Nerea - Chapter 3

08/04/2226 – The Pensiveness Experience


Nerea woke to the warm, pink light of a sunrise over the ocean. The sea begged her to bathe. She took a towel onto the beach and undressed. Sunrise swims were her favorite thing in the world. In some ways, it had been a privilege to grow up in Clara’s beautiful prison.

‘Pick a wave. Dive. Glide. Float.’ The underwater silence made her feel safe. While it was strange knowing her body was asleep back in Seren’s office, she appreciated the quiet of this simulated reality. How would the next hours affect her Decision? Where would today take her? Would she be seduced or repulsed by Yves and the monsters of Waldon?

The soft sand slowed her walk to the beach house, and she found Seren smelling flowers in the garden. The golden sun sparkled off her skin and radiated an aura of pure kindness. There was something pure in Seren—she was sublime: a stunning beauty with a giant heart. Nerea spoke softly. “Good morning.”

Seren turned with an alluring smile, walked closer and put a hand on Nerea’s shoulder. “How are you?” Touch. Nerea twitched to pull away, but the comforting grip opened something inside—something lost. Seren wore a light, seductive scent of lilac and lemon. Why had she not noticed yesterday? Lived wisdom and reflective guidance waited patiently behind that glow. She was honest and pure.

“I’m nervous.” Seren nodded and allowed the honesty of the answer to float freely in the air. Nerea wondered if, under different circumstances, they could have become friends. She thought so. At least, she hoped so. Seren let go of her shoulder, and Nerea’s body somehow felt heavier. “How old are you?”

“Fifty-five.”

“Was your Decision easy?”

“No. I had a wonderful childhood and loved my parents. I imagined growing old with them and having a family; but when my older brother chose to stop aging, I knew I had to follow in his footsteps. He was my hero, and I didn’t want him to be alone. Unfortunately, he couldn’t handle his new reality; he grew hopeless, vanished and death caught up to him. We were heartbroken, and my parents never recovered. They died soon after.”

Nerea’s belly plummeted; Seren’s pain flowed directly from her grandparent’s innocent dinner. Waldon’s Decision tore families apart and crushed countless souls with its gift of eternal emptiness. She felt queasy. The air thinned as she attempted to speak. “Waldon has done awful things to families. My blood is tied to inhumanity and has done nothing to fix it. Our wealth lays dormant while billions of people suffer. When our work together is complete, I will be free to cut Clara from my life and slice the final strings of our dying bond. I want to dedicate my life and money to helping families like yours. I want to repair some small part of the damage Waldon has caused. No one should suffer as you have.” Nerea’s hands trembled, and her eyes welled; it was unbearable.

But there was a lifeboat in Seren’s eye, free of judgment. “There is so much tension in you. You are young, with so much life in front of you. Let go. Your wealth is not your fault. Your family was part of Waldon, not you. Waldon’s actions are not your actions. Waldon is not your responsibility. The sadness I knew was not your fault.”

Nerea slouched forward and gasped. A single tear forged an unchartered path down her cheek. Seren passed a tissue and spoke soothingly. “Life is shaped in how we deal with the inherited burden of our ancestors. Today, you must begin to shed weights that you have unknowingly held for too long. You need to release the guilt that is crushing you. You need to be clear about your own opinions and beliefs. You need to separate yourself from your mother, create your own space and make your own Decision. So, tell me: what do you believe in?”

Nerea looked to the sea and slumped back in her chair. A breeze brought basil and mint from the garden. Her guarded beliefs had formed through observation and reflection. They had taken shape in coffee shops, on cliff-tops and through books, and had forged a relentless need to understand the spark that drove others. Her voice cracked. “I believe life is meant to be a brief moment of exploration and connection, not an eternity of repetition. I believe that death is a necessity to life and not a disease in need of a cure. I believe pain is necessary to joy and challenge is necessary to success, but I refuse to accept the misery that Waldon has brought to the world.”

Seren smiled, went to the bar and made an espresso. “Yesterday’s experiences were the ancestors of Waldon. Today begins at its birth. This is the first investor and is based on a brain scan from many years ago. This person is still alive and does not know this simulation exists. Are you comfortable with that?”

It was illegal to live the life of someone alive without explicit permission, but Nerea trusted Seren. “I’m okay with that.”

Seren brought the double ristretto to the table. Nerea held the warm cup, inhaled and fantasized about her first sip. “Where am I going now?”

“This is Mathieu.”

