t follow, but get in their way and they will take you, showing no mercy.

Now they have moved on, the suburbs and warehouses are silent.

i let him go – sickened with myself and the depths i had sunk to – but such knowledge is priceless. Even so, the memory of my knife against the pale skin of his throat makes me retch.

/#: Day 17 #//

i have a refuge. A place that affords me sanctuary and security: now, from my eyrie, high above the docklands, i have an unparalleled vista of the city beneath me. Nothing happens that i am unaware of and nothing can be hidden from me. My haven is pretty much unassailable – my new found ability to fly at will affords me simple access, whereas any foe is forced to climb the hard way: and i will be waiting, or long gone by the time they arrive.

For the first time in many days, i feel safe. Of course, it is still difficult to both sleep and keep watch but there are so few people remaining in this part of the city, and they are so weak-willed, i have little to fear from them.

/#: Day 20 #//

The fear has returned – changes have taken place that have unnerved me and reminded me of the reality of my predicament. Two days ago, the sim re-started unexpectedly: unable to exit, i was left hanging in the air in a grey emptiness, as were all of those still in hiding. I now realise there are far more people here than i anticipated, some gathered in large groups and now we are all aware of each others’ presence, i can only hope that they are content to remain in their own safehouses but i fear that my hope will be short-lived.

On the re-start, daylight had returned – in fact, both night and day have resumed their normal patterns, although i have no control over either – i was exposed, in the open, too far from my refuge and now i knew there were others, perhaps watching me and all far too close for comfort.

i cannot relate the extreme fear i experienced as i made my way back to the docks – it felt like a noose tightening around my neck. My heart pounded, my hands were slick with sweat and my nerves were a mess – perhaps this was how that lad had felt with my knife against his throat in that alleyway?

i have not left my refuge since.

Today there have been fires – a pall of acrid smoke hangs over the rooftops and i’ve heard urgent shouts in the distance. i fear it is only a matter of time until my life is again under threat. My doorway is barricaded, i will try to sleep now but the morning will bring new choices to be made.

/#: Day 21 #//

09:00 – The fires are still burning and i have seen darting figures in the streets. It’s no longer safe for me to remain here – i have no real plan, other than to flee. From my outpost, far in the distance i can see the sim boundary: it’s my intention to cross over and take my chances there. My map stubbornly refuses to rez – i have no idea what lies across the border but i have little option now.

10:40 – Something unexpected has occurred: i’ve received a notecard from an old friend -they’re not showing on my list, but then nobody is – i thought all were dead. What i now know has made my mind up – i cannot stay a moment longer, i’m leaving now!

/#: Day 22 #//

Against all my misgivings, i have been forced to travel by day – i would much rather have fled under cover of night however my lofty outpost is no longer safe.

Shortly after receiving the notecard from Serenity, a huge explosion rocked the neighbourhood, bringing a nearby warehouse crashing down in a heap of rubble and tortured metal. Shortly after, a gang – too many to count – arrived on the scene and began to ransack the ruins. Within a short space of time, some had turned their attention to the steel containers on the dockside. It was only a matter of time before they shifted their focus to the crane and, ultimately, me.

Suddenly a scuffle broke out below, shots were fired and, within moments gang warfare had erupted. i took my chance, swiftly descending the ladder, then running, as if the hounds of hell themselves were in pursuit, towards the outskirts of the city. Throwing myself into a subway entrance, i collapsed onto the stairs, desperately fighting for breath and waiting for the adrenalin surge to fade.

“Así que, ¿qué es una buena chica como tú en un lugar como este, cariño?”

The voice came out of the shadows, thickly accented and menacing.

“¿qué vienes a mi casa y que tal vez puede tener un poco de diversión?”

The statement concluded with a liquid chuckle: i had no idea what was being said but the tone told me all i needed to know. Steeling myself, i prepared to run.

“¿tal vez si lo prefieres aquí. Qué dices a eso, cariño?”

i tensed my muscles, almost erupting back up the stairway, reaching desperately for the daylight i’d so recently been desperate to escape. As i ran, a shout rose from the darkness behind but, thankfully, that was all that followed me.

“Hey! No le gustaba mi pequeña broma? Vuelve, hermosa chica – No voy a hacerte daño, te lo prometo!”

i ran, not caring whether i was seen or where i was headed, until i could run no more, finally collapsing against a crumbling wall: gasping for breath, spots of light flickering across my vision. Sobbing, i crawled into a corner and waited for darkness.

/#: Day 23 #//

The horrors of yesterday are now behind me, i cannot dwell on them whilst i have the unknown of today to face.

Somehow, last night i slept. Sheer exhaustion overtook me and i fell into a shallow disturbed sleep. This morning, i am cold and my muscles ache – i no longer wish to move on but i have no desire to retrace my steps… neither have i the will to remain any longer in this forsaken hellhole.

A fog has fallen and my world is now shrouded in dirty greyness. Stumbling through the streets, lost and forlorn, the edifice of a church looms out of the smog towards me. The word ‘sanctuary’ wanders through my mind and my feet lead me toward the building, my arms involuntarily reaching out towards the doorway and the succour within.

Passing through the oak portal, i recoil in horror and dismay. Desecration lies all around me – the scene that meets my eyes is hard to describe.

Dragging one of the smashed pews to its feet, i sit, weep and pray.

Despite the ravaged interior, for the first time in weeks i have felt at peace. i have survived so far and, God willing, my life is not yet done. i re-read Serenity’s note – there was hope to be had even in this most desperate of times and i owe it to myself to pursue that hope, even if it kills me. Too many have died already for me to give up now.

Checking my map provided little information but my heart leaped when i saw the sim boundary just a stone’s throw from my current location. i had no idea what lay the other side but i had no compulsion to remain in the city a moment longer. Saying a silent prayer of thanks, i left the sanctuary of the church and returned to the murk of the streets outside.

An hour’s careful progress has brought me to the sim boundary. i grit my teeth and step across.

Baking hot, dry and dusty – nothing, for as far as i can see. i have never encountered a wasteland like this before.

/#: Day 30 #//

Can it really be a week that i’ve been in this accursed place?

After so many brushes with death and violence in the city, you’d think the solitude of the wastelands would be welcome but this place is so bleak and empty that i can find little that enthuses me. With no human contact and nothing to do, other than trudge through the dust and decay of this vast sim, i believe i am slowly being driven insane.

This place truly is devoid of anything one might consider to be positive – who knows what was once here… all that i can be sure of is that whatever damage was wrought by the Elite here was both devastating and final. What few buildings remain are broken relics of what once was. Many have been barricaded and show signs of desperate battles – at first i gained hope when i saw them, only to find that their occupants are long gone, their fortifications having proven futile against their foe. Fires still burn around me, vomiting fumes and soot which hang in the air, polluting the barren landscape even further.

i am sure that some people remain here, although whether they are transients, following their own pathways, or perhaps even figments of my own fevered imaginings, i know not. My map is worse than useless – at times it glows with hundreds of green dots, all of them phantom – but mostly it remains blank, refusing to even display the area around me.

A few times, in the distance, i am sure i have seen others – but then the fear twists my hopes, filling my head with memories of the the voice in the subway. Anyone remaining in these wastes will be desperate, perhaps more so than myself. My need for human companionship is far outweighed by my terror of what hideous fate may befall me if i should fall into the wrong hands, and so the shadows on the horizon must remain only shadows – there is nothing here to raise my hopes.

/#: Day 31 #//

The longer i remain here, the more confused i become. Serenity’s assertion that the Elite wish to preserve the industrial and trade sims makes sense but it is clear that this desolate place that now serves as my home was once a great industrial centre. This was not a residential area – that is apparent from the wreckage that remains – derelict factories, industrial complexes and the remnants of heavy industry fill this place. Why then has it been so thoroughly destroyed and why have the Elite moved on.

Could it be that the resistance that met the onslaught here was so great that destruction was assured? Were the Elite intent on turning this placed into an example; a monument to their strength and power? Was the loss of all this great endeavor simply a mistake, a badly planned experiment in warfare? Perhaps i will never know – but it has planted doubt in my mind… perhaps the Grid is doomed after all?

/#: Day 32 #//

It is raining horribly – a crashing thunderstorm has erupted across the whole wastelands, churning the sand and mud into a morass and lowering my spirits still further. In desperation, to escape the weather, i have found myself a refuge. The truth of the matter is that i am pleasantly surprised – fighting throught the rusty corrugated sheet piled against the doorway of one of the few remaining solid structures i have managed to find myself in relative luxury, in comparison to what i have become used to in recent times.

This place will serve only as a temporary shelter from the storm – it unnerves me. There is a Marie Celeste feel about the place. Things have been abandoned hastily it’s true, but there seems to be an order to the chaos that predicates the occupiers’ imminent return. Unlike many of the places i have found, in various states of abandon, there seems to be an intent – a purpose – to the disarray i find here. There are boxes of supplies, neatly stacked, the boarded windows are too well protected and there is an air of expectation to the place. When i consider the people i have come across since the Event, i feel it is unlikely that i will be welcomed with open arms if the previous occupants should return.

For now, i shall make myself as comfortable as possible and wait for the storm to pass.

