Author : Roger Dale Trexler

“You really should try this,” Liz said. Her voice was distant and gentle, like someone talking to me from the end of a tunnel.

I turned and looked at her. She lay on the vacuum formed couch, her naked body sucked in perfectly, every curve, every contour fitted to pulsating plasma.

“No thank you,” I said.

She sighed and drew in a deep breath. “It’s awesome,” she said.

I turned away and looked at the ship’s control console. Lights glittered and circuits clicked. Everywhere, there was sound and motion. The whole ship, over two miles long and a quarter mile wide, was controlled from that console.

And, then, there was “The Void.”

The Void, I thought. It did not refer to the vast emptiness of space we were traveling through. The Void was a ship-wide interactive playground. It was the logical child of our Earth-bound Internet, but, now, we were able to plug ourselves into the system and drift through the Ethernet with our thoughts and feelings. The Earth was long gone—a victim of a massive solar flare that turned its surface into a cinder—but some things traveled into space with us.

I looked at Liz, naked and so beautiful, hooked into The Void, every nerve ending tingling. As I watched, she wiggled and moaned with pleasure.

“Join us,” she said, her eyes closed.

“No,” I replied.

Liz fell silent. I looked away from her because I knew what was coming next. It always came next. I found it disgusting, the way she satiated her needs on the void couch….and I remembered a time when we made love like real humans.

I walked out through the hydraulic door, not wanting to hear her sigh and gasp as she played on the couch with the others.

The corridors of the ship were empty. Everyone was fitted to a couch, enjoying what could only be thought of as group sex. The commanders and block commanders had forbidden true contact of the flesh unless approved beforehand. We were, after all, onboard a spaceship. We had finite space and resources. Population control was a must.

I walked through the quiet halls, past many, many living quarters. I knew they were all in the Void. It had become so popular.

I stopped at the arboretum entrance and looked inside. It was at the center of the ship, basically. I had heard that, on Earth, they had a city called “New York” that had a wooded park in the middle of it. That park was called “Central Park” and we had adapted that name for our arboretum.

I punched in my entrance code and a metallic voice said my name. “Harlan Kance,” it said, “entry approved.” I knew, somewhere in the vast computer, my entry had been logged and scrutinized.

The door slid open.

A gust of fresh air assaulted me. I stepped inside and started down the path, not noticing that someone had entered behind me. I heard a soft footstep, however, and turned.

It was a woman.

She put her finger to her lips. “Please,” she said. “Don’t raise your voice.” She pointed at the sensors nearby.

I nodded. I understood.

We walked into Central Park until we were certain the sensors could not hear us. “Who are you?” I asked.

“Kateline,” she said. “My name is Kateline.”

“Why aren’t you in the Void?”

“Why aren’t you?” she replied.

We stared at each other a moment and, for the first time in a long time, I smiled.

She smiled, too.

I took her hand and, together, we walked into the woods. The others could have the Void. We had something more real. We had found each other, two outcasts among many outcasts, at last.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows