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Pandora’s Code


By Murillo


Copyright © 2018 Alejandro Hernandez Murillo

Smashwords Edition.


Smashwords Edition Licence Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


Table of Contents

Prologue - Radiation

Part One - Koba

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Part Two - Code

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Part Three - Time

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Part Four - Reset

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Epilogue - Raba

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

About Murillo

Other titles by Murillo


Prologue RADIATION


It was not me. Whoever did this, it was not me. It was not Delta, nor Martha, nor Galicia, nor Sophie. Primarily it was not Sophie. It was not us. We are not the guilty ones. Nobody should go to turnaround to see us, point us with the finger and say: "It was them. Those sons of bitches, they destroyed the world." We did not do it. Perhaps nobody who lives today did it.

The world was destroyed many years ago, even before I was born.

Fifty years ago, or maybe a little more, the excessive use of technologies resulted in radioactive electronic waves scattered throughout the world until annihilating 93% of the surface of the earth. The streets were filled with sand. The cities became ghost towns. Six billion people died. Those that survived escaped to the interior of the world to live in underground or hermetically closed buildings.

No one can go outside even for a second. Those who have tried died in seconds. They say that a simple solution would be to stop using technology and return to barbarism ... but that is impossible. Nobody would give up their virtual world, their mobile phone networks, or the binary code. It is what makes your life bearable. To close your eyes, connect to the cloud and navigate to distant, enjoyable, pleasant lands, and let life take its course. Nobody would give up that. Nobody!

Koba Industries rule the world.

Seven years ago, it made an artificial island free of radiation. They called it Xíctli because it is the navel of the world in the coordinates of latitude: 24 ° 3'48.58" S, Longitude: 144 ° 46'20.22" W. Only the most skilled workers can aspire to live there.

The rest would do the impossible to achieve it.

Even we, who live here, are ready to do it.

We will do what it takes, whatever it is.

Delta, Martha, Galicia, Sophie, the Guard, and I, Jalil are the only tenants this building has so far.

We will do anything.


Part One KOBA


Chapter 1


It was not supposed to be like this.

I was supposed to be somebody already. At my age, I was supposed to be someone important. The big man, with bibliographical references scattered all over the world. Supposedly people would know my name, by now. My reputation would precede me. They would know about me without even knowing me, without even shaking my hand.

I was supposed to live in Xíctli, the only place in the world where you can leave your house, observe the sky and the stars. To walk on the beach, step on the sand and play with the sea. To enjoy the breeze, see the palm trees and listen to mature coconuts falling to the ground.

Drink whiskey on the ice at the mega hotel restaurants without even having to extend the credit card to pay.

"Your money is not valid here, sir," they were supposed to say. I would be so important that I would not even carry money in my wallet. I would not even have a wallet. Everything would be delivered to me with just a glance.

"I need ..." I would say to them.

"We know, sir," someone would answer me, whoever it was. "You don’t have to say anything. We know. It is at your disposal." They would deliver everything to me without denying anything. All would be paid for my reputation, for my work, for my vital importance to Industries Koba, to the world.

I was supposed to be like this.

But no, I'm still here.

In the building, looking at the closed windows, reinforced with steel blocks, without any windows, nor any minimal space to look outside. It is hermetic; nothing can enter. Nobody can leave.

Sometimes I imagine how it will be like out there, on the street, in the villages, in the countryside.

They say the world is the same as the day it was abandoned. There are still cars on the road. In the houses, you still can find dishes in the washbasin, the stretched beds, the children's toys, the books in the libraries, the dresses in the showcases of the commercial stores, and the corpses.

The streets crammed with skeletons wrapped in the sand. The vegetation is dry, dead, without a drop of water, without animals, without any life, in silence. It is disgusting and total silence.

I imagine this rough, with dust everywhere, with an earthy brown color. The pigments on the posters I suppose they have lost their strength. The colors of the objects: the cars, the buildings, the clothes, etc. Everything has lost its pigmentation as magazines exposed to the sun for years.

It is brown. Everything is brown.

Or perhaps it is orange, of an intense sun that wipes out more and more the earth without ultraviolet waves that protect it.

