Monday, May 15, 2017

Story 224: On the Ends of Goods and Evils

The last feed went out, leaving the world outside a horrific mystery.  The harsh blue light from the screen that was now showing only a 'NO INPUT' message soon faded as Gerald turned everything off, forever.  The monitoring room was done.  He thought he could already tell a difference.  He was certain that now, a month after the bombs began to fall, they were finally alone.  All alone.

Just the eight of them here below, and death up above.

Gerald climbed up the ladder to the stasis room, where twelve shining pods lay waiting.  More than enough to fit them, if they all worked.  Instead the spares had already been gutted for parts, hollow under that shining facade.  Out of the dozen stasis pods, only one was fully functional.  Gerald felt cheated.  He had contributed the money, back when money meant anything.  That should have been enough.  But now they wanted him to clean sewage recyclers and scrape algae out of the dehumidifier.  Things he shouldn't have to do not only because of his monetary gift but because they should have all been in stasis pods by now instead of listening to Karen's 'plan B' for surviving and building an outpost above ground once things "calmed down".

Gerald knew planning for the future was idiotic.  There was no future, up there - just a painful radioactive death.  He should have been in the one working pod, plunged forever into a virtual reality paradise.  He had modeled it - well, had it modeled - after the house he grew up in.  He had grown up spending days lounging in his father's library, and now in the virtual world it would be ten times as large.  The life support would link with his neural implants and after a few months his body would die and his mind would be inside the machine.  That library could entertain him for a hundred years or more, and then maybe he would even dive into the less cerebral realm of television and movies.

But they wouldn't let him.

"We need every set of hands," Karen would say.  While Kylie and Jason worked on fixing the other seven pods he had persuaded Ian to keep putting finishing touches on Gerald's one working pod.  But now... he wondered if that was even the right choice.  What would stop one of the others from using it, to escape Karen's dictatorship?  They all seemed eager to help, but Gerald knew that couldn't be the case.  They must all feel the death lurking above them, surely one of them would soon snap and take his rightful place in that dream world.

There was a clanking on the ladder, and Ian came into view.
"I was just thinking about you," Gerald said, "I wanted to ask you... is the simulation ready?  Would I be able to go in now?"
Ian rested his arms on the floor around the ladder.  "Um.  Yeah, sure.  Absolutely.  I mean, I've just been tweaking things, it's ready to go.  I just have to... um.  Hey, why are you asking?  Didn't we agree we'd go together or not at all?  You know Karen says -"
Gerald stomped on Ian's head, sending him down the ladder.

He ignored the yelling, as he fastened the hatch.  The stasis room was built to be the most secure spot in the bunker, and while they might eventually break in it would be too late to betray him.  Gerald suspected Karen would even convince the rest to just leave him alone, so she could push them harder towards her insane dream of moving back to the surface.  It had only been a month, the last of the bombs were still falling.  She would be trapped for her whole life with that stupid, unreachable dream.

Gerald closed the lid of the pod over himself, and felt his implants engage.

The library looked amazing.  It even smelled right.  Positioning the wide chair by the window, he went to pick out a book.  Grabbing one at random - after all, he would eventually read them all -  he sat down to begin his new lifetime.

"Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat."

That couldn't be right.  He put down the book, pulled another from the shelf.  "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet..."  Another.  "Lorem ipsum..." Another.  And another.

Fine, Gerald thought.  There was a help system, in the form of a butler.  He rang the small golden bell on the end table, and a dignified man in a severe suit walked in.
"I need to adjust the language settings, I think."
"Sed ut perspiciatis, unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam eaque ipsa, quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt, explicabo."
"English.  Set everything to English."
"Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem, quia voluptas sit, aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos, qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt, neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum, quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt, ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem."
"No, no, no.  Just... go.  Get out."

The butler didn't move.  Gerald stormed past him and into the media room.  He turned on the television, and was confronted with a menu of Lorem Ipsum, Lorem Ipsum, Lorem Ipsum.  The computer.  A cookbook in the kitchen.  A droning voice on the radio.
"Ian!  Very funny, Ian!"
But it wasn't funny.  As the cold shock of the situation started to fade to numbness, he thought back and reassessed the last few weeks.  Gerald had to admit that he might have been a bit hasty.  Possibly there had been some psychological side effects from living in a bunker for a month watching the world end.  And just maybe he shouldn't have assaulted Ian before he was totally done.  Or, he grudgingly thought, at all.  But he had gotten his wish.  After a fashion.  Freedom from the lurking specter of death.  Trapped for his whole life with this stupid, unreachable dream.

Gerald fished around until he found a ream of blank paper in a drawer.  He took a pen from the jar on the desk, and sat down to refill the library.