Afterlife/Forever Dead




My life was never supposed to be anything special.  I wanted to live my life, make an impact, no matter how big or small it was, and then leave in peace.  But as anyone who knows me personally, peace and normality are never a given.  I remember what happened so vividly that night I was supposed to have died.  I was at a party for my daughter's wedding, having given my son in law permission to take the hand of my daughter.  He was a good boy, one that I felt at the time I could trust.  I had made the wedding a private affair in my hometown.  Many of my friends from around the world happened to make it to wish my daughter and her new husband well in the new journey they were about to embark on in their lives.  As my wife and I were about to leave the location at which we had the celebration, two unmarked vehicles drove into the front of the location and several masked men began to gun down everyone in sight.  I was struck first and fell to the ground.  I saw everyone else behind me fall to the ground as the bullets from their automatic rifles fired off.  In that moment, I wanted to do something, anything to stop them, but the three bullets that had made their marks in my torso drove me to the ground, and I couldn't pull out my gun in time.  And as soon as I hit the ground, I was out cold.

I awoke being wheeled into a hospital, fighting blurred senses while weary of the entire situation.  I was the first to be hit, but I knew in my heart that everyone else had been hit as well.  I asked for the nurse and doctor who were in charge of caring for me as soon as I was awake if they were ok, but I could not gather a response from any of them.  I awaited the nurse's arrival and for the news of my family having passed to arrive, but it never seemed to come.  I waited for what felt like hours, and no one arrived.  I closed my eyes and tried my best not to think about everything that had happened, try and release myself from the stress that I was going through, but I could never seem to find that relief.  That was until they arrived with the machine.

See, before being put in the Aethernet, I had founded a company that had revolutionized how we view technology.  I created a form of technology that made the use of cables to transfer electricity obsolete, and the entire world quickly found themselves adopting the technology, developed and developing countries alike.  The technology brought myself and my family great amounts of wealth, an amount I could never truly understand the scale of.  But with great power comes great risk of someone wanting to take what you have created, and that was what ended up taking my life, or at least ended up killing my body.  There was an experimental form of artificial intelligence we had designed to function as a real world simulation and we were in the final stages of perfecting the technology before the shooting took place.  As soon as word had been sent to my long time colleague and acting CEO of my company of the circumstances that had happened, he immediately sent out the final prototype of the Aethernet and had my consciousness implanted in it.  It was a last ditch effort to save my life, and one that I did not have enough time to think or do anything to stop.

The machine was placed on my head and in what felt like just a mere moment, my consciousness was sent through what felt like a long tube and into the Aethernet.  I stood in a room that had surrounding pixels and electric static quietly dancing across the vast edges of the room.  I walked towards the screen that I had watched my lead software engineer Vincent create.  It appeared to me like a glass panel but was entirely made out of light.  It read at the top of the display, “Welcome to the Aethernet”.  The panel revealed a few dials and allowed me to pick out some options for myself before I entered the simulation.  Once I had made the choices for my appearance and what setting I wanted to be set in, the static and pixels floating around me vanished and the world appeared in front of me.  The only difference between the new world and the one I was in was that in the city I was in, there were no people.  

The system was built around creating a home for all humans once they were about to pass, and I returned back to the city of Houston, back where my company began.  I walked and roamed the streets, passing by the many various buildings and intersecting roads that zigzagged their way through the Houston metro area.  I walked down a few blocks before I arrived in front of what was supposed to be my company headquarters.  I made my way inside and made my way up to the top of the building.  I was never the CEO, but I was one of the cofounders of my company and had the same right to the top office as my long time partner and friend.  I sat down in the central office chair and turned on the built-in screen that was built into the desk.  The first thing I decided to do was call the same office phone to see if the call would go through to my partner’s office in the real world.  The phone line was dead.

I began to cycle through the messaging systems and looked through the simulation’s system settings to see if there was any way to get in touch with my partner.  Eventually, I came across a setting that would allow for me to communicate with those outside of the simulation.  I first messaged my partner.

“Hey”

“Oh my God!  It actually worked!  You’re alive!”

“Yeah.  I just don’t know why they only sent me.”

My partner fell silent for a couple of minutes as he took his time before sending his next message.  “They never told you about what happened, did they?”

This was the one phrase I dreaded.  It sounded far too clich√© coming from my partner for him to say that, but I knew he did not want to be the bearer of bad news.    “Your family…they’re all dead Nathan.  None of the doctors could save them or you.  The bullets they found in your body were laced with a form of poison.  They found Ricin in your bloodstream and on the bullets.”

This message hit me like waves.  I could not fathom the idea of someone not only planning out my murder, but making sure that everyone who was struck with a bullet did not survive.  Worse yet, part of me suspected who could have done such a thing to me and my family.  I was never one to waste time with formalities and dancing around subject matters. “They used bullets laced with Ricin?  Why would they want to kill my family with such cruel measures?  Why didn’t they just go for me?”

“We’re still trying to investigate who could have been involved in this, but so far everyone who was found is dead?”

