True Freedom
rating: +23+x

Level 797.
11:43 PM.

Tom sat by the river, the current shimmering in the twilight. He stared into the riverbed, thinking about how it was all formed. Hundreds of stones, each one unique, shaped by the water yet unfazed by its movement. Some of these were already here when the stream formed, some joined it by chance afterwards. Each one still ended up here, supporting the others in their struggle against the current. Unmoved, but ever-changing.
The parallels to humanity weren't lost on Tom. Lady Blanche had taught him enough about literature to recognize the opportunity for a good metaphor.

Tom's musings were interrupted suddenly by a loud rustling from the bushes behind him. That's odd, he thought, standing up to take a look. Usually, the only ones who come this far out are me and…
Evie Holmes emerged from the forest, covered in twigs and moss. She had clearly seen better days, but her expression visibly brightened when she saw Tom. "Heyyy, there you are! I've been looking all over for you!"
"Oh, Evie. What's going on? Is something wrong?"
She gave him a weak smile. "Ahhh, don't worryboutit. Here, come… come sit with me." She staggered over to the river, plopping herself down on the ground and crossing her legs. Tom followed suit.
"Alright, one thing at a time. Your speech is slurred, you're walking weird… Are you drunk or something?"
She quickly sat up, straight as a pole, and laughed. It was a strange sound, the kind you make when you're either really scared or really exasperated. She laughed for a good five seconds, then suddenly stopped and returned to a more relaxed posture.
"Oh man, I wish I was."

An awkward pause. She blinked slowly a few times, staring up into the starry sky. "I really need to come out here more often. These constellations are fascinating, like nothing I've ever seen before."
"I didn't know you were into stargazing?"
"Eh, not particularly. I've just been trying out some newer things lately. There's always more to learn, right?"

Evie stood up, stretched, and bent down into a crouching position. Tom sat still; he didn't want to interrupt her thoughts until he had to.
She stuck her hand into the stream and pulled out a particularly flat stone. "What happened to this thing? Does this still count as a rock if nearly half of it was washed away by the river?"
Tom pondered the question for a moment. "It's certainly not the same rock it started as, but I believe that the water's influence is a good thing. At the very least, you can't construe change as bad because it's impossible to know what would have happened if it had stayed the same."
She gave him a reproachful look. "I wasn't looking for philosophical platitudes, Tom. I just wanted to hear your opinions on rocks."
She tossed the stone away and sat back down. "I mean, it's still technically made of rock, but it's not an actual rock since it's been shaped by outside forces for so long. Sedimentary rocks, on the other hand, are rocks made of a bunch of other smaller rocks in that vein. It's a rock made up of rocks that are rock but can't be thought of as 'a rock,' so the resulting conglomeration cannot be thought of as a rock in any logical sense."

Tom opened his mouth to ask what she meant, but he was cut off. "You know what my favorite thing about the backrooms is, Tom? It's everything. If you explore for long enough, you can find anything you could imagine. Any place, any person, any animal or vegetable or mineral. And it stands to reason that if you can find anything you put your mind to, you can do anything as well."
"Evie, how did-"
"Of course, that doesn't happen. Because nobody's willing to risk it all for the chance to find something new."
"Please, you need-"
"Except us. Tom, we're visionaries. We've seen and done more than any other human could fathom, and that gives us power. We know more than anyone else could dream of; we can do things others would deem impossible. But for the most part, we're still slaves to our own routines."
"I don't… I don't understand."
Evie turned to face Tom, and he felt a chill along his spine.

"Let's burn it all down. Everything we've found, all that we've made, each shackle of responsibility and obligation keeping us in line. Because you care about me, Tom! You're the only person I know with the capacity to understand that WE ARE ALIVE and WE ARE FREE and the only thing keeping us from everything and anything possible is the boundaries we've set for ourselves." She shot up, arms outstretched, staring up into the heavens. "So let loose with me, go crazy in a way that society would try to stop if it wasn't afraid of what it knows we can do. Let's tear down every system, all the infrastructure, then rebuild it again from the ground up in our image. And then we can destroy it again! Anything goes! It's your call, as long as I can do it with you because, when we're together, nobody else matters!"

She collapsed onto all fours, gasping for air.
Tom just sat there in shock, still processing what he'd just heard.
He got up stiffly and walked over to where his best friend was slowly tearing herself apart. He held out his hand, a silent offering.
She grabbed it, and pulled herself up.
"Come on, Evie. We should get you home."

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