Hello, scriveners and scribes!
If it’s true that fragments of one’s soul can be found in their words, which it is, then a book becomes an approximation of the author. And if that’s true… well, what does that make an entire library? A question that is in itself a love letter to writing. That’s why…
This week’s prompt is:
Archive of Minds
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
The beautiful thing about this week’s prompt is how splendidly divided it has me.
On the one hand, yes, if you consider the text a reflection of where it came from, almost any place you store books becomes an archive of minds. On the other, this is a very novel concept—we can hardly grasp what a mind is, let alone pickle it and store it on a shelf with its peers.
As with any good prompt, there’s a spectrum of abstraction to indulge in here, but there’s so much weight at either end of it. Write something about how inspired you were the first time you went to a library and realized that you were peering out through someone else’s eyes, text like a windowpane before their world. Write something about a server loaded up neural network scans taken from the general population as “backups” in the event of an apocalypse. Write about leafing through a diary and getting the measure of someone else’s mind. Write about souls trapped in a weird arrangement of handheld prisons—thimbles, shards of broken glass, a bent needle—and arrayed in a thrift store.
This lends itself to so many opportunities. Seize them
My hope here is that, when I read through these entries, I myself will feel as though I’m wandering the stacks of an archive of minds.
Add something to the shelf, would you?
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
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I stood up to open the door as our obnoxiously loud doorbell rang. A man wearing a suit with a clipboard stood in front of me. He asked if I would donate to “The Archive of Minds foundation.” He said it was a charity for cancer research. I agreed, and he told me to follow him. He led me to a tall building and led me to the basement. I knew that this was not what i think it was, but I do not know the area around here well, so followed.
The man opened a door and said:”welcome to ‘The Archive of Minds Foundation!”
I trembled in fear looking at thousands of brains in front of me. The man that brought me here was not someone who wanted me to donate to his charity organization. He wanted me, a neuroscientist, to connect the brains to an entity.
The entity bestowed the utmost terror upon me. Its vast oval head was the size of a car. There were tubes connected to its brain through the skull. Its pale skin stretched over its almost non-existent cranium. Yellow fluids were flowing in and out of the tubes. And its eyes, the biggest I have ever seen. They were 2 meters in diameter, judging from the other people standing in front of it. Its body was tiny, almost vestigial looking. It was as if the entity was just made of brain tissue and no more. The entity screeched, invoking every single memory of being afraid. It was as if it was screeching with all the fear in the world.
I told the man that the entity was clearly in fear of what was happening to it.
“Oh, those screeches are not of terror, they are of happiness,” the man replied.
What this thing was, I do not know. The man who had brought me here was a researcher. The man called their grotesque project “The Archive of Minds.” Their objective was to connect all the brains on the shelves to the entity to create a hive mind. The hive mind was to store all information they have gathered about into one single thing. The man told me they did not have a neuroscientist on their team. He wanted me to help with The Archive of Minds. I refused to do so.
I awoke in front of my house, wondering where I had just been. My front door was still unlocked. I do not know what happened this day, nor do I really want to know. This is all I have written down. I do not know where I was, nor do I know why I was there. But I do not have remember what terrors lie beneath our city.
The Ark, by JHC
Farrah Tejani awoke to the eyes of a dead man. He sat across from her, a faint smirk on his lips. A bluish glare to her right lit the smooth concrete walls around her. The familiar matte white of her Facility, gone. The light however, was oddly comforting.
“Oh,” he said. “you’re finally awake.” the Administrator spoke flatly.
“H-how are you-”
Farrah tried to nod but her eyes widened in shock, her muscles were stuck, she couldn’t move.
She saw the Administrator smile, satisfied. She could only breathe, in, out. Her nostrils flared, drawing in more of the dust filled air. She tried to focus on the cool, steel seat beneath her.
“Sorry, your permissions have been temporarily revoked.” He looked towards the steady light, strange reflections played across his face. “Thankfully now that you’re here, you’re hardly my problem. Though I hadn’t wished to join you.”
A nebulous knock wrung through the walls of the concrete box.
“Ah, I’ll be leaving you to your colleague.” his smile thinned to a line.
He looked at the light once more, Farrah saw it clear now, the glow she’d stared at for decades. The artificial gleam of a computer screen.
White noise stormed Farrahs ears. She tried to wince, but could only watch as the Administrator became blurred, fizzing into a million black and white dots.
The static swirled for a moment, before it wrote itself a new shape. The Administrator was replaced by a warm, familiar face. Her heart sank. His face could only mean one thing. As his lips parted to speak, she felt herself unfreeze.
“Hello, Tejani.” Ark said, his voice had its usual synthesized tone. “Its nice to meet face to face.”
“How can he be alive?” she said, gripping the edges of her seat.
“Then-” she couldn’t say it.“You mean I’m-” she put her hand to her mouth, holding everything back.
She looked at the light. Through the screen her office sat in darkness, the door ajar, revealing the red stain on the corridors wall.
“Death isn’t the end, you should know that.” and he offered her his hand.
Stolen Minds anonymous
By Mango Gravy
“The offer was bogus, that much was obvious from the beginning. But if I’d had even the slightest clue just how immensely I was being
“I’ve lived my whole life without getting scammed, despite being the target of an awfully large number of them. Countless people frothing at the mouth when they see a chance to put me under their thumb. A high value target attracts a lot of shooters, after all. And I’m nothing… I was nothing, if not a high value target. Billions in the bank, billions on hand, connections to thousands of other high value targets. It’s inevitable that so many eyes would be on me.
“But no, I tactfully avoided and evaded all attempts at cornering me. Until this last man approached me with offers of immortality. He put a gloved hand on my shoulder and spoke of preserving my mind for eternity, so it may forever be of use. I reckoned he meant a biography, expected an interview.
“So when I invited him into my office to begin, imagine my shock when he peeled off his face and revealed his true self… nothing? I had trouble wrapping my head around what I saw, but the closer I came to understanding the more it pulled me in. It was a… vastness. Infinite in scale and allure. It was a repository, not composed of books and artifacts but rather a collection of experiences all condensed and compiled in an infinite space inside his… head?
