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I. Wake in Death “People live in deception, but what you feel is true. And with that, I will stay alive.”

Rain drops down like a melody of a piano… each falls like a tune in a requiem being played for her as she lied on the cold ground. Blood flowed from her eyes like tears trickling down in loneliness and sorrow; like the rain, it seems to fall endlessly. “You have betrayed the Mirage. You must die.” His voice floated over her blankness as she recalls the look on his face—perhaps the last time she would be able to gaze at him. He looked furious, holding the gun and aimed it at her heart, determined to kill her at all cost. However, there was a strained feeling in his heart, and she felt it too. She knew the decision isn’t easy for him; something, which might even cause him his life or death… “You’re the last person on earth I could ever trust my life to…Why?” She mutters inaudibly. “Steven?” He tried to keep his hands from shaking, but the words of his own friend gave tinge to the heart he has been trying to ice. He never wanted to do this in the first place… yet there is nothing he could do. He could either lose a friend’s life by his own hands, or lose his. “This is your punishment!” Steven yells in anguish. But then, the spite in his face turned into deep grief. “Why must you let me do this?? Why must you die in my hands???” he growled. Her eyes strained on him, she did not move nor twitch even for a second. For a minute there, she couldn’t say a word. Steven is in panic… the Neo-Gaia will kill him as well if he did not follow. These thoughts fused in her mind as she watched him breathed heavily as he held the gun on her. She could run away, just like what she did before, but she didn’t. “It’s my fault… I should have thought of him too in the first place.” For minute the two stood still in the midst of the forest. The dense shadows turned into darkness as dusk finally arrived and rain slowly pours down like tears falling from heaven. “Alright,” she starts, the rain dripping on her face conceal as a mask from the tears that streamed from her eyes. “Kill me.” Three gunshots were heard in the air, and the crows flew in fright, arising from the thick forest as the rain started to pour heavily at the setting of the sun. “The Mirage was put up as a barrier between the real world, and the Veil. Inside the Veil, people will leave happily and peacefully. Never knowing that in reality, the Anarchy war

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has destroyed almost of the whole planet. It is a deception, but it is just what people need, or at least want. But for the Mirage to continually exist, an illusion of a perfect place must exist, and who else could create that other than Syn?” The leaders of Neo-Gaia agreed. However, all of them knew they had her killed. It might have been a wrong move, and some regretted it, for Sir Nathaniel Wright says, “The data for Veil is continually consumed. If nobody takes over Mirage, the barrier will be destroyed.” “The only thing I have is Syn’s Memory Orb.” Reagent, one of the Mirage’s creators, answers. He held the orb tightly in his hands as if it was something he treasured. “For now we cannot change the possessor properties of Mirage—it still recognizes Syn as its owner. We could feed it to Mirage until we find a replacement.” “At last. The rain stopped.” The rays of the sun beamed over a body lying on the cold ground in the forest of Harpsha. The harsh storm has passed and now gentle breeze blew away the leaves that covered the forsaken one. The winds quietly touched the cold face, as the traces of blood and tears still wet from sorrow are seen. There is a white reflection kneeling upon the ground, enveloping the body. As clouds turned the reflection walked to what seemed like corpse. Long silver hair flowed in the air as she pressed her ears on the body’s chest. There was no heartbeat, but amazingly… it was still warm. The white maiden smiled and touched the girl’s face. Her lips twitched… feeling the cold hands on her cheek. As her eyes slowly opened, a fair lady in white came into view. “At last,” the lady says in greetings. “You’re awake now.” Syn held on to the lady’s hand, as she is pulled from her deep reverie. As her eyes wandered she realized she is in the same forest where her friend had shot her in the head last night. She looked at her body… the traces of blood were still there, but curiously there was no pain. “Am I alive?” she asks herself, but she couldn’t be. Three shots were fired—the last in her head… it’s impossible for her to be alive. “Yes, and no,” The lady answers, shaking her head. “I don’t think I understand…” Syn mutters. “Which am I?” “Both.” The maiden answers calmly. “You see, in reality, you are already dead. But here, your feelings kept you alive. That is why… you are both alive and dead.”

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“Wait a minute,” Syn groans, very much confused. “Here? Where am I?” “In my wings. Don’t you remember who I am?” Syn stared at the woman for a second, trying to find anything familiar that would make her recognize who she is. But there was nothing. Clueless, she looked at her with confusion, and the woman smiled at her unawareness. “I’ve brought you here because I cannot let you die. Because,” The woman says complacently, “you are my possessor.” “Possessor?” Syn exclaims in surprise. She looked around her and knew that it is the same place where she had died. But then, a realization came into her heart. As piercing as the thought can be, it is the only way she can stay alive. The Veil. “This can’t be,” she says inaudibly. “You’re the Mirage!” The silver-haired maiden nodded and smiled. “Yes.” “Why? Why have you kept me alive?” Syn asked. “Because it is your will.” The woman answered mildly. Out her hand soon appeared a crystal sphere, with movements inside like that of a small screen. As Syn looked closely she realized those scenes were familiar. It was her memory. The Mirage made the orb vanish into thin air, and held her master. “Here in the Veil, you are the one true thing. People live in deception, but what you feel is true. And with that, I will stay alive.” She puts her arms around her owner, and embraced her, even though there was no warmth in their both of their bodies. “Here I will protect you. I will keep you from harm. The feelings you feel, I will feel too. We will be one.”

