A writer, let’s say his name’s Rick,
Tried to craft a new limerick.
He started off fine,
He understood rhyme,
But lost it at the end, not knowing how to end the poem and making it drag on too long, completely ruining the meter and the pace and possibly even ruining the entire challenge, the d!ck.
The poem above needs more care.
To submit it, how did I dare?
Truly ’twas awful,
I beg forgiveness, Uschibear.
My sentence hangs from the rafter;
There I’ll remain hereafter.
To me please be kind,
And may I remind:
The best medicine is laughter.
My name is Harper and in six months I am going to die.
I know this because I paid for the privilege. You can do testing for anything nowadays, and apparently your expiration date is one of them.
I had money to spare, I was bored, and yes, I foolishly thought the test would tell me some distant faraway age like eighty-two or maybe even one hundred and two. When I found out my expiry date was in six months, I began to have a really, really bad case of buyer’s remorse.
I went through quite a lengthy denial period, where I thought I could go through the rest of my life pretending that if I just do things exactly the same way and not change anything I would conveniently forget and everything would be fine and dandy. (This was by far my favorite coping mechanism. But it didn’t last. Eventually my anxiety bubbled up and exploded like a shaken champagne bottle.)
Next came an obsessive, defiant, planning phase. Everyday I would think of elaborate plans to avoid death like I could somehow scheme my way out of it. I mean, theoretically, it seems doable. Plane crash? Don’t go on a plane. Car accident? Just stay home all week. Heck, heart attack? Pop three baby aspirins and hang out in the hospital lobby, right next to the crash cart ready to wave a big sign that says “I’m having a heart attack.” Unfortunately the test didn’t provide the cause of death, just the exact time, so I couldn’t really plan in specifics.
Eventually all the planning became incredibly exhausting and I settled into a kind of defeated acceptance. My plan was still not to actively put myself in a situation where I could die, I was not quite ready to submit to my annihilation, but if I somehow still find myself in that situation anyway, I figured I should really work on trying to be okay with that.
So then I commenced on a hedonistic three months where I blew half of my life savings and did literally anything I could think of. I ziplined through the forests of Peru, skydived over the French countryside, drank the best wines and indulged in rich Italian food, snorkeled off the shores of Bali, shopped with abandon while perusing the streets of Tokyo, London, Dubai…
You get the idea.
The most pathetic part of this whole thing was that I didn’t have a family to spend my last few days with. Or close friends, really. My impending death would not be filled with earnest mourning and last minute tearful proclamations of love and reminiscing. Oh sure, my funeral would be packed, but nobody would miss me, not really. As an orphaned twenty-two year old who inherited too much money at an early age, not only was I kind of an entitled asshole, I also haven’t really lived yet. I haven’t fallen in love or had kids, wrote that great American novel, won a Pulitzer, or experienced any of that syrupy sweet stuff life is supposedly made of.
Anyway, that’s why I’m hanging out in the hospice ward.
My friend here is Lucas. He is twenty-nine and has end stage heart failure from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He described it as his heart being too big - literally but I suspect it's also an accurate description of him figuratively. I befriended him five months ago when I found out I was going to die. And no, surprisingly, he does not have any wisdom to impart about acceptance and healing and the meaning of life. He is very not okay with his young, awesome life being cut short, thank you very much.
He did have some useful information for me though.
“It’s quite experimental.” Lucas warned in an ominous tone.
“They usually only accept terminal patients… you know, because of the ethical issues.” He eyed me warily. “But in your case, they made an exception.”
He was adorable. He said that last line like a late night infomercial. Or maybe a used car salesman.
“This is not some elaborate black market scam to harvest my organs, is it?” I raise an eyebrow at him. “I mean, no offense, but you look like you could use a new heart.”
Lucas had to grab his oxygen mask after laughing so hard at that one. The nurse at the station gave me a dirty look.
After Lucas recovered he looked me in the eye. “How much do you have left?”
“Time? Or money?” I joked. The look on his face was not amused. I cleared my throat. “One month. And as you know, money is not an object.”
“Well, one month can give you… at least eighty years in virtual time. So pretty much a whole lifetime, if you decide on it.” Lucas shrugged. “Once you jack in though, there’s no going back. Your clock will end as scheduled and that’s the only way out. Also, it’s totally immersive, so you won’t even know you’re in virtual. It will be like… you’re in a dream but you don’t know you’re in a dream.”
“So I would really believe everything was real? Like I would grow up to be ninety years old and I would actually think I lived all those years even though really it will only be one month?”
“How many of the other people will be real?”
“Most will be computer generated. You might meet some real ones, if they are in the same time dilation settings as you. There are very few people with the resources for a whole month, you know. Most people can only afford one day.”
