Pixie awoke, wondering why she couldn’t remember anything.
Had she suffered some sort of head trauma? It was possible. Perhaps her lost memories were masking some unfortunate event. Knowing what it was may help determine what immediate steps she should take. She felt her skull, but there were no sore spots. She tried to instinctively sense if she was in danger but came up with nothing.
She was thinking clearly, and knew she that she possessed knowledge, reason and logic. Her empty memories were a real concern, almost to the point of causing despair. She must use her logic and reason, drawing from her bank of knowledge, to figure out where she was and how to get to a safe place where she could get help.
So what did she know?
She was alone, without any food or shelter, and no idea where to find it. That line of thinking went no further because she was now feeling fear. What if she couldn’t find food or shelter? Survival was now going to be her foremost concern, and it was becoming a major one. As the fear grew, it suddenly stopped, and waves of good feelings washed over her. She’d be alright: she’d find help, food and shelter if she just went for a walk. It wouldn’t be hard. She shouldn’t worry so much: things would work out okay if she would just wait. These good thoughts were illogical given her solitude and lack of memory, but she had them all the same. They seemed to come from outside of her, too, which was puzzling. It was as if someone was telepathically sending them. So someone knew she was here. Why weren’t they helping, then? If they could send beautiful thoughts via some advanced mind speak that she had no clue existed, they’d be smart enough to come and get her. So why weren’t they? Why abandon her and almost tease her by sending nice thoughts without actually coming to rescue her physically? She started to get angry and frustrated. Then, back came the good thoughts again, replacing the negative ones.
This cycle puzzled her. Her present situation was frustrating her, and then she got good feelings whenever she felt aggrieved at her memory loss and her solitude. The cycle might continue endlessly if she allowed herself to indulge in it. Feeling aggrieved at her situation, calmness and peace, pondering her existence in light of this calmness, and so on. Not only that, she hadn’t the first clue where the good feelings were coming from. It was all too hard. She must try another approach. It was time to take a closer look at her surroundings.
She was outside, on some beautiful green grass, in the sunlight, on a mountainside. There were rocky peaks all around her, in soft grey shades against the deep blue sky. A variety of trees grew lower down in the valley, providing an appealing mix of colours. The soft breeze and overall stillness of the scene generated peace when taken together as a whole. Everything smelled nice too. There was the unmistakeable scent of fresh grass and dirt, and some pleasant floral aromas she couldn’t name or place.
After having been asleep, she might have expected to wake in a bed, so why wasn’t she in one? The grass, however, was soft and green, and she felt kind of luxurious, laying on it. The softness of her clothes became apparent as they moved with her. Both her pants and her long-sleeved shirt were of a soft, gentle material that hugged her body and stretched easily as she moved around. They had random patterns on them; in violets, blues, silvers and greys. She was also wearing some hiking boots that were so soft and light that she may as well have not been wearing anything at all on her feet.
There was another aspect of her state of mind that she could not explain. She felt free, as if she’d been released from somewhere where her liberty had been suppressed. Resolution of her lost memories might provide some guidance as to where this notion came from. Rather than continue to puzzle this feeling-thought-feeling cycle, she resolved to let it all go and to try to find out more by exploring her immediate area. She stood up. It was time to take action and find a source of help.
She looked down at her body at the same moment. She was quite small in stature. She didn’t remember that either; of course. She could also see the ends of her hair: it was blonde and wavy. Her skin was fair. She recalled that skin of her colouring was more susceptible to sunburn than most types, but it seemed like the sun couldn’t hurt her now. It just warmed her; a good thing. She glanced vaguely in its direction in appreciation, which caused the overall mountain scene to become her prime focus once more. It really was breathtakingly beautiful. The entire scene had the fresh appearance of having rained recently, although the grass she had been laying on was perfectly dry. Health and vitality radiated all around her.
In the distance, she spied a small flock of birds, flying upwards from a forest, in a strange spiral formation. They were gloriously white, and their spiralling flight path mesmerised her for a moment. They lingered for a while, then flew off into the distance, moving gracefully the entire time. Other than the birds, there was no other visible movement. How had she found herself here, in this beautiful but isolated place? This location was quite exposed. Shouldn’t she be near shelter in case the weather changed? Where was her next meal coming from?
