The man's eyes were awoken to the sight of pure whiteness. He covered his face with his hands, but it seemed as though the light went right through. The man grunted, moved his hands away from his face, and opened his eyes slowly. His eyes began to water.
"Where am I?" He asked himself.
Once he gained sight he looked around. He was sitting in the corner of a small, white room.
"You're in my office." said a woman's voice.
The man frantically looked around the room, fear was the only emotion he showed. He heard the womanly voice sigh and a figure appeared in the center of the room. It was a woman. A beautiful woman with skin darker than anything he had seen. Her skin seemed almost darker than the color black itself. Her long, straight, black hair went just past her shoulders. She was wearing a dark business jacket and skirt. The only thing not dark about her were her radiant, yellow eyes. If the room had been darker, the only thing visible would be those terrifyingly beautiful eyes.
"Please, have a seat," the woman said.
He calmed down, on the outside at least, and stood up from the floor. Once up, he noticed there was a white desk with chairs on both sides of it. The woman took out a file from her desk and opened it.
"Sherman Noble Minning-"
"You know my name?"
"I know just about all there is to know about you. I know about the time you took money from your parents as they slept and took the car out, which you later crashed. I know about the scandal with your wife and how you used to cry at night. I know-"
"I don't remember any of that."
"That's perfectly normal, most do not recall anything about their old life. Names however, never disappear. Do you happen to know why?"
There was a pause before he spoke. "No."
"I didn't expect you to. Relax Mr. Minning, this is not a test. There is no punishment for answering incorrectly, because there are no wrong answers. Would I release some tension by letting you ask me some questions?"
"Maybe." He took another glance around the room. "Am I dead?"
The woman seemed to almost laugh.
"Close. Yes you cease to exist in your old world, your body most likely decomposing underground, but you still breath, don't you?"
He instinctively took a breath in and pushed it back out. He nodded.
"You're taking this better than most," she said. "You did die in that world, but you live in this one. Do you know why?"
Sherman shook his head.
"Of course you wouldn't, I don't know why I ask such things. Bad habits I suppose. To tell you the truth, I don't know either. I know everything about you. I know how old you were when you died for instance. Ten days short of your seventy third birthday. But you don't look seventy three, do you?"
He looked at his arms, and they looked like the arms of a twenty year old. He then thought that If he was presented with a line of people, he could not tell who had the arms of a twenty year old, but he knew the age of his arms, somehow.
"You used to have a tattoo on your right shoulder you know. Some friends that you forgot about in later years pressured you into getting it. It's not there anymore though."
He pulled up his sleeve and just as she said, there was no marking.
"I have seen every significant memory you have, or had, and wrote it down in this folder because not everyone has the ability I have. But when I see you, you look nothing like the man you once were, like the man I saw. It's as if everything you did, everything you experienced in your previous life, just disappeared. You are what some call a 'world jumper,' with each world, your conscious wiped clean and body free from marks, whether you like it or not."
He shook his head. Nothing made sense, nothing felt right.
"World jumper," he mumbled. "What would you call me?"
She smiled sadly. "My opinion is not important."
"Because once you leave this room, you are no longer under my jurisdiction. My job is to fill you in on your predicament, make your mind a little less foggy. Speaking of, we know which worlds your kind will likely move to next, should you die, and we have aligned ourselves with them. If you die, you will likely see someone like me on another world."
"Is that supposed to be comforting?"
"It is supposed to ease your fear of death. You are not immortal, but you have more lives than the rest of us."
"But I won't remember them, will I?"
"That's something we're working on actually, I've heard it is far too time consuming to teach you your training over and over again."
"Training for what?"
A rectangular hole formed on the wall in front of him. Beyond it was a bit hazy and something massive walked in. It resembled the woman but it was less... human. The arms, legs, everything was where it was supposed to be. It just seemed off.
"Vaanes will take care of you from here on out. We will not meet again Mr. Minning," she said, her eyes hollow.
