108 comments

Science Fiction Sad Coming of Age

This again.




Water, cradling me like a newborn. So soft. So soothing.




So suffocating.




Every time, as solemn heartbeats accompany my descent, I search the blueness. And every time, like a pair of ghostly wings flitting through the dark, my gaze lands on the lights dotting the surface.




The surface that is a million lifetimes away, blurred by eternity but nevertheless… there. Calling. Signalling. Beckoning.




More than anything I want to kick upwards, to tear the surface open, to have the lights and all their secrets wash over me.




But my questions drown with me.




Again.







🌲






Light.




Not the ones I see when my eyes are shut, but the ritual flood of liquid gold that scours the land and trickles through blinds to flick sleep out of my eyelids.




“Good morning, Yuni,” chirps Kepler from my bedside.




It’s the second reassurance of the day that nothing ever changes—unlike Kepler’s digital face plastered onto his floating cube of a body. It flickers from his default smile into a full sideways “D” of a grin as he reminds me:




“In seven days it will be your sixteenth birthday. Is there anything you would have me do to celebrate the occasion?”




I bury into the comfort of one of the less drool-stained pillows. “How about letting me sleep in for a change?”




“Yuni, you have never required my permission to sleep in.” If I know Kepler, his face would’ve flickered into a display of palpable concern by now. “However, your serotonin levels tend to be at their lowest when you refuse to get out of bed.” I sneak a peek. Yep. “Thus, while you are free to do as you please, I highly recommend spending about fourteen hours a day outdoors.”




I kick off the sheets and make a futile lunge for Kepler. He streaks out of reach with a high-pitched hum, reaction time impeccable as always.




“I’ll catch you one day, Blockhead,” I warn, index finger accusatory. 




“I wish you the best of luck.”




“Oh, shut up and pull out my wardrobe already.”




Kepler floats down to eye-level. Usually as big as a coconut, his box-like dimensions warp with liquid efficiency into a vertical carpet roughly my height, adorned at the top with his always-present face. The area underneath flickers to life with a spurt of static, unveiling a nightgown hanging like cobwebs from the tattered frame of a girl standing against a white backdrop.




Legs swinging from the bed, I consult the options lining the left-hand side of Kepler’s interface. Yellow? No, I’m not exactly sunshine and daffodils right now. Midnight-black? I would, except I’ve been wearing that like my own skin ever since it popped out of the Heart on my twelfth birthday.




“This one,” I declare, stabbing the icon. The onscreen nightgown flashes out of existence for a split-second before being usurped by a cream-colored dress. My actual nightgown follows suit, melting into a diaphanous, tosca fuzz as I watch today’s outfit materialize over my thighs.




“Excellent choice,” remarks Kepler as he morphs back into a floating cube. His voice is like mine in the way it soars and falls to match his face, but it lacks… something. I’ve never been able to put my finger on it.




“You say it like I have more than eight dresses to choose from,” I respond, perhaps bitterly. Maybe midnight-black does suit me.




“Nine, once you open the Heart on your sixteenth birthday.”




“I forgot about that.”




(“Perhaps you should touch it,” Kepler had advised when I’d stood numbly before the object that appeared in a clearing on my sixth birthday—my first since waking up here.  




I obeyed, one curious-yet-tentative finger prodding the shiny crimson thing suspended a few inches above the grass. It glowed tosca before the top bent open like a peanut shell to reveal a neatly-folded dress.




And a note that read Happy Birthday.




The Heart flashed out of existence as soon as I touched the note, and the dress was spirited away to an invisible inventory.




I remember the relief of having something other than a nightgown to wear. But it’s those two mysterious words that I’ll cherish forever.)




I step outside, Kepler following dutifully. Feet relishing the flavor of dew on grass, I release the echo of popping joints across the world that is mine.




Today, my dress is cream.







