"It won't hurt," she told me, as the cold metal clamped around my neck, adjusting itself to me.
I forced a smile, nervously. My fingers tapped upon arm rests. I struggled to relax in the padded chair. I could feel the tension mounting in my shoulders.
The fingers of Katie-Anne met my tense muscles on either side of the clamp, and massaged them. She was humming a tune, softly, and I found it relaxing. Yet I could not place its origin. For a moment, I had found tranquility. Blood ran awkwardly to my loins and I swelled. She was giggling. I didn't care.
Then, came the --
"Ahhhhhh, Christ!" the pincers dug into my neck, just below my skull, with a raw pain, leaving metal in the tiny wound. The pain lingered, echoing up and down my spine as it arched away from the chair concavely. My haptic desires had parted in that instant.
"See? Doesn't hurt at all," Katie-Anne teased, "you big baby."
Yeah, as they say, 'Everything is bigger in Texas'.
"What is this, the Matrix? Wait, am I your baby now?"
"The what, Adam?"
"Nevermind," I told her. "It's an old set of flat-graphic movies." All too prophetic for my taste.
"And, no, I won't be calling you baby," she mused, "just yet."
Gripping my arms, she swiveled my chair around to face its twin. Then, she took her seat across from me.
They looked like chairs for dental patients. Speaking of illegal technology, I could picture a set of dental droids leaning over us with sharp tools.
She pushed a button, and her foot-rest folded away. Then, another, and her chair moved towards mine. And she lay her feet upon mine in a strange but graceful gesture.
I was rubbing at my neck, wanting to ask we'd plug-in. But, that might be taken the wrong way. Heck, I might as well ask her to talk about sex again.
"Prepare to be immersed, baby."
She pushed another button, a green one, and then she gasped. Silence followed, as if she was no longer in the room. It was creepy, as if she was comatose. Then, her eyes moved again. And then, from her eye contact, I knew I was to do the same. My index finger moved, trembling, towards that same button upon my right-hand armrest.
And then her foot moved up, and hit it for me with her heel. There was a wicket grin upon her face. And at that moment, the chair took hold of my neck. This was not pain, though I was bruised. This was just entry, like food down the throat. I felt amusingly violated.
And I ceased to sense.
* * *
I had no ears, no tongue, no touch of inner or outer, and no thoughts. I was alone, though I knew not. And in the nothingness, emerged simplicity. An existence that was now.
I felt as if I had become a book. No, I was a menu. My mind returned, and I could think again. Sight returned, and I could see. But it was a different sight. It was a simple, two-dimensional awareness; as if I was limited to the reading of a page. The options were in my mind as if I'd known them all along.
The urge to escape tempted me for just a moment, and I pushed it to the back of my mind. I knew I could unplug. And I could even return, as she had done to press my button, if only to drink a sip of water in the real world, or visit the bathroom.
It baffled me, that they could be here in their sleep. And I wasn't even in a SIM yet. Just floating my awareness upon a menu.
There are two underground private servers running here of two distinct and popular sensory immersions, she explained things to me before I could peruse the help function. Somehow, she had found me amongst the Menu.
I'm listening, Katie.
One of them is a futuristic science-fiction universe of first contact, unique planets and strange societies. The other is a world that portrays ancient fantasy in great complexity. It puts to use myths and legends from many human cultures, and depicts a world where humans struggle against a land that does not want them. You've taken notes upon them both. Terrasend is my favourite. I will meet you at the starting point. You'll recognize me, even if I can't recognize you.
And before I could respond, she faded from the Menu.
This was educational. I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity. Now, it was about more than her smile.