The traveler’s wife had never known true fear and loneliness until her husband went down to the quarantine world. Their whole adult lives Ayda had shared her thoughts and feelings with Mev thanks to the LOGOS uplink on the vessel they called home. Normally the link was preserved during a walk, and she joined his mind on these alien planets, but something this time had gone very differently, and the link had been severed.
So, when Mev finally returned to her, ragged in body and mind and teetering on the verge of collapse; Ayda caught him, embraced him, and kissed him, relishing the intimate blending of their minds once more, and feeling him do the same. They held each other for a long time, until both had cried tears of joy and relief.
“I wanted to return when I realized I was alone,” he assured her, “but I knew that if I did, you would never let me go back down again.” Both instantly knew that he was right.
“What did you find?” With a jolt, Ayda felt Mev push her out of his mind. It scared her more than when she had been alone, until she realized it scared him too.
“I know why this world is forbidden, Ayda.”
Slowly, Mev opened his mind and showed her a sequence of wonderful and terrifying things he had seen. Memories of ruined cities, forests, and a moon in shadow came to her. Great river valleys of rusting machines and crumbling walls. And then she stood in a great stone building filled with strange rectangular objects.
“What are they?”
“They are called books. I looked at them until I could read, but I did not fully understand them.”
“How is that possible? All knowledge is good.”
Suddenly, Mev closed himself off again. “Not all. I found writings both powerful and terrible, and some full of disfunction, disobedience, and wickedness, but also ones filled with love, and goodness, and truth.” Ayda joined in his memory of the books, and ideas and words that she had never considered filled her mind. An overwhelming deluge of light swept through her very soul, and she glimpsed a darkness she had no name for.
This time it was Ayda who pulled away from Mev in horror, scrambling to her feet. Never had she known ideas like these. But Mev was not showing her mere silly abstract imaginings. He was remembering things he had read while on that quarantined world. In her core, Ayda knew it was all real. The forbidden world had put fear and anger into the mind of Mev. He was contaminated. And now she was afraid of her husband. How could that even be?
But Mev didn’t stop there. He began sharing more ideas with her that were impossible. Creatures killing one another. Beings covering their form with cloth. Misusing one-another’s bodies for personal pleasure. Speaking untrue words for selfish gain.
With revulsion, Ayda realized she was contaminated too. She screamed.
And with that, the wall that Mev had been keeping everything else behind crumbled. Ayda saw that Mev’s decision to return to the ship had been the most difficult thing he’d ever done. He’d known it would change them. Mev had understood the purpose of the quarantine much too late.
“The infection is a kind of knowledge unto itself, Ayda. Not of goodness and truth – for all beings are born with that – but of disfunction, corruption, and error.”
To glance at it even once was to be contaminated by it. And with that, she knew. The error had set up in their hearts long before Mev had ever stepped into that world. The moment they had decided to disobey LOGOS and ignore the quarantine, they had become contaminated too.
They clutched each other and sobbed. The link was already fading. They could never leave that quarantined world now. They would go down together now and start a different kind of life.
Somewhere warm and beautiful, she hoped.
Mev stared at her awkwardly. Ayda realized she was covering herself with her hands and so looked away from him in shame. He turned away too. There was a time when that idea would have been fascinating to them both, but for some reason she couldn’t seem to remember why anymore.
“Are we naked?” she asked. Though of course, she already knew the answer.
Adam L. Brackin, Ph.D – Doc to his friends – is an independent media consultant, new-media apologist, writer, and sometimes professor. His teaching and research interests include: Social Media, Transmedia, & ARG, all forms of non-linear & interactive narrative, story
mechanics models, and video game studies & design.
Adam L. Brackin. “Quarantine.” An Unexpected Journal 1, no. 4. (Advent 2018): 155-157,
Direct Link: https://anunexpectedjournal.com/quarantine/