~~

20/03/2031 – The Hope Experience


Mathieu drove through the town in the back of his electric limo. Every muscle in his body was tense and tired, but an unrelenting desperation kept his bones moving at full speed. The answer that once seemed so close, was slipping away.

Failure was not an option. He had made a promise to Grampa.

Raindrops hit the car and isolated him further from the wet people on the sidewalk. As the years would roll by, each of them was scheduled to die. Death was inevitable.

Why?

Mathieu did not want to die a predetermined death.

He did not want to die at all.

His fortune had been dedicated to unlocking the cure to aging. Most promising studies focused on improving cell survival and neuron replacement, but each had hit limitations. So much had been wasted following the lies of con men.

But this was different.

The ridiculed thesis that brought him here sat on the seat beside him. The draft had arrived two days ago from the professor of two young graduate students: Clara Woodruff and Mohammed Korman. The title was ‘Reprogrammed Telomerase Boosts Protecting Chromosome Caps,’ and Mathieu had already spent many hours reading it backward and forwards. The first page was highlighted: ‘…encouraging results with significant costs that must be addressed.”

A VIP barrier opened, and his car passed through the university’s main gate. Mathieu appreciated the energy and potential that flourished only on campuses—invisible to most students but crystal clear once they looked back. He had left school during his first year and promised Grampa he would one day return and get his degree. ‘When time is no longer limited,’ he would tell himself.

They stopped in front of the Health and Sciences building. Tom got out and opened Mathieu’s door holding an umbrella and a badge. “The lab is twenty-five meters straight ahead, fourth door on the left. Mr. Korman and Ms. Woodruff are in there now.”

“Thank you.” He appreciated Tom. Mathieu paid him well, and he had become the closest thing to a ‘friend’ he could allow: a reflective confidant with a beard and a gun.

Tom warned him one last time. “Be cautious. The leaps they made don’t make any sense, and our experts have already discredited their work.”

“I don’t think they made leaps; I think they made edits. There’s something in the writing that intrigues me. It could be the path I’m looking for.”

Tom nodded and moved aside. “I’m not convinced, but good luck.”

Mathieu walked up the stairs and into the building. The interior was faceless and bland—the worst type of beige. He walked towards the fourth door, terrified that the same lifeless atmosphere would extend into the lab he financed. The badge opened the lock, and he stepped inside.

Relief! The room basked in natural light and breathed with fresh air. A powerful, optimistic energy flowed through the space. His soreness was swept away with adrenaline of anticipation.

This was it.

Two students stared at him with guilty eyes and open mouths. His unexpected entrance had startled them. They were doing things they should not be doing.

Mathieu surveyed the lab. It was different than other labs he knew. There were no mice nor animals. Whiteboards were full of furious writing and brainstorming sessions. A couple of mattresses lay under tables, and there was a pizza box on the counter. Recycled servers were stacked and running in the corner, while odd bits and hard drives were tethered to several of his million-dollar robots. Every one of the machines hummed with active calculations. Half of the space was sealed behind a glass wall, with a clean-room changing area at its entrance.

Mathieu’s shoulders straightened.

The stunning young lady with olive skin and black hair was Clara. Despite scholarship offers to every elite school in North America, she chose to study here: at Grampa’s alma-mater. In her scholarship acceptance letter, Clara stated that she selected the university because of the lab. She did her undergraduate degree in half the usual time and was now working on her master’s thesis.

Mohammed Rahimi Korman came to study in the States after growing up in Canada. He had arrived with a wave of Afghan refugees in 2010 after his family died in the war. His adoptive parents were an older, light-spirited couple with big hearts and a farm. They could not have children and gave everything they could to Mohammed: stability, love, humor and space. They even converted to Islam to support the spiritual path of his birth parents. His best friends were the farm animals and the veterinarians that would visit. Mohammed was obsessed with cell behavior and microbiology.

Clara broke the long silence: “Sir. Can I help you? You’re not allowed in here.”

“Hello, Clara.”

Mohammed gave an awkward glance towards his friend. “Do you know him?”

“No. Who are you?”

“Mathieu Baird. Hello, Mohammed.”

Their stares rose over his head and froze. He followed their eyes to the plaque that hung in many labs around the world: ‘Baird Advanced Medical Studies Laboratory.’ Mathieu enjoyed these moments and the focus they brought to discussions. “They give you a plaque if you donate a bit of money.”

Clara appeared nervous as her benefactor explored the room. “What can we do for you?”

