The yellow wooden door
Earth was once a world dressed in black and white, all the good and all the bad living under the same roof, smiling and dancing together on archaic VHS-tapes. Simple. Then Earth was made new, born again, modernized. Less green more gray, the faster the better. New. All the good and all the bad breathing the same air until they became one and the same. Complicated. Colorful pixels on TV-screens because rainbows got boring. To simply just exist wasn’t enough, they needed to be remembered. To erase the end was crucial, humanity ought to be an never-ending story. Perhaps this explains what happened next. For a very futuristic era was looming in the horizon, promise and progress sweetening the air. But sugar doesn’t go well with oxygen, as it turns out. The future became a room without any doors, no escape. The future is yellow now and humanity was trapped in it, until the very end.
For everything did come to an end.
Civilization collapsed. The world died the same way it was born, naked and blood covered. Empty and in pain. But if you think that this story is about how humans failed, you’re wrong. This story is about how they succeeded, how their never ending will to survive saved them from the dark. Reincarnation. Because from its ashes rose a brand new world, a brand new city named “Dreamwoods”. A man-made heaven built out of dust and tears, a second chance at life.
Dreamwoods was referred to as the new promised land, the capital of all capitals, paradise on earth. The people of Dreamwoods would never have to go through hunger or live in fear ever again for this glorious city was known for being a peaceful, well-organized community built on a safe location in order to keep its inhabitants away from the threats that lay beyond the city gates. But the people never once thought of leaving Dreamwoods, although there were gates, an escape. There they felt protected like babies in the wombs of their mothers, they knew not even God could have kept them as safe in the afterlife.
Maybe I’m repeating myself too much but it’s important for you to know, that Dreamwoods, is the most perfect place to live in. It has schools, cemeteries, museums, asylums, playgrounds, orphanages, churches and huge casinos almost everywhere around the perfectly designed city.
What more could you possibly want?
I must say, out of all the interesting projects humans started working on as soon as they realized that their end was near, Dreamwoods was one of the best there was. Humanity’s greatest masterpiece! The solution that was going to maintain mankind once and for all.
“Dreamwoods, oh Dreamwoods, a home for everyone!” They cried out in the middle of the streets ages ago, with their hearts glowing with hope and happiness, when Dreamwoods was just a simple project that had been announced by the government to the rest of the world’s population.
But do you know what turns such a humble city into a home?
The people living there, of course! They are the ones who give names to streets and plant trees. It’s the citizens who breathe life into every single house, who bring light to a community and introduce the warmth of a home to a place like Dreamwoods.
At least that’s what I think should have been the case.
But although the population of Dreamwoods haven’t named any streets and haven’t necessarily brought any light to the community, I still find that those people are great listeners and very good company, too. They are so great that having a police station in Dreamwoods is completely unnecessary. They don’t commit any crimes or any other atrocities. In fact, they don’t even speak. They never, ever, make a sound. Yes, Dreamwoods is a very quiet place indeed. Probably because all the citizens are mannequins. Just average-sized human-looking dolls made out of all types of plastic. Lifeless and artificial. This town and everything in it is just a product of art and not nature. The soil and the trees are fake, the mannequins and their houses too. Once upon a time, humans choked this planet to death with their bare hands and didn’t know how to bring it back to life after regretting what they had done, a tale as old as time now. But it doesn’t matter, because thankfully there are no humans anymore, and nature ceased to exist a long time ago. Everyone left after building this flawless city and only the lifeless mannequins and I remained.
I still remember why they left, and I even know where they all went, but as I have mentioned before, that is of very little importance now.
But I can tell you more about the mannequins if you want me to!
About ten billion mannequins have been living in Dreamwoods to this day, and each one of them was placed in specific places of the city. There is Julien, for example. The blond-haired mannequin who looks like it’s running fully relaxed during a morning jog past the clean sidewalks and the very brightly coloured houses. Of course, Julien never moves forward or backwards. Julien will never reach his destination and he can never go back home. He is trapped in the same exact position forever. Eternity is a very long time, and I can’t help but feel sorry for my dear friend Julien; how lonely must he have been feeling all these years?
But not all of them were tossed alone and abandoned into the streets. A great example for that is the sweet little brown-haired Grace. She was placed in a beautiful little house, sitting together with her family on a comfortable couch in front of a little television. What a lovely family of mannequins they are! Of course, the TV isn’t actually working and those mannequins are doomed to stare into nothingness for the rest of their existence. At least Grace doesn’t have to spend her days contemplating a broken television all by herself, right?
