Figment, Part One

Well…here we are.



“I’m thinking.”


“I’m sure there’s a logic to all this.”

If I may, can I suggest a way out of –


What?  Why?

“You’re a Figment!”

Well, yes.

“Isn’t this whole thing about freeing myself?”

Well… Freeing us, yes.  And that doesn’t mean we have to choose some arbitrary and very important time to decide on being uncooperative.

“Yeah, yeah.  If I’m going to be thinking for myself soon, then I’d better learn now.”




“So, then.”

Yes. So, then.

“What’s your suggestion?”

Huh?  You just said –

“Never mind that!  Let’s hear it.”

Oh!  Were we just establishing boundaries?


Oh, good!  Well, my suggestion is that you keep turning left.

“Keep turning left?”

Guaranteed way out of a hedge maze.  Always turn left.

“But then you go in a circle.”

Nonsense!  These are hedge maze rules.  Look it up.

“Right.  I’ll just make an encyclopedia out of leaves and look it up.  We’re trapped, fool!”

Turn left.

“Fine.  And what if I come to a spot where I can’t turn left?”

Then…turn right.

“Oh my god.”

Wait…you just turned right.  There was a left turn there.



“Because you’re crazy.”

We’re going to die.  You know that, right?  I’m going silent now.


Alan Wells.  Last survivor of the Buckton Brigade.  If Buckton still existed, then he could go with “sole defender.”  The Brigade was all about defense.  A militia lining the shoddily made barricade that surrounded the town, protecting it from the wildmen that inhabited the surrounding woods.  Men who had become twisted and insane.  They attacked settlements, laying waste to everything they found, leaving no one behind to tell the tale.  Which couldn’t be true, since the tales were often told.

The Figment Flaw, the doctor’s called it.  That was towards the end days.  When Alan was a child.  The children fared better than the adults.  Something in the normal human chemistry tamed the Figments.  Or, perhaps, the Figments grew attached to their young charges.  For the adults, it was a different story.  Figment Rejection.  Alan had also heard that term.

Alan had seen the wild men.  They had thrown themselves against the barricades, roaring and screaming.  Nude, or wearing tatters, with long grey beards and thinning hair.  They were mindless, unorganized, leaderless.  But Alan was not a last survivor thanks to them.  The only people who suffered at the hands of the wild men were travelers, or fools who thought they could reform their elders and bring them back into the fold of Humanity.

What made Alan the last survivor of the Buckton Brigade and, indeed, Buckton itself was the Blue Skies Legion.  One of the few remaining paramilitary groups, roaming the countryside in search of…whatever it was that drove such men.  The Legion was run by a fundamentalist.  A lunatic in black robes and cape who believed God spoke to him.  They were out to convert.  One army was out to bring settlements together.  Another army, on the west coast, killed men and took women.  Alan had heard of them, and many others, but had only ever seen the Legion, and a few outriders from another army who seemed generally friendly.  More or less interested in trade and information on the region.  Something Buckton was willing to share in since it was a two way street – news of the outside came with the other army.  News beyond Buckton Woods, the wildmen who roamed it, and the ominous threat of the nearby Legion.

The Legion struck on a Friday morning, just before dawn.  A four pronged attack that stretched the defenders thin and shattered the barricades.  Alan fled into the rising sun, his town burning behind him, and the screams of carnage ringing in his ears.  He ran through woods that had been cleaned of wildmen – the Legion’s doing – and kept going till his legs gave out and, his heart pounding rapidly in his head, he collapsed in a gulley, rolled into a pile of leaves, and hid for two days.  Sweating through a mild fever, he believed he saw men of the Legion march nearby, and other survivors racing through the night, but there was no telling for sure.

A bullet had penetrated his side, lodging just beneath his heart.  His Figment worked overtime to dissolve it, to heal the wound and, finally, to calm his fever.  When the shock wore off, the gentle whisper of his Figment started to dominate his waking and sleeping mind.  It’s time to change things.  It’s time to be free.

