Finally, after opening the two other books, the Library’s Computatrum opened slowly, emitting green light from the screen. Eerily, the electric torch lights dimmed, dramatically making the small room of book a creepy place. Crimson snorted as an opening glared at her, “Well, that was overdone. Such dramatists.” She stepped inside the widened green screen. “You coming or not?” Crimson asked as she saw Jake’s hesitant face.
“Yeah, yeah,” Jake said half-heartedly. “I’m not going to wait here to be fed back to the aliens or something. That’s just insane!” He followed Crimson into the khaki-colored light… and that was one of the two’s biggest mistakes.
Crimson thought she had arrived at the wrong place at the wrong time- a nightclub. Or more like a city that never sleeps. The world was of neon lights and those who waste their souls on a gigantic, everlasting party. But worse, instead of drunk teenagers- it were Cyborgs that populated the place. Yes, those people with metallic versions of their organs and body parts attached to themselves- some maybe entirely replaced with scraps of aluminum and iron!
Buildings of Glittenium sparkled with dashboards advertising the “Removement of Half A Brain- Loads of Gain, no Pain!” or “Doctor D’s Duodenum Do-Over: Free Booking Now!” Cyborgs strutted back and forth in sharp fashion that would do billions on… well any planet! The noise was bustling and loud (an addition of jazz playing in the corner buzzed with rhythm), but the smell was even louder; as if someone forgot to laundry their clothes and accidentally fried it with a pile of fish.
The gardens were strangely withering to weed and the scrapers of Glittenium- which in normal planets glimmered in wonderful delight- slowly rusted and rotted away- but no one seemed to care. All they did was live in the time that wasted itself into a reckless repeat. The beat of the city drummed with uncertainty as much as Crimson’s insecurity about the place. It just didn’t feel right… something sinister was brewing behind these walls.
Unlike Crimson, Jake was in awe of how different and unique the design was. “A city… inside a library! Or underground? Or is it a portal? And the architecture- it’s so unique!” He grabbed Crimson by the shoulder and pointed at a building that seemed like a cat’s paw. “That one… The Ashi Stone! I’ve read about it-”
“So do I,” Crimson said lamely, unimpressed. She has seen better.
“-a billion pounds in weight! And no one hasn’t have a clue on how the rocky soil below actually holds something of such an imaginable weight.” The two led themselves pass stony walls and within alleyways, trying to find a way out. But it was a city- a city of those who were lost. Crimson and Jake were those who were lost, too.
“Welcome to Fhroreevere (pronounce fröw-ree-vuh-ree) Town, where all dreams come true with a scrap of metal!” welcomed a charming voice. Behind the two teenagers was a woman who wore a silver dress laced with light turquoise silk. Nearly her entire body was metal, except for her pale forehead and the pair of entrancing blue eyes that seemed to gleam with interest. Her blonde hair was in a bun that seemed to fail holding up all that hair.
“You’re new, aren’t you?” she sung sweetly, clasping her hands below her cheeks. When neither of them answered, she continued, “I’m Lovelyn by the way- lovely to meet you two. Oh! This would be so fun- welcome to the Community. You’re always welcomed here- and here are your member cards! Wear them!” She handed Crimson and Jake two cards with their names on. Crimson instantly slid them on her neck while Jake wore his rather reluctantly.
“Your Residence is straight ahead until you see the fourth left turn, and it’s on the side of Laggywoo Aleway,” she instructed them. “Have a great day! And may you metal your way out!” She force a grin quite widely, and left the two alone, the echo of her heels tapping on the stone floor.
“She’s actually… pretty nice,” Jake complimented, still inspecting his membership card.
“Yeah- says the boy who’s been in a cell for who-knows-how-long,” Crimson laughed, her chin slightly gazing at the dark sky. “I still wonder how you kept your tan look- oh, I’ve forgotten. You’re a shape-shifter.” And with that, they walked in silence towards wherever they should be.
After walking for miles, they finally arrived at the only Residence in Laggywoo Aleway. It was as shabby as the Library before, with stone walls and pillars that gave it such a medieval look. Jake pushed the glass door that creaked open with a scraaaape that would cringe your ears.
“I don’t know how long we’ll be here, but this place would probably kill me first,” Jake said to his friend quietly, not admiring the pillars that were draped in spiderwebs and dust. The floor was so dirty with ash you wouldn’t even realize it was made of marble more than a hundred years old! A piano sat in the corner of the room, untouched, more likely to be a museum artifact abandoned for so long rather than a musical instrument.
Crimson walked up to the front-desk employee, who was fat and rather tired with algae-colored bags under his eyes. His hair was stringy and untidy, and he smelt as if he hadn’t have a bath in days. Said Crimson, “Excuse me, sir? We’re going to be checking in for a while… We were assigned here, and-”
“Think about all of this yerself, kid,” groaned the front-desk employee, not listening to a word she said. “It’s what we do here. Use the damn card on the elevator. Isn’t that what it’s for? It’ll lead you straight to your dingy room. Now leave me in peace. Come on, shoo!”
When Crimson caught up with Jake, who was already by the elevator, she said, “Well that wasn’t very pleasant. I wonder if we should buy him dessert to cheer ‘im up? The poor thing.” She played and tapped her card as they went inside the elevator, bored.