"Get up," the creature now known as Vaanes croaked.
Sherman did as he was told and took one last glance at the woman who could not meet his eyes.
"Follow me," Vaanes said.
He followed Vaanes - for some reason - and the rectangular hole fixed itself on his way out. The hole lead to an endless labyrinth of curved, empty hallways. Just as the room before, everything was white, which made Vaanes' dark figure impossible to lose track of. Now that he thought about it, there was no way he could tell the hallway was curved, he just felt it was that way. Occasionally Vaanes would change direction and all Sherman would focus on was differentiating a wall from an open space.
He felt as though he should be more worried. Everything happened so fast and there were so many unanswered questions. He did not feel worried though. True he was not calm, nor was he at peace with himself and his surroundings, but he felt like the woman was right when she said he was taking this well. He felt as if the appropriate reaction would be the utter collapse of his rational thinking skills, but he knew what he was doing. He was following Vaanes.
He followed Vaanes indefinitely, as there was no possible way to tell how much time had passed. Everything around him looked identical, not allowing him to mark any progression. The thought occurred to him to count his steps, but to start so long after he began walking seemed pointless. Seeing as there was nothing else to do, the counting began. After six complete steps, he saw a cut out in the seemingly endless white, the edges were slightly shaded. He followed Vaanes through to yet another white room.
The low whispers died down as Vaanes stepped in. To his surprise, he saw people with skin tones that were not darker than night itself. Some were darker than him, some lighter, but none were that impossible black. They all wore the same thing that he was wearing.
"Sit," Vaanes said.
He did not motion or specify where, so he sat beside the others.
An image popped into his head with colors he could never see around him. A map, that's what it was. There was a blue dot and several red dots on one end, one slightly bigger than the others. On the other end of the map was a pulsating, orange circle. He wanted so badly to go to it, but he remained seated.
His heel tapped unconsciously as he looked around the room to keep his mind busy. There were suits blending in on one of the walls. They seemed too hard and rigid to be just normal clothes. He cleared his mind from the map and text appeared next to the suits. They appeared to be some sort of armor able to withstand far greater blows than his body could. He looked to the side of them and saw more objects slightly smaller than his am blending into the wall. Text appeared and they seemed to be some sort of weapons. The two objects seemed to work inversely of each other, one doing damage while the other prevented it.
He looked away from the wall and at the people around him. Most had their eyes on the wall he was just looking at. Some were tapping feet while others played with their clothes or hair.
"Stand," Vaanes said.
And everyone did. A rectangular hole formed behind him. He could see the other side had colors that matched the map that forced its way back into his mind.
"Suit up." Vaanes said. "You know where to go."
Another doorway appeared only leading to more whiteness. The dark creature walked through, the wall reforming behind him.
All tapping and fiddling ceased. For a moment, there was no sound. Then there were murmurs, none of which were directed at him. Sherman stood, walked over to the suits, and strapped one on. After some trial and error, he was convinced he had it on correctly. By that time, everyone was putting on their suits, following Sherman's process of equipping.
Sherman put his helmet on, grabbed a weapon off the wall, and went through the only doorway.
The other side was nothing like the desolate white rooms and hallways, but an explosions of countless colors he did not think existed. His eyes ate at the buffet in front of him, glancing over shapes and taking in the array of color. After a brief moment of awe, he forced his eyes to focus on one thing at a time. He locked onto a flower whose petals blended from purple to yellow perfectly. Text appeared and apparently the flower was called a 'knegan,' native to some place called 'Adiskel.' His eyes wandered to a less overwhelming plant that prevented some of the light from meeting the ground. The monstrous tree called a 'klann' was also home to Adiskel even though the light brown and orange tree did not match the color scheme of the flower. In the text, he noticed a lone letter 's' next to the name of the tree. He looked back at the knegan and it also had the 's.' He looked around him and concluded that the wildlife was all home to the same place, and everything had an 's' next to its name.
The map found its way back into his head and his mind glanced over the pulsating orange circle. The red dots that were once clumped together were now spread out. Some were in small groups of three or four while others were alone, but they were all on a path to the orange circle. The slightly larger red dot remained motionless, just as he was. There was a red dot approaching it from the right and simultaneously, Sherman heard movement near him. Although he did not know how it worked, he clutched his weapon tightly, eyes searching in the direction of the sound. He could make out specs of white and a white suit - identical to the one he wore - came into focus. The two of them locked eyes, or at least their helmets were facing the same direction. He raised his arm, opened his hand, and slightly waved an open palm; his movements far too rigid to pass off as normal.
"Hey," he said, his helmet muffling most of the sound.
The other person's helmet shifted but continued to look in his direction. After a brief moment of continued staring, they closed the distance between one another. When they were but an arm's length away from each other, Sherman heard a muffled voice. The person shook their head and grabbed for their helmet.
"No wait!" Sherman called out uselessly.
She pulled her helmet off, revealing a pale face and letting her short, brown hair out. "What was that?"
Specs of light bounced off her hair, letting off a delicate glow. He took his helmet off too and made a brief attempt to straighten his hair. "Oh, I didn't think the air was breathable."
She showed a brief look of terror but it quickly shifted to a laugh. "I hadn't even thought of that. Name's Zolia. You were-"
"I was going to say the first one to act. The rest of us were too nervous to even stand while you were putting on your suit."
He shrugged. "I was really just restless. With the map and the orange circle," he faltered, "it was hard to sit down. Sorry, that sounded better in my head."
"No, no. I can see it too. That's where I'm headed."
"Oh, have you been scanning things too?"
"Yeah, I just sort of look at something and text appears."
She looked over at the monstrous tree and her eyes lit up.
"I can see it," she mumbled.
She turned back to him and a splash of red mixed into her pale skin.
"Are you scanning me?" she asked in a somewhat lighter tone.
He was about to say "No" but the text appeared by her.
"Not intentionally," he said.
"What does it say?"
"Not much. Your full name, details about your appearance, and 'world one.'"
"I'm getting the same for you. You don't happen to know what 'world one' means, do you?"
"Great," she said without enthusiasm.
She looked around herself, her eyes taking a break at each different object. Sherman heard light tapping and noticed it was his own foot. Soon enough, she was doing the same.
"So... do you want to head to that orange circle on the map?"
"Yeah, I can feel it too, the orange circle eating away at my attention span. We should hurry unless we want to be the last ones there."
The map still in his mind, he noticed most of the red specs were already there. Together, they moved through floral paradise towards the only thing on their minds. His eyes were locked on her, more accurately, on the text beside her. He kept reading over 'world one' searching for some sort of meaning. The only thing he could connect the pair of words to was what the dark skinned woman called him; 'world jumper.' No, she did not call him that, she had not called him what she wanted to. The sadness in her yellow eyes, the fear he felt shone through his. There were no ill feelings in Zolia's eyes. Why?
"You don't seem scared or even nervous about our situation," had said confusing his thoughts with words.
Her blank face broke into a short laugh. "I guess you're right. Everything feels new and strange, which is unsettling but I guess I'm just happy to be alive. I was told I died."
"Did a dark woman tell you that?"
"She talk to you too?"
"Yeah. She seemed sad, didn't she?"
"Did she? She seemed emotionless to me, like Vaanes."
"Maybe at first but towards the end, she almost seemed to regret letting me leave."
"Are we talking about the same person?"
"I - maybe not."
