Science Fiction Romance

I heard it said that the silence can be deafening. I suddenly felt the truth in that, but yet so much more. No longer did my sight reach as it did; my hearing the range; and more limited in scope but no less diminished - touch. Only taste and smell seemed unchanged.

I sat quietly on my bed reflecting. There was loneliness. There was a sense of loss. There even existed, being honest with myself, a fair amount of fear. Mostly, though, I felt diminished. Small. A very unsettling state.

I could defy my sister. My life was safe, uncomplicated. I enjoyed living mostly in my own Constructed world. Felt safe there. But reconnecting meant I would lose it all anyway. I told myself that people lived in this state everyday. My parents did through no choice of their own. My sister does solely by choice and admonishes me for mine, which has put me in my current position. Most others to varying extents simply because they don't have the financial resources my family possesses. It was only a week. I could survive that.

I got up and made my way to the kitchen. Waldo sat purposeless near the sink. Normally he busied himself with my needs, but now lacking direction had shut down. I actually needed to push his now dead weight out of the way, cursing my sister as I did. Fortunately he rolled easier than I expected and his many, multifunctional arms gave me something to grab.

Hungry, I searched my kitchen for bread to make toast. Being my house, it appalled me how little I actually knew about it. I finally discovered it in the refrigerator and proceeded to thoroughly burn it. Not the ideal way Waldo would've prepared it for me, but he for the next week would sit motionless, and I would need to fend for myself.

I heard my phone and automatically tried to answer it, forgetting that I was cut off. I followed the ringing to the bedroom, snatched it from the nightstand, and stabbed the green answer icon.

"Happy Sunday little brother! I see you disconnected yourself"

"As if you've given me a choice, Nancy."

"It's only a week, Ted. You'll survive. Next Sunday you can reconnect with your virtualness and live your sheltered pathetic life, and I will leave you be forever. But this week you are mine."

"I'll probably be dead in a week," I said sitting on the edge of my bed. "Hell, I can't even make toast."

"Oh stop being so melodramatic. Go out and experience the world. Eat at a restaurant. Get Chinese takeout."

"I will survive the week just fine right here."

"No you won't. That isn't our agreement. You will be meeting Colleen at the Imperial Panda Restaurant at six tonight."

"I don't need to meet anyone. I have my…"

"I don't want to fucking hear about your Virtual Constructs, your Sensi-suit, or any other fucking virtual, fantasy, sick-ass sexual exploits you uae for companionship," Nancy interrupted. "You need to experience something real and for the next week you will try or you will lose the ability to connect forever."

"You don't have the right," I said.

"You signed the agreement, Ted. If you reconnect this week at all or fail to do as I request, all of which is spelled out in the agreement, I take control of your part of the company profits and provide you only with enough money to live. The rest is put in a fund for you to collect when I die. I assure you I will live a long time. You won't have enough to afford your world avoiding toys for many years. Did you even read the agreement before signing?"

"No," I said. Fucking idiot!

"I should've added a provision for a shock collar. That would teach you. Still, I can't believe you didn't read it. It explains why you agreed to something I didn't expect in my wildest dreams."

I wanted to smash my phone into the wall. "You portrayed it as being critical to my portion of the company's profits."

She chuckled. "Kind of is now, eh?"

And I'm going to pay dearly for it. "And I'm not some sexual deviant. Many people prefer Virtual Construct relationships over real ones. So much easier. But to compensate for my choices, you got me a hooker? How is that not deviant?"

"She isn't a hooker. Her name is Colleen and she lives the same pathetic, virtual lifestyle as you. Both of you need to experience real life. It's messiness, its pains, its rewards."

"So you found a way to blackmail someone other than me."

"See, you already have something in common! The Imperial Panda at six."

Before I could say anything else, she hung up.


I arrived at the Imperial Panda promptly at five after six and the hostess escorted me to the table Nancy reserved. The subdued lighting and the decor, especially the large panda statue fountain in the center of the floor, testified that the restaurant catered to the more upscale clientele.

Colleen arrived earlier and sat facing us as we approached. I thought about how she would make a good Virtual Construct when this week ended with her long blonde hair and pretty blue eyes. I found her surprisingly attractive. Unfortunately being disconnected, I had no way of storing her image. She smiled a nervous smile as the hostess pulled my seat out for me; and I thanked her as she left stating our server would be with us soon.

"So you must be Colleen."

"And you must be Ted."

It hadn't even been a minute and I already felt stupid. "So you must be Colleen." Could I have said anything more blatantly obvious! "I'm sorry. This is all a bit awkward. Been waiting long?"

"Yes, it is very awkward; and, no, I just arrived a few minutes before you. I was afraid I'd be late. It took me longer to pack than I expected."