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II. Lost “You are the only one thing that reminds me of the truth…”

His hands held tightly, as if missing a feeling he had a while ago. Reagent had just given up Syn’s Memory Orb—his last contribution to the Mirage. He, along with Syn and Steven created the machine, unaware of its true purpose. The knowledge became too late, however, and one of them has to sacrifice her life just for the truth she was fighting for. “I can’t let you fight—even if it’s for the truth. I’d rather you bear the pain of silence than your death,” were the last words he told her before she escaped Neo-Gaia three years ago. “Well I’d rather die, than deceive all these people with a life far from reality. They didn’t ask for it, Reagent,” Syn reasoned, wanting him to understand. “They deserve to live own their life!” The time pulled his grip off her, was the same time he lets go of her forever, and little did he know it. Later he regretted— not for being unable to fight for her belief—but for her. “You are the only thing that reminds me of what is true… in this world of confusion…” Reagent closed his eyes and sighed—trying to ease the pain, but the thorn was still there in his heart. “Now I am lost—blinded by the light.” He opens his eyes, and to his surprise, he comes across to the very man he wouldn’t want to see—“Steven,” he groans, trying to calm his heart even though the sight of him brings the pain and anguish to his heart. Steven on the other hand, did not notice him—or at least, tried not to. Instead he walked blindly, leaning on the walls to help his path. He seemed drunk—that he passed by Reagent without a word or greeting. But he wasn’t drunk—only the fear and sorrow gave him such paranoia that he is afraid of Reagent, knowing that the man loved the girl whom he killed. However Reagent sensed his fear, that he stopped a distance away. A mix of pain and hatred in his heart gave him the urge to speak, at least, in case he should hurt him. “You will die. I will see to that.” He threatens, as Steven looks back at him, his eyes 4


showing that he is terrified, but was expecting it from his old friend. Both walked away in different paths, both feeling the cold, empty pain, missing the warmth of the heart that had once often healed it. “There is such pain and loneliness in your heart. I wonder where it comes from?” the Mirage says, bending down to wipe the tears off Syn’s eyes. “You are dead, you have no more pulse, yet there is so much in your heart that you still cry.” “There are so many things,” Syn mutters, leaning her head on the Mirage’s lap. “Some which cannot be explained. I cannot bear to look at this world. This world after my own thought. The world of ideal but there is no feeling.” “There is but one.” Mirage answers, her calm, bland voice echoing through the woods. “The thing you called happiness.” “It is fraud.” Syn answers. “How can you realize happiness if there is no sorrow? No grief? No anger?” “Perhaps,” Mirage says, brushing her hair with her bare white hands. “If you would be brave enough to see what’s around you, you will understand.” Syn stood from her knee, in her face lies an expression of a new thought. “Are you ready to see the New Earth?” Mirage asks. “Why must you let me do this?? Why must you die in my hands???” Gunshots. “Sir? Are you alright?” Steven turns conscious from his trance as he felt a tap on his shoulder. Both his fear and pain produced this seems to be never-ending nightmare that haunts him from day to night. As he looks up to his secretary he smiles pathetically. “I’ll be,” he answers. “Maybe I just need some rest.” “Okay then, I’ll be outside if you need anything,” the secretary says, closing the door after him. Steven was left alone, stroked his forehead to ease the anxiety. In a minute then he felt better, that he stood up and opened the Venetian blinds of his glass window to see his machine work. “This is the Mirage… our ultimate creation.” He remembers as he and his friends looked at it after months of painstaking labor. “At last. It’s finished.” The three of them—him, Reagent and Syn, worked hard to finish the project Mirage in knowing that it will be hope for the people who is living in darkness at the aftermath of war. However, the officials betrayed them. Their prized machine became a ghost of folly, with Syn as a sacrifice for all the Neo-Gaia’s ideals, and him, a puppet that follows their orders without hesitation; blinded by the rank given to him as the leader of Project Mirage. “It is finished.” He closed the blinds and went back to his chair to sit—the ache starts again. “No. This wasn’t meant to destroy us,” he mutters, shaking his head regretfully. He pulls the drawer from his desk and took a silver pistol—the same gun he used to shot Syn that night. Three times he pulled the trigger—one bullet goes right in her left shoulder, the other in her stomach, the last in her head. She could’ve run, but she chose her death. Then he realizes, that the same night Syn died, he died too—and so did Reagent.

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“Reagent lost his heart. But I—,” he groans, “I lost my soul.” He took the pistol back into its case and shut the drawer, but neither its existence nor his deed did die away. Instead, it grew in silence. As Steven continued contemplating at his loss—visions of the night in the forest returned to him. “Kill Syn. Unless she serve Mirage she is worthless. If she wanders around the earth the rebels will kill her. It is better she die in your hands—a short painful death is better than years of torment the Neo-Gaia will grant her for betrayal.” “I have only thought of what is good for you, Syn,” Steven mutters. “If you only knew what anguish this has brought to me you will realize I am hurt the worse. I am alive, my heart is beating, but I have lost my soul—I am considered dead.” His eyes strained on his palms, recognizing the same hands that killed his best friend. “I am not afraid Reagent will kill me. It is better to die than to live like this, at least, my blood will be enough pardon for the times I’ve wronged you.” “We created the Mirage, but it destroyed us.” He concludes. Steven grins and lights a cigar as he nervously puts between his fingers. “So much for nothing.” The sound of the requiem continues to play; as the rain drips upon the walls of the house of Neo-Gaia.