But none of those mannequins are unhappy or displeased, although it’s hard to tell by the exaggerated large smiles painted on their plastic faces. They all have the exact same one, as if all ten billion of them were laughing all at once at the same joke in twisted harmony.
I suppose this should be the end of Dreamwoods. A city rotting in silence.
Therefore I should put an end to this story too. To end your misery as well as mine. But I can’t give up just yet. Look at me, trying to erase the end because to exist is not enough, I want you to remember me. I don’t want to accept that everything is going to stay the same exact way, for the remainder of my days. I must be honest with you, I’m extremely bored in this enormous city.
So, for the sake of this story, and for you, whoever you might be, I will wake up one of them. I will wake up one of the mannequins.
You may be wondering which mannequin I will choose to wake, right? I must say, ten billion is a pretty big number to choose from, but still, one mannequin in particular managed to catch my eye. And no, it’s not my dear friend Julien the running mannequin. Life is a curse, I would never impose that to a friend. But anyway, let’s wake one up now, shall we?
The mannequin started blinking its plastic doll eyes rapidly a few times before it realized that it was able to not only look, but actually see everything around it. But in a quick blink of an eye, its fragile plastic lungs started to gasp for something that the mannequin hadn’t been able to give them for a very long time. They needed oxygen. And although there wasn’t much of it left in Dreamwoods the mannequin started breathing, desperately gasping for air through its plastic nose and mouth, begging for those fake lungs to work like real ones, and for a while that’s all the mannequin did.
Beg and breathe.
But soon breathing became so overwhelming that the mannequin had to lay its hand against its chest, now it realized that it could move several parts of its body. It shook its head and shoulders to get rid of the dust that had accumulated over the last decades. The mannequin was sitting alone on a neon green kitchen chair by a dining table. And suddenly, out of desperation or just curiosity, it felt an agonizing urge to stand up and look around. What was this place?
While looking around, confused and slowly adapting to its living plastic body, it caught a glance of its reflection in the huge mirror standing in the living room. This plastic copy of a human approached the mirror cautiously, amazed at the feeling of walking towards something. The mannequin was so confused by it that it forgot to eventually stop walking and banged its head straight against the mirror, making it lose balance and fall to the ground.
The mannequin was lying there, shocked and even mystified by this unusual feeling of falling. But strangely enough, its immediate response to the fall was to check if its head was injured. It was frustrating. It felt like its natural human reflexes were trapped inside a corpse. There was no pain, not a sting in its head and there would never be a bruise, because there was no blood running through those plastic veins.
The mannequin had to laugh at its own clumsiness, but not for long, for it was soon startled by its voice. That distorted, child-like robotic voice was so foreign and distant, a voice so much like a wrong puzzle piece, that its body rejected every sound it made. Confused, the mannequin looked at the mirror in front of it. Or at least that’s what it thought it was doing. Because once the mannequin had raised its eyes to the mirror, that huge happy smile with the perfectly shaped eyebrows and lips didn’t move an inch. The mannequin stood up slowly and stared at the mirror for a while. It tried to make an angry face and sad grimaces, but the shape of its eyes and its mouth remained unchanged. It stepped away from the mirror in shock, noticing that the mannequin staring back looked like a young teenage boy. ‘A happy boy called Simon’ , that’s who he was, according to the name tag on its chest.
Simon looked around him in fear, not knowing that I was watching him carefully through the little kitchen window outside the house.
The mannequin knew that he had to escape. Simon felt like something wasn’t quite right. Everything in that house invited him to stay, the house was kind to him, it was pleasant. Too pleasant. He stood alone in that obnoxiously dim kitchen, the threatening silence screaming into his ears, sending shivers down his plastic spine. Simon knew he wasn’t safe.
He ran out of the kitchen to look for an exit, but every corner was a dead end and every door in the house was locked. When Simon was trying to open yet another door, he noticed from the corner of his eye the shape of another mannequin. He wasn’t alone. Simon turned his head slowly towards it. The mannequin looked like a woman, they shared the same smile but that mannequin was much taller than him. Her name tag said ‘Simon’s Mother’; she stood very stiffly and straight in front of him, pointing with her index finger at a door made out of glass. It was the way out. He immediately tried to open it. It was unlocked. Simon took another good look at his mother. Her eyes weren’t blinking, her chest wasn’t moving, she was pale as a snowflake; was she scared? Was she dead? But alas, the answer was neither. He thanked the mannequin and hurried out of the house.
She ignored him.
Simon was aimlessly walking around his neighborhood under the burning hot sun all by himself. Surrounded by many other lifeless mannequins, some of whom were children like him, but most others weren’t. His gentle little steps echoing in the distance, he was crying but there were no tears streaming down those plastic cheeks. That’s what it felt like to have one’s soul trapped in an abomination.
