Warning: Some gruesome imagery.
I plopped down in front of the tv. The simulation was working smoothly so far, but the tv was often buggy. The simulation in question was a reconstruction of an American house in 2023, right before Mr. Trump, in his second term, had lost his sanity and fired nukes at Russia, who retaliated brutally.
I sighed, grabbing the remote on the arm of the soft chair I was sitting in.
“H-he-h-h-hello-hello and Good Morning America!” The cheery host proclaimed after an initial glitch. “I’m Rob Daniels and this is the news at-” the program glitched, obscuring the time. “The holidays are coming up! Why don’t we show you a lovely infomercial about some of your lovely options!” My brows furrowed. I was confused. What was an infomercial?
“Hey parents!” A woman’s cheery voice said. The screen was an almost blinding white. “Looking for the perfect gift for your kids?!” I leaned forward, suddenly interested. It seems getting presents was not a problem unique to 2087. . . “Well look no further!” A bright yellow rubber ball bounced onto the screen. It had two dots of black paint and a longer, lower orange one. I frowned. This didn’t look like the perfect gift.
“The ducky ball is an adorable bundle of joy for your little one! It has cute features, such as this adorable little nose and beautiful eyes!” The camera cut to adorable five-year-olds giggling and playing with the ball. “Look at what fun they’re having! The ball also has an amazingly high bounce for such a fun-sized ball! A-” I turned the tv off.
There was a weird smell coming from somewhere. I sniffed. What could it be? I checked the kitchen, and peeked in the cupboard under the stairs. Next, I opened up the pantry and looked around that. Nothing. Slowly I crept up the cream-carpeted steps. Every second step creaked in the middle, so I walked on the side of the second steps. The smell got worse as I went up – it must have been coming from the bedrooms. There were three. One for the teenage son, one for the tweenage daughter, and one for the parents.
I tried the parents’ first, creaking the crayon-covered white door slowly open. The bedroom was empty except for a large cream bed, a dresser, and two nightstands, one on each side. I checked under the bed, but there was nothing but dust bunnies and a few hairs there. The dresser drawers held clothes and nothing else.
Nervously I made my way to the closet. It was, again, cream coloured and scribbled on with crayon. I grabbed the golden handle and, as slowly and silently as possible, opened it. On the floor, lay a rotting apple core.
I nearly collapsed with relief. I had truly thought something might be off. One of the creators had a love for horror, and a lot of testers had heart attacks or other complications from what he had put in.
Something dripped on my head. I sighed, rolling my eyes. He was trying to scare me. No point in looking up.
Then I heard a hissed breath coming from the ceiling. Don't look up, don’t look up, it’s just a simulation, it can’t hurt you. I chanted to myself.
But I was curious by nature, and couldn’t help but want to look up. And I did.
Have you ever seen a draugr? A Viking zombie. Like a zombie but far worse. Or perhaps Grendel, from the epic poem Beowulf. One might say a cross between the two was the most accurate. There were four up there, squished up and dripping disgusting juices.
I screamed. My legs wanted to give out, but I couldn’t give up now.
I raced out of there screaming. The smell had been - ! Oh God, I was going to throw up. That was truly disgusting.
My legs gave out in the living room. I crawled onto the couch, sitting on the remote my accident.
“Order now at 204-897-xxxx!” The woman crowed. I was screaming and sobbing hysterically. My heart was beating faster, faster, faster. . .
I couldn’t breathe. . .
They were coming downstairs; I could hear the creaks from every second stair. . .
I was going to die soon. But it wasn’t real. . .
If it wasn’t real, why did it feel so real?
And why, oh why, couldn’t I catch my breath or calm my heart. . .
· · ·
“We’re not getting her back.” The man in the white suit said. “She’s gone. Dead. The Grendel / draugr creatures were too much for her.” I sighed.
“Take the machine off her and bring in the next one.” The man nodded.
“Yes sir,” he said. “Release test subject.” The machine let out a great hissss as it lifted the VR visor and earphones from her face. The water dripper wouldn’t move, so I thumped the control pad.
“Time of death?” I asked, bending to a nearby table.
“7:15, sir,” He answered.
“Cause of death?”
“It appears her heart’s stopped from the shock, sir.”
“Name, status and occupation?”
“Marigold Hart, middle class, VR reviewer.”
“Wonderful.” I turned the corpse over. “Call a hearse for her. Actually, no. Give her body to the labs as a cadaver. They always need more cadavers, the greedy-”
“Sir?” He asked. I stopped.
“The commercial’s still playing,” he said. “I wonder what it’s like?”
And sure enough, the lady with too bright teeth and a too enthusiastic voice was still talking about the dumb ball.
“The ducky ball is an amazing gift for your little one! Look at it’s adorable eyes! And that cute little orange nose? Who wouldn’t want one! Call 204-897-xxxx now to order!”
“You know, I think I’ll get one of those,” I said absently.
“Hmm?” The man in the white suit asked.
“A ducky ball. As a consolation for that lady’s daughter. She's only five, you know,” I said.
“Is that so? Very good, sir,” he said.
“Thank you,” I said. “Now send the next one in; we haven’t gotten a survivor yet.”