“Yawn.” I shook my tongue up, loosened my laces, and stretched out. If you haven’t guessed, I’m not human. I’d like to see a human do what I do. In this world, I manifest as footgear. Specifically, a pair of Champions shoes . Steven walks in, and I immediately cease all movement. He starts to make a piece of toast, when the toaster begins to ripple.
“Mom, the toaster’s rippling!” he yells to the rest of the house.
“Throw it out the window before it blows!” a voice returns. Glass shards litter the floor as the silver toaster takes its leave. The lights flicker just slightly as he slides me on, bemoaning his lack of a breakfast. Not two steps out the door, a roar fills our ears. Immediately afterward a metal behemoth spirals into the street. The jetliner decimates the street and houses in front of us , a wing tip screeching to a halt right in front of us. The jet engines are ablaze and smoke began billowing off of the plane. I didn’t have a choice anymore. I swear, if there was any other option, I would have taken it. “Steven,” I call up.
“What did you say Mom?” he inquires.
He starts muttering, his face furrowed in confusion. “No way did my shoes just talk.”
“I did too.” I state, “Isn’t that normal?” Seeing his answer displayed on his face I swiftly apologize, saying, “Sorry. Wrong universe.” Before he can fully comprehend what I said, I move on to my eloquent and incredibly well planned monologue. “Umm, so here's the thing. Uhh, yeah, hate to break it to you, but, your entire life is a lie. It's time to go now. Wake up.”
He starts saying something, but I didn’t quite hear, runic circles generally occupy my attention fully. “ I respond to be polite, simply asking what he said.
“I said, even the cake?” he inquires.
“Yes. The cake is a lie,” I respond, drawing a finishing touch in the circle with my shoelaces. A neon prismatic light envelops Steven and I. Suddenly, I feel consumed by a feeling of wrongness. I look up just in time to watch a spire of light shoot down to impale us.
I pace back and forth in the large room, occasionally taking the time to watch the screen of a History Editor, or a Discovery Maker, and once in awhile checking in on the Disaster Machine. Everything was going wrong. The Security and Glitch Fix teams have been working day and night to try to remedy it. For some reason, the Terra 1 project, nicknamed “Earth”, was turning into a disaster.
Suddenly, a beam of light appears in the corner of the room, centers itself, and deposits a barefoot Homo Sapiens and a small multicolored imp. The human gazes in confusion into the infinitely big screen lined silver room, me, and the imp by his side.
“Who are you?” he asks me.
“Me?” I respond. “Why, I am the Mastermind! I lead Project Terra 1. In other words, I control your world.” While Steven recoils in confused shock, I turn to the winged rainbow sloth beside him. “You little devil! Why did you bring him out? Their kind can’t stand the flux here!”
“They can’t stand it there either!” it fired back. “Plus, he could help us!”
“Wait, you're my shoes?” Steven broke in, and then promptly passed out as I confirmed it. The Imp, Ifrit, hovered Steven away as I paced in frustration.
“Where am I again?” Steven asks me as we walk to meet the Mastermind.
“You are in a sub-sub-sub level of the outer dimensions of the Terra 1 Project.” After a blank stare from Steven, I elaborate more. “We control every aspect of your planet. This project is an experiment in special evolution and my development.”
“Why is ‘my world’ glitching then?”
I pause, trying to figure out how to respond. “Ummm, … Mastermind will tell you.” The walk seems to go on forever. This was explained, of course, by the well hidden label on the wall stating “Infinite Corridor”. So after two rights, a wrong, and two illegal w-turns we finally ended up at the conference room.
Sitting alone at the end of a glowing neon blue table covered with projectors, holograms, and touchscreens displaying a variety of restaurants, foods, and complex equations was the Mastermind, waiting for us patiently while playing four simultaneous games of solitaire.
“The Infinite Corridor again, Ifrit?” he inquires calmly as the displays shut down and retract.
“What was all that stuff?” I ask, ignoring his question.
“A brief foray into Bistromathematics. No matter. We are here to explain this layer to Steven, not explain the science of transportation through the math of French restaurants to you.” He turns to Steven, who despite having a good rest, still shows how shellshocked he is even through the dust and ash covering his features. “Your world is an experiment designed by the Overworlds to test whether or not a fully synthetic world with only a single fully sentient species could survive. However, we were hacked. We know neither from whom or where it came, but we are doing our best to combat it.”
Quietly enough that the Mastermind couldn’t hear, Steven imitated him by whispering, “That, of course directly leads to random power-outages, rippling toasters and the like.”
“That, of course directly leads to random power-outages, rippling toasters and the like,” the Mastermind continued. Steven and I doubled over in silent laughter, earning a confused look from the Mastermind.
Suddenly, the roaring sound of sirens crashed into our ears. The Mastermind curses, “Now of all times.”
“What?!” Steven demands.
“Its another hack,” I barely groan out.
