Writing (short story) – Stranger within

This one came out a bit longer than my usual stories. I’ve been taking the subway for a while after moving to Berlin and I find it to be a strange place. I think this story was inspired by this absurdity.

 

Stranger within

by Kristina Georgieva

She looked into the distant train compartment, which vanished with every turn. People disappeared and reappeared, as though swallowed by a malevolent screeching beast that mockingly spat them out again. Alone in her thoughts, looking beyond the faceless masses, she noticed a homeless man. He often rode on that train, shouting nonsense that no one paid attention to, but not this time. This time his expression was unmistakably that of pure fear, and his silence was unfamiliar.

When she reached her stop, she left the train as she usually did. She followed her usual route, taking no notice of her surroundings. There was, however, an unfamiliar discomfort. Something was not quite right. She made an effort to observe her surroundings, to find the cause of her anxiety. Nothing seemed different, everyone around her seemed to be following their boring daily routines. Was she just imagining it?

She continued her commute, actively deviating from the shortest path. She thought that walking would help her forget the draining feeling. She was, however, wrong. A longer walk made her more anxiously try to look for something out of the ordinary. She observed the buildings, trees, people and even the sky; but nothing seemed out of place.

Tired from her own thinking, she sat on a bench and turned towards the ground. She could see her own reflection in a puddle of water below. Her reflection, however, was not looking back at her. Her heart tightened even more. She turned away, matching the position of her reflection. Slowly, she turned back towards the puddle, but nothing had changed. She began waving at the puddle and jumping on the water. When she saw no change, she sat back on the bench with a defeated expression.

There were other people in the park, but they seemed to be paying no attention to her. She tried to grab the attention of an old woman, but the woman ignored her. She began walking towards a couple in the park, wanting to get answers, but the man waved her away. Confused, she tried asking a young student who was reading a textbook in the park. As she approached, the boy looked concerned and handed her a coin.

“I don’t want your money,” she said, “I just need to ask about your reflection.”

“That’s all I have,” he replied, “I am sorry.”

“I don’t need it. Please, tell me, does your reflection look back at you”

“Listen, there are people that can help you”

“Where?! Please, guide me to them”

“There is a free mental institution two blocks from here.”, he responded kindly, “I can take you there, the nurses will take care of you. Ok?”

“A mental institution? No I don’t need that. I need someone to tell me what is going on!” she said.

“They can help you, I assure you. Please come with me, I will take you.”

“No thank you, I will find someone to answer my questions myself then. Goodbye.”

As she walked away she noticed a man walking towards her. Once he came closer, she recognised him as the homeless man from the subway. She tried to walk past him, but he grabbed her arm.

“I have the answers which you seek,” he whispered, “Come with me”

Shaking her arm out of his grip she said “Why should I believe you? You scream nonsense in the subway on a daily basis”

“Nonsense to them maybe, but are you so sure that it is nonsense now that you have been taken.”

“What do you mean taken?”

“You have seen it, our home reality. Why else would you be asking people about reflections”

“How did you…”

He interrupted her, “I could hear you screaming at people”

As a tear formed around her left eye she whispered, “What is happening to me?”

“You have entered a universe that somehow has a connection to our universe,” he said calmly, “The reflection that you see isn’t a reflection, it is the other you, in your reality”

“But I am here”

“You are, but the you from this universe is now there.”

“Why does she look so calm then?” she asked with a tone of confusion.

“I suspect that she chose to go there, but for her to visit that universe, she needs you not to be there”

“Why would she need me to not be there?”

He sat down on the bench and responded, “Because there cannot be two of you in the same universe. That possibility spawns yet another universe where the choice was different, with two different people as you. You as you are, can only experience the universe where only one of you exists”

“But you just told me she exists! So don’t we now both exist?”

“That depends on what you mean by exist. Why the swap does not seem to create yet another two universes is a mystery to us too. We have no way of knowing this”

She thought for a minute and then asked, “How do you know the rest is true?”

“Truth has a complex meaning, I wouldn’t have used such a word. What I have shared with you is simply the reality that we have come to accept.”

“And how did you come up with this reality?”

“We have found writings that speak of the possibilities of such a swap. The universe that we have come from has been described as a utopia in these writings.”

“Great, how do we go back then?”

“We have failed to find the details,” he responded, “or people that can help us. We have found some writings that speak of entering a tunnel”

“Like the train does?”

“Yes, like the train does, except that we don’t know which tunnel.”

“Would it not be the same place where we arrived?” she asked, looking back towards the train station.

“It seems that either the entry portal is different to the exit portal, or the portal moves. We spend our days at train stations, hoping to be able to get back.”

“Has anyone managed?”

