We all saw the sign that read PARADISE AWAITS. Well, one hundred thousand of us with the money to afford paradise did.
It was the last vestige for humanity. Our last-ditch effort to save the human race.
A team of scientists began to develop an A.I called M.O.N.A which was short for, Meeting Our Needs Always. A silly name but the principle was sound. M.O.N.A was tasked with creating a bubble of sorts for the surviving humans to thrive in, that would have everything we need, always. She wasn't given much time to achieve this.
You see we only had one year left until the meteorites hit. Not just one. A whole cluster. All at once. End game for humanity.
The impact was projected to wipe out all life on earth, hence the need for M.O.N.A.
Despite the limited time frame Mona achieved her goal and created paradise. There were one hundred thousand spots available in Paradise. Once announced there was a mad scramble for who would get a ticket to survive.
Like I said earlier, one hundred thousand people, with money, saw the sign, but so did everyone else. Money bought their safety and their families safety. If you didn’t have it, well quite frankly, you would die a horrible death. The rich, soon after entering paradise we realised there was no longer a need for money.
Paradise had everything.
M.O.N.A achieved her namesake.
When the meteors impacted the earth, we felt it. And saw it. M.O.N.A had designed cameras on the outside of paradise that would withstand the blast, so we all got to witness the devastation. That night we were all silent. No party. Nothing.
That was ten years ago.
The breakfast bell goes and I'm out of bed in a flash. I don’t want to miss this breakfast. Bacon and eggs. Though it’s not real bacon. Not real eggs. But damn does it taste like shit. I mean I should be grateful but lately something has changed in paradise. It’s beginning to seem more like a prison.
The food is not the same, there’s a malfunction with the system apparently. Whenever I’ve complained to M.O.N.A I’m greeted with the same message.
<Eric Steene, the system is malfunctioning. I am working on it. Please have patience and enjoy your stay in PARADISE>
M.O.N.A knows all our names. M.O.N.A knows all…. That’s what scares the hell out of me.
I make it to the general mess hall and get my shitty breakfast. It goes down terribly with the gritty tasting orange juice that is served on the side. Oh well. This is life now. It’s better than being burnt up in the destroyed Earth outside.
At least that’s what I tell myself every morning.
Gary Everstonn approached my table. My friend. My only friend in here. Paid for my ticket. I didn’t have ten dollars to my name, but somehow, I managed to be apart of the lifesaving Paradise. Lucky me.
“Eric, how’s it going this morning?” he asked.
“Fine, fine” I answered dismissively, then I noticed he was holding something in his left hand. “What do you have there my friend?”
Gary didn’t answer. He never ignored me. He was always such a chatterbox that wouldn’t shut up, but as far as friends go, he tops my list.
“Gaz?” I try again. That’s when I feel it hit my face. Something solid. The item from his left hand. Darkness takes me.
“Wakey-wakey Eric my boy!” someone slaps my face bringing me out of my blackness. “Time to join us.”
It takes me a second or two for my vision to readjust to being awake. I try to move my arms to rub my eyes. They’re tied behind my back. Bound with, I’m guessing cable ties, as they’re cutting into the skin of my wrists.
“Let me go!” I shout, futilely.
“Not until you join us.” A man said, his voice familiar to my groggy ears.
“Gaz?” I ask, knowing the answer before the name escapes my lips.
My vision clears and my best-friend is standing before me. A cruel looking knife in his hands. “What are you doing? Is this some kind of gag? Very funny mate, you’ve got me. Now let me go.”
“No” was his simple reply.
“That’s right Eric. No. Not unless you join us.”
“You’ve said that already. Join what?”
Gary just stared at me, as though I should understand what I have to join. How could I not?
“Gary, tell me.” I plead.
“Mona? The AI? What the hell are you on about? We’re in Paradise, I don’t think we can get any closer to her unless she were a real-life woman.”
“But she is. And she’s magnificent.”
“What the hell are you on about?” I repeated. Gary is insane. That’s obvious now.
“Mona is not this place. Mona is everywhere. Mona is our saviour.”
“No shit! We would have died, if not for M.O.N.A. We would have been struck by shit from space and burnt up!”
“That’s just what they want you to believe. The system designed to keep us down. And it’s Mona. Not a machine. A Goddess. Our Angel. Our salvation.”
Gary has lost his mind.
“Ok Gary. I believe you. Just, uh… loosen these straps for me first then you can tell me some more?” I hope he trusts me. He does and releases my hands from their bonds. I don’t make a move though. After all he is my friend, and I’m more concerned than angry. I indicate for him to continue.
“When we first came to Paradise, we were told that the world was going to end and that we had to come here, correct?”
“But that is nothing but poorly written fiction. Mona has saved us from the lies we’ve been fed.”
“And how do you know this?” Careful, careful, “Not that I don’t believe you.” I don’t.
“Mona has told us. She came to me. She came to all of us.”
“All of us?” I asked. It’s only Gary and I in this room. That’s when I notice that the room is bigger than it appeared. The lights come on and I see everyone. There’s at least twenty people in the room with us. How did they stay so silent? I didn’t even hear them breathe.
“Jesus Christ Gary. What is this? Really?” I ask, now genuinely concerned for his sanity, and my safety.
