Black Petals Issue #75 Spring, 2016

Virtuality
Home
Mars-News, Views and Commentary
The Big Well-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Boxlike Object-Fiction by Charles C. Cole
The Enemy of My Enemy-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Virtuality-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Virtuous Reality-Fiction by A. M. Stickel, Editor
Walking to Class-Fiction by George Economou
Whispering Ghosts-Fiction by George Economou
Churchyard watcher-Two Poems by Chris Friend
August Nights-3 Poems by Dr. Mel Waldman

virtualrealitysuit.jpg




Virtuality


 


By Kenneth James Crist


 


A geek’s dream program…and worst nightmare


 


 


Jeremy Loggins looked over the compact disk, then inserted it into his computer drive and booted it up. The disk had come in the mail from some outfit calling itself Virtual World, Inc. On the cover of the brochure there was a pretty girl, scantily dressed, caressing a computer monitor and smiling at the camera.


On the screen, the manufacturer’s logo and copyright information flashed by, then, to the accompaniment of soft music, the same girl walked out onto the screen and the sales pitch started.


“Tired of being alone?” she cooed. “Sick to death of relationships that don’t work out and leave you frustrated in the end? Now there is no longer any reason to continue the charade of love that does not gratify, marriage that does not satisfy, and the guilt that goes with failed relationships. Interested? Just click the continue button...and if you’re not, I’ll understand.”


Jeremy was a reclusive computer nerd, living alone in an old, run-down house in a small town in Oklahoma. An ancient Maverick that hadn’t run in a year sat on two flat tires in his driveway, festooned with bird crap. In the front yard a broken lawnmower languished, surrounded by the enemy.


His income, such as it was, came from software he had written and sold, some electronic devices he held patents on, and an occasional repair job on someone’s computer.


Socially inept, he hadn’t had a date since his second year at Ohio State. That one had been a disaster. He found himself more than just interested. He reached for the mouse and clicked the ‘continue button.


The woman on the screen had undergone a costume change. Before, she had been wearing a slinky red dress and now she was done up in an orange bikini swim suit that left little to the imagination.


“Welcome to Cyber System’s Virtual World, a total-reality experience that will take you to the pinnacle of excitement and pleasure. My name is Cynthia, and I’ll be your hostess during the next thirty minutes. Sit back and relax and I’ll show you how you can fill your life with action, love, and adventure.”


Jeremy watched the entire presentation twice. Cynthia convinced him that if he would just buy the necessary equipment he would be able to choose his companion and satisfy any and all of his desires on-line at any time he wished. They were “so sure you’ll be thrilled with our product” that there was a thirty-day, no-questions, satisfaction guarantee.


In the end, Jeremy clicked the correct icon and entered his credit card number. As he closed out the transaction he thought, at last, a computer version of the love doll.


 


 


The brochure had said, “Please allow six weeks for delivery”, but Jeremy’s “kit” arrived in just under two weeks. The whistling, perky UPS man muscled a large cardboard box out of the truck, and Jeremy signed where indicated.


After he dragged the box inside, Jeremy slit the tape and removed sheets of bubble wrap, finding himself quite excited, sort of like when he still lived at home with his parents and Christmas or a birthday would roll around.


First, he found and unwrapped a virtual-reality helmet. This was at least something he was vaguely familiar with, having read articles about these devices and how they were becoming the latest fad for running video games. He looked it over, noting that it not only contained vision and hearing equipment, but also a nose and mouthpiece.


He set that aside and burrowed further into the box. Soon he had laid out an entire body suit of light material, intricately wired with sensors and something called “sensation pads.” Noting that some of these pads would be touching him in some very intimate areas, he wondered if he really wanted to try this. If anything was to go wrong…


Jeremy found an instruction book and another compact disk and set about learning how to use the system.


Forty minutes later, he was dressed in the suit and helmet, the compact disk was in the drive, and he was on-line with Virtual World.


As the program started, Jeremy found himself in a softly lit virtual room, furnished with several sofas and numerous pillows. Soft music played, and in moments he found himself surrounded by beautiful women.


“Damn, this is cool!” he exclaimed.


The ladies introduced themselves one by one in what was obviously a standard program lead-in, and Jeremy was amazed at how life-like they were. At times one would brush against him, or touch his hand, and he felt those things through the body-suit as they happened.


He could smell their perfume and see every feature of their faces and bodies. He soon found that he could reach out and touch any part of any of them and the computer-generated feedback made each touch and caress real. Far from being offended by this, these ladies responded in kind to whatever he did.


He continued to experiment until a petite redhead stepped up to him and draped her arms over his shoulders. Jeremy felt her cool fingers caress the back of his neck. She kissed him square on the mouth, then asked, “Jeremy, would you like to come with me for a while?”


