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clockwork3 [2012/11/05 01:58] (current)
doan created
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 +At four o’clock in the morning, Cass finally succumbed to sleep. He slept curled up in a ball in the middle of the bed, under a pile of random unmade bedding, one arm draped around a Game Gear, the other dangling out of the bed, having dropped a Saturn controller at some point after falling asleep. This was a fairly typical sleeping position for him.
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 +He hadn’t managed to change out of the clothes he wore during the day, black jeans and short-sleeved black t-shirt with a Saturn logo, before he dropped off. He had been fighting sleep for several hours now, refusing to break even when it became apparent that – like most aspects of his life – he was fighting a losing battle. He drifted off waiting for a fifth cup of tea in a row to brew. Too cold and sore to stay in his desk chair, he had been forced to retreat under the covers while he played on the Saturn and thought of another tactic he could employ to cajole his Game Gear into working again. The cup had been knocked over when the Saturn controller was knocked out of his hands and bounced across the room. The controller was fine, having been knocked in the other direction to the tea, and the cheap carpet would look hideous whether or not there were tea stains on it. The Game Gear would no longer work, no matter what was or wasn’t done to it.
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 +He had been wanting to play obscure strategy games when he noticed that it didn’t work. He went through a list of obscure strategy games in his head and he realised that there was one on the Game Gear that he hadn’t even played more than a couple of hours on. He could barely remember what it was called. When he turned it on and didn’t see the ‘Sega’ logo, he tried all the obvious cures – turning it on and off, laying it on a flat surface, changing the batteries, screaming at the top of his voice at it – then opened up the back of the console with a screwdriver. Fine manipulation of small electronic devices proved to be a difficult task when you were sleep deprived, overcaffeinated and working from an unreliable-looking web page called ‘how 2 fix game gear lol’. After five minutes, he lost a screw, then stabbed himself with the screwdriver and pulled the chair on top of himself trying to look for the screw. He realised that he had probably done more harm than good, then shoved the whole mess to one side and played on his Saturn to calm his nerves. He might have a few screws loose – literally, today – but he wasn’t stupid enough to spend so long trying to fix a games console that he forgot to actually play any games.
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 +The frustrating thing was that he knew it wasn’t dead, it just wouldn’t show anything on the screen except a pale blue glow. He imagined himself as a doctor with a coma patient who wouldn’t recover, no matter what he tried, but who his professional code of conduct wouldn’t let him pull the plug on. He couldn’t just give up on a Game Gear. Games consoles were important enough in his life, and this wasn’t just an ordinary console, it was an icon of a fading era, a priceless relic. He would never get it back if he lost it. Well, he could probably buy one online, but it would cost more than he had bought the original for, and it would diminish a dwindling stock of Game Gears left in the world. He couldn’t afford to ever let a Sega console die. Not after he had been one of those responsible for the defeat of Sega – and everyone who hadn’t quite been loyal enough, who hadn’t supported them with their whole heart for every passing second of the day, was responsible for their downfall.
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 +His sleep was fevered, beset by spectres of frustration and despair, after-images burned into his vision of the game he had been playing to stay sane. He felt as though he was falling into a hole in the ground, still scrabbling to grab hold of the walls and claw his way upward, cursing himself for his inadequacy. His thoughts buzzed like angry wasps. Futile thoughts from the day still raced through his brain too fast for him to process, spinning faster and faster like a murderous merry-go-round.
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 +He wasn’t at all surprised that, when his dreams finally shook off the grasp of his day-to-day thoughts, he dreamt about a Game Gear. He was only mildly surprised that it had wings – it was, after all, a dream. Game Gears were portable, which meant freedom, so of course it had wings. He was relieved that it didn’t immediately try to eat his brains, his unconscious mind not being a particularly nice place. He thought ‘don’t think about zombie Game Gears eating your brains while you’re in a dream, idiot, it’ll make zombie Game Gears really start eating your brains!’. This wasn’t particularly effective, as it was also a thought about zombie Game Gears eating his brains. Fortunately, the Game Gear didn’t seem all that interested in eating anything except its usual food – batteries - which it showed a little picture of on its screen, beeping at him and hovering directly in front of his face so he couldn’t ignore it.
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 +Then he realised he was lucid, and a wave of joyous exhilaration washed through him like a fifth cup of tea.
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 +Lucid dreaming was one of the things he aspired to in his life. He had been able to induce lucid dreaming fairly regularly as a child, when life was simpler and Sega was still a glorious empire and his sleep pattern was normal for a human being. He was still capable of it, sometimes, which made it more precious than most of his unachievable life goals. In his dreams, there was a world that mattered just as much, where his feelings were still as strong, where he often had the same sensations, but interesting things happened to him, and occasionally things actually happened the way he wanted them to. He wasn’t the type of person to care whether others thought a world was ‘real’ or not, if it genuinely mattered to him. He thought of his dreams as his other life, the one that mostly went slightly better but contained more cannibal bureaucrats.