She looked up towards the peak of the mountain she was on. The summit of the mountain she was on was obscured from her view. Going up didn’t seem logical, as she suspected water and perhaps food would be down the valley somewhere. Down the mountainside presented as the best option. It was likely to have a water source of some sort, whereas the top of the mountain would not. Farther down the valley, beyond the far side of a large forest, something caught her eye.
It was a small village, down towards the bottom of the valley. There was no sign of movement within it, but from this distance it was hard to tell anyway. A flash of hope went through her. Maybe there would be people there, who could help her remember where she lived and who she was, other than just her name. The village was quite distant; possibly eight to ten kilometres? If she could get there before dark, the villagers could provide food and shelter and maybe assistance to her memory problem. These thoughts galvanised her, and she resolved to start walking down the mountain.
She must find someone who could help her remember herself. The villagers would surely know who she was or could direct her to a source of help; someone who might identify her. They could explain the strange clothes, where she was geographically, and perhaps even the source of those peaceful waves that kept arriving whenever she felt bad. That last one might be more problematic.
It was a three- to four-hour walk, maybe more. She wasn’t great at estimating distances or time; this much she knew. She seemed to be comfortable with the concept of walking, so clearly hiking must be a thing for her, if only she could remember things like that. She didn’t have a watch on, so she had no idea what time it was now. By the sun’s position in the sky, it was late morning; maybe ten or eleven o’clock. She should have enough time to get to the village before it got dark.
There was no trail or marked path in front of her, which left the impression the landscape in general was not heavily populated. However, it was easy to walk on the grass, and the route down the valley appeared to be straightforward and easy to navigate. As she got farther down the mountain, she lost sight of the village due to the changing slope of the valley and the forest in her path that began to loom larger as she got closer. However, she was comfortable the direction she was taking was the right one. It didn’t seem as if she could get lost if she stayed at the lowest part of the valley.
She was starting to get a little thirsty. Concurrent with that thought was the appearance of a stream a few hundred metres directly in front of her. Its source was a connecting valley to her left. That particular valley did not have as many trees as the one she was on now. The stream meandered between rocks and grass, sparkling in the sunlight.
It was a beautiful environment, for sure, but how had she gotten here and why couldn’t she remember anything before that morning? Who would she have been with before she lost her memory? If she was with someone, why did they abandon her? If she was alone, what could she have possibly been doing by herself in such a remote location? She must have been hiking and somehow had an accident that caused her amnesia without leaving any residue of pain. It was the most logical conclusion, but without physical evidence it was hard to accept it totally. She reasoned back and forth for a while as she walked, and this was the best she could do. For now.
She had reached the stream, and the water was even more translucent up close than from afar. Stones and rocks on the riverbed were clearly visible. She knelt down and took a cautious sip in her cupped hands. The water was cool, sweet and refreshing. She paused after having a few mouthfuls and considered her next course of action.
Her growing hunger was a concern. Food in the wild was not something she thought she could easily find. There was some berry-like items on a nearby shrub that were probably inedible or even poisonous. She wasn’t that desperate yet. It was wise to not try to eat anything random in the wild anyway. She pushed the idea of food aside until she got to the village. She could drink water from the stream in the meantime and hope that filled her up enough to ward off the hunger.
She’d rested enough for now. She stood and started walking down the valley again. Her feet were a little sore, but her determination to get to the village overrode the discomfort. She kept the stream to her left, as it was flatter on that side. The trees increased in number on the way down, and by the positioning of the sun, she guessed it was roughly mid-afternoon.
After some more walking – it was hard to guess how much without a timepiece on her – she reached the forest she had seen from her starting point. Actually, perhaps it was better to call it her wake-up point, or even her awakening point. That last one was best description. She’d call it that.
The forest was quite imposing, and she would have to traverse through it. She was starting to get quite tired and she guessed she had been walking for about three or four hours. The stream was still on her left, and the going was a bit more difficult, as there were fallen branches, and the grass was thicker in places. She knew from the mental picture of the surrounding peaks she had taken at her awakening point that the village must be close. The forest was suddenly quite thick with trees, bushes and grass, and the going was slower.