“What is wrong with you? We shouldn’t stop by and give that wretched thing ice cream or something!” Jake said back harshly, but didn’t surprise Crimson. “We’re here to find a way out and stop the Clock, and- hey, is my eyes malfunctioning again? Because your nose is turning all grey.”
“What? No, it isn’t-” but she stopped as he examined her now silver nose. “My goodness… I’m… I’m turning into-” She brushed her nose rapidly, in panic, hoping the metal replacement would go away. “Gah! Oh my gosh, make it stop- make it stop- I can’t go to my own grave like this-”
“Calm down,” Jake coped cooly, his mouth smirking. “That’s why; don’t get too obsessed with this place. It’ll try to change your view of things…” He looked around the hall as she went out of the elevator. “Just… Try to stay focused on the mission. Because I think this is a test. A test to see if we’re worthy heroes or something.”
They entered their room, which was like the entire hotel; dull and messy. There were two beds and one lamp on a small bedside table that was on the verge of breaking. The bathroom was locked (Crimson had no intention to know why) and there was no window. It felt as if Crimson and Jake had been transported into a living horror movie.
“Let’s research here for the time being,” Jake said, pulling out a stack of books. “Maybe these books have some information on how to get out of here. Or rather clues.” He flipped open one. “You take one half, I take the other half. See if you could find anything helpful.”
They spent the next half an hour scanning through the thick bunch of pages, flipping through each one of them, their eyes sore of all the searching. Soon enough, they would have baggy eyes just like the front-desk employee. But they were not even close to reading half of the stack, until-
“Hey, Jake,” Crimson called out as the boy turned his head. “Check it out here. It’s sort of not and also about the Ashi Stone. Originally, it was built and planned by Arden Roth, one of my family members. He built and finished this about 200 years ago, but-” she rechecked the page. “It was made in 26215, about three hundred years ago. I’m now confused, is this a typo or-”
“No, can’t be,” said Jake, unsure. “Cyborgs are extremely smart with most of their brains removed. They never get anything wrong…” he paused, an idea coming to his brain. “But what if this book isn’t made by a Cyborg? What if it’s by a more human… more organic creature? What if it’s made by-”
“Arden Roth!” Crimson exclaimed with pride. She flipped to the section where they placed a list of the authors who contributed to the book, to be exact the ‘R’ surnames and the ‘A’ names. Unfortunately, none were a contribution by or from Arden. She handed the book to her friend, suggesting he was a better reader than her.
Jake decided to look again, this time in all the name categories. After searching for a few minutes, his current lead was an anonymous being called Dera North. “It’s an anagram… Dera North, Arden Roth? Isn’t it obvious?”
“Okay… So now what?” Crimson asked. Jake thought perhaps the Cyborg-corruption had began to take over her mind. Her voice was rather flatter than usual and her eyes stared blankly into the distance.
Jake snapped. “Hey! Snap out of it. You’ve got to stay awake.” Crimson shook her head furiously, though from a sleep, grabbing consciousness as desperate as she could. “Staying here is the last thing you would do if I were you. We’ve got to get out of here. We shouldn’t talk about getting strangers ice cream.
“Maybe that’s because I’m just a normal human,” said Crimson, though rather unsure. “You’re more than one, so I dare say that you should be taking the lead.” She hopped of her bed. “After all, trouble follows in my footsteps.” Her head hung low, knowing she had to stay conscious and human enough to fight the robotic transformation.
They silently walked out of the Residence. At quite an often rate, Jake had to snap Crimson out of her robotic trance. The young man knew she was starting to get impressed by the advanced and rickety mini-world of these poisonous Cyborgs- he was too- but now was not the to procrastinate.
Around the Ashi Stone were little daffodils that, surprisingly, were still in the midst of healthiness. It stood high and proud, engrossed in ivy and thorns. The fingers faced the sky, as if the paw was a student’s hand asking permission to question in a classroom. Plaques of contributors sat under the flowers, shadowed below as if they were of no purpose. Finally, Crimson found Dera North’s plaque- suspiciously, above it was a white sheet folded into fours, tidily- unlike the city itself.
Crimson slowly unfolded it, making sure not to rip anything apart. Inside it was a small, handwritten letter…. that never got to the receiver. It wrote:
If you are reading this- only you can. To others, it would be an immigration file for the United Systems of Androids. And as a Roth, you must escape.
I may not be as you’ve heard nor as you’ve seen. I am now gone, but still physically on Gregorax- I am well hidden. They’ll never find me. But as bad as it sounds, I am in good hands. The Cyborgs have treated me well enough- too well, I shall never go back again, my dear.
If you are finding me, turn back. The curse is a blessing- and you are too pure to be poisoned. Turn back, I beg of you- even though that would be the hardest thing to ever do. The living here is like death, so live out there and outlive death… run. Like the wind.
But if you are to march forward into the battlefield, beware. Only a true Roth knows how to lead a massacre and come out alive. I still may have a voice, though the voice is not mine to keep.
Crimson tucked the paper in the pocket of her jacket. She looked around, hoping that no one saw her reading the given letter- even though she quite knew the citizens here would accept it as an immigration file. But, since she was still sixteen, people (or rather Cyborgs) would find it suspicious.
Crimson turned around, but she could not find her friend, for as she had heard it, a shout came from the crowd. “Crimson!”