Stranger Than Fiction

Read Chapter 11 “The Battle of Wills”

The journey for Maggie was marred by her anxiety, blocking her clear thinking and processing. She battled anxiety throughout her childhood and teenage years in the world that above anything else valued money and respected nothing but power. But ever since the creation of Ecotopia, she has believed her anxiety was under control. Until now, when her anxious thoughts played nicely to her most dreaded fear; that she was never going to be reunited with her kids.

Except for the emotional upheaval, Maggie felt the journey on the ground was pretty uneventful. A couple of times flying spotters (sophisticated drones that could detect movement on the ground) hovered above them but each time, just like Maggie said, the Ecotopian torches alerted them of the unfriendly eyes — giving Maggie and Patrick enough time to seek shelter.

The closer to the base they were getting the more unsettled Maggie was feeling, her feet becoming heavier with every step taken. Her body could feel that something dark and unfriendly was dominating this dead forest.

The Old World policy towards any green area was to either chop down the trees to build factories manufacturing artificial food, or to pollute the forests so much with the chemical waste coming from the Above that the trees were dying rapidly one after another. Only leaving a dry, lifeless skeleton behind of what once was a mighty and majestic forest full of beautiful creatures and life that is surely not coming back for a long time.

However, her need to find out at least some information about her children overshadowed everything else Maggie was feeling in that place. As an Ecotopian, devoted to practising mindfulness, her sensitivity levels were on high alert. She picked up anger and fear as dominating emotions that doomed place the moment they crash landed. Fear and anger never lead to anything good.

Patrick was in charge of the base for years before it was deemed redundant after the Corporate Government announced a massive victory over the Ecotopians and the rebels. He knew that there was no victory; the insurgents were just waiting for the right moment to strike back, while the Ecotopians were thriving beyond anything the Old World could have ever imagined or hoped for.

This place and years of cruelty weren’t his proudest, and it surely wasn’t a place he wanted to take Maggie to. The base was built to torture prisoners, spy on whoever was left on the ground and imprison anyone, who was disobedient and didn’t follow the rule book the Old World created for its citizens. But the eyes in the skies, which were built into the base to control the Old World, was the only way they could find relevant information about their children.

Ever since the base became redundant, Mother Nature slowly started claiming back what was hers. The washdown, brown colour of the base was nearly indistinguishable amongst the brown trees.

However, the main door leading to the base wasn’t covered in roots or overgrown plants, which made it easy for Patrick to open it. The moment he did, the stale air made Maggie feel sick. The first thing she noticed, while walking in, were the walls covered in numbers and names written in blood.

When Maggie looked at Patrick, he didn’t seem to be as shocked as she was, which made her quickly realized that this was the place where her fellow Ecotopians and Freedom Fighters were tortured, before eventually killed. She stopped and couldn’t move any further. She tried to say something but was unable to utter any words. This place represented everything she was fighting against.

Feeling Maggie right behind him, Patrick turned back and at that moment realized that she knew where they were. This strange place used to bring out the ugly side of Patrick. Countless times he vowed not to be manipulated by its dark evil energy, but it always led him straight back, pushing him to do unimaginable, cruel, and inhuman things in the name of the Old World’s order.

– “Do you still want to carry on?” – he asked. Maggie looked at her watch and nodded in agreement, even though she could feel in her bones that this very place was cursed and, somehow, they will have to pay the price for being there.

The door unexpectedly closed behind them, and their torches were the only source of light left in the base. Instantly Maggie felt cold; the deeper they were getting inside the corridor, the colder she was becoming. Patrick also felt the temperature dropping rapidly. He didn’t remember that happening before and couldn’t explain why it was happening.

He also felt that they were being watched and he could swear that he saw shadows moving along the corridor in the corner of his eye. He didn’t feel scared at all; at the end of the day, it was his territory. But he still wanted to be out of this place as much as Maggie did. It was strange, much stranger than he remembered. They picked up their pace.