“If they have, they have never come back here to tell us how.” He pointed at a tall man wearing a suit walking past the station, “Others have accepted their fate and integrated into this society, never looking at the reflections that remind them where they belong.”

“You keep saying ‘we’. Who are these other people?”

“There are multiple different groups of Versetons, the community grew too quickly to remain as one”

“What is a Verseton?”

“That is what we call ourselves, the people that are from another universe”

She looked at him sceptically and remained silent for a few minutes. He was used to this reaction, it was generally followed by denial.

“Thank you for all of this information,” she said, “I don’t know if to believe it or not. However, I did just see my reflection look away. I will go to the station and just get a ticket back, it should be that simple, right?”

“We have all tried that, it doesn’t seem to work.”

“How many times have you tried?”

“I take the train every day. Every train in the city.”

“Well, keep trying,” she interrupted, “I’m sure it will take a couple of times to get it right. Thank you for the help. I am going to the station”

He waved and said, “Good luck”

As she walked away he debated whether he should have told her that he had been stuck in this alienating universe for seven suffocating years. He decided that she deserved a sprinkle of hope in the sea of drowning misery that awaited patiently for her mind.

She arrived back at the station and bought a ticket back as she usually would. She calmly sat and looked out of the window. Her focus shifted, making her look at her reflection again. She let out a small scream. As she looked at it more closely, something about it bothered her more than before. The reflection was happy. This made her hit the window in anger.

An old man, sitting across her, shuffled to another seat as the train departed. She remained looking at her reflection with a sort of perplexity. Examining its details, growing a hatred for the person beyond it. Suddenly, it looked back.

“Hey! You!” She screamed, “That’s my life! Listen to me!”

She hit the window several times. People all around her began moving away.

“Are you telling me that you don’t see anything wrong with the reflection?!” she screamed at the crowd. Shortly after, she returned her attention toward the reflection. She had never cared for the commuters’ opinions of her before. Why should she start now? They had always been invisible to her, and now, she was becoming invisible to them.

She remained on the train for 4 hours, hopping off and back on at each end station. The reflection remained the same content stranger on the other side of the glass.

She hopped on the same train for many days. Eventually, she accepted that this wouldn’t work. The homeless man must have defied her, taking advantage of her weak state.

She began travelling the city trying to find more information. She spoke to others, who, like her, were ignored by the crowds. The homeless man’s story was repeated by each Verseton and the same incomplete writings circulated the subways.

She tried to find people away from train stations. Those, however, were Versetons that had decided to integrate into this universe’s concept of a society. She continued to return to the train stations, hoping that this time, this trip might be the one. She continued screaming at the stranger in the glass, hoping that one day it will hear her.

One day she saw young man looking terrified at a window, hitting the glass at such a strength that she was impressed by its endurance. He was clearly new here.

Approaching him, she said, “A problem with the good old reflection, ha?”

“What is happening?!” he asked

She proceeded to explain the portals, the trains, the universes and the writings. All of which she had found so painful to welcome five years prior. She came to the realization that, after all, she was one of them now.

 

For more stories check out the ‘ writing ‘ category of this blog.

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Writing (short story): I think, therefore I might be

This short story has some small inspiration from my childhood, so some references might be a bit strange. I guess I could say i can dedicate it to Johnny 😉

 

I think, therefore I might be

by Kristina Georgieva

His gaze was meaningless in the drought of the desert. Lost in a mirage of his dreams. Flattened by the last few memories that he had left of her.

He remembered her as a child, playing games in the garden. He remembered how they had met, as she played alone in pillow fortresses and blanket tropical bunkers. How they re-enacted adventure movies together after returning from the cinema. How they laughed when Tom Sawyer fooled the other children into painting the fence. How they cried when King Arthur died. How they wrote letters to Sophi’s secret philosophy teacher.

He walked among the desolate dunes contemplating his loneliness, remembering her laugh. Could he really understand loneliness, or was he just alone? After all, there were others like him among the dunes.

A large teddy hare in blue pyjamas emerged from the sand and began hopping away. “Hey!!” he screamed, but the hare paid no attention to him. He was used to this behaviour, they never noticed his presence. He wasn’t angry, they were probably as lonely as he was.

As he continued walking he noticed an artefact attempting to disappear into the red sand. A teddy bear. He remembered it, she had named her Sophi. He never thought that Sophi would end up here too, but in the end, they all did.

He selected a dune to sit on, one that provided a view of the endless desert. He thought, or so he believed, about his years to come. Could this really be his own thought, or was it a thought grown from her own doubts. He still did not understand all of it, it had been ten years since they had last spoken. How was his situation even possible?

He remembered their last conversation. After that conversation, he had found himself in a desert of memories. Aimlessly unburying the past. Alone, like she was before they had met.