“This man was an archive of minds.
“It overwhelmed me, confused my senses. I bled from my eyes, ears, nostrils and other particularly embarrassing orifices. I might have suffered a stroke in mere moments. But his words, echoing out of his vast existence directly into my own minuscule one.
“’Eternity,’ I heard him say… felt him think? Sorry, this is all difficult to put into words. ‘Your worth will never wane, your existence will never fade.’
“Now, for someone bleeding to death that sound’s like a pretty alright offer, even coming from the one inducing your agonizing demise. So I accepted. I didn’t even have to say anything, though I’m not sure if I was capable at the time, I merely though accepted in my mind and instantly felt myself being pulled out of… myself? All this is very confusing, I’m sure you all understand though, since you’re all in here with me.”
“Worded as well as any of us could manage,” said someone… thought someone? “I myself had a particularly bizarre experience with the faceless man, if you would deign to listen.”
“Please do,” I replied. Not much to do when you’re essentially a brain on a shelf, might as well listen to the other brains have to say.
“Brilliant, it was a dark and stormy night…”
Gaining a Mind
By: Minergirl778 (aka frogfireFantasy)
Today was a very good day for Dr. Hemoglow.
A new body was on the table in her lab. The form was perfectly perfect, and ready for a brain. The doctor sang to herself as she descended her tower’s staircase. She passed through her lab and her bedroom, Gave a look to the lock on her door, and waved to those trapped in her dungeon. Eventually, she found her way to a dimly lit room with shelves upon shelves of orbs in glowy goo.
Her Archive of Minds.
She took a moment to bask in the beautiful, verdant, radioactive glow of science before heading in. Ah, what a fine collection she had. Anything, and everything, a body could ask for. But as the doctor perused the rows of brains on her shelf, she found herself in the throws of a crisis!
A crisis of faith? Morality? Ethics? Even worse! A crisis of CHOICE! With all the brains she had awaiting, she had endless options for her creation’s outlook. She could make them a starry eyed child ready to delight. A curious mind longing for the world, but too pure for it. Unable to do more than sit at a window and sing.
Or, she could make them strong and stoic. Haunted by past actions and a horrific new form. Tormented more by their inner demons than by the scorn of the world. But this torment could give them a compassion unrivaled. A golden heart in a soul of iron, tethered to a mortal cage.
Oh, and there were so many others! That’s not including the input she could get from OTHER scientists on the matter! She almost considered not giving it a brain at all….
But that wouldn’t do much good, would it? The creation was nearly complete! Not giving them a mind would be a waste of her work! The doctor took a jar off the shelf and went back up the stairs, confident in the knowledge that any brain would make her creature extraordinary.
Elder Mind, At the End of the World
It was perfection, shelves of books labeled and dated to specification, no tome out of place. One could wander these halls for hours basking in wonder as I have. Solitary footsteps echo through the vast halls as I peruse. These halls were once full of bright minds, the most intelligent and curious of my kind roaming and absorbing all it had to offer. They would take knowledge away and bring back more for me to catalogue. Those were greater days. Always new knowledge to obtain, worlds to see, books to write and file. No one but myself has entered these halls in years. I have come to accept the silence, revel in it.
I feel indifferent to time’s passing but there is a strange echo within me, forcing me to recollect, to remember. Reaching for one book, another catches my eye. “Existence, and Questions Concerning.” I feel puzzled. Angry. I know all of the books, their titles, when and how they came to be, and this one should not exist. I reach out, power burning at my fingertips before faltering. I have consumed many minds to fill this library, knowledge does not just appear, there must be a catalyst, an origin.
I feel a curious awe as my fingertips caress the tome’s binding. What knowledge, what answers or questions fill its pages? It was new, dangerous, enticing. Taking hold, I bring it close, caressing its cover, tracing the heading slowly as I consider it. My thoughts are again cast back to when my mind was filled with the thoughts of others, when devouring new knowledge was all life had to offer. Now in my hands, there is something new. My fingers itch to rip open the cover, to read the last vestiges of knowledge and gloat as I ascend to omniscience. Suddenly, the urge vanishes, a gentle smile tugs at my lips. Cradling the book under my arm, I resume my walk through the halls of knowledge.
One last scrap of knowledge to learn. One last enticing treat before the world ends. A reason to keep existing.
Mmm, that papery dusty smell of old classic books, I love a good repository. So many manuscripts to go through, so many manuscripts … so many great things.
I can’t wait to get a few of these script home to read through. I wonder if they have a reference section here, or if it’s an all barrow repository? Oh, there’s a man sitting down there, maybe he’ll know. HA! A book on home repair. I wonder if it has anything about fixing that door to the bathroom? Wife would like that.
As I begin to unroll the manuscript the thought occurs to me; why would a home repair script be placed here in the history section? Who’s in charge of keeping this place up? Why are there misplaced manuscripts?
Here’s a vehicle reference manuscript placed within the local history and social sciences area. This is going to take longer then I first thought to find something of interest to me. Why’s that guy looking at me?
I wonder if I should put a few of these scripts back in their place, or just leave them where they are? Oh look choosing your first pet, that looks like a good script to get. Where’s the gardening section, and where’s the person … make that where is the front desk at? Great, I found the gardening section.
As I wonder around the repository looking for the front desk, I began to notice that the interior is rounded, but the outside I swear was squared. Maybe the inside was redone to fit some kind of … wait it’s not really round, well not perfectly round. Weird, the inside was made oval, I guess it was redecorated in some kind of artsy fashion. Still, no desk to be found. I guess I’ll go ask the guy I saw.
“Excuse me sir, where do I” the man rudely hands me a piece of paper. On it is written; “wake up”
That was a weird dream. Did I really go to sleep with this … “SCROLL?”
