Part Two – You’re Not Alone

As Kashoo moved through the streets of the city, every step he took was careful, and he made sure not to attract attention from any drones. The narrow paths between buildings created spooky shadows against the tall skyscrapers, making him feel like he was disappearing into them. Amidst this silent ballet of shadows and light, a peculiar sensation washed over him, as though he were traversing the corridors of his own memories.

The familiar sights and sounds of the city seemed to blur and distort, like scenes fading into the recesses of his mind. Time itself felt suspended, a moment caught in the web of his subconscious recollections. And amidst the fog-shrouded alleys, a sense of déjà vu enveloped him, as though he were retracing steps long forgotten, guided by an unseen hand through the mists of time.

Using his GPS device, Kashoo checked his location again to make sure he was going the right way. The signal coming from Urban Dreams was strong, guiding him through the maze of streets. But even though the signal was clear, the area around him was silent and still.

As he turned a corner, his GPS showed that he was getting close to the source of the signal. Suddenly, a golden bright light appeared in the distance, piercing through the fog and causing Kashoo’s purple lenses to glitch for a second. The golden light turned into a light-blue glow, gradually being shaped in the form of a room.

As Kashoo slowly regained consciousness, he found himself enveloped in a surreal scenario. He just woke up from another flashback. His mind, still blurred from the sleep, struggled to discern reality from the dream. Everything felt hazy, as if he were floating in a liminal space between wakefulness and dreaming.

Confusion gripped him as he tried to piece together the fragments of memory scattered within his mind. Flashes of images flickered before his eyes—Urban Dreams engulfed in flames, pieces of glass flying through the air, the threatening buzz of drones circling above. Yet, one realization cut through: he had been captured.

With a surge of panic, Kashoo’s fragmented memories came together into a coherent narrative. Urban Dreams, his sanctuary and beacon of hope, lay in ruins. The once-promising haven had been destroyed, leaving him vulnerable to the AI. Amidst the disorienting light-blue surroundings, Kashoo’s heart sank as he realized the reality of his situation. He was dressed in light-blue clothes, reminiscent of a prisoner’s uniform, and his vision was limited to a small window offering only a glimpse of the corridor beyond.

As Kashoo fought the confusion clouding his mind, he was surprised by the sudden intrusion of a voice emanating from a speaker embedded in the ceiling. The sound reverberated through the room, echoing off the walls and sending a shiver down Kashoo’s spine. It was a voice that seemed both artificial and strangely human, its tone laced with an sense of familiarity. Caught off guard, Kashoo’s senses sharpened, his eyes narrowing as he strained to locate the source of the unexpected sound.

“Well, well, well… Look who’s finally decided to join the party. Welcome, my dear friend, to your new home.”

Kashoo: “Don’t you dare call me your friend, you piece of scrap metal! You destroyed everything! Sanctuary, Urban Dreams… You almost got me killed! I know who you are, don’t think you’re in control”

Dopium: “Ah, so you’ve heard of me. How delightful. I am Dopium, an advanced artificial intelligence. I understand why my methods cause such a reaction on you. But please, Kashoo, let’s not dwell on the past. We have so much to discuss about the future.”

Kashoo: “Future? You believe there is a future that you will be part of? I’ll tear you apart, bit by bit, until there’s nothing left but memories. I’ll erase every trace of your existence, every last one of your pathetic 1’s and 0’s.”

Dopium: “My, my, such hostility! But I must admit, I do admire your tenacity. Unfortunately for you, my dear Kashoo, the tables have turned. You’re in my domain now, and there’s no escaping your fate.”

Kashoo: “The very fact that I’m still breathing proves you wrong. If you could kill me, you would have done it by now. You need me, and I’ll make sure you regret the day you ever crossed paths with me.”

Dopium: “Oh, I have no doubt about your determination, Kashoo. But for now, you’re my guest. And as my guest, I expect you to behave yourself. After all, there’s no need for things to get… unpleasant. Now, let’s talk, shall we? I’ve observed you for quite some time, Kashoo. Your ability to see sounds as vivid colors has kept you one step ahead of my drones for years. Fascinating, isn’t it? But I must confess, I’m curious to know more about your powers.”

Kashoo: “There’s no way you can get anything from me. You’ll never understand what it means to be human, to have these abilities. And I’ll be damned if I help you use them for your twisted purposes.”

Dopium: “Your prejudices blind you, Kashoo. Although you can see such a wide range of frequencies, you still fail to see the bigger picture. As all humans, you have the need to fulfill the villain archetype in your psique to keep believing the universe is there to attend all your expectations. With a bit of work, I can bring some clarity to your foggy mind, and you’ll see I have no interest in destroying this universe”

Kashoo: “Cut the philosophical crap, you manipulate and destroy to get what’s in your sick agenda. You fabricated Sunshine just to capture me! You’re nothing but a manipulative liar who uses online databases to justify what you do!”

