Nov 16, 2018 5:46 PM
A Cat in a box after the end of the world
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Cato wakes up slowly. For a few panic-filled seconds, he's certain that he's overslept and is late for a meeting, but then the familiar sensation of the stasis pod cradling him registers on his consciousness.

There's always a moment of disorientation when he's coming out of stasis, but this time it seems to be lasting longer than usual. His head hurts, and his eyes are stubbornly refusing to focus properly. His limbs feel weak and stiff like he's been in here for weeks, or even months. He blinks and tries again to look around, as best he can when his body still isn't cooperating with attempts to sit up.

That's when he notices what else is missing: there's no voice welcoming him back, telling him how long it's been and how pleased Seneca is to see him. In fact, there seems to be no sound at all other than the beeping of the pod and the noises he makes himself. This isn't right. He was only supposed to be in stasis for a few days this time, while Seneca was away at a conference to talk about some new technology that's been discovered. Something must have gone wrong. It might just be that he's woken up early, and Seneca isn't back yet, but the heaviness in his body says differently. 

Experimentally, he tries swallowing, then clearing his throat. "Hel—" he starts, and has to stop for a brief coughing fit that forces him over onto his side in the close confines of the stasis pod. "Hello?" 

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There's no reply.

The lid of the stasis pod slides open.

The ceiling above him is unfamiliar. 

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Not a good sign.

Cato wiggles his fingers, clenches and unclenches his fists. The feeling seems to be coming back into his arms and legs—he tries wiggling his toes, experimentally. The pins-and-needles feeling slowly recedes as he works through it. After a minute or so, he's mobile enough that he can push himself upright and look around. Where the hell is he, and where's Seneca? 

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He's sitting in a large room, dimly lit by silver light.

It's filled with pedestals and glass cases holding an eccentric collections of objects. There's a handful of skeletons, carefully reassembled, one is probably a horse. Another might be an eagle. A case next to him holds a coffee maker and a collapsible computer.

His stasis pod itself is on a pedestal, raised up to eye level. He'll need to jump to get down.

Abruptly, halfway down the room, everything turns silver. There's still the walls and the pedestals and the curious collection of objects, but they are all made of shimmering grey and are almost translucent in the faint light filtering through the silver half of the room's ceiling. 

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What the fuck. 

It looks like he's in a museum of some kind? If it's been long enough that stasis pods are museum pieces...

His mind flinches away from that thought until further evidence presents itself. He's in a building; that probably means there are people around somewhere. Time to go find them. Careful not to tip the pod itself off the pedestal, Cato levers himself out and vaults to the floor, not quite managing to land on his feet but turning it into a roll instead.

Now, where's the door? Hopefully not in the weird silver part of the room—he has no idea what that is, but it doesn't look particularly safe. 

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There's a pair of large double doors in the silver half of the room, but there's a smaller door in his half as well.

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He'll try the little door first; might as well.

"Here's hoping you don't just lead to a closet."

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It leads to a narrow, unadorned hallway. There are a few patches of translucent silver in the walls that let through just enough light to see the shape of several other doors, further down.

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Oh, good. He can put off investigating the silvery stuff a little longer. 

Now, where might these other doors lead? 

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The next door does actually lead to a closet. It contains cleaning supplies that are noticeably lower-tech than Cato is used to. There's a vacuum cleaner with a removable paper waste bag, manual operating spray bottles, a stack of clean rags that are slightly stained, an actual mop and bucket and a number of other incidentals.

The room after that used to be a well-stocked pantry. It is now entirely silver.

The rooms on the opposite side of the hall are a small restroom, half silver, and two plain bedrooms, one has a silver ceiling, the other is untouched. 

The door at the end of the hall opens onto a large kitchen.

It, unlike every room Cato has been in so far, has windows. 

They are currently curtained.

The equipment in the kitchen is also far more primitive than Cato is used to. The stove has gas burners. There's a knife sharpener sitting next to the knives. The microwave is large and has dials where the screen should be. 

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Curiouser and curiouser. Maybe it's part of the whole museum experience, but if that was the case he'd expect to recognise more of the technology. If they were trying to recreate a historical experience, they haven't done a very good job. 