🌲







I soar across seas of emerald, dress fluttering against my knees. The soles of my feet beat out a triumphant melody through the dirt, a song that goes “Here I am!” The clouds are mine to count, the grass mine to tread, the stillness mine to shatter and reform. The heavens clap for me when I leap from a cliff, laughter bubbling through my hair, and kiss the crystalline water below.




I haul myself onto the bank. The ribbons of water draped over me depart in puffs of tosca fuzz, rendering my dress light and airy again.




(“Where does the water go?” I had wondered a lifetime ago, juvenile earnestness dripping like drool from my lips.




“Nowhere,” Kepler had stated matter-of-factly as he watched me study the tosca fuzz fade out of existence.




“The water doesn’t go back into the pond?”




“No.”




“What if the poor pond runs out of water?”




“The pond never runs out of water, in the same manner the trees never run out of leaves and the mountains never run out of rocks.”




I’d romped through the shallows, appeased by the reassurance that the pond will never turn into the dry earth the spilt droplets disappeared against. And it was true—the water level would remain unchanged when the ripples died down. Every single bone in my body had been enamored by the phenomenon.




Of course, that was before I… before I grew up.




The giggles between splashes ceased when an idea—perhaps inevitably—pierced my brain. A stroke of genius for the little girl I was back then. I figured it would work, since I’m as much a part of this world as the water and the trees and the mountains, but I had to see it happen. Maybe I was inspired by the sense of irreversible finality exuded by a dewdrop falling from a leaf, but a few minutes later my toes were hugging the cusp of a ravine, and sweet whispers had floated up from its depths like petrichor.




Kepler remained silent, so I took a step.




At first, it was thrilling, shards of wind gouging exhilaration into my prickling skin.




But it was fear that held me close in the heartbeats before I hit the ground.




I remember gasping in bed after what felt like an eternity crammed into a second, my heart pounding. Tears stained the sheets, but Kepler’s look of surprise—his mouth blipping into a perfect “O”—pulled a giggle out of me.




“As you can see,” he’d explained, “your hypothesis is correct, Yuni. You will respawn in your bed every time you die.”




“Re… spawn?”




“You will reappear as if you had never died, in other words.”




I hadn’t brought it up, but it was the dying part that intrigued me more, and would fill my head for years to come.)




“Yuni?”




The faint hum of Kepler hovering accompanies my thoughts as I gaze into two blurry pupils. The girl that stares back at me from the surface doesn’t flinch when the current twists and warps her image. Her face is set, locked into the same breezy smile for years and years and years. A branch hurries downstream, obliterating the smile—only for it to reform.




I sigh. Kepler is snooping into my serotonin levels again, like he usually does whenever he catches me incubating a thought. But I don’t care.




There is a world of beauty to gaze upon; wind-kissed fields of green spilling over hills, sun-dappled riverbanks snoozing to the murmur of flowing water, snow-capped mountains caressed by clouds.




So why can’t I take my eyes off of myself?




Kepler banishes the water’s surface from view by hovering in my face, his hum a little more persistent than usual. “What shall we do now, Yuni? Shall we climb the evergreens by the waterfall? Take a dip in a mountaintop hot spring? Nap in the shade of—”




“Home. We’re going home.”




A frown. “Yuni, it’s only been three hours since you woke up. May I suggest—”




“No, you may not.”




I trudge back home, ignoring Kepler’s increasingly frenetic humming. In the stillness of my bedsheets, I wait for the water.







🌲







The next time it tries to embrace me, I jerk free. I resist its attempts to soothe me into submission. There are truths to be unearthed, and they are there, the lights dotting the surface.




I swim up, fighting the bliss of living in darkness. I reach out and tear the surface open.




Only to regret it.




Heat. Not gentle brushstrokes of sunlight, but a searing wave of pain that makes me cringe back in a way I haven’t done since hearing my first thunderclap.




And still my gaze is drawn to the sky above, where there is a blinding light gradually surging in intensity, until the heat becomes unbearable and—
















Fuck!




“Yuni? Is everything alright?”




“What’s happening to me?” I pant into the soft hues of dawn. “Kepler, what’s happening to me?




“Your adrenaline and cortisol levels are reaching alarming levels. Perhaps we should take a relaxing walk in the woods today.”




I nod, numbly choosing an outfit. 




Today, my dress is the tender pink of dawn.







🌲







Long days and dreamless nights trudge on. The world never changes, never gets tempered into something stronger, unlike my wardrobe. 




Today my dress is red because I am a tongue of flame. From the vantage of a great rocky spire, I scrutinize the vastness below.




It’s beautiful.




And it’s empty.




I want a pair of eyes to gaze into my soul like a mirror-image. Instead, there is only Kepler as he reminds me that my birthday is tomorrow.




“Buzz off, Blockhead,” I snap, one futile hand raking the air. Kepler respects my distance for the rest of the day.




The world is missing something.




The world is missing something and I don’t know what it is.







🌲







“Congratulations, Yuni,” chirps Kepler the next morning. “You are sixteen years old today. Shall we go open the Heart?”




“Whatever.”




When the midnight-black dress forms over my body, Kepler frowns.




Today I am a frigid void, because that is what the world has made of me. Kepler leads my weary feet to the clearing even though it’s routine at this point.




(I hate routine. I hate it I hate it I HATE IT.)




Four grand evergreens stand guard around the Heart, as if it’s somehow special. It floats where there had been nothing only yesterday, two lumps tapering into a point. Waiting, for me.




After a harsh silence, Kepler speaks up. “Yuni, aren’t you going to open the Heart?”




“What’s the point? It’s just another stupid dress, and another stupid note that says ‘Have a nice day’ or something like that.”




The next thing I know, I’m running. Doesn’t matter where to, as long as it’s… away. Somehow, my feet have carried me to the lip of a ravine—the same one I plunged into an eternity ago. Maybe I’m destined to do this.




(“Kepler, is there a way to die and not respawn afterwards?”




“No, because you must be here to open the Hearts. Hush now, it is well past your bedtime.”)




The world is a frozen stream; it should be flowing freely, parting and reforming around rocks in beautiful, uninhibited chaos. Instead, there is a blankness; a suffocating absence of progression.




It doesn’t change.




But maybe I can.




A ribbon of warm tears trails me on my way down. This time, there is no fear to jeer at me from the safety above. There is only a peacefulness that caresses my eyes to close, that curls my lips into a faint smile. I will respawn when I hit the bottom, but what if I choose never to get out of bed afterwards? To defy what the world expects of me? What Kepler expects of me, day in and day—




I hit something, but it doesn’t hurt. In fact, it feels good, the way I sink before being bounced up a few feet. I stagger to my feet, testing the springiness of the tosca mattress suspended in midair.




Kepler wordlessly carries me to the four evergreens and deposits me in front of the Heart.




“I’m the one who’s supposed to catch you,” I tell him, wiping tears away as he reverts back to a box. “Why? I was going to respawn anyway.”




“There is more than one way to die. It would not do to lose you to your own mental state.” He gestures to the Heart with his eyes. “Please, Yuni. Do not miss out on this year’s gift.”




I nod, compliance and apology. I touch the Heart. It doesn’t open.




It disappears.




And so does the world.




“Kepler, what’s happening?”




But Kepler is gone, devoured by a void blacker than my dress. It hungrily creeps in as the mountains and the trees and the sky flake off into a lifeless tosca fuzz. Before I can give in to the despair of watching everything crumble, something takes its place.




Houses, like mine, some bigger and others smaller, materializing around me to form neat rows. Colors I’ve never seen fill my view. Aromas I’ve never sensed bloom in my nostrils. And movement, so much movement that I keel over in shock.




A person that isn’t me walks in my direction. I wince, but they pass through like I’m only a gust of wind. Dozens of others, wearing clothes I could never conjure up in a dream, mill about, happy, sad, bored.




But two people stand out. A tall one, and I somehow know this person is a “he” like Kepler, walking to a front porch. And a little one, a girl half my size, holding his hand as she skips up the steps. They share a smile, and there is softness on their faces.




