Level 648
rating: +25+x

A figure falls to the concrete soundlessly. His skin rips and his bones break, but the ground is dry of blood. A cheap-looking plastic werewolf mask flutters to the ground after him, for the first time his face is naked to the cool air. Perhaps if he could feel the breeze against his skin, he would wake up, but he stays still, his milky eyes staring at the clouds above as if truly seeing for the first time. His mouth open not in shock, but in wonder. It almost seems as if he is just frozen, as if this single moment can stretch on for eternity, but then the body finally begins to bleed. Almost imperceptibly, the mouth twitches as if trying to choke out one final word. And then, he's still.

SURVIVAL DIFFICULTY:

Class 0

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Description:

wasteland.jpg

The surrounding desert.

A desert. The sky is always cloudy. A few lone trees dot the landscape, their branches occasionally swaying in the wind. The weather never changes. The temperature never changes. Whatever is casting light through the cloud covering never changes, and yet there's something beautiful about it all. It's peaceful.

The only real feature in this endless landscape is a small town, no bigger than a couple neighborhoods. It looks almost as if a section of suburbia was trimmed off and teleported here. Perhaps that is what happened. The residents told me that these buildings were here before anyone even inhabited this level.

These residents are a pretty varied crowd
Some were born here, some immigrated from other levels. I guess this level is just a good place to live. The houses keep themselves in prime condition. The paint never chips, the pipes never spring any leaks, even the fridges and pantries restock themselves.

There is one more notable thing about the level: bodies keep falling from the sky, once every couple days a new one will crashes to the ground. Sometimes onto the surrounding desert, and sometimes onto the asphalt roads that connect the houses. Whenever this happens, a small group will venture out and bury the body. I'm planning on asking around a bit more about these occurrences. I'd imagine there's at least something more to it that's worth reporting on.

Entrances And Exits:

Entrances:

I got here from the outskirts of Level 372, though this method was supposed to take me to Level 124, so I don't think it's reliable. I've talked to some people in town about this, and a lot of them have reported that they got here from other levels. The only one of these that I've been able to recognize is Level 494.

Exits:

I'm waiting to exit until I have all the information I need, so I haven't confirmed any yet, but there are some manhole sized pits in the sand that I suspect will lead to somewhere. The locals don't seem to want to take their chances with them though. I can understand that, I'd imagine this place would be difficult for someone to find their way back to.

Discoveries:

The City in the Sky:

I've asked a few of the residents about the bodies that fall from the sky, and where they come from. Surprisingly, they had a pretty concrete answer for me. They talked about a city above the clouds where everyone wears masks (did I mention the masks? The bodies are always found with these plastic halloween masks). They said it was some sort of super advanced society where the workers are forced to hide their faces to squash individuality. A society so advanced, and yet their citizens are driven to take their own lives. Grim, right? I don't think it's true though. The more I listened, the more things didn't quite add up. Details changed from one person to another. Not to mention the fact that no one had provided any way that they could have gotten this information.

I asked them how they knew this, and they just told me that the older residents had informed them, and those residents had been told by people long dead, et cetera. I don't think they were lying to me. I'm pretty good at spotting something like that. I think that this is just some sort of urban legend passed down through generations. They did give me one more place to look though, a man known only as "The Father". Sound ominous, right? They assured me The Father was just a little eccentric. Apparently he's been here for a long time, longer than anyone is supposed to live. I don't think I'll be able to get any useful information out of him, but I might as well chase one last lead. I won't be disappointed if I get nothing. I probably shouldn't have expected an explanation. Nothing in this place ever makes sense.

The Father:

I was surprised when they showed me The Father's house. With how much they were hyping him up, I didn't expect him to just live in a place so generic looking, but here it was. Painted a shade of dark grey, no different from the dull colored houses the surrounded it. I went to knock on the door, but it opened before my fist hit the wood.

On the other side was a man. He looked old. Impossibly old. The wrinkles in his skin threatening to engulf his features. And then he smiled. His teeth were yellow and crooked, but there was something pure about that expression.

"Well?" His voice was hoarse, but I could understand it clearly.

"Well what?" I was nervous. Everything forgotten in his presence.

"You wanted to ask me some questions."

"Right."

"Ask away."

He led me to the living room of his house, and motioned for me to sit down on the couch. He himself took a seat across and to the left of me in a wooden chair that he had pulled up.

"Is the city in the sky real?"

Perhaps I should have warmed up to that instead of jumping in head first, but I was so caught off guard by it all.

He laughed. "Is anything?"

"What?"

"I don't know." He sighed. "I truly don't know if it's real."

"Well, if it isn't real, then where do the bodies come from?"

"It's a metaphor."

"What?"

"The bodies." A pause. "Well, maybe the city too."

"I've seen the bodies. I know that part is real."

"Didn't it seem strange to you that they were all wearing halloween masks?"

"Well yes, but—"

"What do you think it means? What do you think it symbolizes?"

"I'm not sure I understand."

"Well, some of it they told you. The masks represent a society which stifles individually. A society whose only goal is training people to be workers. A society that doesn't care about its citizen's mental health. And when they take their own lives, the mask flutters off. What is this telling us? That the only thing to do in a society like that is kill yourself? That doesn't sound like a very good message to me, but that seems to be what it's trying to say."

"I'm not sure I follow. You keep talking about metaphors, but this is real life. You can't analyze it like a book."

"Is it? Is it real life?"

"Huh?"

"I've been here a long time. By here, I don't mean just this city. No. I spent a long time traveling through this place, and I've noticed some patterns. It's not all nonsense here. Some of it has a point."

"I still don't really understand what you're getting at."

"Here. I'll start with something you've heard before. I'm sure you've heard the idea that this whole place is a simulation? A series of ones and zeros that have miraculously created something that resembles human society."

"I've heard that, but—"

"Let me finish. This whole idea of a simulation already implies the existence of a God. After all, someone had to create the code. Someone had to program the simulation. But does it have to be a simulation? Aren't there other explanations?"

"What do you mean?"

"It's not a simulation. It's something much simpler than that. This whole place isn't ones and zeroes. It's poetry. It's a series of words dancing on some cosmic page. Written by a hand that we cannot even try to comprehend. Our world living and dying with electric pulses pumped through the neurons of a being that can never truly care about us."

He paused for a while, deep in thought.

"So you asked me if the city in the sky is real. Sure. At least, it's as real as you and me. Maybe someday you'll find a way to fly past the clouds. Maybe you'll find nothing, but that wouldn't mean it isn't real. Do you have to be real? Does anything you do have to be real? You don't, but you're real to yourself. I can see you sitting on the couch in front of me, so in this moment, you're real to me. It makes no difference if I wake up tomorrow with no memory of you. It makes no difference if you cease to exist. You're real right now, and isn't that enough?"


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