As Pixie walked through the early stages of the forest, she tried to find the village, but was unable to locate it through the denseness of the trees. The light was now penetrating the trees further down the valley. The other end of the forest was therefore nearby, yet there was no sign of the village. She had to trust that the stream would take her there. There was no other option. She heard a bird tweeting, and glanced around, but saw nothing. She began walking again. The light was indeed improving as the forest canopy receded. Another few minutes and she finally saw it between the trees.
The village was right there in front of her. She was going to make it.
It was probably about ten to twenty minutes’ walk from her current position. She was feeling a good deal of relief at the sight of buildings that would provide shelter and comfort. Adding to this relief was the appearance of a narrow path leading towards the village, not far ahead of her. It was a walking trail only, but it was definitely there. The concern for her welfare vanished, and her thoughts turned to how the villagers would receive her.
As she got closer she still could not see anyone moving around. It was the middle of the afternoon, on a pleasant day, yet no-one was outside? She would not have expected this in any village from her knowledge bank. There were seven buildings in total. Six of a similar size and a larger central building. A few more minutes of walking and studying it, and there was still nobody outside and no clear signs of habitation, such as items positioned randomly outdoors, as she might see if she was looking at a settlement that was fully or even partially occupied. The whole village was surrounded by grassed areas and trees, nothing more. It was clean, beautifully laid out, but was apparently unoccupied.
Her hopes of resolving her amnesia were slipping away. She desperately wanted to know who she was, where she lived, and the people in her life who mattered to her. An abandoned village was not going to help with resolving this problem.
There must be someone: friend, partner, relative, who really cared and wondered where she was. They’d be concerned for her welfare and this notion along bothered her as much as any. She began to pine for companionship, for someone to talk to. Anyone, it didn’t matter if they were strangers. This was the only settlement visible, and it seemed a very remote location. If there was no help here, where could she go? She began to despair as she thought along these lines.
A wave of calmness hit her again. The rush was so strong and reassuring that her previously worrisome thoughts vanished immediately. She was grateful to whoever was sending the nice thoughts to her, even if she had no idea how they were doing it. Hope returned, and she could now study the village. No need to completely give up just yet.
The construction of the buildings was at once foreign yet comforting. Their appearance did not fit in with anything in her knowledge bank about how houses should look. They were not made of wood or brick, or even metal. They had a strange white plaster appearance, with unusual windows and doors made of some sort of reflective crystal, preventing her from seeing inside. The houses were perfectly square in shape. The roof of each house, as well as the central building, sloped upwards on all sides, reaching a four-sided pyramidal shape at the top. The top portion of each roof was covered by more of the same strange crystalline material as the windows. Such advanced looking buildings held the promise of providing good shelter. As for food, she was not so sure.
The stream she had been following most of the day had been gently widening of late. Within the village, it was very much an attractive centrepiece. A bridge between the two middle houses and near the larger central building permitted movement across the stream. There were some tall, leafy trees scattered throughout the village, in amongst the houses and surrounding the large central building.
The village was strikingly symmetrical in its design and it was obvious that the buildings had been constructed at the same time. Crafted was perhaps a better description: their appearance was as near flawless as her knowledge bank would permit her to imagine. The six identical houses were laid out in a uniform, pre-planned pattern, with the community centre, as she was now calling it, in the middle of the village and clearly a focal point. It was as if it was all designed for a specific purpose or a set number of people.
“Hello?” she called tentatively as she approached the middle two houses. Silence was the only response.
“Is anyone there?”
There was no return sound whatsoever other than the wind blowing gently around the buildings. No dogs barked, no doors opened, or anything like that. She was beginning to believe this pristine village full of strangely constructed buildings and beautiful trees was deserted.
However, it didn’t look derelict. It was clean and liveable, if that was the right word, which might mean the inhabitants had vacated for some reason. In keeping with her overall impression of things – she did not suspect anything had gone wrong. There was simply no-one here. She called out again, this time quite loudly.
“Hello!” No response.
