The two short exercises below were created as part of a homework assignment to create a ritual and describe it from the point of view of a native familiar with the ritual and then the point of view of an unseen observer who was unfamiliar with the same ritual.
It’s funny how it’s always the same people who go into Downtime at the same time as me. There’s the ‘office guy’, the grungy ‘alternative’ girl, the bookish student who always seems unsure of what she’s doing and of course, the ‘big dumb jock’. I guess in our private little Breakfast Club, I’d be the loner, the guy who never quite fits in. ‘Fitting in’ is a thing of the past now though, of course.
We all arrive at the booth at more or less the same time. Dumb Jock is always last, dragging his feet in reluctantly. He always has some smart mouthed comment for one of us, we always ignore him. I like the booths, the beds are comfy, the sheer white of the walls makes me feel kind of pure, like after every Downtime I’m born again. There’s still no better way of connecting to the Link. This way has worked for years, with only a few neural overloads to speak of. Acceptable losses.
It happens, as it always does, when we lie down on the beds. The ‘trodes snake their way out of the underside of the bed and slide gracefully into the ports on our collarbones. I love the tingly feeling you get as the connection is made and the reassuring click of the ‘trode into the port. Office Guy doesn’t seem to like it much. I guess he was an Original, he’s old enough to be one.
I can feel a woozy grin on my face as I slip down into the Dream, like I’m the happiest drunk in the world. Everything goes dark for a moment as I close my eyes and feel the data begin to stream out of me. Nothing else matters except the Stream now. I feel the grin widen as I remember the TV ads; ‘Stream into the Dream, because caring is sharing!’
I’m dimly aware that something is wrong in the room, Bookish Student is convulsing. There’s something wrong with her Stream. Her gurgling and choking is the last thing I hear before the Dream hits. Acceptable losses.
As I watch the feed on the camera, four people enter the small pod, followed a little later by a fifth. They all seem like ordinary people; there’s an office worker, three students and another guy who thinks he’s a student or some kind of non-conformist anyway. They don’t have much interaction with each other, aside from the male student saying something off colour to the girl in the ripped cardigan. She flips him the finger before settling down on her cot.
That’s when it gets strange. All five of them lie down, each one like the limb of a five pointed star, their heads close together in the centre of the structure. I watch in confusion as wires seem to move from under the cots, as if they were alive and aware somehow. These wires then move with purpose until they are pressed into the collarbone of each person. At first I thought they had stabbed their way into the body, in the manner of a needle, but I was wrong. In fact the wires entered the body through what appeared to be an access port on the bone. I had no idea what to make of this. Were these people actually machines? Some kind of cyborg?
I continue to watch, fascinated and horrified at the same time by this spectacle in front of me. This connection to the wires doesn’t seem to be harming the five of them, in fact they all look happy, peaceful almost, as the wires settled against their bodies, like a snake resting on a branch. Then something begins to happen to one of the girls. She tenses up, her whole body held tight for a few seconds before she begins to flail around, her hands unconsciously pulling at the wire. She begins to foam at the mouth, and the foam begins to turn bloody as she bites into her tongue. None of the others move or show any awareness. No alarms sound. While I’m still trying to take in what I’m seeing, the feed goes dark.