of falling. It was a way to blow off a couple hours.
Pedro said it reminded him disconcertingly of “Lost,” a TV show I’d never heard of, but apparently it took place in an island in a tiny universe. It reminded me of a similar quality in “Land of the Lost,” an obscure old TV show that he’d never heard of. We exchanged notes on both shows - all of us talked about TV a lot, actually - and a few days later, both Lost and the other show turned up as options on the TV-chairs.
Pedro was obsessed with sex. Talked about it constantly. None of us had any kind of sex drive anymore - why would we? - but he wouldn’t shut up about it, movies he’d watched, things he’d done, things he’d wanted to do, but never had the right combination of pulleys, electrical equipment, health monitors, scuba equipment, circus clowns, supermodels, barnyard animals, and TV cameras. I’m exaggerating a bit - no barnyard animals, though he did have a thing for clowns. I’m assuming it was a psychological addiction. It didn’t bother me too much since he was easy to distract with talk of some old TV show or another. (Me: “What about Star Trek?” Him: “Star Trek is for fags, man!”) There was a woman kinda’ like him, and it was only a matter of time before they tried to get it on. In Heaven. With an angel at the ticket counter.
Predictably, it didn’t get far. Our clothes didn’t come off. I suspected that there wasn’t anything beneath them. The two of them kept trying to undress, however, and finally Pedro freaked out and started trying to hack off his own foot with the metal edge of one of the tables. He went increasingly manic, and then he disappeared. No “poof,” just gone.
More angels came. Stern men in business suits with wings. They would ask one or another of us to go with them. None of the people who left ever came back. My terror replaced my postmortem boredom (Which would have been a great band name, had I thought of it in my youth, and had I ever had a band). I took to jumping to my death several times a day to calm down. There were also a few more painless riots. And one falling riot, where a bunch of us fell off the walkway in a brawl. That was kinda’ fun.
Presently the angels came for me.
“No,” I said, and I tried to get away. One of ‘em touched me, and suddenly I was in a different place, a wood-paneled room with the same exact view out the window as the lounge. A perfectly normal-looking woman was seated at a desk. She pushed a button, and the angels said “By your leave,” and disappeared.
“Please have a seat, mister Amherst,” she said.
“No thanks, I’d rather stand,” I said.
“You’re going to want to sit down for this,” she said.
“I doubt it. I’m dead, I’m off to hell.” I said.
“No,” she said, “You’re the County Hospital in Kearny, Nebraska.”
“Maybe I will have that drink,” I said absently and sat down.
“You were involved in a very bad car accident -”
“Yeah, I know that.”
“- And for the last eighty-four hours you’ve been in an experimental virtual simulation, as part of a project run jointly by the Universities of Nebraska and Kentucky.”
Eighty-four hours? About three and a half days?
“Where was I before that?” I asked. She seemed confused.
I tried again, more specifically: “Where was I prior to getting hooked up to this machine thing of yours?”
“At your son’s house for Thanksgiving, I believe.”
“No, no, we’ve been in here for nearly a month.”
“No,” she corrected, “You’ve been in here for less than four days. The simulation runs faster than real time. We’ve been handling this as fast as we could. I am sorry for that. There were a lot of people injured in that crash, more than a hundred and forty. Sixty have died. It takes a lot of time to sort that big a disaster out.”
I let it sink in for a moment (Which was apparently about an eighth of a moment in the real world)
“So…I’m not dead?”
“And my body is…uhm…oh, God, they were talking about taking my leg off…” I panicked.
“I’m not going to lie to you, you’re in pretty bad shape. It’s not expected that you’ll survive.”
“So I’ll have to die? Again?”
“You haven’t died yet,” she said.
“Beg to differ, doc,