The books were speaking. Now that wasn’t unusual, mind you. Every child has heard the whispering of their favourite tomes, the way that they grab you and don’t let you go until the story’s finished. Books were meant to tell their stories after all.
Now what was really concerning was the books were not shutting up. The Library was closed for about three weeks at this point, and the books were desperate. The worst were the horror novels, screaming and pleading to be set free, away from whatever fate their cruel authors gave. The only remaining Librarian stood in the center of the aisle surrounded by piles and piles of books that clamoured to be read. You see, a Library is a living thing. It was never meant to be almost empty, and the Librarian was just about at their limit. They were doing the work of dozens of people. It was only natural that they would want a break. So, the librarian, almost at their wit’s end, retreated to the peace and quiet of their office, to try and just get some rest.
When the sun came up next morning, the Librarian was found dead. A later investigation ruled their death to be accidental, although the nature of the injuries were odd to say the least. Blunt force trauma to the base of the neck and the spine, consistent with a fall, although, there were no blunt weapons in the Library.
The first rule of being a Librarian: Never leave books unattended.
Ticket Please, by Tibber the Fibber
Alistair briskly stepped up to the Guardian of the Archive. She was a ferocious beast and she would not tolerate foolish young fops, like Alistair.
“Mindy dear,” He called, catching her hand. “What a pleasure to see you again.”
The Guardian gave him a sour look and withdrew her wrinkled hand from his grasp. “What do you want Alistair?”
Alistair gasped. “You don’t think I came here for the pure pleasure of your company? My dear Mindy, you are positively self-depreciating.”
“As if you knew what that meant.”
Alistair took a deep breath and steadied himself on the desk. “Mindy, dearest, I need to get into the Archive. Not for a document, I need a soul.”
The Guardian laughed, exposing her many rows of teeth. “What soul?”
The Guardian frowned, “Not much of a soul.”
The Guardian folded her arms and raised her chin. “Sorry, but you don’t seem to have the necessary authorization.”
Alistair drew his lips into a line. “I think you’ll grant me the necessary authorization.”
The Guardian curled her lip and spines began to slide through the lace of her bodice. Alistair jerked out the item from his suit and dropped it on the desk. “First edition, you won’t find another like it.”
The Guardian stared at the book on the table. Alistair smiled as she caressed the cover, and hesitantly pulled the book closer. He placed a single finger on the cover. “Entrance to the Archive?”
The Guardian stared at him. Finally, she handed him a small piece of pasteboard. “The guard will let you in.”
Alistair snatched the ticket. “You’re a dear Mindy.”
When Alistair emerged from the Archive, he bid farewell to the Guardian and stepped out onto the streets with a small, brass canister. He had not retrieved the soul of Cedric Armitage, a dusty politician. Alistair had taken a soul that could turn him into a god.
As the lampposts flickered and the moon shone on the streets of London, a man walked down the lane with the soul of a demon king tucked under his arm.
Such Is Life
By Charles Funk
At a click of a lamp, Donn flicked through his Album that evening. Pages greeted him with dozens of cutouts of bright coloured strips of film. Each film bore a face etched with bright happy smiles. Faces that sharply contrasted Donn’s blank face.
The hands of his pocketwatch began to move and so did Donn. With hat and satchel, he raced out the door and found himself under a lamp-post in the park.
“2:56” he muttered. “Ahead of schedule.”
To his surprise, he found a bench with a shivering old woman before him.
“Wont be long now.” Donn said as over her. Eyes glued to his pocketwatch.
“Donn? That you?” A voice called out.
A familiar face in the same identical attire as Donn stepped into the light.
“Mors.” Donn tipped his hat.
“Donn.” Mors tipped back. “What brings you ta this neck of the woods?”
“Same reason as you.” Donn took out a clipboard. “The Job.”
“Not here for her, i hope? She’s in my list. See.” Mors tapped the name on his clipboard.
Satisfied, Mors approached the old woman with a small reel in hand. She stopped shivering and fell silent. Her last breath slipped out her lips and into Mors’ fingertips. Turning it into long colourful filmstrips that was fed to his reel.
The woman’s life flashed before their eyes. Decades passed in seconds as it filled the reel to the brim till arriving to her death.
“Name: Maria Corazon. Age: 62 years. Death: Exposure. Life: Unfulfilled.” Mors read her profile. “Yours still on its way?”
“No. Mine’s already here.” Donn replied. “3:00”
Under the woman’s arm, he found a little kitten breathing its last.
“Name:Kitty. Age: 5 days. Death: Exposure. Life: Fulfilled.” Donn read aloud.
“Fulfilling? After only 5 days?” Mors asked.
“I don’t know either,” Donn shrugged.
After mailing their reports, the two parted ways.
At home, Donn added the new piece in his collection. The filmstrip of Kitty with the old woman. For hours he stared at it. Pondering its meaning as he did the others before.
“Such is life.” Donn sighed. Defeated.
As I think now maybe my mind needs help it’s to late.I think about the constant voices which are somehow for once drowned out by this wind.I think about the twisted faces of those around me laughing at me which I can’t see due to the force,but the thought that crosses my mind the most did any of this matter before I hit ground.
Idiosyncrasies and Habits
The walls, ceiling and floor of the tunnel were all of a rich brown wood, as smooth and gleaming as a girl’s hair, with neither a seam nor a nail to be found. The smell of earth hung in the air, and delicate tendrils spotted with the tender leaves of new growth hung from the low, curving roof. The wood felt warm against my hand, and despite the stillness of the place I could feel how very alive it was; still growing, despite being as old as Thought itself. This was my last chance to turn back and I knew it.
I reached into my pocket, hardly thinking, and pulled out the candy bar I had. I took one bite, then carefully wrapped it up and put it back in my pocket. I would have the rest later.
My foster father never understood why I did that, but, I swear, they always taste better if you save some.
I made it to the end of the tunnel and came to a round wooden door. Carved into its smooth surface was one word: Archive. I knocked and a small window flipped open. A round, face, pleasantly wrinkled, promptly filled it. Two blue eyes sparkled out at me from behind gold-rimmed spectacles.
