Continue this story…

“Haunted Mansion”

There were three things that people in my town did not know about the haunted mansion up the hill. One, it was not a mansion. Although it was an enormous house, it lacked the grandiose that a real mansion would have. Inside was bare and almost empty. Sometimes I doubted if people actually lived there. Two, it was not haunted. Ghosts weren’t real. I never believed they existed. But the house had secrets more frightening than any ghosts. I would know because, three, I lived there.

Those who took the turn up the hill to the outskirts of the town would pass by the house. It was the first structure that came into view. The three-storey house had a modern yet very simple design—white walls, square windows, slanted roofs, wooden doors, and an iron gate—but what made it look impressive was its size and how it overlooked the town down the hill the way palaces overlooked their kingdoms.

We didn’t own the house. My grandmother and I only stayed there because she worked as the housekeeper of the property but it hadn’t been long. Only a few months. The owner of the house was an American-German doctor who decided to live in a small town in a tropical archipelago all of a sudden. He had been staying here for almost ten years.

The doctor was a nice man. Most people would find him handsome and charismatic despite his age—strong and sharp features, tall and lean frame, striking blue eyes and dark hair, a warm smile—but I only saw him as intimidating. He was a quiet man but he exuded confidence and intelligence in the way he sat straight and stood high. He was nothing but kind to me and my grandma but there was something about him that scared me as a 15-year-old girl.

He had rules in the house. The most important one, Never go upstairs. The third floor, specifically. I didn’t understand why. But then, there were many things I didn’t understand about the doctor and the house. Why would a lonely man buy such a faraway house too huge for himself? Why was I not allowed to go upstairs? I could only go up there when he was home and my grandmother needed my help to run errands for the doctor—and that wasn’t often. Even then we could only enter his room to clean it. The rest of the rooms were off-limits.

Most of the time, the doctor wouldn’t come home for weeks or so, leaving the house only to my grandmother, the gardener Mang Tonio, and the personal assistant of the doctor whom I never tried to talk to. Those were the times when I was the most curious about the rooms upstairs, especially the one that was always locked. Once, I asked my grandmother about it.

“Did you go upstairs again? I told you to never go up there unless we are told to,” was her answer. I couldn’t go in the rooms even if I wanted to anyway. The doctor never left the keys with us. The only other person who had access was his assistant.

At times like this when I thought I believed that the house was haunted. It was too quiet for such a wide hollow space. Every sound I made echoed. Sometimes, I would hear sounds that weren’t supposed to be there. Subtle creaking and scratching sounds of wood, soft snores and low wailing, whimpers of someone in pain, chains rattling, all coming from upstairs. There was a chilling feeling that my grandmother and I weren’t alone and that someone was watching me. All of it I kept writing off as imagination. Maybe, the talks in my town about the haunted mansion were starting to get to me. I was just scaring myself, I thought. Ghosts didn’t exist.

However, August of 1995, it all turned real—and I wished it didn’t. Curiosity got the best of me. One of the nights that the doctor was gone and everyone in the house was deep asleep, I sneaked out of bed and took the keys from the assistant’s room. I tiptoed as I followed the strange faint noise that led me to one of the rooms upstairs. The room that was always locked. I inserted the key and turned it with a click. I pushed open the door and the pungent smell greeted me first. Once I caught sight of the room, I gasped in fear and disgust. There, I found—

(What could it be that the girl found in the room? Continue the story! But here’s a rule: The “it” could be anything but a ghost or a dead body. Let your imagination run wild! Make sure that it’s shocking or scary as possible. I didn’t know what else to post for my blog today so here’s an interactive short story for you. Enjoy writing!)

Building Worlds (Pt. 5): Cloud

Type: Advanced Alternate Timeline

I see a lot of virtual reality-inspired fiction nowadays (all thanks to The Matrix which made it so popular, it practically became a cult fever) but this world is not quite like that—although I did get the idea from that concept. The fictional world of “Cloud” is not about virtual realities or online simulations but the similarity is that all people living in this world are also “connected” to a worldwide network known as The Cloud. They still live in the physical world, unlike in The Matrix where the bodies are plugged in and lifeless somewhere, and all the parties are in the virtual world. “There is no spoon,” as one quote from the movie goes.

Maybe it isn’t right to compare this world to The Matrix. After all, there’s really no virtual reality involved. But they have the same theme: Everyone is connected to a system that can be hacked (Neo being that “hacker” in the loosest sense) with enough resources, knowledge, and skills. This system contains all sensitive data about an individual such identity codes, bank accounts, health records, educational history, home address, real-time location, and other personal information. But these are the “external” information. There’s another vital data that The Cloud stores. Memories.

In this world, people undergo an implant surgery when they turn a year old. This implant is what connects them to this system. It’s like a chip the size of a mini-SIM card that releases these super thin fiber wires which connects to the brain and spine once implanted in the head.  It cannot be turned off or disconnected and removing it can be too dangerous the longer it has been since it was implanted, as doing so can cause brain damage or paralysis and put a person into a coma. This implant is not a choice, it’s as important as getting a birth certificate.

Think of the human brain like a very complex USB flash drive that can store up to 2,500 terabytes of memory (that’s an estimate according to this 2010 article which I hope is credible enough). Regardless, human memories are the files that can be stored in The Cloud. These “files” include sensory information, surface thoughts, dreams, experiences, as well as consciousness—and all of these are translated into binaries and codes that The Cloud processes for storage. So imagine, now your memories come in a digital format and can be accessed virtually. Their whole life and reality are practically recorded in a virtual system.