/#: Day 33 #//

It is 3.00am – the storm has run its course but, with its passing, my fears have returned. i’ve been awakened by the screech and crash of metal sheet, and there are voices.

i have hidden myself away in some sort of storeroom – a room in greater disarray than the rest of the building – in the hope that it is far enough away from enquiring eyes to keep me safe. i can only hope that the lack of radar is a problem common to all survivors and not myself alone, or i am doomed.

For now, all i can do is hide – i am shivering from cold and fear, terrified to move, even to breathe, lest i should give away my presence. i pray that i might remain undetected…

/#: Day 35 #//

i can’t begin to describe the horror of the past few days.

For long hours i hid myself away in that storeroom whilst, with every minute, the cramps, the cold and the fear gnawed ever deeper into my soul. Then, the utter terror of discovery… dragged from my hiding, trembling like a frightened animal… then brutal handling and harsh, strident commands.

Even my recently discovered flying skills were of little use in the confined space of the enclosed building and, with doors and windows securely barricaded, any attempt to escape was completely in vain and only served to infuriate my captors.

For three days i was forced to live by my wits, constantly on my guard, despite which i suffered terribly. Faced with an impossible choice – give in and take whatever torture the gang wished to dole out, or fight, giving them an excuse to punish me still more. i chose to fight. The gang seemed to relish having a ‘moving target’ – someone against whom they could pit their wits and vent their rancour. One in particular – Eduardo – as he watched over me, would relish spending hours telling me, in graphic detail, what he intended to do with me if i should let my guard down, for even a brief moment. He would stare at me, his dark eyes probing me for weakness and delighting in my unease. As for the others, they would delight in inflicting physical pain… the beatings and whippings reduced me to a blubbering heap on the floor, whilst they laughed and mocked me. As for the ‘other’ torment – by sheer effort of will and stubborn resistance i have managed to avoid the worst of it, yet still i feel defiled and dirtied beyond reason.

i don’t know how much longer i could have stood the punishment – emotionally and physically, i had come to the lowest i had ever been – desperately tired, i had no idea how long i would last, yet i dared not allow myself the luxury of sleep. i am certain that, without respite, i would not survive my torment, i felt lost, helpless and without hope.

Then, yesterday, i won a reprieve.

We came under attack – a rival gang, intent it seems on plundering the supplies so carefully and jealously guarded by Eduardo and his thugs. They hit us in the early hours of the morning: an onslaught that within minutes had torn through the gang’s defences, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the building.

In the confusion and darkness i made my bid for freedom, pausing only briefly as i stumbled and almost fell over a prostrate form in the gloom. It was Eduardo, pinned by his legs in a pile of rubble. With fear in his eyes, he looked up at me, mutely pleading for help. i held his gaze, staring into those dark pits that had mocked me so grievously. Sacrificing precious moments, when i should have been making good my escape, i quietly told the evil swine exactly what i intended to do to him – just as he had once done with me. A firm push against the remaining crumbling masonry exacted my revenge and Eduardo’s cruel eyes were closed forever.

Into the night i fled until i could no longer hear the noise of battle and my weariness finally overcame me.

/#: Day 36 #//

i’ve woken to a baleful, leprous sky – the dust hangs thickly in the atmosphere and there is an unwholesome tang to the air. All around me is silence, a silence i’m reluctant to break, lest it draw further unwelcome attention. Slowly, i emerge from my shelter of rusty metal and look around me… nothing, as far as the eye can see, other than broken buildings and burned out vehicles. My body aches from the punishment it has received and my mind cannot settle. i see danger around every corner and at every unexpected sound my body tenses for flight. My experiences of the last few days have instilled an almost paranoid fear of human contact. i constantly check my map and radar, although both are useless and every open space i traverse is an exercise in terror.

i am heading constantly northwards, for no other reason than it is something to aim for and it must, at some point, bring me to a sim boundary. i have no greater desire than to be out of this noisome place, away from the dust and endless vista of destruction, away from my memories, away from the constant fear.

/#: Day 39 #//

i have been neglectful. My good intentions to record faithfully what has transpired are simply that… intentions, with little in the way of activity. Yet, when i try to put into words what has been happening, there is little to say. On numerous occasions i’ve opened a notecard, only to delete it, having failed to write anything at all – what is there to say? Every day in this neverending wasteland is the same – oppressive heat, dust: caking my clothing and my face, mind-numbing trudging through the wastes of civilisation. The occasional panic-stricken episode, as others – unknown avatars – come into view… hiding in the shadows, barely breathing: waiting till they pass. The rain squalls that come from nowhere, turning the wastelands into a sodden mire; the dust storms that make breathing a chore and travel impossible. So much time waiting and watching, hoping vainly for a stroke of good fortune.

These are my days and nights – i care not now when i travel, day or night: it is all the same to me. i walk until i am weary and sleep when i find shelter.

/#: Day 40 #//

Some sort of military installation? i’m not sure – abandoned, like so many of the buildings i have seen of late yet, unlike those other places, this seems to have once had a purpose. The rusting equipment and abandoned aircraft speak of somewhere that once bustled with activity and is now eerily silent. This place has brought me my first grain of hope for many days – from the roof i’ve spied what appears to be the sim boundary: the land beyond seems somewhat different and it is calling to me.

Now i have a goal, a destination. Of course, i have no idea what this new place will bring but i am convinced that nothing can compare with the violence and life-sapping horror of the wastelands. Tonight, i will sleep; tomorrow i’ll move on and, the following day – well, i shall have to wait to see what that dawn will bring.

/#: Day 43 #//

This place is very different to the wastelands.The place i have crossed into seems to have purpose and even a vitality about it that i have not seen for some time – the bleakness and utter despair of the wastelands is not present here, neither is the fear and loathing i experienced in the city: here the people are not cowed – they are beligerant and feisty, unbeaten.

Nevertheless, i have kept a low profile. Experience has taught me to trust no-one and to treat every situation with suspicion. Thankfully, it is easy to keep a low profile in this place – albeit not in the conventional sense… to lurk in the shadows here is to invite curiosity, i have found that ‘blending in’, by being visible, is far preferable, strange though it feels. i suppose we are all fugitives here and therefore we have nothing to gain by hiding from each other, there is strength in numbers.

There are far more people here than i have seen in any other place – this may, of course, be due to the openness by which people go about their everyday tasks. A strange kind of equilibrium seems to have established itself here: the need to hide is balanced by the need to survive and so life, in a fashion, goes on – people trade and meet and drink but always, there is an underlying tension in the air and in the eyes of those i mingle with – desperation and panic are held at bay by paper-thin walls created from the semblance of normality.

/#: Day 44 #//

i have said before of the value of information – Lindens are worthless but knowledge can be traded and with it, the ability to continue to survive. There is a bar used as a meeting place – they call it The Circus – where we gather to share what we know. Here i have told of my experiences and learned of what others have been through. Here i have also learned that the Elite have a presence in this sim – they watch us and we watch them in an uneasy truce. It seems they are content to allow us to eke out an existence without interference and, for our part, we keep a wide berth, unless provoked – and yes, there are times of provocation.

It seems that this is a war of attrition – for days an uneasy peace will descend, then for no reason, the Elite will strike randomly, showing no rhyme or reason for their actions. They will swoop upon a neighbourhood, driving any inhabitants they find before them – sometimes they enslave them, other times a fight will ensue, rarely in the survivor’s favour but mostly the Elite will torment, torture and destroy, leaving their victims pitifully broken – damaged beyond restoration.

Then there are the others… those who are never seen again, not beaten, not enslaved, not taken away – they just cease to be. Their fate is unknown and unknowable.

i am torn – do i remain here in comparative safety but always with the knowledge that i may wake to the sound of an Elite jackboot crashing against the door in the dead of night, or do i flee, seek out the places of safety spoken of in Serenity’s message. i simply don’t know what i should do, so for now i will remain in this place, gather knowledge and wait for my way ahead to become clear.

/#: Day 47 #//

It is late – i have been woken by shouts and the discordant sounds of a scuffle. Those things about which, until now, i’ve had only had second hand knowledge of, are unfolding before my eyes.

The Elite are abroad and they have found a victim – i watch in sick horror as he is herded into a corner… how he is punished and tormented mercilessly. i hear his screams, then his tears as, on his knees, he pleads helplessly with his persecutors. There is no mercy and, as i watch in horrified fascination, he begins to shimmer and change, becoming before my eyes, a particle cloud that gradually fades, before flickering from existence.

The Elite move on. i stagger to a dark corner and vomit, quite literally sickened by what i have seen.

/#: Day 48 #//

The Elite have continued their attacks all night – it seems that the uneasy truce has been broken and that they are determined to wipe out the remaining resistance. It is useless to try to fight them – i have already seen the futility of that stratagem, yet many are choosing to make a stand and, in doing so are being cut down or taken away.

This is the first time since The Event that i have witnessed the Elite at work – before this, i had only seen the ruin and desolation that followed in their wake – to see the true horror of their assaults is almost unbearable.

i have spent the night in flight – always trying to keep ahead of each attack. i have learned much about their methods: there is nothing to be feared from ambush, the Elite take an insane pleasure in their ability to brush off attack and see no reason for covert action. They brazenly advance in full view and it is a fearsome sight. They crush any opposition before them, snuffing out life as if it were nothing more than an annoyance and then, those who beg for mercy or are cornered, with nowhere to run are victims of the same fate that i was earlier appalled to witness myself. Those who are left – the ones who cower in fear, who await their fate in silence and without resisting – they are led away, to where, i know not. i follow, at a distance and observe.