Jeremy looked into her green eyes and then took in a freckled pug nose and a challenging mouth. She had that tomboy look that he’d always found appealing.


Tasting her lipstick and smelling her scent, Jeremy allowed that, yes, he’d like to go with her very much.


“My name is Tonya,” she said, leading him by the hand to a virtual door, which she opened. They stepped into another room, a bedroom, and Tonya closed the door. Again Tonya kissed him and Jeremy found himself returning her kiss with enthusiasm.


“Would you like to undress me, Jeremy?” she asked.


He was sweating inside the body suit now, in spite of its light, breathable construction. How could he refuse? She was so real.


Jeremy felt every button, zipper, and hook, as he took the lovely Tonya out of the encumbrance of her virtual garments. Soon they were in bed together and Jeremy found he felt a bit clumsy, not because of the virtual reality suit, but just because he was unskilled at what they were doing. Tonya more than made up for his lack of knowledge with her own. In the next few hours, Jeremy learned that there was nothing Tonya would balk at, that she would do anything he requested, without embarrassment and with evident enjoyment.


At last, completely sated, Jeremy was ready to nap, when Tonya asked, “Hey, are you hungry?”


“Well, yeah, as a matter of fact, I’m starved.” Jeremy said.


Tonya hopped up and started getting dressed, saying, “Okay, c’mon, lazybones. Let’s go eat.”


A computer program that wants to take me to dinner, Jeremy mused. Now, this was really different.


 


Tonya led Jeremy down virtual streets in a clean, beautiful city until they came to a little Italian restaurant. At the door, they were met by the owner and taken to a cozy corner table. Dark wood and table candles enhanced the intimate atmosphere.


A tall waiter brought a wine list, and soon they were enjoying a sumptuous meal. Tonya encouraged conversation by getting him started talking about himself. Throughout the meal, she positively sparkled, and Jeremy was sure he’d never had a better time.


When they were finished, Jeremy paid for their meal with a virtual credit card. Tonya asked what he’d like to do next.


“I don’t have any idea, really,” Jeremy replied. “Maybe you could think of something you’d like to do.”


Tonya smiled and stepped closer, kissing him on the lips. Then she whispered in his ear, “Oh, don’t worry Jeremy. I’ve always got ideas.”


 


The huge, gleaming Harley throbbed and vibrated between Jeremy’s legs. His feet buzzed on the footboards and his hands tingled. Behind him, Tonya hung on, her arms wrapped tightly around his waist, as the engine roared and the wind whipped their hair. Her voice in his ear urged him on, telling him to go faster, faster.


They wound through mountains on two-lane blacktop at speeds that were exhilarating and insane, the speedometer seldom showing below ninety, the exhaust note of the incredible machine bouncing and reverberating off sheer rock walls beside the road. Jeremy smelled pine trees and hot oil, tire rubber and perfume.


They came out at last onto level ground and the landscape abruptly turned to desert. Tonya urged him on, and sometimes pointed the way. He kept asking where they were going, but she said it was a surprise.


Soon, they came to a military gate, with a sentry who saluted and made them sign in; then they rolled onto a concrete apron in front of a giant hangar and Jeremy parked the motorcycle, catching glimpses of himself in the multiple glass panes of the hangar doors.


He was no longer small and nerdy-looking. Gone were the glasses and the plain white shirt with the pocket protector full of pens. In the virtual world his reflection was that of a tall, tanned, muscular man, wearing a tank top and tight jeans. A tattoo showed on one shoulder and his long hair was pulled back in a ponytail.


A white-shirted engineer carrying a clipboard approached and said, “Good morning, sir. Your plane’s all ready. They’re just rolling it out now.” He turned and pointed to the hangar, where now the doors were open and a crew was rolling out an experimental jet. “Rockwell X-19” was emblazoned in red on the polished metal of the fuselage, and painted just below the canopy rail Jeremy could see the words, “Jeremy Loggins, Test Pilot”.


“But...but, I don’t know how to fly...” Jeremy said.


From his side, Tonya snuggled against him and said, “You couldn’t ride a motorcycle either, but you got us here just fine, didn’t you?”


Jeremy approached the plane and looked it over, as the ground crew was rolling portable steps and a start-cart into place. He reached up and patted the leading edge of a swept wing and felt cool, hard metal under his fingers.


The engineer brought him a G-suit, and soon he was dressed for his flight and they were helping him into the cockpit. Once he was seated and strapped in, the ground crew took away the steps and signaled him to start engines.