As the name suggests, The Cloud is literally a cloud storage for these information and everyone should be connected to this “system” and the space in this cloud is infinite. It’s a way to monitor, protect, and control societies. It is virtually managed and organized by an AI administrator but it is monitored and controlled by either a distinct government department (perhaps something like a bureau of information security) or a private organization contracted by the government. Through The Cloud, authorities can check the entire history of a person to determine criminal history or tendencies and other “anomalies” using their memories. They can also check the person’s mental health and “fix” it the way we fix computer viruses. Any person can also scan through their memories if they have access to The Cloud. If they have amnesia, memories can easily be recovered since everything is backed-up in The Cloud. Basically, The Cloud has complete access to everyone’s brain and these are just some of what the system can do. But privacy must be respected at all times. The only thing it cannot do is to control people’s brain activities and the person itself—The Cloud can only store, read, analyze, and organize data, but not command actions—although those paranoid people who believe in conspiracy theories won’t agree.

Of course, such powerful system can be abused and no matter how powerful it may be, there can still be errors in the system. It might be hard but it can also be tricked and hacked. It’s all about knowing how The Cloud works. Really, I’m telling you that the brain is just like a flash drive and the the system is like the internet.

Memories can be removed from a person but it can never be completely deleted from The Cloud. It’s just that the system loses access to it forever but it’s not impossible to retrieve it. If they want to delete something, they have to reformat the entire cloud and that’s something you don’t want to do because that means deleting everything. If they want to do that, they have to make a back up or transfer every single memory to a different cloud but that will take years and years to complete. Just not worth it. But imagine the potential. Since it’s possible to removed a memory and transfer them, that means it’s also possible to transfer one’s memory into another person. It’s like putting one’s consciousness into another and taking over their body and life. To make it extreme, you can put the memory and consciousness of a dead person into someone living (of course, with the original memory removed)—and the effect would be like living immortally if they do that continuously every time they die. Tampering with one’s memory, corrupting  it, is also possible. It can destroy people’s lives. But that’s why there are very strict protocols and security when it comes to The Cloud. So all of these won’t be too easy.

But what happens if there is actually a person that can do this? What if he or she uses this to commit crimes? With a laptop and mad hacking skills, this person is able to access The Cloud and use all information stored in it for selfish reasons. What if the government is on to something as well? What if all the rich and powerful use it to become virtually immortal and the government is so corrupt, they give in to them? Better yet, what if there’s a secret society that is unplugged and these people start committing crimes? Since they are not connected, it would be hard to trace them. A cat-and-mouse chase begins between an officer who only has the memories of witnesses to track the criminal activities. These plot ideas might sound geeky or too far-fetched but I think it would be exciting to write a story about this world.

(If you have any comments and suggestions for this idea, or if you wanna make use of this world for your story, just tell so in the comments. Or you can email me. I’d really appreciate it. Here’s the full list of Building Worlds, if you’re interested.)

 

Building Worlds (Pt. 1)

Something I really enjoy about travelling 2 hours just to get to and from work—even though it’s very tiring as hell and it takes away most of my time to relax, blog, do other things I love, but blogging most especially—is that I get to daydream a lot. While most people use the idle time to sleep, play with their phones, reflect, or fantasize about stuff, I use the time to build fictional worlds.

I love writing and that’s not just with blogs. I love writing fiction. It’s my dream to write a book and get it published. I haven’t had the chance yet to sit down and simply write but hopefully soon. I am more into romance–hopeless romantic here–and YA contemporaries as a reader and writer-wannabe. But, actually, the genre that fascinates me the most is science fiction-fantasy, although I know I can never pull off writing a full length story on that spectrum.

The thing that makes me so awed about SFF is the world building. I admire writers who can make a fictional world so elaborate and bizarre yet believable. Reading stuff like that is like going on a wild adventure to a different universe. I want to build my own world where the rules are all mine. I can do whatever I want, create a system myself, build an entirely different reality, and explore the impossible. Of course, my world building skills aren’t great writing-wise (I tried a couple of times and being the worst critic of me, I just scrapped all of it because they suck—they are much better in my imagination than on paper) but I still want to share my fictional worlds with you.

A lot of people are scared of giving away their story ideas because others might take it before they could even write about it. I can understand them because story ideas are like babies that they conceived and took care of on their own until they’re ready for the real world—but not me. I actually want someone to create a story out of these ideas when I can’t.

I don’t know if they’ve been done before (as far as I’m concerned, I haven’t seen these worlds yet in books or films that’s why I made them myself, or I take bits of what I’ve seen and created my own version of it for me). Let me know if they already “exist” since I really want to see them come to life because I can’t do it myself. Or if you got inspired and want to create a story out of it yourselves, do so! I’d really appreciate it, just tell me.

I will pin this post up my blog and give you links to these fictional worlds as I write them. I can only do once a week (for now) though. Here’s the list, fifth link coming up next week:

1) Biodegrade
Type: Futuristic Dystopian/Cloning

2) Parallels
Type: Contemporary Multiverse

3) Eden
Type: Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian/Angels and Demons

4) Cloud
Type: Futuristic Dystopian/Cyberpunk

5) Sanctuary
Type: Neo-Victorian Alien World

6) Children of God
Type: Urban Fantasy World/Superheroes

7) Aftersoul
Type: Urban Fantasy World/Ghosts

8) Dreamcaster
Type: Urban Fantasy World/Premonitions

9) Lightless
Type: Contemporary Science-fiction

10) Entertainers
Dystopian Gladiator

I hope you’ll enjoy reading them. I’ll probably add more ideas later–if I get more ideas. Inspiration strikes at random to me, always. Anyway, these are not exactly written as stories. Just a long description-slash-explanation of what the worlds are supposed to be like, so don’t get too disappointed if they seem too technical, boring, or full of BS blabber for you. I’m just simply detailing the ideas. If you’re feeling geeky today or you just need a good (or ridiculously bad) idea for a Sci-Fi/Fantasy world, you can check these out.

Pick a Love Story! (Part Two)

Help me choose! Here’s the next four romance plot ideas. If you want to read the first four, just click this link. Don’t forget to leave a comment of your best pick below and, also, help me come up with a title. I’d really appreciate it. If ever I get to finish the book (which I pray I will), I’ll dedicate it to you, guys. It’s the least I can do for you for helping me out. If you have any comments, suggestions, writing tips, or any form of feedback, don’t hesitate to tell me.

