I’m going to quit today, Henry said to himself. I’m going to, dammit.
But his sneakers kept creeping, drawn towards the VR coffin-bank on 31st and Main. And as he saw the gaudy red-and-blue neon “open” sign flash, Henry felt his resolve crumble.
His feet began to stride involuntarily. His head was light, floating. And Henry felt the giddy anxiousness fill his belly.
He hated himself for this. For not being able to control it. Fucking Wendy. Dirty, nasty, fucking Wendy, Henry cursed. With your dirty, nasty fantasies…
Earlier that day, during AP Physics in block C, Wendy had IM’d Henry, “I want to 69 you while floating over the Red Forest.”
Henry froze and felt every cell in his body shiver. All the functions on his tablet suddenly became gibberish.
He glanced furtively at Wendy’s desk behind him. Henry saw the top of her head. Her coarse black hair wrapped in an untidy bun.
Her fingers danced on her tablet. While she dragged variables, solved equations and drew graphs with her left hand, Wendy’s right hand tapped-danced on her keypad.
“Your avatar will be Duke Xiang of Qi. Mine will be your half-sister Wen Jiang. We will sneak into the warm, sweet night and commit hot, sweaty incest.”
Henry’s armpits grew unbearably warm. His cock stiffened.
“I’ll giggle and punch you lightly, and we’ll spar a bit. We’ll leap from one tree branch to another, until we’re flying through the air like the wi-fu movies.
“And then we’ll wrestle. Our robes fluttering against the North Wind. I’ll accidentally slip my hand beneath your embroidered hanfu.”
Henry spied Wendy again. To everyone else in class, she was the plain-faced, demure, diligent student hard at work. Not the VRV sex-addict Henry secretly knew.
And when the bell rung, Henry also knew Wendy would quietly shut off her tablet, pick up her school bag and walk out, not for a single moment acknowledging his existence IRL, meat-space.
He was utterly, helplessly, pathetically under her control. Or, at least, that’s what Henry liked to tell himself.
Because the truth was, while he loved the teenage melodrama of being controlled by a dominant woman, he often wondered, how much of this was Wendy and how much of it was the VR-verse?
See, here’s the challenge, Henry often reasoned to himself. He could, technically, have sexual fantasies about the girls at his school.
He could stand over the toilet bowl at home, squeeze his eyes real tight, and visualize what it would be like to fuck them.
And if he strained, he could even experience the sights and sounds and smells of doing it in an exotic land, like the pseudo-Ancient China Wendy proposed with carved pagodas, cherry blossoms and full moons.
At best, his human imagination could only produce brief and incomplete flashes that took up every ounce of his willpower and imagination.
This, compared to the VR-verse. 100% neural engagement. Full-spectrum sense-stims.
With one week’s allowance, he could experience hours of pure bliss in a fully immersive, interactive, shared hyper-reality.
What’s more, instead of flat-as-a-board plain-jane Wendy with her horn-rimmed glasses… Henry would be with her stunning avatar. Always with high cheek-bones. Full lips. Lush lashes. And respectable B-cups.
Henry stood at the glass entrance of the VR coffin-bank storefront.
It was dark inside, as always, awash in a haunting, phosphorescent blue glow. Mr. Takei sat on a metal stool behind the front desk, hunched over his tablet. Bookkeeping perhaps.
Next to him was a curtained entrance. And behind that, Henry knew, were two shelves of VR-coffins, stacked three high in rows of six, like the refrigerated chambers in a morgue where dead bodies slid in and out.
Henry placed his hand on the door handle and felt the cool aluminum.
I’m in love with Wendy’s imagination. Her mind. That’s noble, right? Henry justified. I mean, her fantasies are literary, poetic and beautiful. That’s something right?
Except, Henry couldn’t stop thinking about Muriel and last Friday.
He swung the door open and stepped inside. Mr. Takei looked up.
Henry nodded politely, walked past Mr. Takei and through the veiled entrance.
He drugged his feet onwards, rushing past the sitting room, ignoring the four-piece sectional where Muriel and he sat last week.
He pushed through more heavy black curtains until he was inside the cold chamber, where the VR-coffins hummed. Number 23 was slightly ajar.
All Henry had to do was climb in, attach the neural-helmet and hit go. Henry knew Wendy would have already uploaded herself to their private cloud server. She was usually early for their sessions.
But he hesitated. It’s now or never, Henry. You can’t keep going on like this. It’s not real. What you shared with Muriel on Friday… that was real.
He thought about Friday. It felt surreal. Henry’s fractured memories flashed in brief and incomplete clips. Unsynchronized images and sounds.
“I dunno,” Muriel laughed. “Haven’t you ever wondered?”
“No,” Henry heard himself say. “Not really.”
“Never? You never thought what it would be like I.R.L.?”
“I dunno. We have VRV now. It’s kinda like comparing our 48K res, 480fps wallscreens to our grandparents’ 4K 1080i flatscreens, y’know what I’m saying?”
“Yeah, but c’mon. TV is flat. And even so, VR is still a bunch of ones and zeroes. What we have, I mean, that’s infinitely more complex. I mean, it’s analog.”
She said “analog” with the slowest, sexiest drawl Henry had ever heard.
“Yeah. I guess…”
“OK. You know what? I want you to kiss me.”
“Yeah. Kiss me. In meat-space. IRL.”
“It’s just weird. That’s why.”
Muriel leaned in until their foreheads touched. “C’mon. Do it.”
Henry felt the blood rushing, pulsing in his temples. His stomach dropped. His forearms tingled.
He moved his lips towards Muriel’s. They were soft and wet and crinkly and greasy with chap stick all at the same time. She smelled and tasted like strawberries.
It was an electric jolt.
Henry pulled away. Breathless. And kissed her again.
This time, he probed through her lips into her mouth, and tapped against the hard, glistened ivory of her teeth before their tongues bumped against one another and Henry felt his entire being vibrating. Quivering. Shaking.
It was impossible to describe. It was unlike anything Henry had ever felt before in hyperreality. And yet, it was “unreal”.
Henry snapped back. He was still facing the bank of VR coffins in front of him. ☣
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Jinn Zhong…
Dido Building Carthage painted by J.M.W. Turner
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Nicholas Brack, Dogwood Daniels and Jinn Zhong) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast. Listen to the episode here:
Listen to the podcast in the player above, or subscribe via iTunes, GooglePlay or Stitcher. What the heck is “Garage Fiction”? Since January 2015, a small group of storytellers committed to writing a piece of fiction every week… and then getting on a podcast to talk about it.