I dash down hallway after hallway, all the while having to combat the fluctuating gravity. Screens imploded, pencils flew, people stood on the walls. I threw open the heavy steel door inscribed all over with warnings. Ignoring the monitors and symbols flashing all around me, my feet pounded out a track straight for the small fluid pod stuck to the wall. I twisted up and forward as gravity shifted again, straight into the pod. The same semi-inaccurate yet terrifyingly big light spear absorbed me and shot me into the system.
Upon reforming, I understood the mess in the control room. Worms and viruses were tearing apart and devastating the oddly city shaped green cyberspace. I capture one for research (leaving the team upstairs to deal with it of course), and then booted up my gear. My cyber body glowed as a thin layer of energy enveloped my limbs and chest. A long plasma lance rippling with energy extended from my hand and flattened. My feet pounded upon the virtual earth as I approached the attackers at a sprint.
The chaos didn’t really start until Mastermind was gone. As we stared holes in his retreating back, the flowmetal ground started quaking. A nanosecond later barbs shot from the ground. Steven paled visably. A frantic race ensued as the metal made its best attempts to take our lives. A dart pierced my wing. Several spear shaped silver rods tore into Steven’s shirt, drawing a thin line of blood. Huge cubes slid back and forth, shaking the room with every impact. A panicked scream echoed from everywhere. It must have been Steven, as I surely didn’t. My hearts began pumping at several time the normal pace. A door slid open in front of us accompanied by the shriek of nails on a blackboard. In a fit of strength, Steven jams a small spike between the guillotine doors for just long enough for us both to get through. It slams shut behind us, snapping through metal. Our backs end up pressed against the door as we pant out our utter exhaustion. It doesn’t last long as the hallway begins to implode all around us. Our break turned into a dash for our lives. We burn a path all the way to the control room, carefully avoiding the Infinite Corridor. Waiting for us is the gaping mouth of a virus.
I soar through the cyberspace, destroying virus after virus. My armor is cracked all over from impacts. I can’t spend time thinking about what’s going on upstairs, focusing all my energy into neutralizing the threat. I cut the last visible virus into a pile of pixels, and collapse into an exhausted, drained, heap. Seconds after I let down my guard, a chain impales me from behind and I know no more.
The virus freezes inches from Steven’s face. All of a sudden, it’s rent apart in a storm of force. The chaos dies down immediately. We race into the room where we first appeared, only to see confusion, panic, and utter lack of constructive activity. While Steven has his wounds attended to, I pull aside an officer and demand, “What in the name of the living Obelisk is going on here?”
His face fell further as he reluctantly mumbles, “The Mastermind is gone.”
I regain consciousness chained to a pyramid. In frustration I yank on my bonds only to have a shock run up my arm. A desk sat in front of me with a desk chair behind it. The hardened plastic back dotted with indentations stared me down. The flickering orange of an unseen fire provided all the light in the room. In an almost cliched moment, the chair slowly swiveled around. The man I saw in the chair looked almost stretched, like his body was made of taffy. He wore a dark suit with a grey undershirt and dollar-bill green tie. As I slowly turned my head upward to see his face, an inhuman voice echoed from all corners of the room.
“Welcome, Honorable Past Monolith, to the place you will never leave.”
His face was finally in my vision. His skin was green, with a brick like texture. His skull was shaped like that of the Egyptian Pyramids. And upon his face he bore but a single, massive, all-seeing eye.
“WHAT!” I bellow into the man’s face. I can feel my skin starting to burn with kaleidoscopic fire. “You mean to say that he just vanished? WHERE IS HE!?”
He barely manages to squeak out “The pod”, before dropping to the floor, out cold. I beat my wings as fast as possible while Steven made his best effort to catch up. I shoot into the gel pod, and a moment later, Steven is in it too. A light lance quickly drops us off in the Cyberworld. Steven looks around in confusion and amazement.
“Don’t think too hard about it and don’t ask questions. And whatever you do, don’t pass out again please,” I instruct.
“Don’t worry,” he responds. I soar around before finding the gear. I fly through the machinery, dodging steam and pipes, before burrowing into a pile of tools and weapons.
“Take this, this, this, and this. Probably that too,” I commentate as I fling energy armor, swords, and other assorted items. He opens his mouth to say something, and then closes it immediately. I pop out of the heap with something that looks like a laser tag vest, a little blaster, and some really cool looking sunglasses. He had clumsily assembled his gear somewhat correctly and even turned on his wings. “Good enough,” I state. He activates the flight function which I so helpfully pointed out to him, and we shoot off into a sunset under a dying star, golden, orange, and blue beams lighting the sky on fire.
A few virtual hours later, we touch down in front of a towering brickwork building. The menacing doors before us are made of iron with grotesque gargoyles dotting its surface. The gateway itself must have been at least half a football field tall. Steven looks at me, and I look at him. In unison we both say, “Let’s go through a window.”