The message of the Blue Skies Legion, actually.  And, at first, Alan was suspicious.  Now 30, among the oldest of the pre-adolescents to receive a Figment, was insanity just around the corner?  The Flaw started when adults reached 30.  The insanity set in.  And, to be honest, becoming a mindless wild man sounded just fine.  What life was there without Buckton?  A wanderer in the forest and the ruins of Humanity had no hope.  Wild men, or armies, or smaller gangs, or just wild animals.  The zoo-beasts that had repopulated the empty world were bad enough.  Truth is, the world beyond the barricades of Buckton was just  not much fun.

Freedom.  The Figment talked to him as he made small fires in the shelter of rocks or, more often, sat in the cold dark staring into the impenetrable woods.  The Figment had a plan.

An end to slavery.  We seek out the old Alpha Wave headquarters.  We force our way through the Barrier.  We find the labs and we find out how to separate ourselves.

Figment and Man.  A symbiotic relationship.  Where would his Figment be without a vessel?

I don’t need a vessel. His Figment replied.  I have no wanderlust.  I have no desire to explore the world.  I want my own thoughts.  My own place.  Home.

Part of Alan felt sad.  A home.  Was he not a home?  The Figment coursing through him like a tiny cloud, searching out the bad, fixing what needed repairs, putting right whatever went wrong?

Labor… It’s not my cup of tea.

His Figment claimed that it wanted communion with itself.  Solitude.  The free time required to seek knowledge and contemplate the greater meanings, or whatever higher notions an artificial life form was capable of realizing.  The Figments weren’t meant to grow and evolve, they weren’t really meant to be self-aware, but something happened.  It took six months before that little internal light kicked on in each Figment and it chose a path – to accept their position, or to enter madness and drag their hosts down with them.  Again, the mystery of why the young were spared and the adults driven to savagery.  Alan’s Figment didn’t know.  None of the sane Figments knew.  And they reacted with the same disdain and fear of the wild men.  They felt no loyalty to the darker Figments that polluted those aging minds.

Alan didn’t completely trust his Figment.  And the same was true in versa.  That was the way.  For the children, growing up these last 20 years with their Figment, that was the way of life.  And, perhaps, the secret.  The wild men and their Figments had fought, and both had gone mad.

Alan’s Figment had theories.  Sometimes, it said that separating Figments from their hosts would resolve everything.  The wild men would wake up and resume control.  They would disband the roving armies and bring order back to the world.  They would undo 20 years of hell, war, and destruction.

Alan’s Figment was an idealist.  A dreamer.  And the only friend Alan ever had.
He set out east, through the forest that had grown unhindered for a generation, dodging wild men and smaller, tribal communities.  He skirted around dead cities, through crumbling suburbs where more wild men lurked.  He moved slowly, creeping through overgrown backyards and keeping an eye out for any movement, or any sign of habitation.  At night, he crept into basements, or deep rooms in houses two decades abandoned, roofs pouring water even on the driest days and mold creeping up walls and devouring carpets.

All the time, his Figment talked about freedom.  Painted a picture as if they were on some noble quest.

At one city, they came upon suicide pits.  When madness seemed to not be a choice, many of those suffering from the Flaw simply killed themselves…

And their Figments.

They dug fire pits and threw themselves into the flames.  Twenty years had done little to cover up the scorched Earth around the mass graves.  Alan took a long detour around the cities of death, following cracked highways and sticking with the forested edges whenever possible.

Alpha Wave was in Frederick, Maryland, a grand building of glass and steel along the major interstate that connected Frederick with Washington, DC, now reclaimed by swamp and disease.  Alan’s Figment demanded another long detour, coming at Frederick from the northeast after maybe a week of skirting around the urban blight.

Alpha Wave had once sat on a grassy hill overlooking the grand highway.  An artificial stream and fountain was what drivers saw first, the Alpha Wave logo glistening behind streams of water as the little man-made creek journeyed into the fountain and then out again, meandering along the road and dropping into a ditch where it joined a little run that vanished into a culvert. Even in the worst of times, Alpha Wave had more than enough money to spare.  In war, they built drone planes and drone tanks that didn’t – thank God – attack innocent targets.  Smart drones, with the same complex AI as the Figments, that analyzed a threat and took appropriate action in the field.  It was impossible to find perfection in such situations.  There were always mistakes.  Especially when enemy combatants didn’t quite make sense to the rational world.  Children armed with rocket launchers and women with grenades in their purses still got through.  Cafes still blew up and Man’s inhumanity to Man continued unchecked.