The end of that statement made me lunge forward at the scream and quickly message to him my response.  “What do you mean by that?  Are you meaning to tell me that not everyone was found?  Who’s missing?”

Again, he hesitated in returning a response to me.  After a few minutes, he replied.  “We found everyone except for your daughter and her new husband.  Nathan, Hazel and Justin are missing.”

I continued to try and rack my brain as to why this could have happened.  It made no sense that if everyone was targeted that they would escape.  I tried to think of what could have possibly have been the reason they couldn’t find my daughter and son in law.  “Did anyone see them leave?  Did they take any bodies with them?”

“No.  They didn’t take any bodies.  Our current hope is that they escaped the line of fire and that they are safe.”

That was not enough for me.  I was not content with uncertainty, not while I was alive, and not while I am dead.  “That isn’t good enough!  Where are they?  Where were they last seen?”

“We have nothing for now.  In the meantime, try to relax and explore the simulation.  Come back and send me messages as to your progress within the Aethernet.”  I saw his icon go offline after that.  There was nothing else I could say to him, and nothing he would reply to.  Whenever my partner goes offline, that is because he is being troubled far too much to talk.  I had not seen him like this in years, but then again, I was still alive when that happened.  And now I was left to my own resources to roam the Aethernet.  This system was capable of everything.  The Aethernet could simulate the entire world and worlds beyond it, and I had all of the power at my disposal to explore it.  In this world, I had the ability to teleport and be anywhere at any time, and that’s exactly what I did.

I first went to the great wall of China, as I much admired great wondrous structures like that and ran along the stone steps of the wall.  After I was satisfied there I set myself in Sicily, Italy.  I made my way down the stone streets and traversed around the city.  After spending thirty minutes there, I traveled to Paris, France and made my way through the Catacombs.  However, as I was making my way down there, I began to feel the air grow thick as I neared the end of one of the tunnels.  It was faint in the pitch dark, so I had the program simulate a ball of light above me and I could see the edge of the simulation just a foot away from me.  When I was alive, I told my partner to make sure the software engineers programmed a failsafe to ensure that no one would try and leave through the boundaries, so the air begins to vibrate around any unmapped area where the simulation does not exist.  Crossing over into it completely will knock you out and reset the system.  We included a slight tingling sensation of pain to deter anyone from sticking part of their body, let alone their entire body in it.  I stepped away from the edge and warped myself back to the office to leave a message log for my partner.  He responded back after an hour of waiting.

“That’s great news!  I’m glad those precautions worked out well!  Try and make yourself things to eat, or don’t, you don’t have to do any of that anymore.  Lucky bastard.”

I actually laughed at that comment.  Even while I was dead, my partner could still get a laugh out of me.  I went down to a kitchen and had the simulation simulate the finest ingredients for me.  I made myself a creamy shrimp pasta and made my way back up to the top office.  I had the simulation load up an entertainment segment, outfitted with game consoles and television and a large king size bed on the opposite side of the room.  I sat down and began to watch some of the news channels from the real world as I enjoyed my pasta.  I continued to see headlines like “Cofounder of Dynamo killer still at large.” Bounties were being placed by several police departments to find the killers.  It was a shame I couldn’t give them anything but a license plate.  Their faces were hidden and there were no symbols that I could recognize on their body.  I continued to flip through the channels until I saw one of the more radical news channels pushing a news story bordering on the level of insanity.  “Son in law of famous entrepreneur, Nathan Willis, may be connected to the murder.”  I turned off the television and finished up the pasta.  I immediately simulated nighttime outside of the window and curled up in the bed.  I tried to shut the thoughts of my son in law possibly being behind the murders out of my head, but once it was in my mind, I could not let go of it.  

I awoke the next morning and continued my explorations.  I made stops in the Caribbean, in Brazil, in Australia, and in Antartica.  I made my way back to my office and made sure to send my daily log to my partner.  He responded rather quickly this time and told me something that startled me.  “I’m being hunted, Nathan.  I’m going into hiding.  One of my associates was found dead this morning and two of my employees were shot in a drive-by shooting right outside of our main office.  I think I’m being targeted.”

I started to panic.  The same people who murdered my family were after my lifelong partner.  “Get out of there Drew!  Stay safe!”  I tried to rest my head and went to the kitchen to go make myself dinner.  I made myself fried chicken and some french fries and made my way back upstairs.  I spent some time watching random television shows until I came across one of the news channels and nearly dropped my food when I heard one of the headlines.  “Hazel Willis was found dead after being caught in a shooting.  Her husband, Justin managed to survive and has a statement for us.”

