The Rogue Scholar

By Jbschirtzinger | clarion | 2 Jan 2024

Chapter 15 Part 1

Uzine looked in the mirror at his tattoo. The red traced down to his waist. He hadn't been to work in several days. For the first time in his life, he simply had not felt the need to. He replayed the events of the previous few days in his mind.

After he had found Brezine in her glitchy state, he had at first refused to believe the obvious. He had thought someone had made a holographic image of Brezine. Emotionally he wanted to believe this idea badly, because if it was wrong it would mean a significant portion of his life had been a lie. Some part of him knew the truth already, however. Deep down, he knew that the emptiness he had felt with Brezine during what should have been the most intimate moments now had an ugly, shocking explanation. She didn't exist. But who most benefited by her non-existence? Who would have reason to fool Uzine?

As Uzine had considered it, it became clear why Brezine had always been so militant about work. Clearly, the corporation that he worked for had concocted this scheme to give the chimeras the illusion of living. It would be one thing to force the chimeras to work on pain of death--many would likely choose death. It was quite another to create a phony fabric of reality where a chimera would willingly assume their own lives were circumscribed by work.

Uzine had seen in a flash the entirety of his life. Everything in it had suspiciously been centered on work--even what was more or less his God, Hiro, appeared to have been manipulated to bring about a sense of company loyalty. When he had this thought, he felt the familiar twinge he had felt before, only this time it threw him into a deep cavern inside himself. The twinge before was trying to tell him something was wrong--that something had been done that should not have been. He wondered back to all the times he had a similar feeling. There were far too many occasions for his liking that matched this paradigm. Most all of them had involved work.

When Uzine had traced this back to his satisfaction, he had elected simply not to work. His tattoo would slowly turn red, and he would die. In his mind, though, he had died the moment he had found Brezine upstairs. All of his values had been false--and the person he love the most--his wife--was nothing but a fiction. If his body died at this point, it would simply put an end to his miserable existence. He had nothing left to live for anyway. 

Mercifully, the glitch that had affected Brezine had taken her permanently offline. It would have been more torture than Uzine could have borne to see her walking and talking as she always had knowing what he now knew. The temptation to pretend none of what he knew had ever happened would have been greater in that circumstance than he would have liked to have admitted. Yet, there was a sense that he had always known, and the seed of his awareness had been watered delicately and slowly until it burst forth into his psyche. Once some things are known, there is no unknowing them, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.

Uzine figured he might have a couple of days left by the working clock he had internalized which was not at all similar to standard time units. He would spend the remainder of his time in his home until he expired, and that would be that.

It was somewhat surprising, then, as he contemplated his end, that he heard a knock on his door. At first Uzine elected to ignore the knock, but then it got louder. Uzine had really hoped the knock was in his imagination. Before he understood why, however, his feet were carrying him to open it. 

Uzine made his way down the stairs, and opened the door. Something was strange. For one thing, it was nighttime and through the initial crack in the door there was a light that should not be there. As the door swung more widely open, Uzine was awestruck and simultaneously dumbstruck. There, in what appeared to be heavenly radiance, stood Hiro Triack.

Uzine stumbled back from the door.

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