Something inside me aches.




The world dissolves to make way for another scenario, another moment in time for me to spectate. A field littered with people, but he is focused only on her as he pushes the swings, her laughter as genuine as his affection.




Then the cozy interior of their home, giggles and vegetables being thrown across a table. I watch over their shoulders like a ghost.




After that, the man is on a couch while the girl scribbles colorful nonsense into a bit of paper. His face is grim as he studies a screen that flashes with warning.




Next we are standing outside, and I follow the man’s gaze. I cringe away, the heat just as painful and the light just as blinding as in my dreams. The girl burrows into the man’s shoulder as the object in the sky gets bigger and bigger, and I know bad things will happen when it arrives.




The memories return as quickly as I’m transported from one scenario to the next.




Days spent in shadows, darkness blotting out the sun.




A queue of grimy, distraught faces, shuffling to the tune of blaring alarms.




There is shelter somewhere even darker, but everyone seems to know it is fleeting. Words drip from faces like teardrops, and I don’t need to understand to understand.




“...biggest impact since the dinosaurs...”




“...sending ash and other particles…”




“...crops need sunlight...”




“...cold… so cold…”




But the man and the girl are elsewhere, a spacious room littered with devices unlike anything I’ve ever seen. He’s hunched over a bench, studying a blue sheet. He starts arranging pieces together, applying tools that throw sparks into the air while the girl snoozes under a worn blanket.




Some time later, the roof slides open to unveil a sky choked with death. And yet the man is smiling through tears as he straps the girl inside a hulking contraption that tapers into a point, aimed skywards in defiance of the world ending.




“It’s okay,” he soothes, each word a flicker of warmth in the dark. “When you wake up, you’ll be somewhere far away. You’ll never be cold or hungry again. I promise.”




The girl sobs because she’s too young to understand. 




Unlike me. Yet I sob anyway.




When she bats a useless palm against the pane of glass that seals her in, I reach out with mine. It’s bigger, and yet it… fits.




Another blinding flash later, the girl is piercing the ashen sky, leaving the man to rot with the world. His smile is one of triumph as he gazes up at a dissipating smoke trail. Then he walks away, back turned no matter how many times I cry out for him to wait, to hold me one last time.




The next thing I know, I’m surrounded by stars. A familiar voice reaches out to calm the cries of distress:




“Hello. My name is Kepler. I am here to keep you company.”




Soon I watch the girl slumber in the company of tubes that enter and exit different parts of her body.




Then, the last thing I hear: “Subject succesfully sedated. Memory wipe complete. Initiating Paradise Simulation in five… four… three… two… one.”







🌲







I barely see the world return through my tears. The Heart floats down into my lap, and opens to reveal a dress of shimmering white—a light to banish the darkness.




This time, the note has one word:




Live.




Not a command, but a wish. His wish.




(His dying wish.)




I crouch in the grass and unravel, all the anguish of a shattered childhood leaving my eyes to stream down my cheeks. “Thank you,” I gasp between sobs, for this world I have been blessed with, for every memory I can cherish, for all the reasons to keep going. “Thank you.




When I turn to find Kepler waiting, I smile back.





September 25, 2020 16:51

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108 comments

Rayhan Hidayat
17:00 Sep 25, 2020

For the more musically-inclined readers, listen to "Evergreen" by AKW for maximum enjoyment! :D

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Lina Oz
14:56 Sep 29, 2020

"I soar across seas of emerald, dress fluttering against my knees. The soles of my feet beat out a triumphant melody through the dirt, a song that goes 'Here I am!' The clouds are mine to count, the grass mine to tread, the stillness mine to shatter and reform. The heavens clap for me when I leap from a cliff, laughter bubbling through my hair, and kiss the crystalline water below." This story is just... poetry. I'm honestly speechless. It is stunning and beautiful and your command of words and tone and feeling and ALL THE THINGS is just ...

