Chapter 1: Real World
There was a feeling of peace all around, the smell of recent rain hung in the air and the sounds of the forest drifted softly on the gentle breeze. Tom’s head was feeling light and as he looked into the distance he could only see bright colors emanating through the mist. Truly this was a place in which he felt comfortable, yet simultaneously he had a sense of unease as if something ominous was about to arrive and change everything. It was at that moment he felt a rising tension around him followed by a loud sound. The sound was almost deafening:
'Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding'
Suddenly the peaceful existence that Tom was experiencing shattered before his eyes and the world before him dissolved into a blur. This blur made way into a new reality, the reality that Tom knew all too well. He was still in his small apartment and his alarm bell was ringing, unfortunately it was time to wake up from his slumber and leave the peaceful world of his dreams behind to begin a new day. Tom looked towards his clock to see that he was late for work. Hurriedly, Tom got up, grabbed yesterday’s clothes that had been discarded on the floor, and ran for the shower.
Soon Tom was refreshed, dressed and running down the driveway towards his car in a desperate attempt to arrive at work on time. As he made his way through the traffic Tom listened aimlessly to the radio without really taking any of it in. 'It was all the same as yesterday anyway' Tom thought to himself as the over accented DJ complained about what was on commercial TV last night or read the morning news bulletin, which had become nothing but political media sound bites. Occasionally there was a phone caller, who obviously had nothing better to do with their life than attempt to espouse their opinions on the radio, as an addition to the chorus of affirming comments and fake laughter coming from the DJ’s sidekick hosts.
Soon the traffic had crawled to a halt due to the amount of vehicles trying to negotiate a major intersection. Tom noticed the many billboards advertising various products from haircare to clothing to hotels to breakfast cereals, all subliminally telling the masses that they will never truly be happy unless they purchase these products. Everybody was a consumer with no thoughts of their own, they were all being told what to do, what to think, what to buy and what to say. He looked at the other people in their cars around him and could not but ask himself 'Is this really all that life has to offer?'. The people all seemed happily lost in their own existences like cogs in a machine, all working for a greater purpose which was beyond their comprehension.
The relentlessness of free market consumer mechanisms and social monotony seemed to be overwhelming as Tom began to accept that unless something unexpected happened to him, this was the real world, and like it or not he had been welcomed in and was now apart of it.
Chapter 2: My Life
Tom finally reached his workplace, an appliance service and installation company. It was a medium sized run down old building made from bricks which, to any observer, looked liked the building had not been washed or maintained in about thirty years. The building was located at the end of a busy street in a depressed industrial part of the city. All of the surrounding buildings housed small offices belonging to various different companies and were either factories or plain rectangular boxes built from bricks and precast concrete. There was very little vegetation around the Tom’s building and the vegetation that was present was mostly dying or blackened from the dust that was stirred up by the cars and trucks that would drive by.
Tom begrudgingly got out of his car and walked toward the office section of the building. Tom's job consisted of answering phone calls, liaising between customers and service workers and other general office duties. A lot of the phone calls he had to deal with would be 'exercises in frustration' for Tom. He was always amazed at the laziness or ignorance, bordering on pure stupidity, of the callers. A lot of the issues Tom needed to fix could have easily been prevented if the callers had just bothered to read the instructions that came with their appliances or listened to the explanations provided by the installation service workers.
For most of the working day Tom was stuck at his desk just looking at the plain drab walls or staring at the phone. There was very little enjoyment in his work, just like his personal life, other than playing video games or getting lost in his own thoughts and mind, Tom really didn't have much to strive towards. Thus he would jump at every opportunity to walk between the different sections of the company building to run basic errands to alleviate the boredom. Whilst walking through other sections of the company he would see other employees engaging in their own work responsibilities. Everyone seemed to be happy, or at least content, with their life. It was almost like each person he saw was taking a happy drug which kept them in a state of perpetual satisfaction. To Tom this happy drug seemed to be a secret that the entire world was in on, and yet somehow nobody had taken the time to share the secret with him. Often Tom would sit at his desk and think to himself 'So this is my life. One day this has to change'
One Friday, whilst staring at the wall in his office and counting the dimples in the old paint work, as he had done a thousand times before, Tom received a message on his mobile phone from one of his friends. The message was from Joe, a friend that he had not seen in a long while. The message asked Tom if he wanted to catch up that evening. Tom was no stranger to going out in the evenings in an attempt to enjoy himself and to forget his mundane life. However those evenings always ended up feeling like fleeting glimpses of a life that Tom could never quite reach, and before he could grasp any thread of that life he would find himself back in his daily routine.
Yet this invitation seemed different somehow. A strange feeling came over Tom, he felt like this could be the moment when his life would change and a door would open through which he would finally be able to step inside to a new life, and subsequently break free from the routine which he felt was constantly holding him back. With a renewed excitement, which he had not felt in a long time, Tom messaged Joe back to inform him that he would be there to meet him that evening.
Chapter 3: Born to Live
It was 7pm when Tom entered the small tavern. There was a house band playing at the far end of the room with a few patrons sitting at tables spread throughout the venue. As Joe scanned the room he spotted Joe sitting in a side booth already sipping a drink whilst concentrating and typing something on his mobile phone. Joe looked up from his phone and saw Tom in the doorway and without hesitation he raised his left arm and called Tom over to join him. Tom was delighted to see Joe as it had been almost eight months since they last got together to enjoy each other's company. After a few pleasantries a man in a waiter's uniform appeared with a drink for Tom, Joe informed Tom that he had already taken the liberty of ordering drinks and food for them both.