I don’t know.

I have never seen it.

Since I was born, I have only seen the underground.

My parents abandoned their homes without rescuing anything, not even photographs or memories. They only took each other and ran desperately as the other thousands human beings did, those who evacuated that day in a global level. They squeezed into the subway lines, closed the doors. They sought a life inside, digging more and more, constructing tunnels, escaping madly from the radioactive electric waves.

Ten years later, I was born in the underground, as was typically born, in infrahuman conditions, as it was usually in those times. With a mortality rate so high that can’t be named.

I don’t know how many children died. I do not do statistics. Death was so common that the figures were countless.

Many people died, very few survived.

The so-called human being was about to become extinct from the face of the earth without giving up his virtual video conferences.

Koba came to save us.

It took over and solved the situation.

We don’t know how.

I don’t remember. My parents did not tell me, nobody said me. We don’t know, maybe nobody knows. Only Koba knows.

On the top of that, nobody knows Koba. Nobody has seen it; we only know its image, its logo on every device of the house, on every televised image, on every food container. There it is: "Koba Industries" with a happy face, a man smiling. "You work for a better future."

The first buildings were a surprise, a pleasant wonder.

They took advantage of the aesthetics, the wiring, and the devices that existed before. There is no way to build new ones, so they experimented in them. In modern creations with an old look were achieved. In those excellent and beautiful perfect buildings for all of us.

For the first time, people left the sewers and cockroaches and climbed, through tunnels, wandering along long corridors, endless stairs to arrive at those unique buildings, radiation-free, with all the luxuries you can imagine. Departments, rooms, kitchen, living room, furniture, bathrooms…

Oh God! Bathrooms!

The first bathroom was great! The water fell on my body as a divine gift. I took a shower, as my father said they used to do back in the old days, like before the disaster.

At first, it was a terrible fear. I had never seen a shower. I did not know what it was. Those metal pipes in the tile walls with a circular artifact crammed with tiny holes.

What the hell was that?

I did not want to go in. I had never seen it. What would come out of there? Why was I naked?

My parents took my clothes off and forced me into it.

"Come on. You will like it," they said.

I did not believe them.

"I remember this," said my mother. "I remember, this used to be open like this." And she opened the hot water as if she knew the drill.

The impact of the water escaped through the holes caused terror in me so frightening that it made me cry out in fear.

However, no, there was no danger, it was...

It was terrific, like a dream I had never had.

It was an average bathroom, with bars of soap, a sponge, and a towel. I remember I did not want to leave. It was so beautiful that I took thousands shower per day. I used to play there. I used to spend the whole day there. It was unbelievable. I could not believe my eyes. Nevertheless, it was right, for the first time I was enjoying a real, healthy life. A life that was only be told in the legends of the old world.

"We have a normal life. At last!" my father said and wept with happiness. That was the first time I saw him crying. It was as scary as hell and equally as more beautiful than I ever imagine.

Since then, we live in the buildings, as usual, ordinary human beings.

"And if you work, it will be better, much better," Koba said.

Therefore, people obeyed Koba. They owed him a lot. We still do. We owe him more than we could pay. We are willing to give him everything, absolutely everything. And each time the reward is more significant, better. It is a more extensive department, a higher floor, better technologies, a faster computer. 180 GB / s memory bandwidth, four terabytes of capacity, mobile phones with a 1360p screen, video card, high definition and large storage capacity.

Besides, there is the dream of going to Xíctli where life is great.

I just wish my parents had seen it.

My parents did not make it, they died without leaving the building, but they still enjoyed life. Living in an airtight building with all the comforts was better than mud, sewers, rats and semi-compost food.

They died happily. Stupidly happily!

"But you… You will manage to achieve it," they said. "Your mind will get it done. You have everything to get it done. It is in your head, in your heart, in your numbers…!"

My numbers.

The best thing I have ever done has been the numbers. They move in my mind dancing and dancing like beautiful Russian dancers in ancient scenarios before the electric waves.

Therefore…

I stayed to live here, in my parents' building, with the old furniture from that time, the tables, the bed, the curtains, the clothes. It is the identical scenario since 30 years ago. The walls are the same, the pictures on the wall, the corridors of the building, the steel blocks that protect us from outside and the neon lights all day, 24/7.