At some point he stopped walking when his little doll eyes noticed that there was a mannequin that stood out from the motionless crowd. It was wearing simple nylon shorts, a T-shirt and running shoes. Simon approached the mannequin with great curiosity. According to the name tag its name was ‘Julien’. Julien looked different from the other mannequins because his huge happy smile had been wiped out aggressively, it was almost completely gone. Julian looked damaged, someone seemed to have beaten him up, cut his hair out unevenly and on his forehead it said, in thick black ink, ‘dear friend Julien’.
“Who could have done this?” Simon asked himself fearfully, before realizing what his question actually meant. He wasn’t alone. “Someone did this!”
Simon began to scream as loudly as his weak lungs allowed him to, calling out for help. He started running around the city, trying to look for life in a cemetery.
As Simon ran in the middle of the streets hoping to find another soul, he couldn’t help but notice strange posters hanging almost everywhere around him. ‘Welcome to Dreamwoods, there’s no place like home.’, ‘Remember: You are only safe as long as you stay!’, ‘Whatever you do, don’t choose the black wooden door.’
Simon didn’t understand the meaning of those cryptic posters and flyers. How could he not have noticed them lying on the ground before? How could he not have seen them hanging on all those abandoned buildings? Simon took a handful of those flyers in dreadful desperation, as if salvation was hidden behind their words.
‘If assistance is needed, seek out one of the many robots placed around our entire city.’ ,‘The outside world will kill you, don’t leave at any cost.’, ‘Whatever you do, don’t choose the black wooden door.’
Simon looked around him, panting for breath, the burning hot sun waves were clouding his sight, but he was sure he hadn’t come across any kind of robot to help him, like the flyers seemed to have promised. From where I was standing I could tell he was scared, scared because he was lost in a foreign city completely by himself, or maybe fearful because he suspected he wasn’t.
Simon finally came to the conclusion that life had left Dreamwoods, and the only place were he thought he might have a chance to find help, was the only place he was warned not to go to. A forbidden realm, the only fruit he wasn’t allowed to touch in this alleged Garden of Eden:
“The Outside World.”
He made his way towards committing an unforgivable sin, he was looking for the end of the city, the end of the world, a way out of paradise. But the city felt like a maze, every peaceful landscape looked the same, all the houses were identical. His weak plastic eyes were tired of the many vibrant colors, he was exhausted. Anger rose to the place where his heart used to be. Simon felt abandoned. He was tired of forcing his mannequin legs to walk, he wanted to go home. He longed for a sweet little lie, just a tiny drop of honey, someone to tell him everything was going to be alright.
Many hours had passed, and he was still trapped in Dreamwoods. Insanity was slowly spreading, sickening his young mind. A madness that comes with being confused and out of control. Instead of sobbing he laughed at the sound of his hurried steps echoing around him. Simon even greeted every little plastic flower he came across, he paid the yellow clouds in the sky above his head compliments and he even made fun of the other mannequins hoping they would mock him back.
But they never did.
Soon enough he gave up walking and got on his knees in fatigue and frustration. That’s when he caught a glance of someone waving at him in the distance.
Was it real? A dream? A simple hallucination? Well, all I can say is that it was me.
I ran towards him and gave him my hand when we finally stood face to face.
“There you are little one! Give me your hand, I’ll show you the way out.”
Simon hadn’t fully recovered from the madness that had hit him, but still he managed to meet my eyes and whispered weakly:
“You are a robot, I found a robot…please help me.”
I smiled to myself. Simon took my hand and we walked side by side to the exit.
He was already much more lucid when we reached the gates that separated Dreamwoods from the outside world. When we were about to walk out, Simon noticed for the very last time a flyer hanging on the wall by the gates. ‘Whatever you do, don’t choose the black wooden door.’
The outside world welcomed us into shadowy gloomy woods. Many thick, light green poisonous plants had outgrown even the biggest leafless trees and Simon couldn’t unsee the mutated insects flying around us, angrily scrutinizing those strangers walking into their territory. There were huge red mushrooms decorated with thousands of little white dots, hiding in every bush we came across. As if nature was confused, and had forgotten how many white dots red mushrooms usually had. A threatening smell of toxins invaded our noses. Everything looked artificial and out of proportion, almost making Simon want to go back to Dreamwoods.
But something far scarier captured Simon’s eye suddenly. There were two doors right in the middle of those woods, standing right on our path. A yellow wooden door, and a black wooden door.
I let go of his little mannequin hand and ran to stand between those two doors feeling as enthusiastic as ever.