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III. Inside the Veil “With hope, we could see light beyond darkness, even if darkness is all was see.”

Her brown eyes looked intently at the child she was holding, smiling peacefully as she watched the baby sleep. The mother hums a lullaby as leaves from the tree where they took shelter falls down, making a beautiful scene along with the green blades of grass dancing in the wind. Children’s laughter filled the whole place, and parents watched them from the gate of the park in which they were playing. As Syn watched them with envy, she becomes conscious that the happiness they feel isn’t true; however, they are lucky they didn’t know the truth. “As you see, they are content here.” Mirage speaks, sensing her thoughts. “No grudges, no tears. Just pure bliss.” “The bliss from your heart.” She adds presently. Syn bows her head in regret—for the world she knew is an exact opposite of the one she is seeing right now. “This is my world…the world inside my heart,” she says to herself. At the people’s faces all seemed satisfied, and with that she felt that the deception is half forgivable—for they wouldn’t have those smiles in real life. “I don’t feel as bad now that I see them here.” She says, to which Mirage smiled with pleasure. For the first time, Mirage sees the girl smiled with satisfaction, that it seems, all her pain and labor was not in vain at all. But there was something else that made her quite confused, for as Syn smiled while looking at the people there were tears in her eyes. She wide-eye marveled at the girl’s emotions—she doesn’t understand why in a world so happy, would she cry… “If only this is the truth.” Syn says, wiping the tears. “If only what they feel is true.” “Why would you ask for the truth, if it only brings you pain?” asks Mirage, wondering at 7


her words. “Because it is the truth.” Syn answers, looking at her decidedly. “Because it is the only way we can live.” “The only way?” Mirage looks down, confused. “Why then, was I created?” Syn was taken aback—surprised at the maiden’s question, for she too, was ignorant of the answer, remembering they were mislead at its true purpose. However, she sighed, and looked at the lady’s silvery eyes with the answer she knew she believed in. “To give hope.” she smiled. “Hope?” Syn leaned on the gate of the park as she turned her head up—looking at the blue skies the Veil has produced. The clouds slid down the atmosphere, and the light rays of the sun beamed down on them. “For years, we have lived in darkness because of the war. The people have lost hope of living peacefully again. Each day they wait in panic that it will be their last… fathers fear of leaving their families unprotected; mothers fear of leaving their children uncared for; children’s cries of loneliness howled every night. Those were dark days. And even after the war had ended the despair did not. That is why,” She says, turning to the maiden. “We created you.” “If only they could take a glimpse of a possible future, if they will just work together and rebuild the nation—reuniting the scattered clans, reaching those who are lost and abandoned, then their hope will be revived. This Earth was not meant for paradise— troubles come and go. But with hope, we could fight the sorrow and despair, and be happy even though all we had for now was nothing but ourselves. With hope, we can build something out of nothing—with hope; we learn to embrace the truth, however painful it is. With hope, we could see light beyond darkness, even if darkness is all was see.” “Hope,” Mirage mutters in awe at her answer. “Is there enough for humankind?” “Maybe,” Syn answers. “It’s a choice.” Silent tears dropped from his cheeks. No matter how hard he tried not to cry, the tears flowed like stream from his eyes. He placed his hands on his mouth lest somebody hears his sobs. It was the third time he broke down before he slept—Reagent, the Cocommander of the Mirage Project, would be a shame if anybody sees him lose control of his usual coldness. For three years he believed that she would return, or at least, be alive. All those times he hoped he would see her again, and bring smile in his face like the old times when they were together. “If she’ll come back I’ll swear never to leave her again. I will stand with her and fight her battle—I don’t care if Neo-Gaia chases us to hell as long as I have her…” But it wasn’t the case now, for Syn is dead, and waiting for her return would be meaningless. And what’s more painful, is that the man whom she considered almost like her brother, is the one who took her life. For now, there is nothing in Reagent’s mind but his death, and Steven’s. “Our friendship was like a brotherhood—not by blood, but the pact we made us closer to each other than real brothers. Why then, does it have to be destroyed by a wrong belief and a foolish mistake?”