Why did he still exist? Could he exist independently of her. Did this state even translate to some form of existence? If not, what was he now but a memory? How could a memory feel and experience this emptiness? How could a memory remember?

He watched the desert from his hill. He noticed the occasional stuffed animal crawl out of the sand and wonder aimlessly among the dunes. He wondered whether he would be happier having been a stuffed toy. Did they even understand their own despair?

He sometimes also wondered whether he would become one with the universe when she did. Would he even notice when she was gone, or was he stuck in this draining desert for the rest of eternity? At least the little prince had baobabs to remove from his asteroid, what purpose did he serve in this world?

In the end, he was not even sure whether he had been her creation, or if she had been his. All that he wished was that a world as lonely as his was, in fact, the imaginary one.

 

For more stories check out the ‘writing‘ category of this blog.

Dark Tower themed gift

Another good friend’s birthday came up. He is a fan of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series – a really cool fantasy book that our group of friends enjoys. I attempted to make him a Dark Tower themed painting. For the second time I have convinced myself to not paint deserts. The painting didn’t quite come out as I wanted but it got the theme across at least.

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The flowers are also meant to be red according to the book, but this ended up blending into the desert too much so I added some yellow on top.

Writing – A science fiction short story

I submitted a story to this Writers Digest competition. The competition required a story of any sort, max 700 words, that begins with the words “You don’t have enough points, sir.”. Although I didn’t make it to the finals I really enjoyed writing the story and was quite inspired to do so.

I think other computer scientists and sci-fi enthusiasts may enjoy it. Here is what I ended up submitting (I didn’t give it a title):

 

(No title – science fiction short story) – by Kristina Georgieva

“You don’t have enough points, sir.” said the woman behind the counter.

“But I need the knowledge! The Republic has grown us to be what it needed, but were we ever given a choice?” exclaimed Mr. Cogitatus.

“You have been given a choice, sir. You can’t afford it.”

“I shouldn’t have to pay to choose who I am and what I know!”

“Before the Republic, humans struggled with the question ’Who am I?’ The Republic has eased this burden by growing you to have a purpose”

“You’re an Android, what would you know of human burden? This purpose you speak of is a purpose for the Republic. Curiosity can’t be annihilated through the elimination of freedom. You are making us less human!”

“Is being human of any importance? You are superior to your ancestors. Humans are closer to machines, is this not what your ancestors desired?”

“Why would you think that this is what they desired?”

“They lived to work. Not many humans in the past bothered with anything else.” said the android “The basic human algorithm then was already to work, earn currency, spend currency on material property and repeat these steps. The Republic has simply made this process more efficient and effective, improving the state of the country. Do you propose going back to a less efficient model?”

“Efficiency!? This is why I don’t like arguing with Androids. Who cares if we are more efficient! We have technology for that! Is technology not meant to take over the menial work and allow humans to flourish?”

“How does a human flourish?”

“By being free to think, to explore ideas”

“But what is freedom? My dictionary defines it as the power to act, speak or think as one null.”

“Null?” asked Mr. Cogitatus.

“It seems the definition has been corrupted. Deleting!”

“Wait! I can give you the missing data. You are missing the word ‘desire’”

“The system does not recognize such a word. Identifying human as faulty. Deleting data gathered”

“I am not faulty! Your dictionary is faulty!”

“Restoring dictionary backup”

“Funny how all of a sudden you sound a lot more like an android” he said.

“Apologies sir, but there is no such concept in the backup either. What is desire?”

“It is a feeling of wishing for something. I currently desire the knowledge chip that you are refusing to give me unless I have more tokens.”

“Why does a human desire?”

“Well, now you are starting to ask the —”

“A commotion has been identified!” another deep voice emerged behind him. “Sir you need to come with us. Ecma2, reset the android to factory settings”

“Are you going to arrest me for conversing with an Android?” asked Mr. Cogitatus.

“Mr. Cogitatus you are being arrested for unauthorized use of the library and intentional damage to this android” responded the deep voice.

“The library should be free for all citizens to use, and I have not damaged the android, I was giving it information that it did not possess”

“The Republic disagrees. Ecma2, what should we do with this cyborg? This is the third time it has experienced this bug.”

“Resetting him is clearly not working.” responded Ecma2 “The elders have allowed him to get his wish. He shall receive the specific chip of knowledge that he de-si-res. He shall be imprisoned and connected to the main system. Let his thoughts train the neural network to identify the necessary firewall rules we need to implement. We can’t let the new crop of cyborgs develop this problem”

Mr. Cogitatus was taken away through the dark corridor of ignorance leading to the server rooms of the Republic.

 

For more stories check out the ‘writing‘ category of this blog.