The layout of the village was easier to assess now that she was inside of it. The houses were arranged in a semi-circle, with an opening towards the down-hill part of the valley that the village was in. The community centre sat in the middle of the village, about two hundred metres from the two central and rearmost houses.
Leading from each house to the community centre was a series of stone paths. It was clearly a gathering place for the village and may well serve several functions judging by its appearance. It had two wings or rooms that branched off from the centre, and she had the impression each wing and the central area had specific purposes within the village. There was a garden of sorts on the right, and a veranda on the left. A most interesting aspect of the village layout was that the stream passed right under the central building. She’d look at that later. Exploring one of the houses was her first task. There was a house on the left of her, and one on the right. She chose the left hand one.
She walked around to the front of this strange, square house with the white plaster appearance, which didn’t feel like plaster as she ran her fingers across it. It was smooth yet almost spongy in texture. The door was made of the same crystal material as the windows and the dome of the roof, yet it was opaque and obscured the interior of the house. She knocked, and quietly inquired one last time.
“Hello? Is anyone home?” As expected, there was no answering voice.
She ran her fingers down the strange crystalline door, feeling the smooth texture. It was much like glass, but she sensed great strength in it. Not that she planned to, but she got the impression she could give it a firm rap with a carpenter’s hammer and it wouldn’t even make a mark. It was utterly foreign to her. The glass, if she could even call it that, was more advanced in its appearance than anything she thought was possible. She was most definitely in a place where the building materials and design were highly advanced. It was all so foreign as to leave her even more puzzled at where on Earth she could be.
The overall impression of strength that the glass door provided comforted her. The other side of it must be totally safe and secure if the door was made of such material. She went to open the door but there was no door handle. How strange! How did the door open then? She tried pushing it gently and it gave way ever so slightly. She pushed further and peered inside. Instinctively, she called out one more time. It was pointless. No-one was here.
She stepped inside, hit by a rush of nervousness brought on by her expectations of what the inside of the house must be like. She paused for a moment, still half expecting someone to be home, but the house appeared to be unoccupied. The interior was clean, and there were no signs of habitation, nor indications of movement.
It was surprisingly unremarkable inside. The furnishings looked quite plain and conventional. This was somewhat disappointing. She wanted everything to be magical, especially the living areas of the houses. She had hoped for a dazzling array of otherworldly items, lights, colours and so on. Instead, the furniture had a comfortable and clean appearance and was not mystical and excitingly foreign like the walls and roof that surrounded it.
She felt like an intruder, however. This wasn’t her house. She might get into trouble for being here. She didn’t know who the owner was. Finding signs of identification might be useful. Maybe they had family pictures up somewhere, or paperwork laying around with names on it, or other such possessions.
A quick glance at the living room revealed there was nothing of the sort immediately evident. There was a lack of books, or decorations or memorabilia on shelves or tables; items which would indicate the house was lived in. She stepped further inside, letting the door go. It swung gently back into place. She marvelled at how it moved gracefully back to its default position, slowing as it got there. There was no door handle on the inside either. She momentarily panicked, rushing back to grab it before it closed. She was too late, but surely such an advanced door would not lock the occupant inside? Therefore, she pushed outwards. It moved in that direction as well. She relaxed and felt a little foolish for worrying in the first place.
She turned back around to the living area in front of her. There was a lounge suite, a coffee table and some other side tables. There were several doors leading off from the main living area, presumably to bedrooms, and in front of her was some sort of a kitchen. Her quick impression was that this house definitely had no occupants right now. However, perhaps only this house was unoccupied. The house on the opposite side of the bridge over the stream might have someone home.
She walked quickly across the bridge and found an identical front door on this house. It swung in the same direction as the door in the other house did. She had a flash of realisation. Ah, this would be so the doors all open the same way so as not to confuse people. Not quite symmetrical, by necessity.
She pushed this door in the same way as the other and it opened. As it did, she fervently hoped to find it littered with possessions, items on tables and other indicators of habitation in this house. Disappointingly, there were none of these things. She became quite disheartened, as she rationalised that searches of the other houses would yield the same result. She’d also called out enough times. There was no-one living in this village.
