Stephen pushed the key 837 in the cavity of the door style from the apartment of Suzy Chang, turned him a quarter to the left and held his eye before the scanner while he told his name. For a moment, he had feared that the memory of the apartment had erased his personal access info and that he wouldn’t get inside. But his suspicions seemed to be unfounded. A liberating click of the lock confirmed the opposite. Now he could turn the key a quarter further and open the door.
A feeling of sadness had suddenly taken him by surprise and it made him swallow of emotion. Suzy looked at him from the multifunctional mirror, smiled and said: ‘Okairi Nasai! Welcome! Stephen, do you have a moment, I’m not present at this moment. A message is sent to my mobile number, make you comfortable in my home, I will be there quickly.’
He made a short movement over the built-in sensor at the entrance and the recorded image disappeared and was replaced by the usual info screens. He saw the summary of the last news flashes, the latest stock prices, camera images of the corridor and the rooms of the apartment.
In the middle of the left open space, he saw his own startled mirror image. Why hadn’t the residency supervisor erased this data out of the memory? Suzy wasn’t here anymore, those insensitive incompetents…!
Stay calm, he taught a few counts later, while he assimilated everything around him. He couldn’t let himself go this way, no one would stand to benefit. Well, maybe it might be a sign of insensitivity of the responsible person who had to look after the media system, but on the other hand, if he had erased it, he never could have entered the apartment.
The short corridor on the right, as he knew, hide an incorporated vestibule and was decorated on the other side with some photos of Suzy and her mother. There was even one photo out of those long-ago days where all four of them stood upon. Stephen, Suzy, Katy and his own father Thomas March. A party on the occasion of some kind of promotion of his father. A bit further on the left of him was the door to the bathroom and the toilet and further ahead beside the info screen was the entrance of the living room. As he moved, the sensors in the floor and ceiling were following his movements and the space where he walked, was enlightened by ingeniously hidden light sources. A medley of his favorite music started. No, they hadn’t messed with the apartment memory. Who knows? Maybe the Security Service had asked so, hoping to get more info this way to help with their investigation.
Stephen knew out of his experience that Suzy was a creature of habit. She invariably noted all her important data, meetings, and other memory aids in her tablet. Possibly he had luck today and something important would fall right into his hands. Stephen supposed that the Security Service had copied everything and that the different memories in the apartments had been screened and looked into. Everything could be a possible guideline to the murderer. So what the Security Service knew he had to discover himself to… if nothing had disappeared. He knew Suzy a lot better than the people of the police. What seemed innocent to them, could mean a lot more for him.
Through the living room, you could go to the kitchen to the right and on the left side there was a door to the bedroom. Stephen saw directly that her tablet computer lay on the bedside table and took it with him to the living space. There he seated himself on one of the zaisu, a little chair without legs and that rested at the bottom directly on the tatami mat in the living room.
The tablet was secured with fingerprint identification. He suspected this problem had been solved in a macabre sort of manner, he thought embittered. Stephen had his own access code, just like Suzy had on his tablet, with the necessary limitations, of course. His personal fingerprint was screened and he got access to a certain number of applications as there were the internet, mail and a few games Suzy and himself liked to play in their free time.
He opened the application for mail and saw that the usual messages that both she as he had sent to each other. He was surprised to see that there was still one message in ‘Draft’ to send. Stephen opened the mail and read:
Have downloaded a new game. Super, you must try this one, hereby the link to my application and your login data: Passage 6
Passage 6? The note he had found in her wallet must have referred to this game. Maybe she had noted the login data when she got a hint from a friend to download the game. Well, that mystery was solved anyway. Stephen tapped the link and opened a game that was called ‘Deeplands. While he was reading the title of the game, it sent a shiver down his spine.
The intention of the game was to kill as many as possibly dangerous and gruesome monsters of the imitated underworld and eventually to arrive at the middle of this virtual world. The mission of the game was to kill the creature that ruled over the mutilated creations and who tried constantly to kill you.
Was this a bad joke or was it a hidden allusion to something important? The only thing he could do to get an answer to this question was to play the game. He was definitely not in the mood. But every hint, how insignificant it was, he couldn’t refrain himself from investigating it. Even if it would achieve nothing, it would create a little diversion for a moment. Just escaping for a while out of the world full of black thoughts. A way to dismiss the images of the horrible identification. He raised himself up and put his coat away, nestled himself – while trying to handle carefully his injured leg – in one of the easy seats of the apartment and started:
The man pulled fiercely and anxiously on his chains by which he injured his already heavy wounded wrists. They were stripped and glimmers of blood fled down along his stretched arms. You could follow the flow of the red life fluid over his body and legs to a little puddle on his feet. A part of it was clotted. After a short while, he became tired and stopped his useless attempts. The exhaustion was too great and hopelessly he let himself hang in his shackles. The man could hardly stand on his legs, which were also enchained.