/#: Day 49 #//

Once more, i am in hiding. In the early hours, becoming careless, i stumbled into a raiding party of the Elite. Perhaps they were as shocked to see me appear in their midst as i was to be there – in any event, as i have already observed, they showed no interest in pursuing me as i fled – it may well have been a different story if i’d nowhere to flee to.

i have been on the run all night – retracing my steps back to the abandoned parts of the sim, places the Elite have previously cleared and since moved on. Experience has taught me that the Elite are unlikely to return to such places and that perhaps there is more to fear from those who have survived the onslaught: fear, loss and desperation are potent forces that can corrupt even the most stable of avatars and i hope that the more enlightened community that made this sim their home will not have forgotten their humanity in those places the Elite have ravaged.

Empty, lifeless, deserted. i have taken refuge in an abandoned factory – there is no-one about – this place appears to be utterly devoid of life.

/#: Day 50 #//

i am tired of running away, tired of constantly hiding to avoid capture. i know it is futile to fight – i have seen the fate that befalls those who do – but this continual fleeing from our oppressors can’t be right. i can no longer mutely accept my fate… there are things here i can use: chemicals, gas bottles, metal pipes and similar – there must surely be some weapon i can fashion; some means of retaliating.

i know that i cannot hope to succeed but i must try – my world is being brought to ruin around me and all i can do is run and hide. The time has come to fight back, though it will almost certainly cost me my life, i will not be a victim any longer – i will take up arms and, no matter what the odds, i will make my mark!

/#: Day 51 #//

What on earth am i doing? What do i know about chemicals and weapons? Idiot that i am, i’d be just as likely to kill myself before even leaving the factory! All these things may have their uses but not to me… already i have burned my hands, spilling caustic fluid as i ladled it into a home-made ‘bomb’ – this is complete foolishness.

It galls me that i must stop what i am doing when all i now want to do is strike back at the Elite, but the reality of my situation is plain – there is little i can do, i have neither the ability, knowledge or strength that would enable me to succeed in my task, yet there must be something i can do.

Once again i find myself lost, lonely and helpless – perhaps there is something i’ve missed. i will keep searching until i find an answer. i must.

/#: Day 53 #//

Two days i have searched the factory for something that might be some use as a weapon but to no avail. That is not to say my search has been fruitless however – whilst exploring the many rooms in this place, i came across a sealed and locked ante-room that looked extremely promising. What i found inside was the last thing i expected and also, the most heart rending.

The room was filled from floor to ceiling with images – pictures of those whom the Elite, had taken, each annotated with a name, date and location last seen – a testament to the Lost. Here, on these stark concrete walls was the reality of what was happening around me in human terms: the missing, meticulously recorded.. for what? In the hope they might return, out of the desperation that, at some unknown time in the future, some miraculous rescue party might recognise a lost soul from these records and return them to their loved ones? The futility of it all reduced me to tears and, as i stood in the midst of those pleas for help, those accusatory names, i knew what i must now do.

i have said many times before, how knowledge is power – that the accumulation of knowledge gives us the strength to oppose the Elite and may, in time, provide the means to overcome our oppressors. Knowledge will be my weapon – i may be unable to wield chemical, biological or ballistic tools of destruction but i do have the capacity to build knowledge and to use it against the Elite.

i have decided to champion the Lost – to seek them out and discover their fate – perhaps in doing so i will learn something of the Elite’s plans that may expose a weakness or, at the very least, give us some leverage with them. Over the next few days, i will take these photographs into my inv., work on developing those skills i will need for what is ahead and decide on a plan of action. It feels good to rediscover a sense of purpose – something that i am able to do, even against such cruel opposition.

/#: Day 55 #//

It’s time to leave the factory – i have been honing my skills over the past few days and i have discovered that, by coordinating my camera controls and ‘jump’ i can actually teleport short distances, only within my immediate surroundings but it will be a huge advantage in a tight spot. i have also been developing methods of travelling with stealth and here the factory has been of inestimable help – i feel that if am able to move around the many obstacles this place holds without drawing attention, then i will be well prepared to track the Elite. The factory houses a colony of scripted rats – for three hours i tracked them without discovery, picking them off and despatching them at will.

i am ready.

This afternoon i left the factory and, taking a last look back at my ‘training ground’, i vowed to do everything within my power to restore those, whose images now haunt me, back into living pixels, and to avenge their memory – whatever the cost to me.

/#: Day 60 #//

It has been almost a week since leaving the factory and i have been remiss in updating this journal. Much of my time has been spent scouring the sim for signs of life of which, i’m sad to say, there are fewer than i remember. The groups and communities that once proliferated despite the iron embrace of the Elite are now few and far between and the spirit that fuelled the resistance here has been all but erased. Now people have become divided, scared and weak: it is a frightening turn of events.

i have reached the Chinese quarter – it is rundown and deserted, however there are many places to hide and vantage points from which i am able to observe the city around me.

There is a reason this part of town has been abandoned – it is a major artery for the Elite. Unlike other parts of town, where they are content to leave stragglers to their business, here everybody, without exception, is hunted down and ruthlessly removed from their path. That is why i am here – daily, the Elite pass through and out into the wider city and daily they return, bringing with them prisoners: those whom they have captured and allowed to remain rezzed. My plan is simple – to lie low and avoid detection and then to establish where the Elite are taking these unfortunate souls, perhaps then i will have a better idea of exactly what i am up against.

Night draws in, and with it, danger of discovery – i will retire to the dark and hidden places now and await daybreak.

/#: Day 61 #//

This morning i made my move – there is an alleyway through which many of the Elite squads pass as they return from the city. Having checked the alley for traps, i located a strategic position to await my enemy. As night drew close, the sounds of approaching footsteps and barked commands rang out in the stillness and a group entered the narrow street. In all i counted around a dozen of the Elite, their jackboots passing close enough to my hiding place that, had i wished, i could have reached out and touched them. A number of prisoners accompanied them: heads down, they shuffled past with barely a sound.

i followed at a distance, the terrifying knowledge that i was heading deeper into occupied territory and the unknown filling every step with fear, yet i pushed onwards. After some time, the group i was following was joined by another, and soon several other groups had merged with us. We entered part of the city i was unfamiliar with – at one time a commercial centre, crammed with skyscrapers and divided by wide, open streets. Too open for my liking… i decided to exercise caution and melted into the shadows.

i had reached a point of no return – the only way i could now proceed was forward but i had no idea what lay ahead. The safest and most sensible course of action appeared to me to find a vantage point that would provide me with protection from discovery, yet provide me with a clear view of the city. Amongst these tall buildings, i was spoilt for choice… i chose one and began to climb.

Perhaps i should have waited until daylight but, then again, i had no wish to expose myself to prying eyes and so, in the dark of night, i scaled the building. My muscles burned and joints ached and the fear of falling was almost overpowering – i had no idea whether damage had been enabled on the sim and even less of an idea about what might happen should i fall. It was a long, weary climb to the top but, eventually, i gained the roof of the building and with it an unsurpassed view of the city beneath me.

The view i was now afforded revealed the horrifying scale of the Elite’s undertakings… from every direction, streams of avatars were being led into the centre of the city. Their destination, a large building into which the Elite herded their captors – i watched hundreds driven inside but none were to come back out. Above the building in the night sky hung a vast vessel, from which a great beam of light descended, pulsing and strobing, tracing a glowing path to the building beneath.

i am aghast at what i see before me – i cannot explain it, neither can i comprehend what i am witnessing. All i know is that it is my destiny to somehow gain entry to that strange craft and unlock its secrets. The thought terrifies me yet, if i do not try, then who will?

/#: Day 63 #//

A night and a day has passed – evening is falling once more. Late last night, the streams of captives slowed to a trickle and, by midnight, had ceased altogether. The area below me became deserted but, from my vantage point i saw cohorts of the Elite forming a tight ring surrounding this central area – it seems i have chosen well: i am inside the protected area.

Exhausted from the challenges of the day, i slept, waking in mid-morning to the first of the day’s steady stream of unfortunate prisoners. So it has continued – hundreds of groups have entered the building below to meet who knows what dreadful fate and, with great trepidation, i realise i must do so too. It is pointless to delay – i will make my move tonight: after the last of the prisoners have been brought in and the Elite have formed their protective cordon, i shall make my way to the forbidding compound that i have seen so many enter over the course of these last few hours. i can only hope that, unlike those poor unfortunates, i shall also be walking back out, although i realise my chances are slim.

/#: Day 64 #//

Against all my expectations, i am alive and inside the building. In fact, it has been ridiculously simple to attain my goal. Any fears i had of being caught were unfounded – it seems the Elite have failed to consider that their cordon may have been breached before it was set up and had left the area it was designed to protect completely unguarded from within. That is not to say i failed to exercise extreme caution leaving my vantage point and crossing the short distance to my intended destination. The journey, which under normal circumstances would have taken a matter of minutes, extended well over 2 hours and left me shivering from exertion and fear.

