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Infernis – Chapter Last

March 24, 2013

Chapter Last

A tethered mind freed from the lies.

The room felt bent, or perhaps oblong. The fluorescents on the ceiling Brian stared up at did little to bring the world back to right angles.

He heard the question, but it took his brain several seconds before he understood the words.

How are you feeling?

“A little dizzy,” he managed belatedly.

“That’s normal,” the doctor–Brian assumed the man was a doctor, what with the white coat and clipboard he was busy writing on.

The doctor finished his scribbling and slapped the pen on the board with finality.

“Now. We want you to know that the procedure should be reversible.”

“Re…reversible?”

“Well, you’ve made a few enemies. What are we to do with you? You’ll be helping us out with some research at the same time. We think you’ll be happy there. It’s a little…unpopulated at the moment, but that will change.

“I just need your signature, here.”

The doctor placed the pen in Brian’s hand and held the clipboard for him. Brian tried to read at the page, but his head felt so heavy he only scanned the top line before signing sloppily and settling back down on the gurney.

Consent form of some kind.

“But…I…I…helped. Right?”

“Yes, you did, Brian. Your country appreciates your efforts, your…sacrifices. And this is your reward.”

“But…”

“You still have questions. I think the important ones you have will be answered when you get there.”

“Where…?”

His eyes closed and he never heard the doctor’s reply.

***

Brian glanced in the mirror once more. It was his own face but gone was the small scar on his chin he had gotten seven years ago during fight rehearsal. So was the one on his left wrist, the souvenir of a broken épée during a performance fourteen years ago at a summer theater.

The gray, that he been fast encroaching beginning at his temples, sprouting all over his head, was likewise gone. What exactly had they done?

This question had replaced his first query regarding where he was. The house, which he had never seen before, seemed strangely familiar. He knew what awaited in each room before he entered them, and yet there was a strange newness about it at the same time and the knowledge that he had never been there before.

The colors all seemed a bit off, like a filter were being used or wearing a pair of glasses with a light blueish tint. The result was not unpleasant, but it invoked the feeling of being in a dream.

Brian put a hand to his chest. There was a heartbeat and it seemed to be in the proper location.

He decided it was time to take a walk around the neighborhood, to see if he could determine his location. He opened the front door and looked out.

There was little to see. Across the road, there were empty lots. Some, he supposed, had been cleared in preparation for new construction. Others held trees yet to be thinned out and have the property lines properly demarcated.

Brian stepped forward and onto the sand. He turned and looked behind his house. His house on beachfront property.

The sight of the ocean so near and taking up so much of his area of vision both excited and terrified him. He stood watching the waves and listening to the gentle surf for a moment before further exploring the landmass he stood upon.

His attention was eventually drawn to another house further down the beach. In fact, he checked every direction, it was the only other home in sight apart from his own.

He wasn’t the first to arrive here, but nearly so.

Brian began the walk to visit the neighbor. He didn’t seem to notice passing the same tree two or three times, nor the same crack in the road. He was too focused on his destination. He was both somehow excitedly anticipating the answer to a mystery and at the same time dreading an end to the suspense.

He stood outside the door to this other home. He studied the contours, the details, and then stared at his own distorted reflection in the oval glass windown in its front.

Brian at last reached a hand up to knock on the door. He knew who he would find inside.

***

The tour had halted outside a windowed chamber. The guide was now taking questions.

“What’s it like inside?”

“We are always making improvements, expanding the range of possible objects inside, but essentially, it is whatever the inhabitant wants within their own zone. We also use memory and feedback to make further improvements. Most people, when confronted with too many choices, can’t make a decision at all. So we make an educated guess as to what the user wants and allow them to make modifications from there.”

A silverhaired, orange-skinned industrialist from Atlanta asked, “So, it’s sort of like The Ma–“

“Oh, we don’t use the m-word around here. Copyright. We prefer to think of it as a little slice of Heaven. God doesn’t sue.”

There was a titter from the group.

“Can we see what they are seeing from out here?”

The guide glanced from the Coloradan real estate mogul to his technical aide who was shaking his head.

“Sorry, no. Privacy concerns.

“If there are no further questions, the General will be meeting you later for dinner and drinks and to address any further concerns you might have. In order to get this really off the ground it is going to take time and money. I can’t tell you beyond what we already have estimated exactly what that will be.

“But I can tell you that when we do get it operating the way we want, it will be indistiguishable from real life apart from the ability to do essentially anything one can imagine and of course without the need to age, without disease.

“And it has immense implications where population is concerned. Reduced requirements for food, space, even water and air, the world will no longer face the same challenges that have plagued us for the past decades.

“When it is done, gentlemen, I assure you…it is going to be bigger than Facebook.”

The tour drifted away now toward the exit as the guide ended with, “The IPO is going to be record-breaking!”

As each passed by the observation window, the potential investors looked in. Only two of the tubes were currently occupied. A technician was observing some graphs on a monitor.

The Atlantan stood by the window as the next potential investor looked in. He pointed at the tubes, “All of that fuss over two people.”

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From → Infernis, Novels

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