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“You could’ve saved her, Steven—but you chose your position rather than Syn’s safety,” he thought, his heart bursting with anger that is enough to take the life of his so-called brother. “And with that, you die.” “Her name is Lydia.” Steven presents a brown haired girl with green eyes at the officials of Neo-Gaia. She was about his shoulder, with dark red lips and pale complexion. She looked cunningly at the high-ranked people before her, even in her silence she showed eloquence, and they were impressed. “Is she the one?” one of the leaders asked, to which Steven nods. “She is, and I am proud, that much like Syn, she’ll be able to create a virtual world,” He says, and Lydia smiles arrogantly. “Well then,” the other officials declared. “Let’s see if she’s suited for the Veil.” “Of course,” Steven answers, and without a minute to waste he escorts the girl in the chamber, where brainwaves for Mirage are to be gathered. Reagent looked at them quietly from afar, in his mind knowing that another is about to waste her life in the formation of the simulated world. However he didn’t care, for his mind was set for Steven, and his cold eyes like piercing bullets right through his friend’s heart. Steven noticed his stare, but did not mind him. “Another time, Reagent,” he muttered, as he took over Mirage’s control to change the ownership to its new possessor. But then— “What seems to be the problem, sir?” Steven’s secretary stood beside him, noticing the shocked look on his master’s face. “I don’t know,” Steven answers nervously, his hands typing commands so fast but it seems the computer disregards it. “But Mirage doesn’t want to recognize its new possessor.” “That’s strange,” the secretary thought, looking at the data manager. “Look,” he points to his master. “The data consumed is only 2 percent!” Everyone in the assembly was surprised, that even Reagent was stirred. Steven inputted the new ownership command repeatedly, but the Mirage ignores it continually. The leaders of the Neo-Gaia was troubled that they huddled to him, trying to know what the problem is, but he too, cannot explain. “It seems weird, for Mirage was programmed to automatically accept new ownership once its current possessor dies,” explains Steven to the disturbed leaders. “Unless,” Steven stops as he heard another voice floating in the hall, and everyone turns back and sees Reagent approaching them. He looked calm as usual, but there was a trace of worry in his face, for he walked slowly—what he discovered brought anxiety to him as well. “Unless what?” The chairman asked, wanting to find an answer to the tumult that is happening now. Reagent strained his eyes on Mirage with entrenched draftiness and anger, his voice cold and calm as he answers… “Unless Syn is not dead.”

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IV. Believe “Hope will never die. Not as long as you choose to have it.”

He finds his old comrade, looking at the giant piece of machine—neither unmoved nor anguished. He just stared there, as if silently trying to find answers from what cannot be solved. He took courage from his first step, as he slowly approached him—knowing that this talk might end into death of one of them. “You’ve been standing there for too long,” Steven greets, but Reagent made not a reply. Afraid to lose the conversation, he adds, “You know Mirage won’t speak to you.” “Why are you here?” Reagent asks coldly in monotone, without movement but his eyes now focused on his guest. “Just like you. Wondering.” Steven answers, trying to cover his silent fear with the grin on his face. He lights a cigar that glowed in the room—the only light in the darkness of Mirage’s sanctuary. Reagent grins at his answer, and Steven’s anxiety calms. “It is possible—like the good old days,” he thought, as he looked at his friend. In his heart he knew the anger is still buried there—but one last conversation—that’s all he is hoping for. Just one chance of forgiveness before Reagent settles him his death… “He’s always been like that… keeping his emotions inside…” he thinks, as he looks at Reagent’s silence. “Never letting anyone in, even Syn. That is why he is often misunderstood.” “You were thinking of her,” Steven says at last, crushing the cigar with his foot. “You were hoping she is still alive.” “That is the only reason why there is so much data, and the new ownership is not accepted,” Reagent answers. “Other than that there is no possible answer.” “Technical problems.” Declares Steven. “Mirage isn’t perfect—when we built it we knew there will be disorder in technicalities.” “Hmm, so like you,” Reagent exclaims coldly, wearing a grin. “You were always the 10


boss—the one who’s always right. Is that what you told the leaders?” “Yep.” “I see. But,” Reagent turns to him, and Steven could see his seriousness through his deep blue eyes. “You do take my reason possible, right?” “Yes.” That was all Reagent need, and he sighed heavily with ease. Steven still believed in him, just as he did when he designed the Mirage. Misunderstood though he was—there were still two people who believed in him, and for him that was enough. “I am still going to kill you,” He notes, as he starts to walk away, for the answer was all he needed. Steven smiles, without regret, “If you’ll kill me,” he calls out, to which made Reagent stopped. “Do it in the forest of Harpsha. I haven’t made a proper burial for Syn and I want to do it before I die.” “However you want it.” Reagent replies, and walks away, leaving a satisfied Steven in the darkness of the sanctuary. Syn looks out to the clear blue sky, hoping to find something there that will remind her of what is true. White clouds hovered around the sky; the sun’s shining rays were benevolent, touching her skin gently. Mirage stood, waiting for an answer, which she herself is complicated to give. “Death doesn’t stop hope,” She finally declares, looking at her hands, which she knew, in reality, was decaying. “Sometimes, hope begins in death.” “I don’t seem to understand… when humans lose their life, they lose their souls as well,” Mirage spoke blandly, “Where then, is hope there?” Both of them watched as a child fall down from the swing, and his mother rushed to seem him. As the mother tenderly comforted her crying son, Syn smiled. “Death may bring end to life.” She started, “But the memory will linger on forever. The people who loved you, who believed in you—they will keep you in their hearts as long as they live. And as long as this flame is burning it will continue to pass on. That is why,” She faced Mirage and answered stoutly, “Hope will never die. Not as long as you choose to have it.” “I see.” The maiden nods graciously, taking her point. “Perhaps these people have hopes as well, but confining them here will stop the flame. However, what they see outside will break them. What if they choose not to hope?” “Neo-Gaia is formed to create a new earth—a new beginning—however as time passed its leaders became selfish and wicked; thinking of themselves without any concern for others. At the aftermath of war, the anarchy has left the world half destroyed, leaving the bountiful countries into disarray, the deprived nations into turmoil. Only a little was left —so small to be divided among nations. The covetous leaders took it and placed the people under sleep inside the Veil so that they could perform their roguish plan of overtaking the world without interruption. But the rebels were aware of their thoughts, small in number though they were, they plan to attack one day and put all the civilization’s sleep to an end.” “Are you one of them? The rebels?” Syn thought for a minute, as she and Mirage traveled through the Veil, walking past the amazingly built land fashioned from her mind. For three years she has spent her life