He half expected her to say something, but she stopped in her tracks without a word. He caught up to her, noticing a mass of white suits - most without helmets - circled around something too hard to see from his distance. Sherman and Valeria moved in to see a stationary white suit and some sort of skinless creature standing on all fours. All of a sudden the creature broke into a sprint, causing him and Valeria to recoil backwards. None of the others moved, they just watched, murmuring to each other. The suit that was once stationary pulled out its weapon and fired beams of light into the creature via the trigger. The creature crumbled to a stop and the suit put its weapon away. The armor and creature reappeared in their original positions and locations as if nothing had happened. Shortly after, the sequence repeated itself. Sherman focused on the creature and text appeared. After he read the first sentence, the animation disappeared, followed by confused murmurs. He looked around him and saw another set of white armor emerge from the overgrowth in a hurry. It ran towards them and a skinless creature emerged moving fast.
Out of all the confusion from the crowd, he heard someone ask, "Is it real?"
Not sure of the answer, he noticed a small difference from the previous demonstration; the white suit was screaming. Sherman held his weapon like the demonstration and pulled the trigger, sending a beam of light its way. The beam hit one of the creature's limbs, altering its movement and slowing it down. He lined up another shot and fired. It missed but was accompanied by more shots. Most shots hit neighboring trees and plants, while some hit their target. The creature stopped in its tracks and just in time for the frightened person joined the group.
She ripped off her helmet, sucking in massive amounts of air. "I was gathering information on the ecosystem when I heard that thing. I thought it was one of you but I checked my map and all the red dots were at the objective."
"So you ran?" someone asked.
"Yes," she said still catching his breath.
"It's not like she could have done anything," Sherman said, "she didn't see the demonstration. Do you know how these work?" he asked waving his weapon around.
"Yes," she said with more breathing control. "While running for my life, I gathered that to shoot those beams of light that got so dangerously close to me, you simply have to pull the trigger mechanism and-"
Sherman heard the high pitched sound of a weapon firing behind him, which was quickly accompanied by several more shots. He turned to see another one of those hairless creatures crumble to a stop.
"Was that all of them?" Zolia asked.
Several high pitched screeches emitted from outside the clearing, pushing everyone closer to each other. Sherman clutched to his weapon with white knuckles. He broadened his view as much as possible, searching for movement in the brush. He felt his thundering heartbeat would shatter his insides if the suspense lasted much longer. His fears - one of them at least - fell apart as the hairless beasts came into view. They moved at a speed Sherman knew he could never reach; eyes glancing over the crowd to decide which of them to pounce on.
Sherman fired his weapon and the peaceful stand was enveloped with the high pitched sounds of countless guns firing and screeches of hairless abominations. The creatures flooded into the open almost endlessly and sherman found himself pushed shoulder to shoulder with those around him, firing their weapons frantically. He heard angered yelling and dared a glance to his side. There was a large man furiously pulling the trigger on his weapon with no effect. He yelled at the woman who had joined the group last, her hands too shaky to aim.
"If you know use it, shoot the damn things!" the man yelled out.
Her response was that of a frightened whimper which further angered the man. After a few carefully placed shots, Sherman brought his attention back to the two to see the man firing a weapon, and the woman holding onto a useless one.
The screeches and firing died down and were replaced with heavy breathing. All of the creatures had been stumbled to a halt, but none of the weapons wavered. Sherman took advantage of the ceasefire and scanned the hairless creatures. Text appeared but the map forced its way back into his mind. The pulsating circle was gone and there was a blue dot approached them. There was movement just outside the clearing and a beam of light was fired.
"Don't!" Sherman called out, keeping his eye on the rustling.
An impossibly dark creature emerged, his body strong but strange. Vaanes walked over to them emotionlessly.
"You are all alive," he said almost to himself.
"What the hell Vaanes?" the angry man said, holding a weapon that was not his own.
"Objective completed," he said ignoring the man.
"And what was our objective?" someone asked in a far less heatedly.
"To think quickly and survive. The next simulation is tomorrow," he said already taking steps away from them.
"What do we do now?" another voice called out.
"You have another objective, sleeping quarters," he said and made his leave.