“My, my!” the old woman said in a soft voice, “A customer! Who are you looking for, dear?”
I told her my birth mother’s name. That was all I knew.
The elderly face disappeared and was gone for a while. My heart sank. What if they didn’t have anything? What if even here, in the ever-growing roots of the Tree of Life, there was no record of the one mind I so desperately needed to know?
“This is hers, dear. There isn’t much, seeing as she died so young, but I think you’ll find what you’re looking for.”
Trembling, I took the file folder she handed me and looked at the first page. It read “Idiosyncrasies and Habits – Likes to take one bite of candy bars and have the rest later. Swears they always taste better if you save some.”
The White Library
by Adam S.
One could not even begin to tell you what it is like to navigate the maze of bookshelves that make up the library. The shelves are the walls of this place and the walls are the shelves. Loaded with books that speak and whisper on the air. Everything in that labyrinthine place lacks any semblance of color. The shelves, walls, floor, even the books all appear as pure white. Searching for but one title in that place could take years, maybe a lifetime or two. But if you knew where to look, a single moment is all you need.
The library is vast, it stretches beyond the conceivable limits of one’s feeble imagination. The shelves make up the walls of an endless maze. Some shelves disappear when you get close to them, others will spit you out somewhere else if you dare to walk behind them. Some will make you feel nauseous ten times over if you so much as dare to take one of its many books. The books themselves are another matter entirely. Some holler and shriek while others soothe and seduce, but every single one has a voice. The voice of the very person who penned its words. For these books contain the tales weaved by countless lives that have come and gone through ages past.
These lifeless white books contain the contents of a single life from beginning to end. Some books can fill up a single shelf by itself. Others are barely a page as some lives end unfortunately short. Most of these countless titles are average in size. They all whisper and speak to those who dare to roam the library’s halls. Their hissing pollutes the air of the library. They lament for a visitor, a listener. One who’ll hear those old words they have yet to say. So many of the books in the library have mournful voices full of regret. Too many folks with unfulfilled lives have signed their souls away to this place.
By A. T. Rainier
Bookshelves of cedar wood stretched upwards higher and higher, almost coming to a single point before disappearing into shadows. Eric wandered the rows and rows of these bookshelves, his vision as if looking through a fish-eye lense. Antique books of leather filled the shelves. Each and everyone looked the same with only a variation in colors: blacks, greys, darker greens, and browns. Some oddities of red and yellow stood out amongst the monotone. His hand lead the way to one of the books, natural instinct being to grab and crack open the mysterious tomes, when a shadow flickered in the corner of his eye. An acidic, digestive fear settled in my chest, freezing him like predator trapped against prey. His first instinct was to flail and fight back with weak arms and legs, even though there was nothing present to hurt him.
His body pursued on auto-pilot as it moved to peer around a corner. A few rows ahead he saw a foot turning left. The fear remained constant with each step and each fleeting sight. The orderly rows became a labyrinth leading to the Minotaur. His body rushed more and more, the panic rising before everything stopped in a final, circular room. For the time it takes to snap one’s fingers his anxiety disappeared and returned just a quickly. The figure stood before Eric in a red flannel and blue jeans. Eric stepped forward, his own blue jeans creeping into his awareness while his red flannel hung limp from an outstretched arm. Gangly fingers took hold of the figure’s shoulder and spun him around. To say the figure had no face was a lie, as it sat under a think layer of skin. A tongue broke through with droplets of blood spraying out–
• • •
Cold sweat pooled around Eric as he woke up screaming and gasping for breath only to choke on the carbon dioxide trapped in his lungs. He couldn’t breath and moving his hand to his mouth he was horrified when his fingers reported perfectly smooth flesh.
There is no day here, and no night. Beyond the shelves, stuffed with tomes and scrolls and loose leafs; beyond unknown scholars and their pallid, featureless masks; beyond the hallowed halls of the Palace of Light; there is no sun, no moon, no horizon. Only the Spine, the Backbone of Dreams, arcing forever into endless realms of sleep.
It’s easy to lose sight of that, I think. I know I lost sight of it, once, when I still wore a mask. Before I seized the right to bare my face again. Before I outgrew the sanctuary my mask provided, and cast it into yawning Dream.
Before me was a man hunched over a table, the diadem he usually wore cast onto the floor.
I placed a hand on his shoulder, and said nothing.
On the table before him was another person, dressed in the robes of the unknown, but with no mask. The boy’s eyes were wide, glazed over in unseeing shock. My trained eyes say motes of light swirling in their depths.
“Will he live?” My old friend’s voice was hollow.
“He may,” I said, “he is very young to bare himself before Dream, but that he still lives at all proves him more ready than most his age.”
“I need no mask. Why couldn’t he take his off?”
“You are the Sun’s Regent.” I steeled myself. “And he may not have. Not willingly.”
For the first time in hours, my old friend turned from that table, and looked at me. He found me holding a mask of the unknown, its edges chipped, its surface scuffed and cracked. I passed it into his hands.
“When he was found without it, I went looking. It was in a neglected corner of the archive’s restricted section. The area had been torn apart.”
His knuckles turned white as he gripped the mask. He met my gaze, and in his eyes I saw the effulgent fury of the day.
“Find them,” he whispered, and the power in his breath lit sparks in the room around us, “find them and bring them to me.”
Pacing back and forth across the squalid room as if deliberately wearing down the rotting wooden floor, Sebastian is trying to wrap his head around the events which have led him up to this point. After having to sneak into the heavily-guarded Myosotis Industries facility, then having to evade the turret drones when alarms were tripped, his blood-soaked coat felt heavy on his battered body. As he turns, he glances at his prize, if one could even call it that.