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traveling, and she has come upon these people whom she befriended with. They however, were unaware of her true identity. “No,” she answers then, concluding her thought. “I fight for my belief, not theirs. However,” she comes to a halt. “We have the same purpose.” “And that is to wake these people from their long sleep.” Mirage continues, to which made Syn smiled pathetically in agreement and strolled with her again. “But I wonder how you’d do that.” Mirage says in her cold monotone. “You are my possessor, and you are inside the Veil. The alteration, unfortunately, is impossible.” Syn stopped and thought, and then decided. “There is a way.”

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V. Talking Corpse “Like the echoing sounds of the choirs of angels, singing in eternity, so does love. It transcends.”

“I was created to produce a world from thoughts… thoughts of a person whom they call the possessor. The data from the possessor’s mind are enhanced and consumed in a dimension called Veil—an imitation of reality, only in its peaceful state. Unless dead, there can be only one possessor—and as long as her heart is beating I will live. As long as she feels, I exist. I am a part of her, as Syn is a part of me now…” “It’s impossible…” Mirage mutters, but her eyes widened at a single thought that quite disturbed her nature. “Impossible unless…” “I think you got it already,” Syn smiled confidently at her as if it was a thing of no matter. “However there is no way I could be able to speak to them.” “All they have given you is pain. Yet why do you wish to see them?” Mirage asks, walking softly and peacefully as she hovered around, like the stars drifting above the night sky. “They gave me meaning.” Syn answers truthfully. “I think that’s the real cause of my existence,” she adds, looking at the dark atmosphere—endless, as it seems. Mirage too, turned up and smiled. “Like the sky are your feelings…” She speaks in a warm tone to which Syn is surprised to hear. “They are felt in every part of the world, even in distance away. Like the echoing sounds of the choirs of angels, singing in eternity, so does love. It transcends.” She spoke such earnestly and held Syn’s hand and put in against her white cheeks. “You can touch them even if you are dimensions apart.” Ashes from his cigar fell on the floor, as he sat quietly in his office, smoking as usual. Just a while ago, the officials of Neo-Gaia held a conference—dealing with the current condition Mirage is having. Reagent’s statement was almost absurd, yet the idea struck 13


them. Technical problem—that was Steven’s stand. Some believed his explanation, others do not, that it brought disbelief in his status and his rank is now in threat. “How in the world does Syn’s data remains there after her death?” He asks himself, for he too was bothered. Yet he tried to cover his anxiety with the belief that it was just a technical problem. However, the more he recalls Reagent’s words, the more he begins to doubt. There was a shadow in his heart, much yet; there was a shadow at his door. As Steven turns his chair he sees his old friend leaning at the wall, silent but fierce. He could feel the bitter atmosphere scattered in his room and for a minute he was tensed. But then again, he smiled to himself as he crushed the cigar to the ashtray on his table. “So you’ve come for me,” he smiles, to which Reagent replies with a nod. “You’re not going to break your promise, right?” he adds, as he stands from his chair and took his coat. “Let’s go,” Reagent says icily as he led the way. Steven followed behind, the fear and regret vanished quickly as he assured himself of a quick, painless death—“This is it,” he thinks to himself. “What I’ve been waiting for.” The two walked slowly through the house of Neo-Gaia, making the march of their own death as one gives judgment to the other. However, Steven stops as they walked passed by Mirage, wanting one last glance to his creation. “Can you give me just five minutes?” he asks Reagent. “I’ll just say goodbye to her.” He walks inside the sanctuary, his eyes looking up at the tower of computer they have created. “Wow,” he sighs, laughing at the thought—of all the things they have gone through because of a mistake. He touched the machine and petted it as if it can feel; it was his masterpiece after all. He just stood there, silently holding on to all the tears lest his friend see him cry before his death. But he could not—for in a second he broke down; he tried to calm himself as he heard Reagent’s footsteps approaching. “I was—,” he mutters, wiping the tears as fast as he could. “Just reminiscing.” Reagent stopped and looked at the Mirage. The tower was so high it almost reached the ceiling of the Neo-Gaia’s palatial house. “Our dreams were like that,” he groans painfully. “But just like the tower of Babel, it all fell into the ground, crushed into pieces.” It was already nighttime as they trudged into the forest of Harpsha. The moon gleamed shiningly at them and the stars shined like little flares of candles—but each of them has a very different thing in mind. Soon, the sky will become the only witness and the moon’s eyes persist to watch. As the sound of Reagent’s gun quaintly clinking as they walked into the deep forest, it soon dawned upon them that a painful separation is about to come close. Rain quietly poured down, like tears from heaven when its heart was wrenched with pitiful loneliness from its gaze below. It trickled quietly—for Steven, this scene is familiar. The same scene from the horrible night he has to kill a friend. But for now, justice will be delivered—for he is about to be killed, by a friend as well. Reagent walked without words, his silence already killing Steven as they walked farther inside the woods. There was still pain in his heart—he has lost one beloved and is about to lose another, but his mind is made up. The anger cannot fade away until the blood of the man who killed Syn is shed in his hands.

