Reality

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Bill Riccard was moderately good looking, moderately healthy, moderately intelligent, moderately educated - a science graduate - and moderately confused. In short, he was a young man like so many young men today - nice, but with his share of weaknesses.
Irrespective of his personal traits, there were three facts of his life that were responsible for making him one of the most important persons of the time: he was totally alone in the world; he was acquainted with Dr. Juliana Morecamb, the famous electronics engineer; and he was hard up for cash.

Because he was acquainted with Dr. Morecamb, he came to know about her project of creating the ultimate virtual reality machine. Because he was hard-up for cash, he volunteered to be the guinea pig to test the machine. And because he was alone in the world, no one tried to stop him.

On the day of the test, in Dr. Morecamb’s lab, Bill, his head shaven clean as per instructions, nervously fidgeted in his chair.

“No need to be nervous,” Juliana Morecamb smiled reassuringly. She held a metal cap in her hands.

“Have you decided on a name for that thing?” Bill asked, pointed at the metal cap.

“I was thinking of a catchy name. I think I am going to call it the Minder.”

“Just tell me again what is going to happen when I wear that cap.”

“Nothing much. I am going to put this cap on your head. There are microprobes embedded on the inner side of the cap. These probes will painlessly penetrate your cranium and get attached to the sense centres on your brain. When I press a button on this remote control panel, a program will be downloaded directly in your brain.” Shifting the weight of the cap to her right hand, she used her left hand to wipe a wild strand of hair from her face.
She is cute, he thought.

“The program that I am using for the test run is of skiing in the Alps. Once the Minder takes over your mind, you will stop seeing what you see now, you will stop hearing what you hear now, you will stop feeling what you feel now. What you see, hear, smell, taste, feel is what the Minder has downloaded in your brain. Within a few moments, you will be skiing expertly down a slope in the Alps. And there would be no way that you could distinguish the illusion from reality.”

“Wow! Virtual reality taken to its nth power.”

“You could say that.” She smiled with a hint of pride of her achievement.

“If this thing works, it will revolutionize the whole field of entertainment.”

“Oh, well! Let us wait and see.”

“And will make you rich.”

“Could be.”

“Will you marry me?”

She laughed. “You seem to have lost your nervousness.”

With a deft movement, she put the Minder on his head and pressed a button on the remote control panel. Just for a moment, he felt like millions of tiny ants crawl around on his cranium. Then he lost touch with reality - or rather, he walked from one reality into another.

He was no longer in the laboratory of Dr. Morecamb. He was skiing down a steep slope in the snowy Alps. His dress was different, suitable for skiing. Wind, mixed with tiny flakes of snow, blew in his face. He could see the whiteness spread all around him. He could see other people skiing around him, hear their shouts of laughter. And he could ski, even though he had never done it in real life.

Then suddenly everything went black. Dr. Morecamb had probably shut the Minder off.

Slowly, he came back to the other reality - the reality where he was sitting in a chair in Dr. Morecamb’s laboratory. He opened his eyes.

The Minder had done something more than it was supposed to do. It had opened a new pathway of perception. His awareness now encompassed the quantum superposition of objects. He could now see through the layers of reality.

So Bill saw.

He saw Dr. Morecamb. She was in a void. She had a Minder on her head and through the Minder she was dreaming that she was living in a world where she had invented the Minder for the first time and she was in a laboratory with a man called Bill Riccard, who was helping her test it.

THE END?

About the Author: 
Ahmed A. Khan is a Canadian writer whose works have appeared in various venues including Interzone, Strange Horizons, Anotherealm, etc. He maintains an irregular blog at http://ahmedakhan.livejournal.com.