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 +The little games console beeped at him, louder this time, and nudged him hard enough to push him backwards. He shook his head. I probably look like an idiot, gawping at it and not saying anything.
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 +“Nice Game Gear,” he said, patting the top of it, “Do you want some batteries?”
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 +Six AA batteries appeared in his outstretched hand as soon as he thought of it. The Game Gear made a beeline for his hand and perched on it. Its wings tickled his fingers. In a movement almost too fast for him to read, its battery hatch opened and the batteries disappeared inside it, leaving six batteries. He tipped his hand and let them clatter to the floor. Like most of his dreams, he was outside on a lonely countryside lane. He looked up and saw the night sky wrapped in an intense, undisturbed darkness, studded with stars like brilliant jewels and a silvery moon like a pool of mercury. The silence was deafening – he could hear the internal workings of the planet and himself, the roaring that you could hear when there was no other sound. It was always the deepest hour of night in his dreams. He wasn’t sure why, as he most often went to sleep just before sunrise and woke up in the afternoon.
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 +As soon as it finished the feast, the Game Gear flapped its wings, rose up again and started nudging him. He realised the machine was trying to get him to go in a certain direction. He shrugged, then turned and began walking. The Game Gear immediately darted in front of him and began to lead him, stopping whenever it wanted him to take a turning. He had worked out that the messages that flashed up on its screen were messages to him, directional symbols or short instructions such as ‘wait for me to eat’. He couldn’t see very far in front of him in the darkness, so he was glad that at least one of them knew where they were going. The machine seemed purposeful in its behaviour, flying without stopping in a straight line in a rather un-birdlike manner, so he assumed it was leading him somewhere.
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 +After a while, he felt a little foolish walking so slowly when it was a dream, and he pushed with his feet and took off into the air with the Game Gear. He couldn’t fly freely in his dreams but he could jump as high as he could imagine jumping, could double-jump and glide for short distances. They stopped in a tree after a journey of indeterminate length – Cass tried his hardest not to think about time, which was the kind of thought that could wake you up if you weren’t careful, but just to play along as much as he could while still being in control, to enjoy himself and truly be, in a world where he could do so without restraint. The Game Gear ate a bunch of batteries that were growing on the tree like acorns and Cass enjoyed the view.  He could see the gently rolling hills of Spring Valley and the cluster of blue lights in the distance that meant Soft Museum Park was still open, and far on the horizon he saw the icy peaks of the mountain range known as Frozen Bell. He probably wasn’t that far away from the town – if he wanted to, he could probably fly to his house fairly quickly, as it was on the outskirts, on top of a hill with no mobile phone reception, and that if you went down the other side of it, you would technically not be in Twin Seeds any more. He doubted his avian friend would appreciate him nipping back home, even if he brought back batteries. The little machine looked very determined.
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 +“Where are we actually going?” he wondered out loud. In reply, it beeped at him and indicated the direction with a big flashing Crazy Taxi arrow on its display.
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 +“Towards Soft Museum Park? Are we going inside?” he asked. The Game Gear beeped ‘yes’ in reply. The Park wasn’t normally open so late, even when there was a special event on. He wondered what was happening. It had to be a pretty big event to keep it open so late, and yet he didn’t see any people. Something about the atmosphere told him that it was being maintained, maybe by an unseen guardian, and that he was being watched even as he bounced and tumbled through the sky towards the museum. At some point, it had been lit spectacularly in deep blue and purple, outlining its entire form, with domes and minarets and long corridors containing mirror mazes and trapdoors into other sections of the building that would confuse you so much you didn’t know which way was up by the time you reached the end. It looked larger than he remembered it the last time he had enough free time to walk all the way there, more like a Sultan’s palace than a local heritage museum. Flickering blue and purple lights lit up the avenues of trees leading up to it.
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 +He soon approached the main entrance, where the gate had been left open. There were still no other people around, and he had the feeling it had been left open just for him. He shrugged – it was his dream – then alighted to the ground and walked slowly inside. His feet clattered on the marble floor, each footfall magnified by the comparative silence. The pay desk was empty. There was a note on it but it made little sense, and kept changing whenever he looked at it – some kind of warning about the Prime Minister being a werewolf.
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 +As he walked unhindered through the door into the main exhibition, wandering into the first installation room, which semi-permanently contained the ‘History of Twin Seeds’ exhibits. The dimensions of the room had been hugely magnified and the plinths with trophies had been replaced by marble columns. Their heights differed but the shortest towered over Cass’ head. They were open, not encased in glass, and at the top of each column was some kind of games console. At first he craned his neck to see the top of the taller ones, then he remembered they could both fly. He rose to the ceiling and hovered from pillar to pillar, looking for the Saturn and Mega Drive and Dreamcast. There weren’t controllers or any screen to connect them to, so he couldn’t play, and besides, they seemed like the sort of consoles that wouldn’t take well to randomly being awoken from their sleep for his convenience. In fact, they looked like the living avatars of Gods in their temples, awaiting worship.