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“Here we are,” Steven mutters smilingly, trying to silence the screaming stings in his heart by pretending he’s accepted it all. He recognizes the same oak tree, the same rocks where he shot Syn that he says, “This is the place.” “Let’s get this over with.” Reagent groans icily, aiming his gun at Steven’s back. “You ready?” “I’m sorry I haven’t given you any proper burial, Syn,” Steven mutters to himself, hoping the earth will cover her for him and carry out his words so she can hear. The rain mixed with his tears, that he felt he was lucky he had his back on Reagent so he would not be seen crying. “Perhaps my blood is enough to pay for my sins.” Both were drenched in rain, and the clouds covered the moon—which seems to be afraid to watch. The stars hid their light, and the trees refused to dance. The blades of green grass were covered with mud, and the mist obscured them as if what is about to happen is set apart from their heavenly eyes. “Goodbye, Steven,” Reagent mutters determinedly, whilst his friend closed his eyes in waiting for the gunshot and the bullet to pierce him. “Stop!” A voice floated about the darkness of the night that both of them were taken aback. Reagent thought he was hearing echoes in his mind—but then it called again and again that both were sure that somebody is out there other than them… “Please… hear me,” The clouds were swept from the moon, and the grasses swayed, disturbed by a mystical resonance from the dense forest. From where Steven was standing arose the earth—mud and filth slowly slid down as it turned upwards. In terror Reagent shoots the moving creature, but then again, as the raindrops washed away the soil he and his friend wide-eye gazed in amazement as they realized who it is…her face placid although there were still traces of blood from her cheeks. The expression of love is still present in her stare, that as she awoke from her long sleep she smiled as both shouted her name… “SYN?”

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VI. Relight “This will be our last project, so we’d better give it out best. What do you say, partner?”

“I have died—but something in Mirage is keeping me alive. And as long as I exist, so too will the Veil. The only way to destroy it is to destroy me—my every remains. With this you can alter the possession and give the command for it to shut down. It is very risky, but it is the only way…” Steven lights his cigar as he and Reagent sat down in his office with disbelief. Both their hearts pounding with amazement for had just what happened… “So Mirage has been keeping Syn’s memory—that’s what’s making her still alive in the Veil,” Steven says, breaking the silence as Reagent sits quietly—not being able to believe what had just occurred. “Yes.” He answers, staring blankly at the wall. “So it seems you were right after all.” Steven notes smilingly, but it seems Reagent would not be consoled. He could see his hand shaking after he puts away the gun. “He is mad—he wasn’t able to kill me…” Steven silently thinks. “I’m glad she still hasn’t forgotten us even if she’s on the other side,” he adds presently, blowing a puff from his nose and trying to make Reagent react in any other way. “And now she ordering us around—hah!” he grins. However, there was no response. As Steven stares at him he noticed the concerned look in his face. There was an intent look on his face, yet he gripped his hands tightly as if trying to hold on to something there. A thought enters his mind, that he exclaims, “Wait, you’re not having second thoughts are you?” Reagent looks at him, his brows stern but his deep blue eyes showed him his grief. It has been three years after he last saw his girlfriend—what more could he ask than to see her again? He smiled pathetically as if to laugh at himself, for his mistakes, for letting her go—yet he knew she couldn’t return to him, not now. Not ever. “She’s not alive anymore,” Reagent says at last. “The one whom we saw is just a memory —a feeling,” he bowed his head in sadness as if to catch falling tears, but he held it all back. Steven smiled at the sight of Reagent in his flaw—his softer side—something Syn never had seen. “Well, she still leaves us one work—and it’s quite risky,” he says, trying to lighten up the atmosphere for this as well—was too much for him. “I’ll be the one to take the Memory Orb, since my death was delayed. Getting inside Mirage is perilous, you and I both know that—plus the exits will shut off once I enter the core.” He grins at Reagent determined to make it seem all right, and added, with his juvenile expression, “Mirage will kill me for you.” “I’ll take the Orb—you have no right,” Reagent says icily, his coldness returned to which Steven takes in as a good sign. “After all, Syn gave it to me in the first place. And I know the internal maze better—I designed it myself remember?” 16


