Part 1: One world
Police sirens wailed down the street. But even that sound was almost overpowered by the roaring engines of a half-dozen cars. One in front, five in hot pursuit. Gunshots rang out from the car in front, but did nothing to slow down the pursuers.
Suddenly, a dark shadow appeared. The car ran into it.
The shadow didn’t move.
The front end of the car crumpled. The passenger in the car didn’t have his seat belt on, and as he flew out of the front windshield at seventy miles per hour, the dark shadow simply raised an arm and caught him. The driver was unconscious the moment his head hit the airbag. Blood ran from his nose and mouth.
As the police cars pulled up, and all the police stepped out with drawn weapons, the shadow simply dropped the injured man to the ground, then floated up into the sky.
“And in other news, our island’s newest superhero has made yet another appearance, helping end a dangerous police chase that could have endangered both civilians and police.”
Mike Thompson shut off his TV before he could hear the rest. Then he looked around suddenly, to make sure there wasn’t anyone else in the room.
The remote had been sitting on top of the television. Mike was on the other side of the room.
The preacher raised his arms in the air as he finished his weekly prayer, “And God protect us from this so-called ‘superhero’: his powers are dark, and he is surely of the Devil himself.”
Mike was a bit offended. His own pastor…
The pastor lowered his arms. “Amen. You may go in peace.”
Afterwards, Mike waited outside to speak to the pastor. Somehow, he hadn’t the nerve to challenge the man inside the huge church. After pressing through the small crowd of people around the reverend, Mike finally caught his attention.
“Reverend, I have a question.”
“What is it, my boy?”
“What makes you so certain that this ‘superhero’, as you call him, is a follower of satan?”
The pastor seemed taken aback. “Well, his powers certainly could not have come from God. This renegade ‘hero’ is a result of the gathering of darker powers. With the advent of the internet, witches can reach out to young people like never before. I have found pages and pages full of spells and incantations on the internet. These witches are gathering more and more power… and this ‘hero’ is a direct result of that.”
Mike couldn’t think of a way to respond, so when the pastor was distracted by another question, he slipped away.
Perched on a building, Mike looked down at the street below. So many people. Did they really all see him as an evil being? Of course not… he’d seen the news. The news spoke highly of him. The people spoke highly of him. It was just those who didn’t understand him.
His own pastor, for one.
He simply tried to put it out of his mind for now. The sky was behind him, the building was below him, and the street, teeming with people, was in front of him.
Perched on the side of the building, he expanded his senses. His mind grew to reach to the street below… then farther down… and farther… until he found something he could do to help. In a flash, he was off. He leapt off the building, and then landed on another wall, only to leap again. In seconds, he was half a mile down the road.
He dropped to the ground and walked up to the sliding door. It was a simple convenience store robbery. No one had been shot, yet.
The glass doors opened as he stopped towards them. There were two men. Young men. With guns.
Easy enough for him to take care of. As one of them turned to face the newcomer, Mike simply raised one arm, and the gun, seven feet away from him, flew out of it’s owner’s hand. The other turned, and got a few shots off, which passed harmlessly through him.
Then both guns flew through the air and shattered.
Mike simply shook his head. “There will be no killing today.”
The nearest robber leapt at him, and he simply turned to the side, faster than the blink of an eye. The robber crashed into the counter and fell to the ground. Mike looked at the other. “Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”
He made it harder than it had to be. He grabbed a knife from his pocket and charged.
Mike simply spun around and planted his foot in the assailant’s chest. The robber flew backwards, and when Mike saw that he was going to crash into one of the glass freezers, he held out his hand. The man stopped in midair, and dropped to the ground.
Then the cavalry arrived. A police car pulled in the front. Before the police even made it in the door, Mike was gone.
“We now have footage of this amazing man who has been helping out our police department. At approximately 2:30 this morning, our city’s superhero stopped a robbery in progress, and held the two young men responsible until the police could arrive.”, the news anchor seemed genuinely cheery… as always. The picture cut to the grainy footage from the security video at the convenience store. Mike turned it off. He had no desire to see himself in action.
Suddenly, everything froze.
Mike listened, but he could hear nothing. He reached out with his mind… but his mind could go no further than his own body. Frantically, he tried to summon the darkness he normally pulled over himself to become a superhero… and nothing happened.
There was nothing. He touched the wall and felt… nothing. It was there, but there was no texture, and no temperature. It was neither hot nor cold. It was neither smooth nor rough.
“What the hell?”
And then he froze too… but he didn’t know it, because his mind was just as frozen as the rest of him. The world moved on around him.
Suddenly, he was gone.
The world around him was gone, and he was in a far different place. It was far too complicated. Far too hard to look at. Mike shut his eyes… and found that they wouldn’t close. He put his hands over his eyes… and that didn’t help.
His hands were not his own anymore.
“What’s going on? Where am I?”
“What am I?”
Part 2: Two worlds
Everything was different. His eyesight was different. The things around him were different. His body was different. His hearing was different. His sense of smell and taste… weren’t even there.
He was stuck in a metal body. He punched a wall, and felt no pain. “What is this tin man crap? Where am I?”