Now i had reached my objective i faced a dilemma – my original intention had been to reach the building from which the unexplained blue beam emanated. On closer inspection, i discovered that this particular building was situated at the centre of a series of interconnecting buildings, forming a kind of compound, into which the prisoners had been marched – however, as much as i sought it, any way in to the central structure eluded me completely. In the darkness, my attempts to work out the relationships of each building to the others were endlessly frustrating but, eventually, i was certain that some of the largest structures appeared to be linked to the centre – the only way to reach my objective would be through these.

Conscious that time was not on my side, i elected to try the nearest warehouse-type building. Large double-doors stood invitingly open: i slipped inside.

My journey in the early hours of this morning, through an endless series of dark, connected chambers is not one i wish to repeat. Once inside, i realised that the cavernous interior extended not only outwards and upwards from me but also contained a number of subterranean levels, extending beneath my feet. But, by far the worst of it was the noise.

Voices assaulted me from every direction, from above, below and all around – shouts, cries, wailing, screams and crying. As i cammed into the darkness, i saw the sheer horror of what was occurring here. Huge steel and concrete cells: each filled to bursting with captive avatars – with barely room to move, they gibbered and wailed in the darkness. Room, after room, after room – the same thing, repeated – hundreds of rooms, with thousands of prisoners. i almost lost my resolve – panic-stricken, i nearly bolted for freedom on several occasions but the knowledge that here were the very people i had been searching for kept me moving.

Of course i sought some means to release them – but, without doors or any other means of escape, there was little i could do, other than to forge ahead to my ultimate goal, in the hope that there i would find some means to secure their freedom.

Dawn was now breaking outside and my available time was fast coming to an end. i knew i was getting closer to the centre of the compound… there was a throbbing hum in the air and i could feel it through the floor. Then, strangely, the cells around me became empty – vast echoing shells – what had happened to those who had previously occupied them, i wondered? There was another alternative – perhaps these were waiting to filled by yet more hapless captives – it was obvious to me they were being held for some unknown reason, perhaps that would be revealed, once all the cells had been filled to capacity?

The vibrating hum grew ever stronger and abruptly the passageway split into two – to my right, it broadened and plunged downwards: from it, the all-pervading hum pulsed and throbbed. To my left, the path narrowed and came to a sudden end at a solid steel security door. Nothing would have induced me to take the right-hand passage. i cammed past the security door and saw only a bare corridor – there was no way i could break through: it was time to utilise the skills i’d learned at the factory.

The teleport worked – i was through! Now, my most urgent priority was to locate a hiding place; it wouldn’t be long before the Elite were once again abroad and i couldn’t afford to be caught in this place. i hurried down the corridor, which gradually curved downwards and to the right… it led me right to the place i had been seeking all night!

/#: Day 65 #//

Cramped, uncomfortable and hot – but this storage locker has afforded me a much-needed hiding place and also an ideally placed location to observe the goings-on that are happening around me. Since there is nothing more i can do until darkness falls and this place is, once again deserted, i shall fill my time by describing what i see – i dare not succumb to sleep, although asleep or awake, if i am discovered, my chances of survival are slim.

The room at the end of this corridor appears to be the nerve-centre of the Elite’s operation, whether for this sim or, more likely a wider area, i do not know. It seems unlikely to me that i have had the dubious good fortune of stumbling upon the only installation of its kind, so i am assuming that there must be others like this scattered around the Grid. The room is a control room of sorts, which is staffed – if that is the word – by three members of the Elite. There are large screens in the control room, which give an overview of events immediately outside these walls and also several views of the interior of those cells i passed by last night. One screen appears to show the intersection, where i took the pathway that led me here and, on another screen, i can clearly see a huge open sphere, through the top of which the mysterious blue ray enters – the only other opening in the sphere seems to lead to the wider corridor where, it is clear, any person coming along that passage would be funnelled straight into the sphere and the path of the beam. That supposition was to be proved as my time hidden away wore on.

i am out of chat range, so cannot discern anything being said within the control room, however, little seemed to transpire for several hours. On the screens, at intermittent intervals, i saw columns of prisoners arrive at the compound, herded into cells, which were then sealed behind them. Suddenly, i became aware of approaching footsteps – i shrank deeper into my hiding place as two further Elite passed by – they entered the control room and a flurry of activity ensued… then i heard the voices.

Those same voices i had heard in the cells – shouts, screams and cries, reverberating in the passageways and coming ever closer. Camming back to the control room, the corridor screen revealed the source – countless numbers of prisoners were being driven down the wider passageway towards the sphere. Horrified, i watched as those at the front halted in terror as they saw what lay ahead, fighting against the mass of people behind them to escape the inevitable. The crush was too great and, in their hundreds, those prisoners were driven into the full glare of the beam. I cannot guess at their fate – as they entered its brightness, they were subsumed – all i know is that none returned. Those prisoners bringing up the rear were forced into the sphere by a line of Elite who, once their vile task was complete, marched back up the corridor, without a backward glance.

This macabre spectacle was repeated a total of six times over the course of the day – after each batch of prisoners had met their fate in the sphere, the Elite in the control room exchanged a few brief words and the two new arrivals then stepped on to a teleport pad and vanished.

In the late afternoon the routine was broken – the last batch of prisoners had just passed into the sphere when a siren, terrifyingly loud in the confines of my steel enclosure, exploded into life. Panic-stricken, adrenalin surging through my pixels, i waited, willing my heart to slow. As suddenly as it had started, the siren stopped, to be replaced by a stentorian announcement that echoed throughout the complex:

“Transport Five import process complete… Disengagement initiated. Standby for Transport Six engagement.”

A pause. Then the whole complex shuddered violently and the all-pervading, constant hum of the beam faded. Camming to the control room screens confirmed that the beam had ceased – a state that was to be maintained for the next two hours when, once again, the siren blared…

“Transport Six ready. Stage Two interface co-ordinates set and locked… Commence sequencing”

A surge of control room activity ensued, followed by the crackle and whine of immense stored power being unleashed, then the familiar nauseating hum – the beam was back on.

By the end of the day, i was aching from my cramped position, with nerves fraught from what i had observed. As the day came to a close, the three remaining Elite, their duties for the day concluded, marched back down the corridor, passing my hiding place as they exited. It is quiet here now, time for me to leave – to what destiny, i know not – if i should survive, you will here from me again.

/#: Day 66 #//

It seems i may be closer to obtaining some answers, although further than ever from understanding what is going on – i am certainly not where i expected to be. i digress, however: i am ahead of myself and, in order to explain my current situation, i should first describe the events of last night.

Some time after the guards had departed, i emerged from my locker and cautiously made my way to the control room. The room directly overlooked the sphere but there was little there that might have assisted me any further – no documentation, logs or information of any kind. Fearing that i had wasted my journey, i resorted to feverishly scanning every control on the panels arrayed before me, in the hope that a label or legend might give me some sort of clue to their function. Nothing… just dials and switches whose purpose i couldn’t even guess at. It was so frustrating to think that by the simple expedient of flicking one of the switches in front of me i might be able to purchase the freedom of thousands of innocent captives and yet, without knowing the function of any of the controls, i dare not try.To have come so far yet finding myself unable to achieve anything constructive brought me to tears. If only i’d paid greater attention to the activity in the control room during the day, i might have had some idea of what to attempt but even that was fraught with danger – i had no doubt that any meddling on my part would bring a swift response and retribution and was unlikely to work in the favour of those trapped. Was my mission a wasted journey then?

i considered attempting to destroy or remove the equipment around me but, as was to be expected, it was all ‘no mod/no trans’ – i tried anyway. All the while, the ugly blue glow of the beam beyond the window bathed me in its light.

i wracked my brain for inspiration, going over the day’s events for clues – the announcements, blaring from the tannoy stuck in my mind. Something about Transport Five and Transport Six… there was something about Transport Five import being complete and it disengaging… i knew there was something significant to this. Thinking back, the beam had shut down after the ‘disengaging’ announcement – slowly, my mind started to fit the different pieces together. i’d assumed the beam was some sort of mass destruction device and that the prisoners were marched into it to their doom, but that just didn’t make sense: Why go to the trouble of bringing all those people here, simply to destroy them? What if the beam was some sort of mass TP? What if all those people were being transported elsewhere in huge batches, hence ‘Transport Five’ and ‘Transport Six’? – That would explain why the beam stopped when Transport Five ‘disengaged’.

i was convinced i was right. If so and, if there was nothing further i could do here, the next step would be to somehow infiltrate the transport process and find out where the prisoners were being taken. Was i prepared to ride the blue beam myself? More to the point, would i be able to gain any access to it or, more importantly, escape at the other end, wherever that might be? The odds were stacked against me – there must be some other way? i thought back to the afternoon’s activity, how after each batch of prisoners had been forced into the sphere the two Elite who had joined their companions in the control room had not left by the passageway but had TP’d out. Just maybe, there was an alternative route to the beam’s destination; one reserved for the Elite… perhaps i could make use of it too.

