Demarcation: An Interactive Story

The world flows from darkness to light in degrees, blink by blink. Snowflakes the size of your eyes fall from a sky whorled in impressionistic hues. Aurorae blaze the night into a multihued day. Dried blood asserts itself in the lines of your palms, lines you once had read for signs of health and vitality as a child. The fact that you were once a child is incomprehensible to you. This is no longer a world of children, or of the old, because this world has no past and no future. Only an endless present, the way the snowy hills run off in every direction you look. Your left ankle is painfully twisted. It hurts to put any weight on it.

What do you do?

Check your pockets.

Call out for help.

Twist your ankle back into place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In your pocket you find a ticket for a movie you saw last year, the last one the two of you saw together. It’s been ripped haphazardly, so the title’s incomplete. This was her ticket, but you traded with her so she could add a complete one to her collection. It seems a lifetime ago that these things happened. Besides that: a matchbook, half the matches gone, snatched from a bar. Some crumpled-up receipts.

What do you do?

Start a fire.

Call out for help.

Take a step.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your words bounce off of snow-laden trees. They ride along the howling wind and into the hills, the mountains beyond them. An inhuman growl rises up in answer. It comes from everywhere. Darkness closes in before light can travel, before sound can follow, before even thought can come. It envelops you and takes you away.

GAME OVER

Try again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pain like sparklers flickering in the night. Where your foot once was is a gnarled claw leading up to an iridescent, shelled body. The pain is gone and so is the snow, the hills, the night. You are at the bottom of a deep, vast ocean, all sounds piped in from a location out of sight. Your eyestalks twist and turn on their own, like fingers probing for a lover in the dark. You open your mouth to speak, but only a muted, ancient rasp comes out.

What do you do?

Search for food.

Burrow.

Snip your eyestalks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You dig out a small hole and replace the snow you find with kindling, the receipts, the ticket. The fire doesn’t last long, but it’s enough to bring the feeling back to your fingers, warmth to your cheeks when you lean in close. You’re struck by a preternatural urge to put your injured foot in the fire, as if you haven’t eaten in weeks and before you sits a feast. The longer you stare at the flames, the stronger the urge becomes.

What do you do?

Indulge the urge.

Call out for help.

Look away from the fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The moment you turn from the flames, an inhuman growl echoes out into the night. It comes from everywhere. Darkness closes in before light can travel, before sound can follow, before even thought can come. It envelops you and takes you away.

GAME OVER

Try again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You gather protozoa and diatoms into your mouth. Your movements are instinctual. You have done this for millennia, and you will do it for millennia more. The farther you wander out onto this abyssal plain, the less you remember of your human life, the world of air and land and beings that creep in the soil. You sense a shift in your consciousness, a clear demarcation between your previous life and the one you’re living right now. You know you have only two options. That you have always only had two options. This is your life.

What do you do?

Stop to remember.

Wander.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your mind and body flicker through the interstitial: first foot, then claw, then foot again. Ocean, forest. Home, wilderness. It all stops in the in-between, at a place unidentifiable to your senses or any concept of time or space. You feel as though your body is incomprehensibly vast and connected to the ocean floor, spread out and undulating with the current. You try to move, but you have no parts to move. You try to look around, but you have nothing to look with. The ticket, her face, your claws and eyestalks, these are like watercolor dabs on canvas to you. The sound of nothing is all around. Far above, the sun shines through infinite water, golden prickles finding you all the way down. All the way down.

END

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Your claws fade with the force of the current; iridescent shell gives way to flesh. The water’s density leaves you as the ocean evaporates in seconds. The ocean floor turns to snowy ground, but no more flakes fall from the sky. Your body warms by degrees as your feet slide into the steps you took to get here, like a film playing in reverse overlaid atop its forward-playing self. The trees move aside to let you pass. There is no growl. There is no sound. The snow gives way to bare earth, then verdant grassland. Your memories are stories you can choose to consult. But for now, you don’t choose the memories. You choose to walk.

END

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