Reyes ascended. Exhaustion wracked his limbs. If he didn’t find it soon he would die here on the mountain.

A chill lit the wind as the day began to fade. Gusts of frost surged down the slopes, stripping at his resolve. There was weakness in him now. He almost hoped to stumble, to fall and forever rest.

His knees buckled. The cold embraced him. Slumping forward in defeat, his gloved hands sunk into the snow before a line of smooth, circular stones. The way they sat seemed unnatural. Deliberate even. His eyes widened, noticing that they led to a nearby cave.

Combing the snow from his beard, he staggered through the cavern. It thinned into a crevice, the air ahead carrying a hint of warmth. Peering through the crack, he saw grass and a black, bulbous structure. Excitedly, he squeezed in and began edging his way through.

It opened into a small valley. A square mile of green, sheltered on all sides by sheer orange cliffs. Grass grew like a carpet, a few tall trees billowing softly in the breeze. At its centre sat the structure, a white half-sphere covered in hexagonal black panels. They reminded him of an old technology he had once seen in a museum, designed to absorb and harness the power of the sun.

Garden beds ran in circular patterns around the structure, the soil bursting with vegetables and flowering plants. At the valley’s rear a waterfall flowed freely, rolling down the rock face into a pool like liquid glass. Although he had read of such wonders in the archive, it was something else entirely to experience them for himself.

A decade ago, Reyes worked in maintenance, a low level job for those with simpler minds. Tasked with cleaning hardware, he spent more time offline than most. He felt this granted him perspective, revealed existence for what it was. With realms constructed to suit every taste and whim, reality was being discarded for the digital domain. The mega-cities had grown hollow. Yet strangely, none among his colleagues shared in his distaste. No one else seemed worried by what life had become.

It was the exclusion from his peers that led Reyes to the archive. He read of the old war between man and the machines, of how the world was left near barren in its wake. In those dark days, the virtual realms were an escape. A means to weather the storm until it was safe to return outside. Centuries later however, they had somehow come to be humanity’s domain of choice. Frustrated, he delved back further, discovering a fascination for the golden age of man. That perfect, long lost era, when life was organic and real. After months of study on the subject, he came to a decision. He would leave, travel the world seeking any who still strived for the way things used to be.

After years of searching with no success he had all but given up. It was only at his lowest, sulking in a bar in one of the dark outer cities that he came across some hope. While sharing his story amongst the patrons, a drunk, one-eyed old man began speaking of a mountain. How a monastery sat atop its peak, a relic of the past. A place where the water still ran clean, where food grew from the ground. He said he had found it in his youth, though foolishly left in fear. That he was too afraid to accept the perfection that it was. When Reyes enquired as to what he meant, his mood turned sombre and stern. He only offered directions before retreating back into his drink.

Now, after all his travels, Reyes had finally found it. Approaching what looked to be the entrance of the structure, the round white door bore no handle he could see. Removing a glove, he pressed his palm against it. With a hiss it rose up and open, disappearing into the walls. His heart began to race. In spite of what the old man had told him, he truly had no idea of what to expect inside.

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