It is unable to turn them off.

It is incapable of avoiding them.

With enough light for the surveillance cameras that Koba Industries needs to evaluate us and know who to send to Xíctli as a reward and who doesn’t.

"Yes. Koba should see us," people said. "We should let them know who we are, let them recognize us, let them admire us, and let them choose us and point at us. ‘He, he must go to Xíctli. Bring him here.’"

And the Guard knocked on the door:

"Koba asked for you," he said and nothing more. People used to clutch his belongings, smiled and as a family went to Xíctli without turning back and never coming back.

They were never to be seen again.

They used to leave with a smile on their faces, exploding in tears of happiness for a life without walls, with air, natural air! With a sky, and the possibility of going outside and enjoying the bright light of the sun and the breeze on the skin.

Others did not make it, most of them.

They only waited until their life vanished from their hands and the apartment was torn out empty, unoccupied. Nobody else lived there. Instead, the building emptied more and more.

Today we are only 6: Martha, Delta, Galicia, Sophie, the Guard and I.

There are only six people in a 10-floored building.

It is the same building where my parents lived. It is the same one where I have lived since I was 10, 40 years ago. It is the same.

It was not supposed to be like this.

Mathematics should have gotten me out of here long ago.

"You are a genius," they said. "You are out of here in no time. When Koba Industries get to see your efforts, your skills, your codes... When they see how much you are worth, you will leave. I envy you."

I envy you.

People always ended the phrase with the same line: "I envy you." Some of them stayed there, watching me with tearful eyes. Others tried to smile for me. And some other got angry. Many, many people envied me. "If only I were like you," they said. "If only I had your mind, your brain."

"My mathematical theories will contribute a lot of to Koba," they said.

"You will be great. I tell you that."

"Before you turn 20 you will be in Xíctli, I assure you."

Xíctli!

Sometimes I think Martha married me for that reason. "

We'll go to Xíctli," she said on our wedding day. "They will call me by my name, they will open the door of my house, I will walk on a red carpet. Additionally, I will receive the food in the largest dish that ever existed. In the VIP area of the building, on the top floor where we will see the beach, the plants, the sea and the people who will drink whiskey soda in a swimsuit in the pool of their mansions. Oh yeah. We'll go to Xíctli," and she made love to me as she had never done it.

Nevertheless, after so many years I was not supposed to be here, living here, still, in the building.

It was not supposed to be like this.

It was not.


Chapter 2


I like to read old books in the apartment 12, where there is nobody. There is just a couple of furniture left behind by their previous owners. Books are in the booksellers, stereo in the living and the decorations in the dining room.

I like to read here, where there is nobody. Where I can put my music, embrace myself in solitude, and think about nothing. I crave to feel that I am still single. That I am still 20 years old, that I will still be able to succeed.

I put the headphones to listen to some music.

It is the big headphones from the 70s that I bought on the black market. I love the 70s, the 60s and 50s as well. My apartment has the entire old atmosphere from that era, as it was built in those years.

My clothes are from the 70s, my technical devices are from the 60s, and my furniture belongs to 1950s.

I like it because it reminded better times when people used to live outside and breathe the air, the crystal air.

I have seen so many pictures, a few movies and read books from those times that it gets me emotional. Sometimes I want to cry. I have what it’s been called "nostalgia for times unlived." It is beautiful, but at the same time sad, but it still likes it.

So I put my headphones and try to enjoy the song.

The surveillance camera moves and zooms in. I identify it by the movement of the lenses. I almost don’t notice it, but they are there all the time, every day that is impossible not to look at them.

Koba watches me, I know that and I don’t care.

Koba knows that I work, I always work. I give them what they want, and damn it! I need a little peace to relax. They will get their damn code when I finish it and if I will! So, they can go to hell!

The fourth movement of Beethoven's ninth symphony fills the room. Hence, I close my eyes to listen as it was done before the collapse.

Back in old times, people went outside, onto the street and chat with everybody. They used to walk in the parks and travel to other countries visiting touristic places, public open places, the countryside, the whole world. The entire fucking living world!