It’s really my dream to get published. Of course, I also want my stories to come out with the best quality. I don’t really care about having readers, I just want to see my stories come to life on bookstore shelves and tell myself, “I wrote that. This book is mine. The name on it is mine. I did that.” But even finishing a draft seems so hard for me. So please feel free to leave comments and criticize my ideas if you want.

5) I’m going to start off with a story of unrequited love. Most love stories are in the perspective of two people who are obviously going to end up together, that’s why this time I want to try telling the story of the guy who doesn’t get the girl.

Caleb is a troubled teen. He’s been in a lot of school fights and into some suspicious stuff. You can say that he’s the typical bad boy you read in romance novels minus the obligatory coolness that often comes with it. He’s just plain problematic. That’s why his grandmother forced him to work in a flower shop. This flower shop is owned by the wife of a police officer that helped them out with one of his cases. His grandmother thought that they will teach how to be responsible, respectful, etc. Turns out, the couple has a daughter his age, Sarah, who is the complete opposite of him. Thoughtful, responsible, and sweet—basically the “good daughter” but she’s also frail—and you guessed it right. He’s totally going to fall in love with her.

The problem is, Sarah has a boyfriend and, worse, he is the star swimmer of the school who is also known for his abrasive personality. Obviously, that’s the reason why this is an unrequited love story.

More than the romance though, I want to focus on the character development and break their archetype. Yes, we’ve got the typical bad boy, the typical good girl, and the typical popular jock. But I want the characters to learn that there’s so much more in a person than the reputation they have. They don’t necessarily need to step out of their personalities and be a changed person but, if I can pull it off, I want them to realized that they are their own person and they don’t need to box themselves into the image others have formed for them.

Caleb, despite him causing trouble for everyone, cares about his grandmother so much that he agreed to work in the flower shop, of all places. If he was the jerk everyone thought he was, he wouldn’t agree to work there despite his hesitance. He worries about his life too.

Sarah, even though she has a weak body, is not afraid to set people straight. Most “good girls” in the romance genre are often the submissive type and they still have to work on their confidence to speak out. On the other hand, most of the “strong heroines” in fiction always fight back, always trying to match the wit of the other person, but not Sarah. She doesn’t bite back but she knows how to put people, Caleb most especially, in their places when needed.

Sarah’s boyfriend, Mikel, is the popular guy but he doesn’t want to be the center of attention. He only cares about two things: Swimming and Sarah. If you’re not one of them, you better expect the cold shoulder from him. Caleb often scoffs at him because he’s supposedly the jock who is confident and oh-so-perfect but he’ll discover a lot of things about him too which will surprise him and he’ll realize how sincere and serious Mikel is about Sarah. Maybe they’ll form a friendship eventually—I want them to—but I’m still not sure how I should do that.

6) This one is about two best friends who, after years of being inseparable, will go their separate ways to different universities miles away from each other. They decided to keep in touch through a series of letters and emails, and I want to tell their story through their messages for one another.

They each have a love story so, unlike the first ideas where I focus on either one pair or a tangle of couples, it’s like I’m telling two stories in one. The main characters just happened to be best friends but they’ll experience romance separately and they’ll also learn to be independent and confident without the other physically on their side.

Mickaela stays in an apartment outside the university because of the cheaper cost, although it takes a longer walk to get there. Next to her lives a mysterious guy named Adam who works multiple part-time jobs. They never really talk—partly because Mickaela is too shy—but they always pass by each other when they go to work or school. One encounter will push them to interact. This will lead to them getting to know each other, becoming friends, and falling in love. But Adam has secrets that he doesn’t want Mickaela to find out. (Of course, we have to make the love story interesting. It can’t be that easy.)

Noah, on the other hand, stays in the university dorm. He has a roommate, Ethan, who he found annoying at first. Since Noah is quiet and a bit of an introvert, he hated how loud and outgoing Ethan is. But through Ethan’s persistence to make him his friend and help him out of his comfort zone, Noah starts to admire his personality and unexpectedly falls in love with him. But Ethan has an on-again-off-again girlfriend so he’s obviously not gay. Or is he? Don’t worry, we’re not turning Ethan gay. You can’t make people go gay or straight like turning an on-and-off switch. But Ethan has been struggling to “be straight” because of his family’s expectations of him. Here’s where Noah comes in and helps him out to come clean and be himself.

It’s going to be fun writing their stories in the form of letters and emails. I also want to see the dynamic of their friendship and just them growing on their own.

7) The next story is about two close families whose surnames I still haven’t come up with. If you have any suggestions, just share it in the comments. That would be real lovely. For now, I’ll just call them Fam A and Fam B. These two families have always lived next to each other and they share everything, from cooking recipes to general life problems. Makes sense because the parents have been friends since college.

Now, there are four “kids” directly involved in the story. From Fam A: Trisha, 16 years old, and Jacob, 20 years old. From Fam B: Marco, 19 years old, and Joshua, 16 years old. While Jacob and Marco are best friends, Trisha and Joshua can’t get away enough from each other. They always fight and it’s almost certain that hate each other. But each of them is keeping a secret and the families aren’t always happy.

In reality, Joshua has a crush on Trisha (which he hides by being a jerk to her, but it’s so obvious that everyone knows except Trisha herself), Jacob is suffering from panic disorder (which he’s keeping a secret specifically from his parents), and both Trisha and Marco are trying to hide their feelings for each other—Marco most especially because he doesn’t want to ruin his friendship with Jacob nor hurt his younger brother. One couple is also going through some relationship difficulties that might lead to divorce (annulment in my country because we don’t have divorce).