Shards of glass litter the floor as the window gives in with a crash. Immediately, we are swarmed by cyclopes. The thugs quickly shifted the smashed window into a melee, and that into a downright brawl. Steven and I break out of the ogre pile and dash through the mahogany paneled grand hall. Sirens start screaming for more attackers, and their efforts called forth a horde of monsters and demons. Steven pulls me back as a spear impales the spot where I flew seconds ago. I push down Steven’s head to protect him from sniper fire. The chase scene continues dramatically throughout the rest of the fortress. Looking back upon the crowd, I realize two things. One, all the monsters are gone. Two, I just ran into a door headfirst. The elegantly engraved cherrywood door stood glaring down before us. Slowly, Steven pushed it open. We were greeted with a strange scene. A pyramid stood in the center of the room. Silver chains encased the sandstone completely. A desk akin to the door stood farthest from the gateway, with a chair behind it. Twin blazing fires crackled maliciously upon both walls to our left and right. The man in the chair stood up and slowly turned to face us.
The Monolith’s single eye pierced my soul as he coldly bids us welcome, saying, “Come in, come in.”
Steven darts behind the pyramid and begins fussing with the chains. I try to put on a show of bravado and speak directly to the alien being currently terrifying me. “W-w-where is M-mastermmind?”
“No matter now. He is fine. Come, let us talk.” His monotonous voice echoed in my brain.
“I-I don’t w-want to talk, f-f-fiend!” I confidently below. A beam of prismatic fire burst from my palm and crashed into his hyper-stretched chest. He dusted off his tuxedo and gave me an irritated look. Other than that, absolutely nothing happened.
“None of that,” he threatens as he slowly stalks toward me. Out of nowhere, a light like a small sun shone from the pyramid. Steven was on his back on the tiled floor and floating above the pyramid was none other than Mastermind, shining with blinding light. “What… your chains?!” he inquires, amazed.
“I just realized. There are no chains,” he calmly states. A vortex of light starts whipping around on the Monolith’s eye. It expanded, and eventually covered his entire elongated body. Seconds later, there was nothing left.
The cyberworld slowly faded back into Control Room Terra 1. Emergency staff rush in to help me, but I brush them off. “The hacks should stop. Steven can go home now,” I order. Reluctantly, Ifrit summoned another light spear, and took them back home. I calmly walk back into the control room, satisfied that it was all over. We had eliminated the Illuminati and saved Earth. Basking in my glowing victory, I overlooked a blip in one of the control screens.
We touch down in Steven’s yard, me unfortunately back in shoe form. Finally, I don’t have to worry, and … life is boring again. Well, it’s better than dying. Steven looks around in confusion. Everything is normal, the plane is gone. Then, the sky implodes.
Out of nowhere, everything is immersed in darkness. Where the clouds and baby blue sky once were, stars, nebulae, and the space between displayed themselves suspended in the air. Slowly, from the space where the sun once was, a swarm of darkness buzzed down toward the Earth. Their true nature revealed itself not one hundred yards from the ground. They were black bullets coated in saw blades. A single eye gleamed red from the place where their forehead would be and two bent sword blades protruded from it, presumably arms. Soon the stars were blotted out by this mass of death. They dove into the ground and began tearing it apart. Earth and wood shot almost vertically from the burrows. As the doomsday swarm tore apart the earth, sea, and air, four skeletal knights on horseback flew across the sky. Following them was Death in the form of a seven headed dragon.
Steven and I gazed in awe upon the utter destruction hitting planet Earth like a hurricane. As all hope seemed lost, eleven spires of light formed a circle around us. A twelfth beam enveloped Steven. Out of each of the spires of light stepped the guardians of Terra 1, including Mastermind. All of those whom a pillar had surrounded, including Steven, now bore a set of wings, plate armor constructed of green light, and a longbow with blades for limbs. Mastermind gestured to Steven. We walked over and they talked, so quietly I couldn’t hear. After they finished, Steven took me off and set me on the ground. All I could do is watch as the twelve guardians took off. Words still cannot describe the clash of epic proportions that I witnessed. They cut through the ranks of drones like a warm knife through butter. The knights engaged the Horsemen, and Steven and Mastermind fought Death himself. I could no longer fully see what was happening. The dome of sky above me was solid black with flashes of green light lancing through it. One by one, the other soldiers dropped from the cloud. The darkness parted, just in time for me to see Steven plunging his bow into the chest of the Hydra that is Death. Immediately, all light cuts out.
“Yawn.” I shook my tongue up, loosened my laces, and stretched out. Wait, was it all just a dream? Steven walks in, and I immediately cease all movement. He starts to make a piece of toast, when he remarks “Wait, this toaster is black. Ours was silver.”
I float in the infinite darkness. The world, albeit a virtual one, has been saved. My objective is at last complete. Finally, I can reclaim what is mine. I slowly slide on a green headdress shaped like a pyramid, adorned with a single eye.