#SFSwap story 31, by @Glempy, is one of RULES STALIN’S favourites. The pacing and scope is perfect for the length, the writing is tight, and the natural humour of @seanfsmith’s prompt is deployed with sufficient timing to have made me bark out an actual laugh. Cracking:
STORY NUMBER: 31
PROMPT PROVIDER: @seanfsmith
Nelan shot a thought string across the office-zone towards Mirka.
“Hey! A bunch of us are planning to hit up that new consciousness-fusion place tonight. Do you want to come?”
“Sorry Nel. I’ve got some dreaming planned,” she replied.
“I never took you for a dreamer!”
“It just seems so childish. I thought most people grew out of it as soon as they were old enough to get their implants.”
“A lot of people think that.” Mirka killed the stream.
Mirka changed out of the skin-moulded poly-weave of her day clothes, into the loose pseudo-cotton of her recreational pyjamas and slipped beneath her bedsheets. The bed itself was truly a decadent luxury, she’d decided to spring for a Queen-size last year, and now it took up an inordinate amount of space in her living-quarters. She loved how it gave her so much room to wriggle and curl as she drifted off to sleep.
Mirka knew a few dreamers who took their downtime slumbers in boxes no bigger than a coffin. Things which they hid under tables, others even put them in cupboards and did their dreaming upright. It was as if their interest in sleep was a dirty little secret they didn’t want anyone to know about. Part of Mirka didn’t really blame them, she knew well enough how many odd looks admitting to being a dreamer got her. So many people still saw it as a “kid’s thing.”
She snuggled down into the warm mass of her sheets, feeling the omni-foam of the mattress yield beneath her, millions of micro-fine springs flexing and responding to her weight and pressure. A sensation of floating slowly crept through her body as her stay-awake implants began to power down and she made the connection to the dream-arcology.
The arcology was a necessary evil to spending your downtime dreaming. The possible psychomedical complications of powering down implants the body relied upon on such a regular basis necessitated careful monitoring of a dreamer’s vitals; tweaking the hormone and chemical levels to prevent sensation strangulation or mind-floods. The upside was the extra rendering power the arcology provided. No dream was quite so vivid as an arcology dream.
Mirka lost herself in a world of faceted ice canyons. Flitting her way through the soupy, red air on wings made from moonlight. She was playing chase with a colony of giggling hover-fruits. The oranges trailed in a undulating mass at the back of the flock, slowing her down and preventing her from trying to overtake. The rest rode slip-stream behind the V-wedge of the bananas. They crested out of the cloud layer and into one of the mile-wide core canyons; the distant walls gleaming like fire trapped within a mirror. Mirka whooped with delight and drove herself over the shoal of oranges. She arced high above the flock, folded her wings, and dove toward the lead banana.
Something heavy and solid smashed into her side, sending her spiralling down, out of the air. As she fell she was pursued by a lurid blue and yellow cylinder.
“HAVE YOU TRIED NEW YOTTA-COLA?! IT’S TASTE IS SO BIG, IT’S BEYOND YOUR COMPREHENSION!” it shouted in a booming, strident voice. It made Mirka’s skull feel like it was being split in twain. Her immersion ruined, she logged out.
Needless to say, Mirka wasn’t best pleased. It looked like the black-hat marketeers had found out how to wheedle their way through the most recent neural code-walls. She knew that they would, they always did. She’d just hoped it would have taken them a bit longer before they once again tried to bombarded the minds of the dreamers with their less than subliminal advertising.
Mirka spun her way across the net until she found her favourite dreamer’s thought board and started looking for a hot-fix. It took a few hours of trawling before she got a lead on the bootstrap update, courtesy of a code-splicer twenty districts over. It took less than a blink of an eye to snatch the file packet from the host and cast it to her neural transmission/reception system. She paged through the options settings, fixing port numbers and reassigning neuron pulse distributions. Finally she came to termination options. Subtle, Fast, Moderate, Severe, before finally reaching the option she so desired: Extreme Prejudice.
Mirka snuggled back into the folds of her bedsheets and drifted back into the warm embrace of the arcology servers. She didn’t pick up where she left off, you never could with dreams, but it was close enough.
The hover fruits darted round a hairpin bend in the canyon and she set off in pursuit. As she rounded the bend the ice walls dropped away and the vista opened out in a grand mesa of shattered crystal. The fruits had nowhere to run now, it was all a matter of straight speed, and she knew she had them.
In the far distance she caught a glimpse of lurid blue and yellow, a speck on the horizon. On the mesa floor she heard a whirring and mechanical clunking as a dozen artillery batteries broke through the crystal crust and sighted the rogue advertisement. It evaporated in a barrage of surface-to-air plasma flak. The explosion filled the sky like a flowering chrysanthemum garlanded in frost.
“Ad-fucking-blocked!” Mirka thought, and she went back to dreaming her dreams.