“I read your paper.”

Clara focused on the floor. “I guess we wasted a bit of your money.”

“According to your professor, you need another six months before you can resubmit and graduate.”

“I guess we got a bit sloppy.”

Clara kept avoiding his eyes. The lab was not a defeated space—it was one of breakthroughs and victories. The woman before him was not ashamed—she was confident, knowledgeable and in complete control.

“Do you trust your professor?”

Clara looked up. “Yes. She gives us a lot of freedom. Why?”

“It’s bizarre that you got so far without submitting a draft.”

“She’s very busy. It’s my fault we didn’t give her one till it was too late.”

Mathieu knew their professor was not too busy; she was too drunk. The school should have fired her years ago. “In the last few days, I’ve read every paper you have submitted. Your writing is flawless. It’s why you had access to such advanced equipment before your masters even started. You’re thorough. The work you have done in your young career is extremely impressive.”

Clara sounded worried. “Thank you.”

Mathieu turned to Mohammed. “You’re one of the most gifted microbiology students to come to this school in twenty years. And your previous writing and submissions were perfect.”

He spoke with a soft yet proud tone. “That’s a bit much but thank you.”

“I think the two of you know more than you published. I think your work on maintaining the protective caps of chromosomes is significant.”

Clara and Mohammed looked again to the ground; they were definitely hiding something. Mathieu’s heart accelerated.

“Why not publish your actual results?”

Mohammed tried to make eye contact but glanced away as he spoke. “We did.” He shuffled his weight.

Clara’s stare rose to Mathieu and locked. There was growing confidence in her gaze, like she was getting caught for a good deed. Mathieu’s voice trembled as he whispered. “I’ve been taken advantage of by some of the world’s most skilled liars, but you two are terrible. What have you found?”

Clara looked at her friend and nodded. She began: “At first, we were scared because we assumed we were wrong. Every day, we tried to find our mistake. And then, I was talking to a friend and became terrified of another possibility: what if we’re right?”

“If you’re right, you have figured out how to cure aging.”

Mohammed interjected, “Not cure; slow it down.”

Mathieu’s core was beginning to float. “That’s just one step from a cure.”

The three looked at each other in silence. Mathieu could no longer hide his excitement, and a grin belied his controlling tone. He pulled up a chair and motioned for the others to do the same. Like a teenager seeking weekend tales from his best-friends, Mathieu opened the floor, “What you have found? Tell me.”

Clara’s confidence grew with each sentence. “As you read, there are many different theories on how to maintain the protective caps on chromosomes. When this is accomplished, human cells could almost endlessly duplicate—essentially stopping aging. While experiments have shown promise in mice, the leap to humans was thought to be fifty years away. Our bodies are full of complex interactions and Moe and I did not like the over-simplified approaches in today’s single-factor studies; we began multi-targeting approaches on human stem-cells with complex protein and gene treatment combinations. Through a precise modification of a few strands of DNA, combined with a complex cocktail of enzymes, cells establish a new balance, and are able to produce micro-boosts of telomerase that prevent degradation of telomeres. The cells rapidly infect surrounding cells with the same, superior mutation. Our tests show that the Hayflick limit does not constrain the resulting cells, and their epigenetic clocks remain constant.”

“How many divisions have you achieved? Did you get beyond sixty?”

Nerea nodded towards a live microscopic camera-feed from the clean-room. “We are at four hundred and eighty-three, and there are new divisions every seven hours. The cells remain in perfect health.”

His eyes welled with happiness, and his voice cracked as he whispered: “So, you’ve done it? You’ve found a way to prevent age-related cell degradation?”

Moe and Clara nodded in unison, and Mathieu’s body tingled. He asked question after question around the methods, assumptions and experiments they had run. With each answer, he was more and more confident that this was the real deal. There was a strong possibility that the two young people in front of him had unlocked the fountain of youth.

His dream had begun.

As the conversation wound down, Clara asked, “And now what?”

He would not lose this opportunity. “I want to know what you need. I want to get you out of this cramped lab and into a place where you can spread your wings. I want to build on what you have started. I want to help you change the world.”

Clara took a deep breath. “When?”

“Tonight. Put together a list of things you need to form a new company, and we can discuss it later. I like to move quickly. Life’s too short…” he smiled wide and continued, “…for now.”

Clara allowed herself a chuckle. She ripped down a small, pink flier pinned awkwardly on the wall between science papers. It was for a poetry reading at a café. “Can we meet here at 8:30?”

