Elyon and I walked on in silence, Haley a few steps behind us. I enjoyed the sensations of the Earth on my bare feet: The cool mud and soft grasses massaged my soles, and the puddles washed away the soot. I began to move with an effortless balance within my environment as it moved with me. The longer we walked, the more I became aware of the smallest of details: the trickle of the rain residue on the leaves, the call of the nocturnal birds to warn of our arrival. I could even sense the marching of the insects on the ground, walking with us, moving us along our path. The clarity with which I sensed these details grew sharper, and a general clarity settled over my mind and body.
We walked through the next clearing, where a wooden shack stood like a sentry in the night. It was a small, unassuming log cabin with a green roof and a few windows, which were illuminated by a warm orange glow. Smoke curled out of the chimney and up into the moonlit sky, meandering aimlessly with the gusts of the night wind. I felt a warmth emanating from the house itself. I wondered if anyone was home―with the soot on our skin, and our shoeless feet, we would probably appear as weary travelers searching for someone to invite us in.
Elyon knocked on the door twice, and it opened slowly, but there was no one behind it. He entered, followed by Haley, who was uncharacteristically serene. I followed her into the main room, which resembled a classic summer vacation mountain house complete with a burning fireplace, leather couches, and an oak table in the center of the room surrounded by six wicker chairs. There were a few photographs on the walls, which surprised me. But before I could investigate, Elyon waved me onward toward the back of the room, where a giant bookcase stood. Bracing his shoulder against the lower part, he pushed it aside to reveal a large steel door with a computer screen affixed in the center. A light flashed, and the door sprang open to a descending metal staircase. “You’ll have to excuse the state of this tunnel. It’s due for repairs soon,” he said, starting down the stairs. Not wanting to be left behind, I braced my hands on the railing and descended after him. The air grew damp as we continued deeper and deeper underground. There was no light except from the doorway above, which grew fainter with each step, until we were plunged into darkness.
“Almost there,” Elyon encouraged, his voice echoing off the walls. I heard the sound of a doorknob turning, and Elyon’s figure became visible once again, bathed in a bluish glow from the room beyond. He allowed me to pass.
My eyes adjusted, and for a moment, I thought that the tunnel was a rocket and that Elyon had somehow shot us into space; I was floating above the Earth, which revolved slowly below my feet. I could make out the green and brown landmasses, the swirling of the white and silver storms over oceans in a thousand shades of blue. The whole planet hung there, suspended in its tranquility. I heaved a deep sigh, watching the new continents emerge and old ones become disbanded.
Suddenly, it disappeared, and the room ceased to be infinite. I now saw that I was in an enclosed, dome-like space with a material resembling a computer screen lining every surface, projecting image after image in a dizzying sequence: animals, plants, people, buildings, all morphing grotesquely from one into the next.
“Welcome to the Creator Space, Architect.” Elyon walked between a giraffe and a miniaturized Eiffel Tower.
“Am I dreaming?” I said, still trying to get my bearings. “Or is this another simulation?”
“You tell me,” he said, shrugging. “All I do is create. I can’t dictate what you make of my creation.”
“But how―” I stopped and ducked as a humpback whale swam dangerously close to my head.
Elyon chuckled. “The imagination is limitless, Architect, and it is intrinsically tied to creation. Many have the ability to imagine, but few have the ability to create. Now tell me, why do you think that you are dreaming?”
“I don’t know, it all seems too nonsensical. In fact, maybe this whole thing is a dream. All this―you, Haley, the castle, the fucked-up simulations, the collapse. Maybe I’ll wake up in my bed, and it will all have been one long nightmare.”
“You know, the aborigines believed that dreams were the actual reality, while the thing that we consider reality―the existence that we ‘wake up to’―is the dream.”
I thought about it for a moment. “There’s no way of knowing, I suppose. When I am in the dream, I forget my former existence. But why all this?” I wondered.
Elyon sighed and folded his hands. “Humanity has arrived at a crossroads. The Creator story and the Creatorless story can no longer coexist as simultaneous governing forces in our world. If humanity decides to allow their actions to be governed by the rejection of a Creator―that is, a spontaneous assemblage from chance―and the naturalistic laws of the evolution of man based on survival of the fittest, then when the resources begin to wear thin, those with ready access to weapons, excess food, and multiple shelters―the wealthy elite, most likely―will be justified as the ‘chosen survivors.’ Such a view reduces us to a basic animalistic survival instinct. Of course, it is that very same elite that creates this idea of ‘humanism’ to assuage the guilt they have accrued from exploiting others for their privileged position. They themselves have not had to contend with the daily reality of survival, and so they further the collapse with the naive belief that they will not be touched within their bubble. As you witnessed, however, this is not the case. Unlike evolution, the collapse does not discriminate; nor do the Creators. You have no doubt noticed the recent rise in conservatism in response to the growing turmoil in the world. This is because it is human instinct to turn to their Creators for assistance when they realize how powerless they are in these dark times. Like a bird returning to the nest, humanity desires the values and rules that have been in place since creation. People can invent as many technological advances as they please, but their basic essence is something they cannot change at whim.”