I waited anxiously to hear what he had to say.   The reporter did the normal rundown and began to ask how he felt about losing his wife.  Justin responded just as I expected him to. “I am completely devastated over what happened and I want to find the people who murdered my wife and family and bring them to justice.”  Another report came in about how my partner was being hidden for his safety and that his location would be kept a secret to the public.  I finished my food and turned on one of the video game systems and tried to drown out my worries in some of the games, but I ended up turning off the system after twenty minutes of playing games on it.  I readied myself for bed and closed my eyes once I had tucked myself in.  I couldn’t stand what was happening, and from beyond the Aethernet, I was almost powerless to stop any of it.  For the first time since the murders began, I began to cry.  I wept that my family was gone, that my beautiful daughter was murdered, and that I would never see them again, even within the Aethernet.  They only created one working headset and decided that I was the most important to use it on.  The guilt and pain I felt began to weigh down on me.  I was allowed to continue on in some form of life while they had been extinguished, all of their memories and knowledge of who they were-were gone forever.  I eventually fell asleep in tears of regret and pain.  No matter what, I still regret having outlived my children, even if mortally I was dead.

I awoke the next day and tried to communicate with my partner again, but he did not respond.  I chocked it up to him being unable to communicate with anyone in his safe location and went about exploring more of the world.  I traveled to all of the monuments that I wanted to see and simulated a bubble so I could dive beneath the waves and explore the large coral reefs north of Australia.  I made my way home later this time after having experienced and seen so much and went to go and write down my message log as usual, but this time I got a response back from someone other than my partner. 

“Hey, Nathan!  This is Justin.  They left me in charge of the office since old Drew was found dead in a private estate.”

I wasted no time in asking Justin questions.  “Who killed him?  What was found on his body? Are you ok, Justin?  What is going on?”

He took a long time to write what he was going to write, and every moment he wrote filled me deeper and deeper with dread, almost pouring over like a boiling pot of water. “Drew was found dead, having been shot with bullets laced with ricin.  The board of trustees entrusted me with the company as the last owner of the stocks and instated me as the new acting CEO of Dynamo.  No one our family was found alive, and the whole ordeal has taken a lot out of me, so I’m pulling out of business.  I’m going to sell the company for all of what it’s worth to one of the largest companies for the largest amount we can and I’m going to sell my vitamin company as well.  I’m done with business Nathan, I just can’t do anything anymore but think about what happened.”

This was a lot to take in, but I tried to sort through this the best that I could.  “I’m sure there are people who could give you advice on how to run the company if you give them a chance.  Give yourself some time and try and come back to the business later.  Who are you going to sell it to?”
“We’re selling it to a company that is going to buy out all of our patents and absorb Dynamo.  They also stated in our new contract that we have to shut down all existing experimental projects, that also includes the Aethernet.  I’m sorry Nathan.”

This was not making any sense to me.  How could someone I saw as being almost as successful as me in business be so willing to sell it and throw it all away?  “Justin, I don’t understand.  Why are you doing this?”

“Because I can Nathan.  I’m doing this because I can.”

My mind went blank.  I was beginning to fill with both angry and confusion, both sides battling to try and make sense of what was going to happen and what exactly Justin was planning.

“What are you planning Justin?”

His response was one that only someone full of contempt and pride could send. “I’m going to put you through so much pain and torture up until the day that this system closes and you die.”

“Why?”  I responded with that simple word, hoping it would garner a reason that made sense, and I received a response, but it was not the one I wanted to hear.

“I’m doing this because you never said you would sign the shares of the company over to me when you die.  You were gonna give everything to your only daughter and you never cared about anyone else!  You never thought about who else could need the money!  My company was about to go bankrupt, Nathan!  But now, I’ll have enough money to pay off my debts and retire in luxury, and I have the perfect gang to ensure my protection for decades to come.  You remember how I told you my suppliers made all of their products?  What do you think is a byproduct of Castor Oil?”

I became enraged and started to sob.  “You won’t get with this! I’ll have the authorities on you before you can do anything!”  

He responded rather quickly to me but carried with it all of the compassion of a psychopath.  “Hahaha.  Do you really think you can reach out to anyone else?  As far as the public is concerned, the Aethernet doesn’t even exist.  I’m shutting off this account and leaving you to perish, but not after I do one last thing.”

“And what is that, Justin?”


“I want you to suffer unrelenting agony until the program shuts down and you perish.”  As soon as that message was sent the simulation began to fade and I was placed inside of a white room.  There was nothing but white padding in all four corners of the wall, and the air was vibrating violently around me from all sides.  It was the same painful vibration I felt when I was down in the catacombs, only this time, every movement I made cause a shockwave of pain through my body.  The simulation began showing images of the night my family was murdered and played a clip of what happened to my daughter, Hazel.  I knew now what Justin had planned for me.  He was going to torture and kill my consciousness from within a box.  Once the program closed, the ever consuming vibrations from the walls would close, crushing me in an instant, forcing my consciousness into a singularity and ending me in less than the blink of an eye.  I wrote down this log even though it will likely mean nothing.  All anyone will likely find from this simulation is one of the earlier programs or the text files that were gathered from my time in here, but if this file does make it out, I ask that Justin pays for his crimes and that you be weary of him now that you know what happened to me.  My pain and suffering will be eternal, but if someone finds this note, at least it will not have been in vain.  In this afterlife, with these walls closing on me, I will finally find peace knowing that I am gone like my family and will remain forever dead.

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