Mathieu liked the idea of starting a company at a coffee shop. “I’ll be there.”

He spent the rest of the day in a euphoric state of giddiness. The plan was simple: his lawyer drew up paperwork, and he calculated how much money he had left. After so many wasted investments, this could be his last shot.

Mathieu arrived at the ‘The Flagrant Fowl’ cafe with Tom. The place was half full, with couches and chairs that had been collected from garbage bins and garage sales. There was a quiet mix of students, young artists and old hippies, and they were split between tea and wine. Clara and Moe sat in a round booth at the back. Mathieu and Tom walked back and joined them.

A tipsy announcer in a Hawaiian shirt and sandals introduced the following performance. “…And next up is one of my favorites here at the Fowl. Please give your undivided attention to the observations of Yves!!!!!” There was scattered applause.

Yves was a beautiful man: dark skin, short hair and a genuine smile. He took the microphone.

“Hi. Tonight, I want to share an untitled work written by a Jewish poet. He was born to a generation that could be governed alternately by Pharaohs, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks without ever leaving home. It was a confusing time for truth seekers. Pharaohs proclaimed to be literal gods, while Babylonian gods controlled everything from fires to the wind. The single Persian God, Ahura, guaranteed the ultimate destruction of all evil, while Alexander the Great’s beliefs were shaped with the father of Western Philosophy, Aristotle.

“It was a dangerous period to be a Jew, yet this poet is now recognized as a Prophet in both Islam and Christianity, and his words are more relevant today than they have ever been.

“For tonight only, I want to give this poem a name. I call it ‘The Garden of Yves.’

On the day you were created,

you were the seal of perfection,

full of wisdom

and perfect in beauty.

You were in Eden,

the garden of God.

Every precious stone adorned you,

settings made of gold.

On the day you were created,

they were prepared.

An angel there to guard you,

on the holy mountain of God.

You walked among the fiery stones.

On the day you were created,

you were blameless in your ways,

until wickedness was found in you.

By the vastness of your trade,

you were filled with violence,

and you sinned.

You became more cruel

and evil.

Now, you must exit in disgrace

from the mountain of God.

The creature, your protector

will chase you from the jewels.

Banished.

All nations appalled.

You have come to a horrible end,

and will never exist again.

On the day you were created,

you were the seal of perfection.

Ezekiel 28:12-19”

Yves put the microphone down as the audience clapped in sparse approval. He made his way to the table and sat beside Clara. Mathieu took a moment to observe each of the three friends as they pushed together in the booth. They were close.

Mathieu nodded to the poet. “So, you’re Yves.”

“Hello, Mr. Baird.”

“Call me Mathieu. This is Tom.”

Tom offered a half-nod. “Who’s the poem for?”

“I don’t know yet. Prophets words can only be understood when we look back from the end.”

Tom ordered a glass of Minervois for Mathieu and a tea for himself. The others asked for water. Empty glasses scattered around the table let Mathieu know that the three had been there a while.

Tom began: “Mathieu tells me that the two of you ‘might’ have found a cure for death? Very exciting.” There was a huge dose of doubt in his voice.

Moe corrected: “Not death—aging.”

Clara expanded, “We have solid preliminary results, but don’t have the computing power to understand the long-term impact.”

“Why would you publish partial, edited findings?”

Yves looked leery of Tom: “The world is not ready.”

Tom rolled his eyes. “And what’s your role on the team?”

Yves looked at Clara. “There are significant moral challenges in front of us. Clara and I have known each other since we were babies, and she appreciates the way I see the world. She asked for my help.”

“Based on my research, you have spent your life avoiding responsibilities. You finished high-school with excellent grades but have done little more than travel the globe and work in your fathers’ atrium for the past few years.”

“I go where I’m needed, but if I’m not needed, I go. Right now, I’m here to protect Clara from people like you. And how do you know where I’ve been?”

Mathieu calmed everyone down. “Tom does homework before I invest in people. As you protect Clara, Tom protects me.”

Clara spoke softly. “Yves is more than my protector—he sees the bigger picture and reminds us of the stakes. When we first got results, Yves convinced me not to publish the details. We need more certainty before sharing with the world. Because if we’re right, a lot will change.”

Yves turned to Mathieu. “Why is aging’s cure important for you?”

“Humanity needs it.”

“I didn’t ask about humanity; I asked about your personal motivation. Why is this important for you?”