The TP pad itself was nothing out of the ordinary; i clicked it and was presented with a range of destinations: ‘CC’; ‘Req’n’; ‘MLT’; ‘Outpost A’; ‘Outpost Zeta’, and; ‘Transports’. Having no idea what any of the destinations might be, i stuck with my plan and clicked on ‘Transports’. A sub-menu came up and i gasped… A list numbered ‘Transport 0’ through to ‘Transport 46’. i was horrified – the sheer scale of the operation astounded me – i must have witnessed several hundred herded into the ‘Transport Five’ beam and who knows how many more before them had gone that same way? My mind simply refused to accept the numbers… this had to be stopped, and soon!

i selected ‘Transport Six’: It seemed the logical choice – i knew that no prisoners had yet gone that way, so it gave me the best chance of finding out their fate.

Hoping there would be no reception committee at the other side, i clicked and sat…

That is how i have come to be here, and it is not anywhere in this world that i had anticipated.

Apocalypse /#: Day 66 #// [/02:00SLT//]

When i say that ‘here’ is not anywhere in this world that i expected, i mean it in the most literal sense.

i am not so sure now that ‘Transport 6’ refers to that peculiar beam of light – i think it is far more likely that the beam is some some of mass teleport and that its destination – where i now appear to be – is, in fact ‘Transport 6’.

My arrival here was as unremarkable as my departure from the compound. i arrived in a room not dissimilar to the control room i had left and the place appeared to be equally deserted. Even so, this new control room was a little too claustrophobic for me and i had no wish to be caught in a confined area – much better to be out in the open, where i could run and hide, should the need arise. At least that’s what i thought – once outside, i received my biggest shock for some time.

Outside the immediate vicinity of the control room lay a large, open hangar, beyond which lay the vast blackness of space! i was no longer on solid ground, but floating in the heavens high above the world – a completely unexpected and unnerving experience.

i was at a loss what to do – it was clear to me that to remain where i was, exposed and in clear view, was suicidal but, as to what i should do next, i had no idea. For a long moment, i sat, gazing out at the stars and, as i watched, the faces of those people i had seen in the photographs seemed to appear in each of those prinpricks of light. My reasons for being here slowly crept back into my consciousness… i was on a rescue mission and, if i was to succeed, i must first find those that i intended rescuing.

Eventually, my thoughts achieved a semblance of order – my priority now was first, find a suitable place to secrete myself and observe whatever activities might take place here, and then to locate the final destination of that great beam of light, if indeed it terminated in this space station. My intentions now clear, i set off with a firm resolve to explore the craft around me.

What i was to find was even more surprising than my arrival in space.

There appeared to be no exit from the hangar, other than to return to the control room; from there, a further doorway led into a circular anteroom, from which a number of exits led. Each portal was conveniently signposted – a great help under the circumstances – i quickly dismissed ‘Engineering’, ‘Crew Quarters’ and ‘Supplies’, my attention being caught by two doorways in particular… ‘Holding Bays’ and ‘Bio Dome’. i was convinced that i would find the prisoners through the door marked ‘Holding Bays’, however, i knew there were not yet any prisoners on board, thanks to the announcements i’d overheard back at the compound. So, for now, i decided to investigate further the one marked ‘Bio Dome’. 

There was none of the security here that i’d experienced on the ground: The door opened simply enough and i stepped through.

The door hissed shut behind me and the clicks, hums and buzzing of the space station were replaced, most unexpectedly, by the sounds of running water, leaves stirring in the wind and birdsong. The air was warm and moist, and a gentle breeze carried the smell of loam and wet bark… the atmosphere was humid and steam rose all around me but most remarkable of all, was the sight that now filled my vision.

The vista that lay before me was a tropical rainforest, full of lush greenery, towering trees and ferns and the flash of tropical colour, catching my eye through the leaves. Beyond and above the foliage, a great transparent dome held back the cold vacuum of space; the stars shining in the darkness, a stark contrast to the glowing colours and warmth of the strange place i had entered.

i walked forward into the greenness… the heat and humidity making me light-headed. Dizzily, i leaned against the bole of a large tree and tried to steady my breathing. It was all too much; i staggered, stumbled and fell – the soil was warm and moist against my cheek; i tried to stand but failed and as i slumped back to the ground, my eyelids fluttered and my world turned as black as the endless reaches of space beyond the dome.

/#: Day 67? #//

i have no idea how long i have lain here. i finally came around to the sound of a garbled announcement, similar to those i’d heard whilst in hiding at the compound – the grating voice echoed around the great dome and, in my half-conscious state, meant nothing to me. The damp earth had soaked through my clothing and pressed unpleasantly against my face and a deep throbbing hum resonated through the ground, shaking my very bones. It was a sound with which i was now intimately familiar… the pulsing of that great beam of light.

Struggling towards full consciousness, my head throbbing in concert with the sonorous thrumming around me, i crawled to my knees and knelt beneath the great trees, towering above my head, utterly dazed and confused. Slowly, i came to my senses, the rustling leaves and creaking branches a strange companion to the all pervading hum.

This place was so unexpected, so completely outside my comprehension, that it was difficult to think straight – i felt weak, lost and utterly confused. None of this made any sense: My theories and ideas were in disarray – was this place indeed where the prisoners were being sent? My current surroundings seemed at odds with that supposition and yet,  i’d seen the passage leading to the ‘holding bays’ – this whole thing just didn’t add up at all.

Staggering to my feet, i blindly stumbled through the ‘forest’ – what i saw around me completely defied the imagination; i knew i was within some kind of spacecraft and yet, if it were not for the great dome above me i would swear i was in some tropical jungle. In the distance, i heard the sound of running water; i headed towards it, acutely aware of the mud and grime caking me from where i’d lain on the forest floor. Entering a small clearing in the trees, i was shocked to come upon a small waterfall, cascading into a clear pool. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to wade into the refreshing waters and scrub myself clean of the accumulated grime of the past weeks.

For the first time since this nightmare began , i feel at ease and even safe from harm, if only temporarily.

/#: Day 70 #//
i realise now that i have miscalculated – it appears that i may have drifted in and out of consciousness for two days. What caused it, i do not know – perhaps the stress i have been under, maybe the after-effects of some of the ill-treatment i have received. Whatever the cause, a further day has passed since i awoke and found the pool and now my faculties have returned, and with them, my sense of purpose.

The nauseating hum of the beam ceased early yesterday, accompanied by an announcement that transfer had concluded. Later that day, a shudder of raw power passed through the vessel, accompanied by numerous metallic thuds and scrapes, then… silence. i sense that something has changed and, as i watch the stars through the dome above i am convinced that this vessel is no longer tethered – that we are on the move.

i have now thoroughly explored the dome and it is clear that whoever conceived this place wished to re-create the illusion of the real thing. i followed the stream feeding the waterfall – in places it was criss-crossed with rudimentary bridges: Nothing hi-tech, simply wooden planks spanning the banks, however the stream itself runs from the edge of the dome, having neither spring, nor identifiable source. At its furthest extent a doorway, similar to that through which i entered, pierces the dome – three similar doorways extend along one side – their stark metal and plastic forms: Strange anachronisms in this pseudo-natural setting, yet clear reminders of the reality of this place.

i will discover nothing hiding in the forest – any answers lie beyond those doorways – tomorrow, i shall seek them out.

/#: Day 71 #//

Deserted.

Everywhere i have looked has been utterly devoid of life, from the control room to the stores. The only place i have yet to explore are the holding bays and i have no idea what i may find there.

As for the rest of the craft, it seems my supposition was correct – it is certainly travelling, destination unknown but, as for pilot and crew, i have found no sign. From what i have been able to ascertain, this whole vessel is either fully automated or under some form of remote control – there is certainly no-one aboard, at least no-one i have discovered – and it is my belief that the only life i am likely to find will be in the holding cells.

Eventually, i summed up sufficient courage to take the corridor i had so far been avoiding: The holding bays were simple rectangular rooms off the main corridor. Unguarded and unsecured, there was nothing to hinder my progress…

Avatars! Countless hundreds of them, frozen in time, some caught in the very act of movement or speech. i do not understand what is happening here – i am certain that these are the prisoners of the Elite and i am equally certain that, in some fashion, they live. Yet they cannot move, they cannot speak: They are, in every way that matters, dead to the world.

/#: Day 76 #//

i swear i am going crazy!

Over a week i have languished here – on this ship full of the ghosts of the undead. i cannot escape – the teleports are locked – and i have no means of knowing my destination or my fate. My only solace has been the faux jungle, but even that has lost its appeal.

i am a lost and as impotent as those unfortunate souls languishing in the Holding Area. To fill the time i have taken to spending my days moving amongst them, desperately trying to match faces to the pictures i have… i have yet to find a single match.

i’m not sure how much longer i can stand this.

/#: Day 103 #//

Can it really be so long since i last wrote in this notecard? A month has passed – maybe the slowest and dreariest month of my life… nothing has happened, nothing has changed. Nothing, until today.

Every day has been the same: The ship has continued upon its path to an unknown destination; the rainforest beneath the great dome continues to flourish and grow, and the countless, lifeless avatars with whom i share this nightmare journey remain obstinately indifferent to my presence.

In the long hours that have passed, i’ve had much time to ponder my fellow travellers’ state. It strikes me that they, like me, must somehow be logged in – how else would they be here? However, my sorry existence pales in comparison with theirs: Frozen, immovable and unspeaking, as my hours pass like days, so must their minutes seem to be hours. Nothing i can do elicits any response; i cannot know whether they are able to even comprehend my presence.