He was looking the panel over, wondering what to do, when a soft, female voice in his headset began to guide him to the proper switches and levers. The voice of the plane took him through the startup procedure, and he moved the throttles to idle. In his headphones he heard the tower call him and clear him to taxi to the active runway.


When he arrived at the active, they cleared him for takeoff and wished him luck. Jeremy pushed the throttles to full military and lit the afterburners. The acceleration rammed him back into his seat, pinning him there as the virtual plane gathered speed and lifted clear of the runway.


“Gear up, Jeremy,” the airplane said in his ear, and he found the gear lever and raised it, watching the panel display change to gear-up configuration.


“Keep an eye on your fuel, and let’s have fun,” the voice said. Jeremy proceeded to take the plane through its paces, feeling G-forces as he turned, hearing pumps whine and valves thump and bang as they activated, and listening to radio traffic.


Suddenly, red streaks of tracer rounds flew by the canopy, and another jet shot past and began a turn. The voice in his ear said, “Enemy aircraft, Jeremy. You’re unarmed. You’ll have to outfly him.”


 


“Avast there, ya thievin’ bahstards!” Jeremy shouted, waving a cutlass and stomping his wooden leg. Tonya was at his side, all done up in her wench outfit, corset lacing barely holding in her breasts. “Lay aloft there, and tighten the bloody mains’l, or we’ll never catch them scurvy rats! Roll up the chaser cannon an’ give ‘em a shot ‘cross their bows! Yarrr!”


The pirate ship “Bloody Jack” was just off the Barbary Coast, in pursuit of yet another victim, and tonight there would be much wenching and drinking as they split up the booty. Jeremy loved being a pirate. He relished the smell of the sea and the creaking of taut lines and the Jolly Roger snapping in a good breeze. Sometimes he would wear an eye patch, and once he even had a parrot named Mike.


 


The sun glared down on the near-whiteness of the dusty street. At the far end, against the backdrop of a white church, the Barton Brothers stood, defiantly staring at Jeremy. He glanced down at his Deputy’s star and boots and the two Colt Peacemakers in tie-down holsters, and took a deep breath. Saving the town was all up to him now, since the Bartons had killed the sheriff. Over in the Longbranch, Miss Tonya and the others waited to see if he would return. He glanced up past the brim of his white Stetson at the angle of the sun. High noon. He flexed his hands in their black leather gloves and started his walk, spurs dancing and jingling, all thoughts of computers and his previous existence in the real world gone from his mind.


 


Lieutenant Jake Roland was the investigating officer. He arrived at the old, dilapidated house about twenty minutes after the call was first broadcast. He greeted the beat cop on the front porch, who was keeping reporters and the curious at bay, and stepped inside to the smell of putrefaction. The body had not been touched.


A lab investigator offered him a paper mask and a jar of Mentholatum, and he took them gratefully, putting a dab of the smelly ointment inside the mask to kill the odor of death.


The deceased, one Jeremy Loggins, white male, thirty, was seated in a chair before a computer. He was wearing some type of tight-fitting suit and a complicated helmet. He had been dead long enough that his remains had mummified. Lieutenant Roland ordered the remains removed intact, leaving the suit and helmet to be removed by the medical examiner.


 


Four days later, Lieutenant Roland returned to the old house with the virtual reality helmet and suit. They had been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected by the medical people; he had been assured they were safe to use.


 Roland broke the seal on the front door and entered the explosively hot interior of the house. It still smelled of death. He opened several windows to air the place out, then examined the computer, noting that its drive was still running and that nothing had been disturbed.


The medical examiner had determined that Jeremy Loggins had died of starvation and dehydration. Further investigation had revealed that his bank account had been bled of every red cent. Lieutenant Roland badly needed to know why anyone would sit at a computer and let those things happen.


He undressed and put on the suit, feeling faintly ridiculous, then carefully placed the helmet on his head and plugged in the leads. He sat in a kitchen chair, to avoid using the death chair, which had not been cleaned.


He hit the “enter” key and sat back as the program started.


“Damn! This is cool!” he muttered. Then all was still.


 


The End


 


 


Kenneth Crist, blkptls@cox.net, of Wichita, Kansas, wrote “The Big Well” and “Virtuality” for BP #75 (+ “Gift of the Anasazi” for BP #73, “The Weeping Man” for BP #72, “Pebbles” for BP #71, “The Diner” for BP #67, “New Glasses” for BP #61, “Ones and Zeros” for BP #50, and the novelette Joshua) and has edited BP for many years, continuing as Editor Emeritus, then Coeditor/Webmaster. Widely published, especially in Hardboiled and on Yellow Mama, he also has four chapbooks for sale in Kindle format on Amazon.com, Dreaming of Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning for Burial, his latest zombie e-fiction.




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