Few people ever dared to question him; most were only interested in his money. But these three kids looked intent on digging deeper. After a pause, Mathieu decided to share. “I never met my father, and my mother was not strong enough to raise a child. My grandfather was poor but gave me everything he had: time, love, food and a roof. He was the kindest person I ever met. I loved him so much and worked tirelessly to repay him and make him proud. By twenty-six, I sold my first company. I was very wealthy, and he was very sick. I was powerless to help during Grampa’s long, painful crawl towards death. I had limitless resources but could not help the one person who had loved me unconditionally. On his deathbed, I promised him I would help others avoid the suffering that he knew. He smiled, nodded, and fell asleep for the last time. His body was no longer strong enough to heal itself. His cells were programed to fail­—a planned obsolescence. Why? Aging is unnecessary, a disease. Humanity is better than death.”

He stared at the empty stage and remembered Grampa, holding his bent fingers as he wheezed towards his last breath; then silence. Despite many years that had passed, the wound was still raw. Mathieu took a deep breath and turned to Clara decisively. “What do you need?”

Clara looked to Yves and Moe. They nodded, and she began. “The same tools we have in the lab, plus another fifty million dollars for more powerful computing and equipment. Yves’ fathers have the perfect spot to build our lab – in an atrium. I need complete control over the release of our cure. Today, I trust you, but as money comes into the picture, I need to make sure we continue to do the right thing.”

Tom shook his head. “Fifty million! This is a joke. You’re wasting Mathieu’s time! You’re just beginning, and the chances of success are tiny.” Tom started to stand. He could intimidate when he chose.

Mathieu interrupted softly and looked straight into Clara’s eye. “No games tonight, Tom. Sit down.” The stare between Mathieu and Clara remained unbroken. “You don’t care about money; that’s clear. According to security data, you have been using the equipment I bought almost twenty-four hours a day for the last eighteen months, but nothing was saved to the network as designed. You have been stealing from the school and stealing from me. You have been left almost entirely alone to play in my very expensive lab.

“Despite that, I’m beginning to trust you. I believe your results are accurate, and I like your approach a lot. To be clear: will this work?”

Clara smirked and straightened her shoulders. “It works.”

He turned to Moe. “So, you have found the cure for aging.”

Moe could no longer hide his pride. “Yes.”

He turned to Yves with a grin: “And what do you think, Mr. Conscience?”

Yves looked away from Clara and stared down to his glass of water. He hesitated. “I think we’re playing with fire. Transhumanist ideas have been around since humanity learned to reason. Our earliest religions dreamed of eternal life: ancient Egyptians and indigenous Caribbean discovered and lost death’s cure in the waters of Kollam and Bimini, while Japanese Shinto has always yearned for life to live, not to die. Our search has never stopped, and every scientific breakthrough we have made has been in chaotic pursuit of this goal. Our DNA is driving us relentlessly towards an ultimate survival; we can’t possibly stop it. Sooner or later, someone will solve the problem of death; it’s inevitable. And given the choice of how a cure should be released, I trust the morals of these two infinitely more than I would anyone else. But this scares me: it changes everything, and I’m not sure it’s for the better.”

Tom rolled his eyes, and Mathieu smiled wide. He liked the philosopher and knew this team was the right one to change the world. He looked each of them in the eye. “What does fifty million dollars buy me?”

Clara stared at the flickering candle on their table. “Thirty-one percent of the company. I take thirty-two percent, fifteen for Moe, eight for Yves, seven for a key new technical role, two for early employees, and five for future investors.”

Clara had just assessed the value of the company at 167 million dollars. If she was right, it was worth much, much more than that. But if she was wrong, it was worth nothing. Her thirty-two percent also made it clear that the ideas were hers; Mathieu had expected a more even split. Moe, Yves and Clara would hold fifty-five percent of the company.

Clara continued, “I want full control over research and development with no interference. I decide what goes to market, when it goes to market and how it goes to market.”

Tom interjected, “So how will he make money? If you develop something but refuse to sell it, how will Mathieu ever recover his investment?”

Mathieu listened but did not care about the money; they could have doubled or tripled the amount. He also didn’t care about the ownership percentage. There was only one thing on his mind: curing the unnecessary disease of aging. Mathieu did not want to miss this opportunity for a clear and exclusive partnership.

“When can we perform human trials?”

Clara reflected. “We need to understand the long-term impacts on the human body and that requires patience. Our procedure will be very intrusive, so approvals will be tough. In our current plan, we test on humans in ten to fifteen years.”

