What in the hell is going on? Grabbing my head, I couldn't help but feel like it wanted me to suffer. A terrible migraine formed from something, but I couldn't quite tell what. Did I go drinking last night? "Rey, are you awake?" Rig's voice rang like it was screamed directly into my ear. Something awful must have happened while I was asleep. "Yeah. Why is it so... hurty in here?" A chime came through the intercom, followed by the sound of a med drone being constructed at a nearby crystal.
"I'm sending a med bot to you now. Are you ok? How are you feeling?" Good god it's so loud! Can we... make this stop now? The medical drone rolled to me on it's weird creepy gyro and human torso. Designed flawlessly, don't get me wrong. In terms of functionality they're great. Doesn't mean they're not creepy looking and it's not fun watching one speed towards you in the docking bay. Wait, the docking bay? What am I doing here?
"We need to get you to the triage so we can scan you. I know there's a lot to take in but I'll explain everything on the way. Can you walk?" Standing up, I could barely balance properly. An image flashed in my mind of a forest filled with massive redwood trees. All around me was nothing but snow and pine needles. Air moved slowly between the trees as if the forest itself was breathing. "Rey! There you went again! What's going on?" My eyes had to adjust to the light. It's almost like I had actually been out in the forest.
A chill swept over me, sending shivers down my spine. Somehow the reverie made my migraine feel better. "I... don't know at all. There's-" Snow blasted my face so hard I could barely breathe. Covering my arms was all I could do to keep warm in my sweats and a tank top. I really wish I knew what was happening. Standing in the cold shivering, this reverie lasted much longer.
It felt like ages standing there in the cold. Looking around proved worthless, considering I couldn't even see a few feet in front of me. Through the sound of blaring wind, I heard footsteps. They obviously weren't mine, because my body was so cold it locked up and wouldn't move. My hair felt like it was going to freeze off. "Rey! There you are! What do you see?" I would respond, but I'm so cold I'm still locked up.
Just as quickly as it returned, reality left me. This time, to a much more pleasant light snowfall. On the trees glistened small bugs that shone red with bio luminescence. "Tis a wonderful sight, is it not?" A woman's voice? It feels so calming and warm. To my right a woman approached covered in brown bear furs. She must have been a whole foot taller than me, and strong considering how bulky her body seemed to be.
"Uh, I guess. Maybe I'd appreciate it more if I hadn't been forced here at random moments without having any idea what's going on." The girl giggled spryly, and gave a smile. Pulling her hood down, I could see her fiery red hair braided behind her neck. "Welcome, sister. I do apologize for my method of bringing you here. I know it's a lot to take in, but I would suggest starting with the conduit flies. Though it is best to look, and not touch."
My god she's pretty. Something about her was so comforting. Although now that I look at them, those bugs do have an alluring charm to them. I'll have to try not to touch one. For some reason I really want to, but I'll listen. I hope. "Yeah, they're... charming. As for you, I'm curious as to what it is you want with me." She looked at me with a smile, which melted my heart by the way. I can't explain why. It still did. This is weird.
"It's not what I want with you, so much as what I want for you. I bring you here, to impart upon you a gift. It is a guide of sorts. A way to help you learn and appreciate what it is that you are. I'm here to give you direction, and provide for you a purpose with which to chase. Whether or not you choose to is entirely up to you. However, I can promise you this path will unlock for you a level of freedom that not many in existence see."
Existence? That's a bit of a strong word. I guess I must be cosmically important because all this random cosmically important garbage keeps happening. Rubbing my face, I grunted in frustration. "Like... really? Ok, well it can't be any weirder than the whole thing with Dokk." She cocked her head a moment, looking puzzled. "Dokk?" I can't quite understand what she's puzzled about. She doesn't seem to be uncomfortable with that name.
"Yeah, he's this... thing that basically ruined my life. Killed everyone important to me then told me to have a nice life. Oh, and I know about as much about him as I do potato salad. And by that I mean that it exists and I don't like it very much." She giggled as I brushed off the snow from me. Somehow I wasn't cold anymore. Maybe she turned off the cold in whatever ridiculous magical sideshow this is.
"Well, I'll try to make it easier on you then. I'm here to give you a gift. Here." Waving her hand by her leg, she manifested something from her inventory modifier. A small red orb hovered in her hand as she extended it towards me. "Go ahead, take it." Extending my hand, I tried to grab the orb but it passed right through. Figures. "Oh goody, just what I wanted for Christmas." She chuckled and reached to grab my hand.
"Close enough. Although I generally tend to leave my gift giving to my sisters. That is why I'm here actually!" As she grabbed my hand, the orb sank into it. Something felt strange in my head, and a tingling sensation ran through my whole body. Suddenly, a small red crystal appeared in my vision. I hadn't noticed, but my augmented reality interface hadn't been on. Looks like it is now. Where's the vomiting though? "Uh, ok? This doesn't look like my UI."
It really doesn't. Mainly because there's nothing to it. A message icon popped up, and immediately opened. I watched as it automatically pulled up a file named [UI(Old)] and opened it. It loaded a pack and everything cleared in my vision quickly, then reloaded to my comfortable green DOS feel. I loved it old school. "So, you're in my AR now? Impressive. What exactly is this gift then?"
She let go of my hand and I felt a little disappointed for a moment. This chick has gotta be using some kind of spell here. "It's the gift of knowledge. Of direction. While you may not understand your path now, there is beauty in the road you walk. Your life is entirely up to you. There is no one to tell you no. To influence your decisions in any way. There are many who would die to live this kind of life. I just wanted to make sure you were well equipped to live that life without fear. Entirely by choice."
Yeah, no matter what in life there's always outside influences. "Choice? Oh, just what I needed. More choices of what to do when I honestly didn't have any idea what direction to go in the first place. So thanks, I guess, for whatever it is you did." She didn't like my tone very much, or what I said apparently. "I understand you struggle with this, but allow me to offer some perspective."
Waving her hand, we were now inside of one of the simulation decks. Pulling her fur hood back up, she waved her hand again and a simulation ran again. "In front of you lies three doors. You do not know where each door leads, but you have a choice. One door is made of gold." A door digitally constructed through the simulation, made entirely of polished gold. "One is made of Wood." Another door appeared, crafted from gnarled wood and iron.
"And the last is made of steel." The final door constructed, though it was two stories tall and looked like the door was made to seal in something massive. "If you were given the choice of one door, and one door alone, which would it be?" She walked around the doors slowly with her hood covering her face. I'm not really sure. I guess I don't really care. Man this kinda existential crap pisses me off. "Do I have to go in one of them? What if I don't care enough to?" The woman stopped for a moment, and looked up at me.
She looked like she was confused, but part of me felt like she knew that would be my answer. Using my AR, I pulled up the UI for the simulation and linked with it by just thinking about it. I told it to construct a lazy boy recliner right behind me, and I heard it digitally construct. Looking back at it, I plopped down with my full weight on it. Kicking the recliner up, I crossed my arms behind my head. "What if I want to sit and wait for one of them to open?" This thinky stuff agitates me so much.
As I finished the thought, the steel door opened by itself. On the other side, I could hear explosions and gunfire. The smell of smoke and burnt flesh stung my nostrils. I don't like this, so I'll shut it again. It did with a lot of force. "What if I don't want it to open?" A moment passed and the girl walked next to the wooden door, opening it herself.
On the other side lay a forest, the scent of birch and flowers blowing through the opening. Birds sang and frogs chirped. I willed the door shut and it slammed so hard it splintered the wood. She began walking over to the golden door, but before she did I willed it gone. "Oh, honey. Money don't mean jack to me. That one isn't even worth opening."
In my mind I pulled up another door, a plain wooden bedroom door. She looked at it, and then at me. I knew what was on the other side of it. I just didn't know that was what was important to me. Opening it, she peeked in curiously. The sound of people laughing, smells of food that had excited me since I was a kid. A bright rainbow of light found it's way around her head. It didn't take long for her to look into and pull back out. "I'm... sorry."
Yeah. Me too. I always have to ruin these things. Guess I have a hard time accepting what few outside influences there are in my life. "No, I'm sorry. You came here with a purpose and I... made fun of it and brushed it aside. I guess I'm just tired of this life of no direction. I just always thought life would take me wherever and I wouldn't have to think about it too much. Now, all I have is time to think. I know you came here with a gift, but just know that the only thing I want in life, I can't have. And that's my old life back."
My eyes started welling up a bit. I'm not good with emotions. "Knowing that my family was just a two day shuttle away. It may take a while to get there, but at least they existed and were within reach. You come here on one of the hardest days of the year because it used to be a celebration of family. Whatever gifts that could possibly be given to me could never replace the people that I lost. That's all I want. Is time with them again. Can you give me that?"
She looked saddened, and her own eyes were glossed over. Obviously she understood my pain. Giving me a smile, tears started falling down her face slowly. She walked over to me and hugged me tightly, and I couldn't help but hug her back. It felt like family. Even if that was just my brain's way of getting it when I couldn't have it, I'll take that feeling even if for a moment. "You have family. You just haven't met them yet. I promise."
Her furs felt strange against my bare arms, and she smelled like pine. Backing away, she lifted out her hand again, and a small red orb appeared. This time it shifted and took the shape of a small memory card. "Here. Plant this seed, and you will regain that which is lost to you. There may be one yet in your family whom you can save." I reached for the card, and felt it up link to my AR. Nothing happened.
"What do I do with it?" She smiled at me and pulled her hood back over her head. "You do nothing. It is not for you directly. All you need to know is that it will help you recollect one that is close to you." I felt the tug of reality changing. She was gearing up to leave. "Before you go. Who are you?"
A rift as black as empty space opened behind her. "I've lived the lives of many, and seen them all through the Ley-Lines. It was nice to meet you Rey. I hope to see you again soon." She disappeared inside the rift, and I felt her presence leave. I went to take a step, and my foot bumped into something. A gift wrapped elegantly in Christmas colors sat on the floor in front of me. Picking it up, I inspected it.
Not too terribly heavy. There's a card on it. It reads:
Rey - You are not alone. While there are many gifts to be given, it seems like the biggest gift I could give you is the gift of direction. Inside this package lies a reminder. A reminder to continue to seek knowledge. To seek a life for yourself. Whatever you choose it to be.
- Frau Holle
Frau Holle? Whatever, I'll look it up later. Opening the gift, I tore it apart. Who cares about the wrapping? As the wrapping fell and a box remained, I tried to ignore all the possibilities of what could be inside going through my head. Yet as I opened it, I realized it wasn't anything I had expected. It was a picture frame, with a photo in it.
It was simply a picture of Lionel and I, smiling at the COM station and talking over coffee.