The furniture in this particular house resembled the other one. She studied the interior design and construction a little more closely this time. The crystalline windows that were opaque when viewed from the outside were entirely clear when she looked through them from the inside, enabling her to see out into the village. A glance down the valley revealed that the daylight was beginning to fade. At this, it occurred to her that she hadn’t eaten at all and needed to find some food.
She walked past the lounge setting, which was quite inviting, but not enough to override her sudden hunger. Hunger that was also accompanied by some moments of worry. If there was no-one here, would there be any food? What if someone had built this village and no-one had moved in yet? Would she have to move on to another place where there were people and food? Had she stumbled into a vacant housing development, albeit strangely advanced and serene, that no-one was living in yet? If so, there wouldn’t be any food at all.
Now she was truly fearful, but only momentarily, as the waves of good thoughts came back again. They were truly “waves of peace”. She only felt peace after they arrived and a general sense that all would be well. How they were being sent to her, and by who, remained a mystery.
She moved with some urgency past the dining setting and into an unusually laid out kitchen area. As she did so, the lights in the house gently turned on, as if someone had wandered in and flicked a switch. Of course there was no-one there when she looked. The lights were automated and could somehow detect light levels in the room and match them. She looked a bit closer at one. It was simply a square piece of that same crystal, recessed into the ceiling. No wires were present. The light’s ability to be automated and vary its brightness was entirely unexplainable. It was another extraordinary piece of technology. The advanced nature of this house and indeed the whole village was slowly revealing itself to her. How many more high-tech devices would she find?
Her awareness returned to the kitchen as a whole. It consisted of one L-shaped counter, which was made of a white granite material. Perhaps it was indeed granite. There was a covered stove top and an oven underneath it, on the smaller section of the “L”. There were only two boxes on the countertop, on the long side of the “L”. One box in the middle was black and had a small sink next to it. Farther to the right was a white box, which might be a small refrigerator. She opened it and was hit by a blast a cool air. That’s indeed what it was. However, it was disappointingly empty.
Her hunt for food, anything at all, had begun. She opened cupboards and drawers, initially finding cutlery, then some drinking cups made of some biodegradable plant material. They were a dark green colour, such that they might be made of plant- or fibre-based cardboard. There was, however, nothing to eat that she could see anywhere. This was a problem that needed to be solved quite soon.
This must be some sort of strange hotel or motel. That might be what this place was. If so, why was the front door not locked and why was there no number on the door, as there was with hotels and motels in her knowledge bank? The idea of this being a motel made her think of motor vehicles, with customers turning up to stay the night. Then it dawned on her: she had not seen a single road all day; not up on the mountain, and not down here in the village. No cars, motorbikes, bicycles, or any other ground transportation. Yet another strange aspect to this environment to be puzzled through at some point. Not now, though. Finding food was still the priority.
As she had this thought she glanced at again at the black metallic box on the kitchen bench. It was about three feet wide, three feet deep and a foot or so high. It had some unusual buttons on it, along with a simple black door handle. The buttons had pictures of food on them, drawn in somewhat of a cartoon style. Each button described particular types of food. The first one had fruit on it, the second vegetables, the third cereal and grains. The next button had dairy products on it, the next herbs and the next had a meal plate on it. The seventh button had a picture of an ice-cream sundae on it and the last an array of drinks. She’d never seen anything like this before. Or, rather, her knowledge bank came up blank when she tried to recall what this machine was.
She was intrigued. She pressed the button with fruit on it. Suddenly, a section below the buttons lit up with a range of pictures of dozens of different fruits, with a plus symbol at the bottom and an arrow pointing to the right. She did not even realise that the section below the buttons was some sort of screen. The screen was quite magical, bright and colourful; it delighted her. The only screens she knew of were on television sets and scientific instruments. Televisions had curved screens and a big box at the back. They were sometimes black and white, other times colour, if the owner had enough money to afford one. Scientific instruments were small and green, and usually had blips and lines on them at best. This screen was flat and not curved like on a television set and was built into the front of the box.
