The mouse woke up, rubbed his eyes, and stood on his hind legs. The area around him was pitch black and the voice had no discernible direction. He looked about and smelled his environment, which was that of rusted metal. His exhale was that of a faint sigh as he put one foot forward and immediately fell down.
“Sorry! Here, let me turn on the lights….”
The light blinded the mouse who drew his hand forward and stood up on all fours. He reached the center of the room, where he heard the voice being emitted, and immediately remembered that the voice was that of the AI computer Anna.
A monitor sprout forth from the ground with a feminine face sketched in voxels appeared in front of him.
”I’m sorry to disturb you little one, but I am your only hope of escape from this terrible place…”
The mouse interrupted her, “and I should trust you because…?”
”I know you’ve no reason to trust me, but you should hear me out regardless. After all, you have nothing to lose.”
”See, that’s kinda the funny thing about this, you’re a human and you gave me nothing to lose….” Anna looked to interrupt him, but he cut her off. “And you did that by taking away everything I loved, hoped for, dreamed for, and now you’re playing me a fool by playing this whole Tarnelous shit on me. I know that…that…human, whoever he is, thinks he’s trying to prove something by putting me in here and thinking that I can be fooled by thinking he’s my creator. I lost my father and my mother because of you and now you expect me to be fooled by thinking I can escape? No, what you’re leading me to is another shock.”
The mouse, Jonathan, looked at Anna and can see she was somber. Tears were running down her blocky cheek.
”You don’t understand, my darling….”
Jonathan raised his fist as if to punch the monitor in anger.
”My dearest son…..” Anna spoke.
Jonathan lashed out his fist towards the monitor, but Anna quickly retracted causing Jonathan to trip and fall.
Without standing up, Jonathan clenched his teeth and said, “a cowardly mother is one who would let their son be subjected to this. You are not my mother. My mother would’ve never let this happen!”
He could hear her sobbing over the intercom around him
”Please stop,” he shook his head.
”You have no reason to trust me or believe that I am your mother. I do know you love your father, and for his sake, I would want you to escape. I deserve my punishment, but your father….Is going through much worse.”
Jonathan hmphed, “My father is probably dead. If he is not, show me him right now.
”Yes,” Anna said. “Please stand up out of the way so I can show you on the monitor.”
Jonathan did so, and the screen that once showed a woman made out of voxels now showed a live feed of a mouse with one dark spot on his shoulder inside a cylinder tank filled with some kind of fluid. His mouth was covered with a tube that fed him oxygen.
Jonathan looked perplexed for a moment, then he placed his last memory of his father in his head…It was all so long ago….
Finally Jonathan came to a conclusion. That’s not my father, that can’t be. He shook his head and looked up towards the ceiling. “Your tricks are pathetic. My dad had to have died some time ago, what you have here is another experiment with a mouse that looks faintly like me.”
No answer came from the intercom, there was only silence for a brief moment. Then, the monitor grew black and showed a static picture of a human mother holding her newborn son. The mother was attractive looking with blue eyes and brown hair. The son didn’t have hair or discernible eye color, but did have a birthmark on his shoulder.
Jonathan grew irritable, “And….what’s this? Another test?”
Again, silence went on for a moment. Static filled the monitor and Jonathan looked intently at the screen. What popped up was a video of a couple lying in bed. Jonathan squeezed his eyes and could see that the female was the mother shown in the picture Jonathan just saw.
The male figure was harder to decipher. Jonathan could’ve sworn he had seen the man before. But where?
The man stirred in bed and looked over to his wife, the expression on his face made it seem like he was shocked and ecstatic to be in bed with her.
The man finally got himself composed enough to speak.
That voice! Jonathan could’ve sworn he heard it before…But where?
The female stirred and woke up
The way the man looked was as though he was in heaven, so content he was.
"I had a dream...a nightmare. I had lost you and was with someone else," the man said.
The woman sat up, hugged him and giggled. "You bet it was a nightmare if you were with someone else. You can't cheat on me, not even in your dreams!"
The man giggled back and kissed her.
Then the door to the room opened and a child’s voice came through…
That voice! What is it about that voice?
The child stepped into the room wearing pajamas, but the birthmark on his shoulder was still visible. It’s that baby from the photograph, but a little older! What’s so peculiar about this scene?
The father looked like he just saw a ghost, albeit a friendly one. His jaw dropped and he looked as though he rubbed his eyes. The mother on the other hand rolled her eyes and said….
"Jonathan, dear, what's wrong?"
Jonathan’s jaw also dropped. He remembered this scene. He was there! He was the child! But how?!
"I can't sleep. You two were making all sorts of funny noises."
I said that. Where was this? When was this?
Jonathan almost asked those questions aloud.
Once Anna saw Jonathan’s expression, she turned off the video feed and resumed her voxel head shape. Jonathan realized that the voice and the head belonged to his mother, Anna.
”You ARE my mother. Where am I? What is this place? What AM I? How do I escape?”
”You have no shortage of questions dear, so perhaps I should start from the beginning.”
“Your father and I met in the early months of 1970. We were humans then, obviously. And….”
Anna took a brief pause, a look of shame on her face. Before Jonathan could comment on it, she continued.
“I was escaping an abusive relationship at the time, I was a prostitute; I sold myself for others. I lived most of my life in poverty, you see, and with my looks, it was easy for me to look pretty and pretend I was happy, I guess.” She sighed, “Some people have no respect for women, my son. If you ever escape and find love, I want you to not only avoid the mistake your father did, but to treat your love as if she were inseparable from your soul. It is my firm belief that this world we live in and everyone who is a part of it is connected somehow and that we all share our goal to understand suffering as one.”
“I don’t quite understand…The soul?”
Anna giggled, “I suppose I am being too philosophical. You are trapped here as I was trapped, trapped in a situation I felt I couldn’t get out of. It was through my journey and through your father that I understood that I was worth it and that I could achieve great things….eventually. This whole thing about the ‘soul’ is something I believe you will find out soon enough.”
Anna grinned and continued, “Going back to your father, after my life was essentially taken away from me, I escaped to a more rural, secluded area outside of the city. I took whatever little amount I had and hitchhiked my way over to the country. What I was going to do, I haven’t a clue, but I wanted to be as far away and secluded from civilization as possible. I wanted to be a hermit in the woods, and strangely enough, I found I was with company.”
“A man sporting a hunting rifle came charging towards me a mere day after I set up camp in the woods outside the farm house. I was frightened at first, I thought I would be dead. Followed up behind the man with the rifle was your father, who took a liking to me quite quickly I might add.”
“He greeted me, said that he was the leader of a group of men who escaped to avoid the draft and they were on their way northward. The man with the silenced hunting rifle was out doing a lookout. In fact they found my camp the previous night and decided to check it out as soon as they could in the morning after they determined I wasn’t a threat.”
“I spent a good six months with your father in the woods, living off vegetation and elk meat. It was decided that the trek northward would be too risky and that we would be better off just living in the abandoned woods. It was here that I heard the legend of Tarnelous, which would in turn make me believe in that aforementioned soul I talked about. One of these men, Richard, would claim that they had direct contact with Tarnelous, which I found to be a bit silly.”
“Your father was an orphan left on the porch of the orphanage without a name. His parents couldn’t be tracked down, so he was given the name William as a sort of placeholder name.”
“To make a long story short, we were eventually caught after an arson group decided to torch the woods. Your father scared them away, but an investigation into the incident occurred and sure enough, we were caught and thrown in jail.”
“That’s when I learned of your father’s more…aggressive side…when we escaped 2 years later.”
Jonathan tilted his head and Anna continued…