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Resonance: Chapter Twelve

       Last updated: Monday, July 18, 2005 12:51 EDT



    “What VR worlds?”

    “You know,“ said Annalise. “Artificial worlds created by computers. That’s where we are now - trapped in a VR world.”

    Graham frowned, he’d heard people talking about virtual reality, he’d even skimmed through a book about it once, but it wasn’t a subject that held his interest.

    “It’s obvious really,“ Annalise continued. “I can’t understand why I didn’t work it out earlier. Guess I was too busy listening to the others.” She paused and tilted her head to one side. “The other Annalises? You know about the others, right?”

    He nodded. “All two hundred of them.”

    “Exactly! That’s my point. There’s two hundred Annalise Mercados, some of us even live in the same city and yet we’ve never met. Now you tell me how that’s possible if we all live in the same world?”

    He could … up to a point. He could explain how the world was unstable and threads were forever unravelling. How, most likely, there was just the one Annalise whose life unravelled from time to time. But how she communicated with her other selves or how she had even learned of their existence … That was beyond him.

    Maybe something unusual had happened during an unravelling. Maybe a thread had broken somehow and a fragment had been left behind. A fragment of Annalise’s life forever snagged in the fabric of the world, not part of the world and yet not fully disconnected either. A loose thread caught between layers of reality. A loose thread around which two hundred others had gathered.

    “It’s not that we haven’t tried to see each other. Last month two of us sat at the same table in the same coffee bar at the same time. Never caught a glimpse. We sat there, talking to each other in our heads, describing what we saw, who was sitting where and what was on the menu.” She paused for breath. “It was like we were in different places! Can you believe that? Similar but not the same. The menu was the same, the decor too, even some of the waitresses, but the customers … they were all different.”

    “You talked to each other while this was happening?”

    “All the time. And last week there were six of us. The full Des Moines chapter - except for Annalise One. We all met up at Rosie’s Bar but none of us saw each other. It’s like we all arrived on different nights. We took it in turns to describe what we saw. One of the guys behind the bar - Sergio, I think his name was - five of us saw him and five of us described him wearing different clothes. Annalise Nineteen even said he had a beard. Now that’s spooky.”

    Graham agreed, very spooky.

    And, suddenly, very worrying. What would Annalise Twelve have seen last night if anyone had tried to break into his house?

    “Of course, Annalise One thinks we’re all dead - except for her - and that’s why we can’t see each other. We’re all spirits on the astral plane, living in imaginary worlds, constructing imaginary Rosie’s and describing imaginary barmen.” She shook her head. “Doesn’t work, does it? She can’t have it both ways. She can’t accept what we tell her when it suits her and dismiss it when it doesn’t. You heard about her TV show?”

    Graham nodded.

    “That’s what got me started. People would ring in to Annalise’s show with the names of loved ones they wanted to contact. There were like ten or so a day and she’d pass them to us and we’d flip though our phone directories looking for them all. Most of the people we couldn’t find or we contacted the wrong person. But I was interested and kept a list of all the names. Checked them out later. Found most of them too. But not in the phone book.”

    She stopped and looked right at him, daring him to guess.

    “Where?” he said.

    “Obituaries column of the local paper. Now you tell me how you can die when you’re already dead?”

    He couldn’t.

    “But the real clincher’s what happened last Wednesday. Annalise One had a message for me from Kevin Alexander. Guess who he wanted to contact?”


    Annalise looked disappointed. “You’re supposed to guess.”

    Graham considered it for a while, hoping Annalise would relent and tell him the answer. Guessing was not something he was good at.

    Annalise continued to look at him. “Well?” she said, carving winding motions through the air with her hand.

    “Gary Mitchison?”

    “Wrong! He wanted to contact Kevin Alexander. Now you tell me why Kevin Alexander’s sending messages to himself? There’s only one answer. He’s not using the Annalises to contact the dead, he’s using them to bridge the VR worlds. It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

    “What was the message?”