Besides the romance, I also want to show how strong the bond these two families have. They’re like the extended family of each other. I want to see how their problems and secrets will affect their relationship, and how they’ll overcome it. I also want to focus on Marco’s relationship with Jacob and Joshua. Jacob is over-protective when it comes to Trisha despite him being the annoying, goofy brother to her. Even if it was his best friend, no brother would feel easily reassured with the fact that their sister is dating some guy. Not especially his best friend whom he’s done some stupid sh*t with. At least, that’s what I know based on what my male friends tell me. So it’s going to be hard for Marco to confess.

There’s also his younger brother, Joshua, who likes Trisha as well. Of course, he doesn’t want to hurt him by dating the girl he likes. Usually, the eldest is the one who gives way for the younger siblings—and Marco is that kind of brother.

8) For the last story idea (finally, this is taking forever), it’s about a girl who everyone thinks is perfect. Emily comes from a wealthy family and it is also believed that she going to inherit her father’s company. She’s beautiful, she’s smart, and she’s also a piano prodigy. Guys want her and girls want to be her. But she’s has a dark, cunning personality that she often hides with a sweet smile. However, she meets a guy that can see beyond her perfect image.

Chris also comes from a well-off family but despite his background, he’s simple and very down-to-earth. He works part-time in his mother’s restaurant as a waiter to learn responsibility and the basics of service (an idea of his mother which he easily agreed to). In return, he gets extra allowance. In his senior year, he moves to a private school where he meets Emily. He discovers her despicable side which causes him to dislike her immediately.

There’s another important element in this story. Emily has a cousin, Tara, whose family owns the school. Because of her privileges, Tara was allowed to put up her very own club in the school and she forces both Emily and Chris to join. Despite being known for her quirks and crazy ideas, she is very observant and level-headed. She knows what Emily has gone through and understands why she is the way she is now. Through the club meetings, Tara will help Chris to be more understanding of Emily and Emily to become a better version of herself. They’ll get to know each other and, long story short, fall in love.

I think this is going to be the hardest to write because I have to justify Emily’s actions. Of course, there’s a reason why she acts a certain way, why she can be so mean. Most of the “mean girls” in fiction are two-dimensional and I hate it because it’s so unrealistic. That’s why I want to try getting into the mind of a “mean girl.” But I just don’t want to teach her a lesson, I also want to give her hope that there will be people who won’t give up on her and believe that she can be a better person. Chris, with the intervention of Tara, will be one of those people but before he’s able to do that, he also needs to learn to be more sympathetic and to have faith in the good in others. So both of them will become better people in the way. He may be the good guy but he’s not perfect either.

It also seems interesting to write in the perspective of rich people. I’m not rich (I could only wish) but I went to a high school that mostly people with money can afford to go to. I only went there because I got a full scholarship, lucky me. The gap between the lifestyles of the rich people and the less privilege ones is a curious thing for me.

*

If you want to read the first part, I’ll put again the link here. Just click it. Also, please don’t forget to comment the number of your best pick because I really, really need your opinion on this one. It’s so hard to decide for myself! Ugh.

You might have noticed that my characters are either in high school or college. I’m more in touch with my young-adult self—I am one—that’s why my stories are all about them. So, if you’re looking for a more mature type of romance, sorry I don’t have one. Maybe in the future, I’ll try my hand at adult romance. But I have to finish one of these stories first before I can think of a plot for that. Anyway, thank you so much for keeping up with these longs posts, everyone! Stay awesome!

Building Worlds (Pt. 3): Parallels

Type: Contemporary Multiverse

I’m sure you’ve heard of theories about different dimensions and parallel universes. In each universe, the realities are not the same but the differences could be as simple as you choosing the burger over pizza for lunch or as far-fetched as you marrying Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. Supposedly, there are infinite possibilities as well as universes that come along each of them. Kind of like Rick and Morty. But each universe stems from the choices you have at the present and the decisions you will make. There’s always a different version of the universe where you choose one thing over the other and all of those choices add up to the reality you’re living right now.

Even if it was a small decision, it creates a butterfly effect. Imagine everyone in this world–there’s over 7 billion of us here–having to make decisions everyday. The impact of every little decision can change the world…or at least the reality within their reach. What would happen if you sat next to the cute guy on the bus instead of the pregnant lady? What if the guy started talking to you? What if you hit it off in an instant? He asked you out, you started dating, you got married, had kids, and lived happily ever after. But you instead chose to sit next to the pregnant lady and you never met the guy again. It’s a whole different reality you’re living in now. That’s the background inspiration for this fictional world.

In this world though, there are specific rules and limitations to how this multiverse works. Obviously, I call this world idea “Parallels” because what else suits it better, right? Have you heard of the philosophy of solipsism? Basically, it just says that only your own mind is sure to exist and the reality is only what you know and perceive, although there are still many arguments about this philosophical view. I simply think of it like playing RPG where everyone is an NPC and the world is a programmed environment. Why am I talking about this though? Well, this is the best way to sum up how Parallels work. (By the way, RPG means ‘role-playing game’ and NPC means ‘non-player character,’ in case you didn’t know.)

In Parallels, each person living in this world–and there’s billions of us here–has their own dimension or an alternate universe where the reality is solely theirs to control. How do they control it? The choices and actions they make. They are the “player” of this universe and the people around them are just the NPC versions of themselves. They do the default thing and it’s consistent in every universe. They react to the dimension owner’s choices in the most default way.

For example, if I own this universe we’re living in, only my decisions and actions will “affect” it. Let’s say there’s a huge storm coming up. I decided to force my sister to stay home because it’s dangerous outside. If her default is to listen to me, then she will stay home. However, in the universe she owns, the same storm is there, but since I don’t own that universe and I am only the NPC version of myself, I won’t tell her to stay home and instead do my own default thing. My sister, who owns that universe, gets to do whatever the hell she wants. Did that make sense?

Anyway, it’s clear enough that each of us owns a universe where we control our own reality. The thing is, we’re not aware of it. We don’t know if in a dimension, we’re the NPC or the owner–because life just happens and it’s a continuous process of making decisions and interacting with other people. We don’t know if we do things because it’s our default–our programmed nature–or because we have that capacity to make decisions for ourselves. Nature vs. Nurture, I guess? Supposedly, there is no way to bend this “system.” In Parallels though, this system is flawed. Once a dimension owner becomes aware that he or she is the owner and the rest are an NPC, he or she can jump from one universe to another (okay, I use ‘universe’ and ‘dimension’ interchangeably so don’t get confused). The process isn’t like time travelling or going through portals like in Rick and Morty. It can be done in a split second. It literally takes only one blink–one moment you were in your dimension, then you blinked and found yourself in a different reality. You wouldn’t know you jumped into a different universe unless you looked around and saw that the pencil was on the right side of the table when you had put it down on the left–because your default would totally put it on the right side instead. Something like that. It isn’t hard to miss that there are two of you in same room either, one a dimension owner and the other an NPC version. (He can easily kill that person though and pretend he is him because…he is him, get it? No one can tell the difference.)

There are also entities that sort of govern or guard these dimensions to make sure that there are no anomalies or loopholes happening, such as one person jumping from one dimension to another. These entities aren’t exactly human although they look human and they don’t belong in any reality or universe. Only dimension owners can see them so NPCs are pretty unaware of them. They just kind of exist and wander around. They are unique—meaning, they don’t have different versions of themselves in other dimensions—but they don’t have an identity either. Their main job is to chase after dimensions owners that are aware of the parallels and abusing the “glitches” in the universe.

For the plot point, let’s say a big-time criminal is a dimension owner in one universe. Then he becomes aware that he is a dimension owner and “jumps” into a different universe where his NPC version is a good civilian. He kills him to replace his existence–the best way to hide from your crimes, right? But the real dimension owner of that universe finds out about him and this whole weird multiverse system. The chase begins!

Now, these are the good questions: 1) If a dimension owner jumped into another dimension, what would happen to the dimension he left when there’s no one to “control” it, 2) What would happen to the dimension he jumped into when there are now two dimension owners in there that can control the reality, 3) How much can their actions and choices change the reality, and as much as this hurts my head because EXISTENTIAL CRISIS, I wanna ask this last question, 4) In a system like this, can we say that the NPCs around a dimension owner are real people too if they are just the “programmed” version of themselves? It sounds fun to explore these questions through the story.

(If you have any comments and suggestions for this idea, or if you wanna make use of this world for your story, just tell so in the comments. Or you can email me. I’d really appreciate it. Here’s the full list of Building Worlds, if you’re interested.)

Building Worlds (Pt. 2): Biodegrade

Type: Futuristic Dystopian

Imagine the world thousands of years later. Technology should be way, way more advanced and societies more sophisticated. Supposedly. But Earth has aged quite a lot as well so I can imagine it as a little bit more torn and fragile than it is now, and humans are living inside giant bubbles where the environment and atmosphere are controlled to make it still inhabitable for humans and more Mother Earth friendly.

I call this world idea “Biodegrade” because almost everything is biodegradable. I am aware that it sounds geeky and hippie but hear me out. Usually, people imagine a futuristic world to have robots and artificial intelligence as companions to humans. In this world however, they have artificial human companions called Biodegrades (thus the title of this idea). Think of them in the sense of cloning. They aren’t exactly a carbon copy of a specific person (because most people think of that when they hear cloning) but their genetic make-up is that of humans. They are humans in a sense but they are synthetic, making them imperfect copies of humans. Since they are also artificial, they don’t have “souls” therefore they are not considered people–more like objects made to look and act like humans. You can also think of them this way, artificial intelligence in an organic human body.

Biodegrades are made in the same process as in vitro fertilization (I’m sure you’ve heard of test tube babies, you can search it up) but even the sperm cells and the egg cells are synthetic copies of those of the humans, not taken from them. Instead of transferring the fertilized sperm-egg combo into the mother’s uterus for the natural process of pregnancy to take place, they are put into these giant glass tubes that mimic a woman’s uterus so the fetus version of the artificial humans can grow and develop in a suitable environment until they’re ready for “service.” This process is so sped-up that 9 months of human pregnancy takes only about three weeks for Biodegrades, and 18 years of human life–which is when we can approximate that humans are fully mature, technically speaking–takes only about a year and a half for them. Then the aging process slows down in the tubes. Like, really slow as if they don’t age. Outside of the giant glass tubes, they don’t age at all. If they were purchased as a 6-year-old, they’ll remain a 6-year-old for their entire life span. Here’s the thing though, outside the glass tubes, even if they don’t age, they can only last about 10 to 12 years and then they “die,” a side effect of being synthetic and artificially-made. Their eyes fade color as they draw near their time limit.

This is exactly why they are the best fit to be the biodegradable companions of humans. When a household purchases them, they can choose the looks, personality, skills, or qualities of their Biodegrade. All genetic coding/engineering are done before the fertilization process and the brain data alteration (to match the skills, personality, and knowledge the human owners want for them) are done while they are developing in the giant glass tubes. Basically, it’s like customizing the specs of the products they’re going to buy. Because of this, Biodegrades don’t have any real personality or even identity. Whatever personality they have is artificial too and their identity are given by their owners, if they choose to name them, that is.

Getting a Biodegrade also takes an intensive process. The person must have a permit to buy one and a license to possess one. In order to get both, they must pass a series of exams and interviews. Once they purchase one, they will have to register their Biodegrade, each one has a code of two alpha and ten numeric combination (yes, I thought about this too–that’s how serious I am about this world) and it should match the ones in the permit. It’s pretty much like owning a gun or a car. People can have as many Biodegrades as they want if they can afford it, and they can do (or make them do) whatever they want with their Biodegrades as long as it abides with the terms of the contract they signed with the company they bought it from and the laws on Biodegrades posted by the government. Their work can be as task-based as those of housemaids, babysitters, bodyguards, escorts, and drivers, or as complex as being your own custom-made friend (now that’s cool and sad at the same time). It all depends on the owner but they still can’t do anything extreme like abusing or destroying them (should I say kill?) or else, that would be going against the law and the contract. That’s like damaging the property of the company you are under contract with. They can also return their Biodegrade if they don’t need or want them anymore but it’s a long process of terminating the contract because companies hardly sell used Biodegrades specifically special custom-made ones. It rarely happens though because products are tested and trained before the delivery (so it’s sure that there are no “malfunctions”on the products, and they’re all “made” to be kind and obedient) and the licensing/clearance/registering process is so thorough, you wouldn’t want to waste money on all that. Once their life span ends, so is the contract, and the company retrieves the Biodegrades and…disposes of them properly. Back to the soils of Mother Earth as fertilizers!

Now here’s the issue and where the plot of the story should come from. Biodegrades know that the purpose of their short existence is to serve humans. Even if they are technically living humans (albeit synthetic), they are not considered humans at all and they don’t exactly have free will. What happens when one doctor/scientist that leads the research on developing Biodegrades makes a perfect Biodegrade secretly? A perfect Biodegrade is one that has his own personality (not custom-designed but rather developed naturally) and awareness of his own free will. Then he finds out what his kind is made for–slaves to humans. Imagine a futuristic Utopian world (one that is also environment conscious) terrorized by one Biodegrade who wants to make a statement and refuses to be treated like an artificial property, and one human that will try to stop him from harming people and the city. It’s not a question of who the hero, villain, or victim is here. It’s a question of what makes one being human and the purpose of one’s existence.

Another good angle to take is the possibility of a human becoming so emotionally attached to their Biodegrade. Imagine a human falling in love with a Biodegrade (with that, they also can’t procreate because they are born artificially–I can’t emphasize that enough). What happens when the contract finally expires (which means, the company needs to retrieve the product for disposal before it dies on the owner), and what happens when humans start demanding to treat these artificial creatures as equals (think of treating your smartphone as another human being that you can marry because they supposedly have feelings, and wear flesh and skin instead of having a plastic casing)? How will this world turn out? Does it really make them human if they have feelings and memories even if they are artificially-made?

(If you have any comments and suggestions for this idea, or if you wanna make use of this world for your story, just tell so in the comments. Or you can email me. I’d really appreciate it. Here’s the full list of Building Worlds, if you’re interested.) 

Short Series: Episodes (Complete Chapters, Season One)

(Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Enjoy!)

 I.

My first instinct is to act natural. Pretend like nothing strange is happening to me right now. Don’t panic, Rowe, I tell myself. Don’t reveal yourself. It will only make things more complicated as they are.
The whizzing of the ceiling fan continues. I am staring at a blue backpack sitting atop a wooden desk and holding what seems to be like a pair of jogging pants and a t-shirt.
Where am I? It’s as if I was suddenly transported to a different world.
Carefully, I scan my surroundings. Somehow everything looked taller, like I’ve gone a few inches shorter. Rows of identical desks, each one with a mess of bags and books lying around, are lined up facing a wide blackboard with the rules of volleyball boldly written on a small section of it. No one else is around.
A classroom.
This must be a classroom. But which school?
The clock above the board points at 3:15. If my guess is right, this should be the last period for today.
I walk out of the room, gripping the uniform with shaking hands that look smaller and paler than mine. The hallways are just as empty and quiet, thankfully. Immediately, I search for an empty restroom and lock myself inside.
Sometimes, the most unimaginable things happen. There are no explanations, no reasons why they occur. They just do. I am simply the consequence.
As I stare at my reflection, the horror of this living nightmare consumes me more. The mirror shows the image of a girl my age staring back at the face that doesn’t recognize its own.

II.

Pink and yellow stripes cover the walls adorned with different framed photos, matching the floral sheets of the bed. Flowers made of colorful magazine pages hang on strings that blind the window. Next to it is a huge white closet with stickers and notes pinned on the doors. I recognize a quote from the Bible, “…and the greatest among these is love.”
The study desk is full of scrapbook materials and paper cutouts left unfinished, instead of the laptop and textbooks that I have. The shelf has some romance novels arranged on it, some titles I know of. But what catches my attention is the small teddy bear that sits beside them, wearing a purple t-shirt. Despite myself, I smile at how adorable it looks.
The room reveals a lot about the owner. But this room isn’t mine. It belongs to the girl that owns the body I am using right now.
I watch my reflection in the full body mirror.
The blue lace skirt and plain white tee suit her petite frame, light skin, and deep blue eyes, but it makes me uncomfortable. She looks pretty though I would never wear something like this. But all she has are more skirts and a few dresses.
I touch her hair and comb the tangles through my fingers. We have the same blonde hair but hers is softer and more curled. Mine is straighter and much longer. The difference turns my mood more sullen than it was.
“Sweetie,” a woman knocks on the door. “Dinner’s ready.”
“Yeah, be right there,” I call back to the door.
I stare one more time at the reflection in the mirror.
I am forced to live the life of a complete stranger and I don’t know how long this curse will last. The possibility that I might never return to my old body and my old life scares me the most.

III.

