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Return to Virtuality
prose [ ]

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by [SnowdonKing ]

2023-06-16  |     | 



Return to Virtuality*

Alan Jones was born on 14 April, 2047, in Snowdon, a city in the north of the Old Federation, right next to the ice floe. According to his mother, Alan looked great as a baby, heavy as a rock on the bottom of The Tiva River. He had his father’s blue eyes and fair hair. They called him the little snow prince. They sang songs of the Northern legends to him, and when he grew up, his grandfather told him the fairies of the North, coming from other parts of the universe, had shown interest in his appearance on Terra and, particularly, in his future. His grandfather also told him there was a dangerous journey in store for him and that, at a turning point in his life, love would show him the way. At the time he did not understand very much and little by little he almost forgot about it. Now, however, he was starting to put two and two together.
Alan never forgot the house in which he was born. It was made of white stone and red brick adorned the walls along the edges. Lying on the more abrupt bank of The Tiva, broader at the base and narrower toward the top, the house looked like a castle in the Northern legends. Alan enjoyed the stories about Erik, the Prince of the Lapps, who had crossed the ocean and fought the polar bears the fairies had sent against him. Erik was very brave, and no-one could stop him. But one day he met Areea, the most beautiful fairy, and fell in love with her. They made peace and ruled together over the stretches of everlasting snows from the castle of Snowdon. They said the name of the city came from the Erik saga, but Alan would rather believe the walls within which they lived did really belong to the famous castle.
Except for the horrors of the pandemic, the years of his youth spent at Snowdon were the happiest of his life. In the summer, when the frozen waters of the Tiva melted, he and his cousin went to his grandparents’, on the other bank, where the river was less deep and warmer. They often caught fish barehanded from among the rocks and in the hollows under the bank. Sometimes, at sunset, they took off their clothes and had a swim. From behind the bushes, the Thompson girls, who lived next door, watched them, nudged each other and giggled. Both Alan and Harris fell for them. They spent most of the summer days about the river and when winter, the other season, much longer than the first, set in, they enjoyed the snow celebrations. They skated, skied, and visited the Children’s Little City, where the two girls, Ann and Alexis, exhibited their ice sculptures.
Everything was like a beautiful dream. When vacation came, Alan’s playtime started at sunrise and ended at sundown. When he was at school, he enjoyed sports competitions most. The upbringing he had got from his father, a competitive athlete, helped him rank among the best. Florian was domineering but generous. He had been his role model since early childhood and he hoped he would be like him when he grew up. Following his father’s example, Alan protected Harris against the older boys, and taught him all sorts of tricks he could use whenever someone tried to bully him. One thing was clear, though, when the bullies were too numerous, the safest solution was to run away. That would later help Harris to become an exquisite athlete …
Helen and Florian provided him with a solid upbringing. Unlike the children of other families, who had the latest computers, consoles, and holographic glasses, Alan spent his time practicing sports and reading his grandfather’s stories. It was those very interests that made him grow more mature than others at his age.
Alan was forty-two but he had an old man’s life experience. His blue eyes and fair long hair had preserved something of his childhood innocence. His grandfather, John, had been a writer and a designer. That was how he had survived in a civilization in which technology gave children the chance to connect themselves to inconceivable virtual worlds. Some parents, however, especially those who had had been through the information revolution, were very much against consoles and holographic shows. They did not want their children to be virtual-world addicts; on the contrary, they wanted to stimulate their intellectual ability according to the old methods they had learned in school. Literature, sports, and music were core subjects. Religion was growing in importance. His grandmother, Emily, was a simple woman, housework and religion being her main concerns. Oh, the tarts she made! Her stories were different, about angels who appeared before people, about God who turned into an old man or a cloud … She was an extraordinary woman, so sensitive. Unfortunately the Frazier virus made her the first victim of the family. Grandfather John outlived her by only a couple of weeks. He fought the virus stubbornly up to the end, being perfectly aware of what was happening to him. His last drawings showed death about to break his life. He told him that wherever you try to run, death will already be there. He couldn’t forget those words. Soon after his grandparents’ death it was his parents’ turn. They were both in hospital, bed to bed, holding each other by the hand. Helen had worked all her life in an orphanage. She had a noble, kind heart, being always ready to help those who were in trouble. Every week she went to church with Emily and collected funds for the poor and the homeless children. To Florian, sports had meant everything. Without big results, though, as he knew that drugs led to the birth of mutants who could beat all records.
With all the money he inherited, he had chosen Second Life, the only place that received pandemic survivors. He wanted to travel as far away as possible and forget reality, but his new life became a new nightmare.
*
