TERRA INCOGNITA

A Tale of Two Synchronicities (Chapter I: Exile)

All I had to do was the right thing at the worst possible time.

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Image by author (Instagram: @williambluemusic // #csc_terraINCOGNITA)
Source: Terra Incognita (Soundtrack) // Spotify Playlist by author
Image by author (Instagram: @williambluemusic // #csc_terraINCOGNITA)

CHAPTER I: EXILE

PARKER SHIRO

Wake up, Agent Shiro…
The time for breakfast is now.

Of all possible fates, how many are worse than death?
Can’t say I’m dying to find out.

The flakes and marshmallows will eat each other.
One by one by one…

I will make it out of here alive.

Bit by bit by bit…

Someday.

Oh, but you just might…

The alternative is to surrender.
To allow fate to unfurl around me.

Wake up, Agent Shiro…

The human species didn’t undergo millions of years of evolution only to close its eyes at the vanguard of tomorrow.

The time for breakfast is now.

Do I allow the world to swallow me whole?
My destiny seems vacuum-sealed.

Like waiting for a train, it looks like doom.

A spectre, a poltergeist, and a shadow walk into a bar.
All of them look like me.

All you had to do was the right thing…
…at the worst possible time.

If I am found, what’s the worst that can happen?
All my efforts have been to prevent the total annihilation of the human species.

Time to prevent yours.

This is what heroes do, have always done…
This is what heroes have always died for…

Peace on Earth…
Peace on Earth…
Peace on Earth…

I know of martyrs who died for less.

What would you die for, Agent Shiro?

Unlike the citizens of Aurum City, I’ve lived a complete life.

Someone on this planet loved me for a time — however brief.
It might as well have been a minute.

All I had to do was the right thing at the worst possible time.

All you had to do was prevent World War III.

I succeeded, didn’t I?

You’ll have to wait and see.

That’s the worst part.

I wish I could remember every moment leading up to this — every emotion, every detail — as accurately, as vividly as a .vidi file playing in ULTRA-HD behind my eyelids.

But I can’t trust digital memories.
Not any more than the ones my own mind can conjure.

Oh, but you will…

These memories have been tampered with.

Don’t be so paranoid.

I can’t trust the voice in my head either.
It tells me I’ll make it out of here someday.

Oh, but you just might…

The digital memory of my infiltration of Aurum City displays brief flashes of seemingly random patterns of dead pixels spanning both retinas.

Likely a glitch in my augmented nervous system. But it might be something more sinister.

Upon further inspection, I found it was a corruption of the .vidi file.

I analyzed the configurations of dead pixels and realized they corresponded to a system of pixelated code used by fellow PRISM agents.

The message is as follows:

Wake up, Agent Shiro…
The time for breakfast is now.
The flakes and marshmallows will eat each other.
One by one by one…
Bit by bit by bit…
Show them the way.

The message is addressed to me, but I can’t decipher what it means. Maybe it’s to remind me of who I am in case I am captured and subsequently brainwashed by dark agents.

They’re everywhere, but as of yet, I can still walk around undetected, eluding any suspicion that I am of the Outside — that I am not supposed to be here.

I don’t even know who the real enemy is anymore. I’ve lost track of all the people on this planet who want me incapacitated or dead.

And Aurum City is supposed to be my refuge?

What a sick fucking joke.

And to think I once believed the agency had my back.

All you had to do was the right thing…
…at the worst possible time.

If you play wicked games with people and forces beyond your understanding, consider yourself lucky if you only get killed — either by your own hand or another’s.

That would be the easy way out.

Of all possible fates, how many are worse than death?

My fate now hangs in the air like a surveillance sphere.
Admittedly, not an ideal place for it.

Wake up, Agent Shiro…
The answers might be hidden in the sunset.

I close my eyes and see.

On the augmented reality menu superimposed behind my eyelids, I select the .vidi file of my infiltration and hit Play.

Observe attentively, Agent Shiro.
You might just figure it all out.

The first dead pixels flicker on my retinas.
I try to ignore them like cigarette burns on a film reel.

Pay close attention now…

MEMORY 001 (08/27/2031)

Buckled in the driver’s seat, I’m blazing through the Mojave desert sand in a gold-plated R172 SLK250 Mercedes-Benz.

The looming night embraces the sunlit sky, extinguishing its fiery hue; like falling curtains, the night’s aura shrouds the desert in the half-light of dusk.

I lean forward and look up through the cracked windshield.

