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The Artificial City

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If you’re a fool who is expecting to read a mediocre “spooky” tale with a silly little plot-twist or an ending that wraps up everything up in a convenient little box at the end of this strange and horrifying event, then please do not continue. This is a tale of unusual and endless dread and confusion.

What I am writing here in my notebook is the final memories of the former life I had once a few years ago. Ever since that time that one morning, nothing had ever been the same, nor has it been the same. I don’t recall my name, the state I lived in, my family, or anything of the sort. All I remember was tidbits of my previous life, how old I believed I was, and a few simple details of the town I used to live in.

This unusual, seemingly endless twisted hallucination started when I was eighteen. For the most part, I was an ordinary youngster growing up. I received fairly decent grades and I had a family. I cannot, for the life of me, recall if I had siblings or if I did not. I can’t remember if my parents were happily married to one another or if they loathed each other and were in preparation for a divorce. I can’t remember if I lived in a middle class, working class, or upper class family.

As mentioned earlier, a few vague, scarce details linger in my mind pertaining to my old hometown. I lived in a city, and I do believe I found it rather quaint and crime-free. I believe I’d lived there my entire life.

It wasn’t a large, bustling metropolis. Instead, it was a humble city that had nice parks and was a prominent art colony. On the window of every shop or bar, you would find quirky little models or sculptures lurking about. I will return to this point a bit later.

I forgot to mention that one of the few things I remember was that I had a very miniscule social life. I never truly remember ever being a member of a sports team or attending festive occasions with any acquaintances. To kill time and boredom, I’d often take long promenades with or without music around my city. It helped to clear my mind and allowed me to appreciate the architecture and qualities of the local artists.

During my walks, I often found one particular mural that stood out to me from all the others, simply because it looked so odd and somewhat unsettling. Whenever I gazed at it, it left me with a feeling of uneasiness that I could never and still cannot truly explain. Perhaps it was something along the lines of the Uncanny Valley, but it always left me feeling that way.

But, being someone who enjoyed the macabre and the grotesque, and the thrill of being afraid, I’d often sit there for several minutes just staring at it, observing it and carefully studying its design. As puerile as this sounds, the thing that attracted my attention so keenly was a mural painting of a large, cartoon porcupine.

I’m not exactly certain as to how I can explain its design properly, but I will try it for the sake of a clear understanding. To another person, it may not seem eerie at all, perhaps even amusing or welcoming.

This particular cartoon had a large, smiling face and it was standing on its hind legs, making it bipedal. It had very simply designed arms and paws, and it had large spikes protruding from its back. The tips of its spikes had a shade of white on them. It was simply colored, just a few touches of white against a black wall. It had large, otaku-esque eyes and it seemed to be staring at a word, which, in retrospect, I believe was the name of the shop or store, or whatever it was that this mural was painted on.

I have no idea what it was, but whenever I walked by that particular hole-in-the-wall store or shop or restaurant with the unnerving porcupine on the side of it, I always felt naturally compelled to stare at it, even if I was tired or feeling somewhat apathetic to anything else.

I’ve seen this odd wall-painting ever since I was a child, so although it intrigued me endlessly, I would see it nearly every single day. To amplify the unusual circumstances surrounding this strange yet silly picture, I never could truly figure out who the artist was who painted it.

Unfortunately, I never bothered to enter the store or restaurant or whatever it was to figure out who painted it, or what the store even specialized in. I suppose the animal enticed my curiosity a bit too much to do anything else.

At this very moment, I can only regret ever staring at that porcupine as that would be the true sign that would confirm I was no longer where I had thought I was.

The night before my weird and tenebrous life-changing event occurred, I had received the most unusual and overall disturbing dreams. To call them dreams is a mistake, they were night terrors. My nightmares consisted of me lying down, but I was not in my bed. Instead, I imagined my eyes awakening to an extremely lurid white light.

The light was so luminous, I recall I did not even want to look directly at it, as my eyes burned from the intensity of it. All I can truly remember is that my body felt immovable, as if it were frozen or restrained in this unfathomable, unexplainable way. Having obtained a decent knowledge of dreams from me reading about it quite often, I thought I was experiencing a very peculiar case of lucid dreaming.

But at the same time, I felt similar symptoms to those of sleep paralysis. I felt like I wanted to move my limbs, but I felt that it was so difficult to do. The few glimpses I caught of the blinding light, I saw that it didn’t look like any sort of light I had ever witnessed before.

As I stared at it briefly, my vision appeared to seem as if I were underwater, the light seemed to move in a wave-like fashion.