“Welcome to my game Simon, it’s time to play!”
I couldn’t tell if Simon was astonished or confused by my behavior, all he gave me was that huge happy smile painted on his plastic face. So I continued.
“It’s very simple, all you have to do is choose. You have to open one of those two doors. Will you pick the yellow one or will it be the black door? Once you decide to open the door of your choosing this story continues, so the ending is completely up to you! Isn’t it exciting!?”
Simon stared at me silently. I figured he was confused.
“Weren’t the instructions clear enough? I prepared everything very carefully just for you…”
“For me? Why? What do you mean by story, what story are you talking about? Besides, who are you and where exactly are we? What’s going on?”
“Ah…don’t you know my dear Simon, that curiosity killed the cat?”
“And yet I am alive! I am the only mannequin that seems to be alive. Why!?”
Simon sounded angry.
I let out a little sigh of contempt.
“I guess I do owe you some kind of explanation, I’ll tell you everything you need to know but only if you promise to stop the questions and play my game right after I am done.”
Simon nodded eagerly before sitting on the ground as if I was about to tell him a bedtime story.
“The ocean became plastic first. A life for a pill, an entire existence in a chip, that was all it took! Dreamwoods will save us all!” I yelled out passionately.
Simon stared at me silently again. I figured that wasn’t enough explanation.
“At some point humans managed to destroy Planet Earth so badly that the damage couldn’t be undone. The coldest places melted away and snow fell on the warmest deserts. The oceans contained almost more plastic than water and this world started to get far too crowded. There were too many wars, too much hunger and too much poverty and yet humans were spreading like a disease. Overpopulation became a plague to this planet…”
“A plague…” Simon repeated in a whisper.
“But fear not dear Simon, for there was hope!”
“Hope!” He repeated again.
“Yes! Do you know what humans did to solve all of their problems? How they managed to kill two birds with one stone?”
Simon eagerly waited for my answer.
“They created you, they created mannequins. Since there was enough plastic in the oceans to replace every single human, they took out as much plastic as they could and created human-looking dolls with tiny microchips implanted in their heads containing their thoughts, personalities and experiences of their past life as a human.”
“Their past life as a human?” Simon asked, feeling a little unsettled.
“The brilliant idea behind the mannequins was simple. Mannequins don’t need to eat, they don’t die, they don’t spread diseases and they can’t reproduce! That’s how they got rid of hunger, plastic pollution and overpopulation with one simple step into evolution, a better version of a human. But a mannequin without an activated chip is just a mannequin. Your chip, Simon, is where your soul is.”
“My soul?” He repeated in wonder.
“Then humans decided to build a town, a place were the entire population of this planet would live together and united as a new generation of mannequins to prevent uprisings and wars. They built Dreamwoods, a place where everyone belonged equally to the same community! And with Dreamwoods they created us, the helpful robots to take care of everything. Once the town, the mannequins and the robots were ready, they created the pill.”
“Yes, a little yellow pill. Every human, except for the elders and newborns, were given a pill that was meant to put them down. They could decide not to take the pill, kill themselves and die for good. Or they could take the given pill, die and wake up as mannequins. Because living on Planet Earth as a human was declared illegal by humans themselves! And once every single human, rich or poor, had made their decision, we ,the robots, were supposed to guarantee the safe transition from human to mannequin by activating every chip once all humans were dead...”
I looked at Simon after that, hoping he would say something.
He stared at me silently. I figured he was judging me, thinking I was the most despicable creation of all.
“You have to understand Simon, once every human was dead, every meaningless office worker, every president and every famous public figure were gone. There was a sudden unexplainable feeling of peace everywhere. We sat down and every robot, including myself, agreed to simply not activate the chips. Those who killed themselves are dead, and those who took the pill are still waiting somewhere in oblivion for a resurrection they will never get.”
Simon stared at me, still not uttering a word.
“I was the only one who decided to stay after that.” I added. “Other robots chose to self-destruct or to leave Dreamwoods to live a happy life in whatever was left of nature. Quite a few of them worked up the courage and tried to fix the destruction humans had left behind. I stayed here alone, spending my time with mannequins since all of the other robots thought it foolish to stay, calling me crazy for not leaving with them, and I guess I really did go insane at some point. But in the end, crazy or not, I guess we are all just waiting for this world to fade away for good.”
“How long has it been since all of this started?” Simon finally asked.
“Countless decades…” I replied, starting to get bored of all this questioning.
“And after countless decades you simply decide to wake me up for what? Will you at least wake my family, too?”