    “Exactly the same message he sent to Gary Mitchison the first time. You know - danger, resonance projects disbanded, Census logs, Graham Smith, resonance wave?”

    Graham nodded.

    “Except this time he gave us a telephone number to try. Annalise One said it was a test, just for a few of the girls, we had to ring this number and ask for Kevin Alexander. We had to phone from a call box and hang up the moment we found out if he was working there or not.”

    “Working where?”

    “ParaDim, of course. Over here in London. I was the only one who got through. So I was asked to come to London and give Kevin Alexander the message from himself. Now why does anyone do that?”

    A very good question. Was Kevin Alexander looking for a way to talk to the unravelled? But for what end? Pure research? Something to do with resonance waves?

    “It has to be VR worlds, doesn’t it? Two hundred of them and we’re all strapped inside these VR chambers with strange helmets on our heads and wires going everywhere. And then one day some wire gets crossed and suddenly all the Annalises can talk to each other. That’s it, isn’t it?”

    She looked at him expectantly. He looked away.

    “Come on, it’s gotta be!” She grabbed him by the elbow and tried to turn him back to face her. “And there’s more proof. Think about all those alien abductions.“ She shook her head slowly from side to side. “No one was ever abducted. That was just a cover up to hide the real truth. Equipment malfunction.”

    “Equipment malfunction?”

    ”Damned right! The VR hook up fails now and then and people have to be taken off-line but sometimes they wake up during the process and see all these wires and probes and stuff and freak out. It’s not alien experimentation, it’s scientist guys fixing the VR hook up. Think about it. What would all that VR equipment look like. We’re all strapped into chambers somewhere with wires poking in and out of us, there’ll be guys standing over us with bright lights shining in our faces.”

    Annalise was animated. Too animated for Graham’s liking. He glanced nervously to his left, was anyone looking at them? Was Annalise drawing unwelcome attention?

    Annalise tugged at his elbow again.

    “Do you know how many people go missing each year? Tens of thousands and that’s just the U.S. Now, you can’t tell me they’re all living on the streets. And if they’re all dead - where’s the bodies? No, they’re gone. Real gone. Program malfunction.” She crossed her throat with her finger. “Zap. One minute they’re walking around, the next minute they’re history. Erased from the system never to return.”

    Graham thought about all the people he’d seen disappear. The way people vanished and then returned as though nothing had ever happened. Had Sharmila been switched off? Had Michael really been transferred to Greenwich six months ago or had he been off-line since January?

    And where were his parents?

    And did that explain the changes to his surroundings? The houses that became shops overnight, the roads that were built in a day, the offices that migrated across London?

    Was the program slowly breaking down? Not an unravelling thread but a program slowly degrading?

    Graham found himself nodding. Annalise was right. People were disappearing. More than usual recently. The world was becoming less stable.

    “And how else can we talk to each other? The Annalises, I mean. We’re not crazy and we’re not mediums. But we can communicate. We know there’s something else beyond this existence.

    “And Kevin Alexander knows it too. He’s gotta be some kind of resistance leader, him and Gary Mitchison and the others. They’re working through the Annalises to talk to each other and organise some kinda rebellion. A way to free us from this prison and you’re the key. Which is why your life’s in danger. You can get us out.”

    Her phone rang. “Shit!” she said, fumbling with her handbag and extracting her mobile.


    “Dinner tonight. Usual place. Eight o’clock.”

    The line went dead, Annalise switched off the phone and turned towards Graham.

    “I’ve gotta go. It’s Kevin. He’s got another message to send. Look, I’ll meet you here tomorrow at one.”

    “I can’t. I go to Green Park on Tuesdays.”

    She looked at him incredulously.

    “If I changed my routine they’d get suspicious. They’ll be suspicious enough after tonight.”

    “Okay, makes sense. Is that the park you went to on Friday?”

    He nodded.

    “Okay, you sit on your usual bench and I’ll be the girl behind you, sunbathing on the grass.”

    “Won’t they recognise you?”

    “Trust me, no one will be looking at my face.”

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