“Like some kind of code,” I ventured, marveling as the scenery in front of me shimmered and changed again into an enormous waterfall viewed from above, as if flying over in a helicopter. The view swooped closer, and I recognized the unmistakable scale and volume of Victoria Falls in Zambia. “As if everything follows a pattern based on a deliberated design.”
“Impressive. Did you study code?” Elyon said.
“I started picking it up as a hobby, but I’ve wanted to pursue it further. I always find it so fascinating how a series of ones and zeroes can be translated into an image, perhaps even a whole virtual world.” I felt a bit self-conscious, so I asked him, “Aren’t you a coder as well, Elyon?”
He smiled. “Everything is code, Architect. As the Bible would say, if it were telling the truth: In the beginning, there was the code, and the code became the flesh.”
As he spoke the word “flesh,” the room darkened all around us. In the center, a tiny light sparked, then grew larger, morphing itself into a formless mass that continued to contort, divide, and arrange itself into embryonic structures: first, the spine and head, then four limbs, all curled together. Through the transparent skin, a tiny pulsing heart glowed with the original light.
What am I looking at? I wondered.
“Love, Architect. It’s the code of all life,” answered Elyon, apparently having read my mind. His eyes showed a gentle fondness as he gazed at this half-formed organism.
I almost laughed. “Excuse me? Did you just say love?” I was reminded of the many New-Age cults that people had tried to recruit me for, in exchange for a monthly fee, of course. This whole experience hadn’t seemed like that other bullshit, but then again, perhaps I was mistaken.
“It’s not what you’re thinking,” said Elyon, as the hologram began to fade and the lights returned to normal. “Love is the very essence of the code of life. It is the open embrace of the extremes of every conceivable part of this Creation, and without it, there would cease to be meaning. You see, Architect, all things exist not as opposites, but as extremes on a spectrum. If you say you love all things that are good, then you must also love all things that are evil. You must love the darkness because it is dependent on the existence of light, and suffering as a contrasting counterpart to joy. Love the low, because without it, we would never know what high feels like. They are one and the same: noise and silence, beauty and ugliness, drama and comedy, laughter and tears, edges and curves, even life and death, all in a perfect balance maintained by a central code⸺the code of this universe as designed by the Creators.”
“I’m . . . sorry, this is all a lot to take in,” I said, closing my eyes and rubbing my temples. What did he mean, code of the universe? Was it some sort of simulation? If so, what was the purpose? Why would a technologically capable group of beings create something so flawed as our world? None of it was adding up.
Elyon nodded. “I understand. Do not worry. You have been exposed to quite a lot of information in a very short period of time. It is time for you to rest―to lose your mind to another dimension for a bit. Haley has been busy preparing a hot meal for you upstairs, and the bedroom to the right of the fireplace is all yours. We can continue tomorrow.”
“Hold on,” I said. “I won’t be able to sleep until you answer one question for me.”
“Of course,” said Elyon, his tone infinitely patient. “Ask whatever you like.”
“Are we living in a simulation? I mean, is any of this real? Or am I just a character in someone’s movie?”
“Would it change anything if I said yes?” said Elyon.
I hesitated, thinking about it for a moment. “I suppose it would. If I knew that none of it was real, I would do whatever I wanted, taking risks and not worrying too much about the consequences.”
“Some people certainly take that option. On the other hand, you might find that instead of choosing that path, you could stop judging yourself and others so harshly. You could accept that everyone is only playing the role they have been cast in, and you could do everything to ensure that you were playing your part to the best of your ability. And who knows? You might even find the play enjoyable, even during the long scenes of suffering. Imagine the freedom this would grant you, the transcendental capabilities you would achieve in body, mind, and ultimately, spirit, if you could accept your existence for what it truly is.”
Seeing my confusion, Elyon smiled kindly and said, “Worry not, Architect. You will understand. For now, rest. I will take you back upstairs.”
As we walked up the pitch-black staircase, the images from the Creator Studio played in my mind on repeat. It felt strange to re-enter the plain rustic dining room upstairs. With its fixed dimensions and ordinary brown tones, I felt as if I were awakening from a fantastical dream.
“That’s your room.” Elyon pointed to the door next to the fireplace. “I’ll be working downstairs tonight. Should you need anything, Haley will be staying in the adjacent room. Do not hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you. For everything,” I said.
Elyon smiled. “Until tomorrow.”
>>> This is a chapter from the book: THE MANUAL: FOR A LIFE THAT CAN STAND THE TEST OF TIME