As they drank and ate, the two friends talked a lot about what they had each been doing over the past few months. Joe explained that he had started a new job which was taking him all around the country meeting new people and that he couldn't be happier. Joe was very much a people person, he could strike up an instant conversation with anyone and about any topic. The stories that Joe recounted, regarding the places he had been, only reinforced Tom's own thoughts about the boring rut he currently found himself in. Joe's life seemed so exciting to him but yet so unattainable. Tom explained to Joe that lately he had felt like he had nothing positive to strive towards, that his daily routine was grinding him down mentally and he desperately needed an escape or reason to be happy.
After finishing the recount of his boredom Tom went up to the bar to buy some more drinks. Whilst he was waiting for the bartender, who was busy serving someone else, a woman approached him. She wore bright red lipstick, the shade you would expect to see on a 1950's TV commercial, and she had the bluest eyes that Tom had ever seen. Yet she also had a strange futuristic cyberpunk look about her, almost as if she was a character straight out of a video game. The mysterious woman didn't even introduce herself, she just simply held out her hand toward Tom and said 'Boy won't you come with me?'. Tom looked nervously back towards Joe sitting at the table hoping for some visual support, however Joe was now chatting with some other people who had just entered the tavern.
As Tom followed the woman he asked her name, to which she simply replied 'Kohtalo, but my friends just call me Koh'. Tom continued to follow Koh to a small booth in the corner of the tavern. There the pair sat down and Koh explained to Tom that she knew all about him, she knew his wants and desires. Perplexed by the situation Tom now found himself in, he asked her how this was possible, but Koh playfully deflected the question with a very vague answer that had almost no meaning. Koh continued to sit there smiling, not saying much and laughing off all of the questions Tom tried to ask.
After a little while Koh grabbed Tom's hand and led him outside into the street. There they stood in the cool night air under the neon light flickering overhead. Tom was intrigued by this mysterious woman, yet still a little unsure of what to make of this night's turn of events, when suddenly Koh pulled him close looking deep into his eyes before she whispered into his ear 'I can show you how to be free... remember you were born to live'. And with that she ran off into the darkness with Tom following.
Chapter 4: I Just Need Your Love
Tom awoke in his apartment the next morning with little memory of the night before. He could remember meeting Joe at the tavern and having dinner, he also remembered meeting Kohtalo, talking with her and following her into the night, but that was where it stopped. He hadn't drank much and he wasn't feeling the effects of a hangover, yet there were still gaps in his memory. It was as if someone had entered into his mind and selectively removed parts of his memory whilst he slept. He could not remember where he went with Koh or how he got home. Although through the haze he could not shake Koh's voice from his head, all he could hear in his mind over and over again was that last whisper before he followed Koh into the darkness. What was it she meant?
Tom decided that the best way to clear his head and hopefully remember the rest of the night would be to walk down to the local cafe and get some breakfast. At the cafe, Tom sat at a table outside in the open air. Whilst he waited for his food Tom slowly sipped his coffee and stared aimlessly across the road as cars passed by occasionally sounding their horns in frustration at other drivers. Suddenly he saw a face that he thought he recognised in the crowd of people walking along the footpath on the other side of the road. It looked like Rachel, a girl he had a crush on in High School. Tom had forgotten all about Rachel but now seeing someone who looked remarkably like her after all this time it brought back a flood of emotions. Emotions that Tom's mundane life had long since suppressed.
Tom had had a couple of girlfriends since leaving school, some more serious than others, but none of them lasted very long. The emotional connections Tom had felt within these relationships had never felt as strong as the feelings he had felt towards Rachel. Maybe it was the pain of unrequited love or the fear of rejection that intensified his emotional responses towards her, either way seeing her now had a profound impact upon him.
Back in High School, Tom never had the courage to voluntarily speak to Rachel. Instead he would just watch her from a distance and hope that she would eventually bump into him in a corridor so that she would be forced to converse with him. She was tall with shoulder length light brown hair and was always smiling. Anytime she would come near him, he would feel his stomach become tied up in knots and he would start to fumble and stutter his words making him sound like a fool. However simultaneously she represented a shining light that had the power to eventually calm him and make him feel whole and secure.
Tom remembered that he had once anonymously sent her a bunch of flowers with a note that said 'I just need your love'. It was then that Tom realised what he was missing in his life. He was missing a light that would shine through his darkness and free him from his mundane life. Maybe this was what Kohtalo had tried to tell him the night before, if only he could remember what had happened.
Tom's daydreaming recollections were broken when a waiter by the name of Taylor arrived at his table with the breakfast he had ordered. He blinked and looked again across the road to see that Rachel was gone. The aroma of the crispy bacon and soft eggs that had been placed down in front of him wafted up, he could feel his stomach grumbling, and thus with silent contemplation Tom began to eat. In his contemplation Tom tried hard to go back over the night before, yet the gaps in his memories remained. Therefore Tom decided that unless he could find Koh and ask her directly about her advice and events of the previous night, he would assume that his own revelation about the missing element in his life was the correct interpretation of Koh's mysterious whispers.