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:06 Sep 29, 2020

Oh it's always a pleasure to be quoted, thanks sooooo much :D I'm super thrilled that people are enjoying the "poetry-style" because it's something I've been developing in my four latest stories. Thanks for making my day :)

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Sampada Sharma
05:17 Sep 26, 2020

This was such an interesting read. It was such a poetic, lyrical story and I loved how you connected all the dots. It was so different from anything I had read and I loved you take on it. It was beautiful!

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:22 Sep 26, 2020

Hey thanks so much! I saw you're a bit of a poet on your bio so the praise means a lot :D

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Claire Lindsey
02:26 Oct 01, 2020

I love the narrative voice in this story, it's so distinct and impactful! And the story itself is incredible, such creative, heartfelt worldbuilding. I was really impressed by how well you paced the story; everything felt exactly in place. I love the idea of putting your character's memories and inner thoughts in parentheses, it was so effective for giving us those important details without interrupting the flow of the story! One thing I might suggest as you continue writing is to be aware of when you can say things more succinctly wi...

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:56 Oct 01, 2020

Thanks so much for the feedback, Claire! Every litle bit counts ;) I think I do know what you mean about keeping things succint; there were definitely some areas where I droned on instead of focusing on the parts that mattered, which is very useful advice considering I have a tendency to go over the word limit. Will keep that in mind, thanks a million!

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Jen Park
14:50 Sep 29, 2020

Can you please stop stabbing my heart with your words? Cause it's aching me too hard. Gosh it hurts. And I am literally going to cry but I'm holding back my tears to write this although it's hard. I'll try to keep myself calm and write a nice comment. This one's good. I mean really really good. Phenomenal. I liked Leaf them Alone but this one's fantastic. I finally meet a story that brings me into depths and fly high in the air and live and die and laugh and cry at the same time. You wrote a piece of art here, Rayhan. I loved the girl's dre...

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:21 Sep 29, 2020

I always love your comments, you don't know how happy it makes me that my writing can take people on journeys like this ;) Trust me though, writing this made me very emotional too, so you're not alone haha The last note originally was gonna say "I love you" but I thought it was too... cheesy, I guess? So I settled with something more subtle. And yeah, that's happened to me too, replies not showing up and stuff like that. I hope Reedsy fixes it. I'm glad you ended up here anyway though :P Oh and THANK YOU for the shoutout! :O You're ...

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A.Dot Ram
23:50 Sep 26, 2020

Oooh, everything is so shimmery. That's love, on the father's part, to create such a simulation/world. Like I said, I need to learn from your ability to create rules for your own universe. The way the clothing materialized was really elegant.

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Rayhan Hidayat
09:14 Sep 27, 2020

Thanks, I guess I did try to make the world feel shimmery! 😂 In my experience, it helps to read high fantasy/sci fi novels like Dune, Ready Player One, the Cosmere books, etc. In this case, the simualtion was supposed to be reminiscent of a video game

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A.Dot Ram
07:09 Feb 06, 2021

Rayhan, have you ever read Hyperion? I just finished the audio book of it this morning. There's some aspirational sci-fi with fancy descriptive writing.

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Rayhan Hidayat
12:32 Feb 06, 2021

Ooh what’s it about? The only Hyperion I know is a villainous corporation from a video game I played. I have never actually listened to an audio book before. Maybe it’s time I do!

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A.Dot Ram
17:31 Feb 06, 2021

Well, it's available in any form of book you care for. It's an old one, actually (1989-- probably long before you were born), but I think that makes the things it imagined even more impressive. It's about 7 people on a mysterious space pilgrimage. Hyperion was also an unfinished poem by John Keates, more relevant to this story.

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Rayhan Hidayat
13:30 Feb 07, 2021

Do you recommend the audio book though? I’ve heard that format can really enhance the experience Haha yes I wasn’t even concieved when it came out then. But that does sound intruiging. I love any story that has multiple interwoven plotlines, especially if it’s sci fi.