Halfway through the corridor, the Old World’s architecture was full of long, dimly lit corridors, which core and sole purpose were to intimidate people. Suddenly Patrick stopped and opened the door to his left. It was as dark as everywhere around, but Maggie could clearly see dozens of screens all over the walls.

When they walked in, Patrick swiftly started scrolling through the log. This control room wasn’t just any control room; it was one of the eyes in the sky operation rooms that the Old World was so proud of and used for terrorizing citizens left on the ground. Maggie shivered, once again realizing that this place was representing everything she has been fighting against her whole life. And now she was here, looking for her kids.

– “Patrick?” – Maggie barely managed to speak, when she saw all the security cameras.

– “We can find the children this way. There is no time for… let’s just focus on… focus on the kids… please.” – he replied quickly before Maggie could say anything else.

– “No need to explain.” All the hope Maggie had that possibly, just possibly, there was some good in Patrick, was now gone. His cruelty was all over this place. The souls and spirits of the people he killed were still stuck in these cursed walls, in this God-forsaken place.

– “I’m walking away” – Maggie said and was just about to head for the doors when Patrick shouted with excitement.

– “Here! Look here, right there!” – he was pointing to the screen.

– “They must have crossed over through the old bridge, one that connected us with the Old Continent. Nobody but the smugglers use that bridge.” – he looked closer and then continued. “They are heading towards London. Look at this footage. Look! Look here!”

Maggie came closer to the screen. He was right. The children were heading to London, cleverly disguised as the natives of the Old World. Patrick connected his watch to one of the screens to download the footage and maps. However, halfway through, he became distracted by a shadowy movement he saw on another monitor.

– “Who is that?” – Maggie asked

– “Don’t know. They are armed but don’t look like the Old World’s Troops.” – Maggie moved closer to the screen.

– “Neither like the Time Travellers. How much time do you need?”

– “A minute tops.”

– “Is there another exit from this room?”

– “No. But there is a panic room here.” – Patrick replied.

Maggie looked at him in disbelief. – “You can’t be serious.”

– “Why? Don’t you ever use panic rooms?”

– “You people are hopeless.” – Maggie couldn’t really believe how obsessed Old World authority was.

When the download ended, Patrick disconnected his watch from the monitor, swiftly changed eyes in the sky channel, and erased the past five minutes search history.

– “Take me as a prisoner.” – Maggie blared out.

– “Are you out of your mind?! I won’t do such a thing.”

– “That’s our only chance. You… you… your despicable actions are all over these walls. They will let you go, regardless of what they are.”

When the door flew open, Patrick was pretending to secure Maggie’s weapons. He was right, these weren’t the Old World’s Troops. But they also weren’t rebels. He didn’t know, who they were, and didn’t need to know as long as they knew who he was.

Patrick pushed Maggie ahead of him while dragging his droid behind. The corridor was filled with what he could only describe as something that was either a ghost or a hologram. They were dressed like the long gone barbarian native tribes from thousands of years ago. The incredible, arctic cold was coming from their motionless, skinny bodies. None of them moved or spoke. A lot of them had war scars and tattoos all over their see-through, pale faces and arms. Their eyes looked tired and hungry at the same time, which was equally fascinating and terrifying. Surprisingly, Maggie’s torches weren’t blinking as they usually do when other people are around. Her logical mind didn’t believe in ghost stories, but anything was possible in this place.

Patrick and Maggie were only a few steps away from the exit door when someone blocked their way. Patrick looked up at him and thought that he saw one of the prisoners in him. But how could they possibly be still alive?

The longer Patrick was staring at the person, the more agitated Maggie was becoming. She needed to act, so she made a small step backwards, towards Patrick, thinking that she would possibly use one of her weapons. But at that moment the figure in front of them moved aside, letting them go.

Read Chapter 13 “Brief History of Ecotopia”