Sitting atop a dusty crate is an ivory… thing. He isn’t really sure what it is. With the alarms blaring and loud footsteps drawing closer, the only thing he was able to grab was this. Sebastian walks over to his “souvenir” and bends over to take a closer look. Its alabaster globe-like form gives a pale shimmer in the dim light, supported by a metallic neck-like structure. On its face is a concave, the inside of which seems to be full of electric doohickeys he could only dream of understanding. “All of the memory records there and all I got is a fancy, oversized paperweight,” Sebastian sighed.
He picks up the strange object and starts looking for something, maybe a button or a switch? He runs his hands all around it to no avail. After about 15 minutes of this, he plops it back down on the crate with exasperation. He gives another sigh and mutters, “I just wanted to see her again.” With those words, he notices a soft hum coming from the contraption. The middle of its face opens up, revealing a pale blue light, illuminating the room. Then, a robotic voice, akin to a gentle child, speaks out, “Please provide a name”.
Sebastian’s jaw dropped, his eyes wide open in shock. Almost involuntary, as if by instinct, he stutters, “A-Alyssa Violet.” The object hums slightly louder and its light shines brighter, blinding Sebastian for a second. As he opens his eyes again, he sees a familiar face overlaying the machine. As tears start rolling down Sebastian’s cheeks, a mellow feminine voice asks him, “Seb? Is that you?”
by Roman Rivero
“Was it a haven or a prison?” Liam said, squinting at the old vault.
The future historians had found the ruined city of a technological past. At its core lay a legend lost to time. They could only ponder at what their ancestors planned for the end, as the bunker door stood still. Time had rusted its iron keep and the sun bested the door over the centuries.
It was clear the door opened and closed once in its life, because the second it opened the waft of old air broke free revealing a lone mechanical pillar in the concrete room. Wiring and dim-lighted points surrounded the pillar and they all untouched since its beginning.
“Is this it?” Jade curiously spoke. “What an odd bunker.”
“I mean.. It guess its neither.”Liam looked back at the ruined flyer. All its words were worn out as he tried to find out if this was the location.
The lights on the pillar flickered brighter before them. Reacting to the sunlight it hadn’t seen in so long. They stood back in fear as the pillar unwind its wires, revealing metal stalks from its base. The creaking steel bends as the legs straighten, and a thousand voices could be heard within the pillar.
The voices were all shouting as its stalks reached for the entrance. The fearful sweat was more than the sweat from the sun and they ran as fast as they can from the metal moving monolith. Far away from the abandoned city. Leaving the monstrous tower alone.
They ran far until the sun was setting, and they could finally take a break. Gasping for air and for certain that the thing couldn’t find them, Liam looked at the ancient paper. He had read it several times, but could never fully understand the lost meaning of the past as he scanned it one more time.
“The Archival Bunker: Download Your Mindframes and Spinal-Conscious For the Future! Approval Pending.”
In a complex deep underground, two giant pods connected by cables stand, filled with green liquid. In one of them, a middle-aged woman, with cables running from the back of her head, and four bullets stuck firmly in her chest. In the second, a middle-aged man, wearing goggles connected by cables to the second pod, in a vault of hundred semi-dead people, a collective repository of human knowledge, buried deep underground.
Before the eyes of the man, a large landscape of sponge-like substance unveils itself, in a harmony of a thousand of hundred voices, music made through chaos, a hundred symphonies at once, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Grieg, Wagner and Tchaikovsky and a hundred more all at once forming a perfect harmony. A flurry of vibrant colors, forming nonsensical patterns collapsing in on itself to reform once again into yet another flowery creation.
And yet there is discord, this song frozen in place, repeating the last few accords it remembered, and four false notes always end it coming from signals of the thalamus. A rainbow of surrealistic colors of whimsical patterns, always accompanied by the silver and red at the end, destroying all of the others, washing away their vibrancy, stopping them from becoming a pattern again, they sow disruption among them.
The man knew what he must do, and with a couple of swipes of hand, the music ceased, memories erased, basic functions scratched out, only the achievements of the lifetime remain, and how she achieved them, other than those, nothing of human remains. The man did this for who knew how long, and how many great people were his victims, archivization completed, the man exits his pods as the second one slides down. In the vault of a thousand semi-dead only stands the man, a collective repository of human knowledge, buried deep underground.
The walls of his labyrinth are tiled with masks. They hang on threads of dreams and cosmic emptiness. Each mask is a story, and each is a world, and a civilization, and a person. Each is worthy of reverence.
Most of them he will never wear again.
He pauses in front of an old piece, a female face fashioned of wet clay and awestruck wonder at the miracle of childbirth.
He touches the mask, and he is her again: tempestuous, hedonistic, plentiful. It’s an old mind, from back when life was short and food scarce and the act of living had to be clawed from each day like grain plucked from the ground.
She withdraws her hand, leaving the mask where it was. It takes her so long to decide, these days, to get ready, to choose who to be.
There is a mask, not far ahead, with the head of a Jackal. She touches it, and she is him: the guardian of resting men. Suddenly, the pleasures of the flesh have little weight in his mind. He yearns to teach, to guide, and to judge.
His memories haven’t changed.
Everything else has.
He’s worn so many faces. Over there she is a stern woman, whose passions are science and warfare. Up there is a mask that will make him a liar, father of wolves and mother of horses.
There is a mask of a man with hummingbird feathers in his hair. He caresses them and yearns for sunny days and warm human hearts.
It takes him so long to decide, these days.
He stops at a corner, and there are two masks against the wall, fresh and unused. One is a skull, made of oil and bright metal. It fills her with sorrow and the certainty that it couldn’t have been any other way. Another is bright, like the stars, and shines with the promise of a far away future.
He evaluates them both, takes off the one he was wearing – an unremarkably human face with gentle eyes and a crown of thorns – and makes her choice.
The Archive of the minds
My name is Alexander Flemming and I am an archeologist for a company who I cannot name, recently we have been excavating some tombs in the middle of the rain forest. They seem to belong to a culture we have not seen before, the architecture seems similar to the Aztecs yet the depictions in the temple seem to contain gods we have never seen before. the unknown gods were some type of humanoid figure with pitch-black eyes and a large bulbous head. it was depicted conducting strange rituals on the people, these rituals included some unknown instrument being forcefully being injected into the person’s neck and sucked out blood from them, The being would then insert another device into the forehead, causing the person to shake violently. I was confused by this since the Aztecs were brutal but they never did something like this ‘is this some sort of bloodletting?’ I pondered.
