“What can I do for you today?”
“Client number 34162, VR #34, 1 hour.”
“Ah, let me pull up your file. Good to see you again, Mr. Corris. A one hour in Section 3, that’s 59.95.”
“Here’s 60, keep the change.”
“Right this way, sir.”
The two men walked past the counter and brushed past the ghastly pink curtain that hung in the door frame behind it. Section 1 smelled the worst. It was old sweat, like a gym the week after New Years. Section 1 was also the only section that had privacy rooms, and subsequently, the only section that required an ID to get into. The virtual reality pods were designed to be soundproof, which proved both relieving and unsettling as they walked through Section 1. No noise could be heard, but both men knew that quite a bit was being made.
Each pod was hidden behind more garish curtains, but here and there were vacant pods that reeked of loneliness. Towels, water, and cleaning supplies were next to each pod in Section 1. It should have been an unspoken rule to.. Clean your pod once you were finished, but every once and a while, you’d be lucky enough to see a customer get shamed at the mess they’d left. What you didn’t see was the extra shame: the cleaning bill.
Section 1’s hallway soon turned brighter, giving way to Section 2. Here the pods weren’t private, as with the first section, but it was more empty. Section 2 housed fantasy seekers, and though they were quite popular when they were first introduced, usage had plummeted when VR MMO’s hit the scene. Why pay 60 dollars an hour to have your own world constructed around you, when you could pay once to have an experience you could reenter whenever you pleased? Granted, the VR Helmet might run you a bit in the red, but that hadn’t discouraged people. The two men kept walking until the hallway turned a brighter shade of grey.
Section 3 was a tossup. People came for all kinds of things. The memory manipulation VR pods had a lot of potential. You could see older people coming in to relive their glory days, sometimes it was to relive a memory of someone who had passed on. Section 3 felt different from the others. The others were all a lie. Forming some construct of a thing that you really wanted, whether sexual or fantastical. Section 3 was a walk down memory lane. It was as real as it could be.
Corris thanked the man, and climbed into his pod. The cigar shaped tube closed around him with a hiss, and the holographic HUD appeared before him. A simple readout of his name and client number sprang to life in the upper corner of the screen, followed by a waveform matching the cool robotic voice that began to speak.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Corris. Would you like to replay a memory, or upload a new one?”
“Good afternoon, Korinna. I’ll replay today.”
“Of course. Memory 1, I assume?”
Corris sighed as he felt the machine lull him into a semi-sleep state, preloading the memory. A slight mist filled the pod, drowsiness overtaking him immediately.
“There’s no other memory I want.”
There was only a brief moment of remembrance, only a few seconds of knowing you were in a memory. The brain was more or less replaying exactly what was in your head. You would feel the same feelings, have the same thoughts, react the exact same ways that you had, but it would all feel as though it were happening in that instant. Corris always remembered as he walked to his chair. He knew from multiple uses that he would forget the second he sat down, that he would shake it off like a sudden chill, and he wanted nothing more.
He sat in his white leather chair and reached out with his right hand, picking a glass of scotch up off the table next to him. He closed his eyes and smelled it, letting his lungs fill with the aroma. He opened his eyes and looked out the window the chair was facing. The entire wall before him was a single transparent sheet of glass, separating him from the beach and ocean just a few yards beyond. He watched the waves roll, saw the wind play with the trees that dotted the sand. No one would call him. No one would ask him to work. It was his day off. His only day off. He wasn’t tired from overdoing it at the gym, he didn’t have blood on his hands, he didn’t hear anyone whimpering, crying, choking, or screaming. All he heard was silence. All he felt was peace. He took a slow sip from his glass and felt it warm his throat. He gazed out at the sea, watching the ocean push and pull at the sand.
Corris knew that the serenity wouldn’t last, but he didn’t care. He wanted nothing more than to exist in that instance for as long as he could. And for the better part of 6 years, for one single hour every other Friday night, he forgot that the work continued, he forgot that the world moved on. He forgot everything he had done since that moment, and relived the happiest he had ever been.