The alarm had been ringing for 5 minutes. His eyes were wide open. He reached for his glasses...and panicked. They weren’t there. Where had he put them? His heart was beating fast. His body was trembling. A small mistake was all that reality needed. He began to touch various objects. The cold alarm clock. Was it actually a clock, or a clock with a bomb with a clock? Next to it was the glass. He wondered what it contained ... The lamp, oh, no! That would be suicidal! The familiar feeling at the touch of his glasses calmed him down. Everything went back to normal.
“Good morning, Mr. Jones. It’s 6.07 a.m. The Second Life index is 97%. The air temperature: 23 degrees Celsius. The luminosity factor: 5. The humidity factor: 32%. The air purity level: 6. Which is your route? ”
“The same as yesterday. But please reduce the number of voices. When I pass by the hamburger vendor, I want the bread to look a bit more brownish. I’m tired of that indistinct brown. And please don’t forget about the young woman from the sweets shop. Raise her skirt a little bit. And make her smile a bit wider…”
“The programme has been loaded. Have a wonderful day, Mr. Jones! ”
He closed the door and made the first step. The hallway was shiny and clean. The elevator was descending without making any noise. He stepped outside, into the street. A breath of wind was making the palm leaves quiver. Luxury cars… The bike was now supposed to show up. The blonde had gorgeous buttocks. Their tattoo drew him crazy: Kiss me! He stopped for a couple of minutes. He would stop there every morning. Every morning he tried to get closer. But the implant always drew him in the other direction.
He reached the hamburger vendor. Why hadn’t he also changed their smell? Anyway, the brown hue of the bread was a bit darker. It also tasted different. He reached the sweets shop. The redhead gave him a big smile. Then she turned around and bent over for some products. Her skirt rose uncovering her perfect thighs.
He got to work and sat down on the chair. He loosened his tie knot. The first client entered. He had problems with his wife. They had different schedules. He had cheated on her. She cheated on him too. With whom? He wasn’t sure. They had simply changed their schedules. The divorce was imminent. His second client had problems regarding his implant. Emotional problems. He was always late. He had been prescribed to stay indoors and wait. He was also to take two Torex pills every four hours. He called the Second Life Corporation. He appointed him for the operation.
He had a headache. He had had a hectic day. He opened the window. Kilimandjaro. The hot sands of the Costa Blanca stretched at the foot of the mountain. Las Vegas was not far from there. There was a flavour of Chinese tea in the air. Yeah, he could do with some tea. Pause. He got home. Pause.
“Good morning, Mr. Jones. It’s 6.07 a.m. The Second Life index is 97%. The air temperature: 23 degrees Celsius. The luminosity factor: 5. The humidity factor: 32%. The air purity level: 6. Which is your route? ”
“The same as yesterday. Today, however, I’ll take the stairs. I want to see Marleen. Please change the smell of the hamburgers. And make them a little crispier. Don’t forget about the young woman working in the sweets shop. When she bends over, I want her to face me. I want to see her breasts…”
“Mr. Jones, item 5 in the intimacy law stipulates that…”
“Very well, very well, I got the point. I want to see her bra then. And I want it to be red. I feel a crazy desire to see red. And I want her to wink at me. ”
“The programme has been loaded. Have a nice day, Mr. Jones! ”
He shut the door and made the first step. The hallway was clean and shiny. He tripped and fell on the stairs. His glasses broke into a thousand pieces. The implant was trying to adapt itself. He only had a few minutes at his disposal. Panic. Somewhere there was an alarm. The inspectors were already on their way. The vaporizers were ready in case of emergency.
He went out in a hurry. The implant was playing tricks on him. Juxtaposed images. The wind was blowing faintly through the metallic constructions. Robots. No, luxury cars. Robots. The bike should appear any second. The blonde had a superb pair of buttocks. Robots. The metallic buttocks drew him crazy: Looser! He stopped for a couple of minutes. He rubbed his eyes. Every morning he stopped. Every morning he tried to come back to reality. But the implant always pushed him in the other direction.
He reached the hamburger vendor. Robots. A sticky paste. A horrible taste. The bread was rotten. He reached the sweets shop. Robots. The redhead. The metallic smile was freezing his blood. The redhead turned around and bent for some products. The skirt raised up uncovering her metallic thighs. Looser!
He got to work. He sat on the chair. He loosened his tie knot. Tie? The implant was strangling him. His heart was beating fast. His body was trembling. He opened the drawer. The extra pair. The first client entered. He had problems with his wife. They had different schedules. He had cheated on her. She cheated on him too. With whom? He wasn’t sure. They had simply changed their schedules. The divorce was imminent. His second client had problems regarding his implant. Emotional problems. He was always late. He had been prescribed to stay indoors and wait. He was also to take two Torex pills every four hours. He called the Second Life Corporation. He appointed him for the operation.
He had a headache. He had had a hectic day. He opened the window. Kilimandjaro. The hot sands of the Costa Blanca stretched at the foot of the mountain. Las Vegas was not far from there. There was a flavour of Chinese tea in the air. Yeah, he could do with some tea. Pause. He got home. Pause.
“Good morning Mr. Jones. It is 6.07 a.m. The Second Life index is 97%. The air temperature is: 23 degrees Celsius. The luminosity factor: 5. The humidity factor: 32%. The air purity level: 6. Which is your route? ”
“Have they repaired the stairs?”

*Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, 4th Quarter, 2021, Hollywood, U.S.A.

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