And now…

The fourth movement has always excited me so much that I cannot allow my thoughts to feel anything other than music and take me away from myself as if my soul did not belong to me and wants to travel to unexpected places, to beautiful, gorgeous, marvelous places.

O Freunde, nichtdieseTöne!

Sondernlaßtunsangenehmereanstimmen,

und freudenvollere.

Freude! Freude!

Oh, God! It’s beautiful!

"Are not you going to work?" she says. Martha says removing my headphones.

The shock is so hard that it pulls me out of the music and forces me to open my eyes to see her dry and parchment face full of wrinkles and gray hair.

"Go to work!" she yells at me.

"I told you not to bother me when I'm here. It is my only space."

But she says nothing, pulls the headphones aside and walks to the door. There she stops and without turning back she just orders:

"Go to work I said." She leaves without saying anything else.

What can I say?

She knows. It’s not supposed to be like this.

So, I close the book and get up.

At home, I have my studio, my workplace where I can focus on my obligations. Where Martha keeps an eye on me all the time, waiting for the moment when I can achieve it. In which I can solve the problem, along with find the final code solution to tell them, to show Koba: "I have done it, at last," I know, they will congratulate me. And she will hug me with as much love as when we were young. Koba will send a signal. Somebody will come for me, for both, and take us to a better place.

In the meantime…

"Go to work," she repeats violently. "Find that code. Find it so we can get the hell out of here once and for all, fuck!" I feel her pain. It’s so much that I can feel it in the air. It’s so God damn palpable that it hurts me.

She leaves the studio to lock herself in our room. She doesn’t want to see me. She just wants to hear the sound of the keys, the hits on the keyboard. Sometimes I think it’s the only thing that comforts her. It’s the only thing that makes her feel good. The only pleasure she has. To have the sense of hearing the keyboard’s sounds.

To know that I am working.

To think that I can still achieve it.

To feel that after all this time I can still find the way to get out of here.

I have to find the code. The necessary code for Koba to finally point me and say: "him. We want him!" They will give the order. They will be releasing a signal to all social media and let people know that I won at the end and we, Martha and I, will be taken to where we belong. Where people are waiting for us since so many years ago

Xíctli.

The beautiful island of Xíctli.

And Martha will tell everyone. She will comment on social networks, will ensure that everyone knows. "Xíctli is ours," Martha will say feeling powerful, with high supremacy. Then she will be, finally, satisfied, fulfill, like a Goddess as it always should have happened.

"Go to work," she says and fills herself with the sound of the keys as if that makes her free.

So I obey her.

I sit down at the computer and turn it on.

On the other side, I can hear the television.

"Come to the artificial island of Xíctli, the last place in the world without electrical radiation."

I know the slogan correctly, it’s the same commercial that it has been running out for decades. Even it looks like the colors are already worn on HD TV, but still, everything looks lovely. Those beautiful models on the beach that invite to the island; people playing getting into the pool; families laughing, dancing and enjoying the best apartments with the most magnificent view of the solar system.

"If you work well, if you archive, you can earn a space in Xíctli. Come, Koba Industries needs you!"

On top of that, there is the Koba Industries logo. A happy face: "You work for a better future."

I hear Martha turn off the television, throw the remote control and leave the room in a rage.

She closes the door with a bang. I can’t deny it; her absence makes me feel better.

I remember when we got married. Martha was beautiful, and I was pretty handsome as well. We were young, we were happy.

But now, it is been so long since we were happy.

Now, we are old, tired, sick and bored.

She is 52 years old. I’m 57.

She used to have a soft, sweet, and exquisite skin. Now she has a pale, dry, smooth and wrinkled skin. I used to love the brightness of her eyes. That shine is long gone. So many years ago it died in an agonical pain. There was nothing I could do. Time defeated us.

Me, I am also old. I am a fat and worn-out guy. I don’t do exercise, so I'm in pretty bad shape. My skin is pale as milk. My hair is gone, and the one that still survives is gray and dry.

But I try to think about it.

I check my email in the "Request to exchange housing to Xíctli" section.

I open it by obligation, perhaps out of habit.

