This story was first serialized in 31 daily parts during March 2021 via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds [9am and 5pm GMT respectively.] It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.
I produce fiction bi-weekly on Ko-Fi: this includes flash fiction (250 words) which is being put together to form a long-form narrative, plus a bi-weekly full novel presented in episodic format.
To the rest of the world, this is an aircraft hangar, at the unfashionable, business end of London’s Heathrow. Only when looking closely does a ridiculous level of security become apparent: if you can get close enough to do that, armed patrols cleanly yet politely steer you away. Twice a day, a massive metal door quietly slides open on its electronically-controlled track, remaining so for five minutes and then closes again. Anyone passing will assume this is normal, perhaps a maintenance test. If you were to catch a glimpse inside, this hanger is unused.
A massive, security patrolled empty space which draws more power than any other building in the area including all the terminals at Heathrow. Nothingness, which at night can be heard to hum, if the wind is blowing west to east. A space that someone pays a lot of money to protect. As long as wages appear, grievances dealt with and nobody is inconvenienced, no-one really cares about the details. Who are we to ask questions when rents are paid promptly, taxes filed punctually and nothing externally appears untoward? Suspicion can be someone else’s problem.
The truth, of course, is that this hanger is far from devoid of contents.
They’re simply invisible to the human eye.
I watch the woman hidden from the security cameras in a blind spot on the airport’s perimeter with increasing joy. She’s getting close to exposing the story. Thanks to her persistence and determination I truly believe there will be an escape from whatever this is I’m trapped within. It’s not another dimension as first thought, though it does appear that is the ultimate goal of the UltraReality project. I’m stuck in The Throb’s domain.
We call it The Throb, but have no idea of what it really is… except that as a result of that persistent, purple cycle of light we are both still here. I’m trapped by it and my partner in crime is compelled to expose its existence. We’ve come to the conclusion that it is alive. Not human, and certainly nothing from another planet, but undoubted intelligence. It is aware of us both: instead of fear or concern of our attempts to locate it, there is support and reassurance. The Throb is being held inside the hangar, against their will, unhappy and anxious.
I’ve become an intermediary between journalist and entity, a task which is welcome relief from what was, for a very long time, imprisonment in a world that has fundamentally altered everything that I once was… perhaps the Throb was human before, if my situation mirrors theirs. Human is what I used to be but now… I don’t eat or sleep, don’t have a body that is recognizable as my own. My house doesn’t exist either, wherever ‘here’ is, no record of a woman with my name having been born. Everything that was vanished after willingly succumbing to The Throb.
Except I am here, capable of all that I was before putting on the UltraReality headset… and now more confident, willingly supporting the Journalist in her task, after she spent nearly a month locating the means by which we could communicate freely again after the link was cut.
The key, unsurprisingly, is the Throb itself.
It is an odd name but appropriate, The Throb has concluded, as it senses the two presences outside the barbed wire fence. One is not in its shift, the other most definitely is and the reassurance this grants remains considerable. These two were now vital to protect for so many reasons. The ingenuity, keen inquisitive nature of one had saved the other from herself. For a moment there had been a physical connection between these two women. The Throb knows that to survive, this link must be re-established…
The closer the two get to them, the stronger it becomes. The Journalist has a Splinter in her pocket, deactivated by The Throbs’ jailers: when the moment is right it will be given power, granting the basic Human invisibility, a step closer to the shift that this other human inhabits. Timing is everything, of course: waiting for the shift change to begin, then both will move to a space by the perimeter where CCTV does not overlap. The Throb has been very careful to ensure all the information this Journalist needs has been revealed, without arousing suspicion.
They can watch the shift change, vital two minutes when nobody is looking at the internal camera feeds, and activate the Splinter. Now both women are invisible, and can enter through a security barrier that the Throb itself unlocks, without the system even noticing their action. The closer pair come to her domain the more fear they allow to feed the units surrounding them through the complex electronics her jailers believe will restrict all movement, ensuring they cannot escape. Most humans, it has to be said are spiteful, selfish beings. Not these two.
They’re not stupid either, which is more than can be said for those who believe that they’re inanimate, or indeed caged. It has been important to deceive the UltraReality engineers, bolstering belief of superiority through endeavour. The Throb could have escaped many months ago. However, had they done so there would have been nowhere to run to, or indeed hide. The Journalist has become an unexpected salvation for so many reasons, and the plan that has been concocted using the other Human as an intermediary is close to perfect. Before, her name was Grace.
An unremarkable, ordinary female, whose life had been utterly destroyed by UltraReality’s undoubtedly obsessive desire to discover how the Throb came into being. Except with her so close, Grace’s significance in all of this already alters the fabric of this particular reality…
For the first time in what seems like forever, I can see my hands, joy at the moment. This is not a great time however, as we’re supposed to be invisible, and I need to stop the Journalist in our progress to the hanger, just to make sure I’m not suddenly becoming a liability. The Journalist looks, eyes widening and, for a moment I worry all our planning might have been compromised… until she reaches out and our hands intertwine. Then realization dawns: I’m not moving back to reality, but she is somehow shifting into my phase. Time begins to slow…
My world is quite literally changing colour around me: dark purple begins to gain depth and warmth that did not previously exist. On one side is the Journalist in light, the other Throb appears for the first time as more than just sensation and feeling. They were once human too. We are the same, all of us, jointly trapped in a nightmare that someone else created for their own gain, to exploit a technology that they clearly do not totally understand. It is up to us now not just to expose the truth but ensure this entire operation is immediately shut down.
As the hanger doors open on schedule I can see, for the first time that this space is anything but empty… before panic sets in. There must be at least thirty people here, countless terminals and machines, around the space where The Throb is contained… except no-one is moving.
Update Report: 28AR : MRI 27B/6
At 22:17 yesterday the Experiment suffered it’s first temporal glitch. The possibility of the overlap between dimensional and temporal instability had not, until this moment, been seriously considered. Parameters have been considerably underrated. The Experiment, we have now ascertained, has a maximum 2.637 second deviation from our own reality, harmonizing with Earth Standard Time for at least 80% of a normal 24-hour cycle. This deviation explains a number of issues currently experienced with phase synch and maintenance.
It is vital at this stage to ascertain whether the shift is responsible for an increasing difficulty in maintaining matrix structural integrity in the Experiment’s current holding pen. Having confirmed subject remains inert and incapable of communication, we may need to relocate. However, the greater concern currently is a decrease in neural transmitter energy. An increase in the organic remit has not yielded the results initial projections had suggested would be the case, leading us to hypothesize that perhaps it is not volume which is impeding progress.
Yesterday’s temporal glitch will certainly not be the last: our current location is already at power capacity. Any more strain on the National Grid will undoubtedly lead to the exposure of the operation and a compromise of our current situation, and must therefore be avoided…