Author : Duncan Shields, Featured Writer

This was the test. Ted and Alice’s marriage vows had been exchanged and the reception was a huge success. It was the day after. They were glowing, a little hung over, and ready for the rest of their lives together. They were ready for the consummation.

They walked into the white room and lay down on the parallel white beds in their white consummation smocks.

People compared it to the Navajo Indians practice of taking huge amounts of peyote once in their lives at the age they became men. People also compared it to the handfasting ceremonies of ancient Celts. Intensely personal yet separate and destined to colour the rest of the relationship. There was no empty ritual here like a Bar Mitzvah or New Year’s Eve. This was a test. It reached deep. Like a sixteen year old’s first time. Like a first broken heart.

It only happened once. Many had come to believe that it was necessary.

They went under.

Ted was abruptly underwater and struggling for air. Ever since he was six and he saw his father drown, he had a fear of water. This had also developed into a fear of sealife. Ted and his mother had huddled together on the boat for nearly a full day, terrified and crying, because the father was the only one who knew how to sail and he was gone. He never even so much as went to a beach again.

Now he was drowning. He looked down and a squid the length of a city block was staring up at him with a wide yellow eye as big as a satellite dish.

It had Alice in its tentacles and it was bringing her down with it. Her unfocussed eyes were staring up at Ted. Her mouth was open but there were no longer bubbles coming out of it. She was conscious but it wouldn’t be long before she drowned.

This was the choice.

There was no choice.

Ted kicked hard down towards her and grabbed her under the arm. He held on to the massive mudflap of the tentacle around her waist and pulled at it as they descended. He was too buoyant to hold on so he exhaled to stay with her. The tentacle wouldn’t budge. It got too dark to see and he felt the pressure squeezing in as the squid went deeper, deeper, deeper. Somewhere in there he realized that he was not coming back.

He held onto Alice and closed his eyes.

And awoke. His bowels had let go and he was drenched in sweat. For a second it he thought he brought the salty water with him out of the VR dream. A scream was dying in his throat. His wild heart rate ripped through him and he took giant whooping breaths of air.

Alice was huddled in the corner and gave him a look of pure glaring hatred before softening, realizing that she was awake, and running to him and throwing her self into him and around him, smothering him in kisses.

Alice’s VR dream had been that she had caught him with another woman and had decided to stay with him even though he started beating her. Her VR dream had lasted for almost six months.

After theses tests, divorce rates were virtually nil. They had the backing of the church.

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