NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Sixteen

“So, shit, am I dead?”

Steve Diaz, Kristen Lewis, and Colin Colson sat together in what felt to Steve like a version of Kristen’s virtuality Hints of Home, only without the “hints” parts; it just felt like Home.

They seemed to be sitting on soft but somehow also solid rolls of cloud that stretched off forever in all directions, broken by handsome mountain peaks that poked through here and there. The sky was a lovely pink / orange / blue, and a gigantic and friendly-looking sun saw on the horizon.

“No,” Colin chuckled, “not dead yet.”

“You got banged up pretty bad, though,” Kristen continued softly, “and we thought you might like a therapeutic virtuality to hang out in for awhile while you heal.”

“I thought I might be in heaven,” Steve said, “because there’s no one else in the universe I’d rather be with than you two.”

All three of them looked startled for a moment.

“Fuck, what the hell?” Steve said, “I did not say that out loud.”

Kris reached over as if to touch his hand, but stopped just short.

“Yeah,” said Colin, “there might be some funny effects like that.”

“Effects like what?” Colin said quite loudly, “What does that mean? Is my brain mush? Am I an AI or something?”

“No, no,” said Kris, looking at him fondly and with concern, “not that, but they’re worried about concussion, and you have a head injury, so the connection to the virtuality is just a little bodged.”

“Bodged,” he repeated.

Kris nodded. “Hacked,” she suggested, “kludged. Perhaps a bit jury-rigged.”

“Because my brain is mush.”

“Because you’re injured, and they are being careful.”

Steve looked doubtful. “Maybe that’s what you’d say if my brain were mush, to make me feel better.”

His eyes narrowed, “How do I know that you’re even you?”

Colin and Kristen exchanged a glace (a suspicious one, Steve thought, and then thought that was a stupid thing to think), and then she leaned over and whispered something in Steve’s ear. Then Colin whispered something in his other ear.

They all snickered at each other familiarly for a moment, then Steve looked doubtful again.

“So you know things that only you and me know,” he said to them both, “but you could be figments of my imagination, or they could have extracted them from my brain while I was sedated, and coded them into you.”

“What would that make us?” Colin asked. Kristen rolled her eyes.

“You could be bots, obviously,” Steve replied.

“For what nefarious purpose?” Colin replied, looking to be settling in for a long philosophical discussion.

“Guys,” Kristen interposed, “guys, guys, guys, do we really want to do a big semantic analysis of Steve’s paranoid–“

“Paranoid, eh?” Steve said, simultaneously objecting and chuckling at himself.

“Perfectly understandable post-trauma paranoid ideations,” she said, nodding.

“So tell me about my trauma,” Steve said, letting the subject change, “how bad am I?”

The other two exchanged another glance.

“It’s actually — pretty bad,” Kristen said, “although obviously you’re going to live and all.”

“Will I have to live in this virtuality forever? Not that isn’t a very nice one.”

“Not that, either,” Colin said, “okay, look, you broke one leg pretty badly, one elbow just a little, and cracked a few ribs.”

Steve winced. “I know that’s not all.”

“You also banged your head, Steve,” Kristen said, with a softness that didn’t encourage him.

“You said that. I have a concussion and all.”

“There was also this… piece of metal under the sand, they think.”

“A… piece of metal?” Steve winced again. “And now it’s, let me guess, sticking out of my skull or something.”

“More or less,” Colin said, nodding.

“Shit, that sounds bad.”

“You seem pretty okay,” Kristen said.

“Wait,” Steve looked at her, “is this, like, a cognitive function test or something?”

“We couldn’t tell you right up front, because it would have interfered with–“

“Fuck,” Steve said ,”fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.”

“It’s really okay, babe,” Kristen said.

Steve sighed, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, I didn’t mean to say those out loud either; doesn’t that seem like a fucking problem? Gah, sorry…”

“That’s probably just the virtuality connection; it’s having a hard time telling your intentional speech from stuff you subvocalize, because –“

“Because there’s this piece of metal in my head in the way, right?”