From what I remember, I heard very little sound, if any at all. If memory serves, all I heard was a sort of unusual, low-rumbling echoing somewhere and a very faint, distant high-pitched tone. It was as if I was hearing noises from deep inside of my own body. The best way I can honestly describe these noises is that they mirrored sounds I heard from listening to the music of the cosmos, the ones made by various planets in our solar system.

It felt so difficult to move my body at all, even my eyes. The most control I had over myself was my eyelids, and I primarily wanted to keep them closed due to the excessive luminosity of the light or lights above.

Then, my thoughts soon began racing. Where was I? Who was I? Where am I? Am I dreaming? I couldn’t begin to describe the horrible anxiety and panic I began to feel. If what I was experiencing was truly a dream, it was the most vivid, detailed dream I had ever had despite my immobility. I suddenly attempted to scream and shriek but I couldn’t make a sound.

Just as I felt the overwhelming dread and the icy-cold grip of terror, I saw an image that has never left me to this day.

I saw three horrific enormous silhouettes suddenly overtake the light. The shadowy beings were massive, and they were shaped like no other living thing I had ever seen. I could see the outlines of eerie tendrils writhing about from one of them and I could see another's single, glowing, purple eye through the darkness.

I could hear them conversing with one another; a horrible, baritone hoarse pattern of vocal effects emitted from each of them. It almost sounded as if they were speaking in whispered voices, but their vocals were blaring in my ears.

As they continued, I felt a morbid loathing of these hideous beings spring up in the pit of my stomach. They appeared so large they almost seemed like enormous, inhuman surgeons standing above me. It was as if they were living Gods. As I felt my conscious beginning to slip away from the paralyzing fear overtaking me, my final sight was to see a snake-like tentacle reaching down to me slowly.

I suddenly sat up in bed, sweating violently and screaming. My sweet relief came when I realized that that horrendous experience had only been a nightmare. The feeling of dread began to get gradually swept away as I sat up and began collecting my thoughts and catch my breath. Those mysterious, other-worldly beings still haunted my mind for a moment as I removed the blankets off of me, when I suddenly noticed something; my room.

Although it did have a sort of uncertain echo of resemblance, appeared different from what I remember.

I almost have no way of explaining it, other than things just seemed irregular. And the more my eyes scanned the room, studying each of my items like my desk, bookshelf, and lamp, the more I noticed how they had tacit little differences. Objects seemed to be in the proper place, but they appeared deformed, almost surrealistically altered as if I had ventured inside a painting of Salvador Dali’s.

Different shapes, perhaps a slight tinge of a different color. Or there was just something flat-out bizarre about the objects present.

Sometimes, the shape of my desk appeared entirely slanted or as if it were purposefully disguised to seem like my old desk, but it clearly wasn’t. Or perhaps the walls of my room, which were normally a white color, appeared to be a slight yellowish rotted color.

I then checked my blankets, and they too, appeared strangely different and yet the same simultaneously. My blankets were a hue of blue with vines and white roses all over it.

Before all of this, I could remember the vines and flowers appeared welcoming and comely on the blanket. But now, the vines of the roses appeared chaotic and uncouthly tangled amongst each other and the roses appeared to be drooping and lifeless.

In an attempt to rid my mind of these unsettling details, I climbed out of bed and slipped on my clothes and shoes. Even those appeared differently from what I imagined. I was wearing a shirt that resembled one of my favorites.

I had remembered my shirt had an insignia of some sort, perhaps a jaguar or tiger, or something along those lines. It was small and located on the left pectoral. When I took a quick glance at this new one, it had what appeared to be a sort of pterodactyl-bat hybrid which frightened me a bit more. I simply had no idea what was going on, and it was starting to take a toll on my nerves.

As I quickly marched through the house finishing putting on my clothes, I could still observe the subtle and creeping differences within my own house. It followed the same structure of my room; the template was the same, but the house was slightly modified in different ways with furniture acquiring new or losing qualities, things were different colors, or perhaps entire rooms would be different sizes with shadows or blurs of strange animals or beings seemingly appearing and disappearing at random nooks and crannies.

When I finally reached outside, that was when the situation truly began to get unusual and frightening.

Running the risk of sounding monotonous, the houses, although I could tell they were in the same establishments as prior to all of this, they all appeared different. In a way, they almost gave me the chills, as some of them had grown decrepit and overgrown with thickets and weeds all over the lawns and patios.

In some other houses, the architecture was truly alien to me. A few had a small, distinct pyramid-esque shape reminiscent of those of the Mesoamerican variety with windows and a door on a strange corner of them. But calling it a “door” would be an understatement, because it more or less appeared like some sort of window with a peculiar large shutter that gave the appearance of a door.

The streets were deathly quiet, not a single sound of a vehicle or birds chirping was to be heard. It gave me the impression that I was entirely alone in this city. The air itself had a queer vibe; it didn’t feel warm or cold. It was during the summer, if I remember correctly, but there wasn’t that slight hint of humidity that occasionally arises during this time. I felt as if I were in some sort of box in which I couldn’t feel anything.

As I walked down the lonesome road, I began to gaze at the signs of what I thought were markets. But after seeing them, I couldn’t tell what these little buildings were. They appeared like shops, but they contained objects that I couldn’t remotely judge as to what they were.

As I peered inside them, a few of the items I could see were black, rubbery formless things, strangely vibrant multi-colored jewelry that were cut into bizarre shapes, and what appeared to be dead, hideous skinned animals laying there resembling the way a dog would lay as if it had died. It was very much different from the art colony in which I had grown up with. I contemplated entering one of those odd little bazaars, but I had second thoughts with what happened next.

I glanced up to read the shop names, but to my chagrin, the text was in a language I had never seen before! The characters appeared to be a mixture between pictograms and glyphs. It was evident that they had a language since many of the symbols repeated here and there, which I could assume was the same letter or sign. It was here in which I truly began to feel afraid and the cold grip of fear seized my throat and spine.

Nothing was making any sort of logical sense, and I felt completely alone and filled with dread. The city and everything seemed so distorted and unknown to me, and I felt as if I had somehow wandered into some unknown city in some remote country. Unfortunately, the horror was yet to come.

I am not exactly sure why I decided to do this; perhaps it was to try to find even a small sliver of sanity in this demented, backwards town. I had decided to look at the sky. The sky, to me, would always be above us and retain its natural laws no matter what. But even there, something strange and nerve-wracking awaited me.

The sky itself was uncanny. It didn’t appear a light shade of blue as it normally would. Nor was it cloudy or hazy or anything of that sort. It instead had a peculiar shade of an eerie purplish-blue color, as if it were some sort of alien-like firmament someone would see when looking into the sky on another world. What caught my attention made me gasp and let out a cry of terror.

In the air there hung an eerie, colorfully-striped moon that was much larger than the ordinary moon we are so accustomed to seeing. The three primary colors I had seen on it were blue, green, and a pinkish shade of purple. To call it a “moon” is just to compare it to something familiar. The truth is I don’t know whether it was a moon or a planet or some sort of illusion I was beholding. I would have found it beautiful and fascinating if it were not so subtly horrific.

Even more curious was the star constellations I saw around it. Even though I got the impression that it was morning since I had just woken up and the area seemed bright with daylight (even though I didn’t see the sun, but I conjectured that it was behind one of the strange buildings. How wrong I would be) I saw unfamiliar star constellations glittering around the circumference of the moon. They were a dark red color and they seemed to flicker like light bulbs ready to burn out.

I felt my knees beginning to knock together and then I began to repeatedly ask those questions that had been scratching at my subconscious: Where am I? What is this place? Am I still on Earth? Or have I somehow traveled to a different planet? Or am in another dimension or universe? Or was I just still dreaming?

Not knowing what to do, I passed numerous of those weird, unsettling shops and odd houses when suddenly, I saw a figure approaching me. I didn’t know whether to feel relieved or nervous as they came closer.

As I watched them coming closer, it seemed like they kept walking towards me, in a completely static way. Their arms moved in the same motion, they didn’t look around, and at times, I felt as if they were stationary despite them looking like they were moving. It was as if I were gazing at an optical illusion of sorts.

When I finally came near to them, I stared at their face, and not only had I never seen them before, but their face was so strange and it had such haunting characteristics.

Their eyes appeared lost and reminiscent of a thousand-yard stare. Their facial features appeared disproportionate and mildly deformed. I suppose the only true way I may express how their face looked is if I described it as a sort of mask-like face. Their eyes never seemed to move, and when their lips moved, they didn’t seem to be in sync with their words.

The more unsettling features struck me even more when I saw their gait more closely. They walked in a very curious, clumsy manner. I couldn’t say it looked humorous, but rather as if they were robotic and programmed poorly in terms of walking.

When I got close enough, I inquired as to where everyone had gone.

When they spoke, their voice came out as a hollow, echoing voice that seemed to fade away in the middle of their sentences. They would make bizarre facial expressions like grins and looks of surprise, and they uttered a few words that I’d never heard of. They’d use weird gestures I’d never seen anyone use before with their hands. Their words themselves were incoherent and abnormal.