“So there’s a chance that I will marry a program?” I furrowed my brows. “And then if we have kids, they will also be programs?”
Lucas cocked an eyebrow. “There’s a high chance, statistically. Like I said, there’s only a few real participants at any given time. Not that it would matter to you, you won’t know the difference.”
I thought about this. Would it really bother me if I didn’t know? I bet my computer generated kids would be adorable.
His expression suddenly turned serious. “There’s something else. It’s rare, but there are a few cases of people noticing little things not quite right and they become increasingly convinced they’re in a simulation. Which of course is true, but when you’re jacked in and you’re not completely sure if you’re crazy or just being paranoid, it can be terrifying. They call it Simulation Induced Paranoia, or SIP.” He paused. “Participants become really…. distressed.”
I chewed on this for a second. “I still want to do it.”
He looked surprised. “Really?”
“I really don’t have anything to lose.” I replied nonchalantly, like I just decided on a dinner entree. I should probably be alarmed that I was acting so cavalier. Lucas wasn’t exactly giving a stellar sales pitch. Then again, it was true, I really had nothing left to lose. I’ve done what I could with my twenty-two years. Might as well have another lifetime to try again.
Lucas stared at me for a moment then sighed. “That’s the thing. The longer you’re in virtual, the higher the chance you might experience SIP. Remember, Harper, a month is a lifetime. The chances are very low of course - less than 1%, the virtual worlds are very meticulously programmed after all. But if you experience SIP, there’s no cure, no safe word, you’re stuck until your clock runs out.”
“I already decided.” I said resolutely. Once I’ve made up my mind on something I was usually unshakable. It was one of my many flaws. “In fact, let’s do it tonight. I want to get my whole lifetime, not a year less.”
Everything was too bright, the sounds too loud. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t. Jacking in was a very jarring process, it felt as if all my neurons were firing up all at once. Somehow I felt tremendous pain and the heights of delirious ecstasy simultaneously. Like I was feeling every possible thing all at the same time. There was a terrifying moment when everything went black, and for what felt like an eternity but was probably only a few seconds, I truly wholeheartedly believed I was actively dying.
Maybe I was supposed to die on the table during the procedure. Or maybe I really did unwittingly offer to have my organs harvested for the black market. Damn it, I probably caused my own death in my extreme efforts to avoid it...
I blinked twice. The room slowly came into focus.
“Hey, sleeping beauty.” A familiar voice.
It was Lucas. But also, it was not Lucas. He did not have his portable oxygen tank close by. His lips did not have their usual bluish tint. He looked… healthy.
Everything came back to me at once.
“Oh shit, Lucas. That was nuts.” I shook my head, clearing the cobwebs. “That felt too real. I really felt like I was in there for twenty-two years.” I checked my watch. I’ve only been in Virtual for twenty-two minutes.
He chuckled, swiveling back and forth on the expensive office chair I bought him for Christmas last year. My boyfriend never could sit still. “You’re a champ, Harper, you were the one who wanted to push the time dilation to a year per minute. I was worried pushing it that far would compromise the world building, but your mind was amazing at meeting the program halfway to fill in the gaps. You made yourself a rich orphan, really? Money is no object? Hah!”
I disconnected my neurojack from the surgically implanted access port behind my right ear. That rich orphan stuff was my subconscious free at the wheel. I didn’t intentionally decide on it. I turned back to Lucas. “Why did you add all that stuff about Virtual in there, and SIP? Don’t you think that was a little too… meta?”
Lucas suddenly broke into that grin that melted my heart so many years ago when we met during undergrad at MIT. “Well, since you wanted to put the expiry dates into the program so people would know how much time they had left, I thought, what the heck, why not make it interesting? Why not make a virtual game in Virtual?”
I was not amused. Lucas had a penchant for bloated code and unnecessary side doors. Also, for not telling me about an adjustment until after he has done it. “That’s messed up. You should have run that by me. The expiry date was a suggestion from the beta testers and we all agreed on it. We didn’t agree on putting the game into the Virtual Universe as a side door..” I paused. “Also, what if I didn’t jack in? I would have died in a car accident or something?”
Lucas turned back to his computer and typed a few lines of code. “I had carbon monoxide poisoning ready to go, but I was prepared to improvise. And anyway, I didn’t actually think you would gravitate towards the game during the beta test, I just put it in there as an Easter egg of sorts. I figured most clients would only think about jacking in when they were close to their expiry dates, if they do at all. But on second thought, maybe I should take it out of the programming, it’s too much work to keep up.”
I jumped off the table and stretched my legs. My entire body felt stiff like I haven’t used it for months. “Yea, take it out. You’ll have enough work as it is when we start accepting our first commercial clients next week. We have four people scheduled on our first day which I already think is too much.”