One of the pictures on the screen was of a cartoon-like strawberry. It looked so cute that she pressed the image lovingly. She was startled by the machine’s response. The strawberry button glowed brighter, and the machine began making some whirring and hissing sounds that were kind of soothing. She got the strangest sense that the machine had been given a task and was grateful to be carrying it out. She tried to dismiss this as a product of her imagination, but it lingered, nonetheless.
After about ten seconds, the noises stopped, and the door gently clicked open. She cautiously grasped the door handle, opened the door and peered inside. On a slightly raised platform, gently lit by a soft interior light, was a simple round bowl made of that same green plant-like material, with around eight to ten strawberries in it. She was astonished. Where did the machine get them from? She peered further inside, looking for a door or something that this bowl had emerged from. All she could see was a varying array of vents and holes in the interior wall of the box. It was a total mystery how the strawberries had arrived inside the machine.
She took the bowl out and partially shut the door. There was only one conclusion if the machine had no interior compartments: it had, somehow, fantastically, created the strawberries from nothing. What sort of world was she in? Houses with pointed crystalline rooves; mystical waves of peace, hi-tech clothing and now a food creating machine? It was almost too much to wrap her mind around. Then there was the amnesia, providing a lovely backdrop to all the mystery.
She was still ravenously hungry. She picked up a strawberry, pulled the leaves off and put it in her mouth. It tasted just like she had expected it to taste. She even marvelled that the strawberries were not all identical – as if they’d been plucked from a real strawberry plant. She had two more strawberries, such that her immediate hunger subsided. It was time to try another button. The meal button. Of course!
She pressed it. Excitingly, a whole range of pictures showed up on the screen. If she touched one this time, it would create that food. She needed to choose before pressing. She reasoned the arrow at the bottom might point to more food options. When she pressed it, it created a new screen, and now both a left and right arrow appeared at the bottom. In this way she could navigate back and forth through dozens of meal images, from all sorts of cuisines. She settled on a fish meal and pressed its image.
A flashing picture of the door appeared at the top. She needed to close the door first. She did so, and the machine sprung into life. More whirring, hissing and stirring noises. She waited with some excitement for it to finish. It also took only a few seconds, and then the door opened again.
She almost tore the door off its hinges. Another green plant-like plate sat on the interior floor of the box, with her meal perfectly arranged on it. Two pieces of grilled fish, some exquisitely decorated mashed potato, and the most beautiful looking green peas she could imagine. It was lightly steaming, and it smelled delicious. Her hunger would soon be satisfied.
She needed cutlery, so she took some from one of the cupboards she had found before, along with a cup, which she filled with water from the sink next to the food machine. Like everything else so far, the sink had some features she wasn’t expecting either. As she put her cup underneath the tap, the water started flowing automatically. It stopped when she removed the cup. Not as exciting as the food machine, but still impressive, nonetheless.
She took her meal to the dining table. She was grateful as she put the plate down on the table and glanced back at the machine that had astounded her by creating it. It was her new favourite thing in this unusual place. For the briefest of moments, she got the vaguest of notions that the machine was pleased with itself. She must be imagining this. Machines weren’t sentient, were they? The impression was quite strong and it was puzzling. She dismissed the thought as her hunger intruded, and she began to eat. The meal was every bit as tasty and satiating as it looked. With each bite she remained incredulous as to how this meal had literally been created from nothing.
Upon finishing, she took her plate back to the bench and placed it in the sink. She would figure out what to do with it later. She had a few more strawberries. Sleep began to encroach into her mind. It had been a long day, with no memory and in a foreign environment. She resolved to try more meal options, and especially the desserts, once she’d had some sleep. However, she was so tired that as soon as she laid down, she knew it would be for the night. Dessert could wait until tomorrow. She put the remaining strawberries in the small refrigerator.
There were a few soft pillows and some inviting looking blankets on one of the couches. She laid down on the couch and snuggled beneath two of the blankets. The couch was far more comfortable that it had first looked. The bluish-grey fabric of the couch was soft and gentle on her skin, as were the pillow and the blankets, which were light but warm. She pulled them over her, feeling safe and protected, ready to lose herself in sleep. It must have taken only milliseconds for her to achieve this.
It was then that, for the first time that day, her world turned to darkness, fear and misery.