This is what I could make out when they spoke to me:

“Yes, we believe we all know where for went. There is an up there beyond the valley in which the instruments use no more of these. The tunes, the tunes green make… no. Whither chill below down the space emptiness from see…”

I merely stared at them as they let out this seemingly stream-of-consciousness babbling. It sounded as if this person was trying to connect sentences together, but it came out as a garbled mess of speech. I began to back away from the stranger, as they continued their mindless speech patterns, and I left them with their voices fading away behind me and my view gazing into the streets of an unknown city.

Then, suddenly, I beheld the thing that confirmed my suspicions.

It was the mural of that unnerving porcupine painted on the wall. Although the general image gave me a brief glimpse of the familiar scenery I was accustomed to in my former life, I saw that it had distinctly different features now.

Its facial features were no longer the otaku-styled large eyes and the smiling face. Although the body and position in which the original artist painted it seemed similar to what I remember, its face was considerably different.

The eyes were much smaller and seemed to have a more menacing glare to them. The mouth was no longer open and widely grinning, but instead the porcupine was exposing two small pairs of teeth twisted into a smile. The more I stared at this new altered painting, the more the sinking horror overtook me.

All it took was this porcupine for me to realize what was happening. Not the alien striped moon or constellations hanging from the sky, not the bizarre and uncanny buildings that served as houses and shops, and not the unusual scattered denizens of this mysterious city.

Someone or something had replicated a world just for me, but they didn’t create it perfectly. That is why all that I saw seemed so corrupted and I saw ghost-like figures of animals or illusions suddenly appear and reappear in the corner of my eye as I explored.

To try and word it as simply as I can, this was a sort of flawed copy or “bootlegged” version of my town. Perhaps I could claw it an illusion of sorts with many glitches in it. With that terrible enlightenment, my heart began to thud in my chest and I felt my hands begin to quake. The porcupine's expression seemed to be laughing at me in a mocking fashion as I began to panic at this revelation.

Then, for a moment, I turned up to glance at the planet and the extraordinary star constellations above, and then, I felt a horrible knot strain itself inside my stomach and I screamed such a bloodcurdling scream that I could have never imagined that I could yell in such a way.

For just a second or maybe even shorter than that, I caught a glimpse of those hideous, fiendish giant beings from that dreadful nightmare. They were staring at me, as if observing my actions like I were some sort of lab rat in an experiment they were conducting. The skies resembled the same imagery I had seen in my dreams; a lurid light being shadowed by that trio of beasts.

Then, in an instant, it disappeared and returned to that cryptic blue sky and those never-before-seen star constellations and that strange moon. It was as if they were a hologram that was momentarily projected against the sky.

Then, all I can remember from this dreadful day was running. I felt as if I no longer had a body, like I had no identity, or was even a human. I was just made out of sheer horror and fear, and I was running mindlessly to nowhere. I had become a physical manifestation of fear, just sprinting to get away from a world in which I was trapped in.

Now, here is where my story ends. I’ve spent, from what I think, years searching in vain for a ray of light in this grotesque and corrupted version of my past life. I have discovered more of these mindless, artificial humans lurking about, but much like the first, they only uttered those nonsensical, discordant sentences.

Everywhere I look, I only see remnants of my past life deformed into these unusual sights. I spend my days locked up in my “room” trying to figure out just what had happened to me to transport me into this place. No matter how hard I try, I simply can’t piece the puzzle together.

I’ve been able to sustain myself with berries growing in my “lawn”. They appear crescent-shaped and grow in bunches. They have an unpleasing grayish color and have a very bitter taste to them. But they do the job in terms of keeping me hunger-free. I’d also rather eat these berries than resort to eating one of the mysterious and unclassifiable animals I rarely see crawling around, or gliding through the air.

Perhaps the worst part of this surreal endeavor of mine is the fact that, although it’s not frequent, when I look outside the window and glance up at the sky, a feeling of pure madness welcomes me as I see those three beings momentarily, looming like mountainous thunderheads in a developing storm.

I theorize that those three abominations are linked to all of this, but in what way, I’m still at a total loss.

I’m penning these words because I feel as though those God-like entities are beginning to get bored of me and want to replace me with another specimen to study, torture, or whatever it is they are doing. I feel myself slowly becoming drained being in this alternate dimension or simulation. I know I am constantly being watched. And every time I see the hideous porcupine illustration or the “people” walking around, my loathing for them grows bigger.

I can only use this notebook to remember the days prior to this madness. I can only write, and hopefully, somehow, someone may read it and whether I’m alive or dead, someone may give an explanation as to what had happened to bring me here to this artificial town and who I even was.

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