"It's still no response."

It is same as yesterday, and the day before yesterday, or several years ago.

"It’s not time yet."

"It is still no response."

"We still expect something from you."

"Not yet."

I make a sound with my teeth and close the webpage to go to my files, to the code.

I type the keyboard several times. I open the software that I have coded, that it will help me to find it and my fingers dance to the console again and again. It's always the same. I have looked at the problem from several sides. I have tried many graphics, of different methods, in all possible theories but it’s impossible. The code doesn’t work No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I express my head and use all existing mathematical theories, the code doesn’t work.

I press "enter," and it gives "ERROR" one more time.

I try again. I raise other variables. I deal with many different numbers.

I press "enter," and it gives "ERROR" one more time.

It's "ERROR" once again.

It's "ERROR" once again.

And it’s "ERROR" once again.

I get fed up and angrily hit the keyboard.

After that I hear a sound in the distance, a door being closed.

It’s Martha, I know. It is a ritual between us. A damn marriage ritual: when she hears my complaining, my despairing punch on the keyboard, she knows that I have failed once more time and the anger wraps her so much that she hits something. The first thing she has at hand, the door, the mirror, the dishes, something, whatever it is.

Martha cannot bear to see me after that. She turns her back on me. She doesn’t want to talk to me. In addition to, I am not able to look into her eyes. I know Martha is right. I know that we should be somewhere else by now. Not here and I want to apologize, but I don’t know how to do that. I have tried, many times, thousands of times but I have failed. Therefore, I prefer not to say anything.

Therefore, I only hear her disappointment, her anger and I try again, one more time. Sometimes I spend two or three days in front of the keyboard, working, looking for that damn code to get out of here once and for all.

However, today I'm tired.

I don’t want to do anything anymore.

I feel defeated.

I have searched so long for that code that it might be unreachable. Maybe nobody can discover it. Perhaps, it's impossible. It’s not that I have failed. It is that anyone, however capable, will fail.

I don’t know.

Maybe, or maybe not.

Whatever it is, today I am too tired to keep thinking about that.

I know it’s late. I feel sore. I don’t know how many hours I have been here, in front of the computer doing the same thing over and over again. Perhaps Martha has already fallen asleep or only a couple of minutes has passed. I don’t know. My left arm hurts, especially my shoulder. Maybe I slept leaning on it or is because of the hours I spent in front of the keyboard. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. I just turn off the computer and throw myself on the couch that I have nearby to see a drawing that I have stuck on the wall. It's an old drawing, on a yellowish and shredded paper, 20 years old. I have seen it every day, and I still like it a lot. It's a simple drawing of an island, with recurrent strokes and rough colors. The one who did it could not draw did not even have the talent to do it. Nevertheless, that doesn’t matter to me. For me it’s the best drawing, the best work of art ever made.

It hurts me to see it, but I cannot stop admiring it, again and again, every day, every single day.

Fuck!

I get up from the couch and leave the room. I turn sideways and listen to the sound of dishes in the kitchen.

Martha takes a glass and fills it with water from the sink. She places it on the table where there are two crockery sets. From there she lifts one of the dishes from the corner of the kitchen and goes to the sink. From there, in the tap that comes out of the wall, the food button is activated, with a green mass is spread throughout the plate.

"Today they send peas soup," she says.

"It must be lunchtime," I think. The day does not end. Without a clock, there is no way to identify the day, so we just guess.

I see the food on the plate. Yesterday it was carrots soup. The dough was orange.

The day before yesterday it was chicken, the dough was a pale brown.

Tomorrow, maybe, will be veal, the dough may be red.

"You eat," I say. "I will do it later."

Martha takes the plate and without saying a word, throws it on the ground. The green dough splashes on the floor.

I choose not to say anything. I prefer to keep walking and not say anything.

Martha is right, I can only feel ashamed. So I keep walking away. I can alone leave the apartment, cross the corridor, take the stairs and reach the fifth floor where I knock on the door and wait a few seconds before Delta opens.

