Behind Eyelids – Part Two

short story about virtual reality, Behind Eyelids – Part Two

Short Story

 

Phil ran his tongue along the back of his teeth. The steaming pot on the counter continued to hiss incessantly, drowning out all but his heavy heartbeat. Kelly moved back a barely perceptible inch, watching his expression like a mouse to an eagle.

In a whirling motion, Phil quickly leapt to his feet and stormed out of the kitchen, knocking his chair over with a crash.

“Phil!” Kelly scrambled to her feet and followed him into the living room across the hall. “I know, I know, I know, I know how you feel. Just come back. Come back to the kitchen. We can eat supper and talk about this. Baby…”

Kelly stood in the doorway as Phil towered over his recliner with the simulator in hand. With his back to her, he panted and shook, small dots of sweat bleeding through the back of his work shirt. His left fingers were clenched into a rock-hard fist while his right squeezed the bundled cords tight enough to strain the rubber.

“Phil,” Kelly said, letting some firmness seep back into her voice, “we don’t need you in New Zealand or Florida or China. We- I need you here. Come back to-”

With the Olympic power behind his arm, Phil flung the simulator to his left. It shot across the living room and slammed against the wall, leaving a dent in the plaster.

“Just…Just five…” he ran his fingers through his hair as his shoulders tensed. “Just five minutes. Give me five minutes.”

“I can’t,” Kelly pleaded. “Because that’s five minutes of you somewhere else.”

The two fell silent. An empty space ballooned between them as Phil steamed. Kelly wrung her hands together and almost gnawed a hole through her cheek. Phil turned to glance at where the simulator fell and the chipped paint of impact.

“Remember when we thought it was me?” Kelly said in an attempt to draw his attention back. “Doctor Young gave me all the pamphlets and prescriptions? And you stayed with me the whole time, you didn’t go to the simulator at all when we got home.”

Phil, possessed, glided toward the corner of the room, away from his wife. Kelly followed after, her voice growing more desperate.

“It goes both ways! There’s pills and stretches and exercises! Options! It’s really rare to be- to be totally impotent, and we might not have even been having sex at the right time! It’s not- It might not-” She stopped, her voice fading away.

Phil stooped to pick up the simulator. One of the trodes had come loose from the headset, a thin wire sticking jagged into the air. Using mostly his fingernails, he pried it back into place and stuck it back into the socket where he thought it had once been attached. Putting on the headset, he brushed past Kelly as he managed to attach the spinal contact against his lower back. Phil settled into his chair and slipped the interface glove over his left hand.

Kelly fumed, her soft features molded into hard metal.

“And so you run away. Again,” she said. There was as much fire in her voice as there was pain. She jabbed her finger at the apparatus on Phil’s head. “I’ll see that thing burn, I swear.”

He keyed the priming sequence on his glove and felt the simulator hum into its startup routine. Looking at Kelly, he held up his hand.

“Five. Minutes.”

“God damn it,” she cursed, storming out of the room. Phil waited until he heard her feet click the tile of the kitchen floor before he flipped the interface switch. As his vision began to fade, a small twinge of pain pinched his right temple. As he wondered at its meaning, the sensory interface began to prime the rest of his body into darkness.

All at once, Phil dropped.

He sat in his recliner in the perfect simulated replica of his home, built from his own memories. He stood, the sensation of movement perfectly in line. As he walked, the room moved. As he turned his head, his vision moved, with no delay or lagging. He took a moment to count his fingers and to remember his name.

Without a moment’s pause, he strode into the kitchen, finding a simulated Kelly sitting at the kitchen table. She stood and came after him as he walked past.

“Are you ready? To talk, I mean?” she asked.

Phil ignored her and instead grasped the pot of boiling pasta on the stove, turned, and threw it into her face.

 

next chapter: Behind Eyelids – Part Three

previous chapter: Behind Eyelids – Part One

all chapters: Behind Eyelids

more by WILL HEMLEPP

photograph by unsplash.com

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