Summary: Red reaches the edge of the seventh ring.
NOTE: This is a very rough draft with no editing at all (per National Novel Wiriting Month rules) and is presented for amusement value only. Think of it as a periscope into my writing process rather than a coherent story!
There will most likely be spelling and grammatical errors afoot as well as flat out bad writing, info dumps, plot holes, contradictions/retcons, uneven characterization and pacing. These snippits are also posted out of order, so please refer to the Outline to figure out where it’s supposed to fit.
The city is required to keep him alive, but it isn’t required to keep him comfortable. Red knows better than to trust the fruit or the water anymore, and waits for Skip and Chatter’s robotic squirrels to set up the purifiers.
In truth, he hadn’t noticed what she was doing to him until one of the AIs that found him had caught onto the fact that his lethargy and lack of focus wasn’t normal. Red had been in the city so long alone that his gradual fade from sharp genius into a foggy mental hazy was too slow to notice on his own.
It hadn’t occurred to him then that the city was paying any attention to him, much less poisoning his food and water. Once he’d woken up, the game had changed considerably.
“Done.” chirped Skip as he hopped down from the filtration system, his bushy filament tail poofed up and quite pleased with himself. “She’s gone back to pure water again, so mind your vitamins.”
“Yes Mom,” said Red, out of long sarcastic habit. “What’s the electrical interference like?”
“High as always,” sniffed Chatter as he scouted the inside of the house. “Looks like she’s upped the temperature variations and subvocals too, looks like she pouring on the nightmare fuel this time. Wonder what’s got her spooked.”
“We’re close to the border,” Skip pointed out, “Probably just the normal game of keep away.”
“Or she’s figured out what we’re trying to do,” said Red as he started unpacking his meager pile of belongings. “At some point she’s going to stop playing nice.”
“The Three Rules aren’t foolproof,” Chatter agreed mildly, “but she can’t kill you.”
“No, she’ll just let me kill myself.” Red said with a sigh. “Check the flue will you Skip?”
‘Aye, aye Captain.” Skip bounded over to the chimney and scurried up inside. There was a pause then a series of rather destructive noises before the squirrel reemerged, coated in sawdust and grinning happily. “All clear!”
Red started a fire, using the furniture from within the house—once Chatter and Skip had fed it through the processor that removed the heat activated toxins. The city might not be trying to actively kill him, but she would apparently love it if he fell back into his drugged out passive haze.
And technically he wasn’t paranoid if she really was out to get him.
Dinner was the same tasteless mush it always was, at least on those days when he couldn’t raise the Lost Children’s food supplies. The city took great delight in making the fruit bitter or salty or foul tasting and by the time the purifier had turned it into something edible the flavor was as close to neutral as you could get.
Sometimes he craved a fast food hamburger and fries, but less often now. Memories came in waves and he’d learned to avoid any thoughts that led back to the world they’d had to leave behind.