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1.61% Free Fall (Pyramid of Gold) / Chapter 1: Half-Forgotten Dream
Free Fall (Pyramid of Gold) Free Fall (Pyramid of Gold) original

Free Fall (Pyramid of Gold)

Author: Guiltythree

© WebNovel

Chapter 1: Half-Forgotten Dream

This is how it starts: you wake up with a feeling of a half-forgotten dream slipping away into oblivion, and no matter how hard you try, you can't remember what it was about. This is your mind breaking apart.

The Disease is cunning. The first thing it destroys is your ability to comprehend the damage it does. Your higher mental functions are deteriorating, you lose the ability to construct complex logic connections. This is when they usually catch it; but then sometimes they don't.

The body starts to fall apart next. At first, it's just small things: your hands are shaking, you're having trouble focusing your sight. Sometimes you understand that something is wrong, sometimes you don't. You might know the symptoms and you might feel them, but your brain had lost the capacity to connect two dots.

That's when you start to forget. The name of that actor is at the tip of your tongue, but it just won't come. You forget your mother's smell, your father's face. It's worse than that, though. You don't just forget; you forget that you knew these things at all. There's not even an empty space in your memory where something should have been, it's all just erased.

At this point, you're in free fall. Your brain is going haywire, sending false signals to your compromised body. Your senses are lying to you. You can break your arm and not feel a thing. Other times, you're safe at your home, but you are burning, drowning, you're being skinned alive. The danger is false, but the pain is real, and horrible.

You see things. You hear voices. The reality is breaking apart, but do you know it? Do you even remember what reality is? Do you remember who you are? When you look in the mirror, do you see a stranger? What does he do? What does he say?

In the end, your mind collapses. Your tortured brain is flooded with hormones it can not process, and it fries. If you're lucky, you die. If you're lucky, they put you down. But if they don't, if you slip through the cracks, you become a wraith: a broken, mad thing in the grasp of a murderous frenzy. Eventually it kills you, but not before you've killed someone else.

This is how it ends.

Imagine if waking up from a nightmare is more terrifying than the nightmare itself. Imagine painfully overanalyzing your every mistake, your every word. Imagine being reviled. Imagine being feared, imagine being afraid.

Imagine being us.


There's not a lot of us left. Most were killed a long time ago during the crusades, and then later in the internment camps of the XX century. Those who survived, like my grandparents, were assimilated back into the population. It was a darker, more violent time. Today things are much different. Laws were rewritten to grant us human status, and systems were put in place to protect us from those who would disagree. We even enjoy the same rights as people do, for the most part. Until the day you start to show symptoms, of course. After that, the same people who are tasked with protecting you come at night to take you away.

To send you to live on the Farm.


I was finishing my shift at the bar when the report came on. It was early morning, so there weren't many clients in the dimly lit hall. The sound on the television was muted, so at first I just saw the image: an old car, torn into two halves, windows tinted red with blood. The running text on the bottom read 'Wraith attack in Seattle: 23 dead'.

'Creepy shit, huh?'

I turned away from the screen to look at the girl sitting at the bar. She was cradling a cup of coffee - no sugar, lots of cream - which I poured for her a few minutes ago.


'The wraiths. Creepy shit, huh?'

That was when I really looked at her for the first time. She was young, with unruly dark hair and too much mascara around the eyes. Pretty, but not in a way that would make her remarkable. Just another university girl from the campus. Then she smiled, and suddenly I didn't want to look away. She had the most radiant, delighted smile I've ever seen.

'I mean they look like us, talk like us, live with us. Only we can't tear a car in half. And we don't go crazy.'

I smiled, too.

'Sure we do. People go crazy all the time.'

'Yeah, but people go crazy for important reasons like moon cycles, politics and reality TV. Wraiths, they just wake up one day, and their brain decides to take a break. Woosh. 23 people dead.'

Her coffee was getting cold.

'Hey, do you think they know?'

I shrugged.

'Know what?'

'That it's their time. Do you think that they know, and don't tell anyone, because they don't mind killing people? I mean I can't blame them, after everything that people have done to them.'