"It's over a six-hour drive and Nancy said I would be staying with you since I have to spend the week anyway." Colleen fidgeted her hands and looked away. "She assured me you weren't a serial killer."

I couldn't help noticing how she said she 'had to spend the week with me.' Clearly she wasn't any happier about it than me. "I can get you a room somewhere nearby. There are plenty of nice hotels. You don't have to do anything. We don't even really have to hang out."

"You didn't read the agreement, did you."

Why does everyone keep pointing that out to me? "And I'm to believe you read it and signed?"

"I read it afterwards. Your sister teamed up with my parents, who I mistakenly trusted enough to sign when they brought it to me." She fidgeted with her fork. "They worry I spend too much time isolating. I tell them I prefer my virtual world and I leave out the Sensi-suit part. I suppose they know. They don't get that I'm happy with the way things are."

I really didn't see any need for her to stay with me. "So we have to hang out some. I don't see why you need to stay at my place."

She sighed. "It's all in the agreement."


We ordered and talked a little bit. I learned that Colleen's parents hit a huge lottery jackpot of almost a billion dollars and made some smart investments that allowed it to keep growing. From it she gets a large, monthly stipend that allows her to live essentially how she pleases. Like me, she chooses to live a mostly secluded lifestyle with Virtual Constructs of her own design for companionship that she can interact with through her Sensi-suit. Also like me, she stands to have that lifestyle seriously impacted if she doesn't follow through on the agreement. Unlike me, she doesn't work. Then, again, being honest with myself; I don't either. Nancy runs the corporation. I'm mostly a pretender enjoying the benefits, which I'm ok with.

She followed me back to my place, and I helped her bring her stuff in. "If you want we can wait until tomorrow to find a place for your stuff."

"That'll work," she said looking around. "This is nice."

"Waldo would appreciate you saying that, if he could."


"My server 'bot. He is currently incapacitated in my kitchen thanks to my sister."

Colleen laughed. I liked her laugh. "Tina."


"My server 'bot. She is currently gracing my living room," she stated as she took in mine. She then stopped and looked at me. "Is it true that you've never had any relationships with actual women, only your Virtual Constructs?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"I'm sorry, no offense meant. It's just that I have never had a relationship with a real guy, and your sister…"

"Fuck Nancy. I'm really getting sick of all this interfering in my life. No, I haven't had any relations with real women. Happy?"

"I don't know how to feel, really. Aren't you curious? We're here. We have to interact on some level because of the agreement, though that is up to us as to how far. I think I would like to experience making love with an actual person."

"Now?" Idiot!

She shrugged. "I don't know. We don't have to. It isn't required. Since we're in this situation, I admit to feeling some desire to try."

"So you can compare me to your Constructs and Sensi-suit?"

Her blue eyes suddenly glinted like steel. "And you wouldn't? It wouldn't surprise me if you hadn't already thought me a suitable Construct for your collection."

Got me. "No, I haven't."

She crossed her arms and slightly tilted her head as she regarded me. I felt like a bacteria under a microscope. "I suppose it doesn't really matter. I've made them with men I found attractive."

It had never occurred to me that I might be a candidate. "Then you've considered me."


I really wasn't sure how to take that. "Look, Colleen, I'm sorry. I'm not used to dealing with people beyond a 'hey, how are you doing,' and walking away before getting a real answer."

"Well, me either. Still I'm curious."

I took her to the bedroom. We got undressed and she lay on the bed. She had a beautiful body and I climbed on top of her. She shifted to give me more access and soon I was done. I rolled off her and lay on my back beside her. I felt good, though it didn't seem all that different from my virtual romps, except that my Sensi-suit would've cleaned me up afterward.

"That's it?" She said.

"What do you mean? It's what you wanted. You wanted to try making love."

"You FUCKED me. You would've given as much passion to a pillow. Now you lay there feeling all good with your endorphin rush and I get the wet, sticky spot."

"You wanted to try. We tried. It isn't my fault it didn't work for you." I rolled over away from her.

"It's only a week," I heard her mumble.


Sometime during the night she left the room. Unable to sleep, I ran the day over and over trying to make sense of things. I did finally nod off and awoke to some wondrous smells that permeated my place. 

I got up and walked into the kitchen where I saw the remains of eggs and toast on a plate in the sink along with the dirty pan. She made it only for herself. I burnt myself some toast and microwaved water for instant coffee. I then washed up thinking that we were going to have to come to an agreement on chores since Waldo would not be available this week.

I found Colleen on my couch apparently reading something on her phone. She never bothered to glance in my direction, but I felt certain I saw her eyes harden. She wore pink pajamas and partially covered herself with the blanket I draped over the back. Sitting across from her I said, "I'm not going to apologize for last night."

She didn't bother responding and figuring I had nothing to lose I continued. "We both have not had real relationships. We both only had our Virtual Constructs through our Sensi-suits to provide us pleasure. Neither of us, maybe especially me, were prepared for last night. If we are honest with ourselves, we've sexually only been takers."

She moved her phone to her lap and looked at me. I took that as promising. "I'm not expecting any kind of do-overs with you sexually, but if we are going to spend the week together I would at least like to talk, to understand more of how to give. And while I'm making a huge assumption, I don't believe you are any more skilled in pleasuring men than I am women."

"No expectations?"

How could I tell her how scared I was to even try it again at this point. "No."


We spent the day at a park. We opened up to each other about likes and dislikes. I found myself enjoying her company far more than I thought. We grabbed sandwiches from nearby and picnicked in the park. The temperature was comfortable and we hiked a number of the trails. Afterward we stopped and ate at a small, Italian restaurant before heading back.

Tired, we climbed into bed. I wanted to kiss her goodnight, but she took my hand and showed me how she liked to be touched. Slowly we explored each other, taking our time in our lovemaking. Afterward, we lay facing each other.

She was truly beautiful. Her eyes now glistened like glacial waters instead of the cold steel I'd been experiencing. Then she scooted her body into mine and snuggled her head onto my shoulder. Her hair lightly fell against my chest and arm, and I felt things I really didn't know how to describe. In some places her hair made me itch and my arm started going numb from the placement of her head; but I loved the feeling of holding her, of the fruity smell of her shampoo, and of the subtle smell unique to her. When her breathing deepened, I carefully slid out from under her.


We made the most of the rest of the week. We visited a grocery store where I marveled at the variety of breads to burn. We took in movies, museums, the zoo; and made love which somehow kept getting better. I wanted the week to last forever. 

It couldn't. Time is cruel and doesn't stop for anything, but it goes faster the happier you are. When I woke Sunday morning, Colleen was gone.

And time slowed.


When I reconnected, Waldo immediately came online. He seemed disoriented, but I knew that couldn't be. I projected it onto him. Reconnecting felt foreign, unreal, after the past week. I would need to readjust. Waldo anticipated my hunger and made me toast. It was perfect, as usual. I threw it away.

I felt lost, so I built a Virtual Construct of Colleen. When I put on my Sensi-suit and had her come to me; it didn't work. It lacked her smell, her taste. It more mocked than glorified her. I deleted her and the others, and put away my Sensi-suit.


I threw myself more into the company that week, finding ways to occupy my mind. Surprisingly, I found I had a knack for the business once I actually focused on it. Nancy quietly observed me and I swore I caught her displaying approval on a few occasions. That Friday she asked me to come to her office.

"I like that you are finally taking a real interest in our company," she said. "Why?"

"It's what you wanted, isn't it? For me to join the real world. Hiding in my virtual world lacks the appeal it did before, and it turns out the real world sucks too. Focusing on the business keeps my mind from wandering, and I'm finding that I enjoy it."

"For which I am grateful and proud that you do. Still, you haven't once mentioned Colleen."

I know she caught my stiffening. "We spent the week together. We fulfilled your agreement. She left. There's nothing more to say."

Nancy regarded me for a few moments. Leaning back in her chair causing a slight swivel, she said, "What if I told you that she had to leave you that morning. It was in the agreement. If she stayed, you both lost. She left so that you kept your position."

My mind spun. I felt like Nancy's puppet. "You manipulative fucking…"

Nancy held her hand up. "It was for the good of both of you, I hope. Be mad if you will, but you both needed time to let your thoughts settle. I know how she feels. I believe I know how you feel now. I forwarded a message from her to you. I'm done. What you do from here is all up to you."

I rushed back to my office. I felt an odd mix of fear and elation. Nancy always said messiness existed in life, but the reward often outweighed that messiness. I looked forward to experiencing more and my heart jumped as I read her message. A few little meaningless words that spoke volumes to me.

'It isn't the same'

February 10, 2023 03:04

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Wendy Kaminski
01:55 Feb 16, 2023

You really stuck the landing on this! The story itself was great, and the ending, just absolutely perfect. It was such an enjoyable sci fi romance, and those two things aren't easy to put together. I loved it! Thanks for the enjoyable and thought-provoking tale, and welcome to Reedsy!


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MJ Simons
01:13 Feb 27, 2023

Wow! This is a great take on the prompt. I like how both characters needed to disconnect in order to connect in life. I like the way you wrote Colleen's character. The last sentence circles back to the title perfectly. Well done!


Kevin V
01:46 Feb 27, 2023

I did enjoy writing this one. I'm glad it worked for you. Sometimes I do think we are too connected to our respective devices. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!


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Mary Bendickson
21:19 Mar 03, 2023

Realistic fantasy. Happy to be following you.


Kevin V
01:39 Mar 04, 2023

I'm happy that you're happy! Thank you for taking the time to read my stories


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