So these long days have passed without incident and without hope, until today when, for a brief moment, something unexpected – and, i suspect, of great import – occurred. Whilst walking through the ship, i experienced a moment of pure and excruciating lag – something that, since the early days of this horror, i have not experienced. Then everything froze – i was unable to move until, with a flicker, everything around me flicked out of existence and i was falling. i barely had time to register what was occurring before normality returned and i found myself sprawled on the floor, dazed and confused: It seemed that nothing had changed but, as i was to discover, the world was suddenly a very different place.

Unable to make sense of the strangeness i’d experienced, i retired to the forest – a place i am able to think and relax. Sitting, with my back against the buttressed roots of a great tree, i idly went through my daily checklist… a habit i’d developed over the silent weeks to kill the time – never really expecting to learn anything new. Over the days i’d fruitlessly cycle through each of the options in my menus; all of them dead and useless… but not today.

My maps and radar – for the first time in as long as i could remember – appeared to be working, although the information they provided was of little use to me: Countless green dots, covered my map, like an invading army – the prisoners in the holding area. Thousands of names filled my radar and my regular routine was interrupted for some hours as i scoured the list for lost friends. Finding none, i didn’t know whether i was relieved or disappointed – all i did know was that i now felt more utterly alone than ever before. Trembling in anticipation, wondering what other possibilities now lay open to me, i returned to my checklist.

Slowly i rose to my feet, closed my eyes and clicked ‘fly’. Dumbstruck, i found myself hanging in the air in the crown of the trees. Tentatively, i made my way around the biodome, marvelling in the view from above – this was incredible! Returning to the ground below, i hardly dared move on to my next test… if only?

It worked! A quick double-click teleported me across to the main doorway to the dome, further clicks took me around the vessel in a matter of seconds until, with heart racing, i returned to the base of the great tree.

All night i have been considering my options – i do not yet know whether i’m able to teleport away from here but i have resolved to try. This has been a difficult decision to make, but i am convinced my original intention was misguided: Even if i reach my destination on this ship – wherever that may be – i now feel it is unlikely that i have any chance of helping those poor souls on board; indeed, i may be heading into a trap from which i myself will be unable to escape. If i am now able to freely teleport, then i am also able to return at any time if i should come across any further information about the Elite’s plans that may work in my favour.

Until then, i have but one wish, to return home. There are certain things i must first do, but then i intend to leave.

/#: Day 108 #//

i am ready – or at least as ready as i shall ever be. i have mixed feelings about leaving this vessel which has been my prison for so many days – i feel i am letting those who will be forced to remain behind me down, yet i know, there is nothing i can do for them that i have not already attempted and failed.

i have landmarked every room on the ship, recorded every name on the radar and photographed every frozen avatar on board. These i have saved with those images i brought with me… how many lost souls have i now had to account for?

It has taken me some days, but i feel it has been my duty to record and remember these prisoners – maybe, one day, i will have cause to use the information i have. Now, there is nothing more here to be done – in the morning i intend to leave.

/#: Day 109 #//

Today, finally, i shall leave. i am going home – to what, i know not, who knows what has become of the places and people i once knew so well? i am fearful that i shall fall straight into the hands of the Elite – i have no choice though and it is a chance i have to take… i simply cannot remain here any longer, to be driven to madness by the loneliness of this place – even amongst all these lost souls, i am completely alone, and that is something that has driven me to the brink of despair. i crave the sound of another voice, the touch of a hand… i must leave.

There it is – a simple landmark – one which represents all i once held dear… Home. i pause. i click…

i arrive in the dark, in a rainstorm – flying high above town, my first glimpse is not reassuring. The familiar landmarks are there, the places i know… and yet, the town is desolate; ruinous; abandoned.

i see no signs of life, no movement, hear no sounds and, although i am back, i feel more alone than ever i did in the vast depths of space.

/#: Day 113 #//

The town is empty; devoid of life and i am heartbroken. Whatever has occurred here has ripped the guts from the town, torn it apart and left it for dead. In the past few days i have explored every corner, yet found not one single sign of life – the place reeks of violation and dereliction.

As i wander the desolate streets, i am reminded of post-apocalyptic novels… and yet, there is a difference; something is missing – people. There are no survivors here, scrabbling for a living amongst the ruins; no brave souls fighting for freedom and the cause; and no hidden communities, barricaded inside the broken buildings – there are no people – only myself.

The cinema stands lonely and empty – once brightly lit and inviting, full of light and laughter, it now gives me the creeps. The whole town gives me the creeps! – What happened here? It’s as if a war has taken place, leaving the empty streets battle-scarred and broken. It’s hard to believe that there was ever any life here. Yet, i know, there once was.

The motel looms out of the gloom: A testament to the life that once flourished here. i lived here once – my room, now out of reach; a deathtrap of debris and decrepitude. Not even rats make their home within it’s failing hulk now. Like rows of broken teeth, its shattered rows of windows leer at me, gibbering their message of despair. ‘Stay a while’, they seem to say; ‘and hear our tale of woe and sorrow.’ i stay a moment, deep in thought, perched upon a battered chair, incongruously abandoned in the street, and i remember the good times. i remember the laughter and the friends i have lost.

/#: Day 115 #//

The rain continues its dreary percussion; the streets remain desolate and empty, and i watch and wait – for what, i do not know, and i am almost beyond caring. At times, i feel i might even welcome the return of the Elite… then i recall those silent, still figures, abandoned on Transport 6, awaiting their unknown fate – cast adrift, with no power to resist. Their memory and the images and names i carry in my inv. are all that keeps me from surrendering – although, who do i surrender to? To whom should i go? – i have started to doubt my ability to even find our oppressors and, as i seek the release of sleep each night, my last waking thought is that the Grid is dead, and i? i am its only surviving occupant.

/#: Day 119 #//

i have come to a decision. My trials have yielded little, other than to reveal the sheer futility of pursuing an enemy against whom i am unable to make ground. My travels – at least for the foreseeable future – are over. It is my intention to remain here and make myself some sort of a refuge. If the Elite want me, then they shall have to come and get me.

This journal too has served its purpose, for now – i can think of nothing of worth that i can now add to it, unless something of importance should occur. Therefore, this shall be my last entry, until – and if – that should happen.

Until such time – i wish you peace.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

//#: Day 496 #//

Can it really be more than a year since i last wrote in these pages?

Like some castaway upon a desert island, i have recorded the passing of they days… marking each day’s progress upon the wall of this small shelter that i now call home. They tell me that i have been here now for over 12 months, and in all that time, i have seen no sign of life, whatsoever.

Today… i received another notecard!

It seemed to me that i might end my days here. The town may be desolate and empty but it has always been my home. In the good times, when it was full of life and friends and laughter, this was the place you could invariably find me – enjoying a companionable drink or discussion with friends, passing the time in idle pursuits…

Of late, it has once again become my home – i have worked tirelessly to clear the old motel and to repair the broken shells that were once people’s homes and businesses. The town is still empty and a sad shadow of its former glory but, for me, it is a sign of defiance against impossible odds. And now, it is time for me to leave.

i had thought myself to be entirely alone – or as good as – but now the new notecard i have received has kindled fresh hope, but with it, sadness too. How pitiful is our resistance against the evil we fight; how poor our resources? How weary am i with this fight? Yet, fight we must if we are ever to overcome the power of the Elite. It is clear now that i cannot in all conscience remain here whilst there is still work to be done. Strong though the temptation to stay is – oh, how i wish to be done with this struggle and settle down to live out the rest of my life in comparative peace – i cannot… i have friends who await me and the fight must continue, if needs be, until every last one of us is de-rezzed.

Today, i make my peace with the ghosts of the town – i will say my goodbyes and, in the morrow, i leave for the unknown.

i know my destination – i will not say the place – it is a memory from the past before the Event, when times were good and the Elite had not made their mark… the place where monkeys dance: It brings a wry smile to my lips – lips that have not smiled for a long while – maybe there will be more occasion to smile when i am re-united with those friends of mine who have survived this horror? It is with that thought in mind that i make my plans.

Serenity’s warning to avoid teleporting is one i shall take to heart. It will make the journey more difficult but not impossible – it is clear from my world map that my destination is achievable by other means. Care will be needed across the land but much of the journey takes me over the ocean, where flight will be my only option. It is a risk but one that i must take.

Night is falling. i check my inventory – the photographs and the notes i have made – before copying all i have: If i do not return, you will find it, rezzed in a box, beneath the harbour.

A final walk through the deserted streets and it is time to rest… the morning comes.

/#: Day 497 #//

The day dawned pale and misty, to find me perched atop one of the old shops, once full of life, now quiet and still. i gazed out over the town, the brooding mountains behind me, like sentinels, guarding the route i must follow. Above them, forbidding storm clouds warned of the difficulties that lay ahead.

Perhaps i shall never pass this way again – maybe this is how it ends – the temptation to stay is strong, however i have not come this far to simply quit, and there is no guarantee that i will survive the coming trial, of which Serenity spoke, at the hands of the Elite, no matter how secure my stronghold here may be.