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Shreya S
09:22 Sep 26, 2020

CAN YOU STOP MAKING ME CRY ALL THE TIME? I can’t even find the words to form a comment rn I’ll come edit this when I’vE STOPPED CRYING

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:21 Sep 26, 2020

I CRIED TOO WHEN I WROTE THIS DON'T WORRY

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Shreya S
14:45 Sep 26, 2020

I love it I love it I love it I love it. I recently had one of my teachers comment that 'oh sci-fi and fantasy is okay and all, but if you really want to read about people and emotions, you read about stories of people in real life without all that extra nonsense' but this story combined both those things so well. I loved the whole virtual world, respawning thing, Kepler in his box-shaped glory and how she figures out about the world not being quite real and the building up to her nightmares and finally that emotional scene that bRoKe mY hEa...

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:13 Sep 26, 2020

I’m sorry but your teacher is full of B.S. 🙂 I think sci-fi and fantasy can sometimes do an even better job at conveying emotion than slice-of-life stories, because you can use those technological/magical elements to explore what makes us human. Tell them to watch Black Mirror, that might change their mind 😙 Thanks so much as always, anyway! I appreciate the title appreciation 😉

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Shreya S
15:25 Sep 26, 2020

Yesss! I was going to argue with him but I didn't want to waste time. ...even i dont know what Black Mirror is? Uhm, is that a Bandersnatch thing? I think i remember seeing that name on Netflix. :)

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Rayhan Hidayat
15:38 Sep 26, 2020

Bandersnatch is one of the episodes (which is also an interactive film, so it’s kinda like a video game/movie, yeah it’s weird) Black Mirror is basically a sci-fi series about how technology affects society (social media, simulations, robots, video games, etc.) and it’s really good but also really dark and brutal. This story was actually inspired quite a lot by the show! Highly recommended.

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Yolanda Wu
01:23 Sep 26, 2020

Wow, this was such a poetic story that left me absolutely speechless! I loved the cutting between the poetic sections and the sections with dialogue, I thought it was a really good balance. This story just felt so deep, but subtly deep. I really like the use of present tense, it made everything feel really in the moment - obviously that's what present tense is meant for, but I personally suck at it, my default is always past tense. You did it so well and created such a unique voice! I'll probably be thinking about this story long after I fin...

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Rayhan Hidayat
04:13 Sep 26, 2020

Thanks a bundle! My default is definitely present tense for the exact reason you mentioned, but I’m not a fan of first person—just thought it would be fitting for this type of story. I guess it’s because most high fantasy uses third person and that’s what I’m used to writing?

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Yolanda Wu
05:03 Sep 26, 2020

Yeah, I feel like I sound pretty strange in first person and present tense definitely doesn't come naturally to me. Whenever I read my old work where I had no idea what tense was, oh lord, it would be one sentence in past, just pure cringe.

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:33 Sep 26, 2020

We all have our preferences! Personally I've been writing in present tense ever since I fell in love with the Hunger Games Yes we've all been there! xD I would often switch between third and first person as well, thinking it was fine (I was a strange kid growing up)

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Yolanda Wu
11:41 Sep 26, 2020

Present tense is great, I just haven't mastered it. Although I never switched between first and third. That's definitely interesting.

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Yolanda Wu
06:15 Oct 02, 2020

Hi Rayhan, just wanted to let you know that part six is out, can't wait to hear what you have to say about it. Also can't wait for your next story! :)

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Yolanda Wu
01:24 Sep 26, 2020

Oh and of course the scene breakers. ;)

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Rayhan Hidayat
04:14 Sep 26, 2020

Haha yeah you’re partly to blame for this habit of mine 😜

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Bianka Nova
13:41 Oct 14, 2020

OK. I get it. Simply BEAUTIFUL. 😍 What I don't get is how you still haven't won a contest... (should we start a petition or something?) After having read most of your latest stories, I should say that besides the greatly polished style you have, there are also different themes that seem to (re)appear every now and again, making it a delight when you find those overlaps. I.e. the climate change theme is present in two stories, there are sci-fi elements in other two, both Kepler and the Singers hum, and funnily enough many of your characte...