This could be the last sunset you will ever see.

In the rearview mirrors, a mixture of dust and sand sprays from behind the tires, waltzing sans rhythm in the wind — to the hushed, dissonant chorus of the vehicle’s humming engine.

With my foot on the pedal, I push a trigger behind the stick shift, causing a burst of nitrous oxide to fill the engine. The car accelerates even faster, peaking at 200MPH on the speedometer.

I clench my jaw, flex my core, and focus on the rearview. At that point, I had lost every tail. No pursuers in sight. At least, not on the ground.

The adrenaline rush doesn’t hit the same as it did, but I’ll never forget how it felt at the moment. It was… exhilarating.

How did it feel, Agent Shiro?

I felt so alive. I felt as if nothing could hurt me. Not from that moment forward. It felt like a two-step Tango between adrenaline and bliss.

Savour it while it lasts.
You will never feel fear like this again.

I shift down a gear, switch to cruise control, and close my eyes, shutting out the final traces of fear and hesitation that still lingered from the life I left behind.

As long as you’re moving, they won’t catch you. Just ride.

Let the car take you to the flip side of this broken record you call a life. Soon, the restless sand will settle. The dust will vanish, and so will you.

And now… now you’re trying to remember how you ended up here in this position, ripping through the desert landscape at one-hundred and fifty miles per hour, a hundred-forty, a hundred-thirty, blood trickling down your cheeks.

How did you get that awful head wound?
How did you get so pathetic and desperate, you stupid piece of shit?

A blaring, high-pitched ringing resonates in my right ear — resulting from the close proximity blast of what used to be my old Honda. I loved everything about that car — even that hefty chunk of bumper that collided with the side of my head like a jet-propelled hang glider.

You blew it up in the middle of the freeway, remember?
A failed attempt at faking your own death.

It was worth a shot.

My previous employer, Typhoon Enterprises, branded me a fugitive, a target to be hated and hunted — blamed for their misfortunes. A scapegoat. Less than human.

All because I infiltrated it as a mole from the ground up.

I helped engineer an elaborate cyber-heist to drain 50% of their research and development funding.

Circa 2025, Typhoon Enterprises became one of the leading corporate entities in biotechnology and military weaponry — not only in the Americas but throughout the planet.

I did what I did because the world doesn’t need new ways to destroy and mutilate itself. It needs a good kick in the teeth.

All I had to do was the right thing…

And if I ever get out of Aurum City, oh sweet and oh-so-cruel world, you’ll see what I’ve become.

What have you become, Agent Shiro?

Post-human.

Unburdened by fear.

Days before this journey, I underwent surgery.

My eyes and auditory receptors are no longer my own. They’ve been replaced by prosthetics. Call them ‘enhanced.’ My enhanced sensory organs transmit information to a chip in my skull, so everything I see and hear is recorded and stored.

Behind closed eyelids, I can navigate the chip’s contents and stream the digital memories — as I’m doing now — overlaid behind my eyelids, my field of vision. Play by play, without the fallibility of old-fashioned human memory.

It doesn’t change that I prefer my real memories over recordings. My memories and everything I’ve ever considered part of me are starting to blur and, in some places, fade like an old photograph in the sun.

I feel as if I am no longer human.

My memories are now obsolete.

A day before this journey, a fellow PRISM agent named Declan outlined my fate, went over it with me step-by-step, and made sure I was cool with it — logistics and everything.

“There’s this place in the desert,” Declan says. “A hyperspace transistor node junction. A portal, essentially.”

“Just call it a ‘Portal,’” I say.

“Once you shake off the Typhoon goons,” Declan says, pointing to a blue pin drop on Google Maps. “Put the car in cruise control and just ride. The car will drive you directly to these coordinates. Like a homing signal.”

“How will I know I’m there?”

“The car will stop.”

“At the portal.”

“Affirmative, Shiro,” he says. “There, you will meet our contact. His name is Jericho Blue. He’s made leaps and bounds to stay in contact with us. Oh, just call him Mr. Blue.”

“And this Mr. Blue will take me to the city?”

“Mhm,” Declan nods. “Gather as much intel as you can over the following three months. Keep a low profile. We’ll take care of Typhoon Enterprises and clear your name.”

“And Natasha?”

“She’ll be safe,” Declan says. “We protect our own, and our own’s own. She’ll be off-the-grid and well-guarded.”

“Please make damn sure of it, Declan,” I say.

“Think of what we just accomplished, Parker,” he says. “We saved the world from World War III! We staved off the nuclear threat for at least another two decades.”

“Then why do I feel like the world is still ending?”

“You’re overthinking it again, Agent Shiro,” he says, patting me on the back. “Heroes always feel like the battle is ongoing — even after they’ve saved the day. Get some rest. Enjoy your time in Aurum City. If what I’ve heard about it is true, it’s a real-life utopia.”

“So they say…”

I was headed to a city with no sunrise. Refuge. Blocked off from the world by four colossal gold walls and an artificial sky.

They call it Aurum City.

Declan hands me a set of keys. “The car will be parked under the second-level freeway before the East exit. It’s a gold-plated Mercedes. Can’t miss it. Do I have to go over the procedure again?”

“No,” I say. “Thank you, Declan. Until we see each other again.”

He nods, a morose look. “Until we see each other again, Parker.”

“Maybe never.”

“Godspeed.”

The windshield lights up, a neon green glow emanating throughout the car’s suede interior, with an LED warning:

OBSTRUCTION AHEAD

The brakes set in, and the car halts to a stop.

I unlatch my seatbelt and step out, briefcase in hand, staring into the vast emptiness of the Mojave desert at dusk. I reach out into the empty horizon, and inches from where I’m standing, I feel the obstruction: a smooth, glass-like surface utterly invisible to the naked eye.

To my left stands a man who was not there a moment ago, presumably having stepped out of the ether. He is dressed in a sleek navy blue blazer and cyan aviator shades. “Agent Shiro?”

“Mr. Blue, I presume,” I say. “I lost the goons back in the city.”

“They lost you.” Mr. Blue says. He steps into the car. The broken windshield lights up as he navigates the interface, turns on the ignition, reverses, turns the car ninety degrees around and accelerates.

Several metres ahead, Mr. Blue opens the door and rolls out of the moving car before walking back to me, brushing the sand off his blazer. The vehicle picks up speed and rolls off into the night — towards a fate as obscure as mine.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Agent Shiro?”

“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”

Mr. Blue gestures for me to step in front of him, and when I do, he pushes me face-first into the glass-like surface — the portal.

On the other side, I stumble onto a black marble floor — the fifth level of what looks to be a warehouse composed entirely of black marble surfaces. My body feels as if it’s been pulled through a vacuum.

I give myself a quick pat-down, grasping at my chest and legs to ensure everything’s still there and intact.

I approach the hand railing and look down into the open space that divides each warehouse level into two distant, parallel floors.

Down below, workers in uniforms are walking around with virtual tablets and styluses in hand.

On the ground level, several figures with black, low-poly masks dressed in all black walk around, seemingly guarding the area. Some of them are standing by windows carrying high-calibre rifles.

Two hands grip my shoulders and pull me back between two black crates, concealing me from plain view.

Mr. Blue steps in front of me and scans the perimeter.

“Listen,” Mr. Blue says, “You’re on your own from here. This is as far as I can go. The phone and blueprints will be all you need once you’re inside.”

I lean against one of the crates and sink to the floor, clutching my head while his words sink in.

Wake up, Agent Shiro…

Mr. Blue reaches behind one of the crates, pulls out a black uniform, and tosses it onto my lap. He then fishes a handgun, pulls back the slide, and releases it. A bright, neon-green strip lining the barrel of the weapon lights up for an instant before fading.

“Relax,” he says, inspecting the handgun. “Go on, get dressed, and into character.”

Mr. Blue turns away while I step into this new pair of pants and fasten the attached belt. I abandon my old pants on the floor, slip into the arms of the jacket, and slide the gloves over my hands. Everything fits perfectly.

Mr. Blue reaches into a backpack and tosses me a semi-pliable matte black low-poly mask. I pull the mask over my face, and a wide panoramic image of my immediate surroundings materializes on the inner surface, sharpening and extending my peripheral vision.

He slips the handgun into the holster attached to my belt. Printed on the end of the handle is a label: Typhoon Enterprises.

“Wow,” I say. A mouthpiece embedded under the mask distorts and deepens my voice into something unrecognizable, something inhuman.

He steps back and looks me over. Thumbs up. He points to a group of similarly masked figures on the ground floor. Behind them stands an even larger group of bodies dressed regularly, their heads covered by straw sacks, bound to each other by hand shackles and chains.

“That’s the next batch of denizens,” Mr. Blue says in a morose tone. “They’ve been run through the reconditioning program and are ready to assimilate.”

