Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: River (08/31/06)
TITLE: Gollobowl’s River
By Dan Blankenship
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My muscles are aching. I push myself up from the brown mud. I donâ€™t know how I got here. And I sure donâ€™t know where here is. I am standing now. Iâ€™m wearing a pair of blue shorts Iâ€™ve never seen before. They have a strange yellow triangle on the side that I can barely make out from all the mud.
The sky is strange. There is an absence of color above me; only a solid grey haze is over me. To my left and right there is plant life similar to any forest Iâ€™ve been in, but I hear no sounds. No birds are chirping. The silence is nearly maddening.
I must be dreaming. I say so out loud.
â€śNo, youâ€™re not dreaming.â€ť
The voice startles me. I see no one.
â€śWho are you? Where are you?â€ť I ask, spinning in all directions, looking for the person talking. The mud squishes beneath my feet, and I hear it.
â€śJimmy, you are at Bennett Labs. You volunteered to participate in our virtual reality experiment. You are currently in a world of your creation. Are you telling me that you donâ€™t remember any of this?â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t remember anything. I donâ€™t even remember my name.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m going to stop the experiment right now. Something is not right. This shouldnâ€™t be happening.â€ť
â€śWait,â€ť I demand. â€śYou said that I am in a world of my own creation, right.â€ť
â€śYes, Jimmy. Are you saying you may have made yourself forget your own name?â€ť
â€śIâ€™m just saying that maybe if this is an experiment, maybe we should give it a few minutes longer. This place is so weird. If itâ€™s not real, how can I feel the mud, smell the plants? And over there, hold on. I see a river.â€ť
I begin running toward a small river. The mud is nearly impossible to keep my footing on. I slip to the ground a few times, but finally make my way to the water.
â€śAre you okay, Jimmy? Are you sure you donâ€™t want to stop the experiment?â€ť the voice calls out.
â€śIâ€™m almost there. There is a ferry here. There is a man on it.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m a dwarf, thank you. And who are you talking to? There is no one here but you and me.â€ť
â€śUmmm, whoever you are from Bennett Labs, I am talking to a dwarf who thinks I am crazy for talking to you. So, ummm, give me a few minutes here. I want to talk to the dwarf.â€ť
â€śWho are you talking to?â€ť the dwarf demanded once again.
â€śNo one,â€ť I assured him. â€śAre there other people here?â€ť
â€śNot on this side of the Gollobowlâ€™s River, Jimmy.â€ť
â€śYou know my name?â€ť I asked, staring at the robed dwarf.
â€śSure do, Iâ€™ve been taking people across the river for you for years.â€ť
â€śFor me?â€ť I asked, feeling lightheaded after his declaration. â€śWhat people?â€ť
â€śThe people youâ€™ve thrown away. People you told me you had no use for. Those people.â€ť
The dwarf pointed across the river. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of people, on the other side of the river. I see former teachers, former best friends, and many acquaintances that I never really got to know.
I didnâ€™t throw those people away. Theyâ€™re still alive. I donâ€™t have the power to throw people away.
â€śAh, I beg to differ, Master Jimmy. In your own mind, these people no longer exist. The mind is a terribly powerful thing. Sure, these people still go about their daily business, just on the other side of the river. You even named the river, you did.â€ť
â€śHuh? I didnâ€™t name this river.â€ť
â€śAs a kid, you believed all the losers in you neighborhood either hung out at Davey Golloâ€™s house or at the bowling alley. Remember now? Thatâ€™s why you named this river of separation Gollobowls River. It keeps you away from the losers. Weird thing is, most the people I take across seem like good people. But, hey, youâ€™re the boss.â€ť
I felt dizzy, nauseous, and guilty as charged.
â€śBring them back,â€ť I demanded. â€śAnd when theyâ€™re all back in this side the river, sink the ferry!â€ť
â€śGood choice, Master Jimmy! Iâ€™ll get busy right a way!â€ť
â€śHello, Bennett Labsâ€™ guy.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m here Jimmy,â€ť the voice called back. â€śYou okay?â€ť
â€śI am now. Bring me back home. Iâ€™ve made the necessary repairs.â€ť
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