“We’ll be fine.” Lucas was now typing more purposefully. “That reminds me, I need to finish debugging this before Monday. Do you mind picking up dinner?”
“Sure.. from that new Thai place again?”
I smiled as I gave Lucas a quick peck on the cheek before I grabbed my purse to pick up the take out. Everything was going well for our start up. It was hard to believe that only two years ago Lucas and I were broke PhD dropouts who took a leap of faith building Virtual from our one bedroom Boston apartment. And now… well, let’s just say our first official month in business is projected to generate six figures in profits even after subtracting overhead. Mid six figures. And as soon as we open up our second and third facilities the growth would be exponential.
To top it all off, I was pretty sure Lucas was planning on proposing to me next week on my birthday. I saw a charge from some jewelry company on his credit card statement while I was doing some filing last month. Judging from the amount, it could only be an engagement ring. Lucas never would have spent that much on a piece of jewelry otherwise.
I sauntered out of the elevator from our high rise office with a pep in my step. The weather outside was just the right amount of sunny. Even the Boston air didn’t feel as suffocatingly polluted. Yes, everything was going well. Perfect, even. I eyed a meticulously trimmed bush suspiciously as I walked by. Maybe too perfect.
I felt a sudden stab of panic. The smile dissipated from my face.
November 14th 2019
November 14th 2019 a day I will never forget
They called it a sexual assault
But I called it the day that I became numb
You violated me
You touched me
You made me feel fear
You took away my vulnerability
I have never been the same since that day
I hope nothing good comes your way
I Hope fear finds you
I want you to feel vulnerable
So you will know how it feels to be afraid
It took months to finally feel
To not be so afraid
But it will forever be in the back of my mind
P.S. Please if someone has hurt you
Whether sexually, physically, emotionally or mentally
I hope you find help
I hope you will find peace
Never be afraid to talk to someone
Story Plot Idea?
Wellll, I love all the plot ideas that everyone else has shared and can totally see them becoming books on here. I noticed that several of the ideas had some similar aspects-- a medieval time period, a sci-fi element, a possible apocalypse, etc. That’s a lot to be mashed into one story, but could turn out really cool, if everyone is able to put boundaries on how detailed the plot gets. On top of that, most of the people that wanted that sort of plot added that there would be a lot of characters involved. That can get tricky. There were some stand-out ideas, as well. Caleb's serial killer idea (which would be a LOT simpler to write, guys, since the amount of characters is lessened and the plot is simple and clear), someone mentioned eggs and bacon (which, I'm really lovin'), and there are a couple others that I'm forgetting. Anyways, yeah, it's fun to compromise plots, but the more detail, the more difficult it gets to write the story as a group.
If we're doing a complex plot and a large number of characters, I think it's easier to pick one or the other. Complex plot with a small amount of characters, or just one main character. That could possibly be aligned with Caleb's idea. Or larger number of characters and brief plot. For example, a murder mystery in which every character genuinely believes themselves to be the murderer and must cover it up--that sort of story chooses complex characters over plot.
Thanks for making the challenge, Verity.
As @ValiantRaptor47 mentioned, I believe it is vital to have a basic plot. Thanks to this we'll have the opportunity to have our creative juices flowing but also of weaving our story together. What this means is that there needs to be a base of time period, scenery, basic storyline, main characters are set, etc.
I currently don't have ideas for a plot but I'm definitely open to looking at everyone's ideas and then letting my ideas go wild based on the topic. Looking forward to the next official post and thanks again @Chacko_Stephen for making the hashtag!
Just Throwing it Out There...
So, I anticipate that a basic plot line would suffice, and that would still leave authors with much freedom to contribute to the work. The reason that I stress this is because I have perceived that some individuals wish for complete freedom, and some seem to wish for a larger, more concrete plotline before we begin. As keeping with the ego (just kidding, psychoanalysis is mostly a fallacy, sorry Freud), I believe it would be wise to seek a sort of compromise: a basic plot line that the writers are free to express the work upon. There is no building to construct if the foundation is not first established.
So, for the plot, here is my basic, very general, idea: something that has to do with fantastical, Middle-Age warfare, perhaps? (I would imagine that some degree of cannons and firearms would be permitted, as cannons have been around since the 1300s, and firearms have been around since the early 1400s - technically the Middle Ages). But, in the end, I will likely proceed as a writer with whatever plot gets chosen.
Why did you have to call it that?
Sigh... Someone’s plotting again already, even coming up with a title.
Can we at least think about the scene/location/time period/season thing?
Freedom, no constraints until the first chapter’s written! What is wrong with a bit of FREEDOM?
In my opinion, we should leave such things as vague as possible and just agree on those things I mentioned above at the start. That'll be what I end up voting for anyway.
(Don't rely on likes, either, let everyone get their ideas in before putting it to a proper vote.)