Steven smiles at his crankiness, for he has always been like that, and for him it is better to see him to. “You should worry about the alteration,” Reagent adds to him, looking mischievous. “You can’t handle all the Veil’s data—but before you go insane you have to command it to shut down.” “You have always amazed me,” Steven grins, laughing at the naughtiness of Reagent’s expression. “Well, so it seems either ways, we’ll die.” He looks at his friend with the same naughty gleam in his eyes. “This will be our last project, so we’d better give it out best. What do you say, partner?” They smiled at each other rascally—like playful boys up for something mischievous. Both held up their hands and shook without any hard feelings—the sight of Syn took it all off—all that remains is their determination to finish this mission. Doubt has broken into the hearts of the leaders of Neo-Gaia, that finding no particular answer to their resolute problem, they assembled once again to determine the decision against their official. “I’m afraid if Steven isn’t telling us the truth. Since he is the maker of Mirage, he is the only one who knows how to control it. Officer Reagent, on the other hand, would not report to us the whole account. If we kill them, nobody will be able to take over the machine…” “But if they are lying to us, then we are in grave danger.” “What should we do?” The chairman of the Neo-Gaia cupped his hands in deep thought—for he himself has started to distrust Steven after he has given the mission of killing Syn. However, without him, the Mirage will be useless… All of them waited for his command, unaware of the group of people gathering around the house of Neo-Gaia…. Until they heard deafening gunshots and piercing screams of the guards… a loud blast bursted through the giant glass windows, destroying half of the room and placing the meeting and the lives of the Neo-Gaia to an end… “Here we are.” Steven and Reagent looked high upon the towering structure of Mirage. They have heard the attack of the rebels, yet the fear was gone. All they had in mind was hope—in destroying the Veil, and faith—that at the end they will meet with Syn. “Good luck,” Steven yells, as Reagent started to walk through the entrance of Mirage’s core. Reagent waves his hand and smiles back, “See you on the other side.” Reagent stood still as the door slowly closed on him, just as his friend waited to see him off. Both knew that their separation would be until death, if fate will agree for them to be together on the other side. “There’s no turning back now,” He says to himself. “Syn, for one last time, be with me.” The door shuts, the heavy metal forming a spray of smoke inside. There will only be few moments from now and the oxygen will dissipate—but Reagent has to find the Orb. As he silently accepted his fate he moves on… walking in the darkness with only a flashlight to guide his way. It was a labyrinth—designed to protect the core that he himself made. He knew the way, but it is perilous. He created the traps for any intruder, yet it has been

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years since the Mirage was created he could not distinguish most of it. His light showed him a red line across the floor—“The end gate,” he mutters. He looked beyond the darkness, and said to himself, “From here, everything will be more dangerous.” He took the courage and stepped out of the line, draining most of his bravado. Nothing happened, that he took faith, and walked further. Just then, black needles were thrown all over him, piercing most parts of his body. He was caught unaware, but just in time that he covered his face to keep his sight. In his pain he remembers neither to scream nor to make any sound, for Mirage was made to protect itself from inside… “I am nearing,” He thought, losing his breath and gasping for air. The suffocating metal and the blood flowing from his body weakened him, but he dared not to stop. “No, I can’t give up… Syn’s counting on me…” He thought. Reagent lost his draftiness and notice he will die sooner that he must go quickly… He ran fast, his vision blurring, and the poisoned needles are continually thrown at him when suddenly the floor gave in, that he fell a feet to the cold ground. “I—“ he groaned. “Have to get the Orb.” The pain of the needles struck him, and the loss of air continually deteriorates his body. His vision was blurry yet he tried to stand. There was a red glowing light before him, but his flashlight was thrown away at his fall. He followed the glow… its warmth seems to be inviting. Just then it came into his mind — “I’m here. I’m here at the core!” His left eye half shut because of the streaming blood, and as he gasps for air he pushed himself to reach the glowing light. As he came near to the core, there in the middle lays a crystal sphere, continually giving the pulse to the light. “Syn,” He mutters smilingly as he pulls away the Orb from the core, not minding if the sheer metal protector grasps his hand and puncture through it. He draws the Orb from the core, and the light dies down. He is trapped—but he gave it no moment of thought, for after the orb landed in his hands he embraced it tightly as if anyone will take it from him, as he slowly fell to the hard metal bosom of the Mirage… “I swore that if you’ll come back,” Reagent says, as if the Orb will hear his words, “I will stay by your side.” Tears and blood flowed from his eyes… totally blurring his vision. He was finding it hard to breathe; yet he continued speaking. “Here I am. I will never leave you…” He smiles at the thought of Syn., and closed his eyes gently… The orb rolls around the metal floor, enveloped in Reagent’s tears and blood. “Reagent.” The light dies down from Mirage, and Steven stares at it as if he could not believe. He could hear the sounds of the metal continually moving inside—the sign that the Mirage is disturbed. “Farewell my old friend,” He saluted, “Now it’s time for me to do mine.” His secretary was there, waiting for his orders, and doubting if he was to go on. Steven sits in the chair firmly but there was a smile on his face. “Come now,” he says to the lad. “You need to tie me.” “Sir?” He held up his hands and motioned the straps, the boy obediently followed without words, but in his mind confused if it should be done. Yet it was his master’s orders-he