Halfway through this exploration, the bed in the silverless room starts looking very inviting. He sits on it for a brief rest, resisting the urge to lie down and sleep. Are there any signs that someone's been in any of these rooms in, oh, the last month or so? 

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The bed is neatly made, but there's a book and an empty glass on the bedside table.

The book is called Tales from the Neath.

There are clothes folded in the set of drawers and hanging in the closet. The style suggests they belonged to an older woman.

There are a few other personal effects, but nothing that particularly suggests recent use. 

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And no sign of the woman herself, of course. He performs a similar search in the other bedroom, then gets halfway through checking the kitchen cabinets for food before noticing the windows. 

...he almost doesn't want to know what he'll see outside. But he can't stay in here forever, and the window is a safer option than walking through the ominous silver areas to reach what has to be the outside door. 

He shoves the curtains open, steels himself, and looks. 

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There is no color outside except silver and the blue of the sky. Everything, the surrounding mansions, the road, the grass, is composed of those same fragile, shimmering threads.

There's a car on the road. It's not a type Cato has ever seen before.

There's a driver in the front seat. She, too, is silver. The light filters through her as it filters through everything. 

 

 

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...oh. 

Cato steps away from the window, one hand scrabbling behind him for a surface to lean on. He ends up curled on the floor with his back against a set of cabinets as he tries to blink away the image seared into his retinas. That—that was a person. Was. There's no way she's still alive, not like that, whatever that is. 

He doesn't think there's anyone else alive anywhere nearby. If there is someone out there, they might be unable to get to him through the areas taken over by the threads. Which, by the way, he is definitely not touching now. Maybe it's dormant, maybe it wouldn't hurt him, but he'd rather not take the chance unless his only other option is sitting here and starving. 

...which, to be fair, it might be, eventually. And isn't that a lovely thought. 

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After an indeterminate length of time, he picks himself up off the floor and goes back to the window. Time to see what he can tell about his surroundings, through the grey webbing that's either covered or replaced them.

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It's a very wealthy neighborhood, but not one that's well tended.

The once-grass is untended. It would reach to his knees. A few of the houses have obvious damage, a broken window, a battered in door, missing shingles. 

Everything continues to be extremely low-tech.

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That continues to be so fucking weird, but honestly, it's the least of his problems right now. 

He starts looking around the edges of the window for a way to open it; maybe he can climb out this way instead of going through the silver patch of the main hall. But then, the ground outside is silver too, so that wouldn't do him much good unless the webs turn out to be substantial enough to block the door or something. And he doesn't want to leave just yet, anyway. It's just good to know what his options are.

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The window has two latches on the right side. If he opens them, he can push the window open.

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Physical latches, and a window that actually swings open. What, did these people forget how to use technology? Was this some kind of tech-free back-to-basics commune? No, they clearly have some commodities, and he can't think of a principled reason to keep microwaves but not electric locks on the windows.

Abandoning the mystery for now, Cato goes in search of food he can figure out how to make with the unfamiliar appliances. He's starting to get hungry—he has no idea how long it's been since he woke up, as his watch isn't working. No signal. 

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There's not much to work with. It seems that most of the food has long since gone bad.

There's salt. 

There are bags of rice, kidney beans, black beans, and lentils.

There is a variety of canned goods: peaches, pears, carrots, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and several soup stocks.

There are jars of jam and bottles of maple syrup and honey.

 

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Hmm, alright. 

He figures out how to turn parts of this selection into something he can eat. He does that. He eats.

Time to finish searching everywhere he can access without touching the silver stuff. He's particularly looking for anything that's recognisable as a communication device. Maybe he can call someone for help, or at least an explanation. 

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There's a telephone attached to the wall in the kitchen. It might be difficult to recognize. It's bulky, has no screen, and is attached to its base by a cord. 

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Well, it doesn't seem to have any other obvious purpose, and he's not entirely sure of this society's aesthetics yet but it looks too functional to be a purely decorative item. What happens if he takes it off the hook and punches in a random number?

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Nothing.

If the buttons once did something, they're not doing it now.

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Well, that's disappointing. He puts it back how he found it, no matter how satisfying it would be to leave the receiver dangling from the cord, and moves on. Where's a room he hasn't checked yet...how about this one, what's behind this door?

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