Chapter 7: Echoes of the Past

As the first light of dawn stretched over the horizon, Assandra and Bandit found themselves at the entrance of the old zoo. The once vibrant and bustling attraction now lay in ruins, and the gates, long since rusted and broken down, swung eerily in the wind. Assandra hesitated for a moment, then took a deep breath and stepped inside, Bandit trailing closely behind.

As they wandered through the decaying remnants of animal enclosures, Assandra couldn’t help but think about her mother. The cryptic words her mother had uttered that night so long ago, “We are not real”, echoed through her mind.

Lost in thought, Assandra suddenly stopped in front of a massive, once beautiful, aviary. Overgrown and reclaimed by nature, the structure now stood as a silent memorial to the creatures that once called it home. As she stared at the tangled branches and vines that now filled the space, a memory surfaced.

Assandra and her mother had visited the zoo together, back when the world was still teetering on the edge of collapse. They had stood in front of the very same aviary, but at that time, it was filled with exotic and colorful birds, their songs filling the air. Assandra’s mother had seemed distant that day, her eyes vacant as she stared at the birds, her mind elsewhere.

Even then, the world had started changing in subtle, unspoken ways. People had grown anxious, their eyes darting around nervously, as if constantly anticipating something dreadful. But nobody talked about it, as if doing so would make it real. Assandra had tried to engage her mother in conversation, but she had been unresponsive, her thoughts consumed by an ever-growing weight that only she seemed to understand.

Now, as Assandra stood in front of the same aviary, the memory faded, replaced by the harsh reality of the present. She wondered what her mother had known. “We are not real.” Did it foreshadow the apocalypse, or was there a deeper meaning that she had yet to uncover?

As they continued to explore the zoo, Assandra couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a crucial piece of information missing from her understanding of the past. She knew that she had been in a coma during the apocalypse, leaving her with no knowledge of the exact events that had transpired. Now, with her mother gone, she felt as if there was a void in her life, a deep yearning for answers that seemed to elude her.

As they passed the remains of the reptile house, Bandit suddenly stopped, sniffing at the air curiously. Assandra noticed a rusted metal door propped open by some debris. With a mixture of caution and curiosity, they ventured inside.

The dim interior was damp and musty, with the faint outlines of empty glass enclosures barely visible through the dust and grime. In the far corner, Assandra discovered a small, locked room that appeared to be an office. Using a crowbar she found nearby, she managed to pry the door open.

Inside, she found a desk with a dusty, old computer and some scattered papers. As she picked up a document, she noticed it was a log of the zoo’s activities and research from before the apocalypse. Skimming through the pages, Assandra came across a vague mention of an “experimental project” that had been conducted at the zoo.

“What is this?”

Assandra murmured to herself, her curiosity piqued. She searched for more information, rifling through the scattered papers, but found little else about the project. Frustrated, she turned her attention to the old computer on the desk. To her surprise, it still had some power left in its battery. She pressed the power button, and the screen flickered to life, displaying a login screen.

Taking a deep breath, she typed in the username and password she’d found scrawled on a crumpled piece of paper among the documents. The computer granted her access, and she navigated through the folders, searching for anything that might shed some light on the mysterious project.

Finally, she found a file marked “Project Elysium” and opened it. As she read through the information, her heart began to race. The project was an attempt to create a virtual reality simulation that could preserve the consciousness of people in a simulated world, safe from the impending apocalypse. The experimental phase had involved creating virtual replicas of animals and testing their responses in the simulated environment.

Assandra’s mind raced as she tried to process the information. Could this be the reason her mother had said, “We are not real”? Had her mother somehow been involved in this project, or even been a part of it? Was there a connection between Project Elysium and her coma during the apocalypse?

Assandra felt a mix of emotions – confusion, fear, and hope. If there was a virtual world where people had preserved their consciousness, maybe her mother was still alive in some form, waiting to be found.

More Assandra & Capybara stories

Background & comments

This is is, in my opinion, the most impressive and interesting chapter in the Assandra & Capybara story so far, even though it still is very clear that the AI is not a master of writing.

For this chapter, I’m using GPT-4, and I didn’t include most of my prompts, because they would break the flow of the story, since they directions to the model instead of parts of the story. This was the process:

  • I provided a short backstory with the main characters
  • I provided the entirety of chapter 6
  • I used the following system message:

    You are StoryGPT, a good storyteller with a varied and interesting language

  • I provided the following instructions:

    Please write Chapter 7 where Assandra and Bandit visit the old zoo, while Assandra’s continues to reminisce about her mother and the past. As a reader, we get a hint at why Assandra’s mother said “we are not real”. We also learn that Assandra was in a coma during the apocalypse, so she does not know exactly how the apocalypse happened.

  • The initial flashback memory was not good, so I provided the following instructions for it:

    The memory is about Assandra’s mother from before the apocalypse. The world had started changing, but we are not told explicitly what was happening. Instead, Assandra’s mother just seems distant as they are visiting the zoo together, standing in front of the same aviary that Assandra is now standing in front of

  • I edited out a lot of sentences that sounded bad.