Author : Ryan Somma

Wyndallo took an unexpected breath of cold, sterile air. He opened his eyes and saw his exhale condense against the glass door to the capsule, which was smoothly lifting away from him. He registered the air outside the capsule was colder than inside, but his brain was too removed from the otherly sensation to induce shivering.

Last thing he remembered, Wyndallo was enjoying braised antelope with a rich pesto side dish. He was just about to enjoy a sip of a 1986 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac, when the system had crashed. Now that he was here in the real world, the world of continuity, he could remember that the system always crashed when he tried to taste that particular vintage. The system would automatically report the bug, but it was obvious after all these years that no one remained out there to work on it.

Even if he had wanted to get up from the bed, his muscles had grown stiff and inflexible from decades of disuse. The capsule could overcome this, get him on his feet again, but the process would take months. Just the act of propping him up a few degrees would induce nausea so severe it might kill him. He was content to wait for the software to reboot and welcome him back into its warm embrace.

He could see his surroundings reflected in the capsule’s glass door. Rows of glowing capsules, their occupants obfuscated behind cloudy glass, stretched off into the distance in either direction. His own reflection was laid out in the center of them all, his naked body pale and emaciated. He felt no connection to it at all. It wasn’t his anymore.

His eyes wandered to the ceiling, where a skylight revealed a bit of night sky that was full of stars. It was so uninspiring compared to the night skies the VR software rendered, these were just bland white twinkling points of light.

The night sky the system rendered was full of geometric shapes and patterns, clear proof of a galaxy brimming with intelligent life. Wyndallo’s civilization had wasted centuries searching the skies for even a hint of life beyond their world to no avail.

The system mercifully whirred to life again and the capsule door descended to enclose him. Before the psi-field wrapped his consciousness in its warm illusion, Wyndallo had a moment to wonder if no civilization had ever left its mark on the stars because they were all fated to the same prison of introspection.


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