'Beside an Open Window' is set 60 years into the future and looks at what the metaverse might look like then. The following is a small extract...
Jason went back to the bed, sat on the edge, picked up a booklet on the table that he hadn't noticed before. It had a white cover, blank but for the words 'Please read me, Mr Harlan' in large, black seriffed capitals.
He sighed, tried to break wind and failed. He opened the book and read.
Welcome to your new life in Twilight, Mr Harlan.
In a short while, someone will come to talk to you about where you are and what you're doing here. Please remain calm. There is no reason to become frightened or distressed.
The purpose of this booklet is to give you a basic understanding of your situation and some time by yourself to assimilate this information. Please do not worry: you are not alone. You are being monitored as you read this and if you should become distressed someone will come straight away to assist you. Please remain calm.
Please make sure you are comfortable. It might be a good idea to sit down whilst you read this. When you are ready to proceed to the next page, please-
Jason grunted impatiently and turned over.
If you have not already worked out where you are, then we are very sorry to have to inform you that you have passed away. In the physical world, you are now deceased.
For some bizarre reason, Jason looked down at his cock again, stared at it, nestled snugly within those think, strangely mousey pubes. Dead? Impossible. He felt suddenly odd, but not the sort of odd he would have imagined. Moments like this merited big, fleshy thumps in the chest, he supposed, and a pow feeling in the gut, but he felt none of this. It was the absence of these symptoms which unnerved him. He knew that he felt scared, but the physiology was absent. A phantom emotion, like a phantom limb: it existed, he could feel it, but the flesh and blood was nowhere to be seen.
What? Dead? Bollocks. He read on.
The specific circumstances of your death were:
Road traffic accident 5 June 2039 @ 14:07
You will be given more information about this event in due course.
2039? That date was over a year from now. It had to be some sort of set up. He tried to remember how he'd come to be here, but everything was blurred and grey. A meeting, yesterday. In an office. He remembered a rubber plant. Perhaps it was some sort of reality TV stunt. Had he agreed to a charity deal? If he had, he wouldn't have agreed to memory-altering drugs. He remembered being somewhere with Rachel yesterday. Had they fallen out? Ordinarily, days out with Rachel ended up in places and situations very different to this... whatever this was.
Right now, you are probably doubting the validity of this information. This is perfectly normal. You are probably also having difficulty remembering events from the last week or so: this is due to a simulated unconsciousness we impose on activation of your brain scan so that we can monitor its function prior to inducing consciousness. The fog will lift over the next hour or so. You will start to remember things which would have stood out for you in your thoughts at the time of your last scan. For example, if you had been anxious about an upcoming flight (our clients often choose to backup before travelling on aircraft) it is probable that this would be one of the things you remember first, starting with a vague feeling of anxiety and gradually becoming a more detailed memory.
We can help you a little on this. On the next page is a video of your pre-scan meeting. When you turn the page it will play. It is likely that you will recall this event – as the memory comes back to you – as something which happened yesterday. Be aware, however, that it could be a considerable period of time since this event happened in real life, depending on the frequency with which you performed your backups.
Jason turned the page. The paper lacked texture, it felt like some kind of laminate surface. He smelled it, out of habit; Jason always smelled the pages of the books he was reading (his brother had told him once it was a form of glue sniffing). The paper smelled of nothing. There was no smell to the book, to the bed, to him, to the room.
The video was presented in a small window in the middle of the page, with a scroll bar across the bottom. The usual sort of thing. It played automatically. He saw himself from the view of a camera in a ceiling corner that was looking down on a small office with a desk and three chairs. Rachel was beside him. A man in a tweed jacket came in from behind and sat opposite, crossed his fingers on the desk, said, Yes, we have a slot in about an hour, actually. There's been a cancellation. That's just enough time to go through the literature with you. Can I get you a coffee first?