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 +“Is this where you live?” he asked. He didn’t see wings on the others but then, none of the others were handheld consoles. His companion beeped at him, then indicated that they should walk further into the Museum. He returned to the floor and followed it towards the corridor of mirrors, idly wondering if the handhelds had a room to themselves.
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 +“I’m always getting lost in the corridors,” he admitted, glancing around at his distorted reflections in the mirrors. Some were short and fat, some long and thin, some upside down, some dribbling down to meet each other in the middle. One made him look like a giant, another was circular like looking into a polished spoon, while yet another was a kaleidoscope of shattered images that swirled around like broken glass in a gale as he walked past them.
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 +Then he stopped. The Game Gear sensed his unease and hid behind him, slowing down so that the noise of its wingbeats did not reveal its position.
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 +For a brief second, he had caught a glimpse of another reflection in the mirrors - a stranger, darting past him. A flash of red. Something instinctive, or maybe just the sudden shock of seeing another person in a conspicuously abandoned building, saved his life. He darted away from the figure who lunged out at him, narrowly avoiding the sword thrust aimed straight through his chest.
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 +He inwardly cursed himself as he realised he had sprung in the wrong direction, so that his attacker was now between him and the exit. The figure was covered in too much crimson armour for him to tell whether it was male or female, or even if there was a person in there at all. The visor of its rounded helmet was down and its eyes weren’t visible. It made no sound, even to breathe or show any sign of exertion. The armour itself clanked a little, but not enough, as if the sound was being muted. He was no expert but he was fairly sure that you weren’t supposed to be able to move that fast in plate mail. In a tactical RPG, the figure would only have a movement rate of about four spaces. He didn’t think this was like a tactical RPG. Tactical RPGs were kind of relaxing once you learnt the rules and got into the swing of things, and he was utterly terrified.
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 +The armoured figure advanced towards him, so relentlessly methodical that it could have been a machine but far too fluid in its movements to be pre-programmed. He thought he saw its eyes glow red with malice, then it attacked again. He barely dove out of the way and its sword struck the mirror hard enough to shatter it. Shards of glass were flung in every direction, showering Cass. He winced at the pain as his arms and legs were lacerated by tiny glass cuts. He managed to shield his face with his right arm before any of the shards went in his eyes, but then he realised with a nauseating surge of panic that he couldn’t see his attacker any more. He tried to turn around, then slipped on the pile of glass and fell to the floor. He scrambled to one corner of the room, where he could at least only be stabbed from the front. Sharp pains told him that he had crawled through some more glass to reach there. Opening his eyes and taking a deep breath, he saw that he was looking straight into the impassive gaze of the armoured killer, whose sword was brandished aloft, ready to swing down like the pendulum of fate’s clock and take his head off. 
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 +Cass couldn’t move. He knew he would have a half decent chance of getting out of the way, or at least avoiding a fatal blow, if he moved fast enough, but he couldn’t bring himself to give the order to his body. Like a mouse looking into the eyes of a snake, he was enraptured by a morbid fascination that went beyond all of his darkest midnight fantasies of surrender and death. He understood that he was not supposed to avoid his fate. His enemy did not move, but silently waited for him, as if understanding his thoughts. The emblem on the faceless enemy’s shield was a speckled mushroom with two spikes for eyes. He was going to die the way his childhood friends, his homeland, his entire world had died, the way he should have died along with them. The defeat was his also; he had no right to forgo the death. He smiled and did not close his eyes, although his eyes itched from the glass dust and his hair was falling into his face and his survival instinct was trying to pry itself loose from the chains that his euphoria had bound it in. This was the most special and intimate part of his existence. There was no mockery, nobody telling him that his plight was not great enough to warrant death and that he was too young for death anyway, only honest, murderous hatred. He had been granted a time and place that was meaningful to him and only to him, and was away from prying eyes. He would not spoil the moment by not witnessing it fully. He would meet it head on, without question, as he had savoured the rest of this journey.
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 +The blade swung down, then a tiny storm of chaos broke loose. There was frantic beeping, flapping, feathers and screws and batteries falling on his head. It took him a moment to realise what had happened. He opened his mouth in protest, his eyes wide with horror. The Game Gear charged the warrior again and again, its tiny frame somehow knocking its opponent backwards, away from Cass. The armoured warrior’s gaze snapped to its new, even more instinctively hated enemy.
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 +The Game Gear turned to Cass once more. RUN, said the letters on its screen. He wasn’t sure why, but he knew that it was more important than anything he had ever done in his life to follow that order.
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 +Even though he had betrayed his friend that night for the third time in a row.
 
clockwork3.txt · Last modified: 2012/11/05 01:58 by doan
 
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