I should have kept my mouth shut, like I always do, but for some reason I did not.

'They're people too'.

She looked at me then, a little confused. I think at that moment she really looked at me for the first time too.

She raised her cup.

'Amen to that.'


We are people, too. Or at least we once were. Then, at some point in ancient history, evolution has done its dark magic, and a small mutation of the LG34N gene has created the first wraith. Modern scientists were able to find the root of our condition, but they don't really understand how it works. Wraiths are nearly indistinguishable from ordinary homo sapiens, but we are different. We possess certain abilities that no one can explain or reproduce. All they know for sure is that these abilities are somehow connected to brain functions. The other side of the coin is that this makes our brains susceptible to a fatal degenerative disorder, the Disease. Some live to old age without experiencing any symptoms, other's don't. There's no logic to the Disease, no consistency to how and when it chooses its victims, no cure. You can't bargain with the Disease, can't pray to it, and really there's no point in cursing it. The only thing you can do is wait.

In the end, it comes to the simple fact that evolution had made a mistake.


I tried a few minutes of sleep on the bus, but it didn't work. The window I leaned on was cold and painted by frost. On the other side of it, the walkway flew past. Thousands of people hurried through their days, oblivious to my momentary presence in their lives, comfortable in their unknowing. Things would change if they knew what I am, even though I'd remain the same. So many things in life come down to perception: how we define ourselves, how we are defined by others. What is good, and what is evil... and where do we stand in relation to one and the other.

I put the headphones on and turned on the radio.

'... But, Howard, you can't deny the threat wraiths...'

'Please don't use that word. It's a derogatory, xenophobic term propagated by bigots and fear-mongering politicians.'

'What would you prefer we called them?'

'It's not a matter of preference, it's a matter of principle! Genetically altered are human beings, just like you and I.'

'Well, not exactly like us.'

'Sure, their genes are a little bit different. It's a mutation... like red hair or blue eyes. No one goes around demonizing people with red hair, though.'

'But that's because they are not predisposed to killing!'

'Sure, but other types of people are. Schizophrenics, for example. And why consider just genes? Socio-economic factors affect crime rates fat more drastically than DNA. Being born to a poor family raises your chances of ending up in prison. Should we just arrest all poor people?'

'You're not suggesting...'

'What I suggest is that we follow our own laws! No one has revoked the presumption of innocence. You can't vilify people for things they haven't done. Only we can, and do. The Altered Protection Agency is an abomination of constitutional law...'

I turned it off. The same arguments play out, word for word, each time the PA misses a Diseased wraith, and someone dies. People cry out for mandatory gene testing and compulsory identity disclosure, and other people cry out for civil liberty and human rights. Extremists on one side suggest to just kill us all, and that pushes the other side to raise up in condemnation. The internment camps are mentioned, and it all goes downhill from there. In the end, nothing ever changes. The Protective Agency continues to be a monolith of power, a little bit fascistic, but unquestionably effective. And we the wraiths stay in the shadow of that monolith.


The Protectors are very serious about keeping our identities a secret. There hasn't been a single lynching in decades, at least not officially. That's why the PA cell I'm assigned to is hidden in the basement of a hospital. They move around a lot, too. These days, when I need to come in for the test, I say that I have a doctor's appointment. Before that, it was going to the movies and visiting the library. And before that, I went with my mom, until they took her away.

The room they lock me in is sterile and empty. I strip naked under the watchful eyes of security cameras, fold my clothes and put them in a metal locker. The next room is cold and dark. Unseen sensors scan my body while I shiver. When the scans are done, I can put on a hospital gown and proceed to the testing chamber. The testing chamber looks like a generic interrogation room from police movies. There's a metal desk, two chairs, and a one-sided mirror. There's also a lot of needles and mysterious medical equipment, but I learned a long time ago to ignore it.

No matter how many times I go through this, the humiliation is a shock. No matter how hard I try to convince myself that there's nothing to fear, the fear is there.

Because I'm lying. I have a lot to fear. After all, I've been conning the PA since I was a little kid. In truth, I am much more powerful than anyone they would allow to exist.

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