He cried sobbing, whining, begging: ‘Please, I’ve got money,… I… I will do everything you want… mercy… please let me free… have mercy.’ The words came with delays and hesitations, gasping almost in the sobbing in his throat and the sounds of despair that came out of his mouth became louder as the white figure with the sword approached.
The man didn’t notice that the oncoming executioner in the white clothing pushed a button in the side wall. Silently the first sounds of classical music were heard in the background, but soon they grow in loudness and plunged the whole space in a frightening way in a creepy atmosphere.
Tuba mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulcra regionum
Coget omnes ante thronum
The man with the sword knew what the words meant. Who had taught him the meaning of these words was a mystery, but he understood what was sung.
The trumpet will send its wondrous sound
Throughout earth's sepulchers
And gather all before the throne.
The victim stopped sobbing, listened, the eyes in his face bulge of incomprehension and fear. In spite of the fact that he didn’t recognize the music, he came super fast to awareness. The translation, that his executioner spit him in the face while he was marching back and forth before him, was clear.
Judex ergo cum sedebit
Quidquid latet apparebit
Nil inultum remanebit.
When the judge takes his place,
What is hidden will be revealed,
Nothing will remain unavenged.
The tormented man suspected that this was his death song. The last song, a requiem. A goodbye at him from the world and he shouted with all his force left in his tortured body: ‘Nóóóóóó!’
When Stephen had managed to master the controls of the game ‘Deeplands’ after a short tutorial, he started concentrating playing the new game. With the game viewer that looked like darkly tinted diving glasses with electrodes he had attached to his temples and by which the computer application of the game that was connected wirelessly with the table, he moved virtually in the game.
Through a transparent screen – a rectangle filled with different possible game options – he could point out the necessary instructions that lead him to the different stages of the game. It was an action-adventure game that should bring the main character along difficult roads to his ultimate objective. Stephen March had played several of such games since his youth. Not that he was excellent in it, but he could compete.
With the years, his reaction speed for the action-part in this sort of games had become rusty. Stephen was more the ‘adventure-part of the game’ guy. The searching after solutions, to find the hidden clues, was more fun to him than the shooting or stabbing of virtual adversaries. To undergo the experience how the game developed by solving the necessary puzzles on the way was a kick apart. It was also a test of the insight and the intelligence of the player. By disclosing these mysteries and opening closed doors which would bring him to still more dangerous paths, he hoped to find a trace of Suzy’s murderer.
In starting up the game, he had given in his own name for the main character in Deeplands. So he heard the eventual directions in the game as if the personalities were talking directly to him. The graphics were mega cool. The high resolution and the 3D-effect made it almost impossible to see the difference between things in the real world. That Stephen used his first name in the game was obvious to him. Knowing Suzy, if there was a clue, he had to play it this way.
After the first level, he got stronger weapons at his disposal. On the other hand, of course, the challenges became more dangerous and the monsters bigger and more difficult to conquer. Gradually he got the right rhythm and Stephen became again for a moment the adolescent who could be so focused in a game that he closed himself out of the outside world. He heard nor saw what was happening outside the game. After a few hours, with all the frustrations and fiasco’s that were inherent to the game – moments he must go back to earlier saved games – the virtual Stephen arrived before a door. A door, whereupon in big letters was written ‘Furious’.
Startled, he paused for a moment, shook his head surprised by the word he read. Stephen imagined that Suzy clearly wanted to say something with that. This was it. Suzy had to let install here an item that clearly didn’t belong to the original game. Furious was the hypocorism she used for Stephen when he as an adolescent was a short-tempered youngster.
Stephen stood before a door without a key. A mechanical voice asked: ‘Who are you?’ When he gave his name and nothing happened, he tried just to knock. With just as much luck, the door stayed closed for him. With the name Furious, he also had no success. The door stayed closed. To be on the safe side, he saved the game. A simple push with his virtual hand on the S of ‘Save’ on the bottom right side in the transparent box he saw in his game viewer, took care that he later on could go back to this point of the game. At least if he figured out how he could open the door.
copyright Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere