I must have been running for nearly fifteen minutes, alternating between jogging and slowly walking to catch my breath when I knew I had to be out of anywhere that Daniel would hunt for me. Then, I slowed, letting my eyes take in the forestry that I approached. Flat lands, along with the village where I resided when I couldn’t get away, lay behind me. I didn’t dare take a chance in that direction; for all Daniel’s flaws, his soft heart was not something I wanted to trample over.
Although the forest stretched in all directions, I was willing to take that chance. A low mist encircled my feet as I stepped forward. I looked back every fourth step, just to be sure, but I had lost the outside world in a mere minute or two of walking. Trees jostled forward against each other; every image of mine came across another piece of foliage with a slight alteration to its main body. Unlike the trees in the town I tried to call home, these bared no reflection of the sunlight above. They were emerald in principle alone. The mist snaked up my body. I thought I might indeed be engulfed by it, until a building caught my eye. White by nature, its clearest asset was the notice that had been pinned to wooden door, an advert and an answer:
‘Looking for paid volunteers to try out a new gadget, said to be the newest revolution in second-life gaming technology. Apply and begin trial instantly. Upfront payment. Inquire within.’
The ‘inquire within’ certainly tempted just as well as the mention of instant payment. Perhaps, if the money was substantial enough, I could make my exit as swiftly as the experiment came to a close; I could attempt to start again, back in the thriving city of my birth.
Following my stronghold mind, I tore the paper from its tacked position, and tried to the door, which opened with a rusty snap.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if no one ever comes this way,” I told myself.
Inside the blank building, walls of paper-ice took residence. Heat radiated from my hands as I lifted them to caress the plaster. It had once peeled and been repainted, but a layer of gloss-like substance smoothly stuck down the newest shade of cold. The rough silk under my fingers, I pressed on down this dimly-lit path until I reached a door.
When my eyes adjusted to the change of light- for the room beyond the doorway had been using the greater amount of electricity- I noticed the figures of two people, gently talking to each other at the arms of a table. Dressed in white, flowing robes, my first instinct alerted me to their status as scientists. I wasn’t wrong, I concluded as I watched; at least, I was a little more comforted.
“Excuse me,” I eventually announced, popping my head through the ajar door. Although the man and woman in the white of lab-coats initially stared me down, once I had waved the message in their direction, their expressions softened.