“What if you had a lot more money? We can dilute ownership with non-voting shares, and secure significant additional investments. With five billion dollars from investors, how quickly could you move?”

Yves and Moe looked stunned, but Clara was calm and reflective. “We could invest in more powerful machine-learning and simulation tools. If models could accurately predict long-term effects, we would accelerate human trials by maybe five years.”

“What if we tested exclusively on people in the company? As owners, we have the legal right to test on ourselves as long as we’re confident in positive results. When you’re ready, I want to be the first human trial. Could we start testing on ourselves in the next three years?”

Yves interrupted. “Wait a second. Clara – you’re not a lab rat, and we’re not in a race. Life has been like this forever, and it is too important to skip steps.”

Mathieu spoke firmly. “I’ll be the first lab-rat. And I can easily find other investors who are willing to risk themselves.”

Clara’s eyes widened as she did some calculations. “With significant additional investments, we may be able to achieve that.”

“Just give me results I can share. I know a lot of billionaires that want to live forever, and when the time comes, I’ll get us all the money we need.”

Mathieu was comfortable allowing the three make all operational decisions, but not significant, strategic choices. “You can have your requested control through a simple majority vote for basic staffing, sales and operations; however, I will insist that major decisions, changes to board members and strategy updates require a two-thirds majority. That means that future investors and I will have the power to protect our investment, but no one person has full control.”

Clara pondered the ceiling. “That could work.”

Mathieu had negotiated a lot of deals in his life and had occasionally placed his trust in the wrong people. But Clara was untouched by the greed that killed so many projects. “Tom, call Elena and have her draw up papers reflecting our agreements. Let’s get this contract done tonight. And then give the team one hundred million dollars and everything they need to get started.”

Jaws dropped.

“Clara, Moe, Yves: I believe in you and in the importance of what we’re doing. Tom, be fair with them and give them what they ask for.”

Mathieu stood and put his jacket on. Life was good, and it was about to get better. The waiter came by to clean the table, and Mathieu asked, “Excuse me, who’s the manager?” He pointed to the man in the flower shirt. Mathieu turned to the group. “Stay as long as you need to discuss the deal. I’ll make sure they remain open for us.”

Mathieu walked from the table with school-boy giddiness. Great things were going to happen.

Grampa would definitely be proud.

~~

A blast of exuberance blew through her body. She rubbed her hands and kicked her feet in the thrill. Nerea opened her eyes with a giant smile and pumped her fists in the air. “That was amazing!”

But the excitement wasn’t hers; it was Mathieu’s. Her thoughts slowly became her own.

She looked to Seren with her mouth wide open and panicked. “Clara isn’t just connected to Waldon; it was her idea! She looked so happy and excited, with good people around her. Moe and Yves were dear friends, and Mathieu believed in her!” But Clara had never spoken about any of them. Her entire belief system was being torn apart. Nerea looked for answers. “Is Moe still alive?”

Seren’s eyes softened. “No. Moe and Yves have been dead for fifty years. This all happened two hundred years ago, Nerea, so you will meet a lot of people who are now dead. Death was common before Waldon changed the world. If you were lucky, the people you loved grew old and died. If you were unlucky, they died young.”

The passing of people she had just met hurt more than she had imagined. The dagger of mortality had never struck her heart directly; it had always been abstract, romantic and casually normal. Through their years of fights, Nerea occasionally contemplated her mother’s death and perversely imagined it would resolve their problems. She fantasized about Clara apologizing on her deathbed, begging for forgiveness.

But Nerea’s views of Waldon were being shredded. The corporation seemed to be born in a good place from kind hearts. How did it become so wicked?

Or was it wicked?

“Why did Clara not tell me she founded Waldon? How could she lie about something so big?”

“Waldon employees live in constant fear of being found out. She did not want you to know that fear. Your mother wanted you to have a childhood free from the burden that comes with Waldon and chose to shield you until your Decision. She wanted you to develop your own beliefs towards the value of life and death. If you were surrounded by Waldon in youth, she felt you would be blinded by its brilliance and may not open yourself to truths in the world around you.

“Your family story is woven into the fabric of history. You need to understand the threads that hold life together before you make the ultimate choice. Clara raised you, pushed you to leave the island and prepared these simulations precisely so that you could prepare your Decision.”

‘A precise experience?’ Nerea looked to the basil and mint, and listened to the rolling waves in the background. Clara’s manipulation was everywhere.


©2020 by James Snow