I turn to the left. Koba Industries’ Guard is at a distance. I have never talked to him, maybe nobody has. He is just standing there, always watching. There are not enough surveillance cameras, so he keeps a constant lookout from one side to another in the building, silently, without warning, without even talk to us. To him, we are nothing, nothing at all.

I wonder what his name is. I don’t know where he lives. He doesn’t seem to live in any of the apartments. I don’t know where he comes from and maybe he doesn’t even live here. He comes from the tunnels under the basement, from the place where the dead were removed or where those who moved to Xíctli passed by. I don’t know. I have never asked him. No one ever has. And I don't plan to do it today, maybe tomorrow. I don’t know. Not today.

Today I only knock on Delta's door and wait for him to open it.

Sometimes, I came to talk and waste my time. However, today I show the credit card once Delta is in front of me. It’s my way of telling him today I don’t want to talk, not a single word. Showing him the card means something very different. It's extremely different.

Delta sees the card, takes it out of my fingers and lets me in.

He sticks his head in the door. He sees the Guard at a distance, watching us with an intrusively piercing eye, which sees more than usually. Delta only throws him a mocking smile, a smile that he doesn’t respond. Then Delta enters the room and makes sure the door is locked.

Once in the room, Delta lies on the sofa and passes the card through the slot of a machine and then throws it back to me and I catch it in the air. He plays with a dollar coin before the disaster. He passes it between his fingers as his father taught him and his grandfather taught his father. I think it was part of a trick. His grandfather liked magic. Delta says his grandpa used to make kids laugh with card tricks, or a dollar coming out of his ears. It's the only thing that he has before the evacuation. The only thing his family wanted to keep.

"So what’s up?" he asks. "Have you already solved it?" he smiles. But he is not doing it because of my problem, not because of me. He laughs because that is the way he is. He looks happy all the time.

He is always the same: laying on his couch, with long hair down to his back, his massive beard half-bust, his dirty old cap and his M-1965 war jacket from the Vietnam War, when people went to the jungle to kill the yellow man. He reminds me of one of those hippies from the old magazines of the time my parents were young. When there were love and peace, cannabis and juvenile communes.

It took me years to get what they were talking about. I still don’t understand it at all. Maybe Delta doesn’t do either. Delta has not left his room for decades. He says he has everything that he needs. On his computer, on the food that Koba gives him, in the bathroom where he can take a dump from time to time and that is it.

Delta makes its own life, its own fun. Also, not only that, but he has taken care of giving experiences to the rest of the world. At least, to a small amount of the little rest of the world that still exists.

"No," I tell him. "I haven’t."

Then, I sit in a leather chair where there is an old helmet, with cables that come out on the sides above some glasses embedded at the front. I wonder when the last time Delta washed it.

I put it on my head.

"Fuck, man," he says. "It’s fuck up, man." His eyes are half closed as if he was blind as a bat. Maybe his eyes see colors that I cannot see; maybe he sees lines of resolution. I don’t know-. "So, what is it gonna be? What do you want now?" He asks me taking a series of diskettes from a drawer and showing to me one by one. "I have acids, methamphetamine," the disc reads deoxyephedrine-, ecstasy, MDMA, heroin, and Ah! I have a new one." He kisses his fingers. "It’s new, still fresh. I just programmed it. I named it Crystal Zombie." Delta picks up the diskette and shows it to me. He has written C-Zombie on it. "Oh, man. Everybody wants this shit. It’s so fucking awesome!"

Delta manufactures drugs on his computer. He creates software that reproduces the sensation of drugs in the body and sends them over the network. People put it on their heads through old helmets. They run it on their computer and enjoy it.

It’s a life of virtual happiness.

Just like in the old days when they used to get a shot between their toes or when they used to smoke crack stones in glass tubes. The pleasure is the same; they only exchanged the cigarette for the helmet.

But it’s not for me. It has never been.

"You know what I want," I answer.

Delta laughs and puts the discs in his box.

He always asks the same question or at least almost always:

"And never, you crazy bastard, have you ever craved another poison?" he asks. "People from all over the world pay a shit lot of money for my shit and you. I offer it to you every day, almost for free and you don’t give a shit.