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couldn’t dare defy. Steven lies down comfortably on the chamber as his hands and feet were fastened with big metal straps. There was a tensed look on his secretary’s face, and he noticed it that his boss motioned him to come nearer… “Here, in my pocket,” Steven points with his strapped right hand. The secretary digs in his pocket and pulls out a swan-shaped lighter, which he presumed his master wants him to find. “What,” he thought. “He’s still gonna smoke?” “That’s yours. Keep it.” Steven says, winking at the boy. He smiled as he looked at the article though there still was anxiety in his heart. “Just a minute and me and my friends will be together,” Steven yells out on him. “Now, let’s do it!” “Are you sure, Sir Steven?” he asks timidly, “because you know—“ “Let’s do this. They’re waiting for me,” Steven declares hurriedly that the kid rushed to the main controls and opened the alternating program for him. “Alteration Open.” His secretary says. “Engage.” Steven says firmly, closing his eyes as the thought of Syn and Reagent came into his mind for the last time. He sighed, and then huge fragments of Veil’s data came pouring into his mind. It came so fast that here was not even a second for him to think of any other thing. Syn has created the Veil—but now the Veil is transferring all the data into him. He felt he would give in, but has to wait. He has to stay strong for the data to be completed in transmitting and for him to give the command… The secretary sees his master griping tightly on the straps, holding on the metal that clasps his whole body so hard that it scraped his skin. He was shaking, the boy sees, and at that point he did not know whether to end the command or continue—lest his boss will die. “Don’t—“ Steven grits his teeth, and the boy understood even though in his face there was a trace of apprehension and uncertainty. Yet he went away from the controls, afraid that is pity will lead him to do otherwise. Fifteen minutes has passed, and Steven stood the test—yet his body shook so hardly as if he was being electrocuted. Blood dripped from the chamber, his hands were sore and wounded badly, but still he didn’t give up. There was no other chance to think of anything, yet in his state he waited, not being able to feel even the pain… he just waited… “Mirage, shut down!” All the lights went off, and the sounds of the Mirage died along. The turbulence in the chamber faded and Steven has calmed down. “He has done it!” smiles the secretary in success that he ran to his master to congratulate him. Yet as he rushed to him he felt a sudden chill… it grappled in his heart with fear, “Sir Steven?” He walked slowly and cautiously, not being able to expect what he’ll see. As he reached the chamber he finds Steven lying, his head tilted and his eyes closed. And there was a smile on his face. Even though his hands and feet were raw and bruised, and his body sore with all the quivering at the alteration, a grin was evidently seen on his face… as if he was pleased at his work as well. The secretary smiled in tears, imagining what

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happiness his boss was thinking before he died. “Congratulations, Sir,” he mutters, seeing the blood splattered all over the chamber. “You have done it.”

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EPILOGUE Brand New Earth “There’s a hope for a new world now. It’s not paradise… but we are glad to live in it.” “Hello, my name is Thomas Yun, I’m a Peace Officer. What can I do for you?” He was a tall, lanky man; wearing a red uniform that earned respect of many people. Perhaps he was about fifty years or older, yet he carries around a smile that kept his youth. His hair showed its grayness, hidden under the cap of chivalry that is often taken off as a sign of esteem. His eyes were brown, reflected under the thick glasses that made him saw better sides in people. As he sits by his desk, he smiles at the boy in front of him, who reportedly, was lost. The child eased his problems, “The leader of the Pax Libera unit isn’t stern, after all,” he thinks, while looking at the old man. He was rugged, his clothes were almost torn out and spoiled with dirt, and most of the officers raised their brows as he sits against the elegant chair across the desk of their commander. “I want to serve the Union,” the boy says stoutly, “I’m an orphan, I’ve got no family, I’ve got nowhere to go to…” “Hmmm,” sighed the commander, scratching his chin in thought, his white gloves spotless as the light reflects on it. He grins at the boy benevolently and after a thought, he nods and says, “What do you think could you do for the Earth Union?” The boy’s face lit up, and stood from his seat with his fist closed. “I want to serve the people. I don’t know anything, but I learn easily. I’ll do anything you ask, Sir!” 21


The words returned to him… it were just like what he was thirty-five years ago that he smiled and patted the boy’s head. “Wanting to serve is the first important thing,” he answers smilingly. “Okay,” he adds, “you can be my apprentice.” The commander stood smilingly as he looks out of the window, and his staff wondered why. The boy had just left as he had him taken to his quarters, and something in that child’s audacity reminded him of his past… “I want to serve the people. I don’t know anything, but I learn easily. I’ll do anything you ask, Sir!” The child’s words returned to him as he recalled his back then—at the break of the Anarchy and the aftermath was bleak… yet there was one person whose ideals gave hope to him… “Wanting to serve is the most important thing.” He recollects his words. “You’re in, boy!” “My experience with you has taught me much,” He mutters to the sky, knowing that from beyond he hears him and is happy. “And I am gratefully in debt.” He bows his head respectfully as he closed his eyes, feeling the serenity in the forest of Harpsha. Three graves stood before him, covered in green moss and vines, with wild flowers scattered all over their side. “I have this one last errand for you, one last wish; and I’m counting on you to do it…” He recalls his master’s last words to him. “Please… bury us together—in the same place where she died.” The forest of Harpsha has been the shelter for many memories of the past thirty years. At the destruction of Neo-Gaia, a new Earth arose. A new Earth, to which they feared, would be dismal, turned out to be much hopeful, bearing the light in what they called the Dream Days. The people never thought that it was all from a machine, a dimension created by the Mirage. The real heroes were left unknown—the rebels, who destroyed the Neo-Gaia, remained silent at the start of revival; and the people who spent their lives in giving hope by an illusion—died in the pursuit of the truth. “Just as you wished, sir,” the commander mutters with silent tears in his eyes. “You three are together now.” He looks at the three crosses, standing tall in the middle of the dense forest, with the rays of the morning sun piercing through the broad trees. The cold winds breezed gently, as if humming a lullaby; and the birds chirped with their lovely short tune. Commander Yun smiled as he wiped away his tears. “There’s a hope for a new world now. It’s not paradise… but we are glad to live in it. Thank you, for the new hope.” He took something from his pocket and pulls out a swan-shaped lighter. He knew it wouldn’t work anymore—as it is already old, but the flame passed on is always there. Unseen, but its presence is always felt. The commander bowed his head for another time, and turned to leave. -End-

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Mirage  

A little story randomly created in a sci-fi setting, ghostly characters, and a mysterious machine which keeps everyone asleep. - Caris Cru...

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