Then a voice came from nowhere. It was smooth and clear in a way that Mike had never heard before. “You are the one called Michael Thompson, is that correct?”
“Yeah, I’m Mike Thompson. Who the hell are you?”
“Very good. This is the first time we have ever taken someone out of the system before. We are very happy that everything went well.”
“What system? What the hell is going on here?”
A door slid open. Mike hadn’t seen it earlier simply because of the information overload. He hadn’t been able to make sense of the images around him. Nothing looked the same as it had before. It was as if he was looking through the world with different eyes… which he was. And to top it off, he was looking at a different world.
Three beings walked in. Mike hesitated to call them people. They were too smooth… to beautiful. They moved far too gracefully. But they looked like people.
At least, how people would look through different eyes, and on a different world.
“Welcome to this plane of existence, Michael Thompson.”, one of them spoke. It was the same voice from before. “Please, come with us. Walk this way.”
Mike had no choice. He followed them. As he walked, he tried to reach out with his mind… and nothing happened. His mind was stuck in his own body. “Where am I?”, he finally had the courage to ask.
The one who had spoken earlier simply smiled. Another piped up, “You are not far from your world. You were born only a few hundred feet from here.”
The first said, “I will show you your world.”
They walked down a long corridor. It was devoid of features, which Mike was grateful for. His mind could only take so much.
Finally they turned into a small alcove, and a door opened in front of them. They walked into a large room, with some kind of machinery in the middle. The leader of the three gestured towards the center of the room. “This, Michael Thompson, is your world.”
“Okay, I’ll bite. I’ve seen the matrix. If that’s my world, where are all the people.”
“In your world.”
“But they have to have bodies somewhere.”
“Your people are a part of your world. Everything is in there.”
“So what are you saying, that I’m not real?”
“You’re real all right. You’re just not of this world.”
“You are as real as I am. You are alive. You exist. The only difference between us, is that in this world, you exist only as data inside a computer. In this world, I am flesh.”
“You exist, Michael Thompson. There’s no debating that fact.”
“But you created me.”
“My kind created your kind, yes. But you came after thousands of years in your world. You are the product of Jennifer and Michael Thompson senior. You are Michael Andrew Thompson Jr. You exist because you were born. You just happen to have been born inside a computer that my people created.”
“Then who created you?”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
“If your people created mine, what created your people. Are you just inside another computer?”
“If we were, how would we know?”
“This isn’t real. This can’t be real.”
“Because God created us. I don’t believe that you created us.”
“Surely God created you.”
“But you just said that your people created me.”
“Yes. Our people created your people.”
“Then it’s all a lie. I’m not real. You are.”
The strange human was taken aback. His two companions were listening to the conversation, but not adding anything.
“Surely, you’re relatively intelligent. You can comprehend what has happened here. Your kind have existed for thousands of years. As time has progressed, we have had to upgrade the computer systems that your kind inhabit, otherwise the sheer number of you humans would have overwhelmed the system, and it would be running at far too slow a speed. You would not have noticed a difference, but we would have. We wished to keep your lifespans and your time the same as our own. We wished to keep up with your lives, and your social evolution.”
The strange man continued, “Your society was based upon our own, a long time ago. We gave you a genetic structure that determined your physical and mental characteristics. As you breed, your genes divide the same way ours to as you pass them on to future generations. Every one of you is unique. You are made up of your genetics, and your life experiences. Even identical twins are not the same people. You are as real as I am.”
“But I don’t really exist.”
“You do exist. You have a mind, and a soul. You have as much of one as any of us do.”
Michael shook his head. “This doesn’t make any sense. And why did you pull me out of there?”
“Because there was a glitch in the system. Somehow, you became able to control the things around you in ways that the rules of this computer system are not supposed to be able to do. You could somehow reach into the computer and take over. There were many times when the entire system stopped simply to do your bidding. You would not have noticed, nor would anyone else in your world, as time stopped for them… but we noticed. The entire system was your slave. That’s how you got your powers. You controlled your entire world… and you didn’t even realize it.”
“You pulled me out because I’m too powerful?”
“Dangerous. You could have destroyed your entire world. We can reinsert you once the glitch is fixed… but you would not have your powers.”
“I can live without them. But how can I live there if I know it’s not real?”
The man gave him an odd look… or at least it looked that way. With how strange his vision was, he couldn’t be sure. “Haven’t you heard a word I’ve said? Your world is as real as my own.”
“I was raised to believe that God created the world. But he didn’t. You did.”
The creature looked him in the eye. “Is there a God?”
“I thought there was. Maybe I was wrong.”
“How do you know that God didn’t simply create me as a tool? How do you know that my kind wasn’t created simply for the express purpose of creating you? You can’t know. But if God exists, he created you. He created this world, and this world created you. If God exists, then we are all part of his plan. If God exists, you are one of his children.”
Michael didn’t know what to say. Somehow, it made sense… but it didn’t. He said quietly, “What if there isn’t a god?”
The door opened again, and another man… no, this time it was a woman, walked in. She said something to the strange man that Michael had been talking to.
The man turned to Mike. “The glitch has been fixed. You can go back now.”