Bad Connection

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“Of all the things that I regret,” she sighed, “I regret letting go the most. It was my choice, after all, but once made, you can’t take it back. You can’t go back. After walking the Dreamlands, the Slow World loses its shine. It is dull and cold, weighted like lead in water while I am used to floating across glimmering infinity. You just can’t go back after knowing what that feels like.”

She sighed again and took a long, slow sip of a luminescent tea before her on the table. Her eyes were unfocused and slid around the room, never quite focussing on anything in particular.

A man sat before her, cyborg-fingers fluttering across a holographic keyboard as he documented everything that he saw like some sort of journalist. He nodded at the glowing tea and, despite her glazed eyes continuously shifting, she smiled vaguely and replied.

“Jacking directly into your Conduit and the enhanced stimulation of your nervous system dehydrates you. You have to replace the spinal fluid as well as vitamins, minerals and other stuff. Do you know how most Dreamers die?”

Her eyes snapped into focus and looked directly at the man. Her eyes were eerily light-blue; apparently, eye color was lightened by long-term abuse of the Dreaming app. He seemed to shift, uncomfortable under her direct gaze and shook his head.

She smiled sadly, a glimmer of her old-self there. She had been beautiful once, long before the abuse had eaten into her body. And, as quick as it had appeared, it retreated and her old-self was gone again leaving behind the husk of a human that she had become.

“Dehydration,” she stated coldly, almost entirely detached from what she was saying and how it was relevant for her, “Eventually the Slow World is too much to bear and the Dreamer puts off disconnecting longer and longer and longer… Eventually, the Dreamer taps out as their spinal fluid burns away and their body dies of thirst. The last part of the body to die is the mind.”

She took another sip of the glowing beverage and the corner of her mouth curled upwards. She put the cup down and absentmindedly wiped her hand off on her dress as if the object were somehow dirty.

“It is hard disconnecting,” she sighed, “Very hard coming back to the cold, slow version of reality.”

The man nodded, his extended, spidery-fingers silently fluttering away.

“Do you know about Limbo?” she started, her eyes locking with his again, “There is a moment in the Dreamlands where the Dreamer is aware that they will never wake up again. Their body is dead but their mind has not yet passed. It lasts for about six minutes of Slow Time. They know that this will be their final dream and–do you know what most of them do?” she asked smiling and leaning forward, her unnaturally light eyes suddenly feverish in their intensity, “Do you know what they say happens to the Dreamers in Limbo?”

“No, I don’t,” the man monotones, his cyborg fingers pausing in mid-air, “What do you think happens?”

“Well, time, obviously, doesn’t move at the same pace in the Dreamlands as it does in the Slow World,” she started recounting, detached again, her eyes sliding across the room, unseeing as she spoke, “So the six minutes where the body is dead and brain is dying can feel like an hour or a day or, perhaps, even longer in the Dreamlands. No one really knows, as the Dreamland app isolates brain-body disconnections and puts them in a secure socket layer. Probably a good thing or else the Dreamlands would be littered with corpses, and that would not really be all that fun to upload yourself into… Anyway, I have a theory. Wanna hear it?”

The man nodded, his fingers pausing in mid-air.

“I think those in Limbo relive their own versions–” she paused and raised her hands to her face, then outstretched her arms and her eyes focused on her fingertips, “It is cold. My fingers are going cold. Why are my fingers going cold?”

The man smiled and nodded. Suddenly she noticed how he has no distinguishing characteristics. Where was this room and how did she get here?

The piercing coldness in her fingertips was creeping up her hands, and then her arms. Her legs were frozen now too. The room’s details were beginning to get fuzzy and the image of the man began to blur and swirl into a soup of pixels before her very eyes.

“Oh, god,” she heaved, as the coldness entered her chest, began to crawl up her neck and towards her brain, “Oh-my-god, I am in Limbo, aren’t I? Aren’t I!

She could hear herself screaming but there was no air in her frigid lungs anymore and the ice was seeping into her brain…

The pixelated-AI’s fingers stopped fluttering, he smiled vaguely and nodded. He then tilted his head to the side and spoke to someone or something not present in that room:

Account, Diana Rothshaw #1087752, closed and the Dream Rental Contract is duly terminated. Cause of account closure is Fatal Cerebral Collapse and the Dreamland Fun Corporation notes both its sadness at the client’s passing and its indemnity in this matter. The client’s signed disclaimer discharging the Dreamland Fun Corporation of full responsibility in the event of application abuse–which was obtained upon account opening–is attached to this file. This recording notes that it was the client’s own choice–attached wav-file where client admits this–despite the noted and communicated risks involved with the repeated use of the Dreamland application. Upload complete. Severing secure socket layer and formating Conduit connection. End.

And then the room was empty.

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