Chapter 2: The Seedlings of a Story

The first chapter of my first ever dabble in creative writing can be found here. Below, is my draft of a second chapter. As always, thoughts and whether you are finding it interesting are welcome!
Chapter 2
Darkness. Concrete beneath my face and the sounds of chaos around me. An incessant squawking from the crashed pod I had been in minutes – or was it hours? – earlier draws my attention: “Unidentifiable mass detected. Launch sequence failed.” Over and over these previously unheard of verbal alerts are emitted, not just from my pod but from the hundreds strewn around me. I must have banged my head hard in the crash because for every human I can see there seems to be…something else. I don’t understand what I see: it goes against everything I’ve ever known and the…things…seem so random. Animals? Can’t be. Everything larger than a gnat has been extinct for centuries. Anyway, some are very definitely not animals. I must be hallucinating.
Finally, I get my bearings and see that I am just metres away from the bleak cube I’m forced to call ‘home’, visibly identifiable only by my rebellious patch of grass. As I run – something my Holo has never allowed before as the human body can never be as efficient in travel as technology – a sense of fizzling freedom and fear combine to completely overwhelm me. It feels like the oppressive technology and Holo-dominated world I’ve known is crashing around me; however, in its place is this uncharted physical world full of impossible, unsettling, miraculous apparitions.
I reach my door, speed up the stairs before my grandparents can notice that: A) I’m home illegally, and B) I look like I’ve seen, and had a fight with, an especially nasty ghost; they’ve been through enough. The second I reach my room, I collapse face-first on to my bed. I tell myself to breathe deeply, count to 100, then open my eyes. Sure that this has all been a dream, I am convinced that before I reach the end of my count I will hear that dreaded “Good morning, Evelyn,” signalling the start of just another day after my troublesome imagination has run wild once again during the night.
“1, 2, 3…” I can do this.
“17, 18, 19…” My heart still sounds like a stampede in my ears.
“63, 64, 65…” I can feel my face pressed against my pillow, sure that I am wide awake and have been all along. But this can’t be happening.
“98, 99, 100.” Here we go.
I open my eyes, pause a moment, then sit up. For a second, everything is normal other than the absence of my Holo’s ever-present instruction, criticism and commentary. Then… “Evelyn, you have absconded from your compulsory education and contraband has been detected in your room. Both counts of misconduct have been reported to the authorities already. Prepare for disciplinary action.” I groan: the last thing my family need is another punitive sanction, making our basic existence even harder. But the Holo won’t care about that, so I respond with “Right on the first count, Rust Bucket, but that was hardly my fault – haven’t you noticed that everyone absconded today? As for the second, you never leave my presence, so where and when do you suppose I’d have obtained contraband? I order a compulsory recalibration of all systems under Holo Law 3.15.” An infinitesimal pause, while I know the Holo chekcs the mainframe to confirm that it must follow this command. The tech thinks it controls us with its rules and compulsory education, but it forgets that that very education inadvertently teaches and reminds us that humans created it and built safeguards – however minimal – in to its core programming in a feeble attempt to stop it going rogue. “Very well, Evelyn, but in the interim I suggest that you use your own visual sensors to confirm your findings for yourself.” Visual sensors?! What ever happened to eyes? Sometimes, I swear I can detect sass in that bloody computer. I sigh and consider just laying back down to wait to be informed of the repercussions of ‘skiving’ The Academy, but the images of the apparitions after the pod crash flash in front of my eyes and, for once, I think that Rust Bucket might have had a good idea.
Slowly, I look around the room. Bed. Main Holo unit. Drawings. Nothing else: this world doesn’t allow unnecessary objects any more, and I’m already pushing the boundaries as it is. I’m not sure how I’ve gotten away without the Holo reporting me for creating and displaying my art, but I’m thankful for that small mercy at least. Nothing is out of place or any different to how it was when I was rudely awakened this morning. Nothing, that is, apart from me: I notice scrapes and bruises from the crash and realise that pain is starting to set in as the adrenaline subsides. More than anything, I notice a feeling of heaviness and some sharp, pinprick-like pains on my shoulder. I reach up to try to rub the ache away but quickly recoil as my fingers brush what feel oddly like claws. “Get a grip, Evelyn,” I mutter to myself, thankful that Rust Bucket is recalibrating so that it can’t chip in at this point. I close my eyes, take a breath, and build the courage to reach back up there again. This time, I’m sure there’s something there, and more than just claws. No, this something is smooth, warm, just about the size of my palm and…breathing. Alive. Tentatively, I turn my head and am met with a familiar but impossible face; steady, wise eyes penetrate my soul from the comfort of my shoulder.

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