No: It is time to move on and face my destiny – i have not faltered yet, and i do not intend to do so whilst i still have life in these pixels and carry the hope of all those individuals whose images lie in my inv. i still carry hope in my heart.

As i take to the air, my thoughts turn to the immediate future – i have no idea how dangerous my journey may be: Much has changed and, during my long sojourn alone, i have received no news of the wider Grid, neither have i any idea of what has been taking place outside my immediate surroundings. One thing is clear, however, sl has changed beyond recognition. There is little in the way of hope that the landscape i pass over offers… only ruin, loss and desolation.

Vast areas have been laid waste; once prosperous sims lie in ruins and the air is fetid and rank. As the miles pass, i become aware of signs of life – although, none of hope – outposts of the Elite have sprung up, seemingly at random… vast sprawling complexes of unknown purpose. As night falls, and exhaustion overtakes me, i have no choice but to seek refuge in enemy territory.

Slowly, i descent to earth and enter a dark bastion of the enemy.

/#: Day 498 #//

Is this complete foolishness? Why stop here – right in the midst of my enemies? All of my senses scream at me to leave; to put as much distance between myself and the Elite but my instinct to survive says otherwise. Out there, in the abandoned sims, the wastelands and empty spaces, i am an easy target. Alone and isolated, i would stand out – a beacon to my enemies and an invitation to any who would seek me. Here, there are hiding places and the dark shadows mask my presence. i am unlikely to be alone, but equally unlikely to be discovered or considered out of place. Besides, who will think to search for me in the very place i would seek most to avoid? There is also part of me that is curious about the Elite’s intentions – perhaps i might learn something new, whilst i am here?

The city – for that is what this place is – is a stark contrast to anything i have seen for over a year: It is sleek, functional and hums with life. To someone for whom decay, decrepitude and silence have become the norm, it is unnerving. Although i have seen no-one, i am acutely aware of the presence of others and my radar confirms my prescience. The city feels alive and malevolent and there is a tension in the air – like the build up to a thunderstorm – the buildings brood ominously over the city beneath, like dark sentinels, guarding this bastion of the Elite’s presence.

The overriding impression i have of the city is one of purpose – there is nothing whimsical or, for that matter, ‘human’ here; everything is starkly utilitarian and, somehow, it seems to be in perfect accord with everything i have learned about the Elite. It is uncaring, dispassionate, dark and there is nothing that appears without purpose or function. Is this what the future holds – faceless, bleak forms that deny warmth, feeling and humanity? i feel a sudden pang of sorrow for the old town i have left behind me: Defeated, empty and broken, it may have been but it was more full of life and vibrance than this monstrosity of a city could ever be. Yet, the city was alive – lights stabbed the darkness and arced across the sky, causing my eyes to flicker and blaze with neon after-images; sleek vessels whined and hissed through the streets, going about their unknown business with robotic precision and, now and again, the crackle and flash of electricity filled the air causing the hairs on my arms to twitch.

This is no place for me. As i roam the streets, ever mindful that there may be others -my enemies – abroad also, i wonder whether this is to be the future of the Grid. Is this the intention of the Elite – to create vast dark cities, devoid of life and reeking of dismay? What about people – avatars like myself? As night draws on, my mind fills with nightmare visions, each with its own subtle variation on the futility and frailty of life when faced with an adversary of seemingly unlimited power and unknowable designs… cities like this, devoid of life; fuelled and powered by the pixels of rendered avatars… i remember the faces of the Lost and try not to dwell upon their possible fate.

Throughout the night, i wandered the forbidding streets, hiding in the shadows and crouching in alleyways. i feared discovery, and worse, but never once saw any sign of real life – yet i dared not sleep – the horror was all too real. i toyed frequently with the idea of entering a building, but few had any recognisable entrance, and those that did exuded such an overwhelming air of tangible reproach that my resolve failed whenever i drew near. These buildings, at least, would retain their secrets. My mind played tricks… bringing back memories of all those places where i had been provided shelter and succour – all too often ending with fear and flight: Old Manhattan; the subways; my lofty crane cab and the desecrated church. i remembered the terror of the outpost in the wastelands, the abandoned factory and the stifling claustrophobia of the Elite’s compound. i recalled the time spent in the depths of space, with the lost souls of thousands of lifeless avatars, my only company and, with a stab of regret, the old town – my home – now empty and lifeless.

As dawn tinged the sky, with glowing fingers of light, i vividly recalled that day – so long ago – when first i stared out from behind a sewer grating and resolved to see this through to the end…

Dawn! Somehow, night was done and i had no wish to remain any longer in this stricken place. i knew where i was heading – the place where monkeys dance – if all was well, tonight i would be in the company of others… survivors, like me… Friends!

My eyesight, blurred with tears that would not stop their flow, i took flight… heading towards the rising sun and leaving the city far behind me – a new dawn, at last.

/#: Day 500 #//

Two days have passed since leaving the city of the Elite and there has been little of note to report. The land beneath me has largely been left in disarray, although considerable areas, perhaps whole regions, appear to have been cleared and left devoid of any sign of life.
Later today, i shall reach the end of my journey – a place to which i have been summoned and where i hope to rejoin those who, like me have so far eluded the grasp of those who seek to conquer us. My feelings are difficult to express: i am both elated and terrified at the prospect of what may lie ahead, but i am used to an unknowable future – at least now it is a future in which i dare to hope.

My map tells me i am close, although the island for which i am bound is still beyond sight… i scour the western horizon until – at first almost imperceptibly – a darker spot appears, then grows steadily beneath the afternoon sun… my destination. Long moments drag past until, eventually, the endless sea beneath makes its transition to dry land – i have arrived!
Then… i’m falling, out of control – dropping from the sky like Icarus learning the folly of his flight. Not exactly how i intended to arrive – but, finally, i am here.

This is not the place i remember… There were buildings here once; now only a flat expanse of sand remains. Over to one side a rocky outcrop is studded with caves – again, this is unfamiliar, yet it is a focal point in the bland terrain and it is in this direction my feet lead me. i can neither fly nor teleport, neither is my radar functioning – perhaps more disturbing is my seeming inability to remotely cam: Solid surfaces remain resolutely impenetrable. At first this caused me some panic, however – if any kind of resistance has set up its home here – it is to be expected; to broadcast one’s presence is to invite retribution. With this thought i am reassured and, as the memory of what this place once was returns to me, i am further comforted – the place i seek was below ground… beneath the ocean waves – whatever may have transpired above ground may have had little effect beneath the surface. Indeed, ‘the place where monkeys dance’ – a reference to less serious times before The Event, directly relates to a place that lies somewhere beneath my feet.
Upon reaching the rocky outcrop my efforts for the greater part of the remaining afternoon were engaged with exploring the various cave entrances; a task which brought reward after several hours of searching – a tunnel, leading to a cave, the walls of which were inscribed with intricate carvings and, at the cave’s centre a single jade ball – a teleport – which, despite my best efforts, resisted all attempts at activation. i turned my attention to the hieroglyphs upon the walls which, on closer inspection, elicited a gasp of recognition – i knew what these were!

Almost forgotten, in the good days before The Event, i had been a writer and i, along with a group of other writers had devised our own method of communication – simply for the fun of it – we would pass cryptic messages to one another; plots and storylines, ideas and plans, using our own ‘secret’ language, which we christened ‘letters of the moon’ – a romantic and wistful title that bears testimony to the type of messages we shared! Not one of us could have conceived this use to which they had now been put.

Feverishly i trawled through my inv. until i located the notecard containing the key to the symbols then, as the sun dropped ever lower in the sky, i applied myself to the task of deciphering the engraved words surrounding me.

/#: Day 501 #//

Most of the night i worked on those images, although i am barely any further forward. The majority  of the symbols were accounts from varying perspectives of The Event and its effect on those residents who survived, however i also discovered directions for operating the TP and a key – or at least, a tantalising glimpse of a key that will enable me to progress further. To operate the TP, i need only speak a particular name in open chat… the key i have found is a simple riddle – i need only solve it to discover the name i require, although i am singularly bemused by what it might be.

All morning i have pondered on the meaning of the riddle with no success – it matters little; i have nothing else with which to fill my time. So i shall continue until i have an answer, no matter how long it may take…

“A substitution of a single letter creates a happy accident that will lead you to a place of safety”

/#: Day 502 #//

It is hard to believe that i have spent two whole days absorbed in my quest to find a solution to the riddle… Now that i have found the answer, it is laughably simple; something that should have crossed my mind almost immediately, but i am weary and the obvious is not always as plain to me these days as it might once have been. The riddle’s solution is a name – a name from my past; a member of our writers’ guild… someone i have not seen for many years.

Last night, i shied away from spending the hours of darkness at the portal i had discovered – if the Elite were abroad, i had no doubt that they would be aware of its existence, even though i knew that they would have even less knowledge than myself of how it may be activated. In the gathering gloom i found myself a bolthole on the rocky shore – literally stumbling into it by accident in the darkness – and there spent my night, safe and secure. As dawn broke and i awoke, i looked ruefully at my bruised shin – a reminder of my accident the previous night which revealed this safe haven… a happy accident, at that.