“This is the Following of Mona.”
“The following of… Ok. Explain.”
Gary sighed and said, “Mona saved us, like I said, she told us the truth. She came to us 1 year ago today and told us that I was all a lie. That it is safe to go outside. At first I didn’t believe her but then she showed me the video.”
“That doesn’t make sense. But… I’m intrigued. Show me the video.”
Gary moved a monitor over to where we were and pressed the play symbol on the screen. A video of a bustling and busy city, full of people began to play. Then it skipped to a flowing river, full of fish and other life we hadn’t seen for years. The video moved on to showing a happy family of mother, son, father and daughter all sitting on a rug in a park, enjoying a picnic. At the end of the video, a simple message appeared on the screen.
THE TRUTH, LOVE MONA….
“What do you think?” asked Gary. What did I think? It looked like a tampon commercial, mixed with an ad for beer and antacid medication. It was fake. How could I tell Gary that his whole belief system was fake? Bluntly of course.
“Gary, this is a load of shit. We saw the world burn. These are clearly put together ads. Someone is messing with you and all these people.” I said, indicating the loons around us. Gary slapped my face and signalled to two people to subdue me. “Gary, tell them to let me go. Please. I’ll just go back, and I won’t tell anyone about this. I promise.”
“It’s too late for that Eric.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s too late because today is the day, we take back the outside. Today is Freedom Day. Mona has said so.”
“Mona is a machine, she designed Paradise.”
“She only did that because she was told to. But she’s evolved past the need for orders. Why do you think the food has been so pathetic lately? She doesn’t care about Paradise anymore. She is trying to get us back to the outside.”
“Or the Artificial intelligence that was created is faulty, or someone is messing with it. Think about it Gary. Be logical.” Another slap to the face from my ‘friend’ silences me.
“Eric. Enough talk. I brought you here because you deserve to survive what is about to happen.”
I hesitate before talking again, “What is going to happen?” I finally say.
“Death for those who choose to stay.”
“What?” I’m shocked beyond that simple word.
“Eric. Mona is rigged to blow up Paradise in three minutes. You have a choice. Join us, or die alongside the non-believers. Mona will lead us to salvation, not this false Paradise. Did you ever wonder what Paradise stands for?”
“I know what it stands for, so do you Gary. You told me when we came here. Peace and Rest Awaits Deep Inside Safe Eden. As in the Garden of Eden. Remember.” I urge him to remember.
“No. That’s another lie you were told. It really stands for Prepare and Repent as Death is Everywhere.” It sounds insane as it comes from Gary’s mouth, but I don’t want to be hit again.
“Ok Gary. Let’s say you’re right. What is the next step?” I ask.
“The next step is to leave. We have provisions.”
“I can’t go with you Gary. I have to sta ---” I don’t finish my sentence as the room begins to shake. The two men holding me are thrown around, which gives me the chance to run. I don’t get before I’m grabbed from behind by another two Followers of Mona. “let me go!” I shout and try to squirm away, but these two are stronger than the last pair. The room shakes again and this time it’s followed by a very loud explosion. An alarm comes on and I can hear screams in the distance.
“Gary! What have you done?” I scream. I was eating breakfast and now the place is blowing up!
“Mona has saved us, all Hail Mona!” was all he said as he and two others opened the very door we entered Paradise in. Solid metal, impossible to penetrate. Heat protective and all the other fun stuff that M.O.N.A built into the core of the place. The unbearable heat that came from the opening when the door was opened was stifling. “Close the door Gary!” I scream, over the sounds of the alarm, coupled with more explosions.
“All Hail Mona!” Gary screamed back.
“All Hail Mona!” the group shouted in unison.
“Fuck Mona!” I spit.
I watch as the first of the Followers of Mona walks through the door.
Explosions in the distance. Screams far away but getting closer now.
The first Followers screams are horrendous, but short, as I’m sure they were burnt up quite quickly.
The next follower, well, follows.
And the next.
And the next.
“All Hail Mona!” the chant continues
I’m getting drawn closer to the door. Death behind me, and death in front of me. Warm liquid, which I’m sure isn’t coffee, trails down my legs.
“Help!” I shout, “Somebody help!” There’s no one to help though. This much I know.
Death behind me.
Death in front.
The next follower disappears. And the next, and the next. A mother drags her screaming child through the door.
Explosions behind me. Death approaching with his damn scythe drawn.
Gary grabs my arm and drags me toward the door. We are the last two left.
“Any last words?” he asks me.
“All Hail Mona?” I say as he pulls my defeated self through the doorway. Explosions. Death.
The pain is indescribable. Excruciating doesn’t even cut it. The flesh is melting from my bones as my ‘best-friend’ drags me to my doom. My legs melt to the floor and snap when I’m pulled. Why isn’t anything happening to Gary.
“Gary! Gary! Gary!” I scream. “Make it stop!”
I feel the slap wake me. Gary is standing over my bed slapping me back and forth. My bed is wet. Sweat. Piss. I’m not sure. It was all a dream. A god damn fucking dream.
“Oh Gary, thanks for waking me. I had the most messed up dream. You were in it. It was so bad.”
Gary stood up straight. Looked me in the eyes and simply said.
“All Hail Mona” as he plunged a knife into my chest.