The Butler left Anthony at the end of a tunnel. The same one Elida used. From the new angle and time to take in his surroundings. The images rippled along the tunnel and gray slivers of dull metal plates peaked through the openings. Anthony pushed more weight on his feet and the ground flattened from the bumps he thought he felt before.
“Hello? I can hear someone moving out there,” the stranger said.
The voice sounded familiar, but Anthony couldn’t place it through the weak echo of the tunnel. Water dripped in the distance after another step, then it roared like an underground river. Anthony didn’t know what to say. Hi, I’m Anthony and I need you to follow me with no questions. But had it been that hard for Elida to get him to follow her? The stranger looked intelligent, though that didn’t always guarantee intelligence. Interviews with certain individuals proved that many times in his research stages. Ten ways to get people to trust you, go. But the list flickered out of his mind when Anthony turned toward the cavern and the stranger.
“Please tell me you’re real.”
The recognition fell in place.
“Kyle?” Anthony asked.
The air seemed to freeze in its subtle motion and change directions. Shit, shit, shit. Anthony struggled to force a smile. No, a smile isn’t right at the moment. The cavern flickered and revealed the steel walls, but Kyle’s eyes never strayed from Anthony.
Kyle didn’t yell, but charged Anthony, who stood too stunned to dodge. Anthony’s vision flashed white as his head slammed with a metallic clang. The echo reverberated through the cavern, and Kyle’s fist stopped at its peak. Kyle’s chest heaved and cold sweat dripped onto Anthony’s face. A cool breeze chilled the room. Once the echo died away, Kyle lowered his fist and knocked against the ground. The metallic echo began once more but transformed into a clack of rock on rock.
“Full auditory and sensory manipulation, interesting,” Kyle said.
“Wait, this makes sense to you?” Anthony asked.
“Yes, you could say my studies delve into virtual realities. But this is far beyond our capabilities, unless they’ve put us into a digital construct.”
How am I supposed to lie to someone like this?
“Do you see the fragments in the images that reveal the true structure?” Kyle asked.
Anthony stammered, but it looked more like he was gasping for air. Kyle apologized and stood up. After pulling Anthony to his feet, Kyle wandered along the cavern wall. The breeze stopped.
“Air Conditioning? Disguised as a breeze. Yet they can’t anticipate all our movements. Anthony, why did you send me that email? Is Don here like you thought?”
Ice settled in Anthony’s chest. Did I see Donnie? Anthony couldn’t remember. The soft green glow in Elida’s eyes distracted him. The same soft green glow appeared in Kyle’s eyes at that moment. Anthony grabbed Kyle’s wrist and dragged him out of the cavern.
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