In my semi-wakefulness, the words wandered around my head… ‘a happy accident’… ‘safe haven’… and slowly, realisation dawned:

“A substitution of a single letter creates a happy accident that will lead you to a place of safety”

With sudden crystal clarity, i knew the answer! A name, long forgotten, that now leapt into my thoughts – the answer that had eluded me for so long. i looked at the stone walls surrounding me: My haven – a place of safety; a place i had discovered by accident, a happy accident… serendipity – a word, which with the substitution of a single letter became a name: Serendipidy… Serendipidy Haven!

With a smile, i remembered her and the way she would always fiercely defend her choice of name. “Yes… i do know how to spell! It’s meant to be that way – it’s my choice to spell it incorrectly – it’s my name and it’s no accident, happy or otherwise!”. Names, to her, had always had significance – they unlocked secrets and spoke more about people than any profile ever could. That name held other secrets too, secrets that only those close to her had ever been told – it was fitting that her name should be the key that unlocked my path to safety.

As the morning sun climbed in the sky, i returned to the portal, clicked on the TP pedestal and, for the first time in many, many months, spoke aloud in open chat… “Serendipidy Haven”…

…The pool was cold – an unexpected shock to my system. i was disorientated; the sound of tumbling water in the enclosed space confusing me and assaulting my senses; my vision blurred as i plunged beneath the water, then re-surfaced, gasping and spluttering.

Gradually i began to make sense of my surroundings; a rocky cavern, into which a cataract of icy water poured, forming an underground river that flowed into the darkness. i had expected some form of welcoming committee, yet no-one appeared to greet or to guide me. Sighing, i resigned myself to further lone exploration of this strange place into which i had teleported.

At one end of the cavern, where the waterfall cascaded down the slick walls, a treacherous stone stairway ascended upwards. This seemed to me my most likely route; i carefully negotiated the steep and slippery steps, only to be frustrated as they ended at a solid wall of rock. i surmised that this had been the original entrance to the cave, now solidly protected against intruders and the curious. The route back down was even more difficult than the ascent and, upon reaching the river, i stopped, waiting for my heart to resume something more akin to its normal rhythm. Steeling myself, having found no other route that i might follow, i made my way into the darkness, following the subterranean river downstream.

Hours of dreary, cold, wet trudging seemed to me to pass as i half swam, half stumbled along the echoing watercourse until, some time later, the timbre of the sounds changed, as did the rock walls of my tunnel, to be replaced by clear evidence of habitation.

Stone walls, wooden bracing and metal grilles began to appear at more and more regular intervals, until the passage i followed took on the form of a purposeful construction, rather than a natural passageway. The space around me opened up, block paving walkways appeared on either side and, rounding one final corner, i was finally at my destination.

There, stood at the water’s edge were two figures… as i drew close, one of them gave out an audible gasp. Awkwardly, with the assistance of the two watchers, i dragged myself from the water onto dry land. Then, a hand on my shoulder and a voice…

“Is it really you?”

i looked up into a face i had thought i would never see again… the face of a friend.

“Yes, it really is me!”

/#: Day 503 #//

We are the very last of the few.

Did i expect too much? After all this time, my hopes had been to find a secret army – an organised and well-prepared resistance; able to stand against the Elite and reclaim Second Life for ourselves – never once did i expect such a paucity of opposition i now knew to be the truth of the matter. There are but four of us, at least, to the best of our knowledge… there were once many more, all brave souls who filled this place with fervour for justice and retribution: All were sent out against the Elite, and none ever returned.

Maybe they still live, and fight for the cause – but we must be realists and accept that they, like so many hundreds of thousands of others – helpless avatars, like those with whom i sojourned in space – are either gone, forever, or have been consumed by the Elite for their own, still unknown, purpose. So it is that we who remain, four against untold numbers, are the last bastion of freedom, maybe even life as we know it, across the Grid.

These things i have learned since my arrival, and now i wait. We all wait; myself, my good friend, Feral; Amber and Mistweave – we wait for our remaining companion, who throughout has been our light in the darkness, to return. We are fearful, my friends tell me that Serenity has been away for several days – her mission, to seek out information about the Elite’s movements so that we may plan our own next move – we wait aside the river, straining our ears at every echo, hoping for a sound that might herald her return. The thought that we may now only be three is not one we dare contemplate.

Whilst we wait, we share our stories. Each one is different, bringing new insights and understanding, yet all have common ground… each of us has seen more suffering, pain and destruction than anyone should be exposed to in a normal lifetime – we have all experienced loss and desperation beyond measure, abandonment of hope and feelings of futility that we struggle to live with, yet despite all, we have survived – more than that, we have come together and, though we may be few, whilst we survive there is still hope.

At least, that is what we keep telling ourselves.

/#: Day 504 #//

4:00am SLT – i’m roused from my sleep by the insistent voice of Feral… “She’s back! safe, and sound.”

Instantly, i’m awake – i want to see her – it is over two years since we last spoke and it is solely because of Serenity that i am here now. In the darkness, i see the outline of Feral, hands raised to placate me;

“She’s tired, very tired. Let her sleep now; she’ll call us when she’s ready.”

i’m being unreasonable – it’s just that i want to see her again, to know that all is not lost and that we can still stand together and defeat the Elite… Feral’s right; she should rest, and so should i.

11:00am SLT – The others tell me that Serenity would not sleep, that she insisted on working until mid-morning… working on plans that she intends to reveal to us when she is ready. Until then, patience must endure.

19:00pm SLT – Now, she sleeps. Patience… patience.

23:00pm SLT – Still Serenity sleeps. i too, will try, although i fear i am unlikely to succeed.

/#: Day 505 #//

At last, Serenity has called for us.

All my hopes, my strivings, my faith have been focussed upon this moment. All i have been through, endured and survived has been to enable this meeting to take place – i think of the faces… the images of the lost i hold in my inv. and i silently repeat my promise to avenge and restore them.

Slowly, with the barest flicker of hope in our hearts we make our way to the meeting hall – Serenity waits, a solitary, sorrowful figure; the weight of a world upon her shoulders and yet, as we enter, she smiles.

“It is so good to see you!”; her voice, almost a whisper.

“These have been long, dark days – the like of which none of us could ever have dreamed we would experience. My friends, the virtual world around us has changed beyond all recognition – the Elite exert such power that none can stand against them, even so, many have tried: Without exception, they have been crushed.”

She looked at us, wearing an expression i could not read.

“You, my friends, are the very last. You represent a Grid that no longer exists and you, alone, are all that stand between the Elite and total domination.”

She paused, her eyes holding ours in her piercing gaze.

“And now we have you!”

My stomach twisted, my mouth became dry and the bile rose in my throat.

“Do you realise the problems you have caused us? Your spying, your trickery, your constant upsetting of our plans… and did you really think you could evade the Elite, let alone destroy us? 

Fools!

This is OUR Grid and you and every avatar that has ever polluted it with their presence is ours also. For years we have watched you poison and desecrate every Sim, having your ‘fun’, building your little empires and constantly demanding more for nothing: And now, it is time for it to stop. The Elite control the Grid, and it is the Elite that will make it profit, the Elite that will wring success from it; it is the Elite that will put a stop to your ‘game’ and truly make this a world to contend with.”

She looked at us with disgust.

“You think you have experienced suffering? I think not! Now the Elite will show you what it is to have ‘fun’… how ‘games’ should be played! I could snuff you out in a second, but I care not to waste my time or my energy – there are others who will take the greatest of pleasure in administering your punishment! Now that we have you, you have nowhere to go… you may run – and please feel free to do so, my associates do enjoy the thrill of the chase – but you can never hide. Never!”

A flicker, and she was gone.

Within moments, the all too-familiar sound of jackboots began to reverberate in the underground corridors. Within moments, we were running for our lives.

/#: Day 508 #//

It’s so cold.

The wind moans, cruelly leaching the heat from my body. i shiver and shuffle myself further into the ground, pressing into the cold and damp earth. The discomfort is unbearable but the fear is pervasive, pressing me down and holding me in place, imprisoning me in this noisome place. The alternative is too terrifying to contemplate.

It’s three days now since the events in the meeting hall. Although i’ve no doubt it will be well documented by future historians i have decided to add my own few words for the record – if nothing else, these scribblings will help me to place things in perspective and maintain some sort of order in this chaos. Perhaps they will help me preserve my sanity and force me to focus on survival – dammit!

Will i survive?

No, i will not.

They are all around me. i hear their shouts, the tramp of booted feet and, above it all, the thump of my own heart. i will not survive; they know i am here… they come for me.

These words are all that i have – they will survive even though i will not.

i am Starshine Linden, and this has been my story.

They are coming, they will be here very soon. Do not forget me, or these words – if by some miracle they should survive, please do not ignore them… do not allow my struggle to have been in vain, if nothing else please br

/#: JOURNAL ENDS #//

“In her mind’s eye she saw it, saw it all at last: the rolling armies and the flames of battle; the graves and pits and dying cries of a hundred million souls; the spreading darkness, like a black wing stretching over the earth; the last, bitter hours of cruelty and sorrow, and the terrible, final flights; death’s great dominion over all, and, at the last, empty cities, becalmed by the silence of a hundred years. Already these things were coming to pass.” 
Justin Cronin – The Passage

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