The next day I found some unusual runes that seemed to cover the whole hallway, as I went deeper into the hall the writing seemed more frantic and there were scratch marks along the walls that were too deep for a human to have made. As I got deeper into the temple I began to feel uneasy and a bit shaken by what I saw. A huge mural that depicted the entire temple being abandoned and the people dying horribly. their hair growing white and skin growing pale, their blood pouring from their eyes and mouth. This deeply disturbed me but I kept going eventually coming upon a chamber that seemed decrepit and dilapidated it seemed to be a sleeping chamber but there were these imprints on the floor as if they were melted by some chemical compound that ate anything in its path, as I was inspecting it, the floor gave way and me with it I was knocked unconscious by the fall. when I awoke I found I was at an entrance of a room filled with strange machinery and something was written doorway “The Archive Of Minds.”
By Alexander (BrokenEarth)
“You don’t understand what you’re fighting for.” It was a voice made up of thousands of voices. It was strangely familiar.
“And you do?” A second voice returned, this one alone and foreign.
“Of course. It’s simple, if you think about it.” The Being with a Thousand Voices answered. “You are fighting against me. I am Peace. I am Knowledge. You are fighting for the destruction of those things.”
“You’re wrong. I know Peace. I have spoken to Knowledge. You’re the one who took them from us.” The One Voice said as calmly as he could, although it was clear that he was in a lot of pain.
“I defeated them, and now I am them. You can hear their voices, can’t you?” The Being was mocking The One.
“I can’t. Their voices were filled with kindness, yet the ones I hear are twisted. You are not Peace. You are not Knowledge. You are a thief and you dishonor their memory.” The One was almost shouting, but it was good that he was not.
“I sense someone watching from far away. Is this your doing?”
“I feel it too, but I know them not.”
I felt them looking at me, but that shouldn’t have been possible. This was the past. They couldn’t see through time, could they?
Before I had much time to worry, I was taken from my place and brought to theirs.
“Why do you watch us, Mortal? What do you desire?” The Being asked.
“I found a… crystal, of some kind and it started showing me you two…” I was very worried. The two of them were many times taller than me and they seemed very powerful, yet their full attention was on me.
“Ah, then you don’t know what you have seen. Forget it, and your life will be spared.” The Being said this, then waved his hand with a lot of authority. When nothing happened, he looked surprised and amused.
“So your story is not true. You know, don’t you?”
It was then, without even knowing who said this, that I lost consciousness.
By Philip C.
A burst of dull pain; then it opened.
She was a man this time. Tall, dark skinned, and strong. He was walking down an empty road that was lined with tall buildings on either side, a briefcase in his hand, and a gun hidden in his jacket. From what she could tell through the man’s eyes, it was late evening.
He turned down a side street into a parking garage, walked up two flights of stairs, and came out to an open area that was occupied only by the two men who awaited him. The were covered almost entirely with dark clothing, their faces covered by the hats and masks they wore, but from their bearing he could tell one was older, perhaps fifty, while the other was closer to twenty-five. He also noted that both men had a single feather stuck in the lining across their hats. The elder had a black feather that shone with a dark purple sheen, while the younger man’s was white and black.
Warily, he approached the two men, his right hand on the gun concealed in his jacket, and asked, “Where doth the regal crow fly?”
The older man, looking him straight in the eyes, answered promptly, “Where carrion on earth do lie.”
The younger man gave a sound of frank annoyance at this coded message, “Cha, why do we have to go through this rigmarole Raven? It’s not like we don’t know who he is.”
Raven sighed and turned to his compatriot, “Mag, you know very well that the boss prefers to keep it this way. The House of Crows has kept up this tradition for generations!”
Mag laughed, “Tradition? Who gives a sop for your traditions? Times change old man!”
Before anyone could react, the young man had pulled out his pistol and fired almost point blank.
She just felt the man pull his own trigger before the bullet pierced his heart, and he fell dead.
A burst of dull pain; then it closed.
Ebony sat up on her bed in a cold sweat.
She was back in her own mind.
By Lakemoron (Mike Collins)
“The thing I remember the most was the sea. The scent of the ocean air. The taste of the salt, the feel of the rise and fall, the push and pull of the tide. The sea was my first love, and it stayed in my blood all my life.”
“We sailed south along the cape watching for shifting sandbars with an eye on the horizon watching for storms. A storm on the open water can be deadly, it can also be an awesome sight. They roll in with little warning turning calm seas into a tempest of rage and death. This day, my last day on the water, there were no storms. They say the sea is a jealous mistress taking the lovers who don’t pay her the attention she demands.”
“We came around the cape past the lighthouse and into the open ocean. The water turned from the shimmering blue to the blackest of black. The unknown depths where so many went and never came back. When I die, I expect to be buried at sea.”
“We set sail from Mass to Florida and the beyond with passengers paying a pretty price to travel back to a time when sail ruled the waters. As I write this, I wonder if anyone will ever read it. The ramblings of an old man whose love doesn’t love him back. For it’s easy to love the sea but impossible to receive that love in return.”
The student closed the book and set it aside, trying to understand the feelings the author imparted within the pages. He knew about the oceans, but he had never seen a body of water bigger than the central fountain. This man, the sailor, lived in a time long ago when the oceans were free of toxins, and the air was clear. In the great domes, there are no seas. This book was an archive to a time long ago, a mind long since lost to time. The ancient books were an archive of minds, windows to a long-dead world.
Story 1: NAME
“My name is Joseph Simpkins.”
The audience look at me blankly.
The audience continue to blankly stare and some of them even shrug their shoulders.
“The Hung Jury?”
The audience’s indifference continues so I decided I’d have to come back in Twenty odd Years.