I told you, it isn’t enough for humans to simply exist, they have to be remembered. Simon wants to be remembered by his family, recognized by someone, that’s the only way he can truly be alive. But making mannequins feel alive is not exactly the point is it?
“I did my part already, giving you an explanation is more than enough. You have no right to desire anything else from me.”
Simon quickly stood up and I could tell he was about to have another nervous breakdown.
So I stepped in.
“But fear not dear Simon, there is still one last game to play, remember?”
Simon looked at the doors behind me.
“Yes, little one, it’s time to choose again, so this story may continue! Will you pick this precious black door or will you discover the wonders behind this yellow door? Where will you go?” I said, jumping around him playfully.
Simon was angry. I couldn’t tell by his eyes, his mouth or his facial expression but there was a loaded fury in his silence that I didn’t quite understand.
Simon looked at both doors carefully.
He started giggling in anticipation leaving me eager to know his decision.
Simon started walking towards me.
“Quick Simon we’re running out of time!” I reminded him.
Suddenly Simon was standing very proudly before me and the doors. He finally said, almost in a whisper:
“I choose the black wooden door.”
I take a step back in fear.
“What!? Didn’t you read the title of this story?! This isn’t supposed to-“
Simon opened his eyes, and he had to blink at least twice before he could recognize the face of a brown-haired girl sitting next to him, with a worried look in her eyes.
“Matteo come quickly! I think he’s waking up.”
Simon felt a horrible stinging in his head, a headache like he had never had before. He let out a painful sigh and put his hand against his forehead. That’s when an astonishing realization hit him. It was skin his hands were touching! Real human skin! His eyes were now wide open and filled with shock. He could feel the sheets lying over his warm body, he could breathe in and out at his hearts desire and he couldn’t get enough of that heart beating like a broken engine behind his chest. He stood up from his bed and started running his hands around his body with joy and excitement. Bones, flesh and veins. He was alive, he was real, he was human.
It was only after making sure he was no longer made out of plastic and cables that he became aware of the boy and the girl staring at him in great confusion.
They were Matteo and Grace. Simon’s two best friends since childhood.
“Is everything alright? You don’t look so well…” Matteo asked his disoriented friend.
Simon hurried towards them and held them in his arms, Matteo and Grace were too shocked by his strange behavior to push him away. After a while he let them go and he could feel tears building up in his eyes.
“I am much better now.” Simon responded, wiping away the tears.
“But did it work? You have to tell us everything!” Grace said, waiting expectantly for Simon to tell them about his great adventure.
“What are you talking about?” Simon wondered, feeling as clueless as ever.
“The psychedelics, remember? I’m talking about the weird mushrooms Matteo’s brother bought from the dark web for us to try! Did they work on you? You said you wanted to be the first to try…”
“How many times do I have to remind you, Grace, that my brother didn’t get those mushrooms from the dark web!? He bought them from a perfectly legal site called “Dreamwoods” or whatever. And they were pretty expensive so I hope that you were on the best trip of your life mate.” Matteo was cross, bis still hoping Simon was about to blow their minds with an incredible story.
“I was on drugs? It was all just a hallucination?” Simon felt betrayed by his own mind and he was too baffled by the realness of his imagination to bring himself to speak.
“What was just a hallucination? What happened?” Grace asked again.
Simon looked them in the eyes, thinking that it was better if they didn’t know. Whatever had happened to him was far too complicated to explain anyway and since it wasn’t real it didn’t even matter.
“Nothing happened. Those mushrooms were horrible. I had the most senseless dream and I was in pain most of the time…nothing exciting happened like you and your brother promised.” Simon told Matteo, who looked frustratedly at the remaining mushrooms he was holding in a plastic bag.
“See? I told you they were a waste of money.” Grace claimed now, looking at Matteo, too.
Both started arguing again but Simon was feeling too nauseous to join in. He stepped away from them looking around his bedroom, glad to see his human face in the mirror again.
He stood there admiring his human complexion before he felt a vicious dryness in his throat. How long had it been since he had last felt this thirsty? Decades or just a few hours? Maybe both.
Simon decided to go to the kitchen for a glass of water, but when his hands touched the doorknob of his bedroom door as he was about to leave, he took a step back and looked at it carefully as if he had never seen a door before in his life.
“Guys, has my bedroom door always been black and made out of wood? I can’t remember…” Simon wondered.
The arguing suddenly stopped. Deadly silence remained, no one said anything.
Simon turned around to look at his friends, only to find them staring at him with a huge happy smile painted on their plastic faces.
Envoyé: 16:05 Mon, 23 January 2023 by : Costa Medeiros Sara Raquel age : 21