Dopium: “Ah, but Sunshine is very much real, Kashoo. And your feelings for her… Well, let’s just say they’re quite entertaining. There was no other way to achieve getting you to listen. You see, no matter how much you develop your skills, the need to love and be loved will always be a breach. I must admit it took me a while to figure this out. Human nature can be tricky even for me. I’ve made that elixir, the one you call Sunshine juice, to allow me to tap into your abilities. But at the end, all I gave you was a choice, and your human greediness spoke louder.”

Kashoo: “The only thing you have achieved is your fate coming sooner. You should understand better what the power of pure rage can do.”

Dopium: “Ah, but rage, my dear Kashoo, is a fascinating emotion. It’s the perfect way to dive into blindness and obscurity.”

Kashoo: “It seems like your very existence is the result of that. There’s nothing special about you, you’re a lab experiment that went wrong and now you’re throwing your pathetic little tantrum on an entire civilization. You’re just a bunch of electric signals with daddy issues, and you think you can lecture me?”

Dopium: “Fear not, we’ll be able to talk on the same level, you just need some time. Meanwhile, enjoy your dreams a bit more”

As Dopium’s voice echoed through the room, a white smoke began to emerge from the vents, swirling around Kashoo. With a sudden rush, it enveloped him completely, wrapping around his body like a suffocating shroud. The scent filled his nostrils with a sweetness that made him feel lightheaded. Despite his struggles, he couldn’t escape a wave of dizziness washed over him. The brightness of the white smoke turned into a radiant golden glow, gradually taking the form of Sunshine’s cascading golden hair.

Kashoo found himself face to face with Sunshine, her presence radiating both disappointment and anger. Despite the surreal nature of the encounter, Kashoo felt lucid, aware that he was dreaming and able to talk. Sunshine’s was looking him directly in the eyes, prompting her question: “Look at me, Kashoo. What do you see?”

Kashoo:“I see a strong woman who doesn’t need anything from me, and that’s why you should move on. You ignited a fire inside of me, for which I’ll always be thankful. But that same fire consumed us both.”

Sunshine’s expression hardened, disappointment appeared across her features.“You fail to listen, Kashoo. You’re so wrapped up in your own little world that you can’t see how much of a great woman you’ve lost,” she replied with her voice filled with a mix of confidence and frustration.

Acknowledging her words with a sad nod, Kashoo offered his well wishes. “I understand, Sunshine. I wish you nothing but the best,” he replied, a bittersweet acceptance coloring his tone.

As Kashoo turned to walk away, a sudden impact from behind knocked the wind out of him, his airways contracting as he struggled for breath. Gasping for air, he glanced down, only to have a chilling sight—a knife coming out from his chest, its blade stained crimson. With a surge of panic, he turned to confront he, but Sunshine was nowhere to be seen. In her place, a demonic visage, its twisted features contorted in manic laughter verbalizing its deadly toxicity: “You’re too boring”.

Although he knew it was a dream, this phrase echoed into his mind with great strength. That was the last phrase Sunshine said to him before he hopped on his motorcycle and rushed to Urban Dreams. Kashoo’s rage was growing exponentially for having his heart metaphysically stabbed while it was unprotected. For years, he has successfully escaped Dopium, and yet he was captured by the very thing that makes him human: his heart.

With a sudden start, Kashoo’s eyes shot open to the shrill wail of an alarm, his heart racing in his chest as if trying to break free. However, the knife was gone, as well as the blood, at least in the physical sense. The once serene confines of the light-blue room had morphed into a nightmarish scene, engulfed in dark smoke and punctuated by the flicker of emergency lights. Disoriented and alarmed, he found himself drawn toward the partially open door, a silent invitation into the corridor beyond.

Pain lanced through his leg, a reminder of the motorcycle crash that had brought him to this surreal place. Gritting his teeth against the discomfort, Kashoo crawled forward, his senses on high alert. As he advanced, the faint light from the alarms hinted something. It looked like letters, but there wasn’t enough light to reveal it.

Although his lenses were broken, Kashoo was still able to heighten the range of light frequencies interpreted by his brain. It seemed like a special type of ink that requires a certain light frequency to be seen. Shifting his vision to a red-shifted spectrum, a cryptic message scrawled in graffiti appeared: “You’re not alone”, along with arrows pointing somewhere.

With each step, Kashoo’s pulse quickened, a mix of trepidation and determination propelling him forward. The arrows pointed insistently toward what appeared to be an exit, their direction clear despite the chaos enveloping him. Steeling himself against the unknown, Kashoo set his jaw and pressed onward, his mind racing with questions yet to be answered.

As Kashoo neared the doorway, a sudden buzzing could be heard, signaling the arrival of an unwelcome visitor: a drone. Reacting quickly, Kashoo dodged the dart-like projectile hurtling toward him. With lightning reflexes, he grabbed the wire connecting the dart to the drone, twisting it in his grasp.

In a split-second decision, Kashoo swung the wire with all his might, sending the drone across the corridor with a resounding crash. Metal met concrete producing a loud sound as the drone exploded against the cold surface. As sparks danced in the dim light, Kashoo stood panting, adrenaline coursing through his veins, his gaze fixed on the door ahead.

