WP: You pull off your headphones and the whole world shifts. You’re now sitting in a futuristic mall with some sort of VR headset in your hands and a smiling clipboard-wielding lady asking about “The Virtual Life Experience”. The problem: your “virtual” life is the only one you can remember.
My stomach dropped and my head felt like it had been struck by a lightning bolt. My eyes couldn’t focus, everything was too bright, too artificial and my eyes were blurry as if rejecting this reality.
I began to pick up noises. Realising that it wasn’t a faint buzzing but actually someone speaking I focused on the sound, wanting to hear what they were saying.
Where was I?
I looked down at my hands to what I was holding, blinking as my vision began to clear, like a heated car windscreen after a cold night. It was some kind of headset, like one of those VR headsets that they use for gaming, only it was much larger, resembling a helmet.
“So as you can see, the Virtual Life Experience offers a unique user immersion-”
“Sorry, where am I?” I interrupted the lady holding the clipboard.
She was wearing a white business suit with a bright pink tie with hair and lips to match.
Taken back by my abrupt interruption she smiled at the onlookers who had been watching whatever I had been doing. It was suddenly that I realised I was exposed, out on an open shop floor, being watched.
“You’re in the shopping mall, your experience in the machine is quite intense, you may need a few moments to remember this reality.”
She continued explaining the system to the onlookers as I faded in and out.
What was going on?
Barely five minutes ago I had been listening to my headphones on the tram through Paris en route to the Eifle Tower. Had that not been real?
“The Virtual Life Experience can be used for many people, from disabled people who want to recreate a life unhinged by disability, to the elderly who want to try and recapture their youth through new and exciting experiences.”
I thought I remembered seeing a program about this once, a Black Mirror episode I think it was, about a virtual reality where the user could live a different life in San Junipero and upload their consciousness to the cloud.
Was that where I had been?
I stepped off the machine and handed the lady the headset, walking off into unknown territory, feeling like Indiana Jones as I explored new lands.
I almost laughed at myself.
“Kerry!” A tall man behind me laughed as he touched my shoulder, “Where are you going?”
“I…I’m sorry. I don’t know who you are.”
“Don’t play silly buggers.” He grinned. Was I the kind of girl who made stuff up to get a reaction? Was he expecting me to laugh and push at his shoulders like I was just joking?
When I didn’t react his face fell.
“Kerry. Are you being serious? Nothing at all?” His lips formed a straight line.
“I warned you before you got in-” He stopped himself as he raised both hands and took a breath.
He grabbed my shoulders and looked into my eyes with those lovely mediterranean sea blue irises.
“We’ll sort this out.”
I nodded, giving him a half smile. This guy must really care about me.
All I could think about was Smithy, my boyfriend in the stupid virtual reality world. He wasn’t real. None of that had been real. This guy in front of me was real.
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Paulo. Your name is Kerry and you are here, with me, looking for ideas for our wedding.”
My mouth hung open. Wedding?
“I don’t remember any of that.”
He half smiled at me reassuringly.
“The effects should wear off soon. You just need a few reminders.”
Was it wise to follow this man out of the safety of the shopping mall?
The man known as Paulo tenderly took my hand. It was cool, rough and manly and I remembered the feeling of these hands on my skin, caressing my thighs, my face.
I remembered his hands on my waist as he held me close, ran his fingers through my hair as we lazily laid on an island of soft cotton.
I stopped, making Paulo stop with me. Turning to look at me with a confused expression on his face I asked him to kiss me. He did and all the memories came flooding back, beautiful like all the colour had returned to the world. I felt the heat in my chest and the fluttering of butterflies in my stomach. I was in love.
I was in love with Paulo.