“Reconditioning?”

“That’s putting it lightly,” Mr. Blue says, reaching underneath the handrail. A circular appendage with a clip flips into view. “There’s a lot more where they came from.”

“What is reconditioning?”

“That’s an excellent question,” Mr. Blue says. He pulls the clip, and a thick red rope follows. It looks like red velvet.

”Is this red tape or a red carpet premiere?”

“You have no idea how important that is.”

“How important is it?”

Mr. Blue fastens the rope’s end to a mechanical latch attached to my belt. On the gadget’s side is a tiny lever the size of a thumbnail.

Mr. Blue says, “I’m sure by now you know you didn’t sign up for a cakewalk in the park.”

“What is your understanding of my mission exactly, Mr. Blue?”

“You’re going to change everything.”

“What are you—”

“Load up the transport!” a deep, distorted voice shouts from an intercom, echoing through the warehouse. “Take them to the promised land!”

“You have to get on the transport with this batch,” Mr. Blue says, smiling. “Don’t forget your stuff, hero.”

I pick up the briefcase. “What do I do once I’m in?”

“Instructions are on the phone in your pocket.” He taps the circular appendage on the handrail. “This is very stable. The rope is rotary and will support your weight. Hold onto it tight, then jump.” He smacks the railing and says, “Step up.”

He holds the briefcase as I pull myself onto the railing and stand. I take an inhale, and the mouthpiece amplifies my distorted breath.

“Look professional.”

“This is a circus act,” I say, struggling to stabilize myself. “Anything else I need to know?”

“When you hit the ground, swipe the lever to release the rope,” he says, mimicking the gesture. “Follow the batch of new citizens onto the transport and ride into Aurum City. Don’t talk to anyone on the way there. When you arrive, we’ll have another insider chaperone you to your penthouse suite. His name is Kale. He’ll introduce himself as such. Make sure this smiley face is visible.”

From inside Mr. Blue’s blazer, he extracts a piece of paper, then peels and sticks a glittery, pink smiley face sticker onto the surface of my briefcase. He adjusts my collar and straightens my jacket like a parent sending their child to school.

Before I can say anything else, he pushes me off the handrail. The rope swings me downward as my body spins awkwardly in the air, the crotch area tightening more than I would have liked at that moment.

With my right hand, I manage a tight, steady grip on the rope. The rope slows my fall and levels me down. I descend slowly past each level until I land behind the crowd. I swipe the lever on my belt, and the rope retracts to the upstairs handrail.

Nobody gives me any special attention, even as I carry this briefcase. The dark agents seem too preoccupied with wrangling the line-up of new citizens.

I open my eyes.

I’ve replayed that memory countless times but haven’t gained any new insights or clues. Nothing other than the dead pixels that ultimately translate into meaningless phrases.

What happened to Agent Rouge?

Agent Rouge, the PRISM agent assigned to my extraction mission, has yet to contact me. Either she never made it into Aurum City or was intercepted before she could make herself known. Either way, I’m alone.

Once again, I have to secure my own fate.

Wake up, Agent Shiro.

I’m tired of keeping my head down.
Enough waiting.

The time for breakfast is now.

Of all possible fates, how many are worse than death?

The flakes and marshmallows will eat each other.
One by one by one…

I will make it out of here alive.

Bit by bit by bit…

Someday.

Show them the way.

Image by author (Instagram: @williambluemusic // #csc_terraINCOGNITA)

⏭️ Chapter II: Absinthe

Image by author (Instagram: @channelsurfcinema // #csc_terraINCOGNITA)

Terra Incognita is the upcoming debut novel by Canadian writer Jonah Angeles.

The story centers around special agent Parker Shiro, who is tasked with the undercover investigation of Aurum City, an isolated “smart city” located in the Californian desert — blocked off from the world by four gold walls and an artificial sky.

When an extraction mission goes wrong, Parker must find his own way back to the outside world, all while navigating an uprising that threatens to swallow the city up whole.

〽️〽️〽️

The novel will be released in three separate installments on Gumroad, Kobo, and Amazon.

Book I: A Tale of Two Synchronicities will be released some time in 2024.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Read the official announcement below.

Read the official announcement below.

The novel’s soundtrack is available to stream on Spotify.

Source: Terra Incognita (Soundtrack) // Spotify Playlist by author

Follow me on my main Instagram page @channelsurfcinema or my musician page @williambluemusic where I share the music I’ve made in character as William Blue (my self-insert).

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