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Rayhan Hidayat
00:31 Oct 15, 2020

I think that would be cheating... but I wouldn’t mind a petition for “Rayhanism” to be put into the dictionary 😂 And yes, you’re very right about those: climate change is always fun to explore, as well as sci-fi (and fantasy), and I didn’t even notice the Kepler/Singer humming thing. Oh and the F-bombs. I happen to swear like a sailor in real life, so it kinda just bleeds into my characters a little 😅 Thanks for your detective-level scrutiny as usual, I’m always thrilled when people point out these little things 😙

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Bianka Nova
11:05 Oct 15, 2020

Petitions are legal, so no cheating 😉 As far as rayhanisms are concerned, I think the word is already out there for anyone to use. We just need to polish a bit the exact definition. Maybe something like "themes, speech patterns and swear words used often in one's work"? 😂

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Rayhan Hidayat
12:10 Oct 15, 2020

Rayhanism noun > "themes, speech patterns and swear words used often in one's work" or something like that >Coined by Bianka Nova, circa 2020 Yep, fine by me 😂

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Bianka Nova
12:12 Oct 15, 2020

😂😂😂😂😂

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08:13 Oct 02, 2020

Aww that was amazing! I definitely didn't see it coming, and the ending was very touching. I loved the message behind this, that you should keep on living and pursuing your dreams, and the theme of ignorant bliss, the children often not knowing the sacrifices their parents made for them.

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Rayhan Hidayat
06:14 Oct 03, 2020

Thanks so much for the kind words! 😙

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Kristin Neubauer
20:28 Sep 30, 2020

What an incredibly beautiful story! The way you use language and create these magical worlds and images is beyond anything I could ever do. I was completely lost in your writing, flowing from one sentence to the next. Not only that, but what amazing creativity. I'm reading this at work and it felt like I was completely absorbed in your story - only to be cast back out into the harsh world of news. I want to go back to your story world! Lovely!

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:54 Sep 30, 2020

Thanks so much Kristin! Aww I’m sure there are many things you can write that I can’t haha That’s what fantasy/sci-fi stories are for—they let you escape the real world! I’m glad you could squeeze my story in during work haha

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Maggie Deese
17:21 Sep 30, 2020

This was wonderfully emotional, Rayhan! Your words were poetry and beautifully written. Brilliantly paced with great dialogue and character developments. Like everyone else, I was hit in the gut with how heartbreaking this was. Well done!

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:50 Sep 30, 2020

Thank you for the generous comment Maggie! I’m glad the emotions I tried to convey managed to get through!

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L.A. Nolan
02:25 Sep 27, 2020

Very much enjoyed this.

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Rayhan Hidayat
09:01 Sep 27, 2020

Thanks so much for checking out my stories! 😙

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Elle Clark
18:52 Sep 25, 2020

Holy crap. I have nothing else. I might come back later when I've processed it. Until then: my god, this was good.

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Rayhan Hidayat
04:15 Sep 26, 2020

Honestly this review is flattering enough as it is. Thanks Laura! 😂

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Elle Clark
09:25 Sep 26, 2020

Okay, I’ve processed it a bit better now. I have no critique at all - this is perfect. The reveal made me so emotional and the love of a parent who only wants his child to be happy in a doomed world ... powerful. The ideas within this are so cool and so varied. Respawning, the birthday hearts, the sci fi paradise simulation. All great. Absolutely stunning writing, well done.

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:30 Sep 26, 2020

Dang, could've sworn I was getting another 0/10 for the lack of crumpets Thanks so much anyway, that's a lot to take in coming from you :O Respawning is a term used in video games, so I thought it would be cool to spread that to readers who might not be so video game savvy

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Elle Clark
11:42 Sep 26, 2020

I mean, there are no crumpets so that is a fair criticism. There’s actually no food at all so really, how can it be paradise at all? I thought a lot of the things in this reminded me of video games. The respawning, obviously, but the AI advisor was reminiscent of portal and the hearts are reminiscent of about a thousand video games. But then that all made sense at the reveal because she is in a virtual world. That bit actually reminded me of Flower - I could imagine her just chasing around like that.

