Ghost Cache

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'POST' 1.4

A While Earlier

Cube Farm 3

1709's world had become a nightmare.  Nothing made sense.  Not the drab office full of ghosts, nor the shifting shapes and symbols that overlaid it.

A voice spoke, giving instructions.  That was clear enough.

1709 examined the so-called 'form', trying not to look at it directly.  It was easier to read without trying to focus on it with both eyes.

What is your intake number? "1709."
Where are you? "This place is called 'Cube Farm 3'."
Where were you before you came here? "I think I was in the ghost cache, but it doesnt' seem real, so I'm not certain."
What did you do there? "I made seemingly endless decisions and performed calculations."
How long were you there? "I was not aware of the passage of time in any measurable way"
How did you feel in that place? "I don't remember.  It all seems flat now."
How do you feel about leaving that place? "I'm confused about what happened and what is happening now."
How do you feel about this place? "There's something very wrong about it, but I don't think I'm in immediate danger."
Do you remember anything from before the previous place? "Many things, but they don't fit together well.  I remember a tall building with a light on the top.  I remember living in a big city.  I remember a man who caused trouble.  I remember laughing with friends.  I remember pain and loss.  I remember a bag.  I remember youth and age."
Do you remember your name, or any other names? "No.  The names are all gone.  I remember people but not who they are to me, or who I am to them."
Do you know if you are a man or a woman? "I'm a woman.  I'm sure of that.  I have no idea how old I am, or have been."

She chose to speak her answers, as writing was difficult with half her vision swimming and fracturing.  Her voice felt wrong.  It was toneless, not personal.  That made a certain sense, given the state of her body.  Instead of human flesh, she was a vague translucent mass.  A hazy mannequin standing in for a human body.  Some piece of knowledge tried to tell her that this was normal, but she knew it was not.  However, it was an improvement over her previous indeterminate period of complete formlessness.

There were a few key facts that 1709 chose not to record on the form.  The first was that she had no memory of being told that this place was called 'Cube Farm 3'.  It was an apt description of this office divided into cubicle workstations, but why was it number three?  She also did not remember entering this place.  The other fact that she'd chosen to keep to herself was that she had never before used the label 'ghost cache', and had no idea where that label had originated either.  No one had told it to her.

Feeling increasingly suspicious, 1709 decided not to fill out any more of the form until she understood her situation better.  According to the voiced instructions, there was no great urgency.  Instead, she listened.

There was not much to hear.  Her fellow 'prospective workers' were occupied filling in their own forms.  1709 could hear the soft tapping of a few touch keyboard users.  If she strained, she thought she could could hear the slightest scratching of pens.  Perhaps she was imagining it.  The people using voice entry were the easiest to hear, but their words were muffled past the point of comprehension.  Beyond that, 1709 could not hear anything.  No air conditioning fans, no footsteps passing in a hall, no passing vehicles.  Nothing.

1709 silently waited and listened.  She tried thinking of any explanation for what was happening, but she could not.  Whatever this was, it was entirely new to her.  Or she had forgotten it.  She was sure she had forgotten a lot of things.  It was as if a scaffold had been dropped on her head, scattering brains everywhere.  Now all she had was the scaffold and whatever bits of brain had stuck to it.  In this picture, the scaffold was a structure of words and ideas that were in her head, but did not feel like they belonged.

"You're all doing great," said the voice of the so-called 'intake manager', Kanda.  Some brief instructions followed.

1709 looked carefully at the indicated headset, which appeared to be a fancy pair of white goggles.  After some consideration she decided to follow the instructions.  It was the best way to find out more.  There was nothing to putting the goggles on, besides making sure she had them up the right way.  The goggles were completely opaque.  Her left eye's vision was blocked completely.  Her right eye didn't change much, but it hadn't been working right to begin with.

There wasn't much time to consider her eyes.  As soon as she had finished tightening the goggles comfortably, the world seemed to melt away.

A brief moment of nothing was interrupted by a region of deep green searing itself into her mind.

  • Entering VIVID Session...
  • Detected VIVID Bulk Subscriber: Oji-CF3.
  • Loading Playertag Data: GC-30108-1706...
  • Activating Hireling Mode as Character: Nebumi Fifty-Two
  • Loading Local Environment and History...
  • Simulating Absent Time...
  • Enforcing Synchronised Dreamstate...
  • Blinking in to your location: East Garden Market, Lumberton, Southern Plateau, Mawgenlea, Riches of Renfros

A piece of foreign knowledge told her this was normal.  Instead of simply accepting that, she considered the words a little more carefully.

Dreamstate.  This is a dream.  Not a natural one, but a specific dream induced by technology, called VIVID.  The dream is a game, and I'm a player.  Player GC-30108-1706, specifically.  That's my intake number on the end of my player ID.  I'm being hired to play a character named Nebumi Fifty-Two.  That name sounds... mass produced.

1709's musings were interrupted by the imposition of a complete scene into her consciousness.  A bright blue message accompanied the transition.

  • Welcome back to Lumberton, Nebumi Fifty-Two!
  • The Nojus Family wishes you pleasant dreams.

Everything about this unreal reality was a bit too bright, too loud, too present.  It was a shock after the muted semi-presence of Cube Farm 3.  Whatever was wrong with the vision in 1709's right eye was even worse here.  Instead of vision, a torrent of inexplicable symbols, shapes and concepts seemed to collide with her brain.  Ignoring it was the only viable option, but doing that was a struggle.  As a consequence, she could hardly take in her surroundings.

As promised, there was some kind of open-air market, composed of stalls where vendors offered great variety of fruits, vegetables and flowers for sale.  A crowd of people stood around the periphery, barely moving.  She caught looks of awe on the faces of two of the closest such people.

These have to be others like me.  Other... ghosts.  I'm... I'm a ghost.  Does that mean I'm dead?  I don't feel dead.

In fact, she felt so overwhelmingly alive that she had not yet had the presence of mind to examine the body of Nebumi Fifty-Two which she was temporarily inhabiting.  She did not get the chance.

  • Hireling time limit reached.
  • Exiting VIVID Session...
  • We thank you for choosing Nojus.

She hoped she would get another chance.  This was the most interesting thing she could remember happening to her.  But as interesting as it was, it was still a nightmare.

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