“Where the fuck am I?” were the first words Gecko uttered as he felt his body sink into a dark cottony substance. His whole frame struggled and writhed, squirmed and wriggled again and again. From his view he could make out the faintest glimmer of light, changing from a deep purple to a sky blue. Everything else was blindness.
For a time’s passing he felt as though he was drowning, but he could breathe just fine. The tight webbing around his body had more or less remained unchanged for hours, although for Gecko – quite possibly because he was afraid – time in that forbidden realm was inert.
His hoodie and beanie were tattered and worn-out. And over the moments he shared with this intricate darkness, he decided his mind was, too.
“What the –”
His arms stiffened.
“– fuck is going on?!" Gecko said.
He fell back into the cottony substance and lost sight of the blue glimmer of light. “HELP!”
All was silent and morbid. It was also particularly cold – the type of cold you’d find in winter blizzards and high-peaked mountaintops. But now there was no snow or rain. Only silence.
Gecko couldn’t remember anything. Anything but his name and the figure he saw in his back garden. Those memories came back in blurred flashes; he could see the stars, the night sky, the nebulae.
“Is anyone there?! GODDAMN!” he called but got no answer, his voice echoing.
He felt trapped in that silky webbing for what felt like hours.
“Someone?” he whispered. “Anyone at all?”
Indeed a lot of time did pass by, and he received no response. The silence was heavier than the Earth’s oceans. It was, in fact, frightening.
After some time, he started singing to himself in soft lullabies. His mother used to sing the same to him as a child, especially when he’d just woken up from a nightmare. He was only five years old back then, but now he was fifteen.
He wasn’t sure how he’d remembered those songs, they were just . . . there. To him it was common knowledge.
Gecko kept his eyes shut, murmuring the lyrics to himself for thirty minutes. Then he could remember something – a face. It was his own.
He opened his eyes again, and saw the blue glimmer return. It was floating in the void with a dim glow – which was now several metres away from him. He kept singing, even though his voice was slowly fading away by the second.
If he’d spent any longer in the silence he would have probably lost his mind – if he didn’t already.
“They dream, they dream,” he sang quietly. “They dream like me . . .”
A voice came from beyond the void, loud and echoey.
“Braeden . . . ?” a woman’s voice said. “Braeden, is that you?”
“Hello?!” Gecko yelled, his voice echoing into the darkness. “IS SOMEONE THERE?!”
“Braeden . . .” the woman said, tearful. “Braeden . . .”
And, Gecko realised, that voice was someone he knew. He knew exactly where it came from, but not who it was. If he’d stopped to ponder for a moment, perhaps he would’ve realised this sooner, but instead he replied, “WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME? WHY AM I HERE?”
The woman began crying. “Braeden . . .”
“WHY DID YOU BRING ME HE –”
Then he finally understood . . . that voice was his mother’s.
His eyes shot open and he let out a gasp.
“Mama!” he yelled. “Mama is that you?!”
She continued crying.
“Mama,” he said, pushing his arms forward and pulling himself up towards the glimmer of light. It shone brighter than it had moments earlier. “I’m right here, Mama!”
The light grew closer.
The webbing that surrounded him was beginning to weaken, and as he continued to pull and push himself upwards, he grabbed hold of something sharp and solid – like the edge of a counter. With one final breath, he pulled himself up over the sharp ledge and rolled over onto his back, panting. Darkness surrounded him at the forefront, but from behind, he could see the glimmer fly towards an even brighter light. It was the spiral – the cyan vortex.
“What –” he said, his heart racing. He stood up, brushed his hands through his braided hair and let out a frustrated sigh. “Aw, no, no, no.”
“WHERE AM I?!” his voice called into the dark empty void. The blue horizon ahead was blending into the spiral. He indeed remembered something else – the night sky. He remembered walking out into his back garden, his shoes snapping the broken glass beneath him. He remembered the comet that was supposed to fly over the Earth. He remembered his telescope, his house . . . and his sister.
And with that, the stars bunched up above him. At first there were only a few, and then there were many. Strokes of lightning split into the night, and then rain came shooting downwards. The wind was alive, and he could feel it shoving his hair back.
But there was something else he hadn’t seen or heard from before: the booming call of the sky.
It hummed loudly, and then the spiral brightened. He recoiled, covering his eyes, tears beginning to form within them.
“What the hell is going on?! Can someone tell me something, anybody?!” he yelled.
There was a voice in the distance.
“You,” it said, muffled, “are forever abandoned.”
The voice was deep, very deep; it sounded like the modulated voice at the Retrove Centre.
“Who said that?!” said Gecko, still covering his eyes.
“I am you,” it said. “We are real. We are one.”
The wind calmed and the hum quietened until all that was left was a deep silence once again.
“You ain’t me.” Gecko huffed. “Where am I?!”
“You do not know where, then neither do we,” the voice said.
“What?” he said. “Just what is speaking?! I don’t remember this place, nor do I remember you.”
“Then neither do we. We are the past. We are the future. But we are forgotten.”
“Uh,” said Gecko. “You’re the past . . . and the future?”
“Yes,” the voice said. “We are you.”
“Then why am I here?” Gecko asked the voice.
“We say that we don’t know. If you cannot know, then we cannot know.”
“So I guess it’s useless askin you questions, huh?”
“We exist for as long as you do. That much we know,” the voice said.
“So . . .” Gecko said.
There was silence.
“Wait,” he said, pointing up at the darkening spiral, “what is that?”
“You do not know, then neither do we,” the voice said.
“That’s . . .” Gecko said. “I remember something like that. There was a UFO. Something round like that. Something . . . weird.”
Then he recalled the images uploaded by NASA, and from there he remembered the video he sent to . . .
“ANDY!” he said, his voice returning to normal. “I REMEMBER NOW! I REMEMBER!”
He could recall their voices, their ideas, their dreams. Phoenix, Andy, Alex . . . they were all there in the back of his brain, whether they were playing games on a PC or travelling through Virtual Reality on a hover-board; they were there.
“Then we do, too,” the voice said.