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Rayhan Hidayat
12:03 Sep 26, 2020

I always figured no one would go hungry in a true paradise, so that's very interesting! Though of course she has food being pumped into her body in real life, at least until the life support systems run dry. Ah I'm glad the video game motif got through! Haha if GLaDOS was her advisor instead, she wouldn't last very long ;)

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18:43 Sep 25, 2020

Okay, I'm not exaggerating, this is one of the best stories I've read. I absolutely loved this! Well done on revealing the truth behind the world, it made sense and it was written nicely.

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Rayhan Hidayat
04:17 Sep 26, 2020

Hey thanks so much, you’re too kind!😙

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A.G. Scott
17:35 Sep 25, 2020

This reminds me of Porter Robinson's 'Shelter' music video - check it out if you haven't - meets A Christmas Carol or It's a Wonderful Life. I was engaged the whole time and didn't notice any glaring grammar errors. I don't think the irregular spacing adds much to the story.

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Rayhan Hidayat
17:54 Sep 25, 2020

Oh I love Shelter and Porter Robinson in general, though it was several things that inspired me: Wall-e, Black Mirror, the concept of respawning in videogames, etc. HAHA yeah that spacing thing is just a weird gimmick I do sometimes. It’s supposed to put emphasis on certain passages, but I see your point 😜 Thanks for stopping by! 😙 Oh and what’s the deal with you and Leilani both pumping out a roach story? I’m genuinely curious lol

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A.G. Scott
17:58 Sep 25, 2020

I think it's a great minds think alike situation :)

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Rayhan Hidayat
18:00 Sep 25, 2020

That is honestly amazing though 😂

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Brandon Johnson
16:59 Oct 01, 2020

Wonderful story! I loved your descriptions and how much emotion you packed into every single word. I have no qualms about your writing as it's perfect! If you have any time, I I'd greatly appreciate if you could check out my latest story. Thanks for writing this :D.

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Rayhan Hidayat
06:14 Oct 03, 2020

Thanks for stopping by! Sure, I’ll head on over 😙

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Jamie Schmitt
16:24 Oct 01, 2020

You're such a fantastic storyteller! I think the only thing you could work on is making every sentence and every word count, which is so difficult to do in a short time, so this advice almost doesn't apply. I think there are a few paragraphs where I'm taken out of the story just because I'm trying to figure out what's going on (i.e. where is the character now, did they move, what's the environment, etc etc). I think if you nail down vivid images to start with, the reader can fully picture the story as they go on. I absolutely love this story...

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Rayhan Hidayat
16:45 Oct 01, 2020

Thanks so much for the comment! It’s nice to see some critique for a change since almost everyone has been showering me with praise (not that it isn’t welcome haha). I do have a bit of an issue with concision and brevity so you’re definitely right. Will keep your advice in mind😙 And sure, I’ll give your story a read!

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P. Jean
12:02 Sep 29, 2020

I have renewed hope for sci-fi and the future. Amazingly fine writing. Your gift must be shared. Keep writing! I did not cry, but I seldom do, but my visualization was working overtime. I wanted to see it all.

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:25 Sep 29, 2020

Thanks for the generous words, that means a lot! :D i am very glad I could renew your hope for a genre that isn't that common on his site

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P. Jean
22:06 Sep 29, 2020

You are very welcome!

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S. Closson
09:30 Sep 29, 2020

This was a such a fascinating read! You did a great job getting me into the head of the character as a reader, which made it all the heavier when Yuni asked Kepler if there was a way she could remain dead instead of responding again. The ending was well executed and paced. Just, damn. You did great job!

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Rayhan Hidayat
21:31 Sep 29, 2020

Thank you! I'm glad I could bring you to Yuni's POV because that's what I tried to achieve by writing in first person (which I seldom do). I appreciate the appreciation ;)

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