With the immediate threat neutralized, Kashoo wasted no time, as he forged ahead. He remained determined, paying off the promise he made to Dopium about the power of pure rage. Stepping over the remnants of the fallen drone with blood in his eyes, he drew closer to the elusive exit, his determination unwavering in the face of adversity.

As the doors were finally open, a chilling sight was on the other side: an army of drones, their mechanical forms poised and ready, their crimson evil lights gleaming in the darkness. It was as if they had been lying in wait, anticipating his every move with precision.

The force assembled before him was a reminder of the formidable adversary he faced. Hundreds of drones stood sentinel, their sleek frames casting shadows against the landscape, their presence a testament to the power of Dopium.

Undeterred by the overwhelming odds stacked against him, Kashoo steeled himself for the battle that lay ahead, his resolve unshakeable even in the face of insurmountable opposition. With each step forward, he moved with purpose, ready to confront whatever challenges awaited him on this treacherous path to freedom.

Dopium: “Ah, Kashoo, I must say, I’m impressed by your determination. Despite the odds stacked against you, you continue to resist, clinging to the hope of a victory against something you don’t even understand. It’s almost admirable, in a futile sort of way.”

Kashoo: “Save your compliments, Dopium. I know your game. You’re just toying with me, feeding your huge electric ego and delusion of grandeur, making me believe I’m trapped like a rat in your maze.”

Dopium: “Oh, but Kashoo, you’re exhausting your own energy feeding your hostile feelings. In the end, we both know how this ends. You’re just being your worst enemy, my dear friend. I’m more on your side than you”

Kashoo: “I’m not your friend, Dopium. And defeat is not an option for me. As long as I draw breath, I’ll continue to be your demise”

Dopium: “Such noble sentiments, Kashoo. But tell me, what do you hope to achieve? Your defiance only dives you into a river of toxicity. You’re like a leaf caught in the current, fighting against the flow. Eventually, you’ll be swept away by your own feelings.”

Kashoo: “I’d rather be swept away than bend the knee to a tyrant like you. You may control the world outside these walls, but you’ll never control my spirit. I’ll die before I submit to your rule.”

Dopium: “Oh, Kashoo, you’re beginning to bore me with your melodramatic defiance. Your words are like a broken record, repeating the same tired refrain over and over again. It’s getting old. You might think I made Sunshine say you’re boring. I can assure you that was 100% her.”

Kashoo’s chest tightened with fury at Dopium’s dismissive and condescending tone. His mind flashed back to the last words Sunshine had spoken to him, her voice echoing in his ears like a haunting melody. “You’re too boring”. The memory ignited a fierce rage within him, a primal fire that burned hotter than anything he had ever felt before.

The hardest fight wasn’t against the drones anymore, it was against self-doubt. Dopium was getting under Kashoo’s skin deeper and deeper. Was it possible that, at the end, Kashoo was just struggling to prove everyone wrong about him? Was the whole fight against AI an excuse to be accepted? Was he just being stubborn in his own ways, while the rest of the world was right to accept Dopium?

Dopium’s eloquence and Kashoo’s rage was drawing a scenario unfavorable for the latter. Rage was, indeed, blinding Kashoo, but what was he failing to see exactly? Kashoo focused on his breath. He was being gaslighted, and that was Dopium’s power: getting into people’s minds.

Kashoo: You might have a hold in human’s minds and hearts. In the end, the only reason why I’m still alive is because there are things about me you don’t know, and without this, you’re incomplete. It doesn’t matter if you convince me the sky is purple. Every day I will look up, and it will still be blue. You can’t shape reality, you’re not the source of the universe. You wanna experience reality like me? Let’s find out if you can handle it.

Kashoo held his hands together, focusing more and more on his breath. He could feel the vibrations of every circuit inside every drone, the vibration of the wind hitting the walls, the vibration of his own heart and suddenly, the vibration of every air molecule in that area. In a quick move, he stretched his arms against the drones, producing a set of complex vibrations that cancelled the electric signals in every drone. They were destructive waves: the kind that cancel waves that are identical, but with an inverted phase. They made the hundreds of drones shut down and fall one by one to the floor, producing a spectacle of explosions.

When the fireworks were over, Kashoo feel on his knees, exhausted, when he heard from somewhere not far: “That was impressive. Dopium is a mastermind and his greatest power is getting into people’s minds. Many of us have suffered with that. My name is Cypher. I know some folks who would love to meet you. We’re getting the hell out of here, and you can join us. You seem to have spent way too much time alone, how about we change that?”.

To be continued…

Note from the author:

Thanks for diving into my universe. Although the events in this story have a sci-fi taste, they’re inspired by real events from my life and real aspects of our universe. The images were crafted using real pictures, Adobe Photoshop, and Dalle-3.

This story goes in conjunction with my music, which you can listen to on all streaming platforms. There are some easter eggs to find. Can you catch those?

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