I’ve seen this scene thousands of times. It’s part of our ritual. We all have routines: he always insists. "Better drugs, you will like them." I refuse, I still refuse. He already knows me, but it's part of the routine. It's a way of feeling alive, I suppose, it's a game between he and I.

"Come on. Give me that." I say.

"I’m on it," he adds, throws the disc to the bed, and gets up from the chair. He moves among the hundreds of cables that come out of nowhere; among the hundreds of CPUs scattered throughout the room; the dozens of monitors and keyboards everywhere. It's not just a supercomputer, it's dozens of supercomputers forming a large and grandiose computer that leaves only a tiny place to put his bed, a child desk, and that’s it. There is a child desk hidden under the surveillance camera where it doesn’t reach the angle of vision. Delta approaches this child desk and takes out from a tiny secret drawer a particular disk with my name written on it. He sees it, saves and closes the compartment and returns to the view of the camera.

Koba watches him. They always view him as they do with everyone.

Koba knows who Delta is, they have always known. But as long as they keep people stable without affecting the industries they would let him do whatever he wants, even emailing drugs to people from all over the world.

Delta inserts the disk in the CPU, takes the keyboard and writes with severe speed, a speed so fast that I can never reach. I can’t see anything. On the monitor, there are only graphs scurrying on the screen. They look like a dancing stage. Those numbers and symbols are moving around in at accelerated speed, in a burst of light.

"This is new," he says. "It’s Just for you. Are you ready?"

For his toys, I’m always ready.

I secure the helmet on my head and take a seat.

Delta presses the enter key.

The impact hits on my eyes like a slap in the face. It's not just about watching. It's not like watching a movie or listening to a soundtrack on an LP record. It’s something more significant, more fabulous, and more excellent. It’s like tasting pleasure with all the senses of the body, the whole five. Even so, it’s so much more than that.

It’s to enjoy something real using the senses of sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste.

I can feel it. It's like being out there, outside.

This unique disc, this software that he made just for me it is simple and synchronically so complicated. It is not much, but, it’s the most beautiful thing I have seen. It’s the plants of a dense forest; a sunset crossing the sky; A light breeze in the countryside; A pair of insects flying around me and the sound of an animal at a distance.

It's the outside.

It's a place I've never seen, trees with flowers, grass, clouds, bees, life.

It’s not an earthy brown color. It’s an immense mixture of pigments. It's an orange, red and yellow sky. It's with different types of greens on the leaves, on the floor, on the branches. There are tones of brown on the trees. They even have the real texture of wood and a hundred fireflies flying in front of my eyes; with lights, their little light on their tails.

It’s not only seeing nature but to feel it, to hear it, to taste it. I spread my hand, and I relish the flowers and wood with my fingers like I was there. I can even smell it. It's not an illusion. It's not a picture, it's not a movie. It is real life! I'm really there.

Oh, my God!

I did not know that the outside was so beautiful!

I had never seen a green like this before!

A sky so red and sun so yellow that I can even feel how my body is getting warm! The sunshine is marvelous. I can also sense its warmth touching my face with a joy! It is beautiful!

And without being able to avoid it, my tears run through the helmet, like when I was a kid hugging my mom's breasts with love.

"How the hell did you do that?" I ask him once I finish traveling. "I mean those colors? How did you do that? You have never seen a sunset, not even a tree leaf, how did you do that?"

"Information and imagination," he says.

He picks up an old analog photograph and throws it at me.

"It was my father's," he says. "I think my grandfather took it."

I see the photograph. It's the same place. It's the exact same spot.

On it, you can see the vegetation, the trees, and the sunset in the sky. Two children play in the background.

"I found it three months ago in my father's stuff. I didn’t even know it existed. I didn’t want to show it to you because it was going to be a surprise."

I didn’t know what to say.

"At first I wasn’t sure," Galicia says. "The colors are fading away. Some parts are blurred. I had to imagine a lot of things. Maybe I was wrong in some ranges. Maybe the fireflies don’t look bright with purple light, and the roses don’t look like rainbows. I don’t know. I tried to do my best. I hope you liked it," he says.

"It's perfect, Delta," I say trying not to cry. "Thank you. Thank you so much."

"Ey, we're friends, don’t we?"

And it's true. Delta is perhaps the only friend I've ever had.

"Yes, we are," I say. I don’t know how to thank Delta. I just smile at him.

Then I put the helmet on my head.


Chapter 3


When I get in the house, I find Martha sitting on the sofa, in the living room looking at the clock on the wall. His face says everything, also his wrinkles and the expression in her eyes.

"Do you remember what day it is today?"

Of course, I remember it, but I don’t say anything. I don’t see the point. Martha and I don’t know how to talk to each other for a long time.

"You really are a bastard you son of a bitch!" she says and gets up full of anger.

She goes into the room and lashes the door with fury. I just stand there looking straight ahead without seeing anything. Maybe I should have said something if things were different; if she was different; if I was different; if we had married for love. Perhaps it could have been another story. Maybe.

It's possible, very possible.

I don’t know.

Too many maybes.

But, the reality is like it is. So…

I swallow. I cross the living room; I pass the hall and go to our bedroom. I press my ear to the door and listen to her crying.

For a few seconds, I think if I should go in and talk to her or I should let her be. It's my wife; we're supposed to tell and fix our problems.

It is assumed.

With extreme slowness, I open the door and with a lot of discretion, I see her.

Martha cries sitting on the side of the bed. She turns her back on me. She is looking at the photograph.

I recognize that photograph. I took it.

I want to say something to her. I try to express my feelings but I can’t. The words just don’t come out of my mouth. I only let out a slight whisper in the air. Then I close the door and leave her alone with her thoughts.

I go to my room, sit down at the computer, and turn on the monitor.

Almost immediately, a video chat window opens on the screen.

"Do you have the code?" It's Raba, my boss, a man younger than me.

I didn’t expect him. He took me by surprise. I just press my lips, and a "shit" expression vomits out from my face. He knows. That’s why he loves to jump out of me like that. I think he’s a sadistic fucker.

"I don’t know if you understand the importance of this," he tells me. "Koba needs that code."

"Yes, I know."

"No, you don’t know." Raba turns back, checks the people who may be near his desk and approaches the camera as if whispering in my ear. "I'm putting my ass on the line for you. Thousands of you could find that code in less time. At your age you are still a nobody, do you understand? But I'm risking myself for you. I need that fucking code!" He says, he almost screams.

I swallow a few saliva.

I’ve already heard that phrase several times. I’ve explained this countless of times.

I've tried, I'm trying. I will find it.

But he never listens. He only hears what he wants to hear.

"If I find it, can I go to Xíctli?"

Oh my God! The outside is lovely. I have to go to Xíctli, I must!

"To Xíctli?" he asks, along with a taste of indignation in the tone of his voice.

"Yes, to Xíctli."

"Not everyone can go to Xíctli. It’s an exclusive place.

Xíctli is exclusive, yes I know. But the outside, the sky, the trees. I already saw it. Today, for the first time I saw it. I want to go. I have to go to Xíctli, today more than ever. I want to go!

"But, the code is important as well, essential," I say. "I could go to Xíctli if I find him. I might…"

"Find that code, and we'll see," Raba interrupts me. "Maybe you can go somewhere else ... to a larger place."

A larger place? Those words are playing in my mind, like the desired game. I picture myself in another apartment. With another furniture, other walls, another bed, another sofa. Not the same as always. It's different, much different.

Yes, yes, I want it. I wish it! A larger place. I want it. I truly want it!

"Yes, a larger place," I say. "That’s all, something larger."

"Okay, so go to work," he orders and closes the window.

I stay there, watching at the monitor, my face of pleading reflected on it.

A larger place.

I sit correctly on the seat and start to work.

I don’t want to think about anything. I wish nobody or anything interrupt me. Neither Xíctli, nor Martha, nor Delta nor the marvelous reddish sky. I leave my thoughts aside. I have work to do. I only concentrate my mind on numbers, on graphs, on equations, on quantum programs.

And my fingers start to move with high speed through the keys on the keyboard as if my life depended on it.

I press "enter."

"Error."

It's normal. It's not the first time. I have to try one more time.

I do it again. I solve equations, different variables and press enter.

"ERROR."

Once again.


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