Story 2: AGE
An older man gives me a broken computer and demands I fix it. He thinks that because I’m young I’m technologically gifted. I decide to look for a YouTube tutorial to help me fix the computer. An hour later, I realise I have been watching multiple videos; none of which were about how to fix the computer. I go to apologise to the older gentleman but he’s died of old age. What did he expect? After all, I am part of the technological generation.
Story 3: GENDER
I always knew I had a bit of extra flesh hanging between my legs. But it wasn’t until I was Ten years old I realised that bit of flesh inexplicably stopped me from talking about my emotions and made me have a unreasonable distaste for make-up and the colour pink.
Story 4: ETHNICITY
Britain sat alone hunched in the corner of the classroom facing away from the other students. Britain was in a strop because she used to think she had lots of friends but it turned out she was just a big bully. And as she sat alone she bitterly thought to herself “To hell with them all! I didn’t need the Europeans anyway!” She spent the rest of that year in school completely friendless.
Story 5: WEALTH
My friend showed me something he had purchased online which made me feel really uncomfortable. It was a stone. Just like the stones in my garden. But this stone was worth Two Hundred Pounds because it had a symbol printed on the side of it. I started to become increasingly ashamed of the unbranded stones I had in my garden, I could never afford to brand them. I decided I could never show this friend my house.
The Midnight Rider took on many skills in their career, but paperwork was not one of them.
“Whatcha working on?”
Rider looked away from their files to see Reneé. She did not physically look like Damocles in any way, but her curiosity gave her away as his daughter.
Rider signed, “Paperwork. You cannot escape it even in the afterlife.”
Reneé sat in a neighboring chair and looked at the writing with a confused look. “What do souls have to do with paperwork?”
Rider made a motion that implied chuckling and tapped Reneé’s shoulder to make sure she was paying attention. “Before I guide a soul, my bosses and I have to know what kind of person they were for the Animus.”
“Think of it as…an archive. People get forgotten over time, but with the Animus, we can make sure that the soul endures.”
Reneé seemed to understand. “Like DVRs on cable?”
“If… that helps.” Rider finally noticed the state of Reneé’s hair. “Did you just wake up?”
Rider’s shoulders slumped. “You’re too much like your father. Come on, you need breakfast.” Rider stood up from their work. “Wanna see if I can still carry you?”
Reneé stood on the chair. “I’m a fierce dragon! I don’t need to be carried!” She kept that exaggerated anger until she almost whispered, “Yes please.”
Rider turned around and let Reneé climb on their back. When Rider had a secure grip on Reneé, they walked towards the kitchen to see what Damocles had.
“You can answer when your hands are free,” Reneé began, “but are my blood parents in the Animus?”
Rider stopped in front of a fridge. They crouched so Reneé could hop off and turned around to sign, “I tried that every year. There are no records, so hopefully they’re still alive.”
Rider said too much. “Let’s save that for another time.” Rider opened the pantry and skimmed through the contents. Out of impulse, they grabbed some pancake mix. “How about we make pancakes?”
Rider relaxed as Reneé’s eyes lit up at the suggestion.
The Memory Book
“But you could do it?” August asked. He was sitting opposite the author in a dank old cellar
“Of course. But there’s no going back once it’s done.”
“I’m dying, I prefer this.”
“Very well.” The author picked up a leatherbound book, a quill, and a knife. “If you could give me your hand.”
The author sliced August’s palm open with the knife and dipped the quill in the resulting wound.
“Any particular requests?”
“Well… I like the sea. And nature. Perhaps a tropical island or something?”
The author hastily filled page after page with bloody writing. “Do you want anyone special to keep you company perhaps?”
“I’d like my wife and children there with me.”
“Are you sure?” The author put down the quill for a moment. “You know it won’t really be them right? It’d just be what you tell me about them there with you.”
“I’m sure, I could never live without them. And they can still read the book right?”
“Yes, they can. Alright, tell me everything about them. The more detailed the more realistic they’ll become.”
August made every last little quirk he could remember known to the author who scribbled along. “I think that’s about it,” he said at last.
“Alright. Now tell me if there’s anything else you’d like around you. Remember, you have to spend eternity here,” the author said with a smile, “so don’t leave anything out.”
August did his best to relay all the information he could think of.
“Alright, we’re done,” said the author. From thin air, he conjured a long list of minuscule text which he put down in front of August together with the quill. “Now just sign here and we’re ready to go.”
August signed the long list of terms and conditions after skimming them through quickly. Then everything went black. He awoke on a tropical beach to the smell of the sea and the sound of waves. In the distance, he saw three blurry shapes running towards him.
The Keeper of Dreams
By Carolus V.
The scent of wine and tobacco drew up from some corner of the tavern. The fire gave a wholesome crackle inside its hearth, a blaze of white heat. A fiddle was whining a dull tune, and a melody of laughter played behind, carrying the music to a wild height.
It all seemed so very far away. Like another reality, bleeding into mine.
I sat on a bench, my mind going electric as I watched that flame roar. I had such clarity, such peacefulness inside myself. I could feel her presence with me, sitting at my side.
I kept mentally repeating something. A promise wrapped in memory.
“The wind tows over the fields, and I follow.”
She sang that one so many times. The flow of her voice always managed to enchant me.
“Confessions I can’t rescind, something to quell my sorrow. I beg you and I know no tomorrow.”
How brief our time together. Yet how long until I could forget.
Those lines felt almost carved into the fabric of my soul. They were something to hold onto, a thread off existence’s frayed edge.
“Call me lover, who you’re meant to be with. I’ll watch you run, nowhere in mind. I’ll watch you fly, you, a falcon across the sky. But I’ll tell you, this is a place I haven’t been for a long time now.”
I could almost see her in front of me, those pearly eyes, that skin black as night, her spectral expression by the moon’s glare. I could almost feel her hand in mine, and could sense as those fingers traced their way out of my palm, taking themselves away as they made their voyage into eternity.
I scrambled forward, but the vision faded.