Kristen put out her hand again, and stroked his shoulder, looking at him with concern.

“I felt that,” Steve smiled, a little mollified. Touch between users in a virtuality was always rather hit-and-miss (a great disappointment to the porn and sex-toy industries, but top scientists were working on it day and night).

“So Steve,” Colin said, lying back into a bubble of lovely soft cloud that rose upward to cradle him as he did, “that is the status: you have serious but routine arm, leg, and rib fractures, some head trauma and a possible concussion, and then this bit of metal that–“

“That snuck in somehow through my helmet to get me?”

“… that through an unfortunate chance penetrated your helmet at rather high speed, and is now lodged approximately two inches into your–“

“Ouch, Colin,” groaned Kristen, “you don’t have to get that exact and detailed.”

Steve nodded, his head hurting just from the words.

“Right, so, the piece of metal has interacted with a small but nontrivial amount of –“

“… of my brain, right; got it, no details please.”

“Right. And so now as we interact in here, the medical team is taking various records and readings –“

“Are they listening to us now?”

“No, I mean, not really; in principle they could reconstruct our words from the –“

“No, Col, not in principle! They aren’t listening to us, Steve babe.”


“They are recording medically-relevant readings from the connection and the virtuality, so that when they remove the intrusion –“

“Oh, good they’re going to take it out.”

“Can’t just leave it there.”

“So that when they remove the –“

“They can see if they break my brain any more as they slip out the steel bar?”

“It’s not a steel bar, it –“

“Oh, shut up, and they aren’t going to break your brain.”

Steve closed his eyes. The place was beautiful, and the air felt soft and sweet. His friends talked too much. He hoped he really wasn’t going to die. He hoped he wasn’t going to have brain damage.

“Will I be able to use the rig again?”

“The fractures are expected to heal just fine.”

“But my brain?”

“Prognosis is good also, but it’s important to be –“

“… careful, right.”

The giant warm sun, a gorgeous gentle yellow, easy to look at, had been rolling clockwise around the horizon as they talked. He liked that. He sat there breathing, his head down, thinking “fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck”, but pleased that he wasn’t saying it out loud.

He felt Kristen’s hands, somewhat ghostly but definitely comforting, on his back. That felt good. She was so good to him. He wondered if she would love him if his brain was broken. Would he be able to tell, if it was broken?

Two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, he thought, sixty-four, one hundred twenty-eight, two hundred fifty-six…

He got to one million forty-eight thousand five hundred seventy-six and decided there was no obvious problem there.

“So what’s the plan?” he asked, or tried to ask, but he didn’t say anything.

“Shit,” he said, or tried to say, then took a deep breath.

“So what’s the plan?” he asked, and this time it came out.

“The plan of treatment?”

“The plan of no more metal in my head.”

“Once they have the initial measurements taken, including us here, either you’ll be woken up–“

“Woken up?”

“You’re pretty heavily sedated right now.”

“Oh, right, okay.”

“EIther you’ll be woken up, or someone will come back in here–“

“We will, Steve; Colin and I will come back in here.”

“Right, okay, either you’ll be woken up, or we’ll come back in here maybe with a doctor, and the full plan and some forms, and you’ll sign them–“

Steve snickered.

“– and then they’ll take it out, and you’ll be fine. The month to wait for your bones to set will be more annoying.”

“Always the optimist,” he said, but managed to smile at Colin as it said it, and not to yell anything inappropriate.

The three of them sat there for awhile, as the breezes moved softly around them, and the huge sun rolled slowly around the horizon, until the medical team had enough data, and enriched the drip into Steve’s IV, and he slipped gently off to sleep.

Fling Seventeen

3 Responses to “NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Sixteen”

  1. What a great chapter!! Hope Steve makes it:)

    Liked by 1 person



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