It’s been three days, I’ve been counting every minute. I’m still in a stranger’s body. The things I know: this girl’s name is Erin and she’s 16 years old, she has a younger brother named Cody and her parents are still together, she has two best friends named Quinn and Jay. She doesn’t play volleyball and it was a mistake that I played for her. Everyone knows she has a weak heart. She works part-time in a café, she loves sweet stuff, she likes reading romance, and most importantly, she lives in a city only 2 hours away from where I live.
So far, no one has suspected anything yet. I have to keep it that way until I can come up with a plan to get away from here. I have to tell Aidan about what happened to me. He’s the only one I know who will believe me. It’s getting harder to play this charade and I still don’t know what happened to my own body.
“Erin? Erin! Hey!”
“Yeah?”
Her voice, much softer than mine, still sounds so unfamiliar to me and I can never get used to being called a different name. I want to scream, no, I am not her! I am trapped in her! Save me!
Instead, I stare blankly at Quinn.
“The bell rang, like, five minutes ago. Where’s your head been lately? You’ve been acting so weird for a couple of days now. Are you sure you’re really okay?”
“I’m sorry, I’m just…tired. That’s all,” I lie.
“You sure?”
“Yeah. I’m fine,” I fake a smile. “Don’t worry about me.”
“Okay then,” but she sounds hesitant. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I nod and watch her leave with a defeated sigh.
Tomorrow. I am planning to leave tomorrow while no one knows about me yet. The more I stay here, the more difficult it’s getting for me to pretend.
I grab Erin’s notes and the striking difference in our writing distracts me. This is getting ridiculous. I close the notebook and put it back inside her bag harsher than I intend to. When everyone has left the room, I stand up to leave but Jay blocks me.
“Jay.”
“I saw Quinn leave.”
“Yeah. She’s going home. Do you need something from her?”
“Going home? Alone?”
“Is there something wrong?”
The look in his eyes is undecipherable. He stares at me for so long, it’s starting to unnerve me. What does he want?
“Do you know what today is?” He suddenly asks.
“Umm, Friday?”
He snickers and the look in his eyes changes from blank to something a little bit more malicious. He steps closer to me and looks deep into my eyes. That’s when I knew, I have no escape now.
He asks, “Who are you?”

IV.

“Thank you,” I take the bus ticket from the lady and walk straight to the end of the line.
I have come up with a theory. Erin and I must have switched bodies. As absurd this might sound like, it’s the only logical reason I can think of. How it happened, I don’t know.
I tried to call my phone a couple of times but no one was answering. No one’s picking up from home either. I need to confirm what happened to me. To us. So we can find a way to fix this. But for now, I have to get home first.
Oddly enough, I don’t remember much of my time before the switch. I just know I was going to meet Aidan. He wanted to show me something but he wouldn’t tell me.
“It’s a surprise,” he had told me. “You’ll love it.”
Flowers. I remember there were flowers. On my way, I stopped by a flower shop where an old lady welcomed me. She gave me a wild flower for free. For my first visitor, she said, this flower means fate. I thanked her and simply left. I heard a scream and then…nothing. Blank. The next thing I knew, I was in Erin’s body and Aidan waited for no one.
I pull Erin’s phone from the bag and dial Aidan’s number. I know it’s impulsive of me but I am desperate right now.
His phone rings once, twice, and stops. Once, twice, and stops. The cycle continues three more times before he answers. I hold my breath.
“Hello?”
A sob escapes my throat. The reality of it all finally catches up to me.
“Hello? Who’s this?”
“Aidan, help me!”

V.

Sometimes, I wonder why I am the way I am. Why do I like bitter things? Why am I afraid of heights? Why do I find yellow ugly? Why do I hate the taste of cinnamon? Why do I enjoy animated films? Why am I fascinated with butterflies? Why do I love the rainy days?
I don’t know if I have always been this way. I just know that this is who I am right now. These little traits define me. But if a different body houses these traits, am I still the same person?
I am standing in front of Aidan’s house right now. My hands trembles as I press the doorbell. I don’t know what I’m going to do or say once I face him. He knows me better than anyone else does. He’ll listen to me but I don’t know if he’ll believe the person he sees.
I don’t know where else to go. No one’s at home and I don’t know where my Dad is either. I only have Aidan left.
I almost lost control and spilled everything to him on the way. He would never trust an unfamiliar voice over the phone even if I told him the secrets only the two of us share. I need to think straight and come up with a plan to make him believe me.
A note. He will trust my handwriting. I just have to give him this note.
I hear the door open. His aunt comes out carrying a big fruit basket and approaches the front gate.
“Yes? Who are you looking for?”
“Hi. Is Aidan here? I’m a friend of his…”
“Oh. Sorry, sweetie. He’s at the hospital right now.”
“Hospital?”
“Yes. I’m going there right now. Would you like me to tell him you came by?”
“I’m sorry but why is he at the hospital?”
“He’s visiting his girlfriend. That poor child.”
Chilling cold runs up my spine. I can’t hide the shock and confusion in me anymore. There’s fear in my voice when I ask, “W-what happened to his girlfriend?”
“Haven’t you heard? Rowe’s in a coma for days now.”

VI.

I thought it was all going to be over when I woke up. I’m in a familiar room, Aidan’s bedroom to be exact, staring up the ceiling covered by his painting of stars and planets and galaxies. I’ve already seen it countless times but I’m still in awe. I always lie down in his bed just to admire every curve and color he used for this masterpiece.
He would lie down beside me and explain every nerdiest trivia he knows about the universe. “You know,” he would start, “there’s a galaxy destroying its companion galaxy by shooting energy blasts from a black hole.”
“Really?”
“Yeah, do you know what it’s called?”
“Of course not,” I would respond, rolling my eyes.
He’d answer anyway, “Death Star.”
“Are you kidding me? That’s from Star Wars!” I’d say and hit him for teasing me.
He’d laugh at me until tears come out of his eyes and then he would try to kiss me as if that would appease me. It turns out, there’s actually a galaxy called Death Star that has giant black holes that shoot energy blasts, and he would say, “I told you so,” and never let me live through that day.
Today though, there are no energy blast-shooting galaxies, no stupid trivia about the universe, no Aidan teasing and laughing next to me.
There’s only Jay staring back at me, frowning.

VII.

“What are you doing here?”
“I called your phone multiple times but someone else answered. She said you fainted,” Jay explained. “What the hell are YOU doing here?”
“I have to get to my body—”
“No. Stop this, Erin,” Jay grabs my arm not so gently. I struggle to break free.
“I told you, I am not Erin. Let me go!”
“I don’t know what this game you’re playing but you better stop now. I’m begging you,” he breathes through clenched teeth.
“You said so yourself, I am not her! I may look like her, sound like her, but there’s a different person inside this body. If you want to get her back, you have to believe me.”
“Do you know how crazy this sounds right now? How am I supposed to believe this?”
“I don’t know!” I finally burst in frustration. The tears come out uncontrollable. I feel so tired of this nightmare, of this curse that seems to be unbreakable. How long am I supposed to be locked in this body? “I don’t know,” I say one more time. “I know this sounds insane. I didn’t want to believe this either, but you have to listen to me. It’s possible that if I am in Erin’s body, then she’s in mine and you have to help me.”
He releases me from his grip and sits on the gutter, rubbing his face in exasperation. He looks at me, the kind of look that is different from the usual spiteful gazes he started giving me after he realized that I’m not the girl he used to know. It was replaced by desperation and dejection. The image of him pains me as well. A collateral damage to this whole mess, he suffers just as much.
“I’m sorry,” I don’t know what else to say. “I never wanted this to happen either—”
“I know. It’s just,” he sighs and remains quiet for a moment. I just watch him take everything in. Finally, he asks, “What’s your name?”

VIII.

Among the other things I hate are hospitals. How the walls look so dull, how the lights are too bright, how the halls sound so still and quiet—I hate it all. There’s also something about how sterile the air smells like that makes me want to throw up.
People die here. This place has witnessed too many sick people dying and families grieving. There’s nothing comforting about hospitals.
“Are you okay?” Jay asks me.
“Yeah,” I nod.
“We don’t have to do this right now. We can go back later if you need to rest—”
“I’m fine.”
In a deep breath, I knock on the door and turn the knob. Slowly, I push the door open.
The sleeping form of my Dad is the first thing I see. I close the distance between us and watch him in silence. He’s cramped on the hard sofa that seems close to falling apart. His brows are knitted together almost in pain. He looks exhausted and he must be, taking care of his only daughter alone. The thought of what he has to go through because of me tears me apart.
“Rowe,” Jay places a hand on my shoulder. It’s the first time in days that someone has called me by my real name.
I release a sob and cover my mouth, scared to wake up my father.
“Come on,” he nudges me gently. “Let’s see Erin.”
I thought I was ready. I’ve lived days in the body of another person. The face I see in the mirror every morning I wake up isn’t mine. Even though it terrifies me every time, I thought I’ve gotten used to it. But seeing my own lifeless body in this bed is a different nightmare altogether and Erin might just be trapped inside, asleep.
“Who are you?”
Jay and I turn to the voice. Aidan enters the room, perplexed at the presence of two strangers he never met before.

IX.

“Stop staring at me,” I tell Jay.
“Stop crying then. I’m not used to seeing her like this,” he stares out the window.
“I’m not crying,” but I wipe a tear anyway.
We’re both on a bus going back to the city where Erin lives. It’s been a long day. My whole body—Erin’s body—feels worn out. I just want to go home and sleep until it’s all over, but I don’t even know where my home is anymore.
Aidan didn’t believe me.
When we pulled him out of the room and explained everything to him, he thought we were crazy. He thought we were pulling some sick prank on him. He got furious and kicked us out. In his eyes, I was only a random stranger. I didn’t really expect him to understand but it still hurt that he looked at me with so much hatred.
“You have to take care of yourself,” Jay says all of a sudden without looking at me. “Even if you’re not Erin, that’s still her body. Don’t make any impulsive decisions like you did today. Her heart has always been weak. I don’t know how her body’s able to keep up until now but I don’t want to risk it. I’m not sure how long her heart can handle this.”
I nod. “You like her, don’t you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“That you like her.”
“She’s my best friend.”
“No. You like her more than that. You knew immediately that I wasn’t her.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“You should tell her someday.”
He snorts. “Yeah, right.”
For the rest of the ride, we don’t talk. We barely notice the night pass us by as we both get lost in our own thoughts. How long this curse will last, I still don’t know.

X.

“This flower means fate,” the old lady said as she handed me an exotic flower with petals the brightest shade of red. It looked unreal, almost enchanting. It wasn’t quite like anything I’ve seen before.
Aidan wanted us to meet at the bridge. He had told me that there’s something he wanted to show me but he wouldn’t tell me what. He kept saying, it’s a surprise.
As usual, I was running late. I rushed to get there but a newly opened flower shop caught my attention with its wide array of assorted flowers. I stopped by for a few minutes and an old lady greeted me with a knowing smile.
“It’s a rare one that can only be found in the tropics of Southeast Asia,” she continued. “The natives there that grow this flower believe that if you keep a petal of this, you’ll soon meet your soulmate.” I raised an eyebrow but didn’t speak. She asked, “Do you believe in soulmates?”
“Uh, no. Not really,” I hesitated.
“They say that every human being has one. It is the person whose soul perfectly matches ours. If they meet, they become one forever. One cannot exist without the other.”
I nodded but didn’t take a word seriously.
“You can have it,” she said.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m not buying. I don’t have anything with me—”
“No, it’s yours. I’m giving it to you.”
I accepted the flower and thanked her. I left and then everything just…faded.
The alarm goes off and I wake up from the dream.

END OF PART ONE

(I’ve only been posting stories once in a while, I know. I really don’t have the time right now to maintain my precious baby blog because of internship and studies but on the commute to and from work–which is an hour or so of idle travel time–I am able to write short stories on my phone. It became a way to pass time during travel. Naturally, it’s super fast paced because I only have an hour to write one mini-chapter.

This one I wrote two weeks ago. It’s kind of different in a way that I only wrote glimpses or scenes of what’s happening to the girl and the parts aren’t necessarily connected. I just wanted to share this with you, nothing serious. This is an on-going story, by the way. As long as I get ideas during the bus rides, I’ll be continuing on this story. I have more actually, but I’ll edit them first. That’s all! Hope you liked it.)