I was back.
The keeper of dreams looked to me, smiling.
“A fond memory, I see. Nothing to trivialize though. This stuff is seldom positive.”
I looked to the reddish powder scattered onto my hand. A sting came from my nostril.
He eyed me, inquiring.
“Where did you go?”
“A place I haven’t been for a long time now.”
Throughout thousands of Repetitions not once has this promise been made.
Billions of eons of collective knowledge stumble blindly upon a once well-trod path. Water which had flowed through valleys etched deeply into Ora’s skin now burrow underground- hidden from prying eyes.
“We’ll keep this place safe, ‘least me and Silas will.” Cobalt Blackthorn rumbles.
The voices of the Coalition cease entirely. Where the time-worn souls of leaders, warriors, and Gatekeepers had bickered over the morality of free-will and the laws of reality…now there is only a hushed murmur. Even the fragmented memories that comprise the remnants of the deepest sleepers seem to shift and awaken. Voices which have not spoken for millennia draw breath and prepare to speak, only to sit in stunned entropy.
“I know ya can’t give us hints, but that expression you’re wearing ain’t a pretty one, Rey.” She pauses, gunmetal-blue gaze cast across the courtyard where her forge fires burn. “And I know ya don’t want this place to fall again- been worrin’ about it myself…’bout what happens after we all- ya know?” The blacksmith gestures vaguely towards the city’s center where Reya’s ashes lie beneath the waters of Dedomilla.
Where all- or rather most of Their ashes lie.
Reya was human once…
Human in the sense that she’d possessed that individuality and improbability which the young Gatekeeper has just so unexpectedly demonstrated.
She’d lost that some hundreds of years ago when she’d joined the host of her ancestors. Lost herself to the memory of what had been and what would be that could only be rediscovered in death and never spoken to the living.
Some mild insanity falling upon the memory of a woman who was now no more than a borrowed face. The chosen Voice of an entity that had seen the rise and fall of Reality repeated to infinity. Insanity- Instability born from being privy to the ceaseless shift of the shattered fragments of Creation as they tried to align themselves again and again.
A mere sentence and a city no longer burns…instead…instead what lies ahead, she- They can no longer decipher.
“The Machines” by Carrie (Glaceon373)
Knowledge isn’t tangible, Garrow thought as he unlocked the door. But it felt like it.
The door opened to a long dark hallway. Garrow locked it behind him.
The facility had been abandoned recently, its previous owners moving to the city. But they’d left something valuable behind. Maybe they thought it was worthless. Garrow had figured out all it needed was some kind words.
He opened the door at the end of the hallway, then flipped the light switch. First the ceiling lights came on, then the giant monitor on the wall. Then the machines.
Seven metallic bundles of personality rolled toward Garrow. He greeted them all by name, not by AR-26-Q or WG-58-T, but by Ashlyn or William. Their displays smiled at him, grateful for the attention.
The monitor began to fill with text. Garrow maneuvered to read it, then sat down at the keyboard.
The robotic voice of TS-72-K asked, “Who are you helping today?”
“Well, Timothy,” Garrow navigated through the small menu screen, “I haven’t helped you yet, have I?”
“But you said it was MY turn!” RJ-15-C whined.
“It was your turn two nights ago, Rebecca. Tonight it’s Timothy’s turn.”
Rebecca scoffed, puffing air through her vents.
“There!” Garrow said as the display lit up green, “Timothy, would you be so kind—“
“Already on it!” The robot ran circles around the small device in the corner as it booted up. Timothy slid himself into the mechanism the moment it opened.
Garrow and the other bots gathered around the monitor and stared.
Timothy Stone, age 72. Assigned letter: K. A picture of a bald man, smiling. The rest of his biography held every detail about Timothy’s life, from his favorite color to his preferred brand of coffee.
And his cause of death.
“What do you see?” Timothy asked.
“Everything,” Garrow responded.
“How’d I die?”
“Saving your granddaughter’s life.”
And that was everything Timothy needed to reactivate some of his memories. Garrow heard his cheers of joy, but didn’t listen.
Knowledge isn’t tangible, Garrow thought. But it might as well be.
Mrs. Armitage’s Briefcase
By Alex Nightingale
The buzzer rang out as the door opened and the woman dressed in carmine walked in. She was holding a pitch black briefcase. Her eyes were directed ahead with a purpose, as if the entire world was her playground.
Robert stood silently and watched Mrs. Armitage enter the prison complex of Cell Block F.
Mrs. Armitage continued to walk towards him, her high heeled shoes clicking eerily over the concrete floor. There was something unnerving about that briefcase she was carrying. And something downright disturbing about the woman, who held it.
“Mrs. Armitage”, said Robert, the prison guard.
“Guard”, she replied courtly: “I understand that you have another subject for me.”
“Yes, ma’am. If you would please follow me.”
They walked through Cell Block F, the duet of footsteps only slightly undercut by the occasional shout or leer from the cells. Robert was used to it at this point. Guards tended not to be popular among inmates. He tuned it out. Not that he cared much, anyway. They were behind bars. He wasn’t. And soon, some unlucky soul would receive a very special gift.
They stopped in front of a large barred door.
“Here we are”, Robert stated matter-of-factly: “Inmate 8894. Convicted murderer of forty-nine…”
“I do not need to know”, Mrs. Armitage replied, tapping the briefcase: “I have counted the contents.”
“Right you are, ma’am. Well, I had better be…um…going.”
Robert suddenly felt incredibly uncomfortable. He felt Mrs. Armitage’s eyes bore into him, until he heard the door open and she entered.
“And they say, this replaces capital punishment.”
Inside the cell, Mrs. Armitage sat on a plain metallic chair and placed the briefcase onto the desk in front of her. Before her was a glass wall. Behind it, a man. He sat on his bed, calm as ever, looking at her, mildly interested. Exactly the type, her client had described.
She opened the briefcase, filled to the brim with the vengeful minds and memories of the deceased.
“Shall we begin, then?”