Ok, here’s my submission for the #nycmidnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2011. 1,000 word maximum (I’m at 999); the prompts were sci-fi (genre), a wig (object), a drug rehab (place). Not the best piece I’ve ever written, but whatever: it’s been a long time since I wrote anything, fiction or otherwise.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In the real world, the survival rate for virtual reality addiction is 99%. In the Vurt, the survival rate for glyph (the Vurt’s version of virtual reality) addiction is 1.61% – which would you choose?
Om. That’s what I’m supposed to say. Over and over again. ‘Om.’ It’s supposed to make me relax or something. Stop thinking about the itchy-scratchy parts that are like all over me. All over. Everywhere. Every. Where. Itchy. Scratchy. Snakes and spiders. That’s what they are when my eyes are closed: snakes slithering up my legs, molting along the way; spiders in my hair, bursting from their egg sacs and scrittering down around my ears and into them and over my eyes, getting caught in my eyelashes like they’re spiderwebs and the world is simply made of irony, the ass-end of which is always pointed at me.
I can’t keep my eyes closed because whenever they are, the snakes and spiders come back. When they’re open, I’m just itchy and I can sorta handle that, though I tend to get kinda finger-twitchy and foot-fidgety and my brain starts flowing heavily in the direction of WHEN THE FRICK IS MY NEXT BOOST? Not an ideal situation either, I can assure you.
But this is a group thing and every time someone opens their eyes or says something besides ‘Om’ we have to start all over again. Three ‘Oms,’ that’s all he’s looking for. Him being the instructor or counselor or whatever. Three ‘Oms’ together. As a group. So I keep my eyes closed, try to ignore the snakes and spiders and keep saying ‘Om.’
Eventually we all get three in a row. “Good,” he says softly and smoothly into the microphone at the podium we’re all facing in our hard plastic chairs. “Remember, this is a guided meditation, so just let everything go and hitch a ride on my voice. Let me be your guide.” Easy enough, I suppose. The snakes and spiders don’t seem quite as insistent when I actually let go and pay attention to what he’s saying.
“Now just relax and concentrate on your breathing: clean, energy-filled air enters your lungs with each inhalation and tension leaves your body with each exhalation.”
“Good. Goooood. Feel yourself getting cleaner with each breath.”
“Now, gently relax the muscles in your neck and begin to tilt your head back. Slowly, very slowly. Relax into it. A-aaaand, as your head falls back, you slowly open your eyes and look up and around you . . .”
“YOU’RE IN A FRICKEN REHAB!” he yells into the microphone, making us all jump in our seats.
“WHERE DID YOU THINK YOU WERE GOING? THE BLOODY FRICKEN CLOUD CITY RESORTS OF PHELINAS-6? Sometime in the not-too-distant past, you got yourself hooked on hopi, trag, glyph, spoon or some other perception-altering drug, were picked up by the constabulary, and ended up here for the next six months. This is not going to be a pleasant ride. Withdrawal hurts and death is a real possibility, especially for you nutjob glyphers. One in sixty-two – those are your chances. My opinion? You should’ve either spent your money right and boosted long enough to peacefully expire in that virtual glyph-world like everyone else does, or just jumped the consties when they caught you trying to get your fix – they’d’ve gladly given you a quick end.”
I rip the WIG (Worldwide Interfacing Galvanograph) off my hairless head and look down at my sweating, trembling, atrophied limbs. The waste receptacles attached to my body have long since filled to bursting; I have no idea how long I’ve been lying in my own filth.
I don’t know what’s worse: the addiction to the glyph I managed to develop in the Vurt or the addiction to the virtual reality itself. I mean, I knew I had it bad for the Vurt. Wasn’t too hard: life’s just better in the Vurt. I can be who I want, do what I want – as opposed to the Real, where I no longer have anything remotely resembling a life. I’d spent the last of my credits on the expensive “Captain of Industry” model WIG for my last go-round. One last hurrah: I knew I wasn’t coming back this time. Dying in the Real while living out my fantasy in the Vurt as a rich playboy of unlimited means should’ve been easy. All I had to do was enjoy myself in the Vurt until my body in the real just kicked off. How did I get hooked on glyph and bottom out so fast and so hard? Did I really think the Vurt’s version of the Vurt would somehow give me more than I already had? Why would I have carried my discontent into my fantasy?
One in sixty-two or a long, pretty horrible death in the Vurt of glyph withdrawal. I look at the receptors on the inside of my WIG – the ones that form an overlaying neural lace and provide the stimulus that locks my brain into the Vurt – and contemplate my chances. Good chance I’ll die ugly in the Vurt – which adds up to death in the Real. Even if I manage to be the one of sixty-two, I’ll still die in the Real: I doubt this malnourished, quivering puddle of jelly that is my body in the Real will survive six more months in the Vurt.
If I can manage to get to the door of this crappy little bolt-hole apartment I’m in, I’m sure I can flag down one of the omnipresent cops for a ride to the hospital. The survival rate for Vurt addiction here in the Real is like 99%.
Frick. Going back to the Vurt means guaranteed death in the Real, with only the snakes and spiders to keep me company. Getting to the apartment door is going to be tough all by itself, and there’s no way life in the Real afterward is going to be anything but worse than it was before I boosted in for this last ride.
My head hurts.
Putting the WIG back on, I think to myself, “I need to give this some more thought.”
“. . . Ok everybody, let’s break into small groups.”