Digital Vacation

2018-07 BCTS July Staycation Story Contest


 
Digital Vacation
by Melanie Brown
Copyright  © 2018 Melanie Brown

A guy just wanted to have some fun without going anywhere.

 


 

“Hey man, what’s up?” I asked my longtime friend Johnny over the phone. I haven’t talked to him in the month following graduation. We both picked up summer jobs so that made it a bit harder. In another month and a half, we’ll be heading off to different colleges.

“Hey Connor. It’s been a while. Hey. Quick question.”

“No, I’m not shaving my head and getting tattooed,” I said grimly into the phone.

Johnny laughed. “Hey man. That’s so last month. Besides Dad said he’d kill me. What I was going to ask, are you off for the holiday?”

I sat down on my dad’s recliner, idly twirling a game cartridge in my fingers. “As a matter of fact, yes. I managed to get a four day weekend with my parents out of town. Sweet.”

“Cool. So here’s the deal.” There was an extended pause on Johnny’s end of the call. “Dad’s taking my brother and I on a camping trip up where we went a few years ago. He wanted to know if you wanted to come along.”

When we were still in high school, I’d gone on a camping trip with Johnny and we had a blast. We hiked everywhere. I’d never been fishing before and that was fun. We ate what we caught. We had a great remote camping spot. It was the first time I’d ever actually seen the Milky Way.

“That’s very tempting,” I said honestly. “But I already have plans for this weekend.” I studied the game cartridge I was holding.

“Oh? What are you going to do?” Johnny sounded a bit disappointed.

“Well…” I paused for a moment. “You have to keep this under your hat. You can’t tell anyone.”

Johnny sounded indignant. “You know me, man. I’m so good with secrets I can’t remember any of the ones people have told me.”

“I’m holding in my hand the coolest module ever created for the Brain Box 400.” I twirled the cartridge in my fingers again.

The Brain Box 400 is the latest, most immersive, the most intense gaming system yet invented. A headset is worn over your head centered on the cerebral cortex. It feeds data directly to your brain and stimulates your brain instead of a video display or using clunky goggles. There’s a small risk of brain damage and very few reported incidences. But you have the most immersive game experience possible. The game’s reality becomes yours. From combat to racing to being a farmyard veterinarian, those worlds become reality.

The game has built in safeties that will automatically release you after half an hour, which is the max time deemed safe. You can feel impacts or scrapes, but you can’t die in the game or feel authentic pain.

Johnny sucked in a gasp. “You’re not talking about the Adventure Marathon are you?”

“Bingo!”

“That module is highly illegal. It turns all the safeties off,” Johnny said excitedly. “You can actually die in real life from what I’ve heard about it. Where did you get that? That’s on the extreme black market.”

“I bought it on the dark web. I had to sell some of my best collections to pay for it.” I frowned at the memory of having to sell some of my prized, cherry figurines to raise money to pay for this module.

“I heard that module locks you into the system for ten hours. Man that’s just too dangerous. You might never come out of it. Go camping instead.” There was a bit of pleading in Johnny’s voice.

“What instructions there are do say to eat and hydrate before turning on the game. And wear diapers or that underwear your dad wears.” Johnny and I both laughed. “Yeah, there’s a risk, but I can’t pass up the most incredible virtual experience this side of government labs.”

“Can I borrow it later,” asked Johnny.

“If it still works afterwards.” Sometimes these highly contraband cartridges get corrupted after a single use.

“Hey, can I join you? The game does sound awesome despite the danger.” I was surprised Johnny would ask.

“Sorry, dude.” I studied the way too brief datasheet. “It’s single player only. It uses all four bricks.” One brick per headset and each brick was made up of sixteen processors.

“Have fun on your staycation, man,” said Johnny. “And stay safe with that module. You might need your brain for college.”

“Later, dude.”

*          *          *

Man I felt stuffed. I looked over at the empty large pizza box. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. I sucked down the last few swallows of the water bottle I was holding. I had cleared the end table next to my dad’s recliner and put my Brain Box 400 on it. I slide the over-sized cartridge into the game slot. I looked at the warning on the data sheet one last time about how the game will lock me in for ten objective hours and a simulated six months subjective time.

That’s a long damn time.

Before turning the machine on, I got up and went to relieve myself. Then I put on the incontinence panties my mom used a few years ago which was all I could find in the house because I was too embarrassed to buy a package at the store.

I put a blanket down on the recliner so my sweat wouldn’t make me stick to the vinyl. I got in the chair and put the headset on and adjusted the fit. I reached over for the power switch. I hesitated. I thought how this could very easily be my last conscious act. I smirked. Several gamer blogs said the game was well made and safe. I mean, so what if it disabled every safety feature in the game? What’s the fun in knowing you’re safe, right?

With a grim expression, I tapped the power button and leaned back into the recliner. In my mind I saw the blackest black imaginable followed by the Brain Box 400 splash screen. The word “Warning” started flashing. And these words scrolled across the bottom of my view. “Once you select ‘continue’, you will be locked into the game system. There is no exit from this game until it runs its course. All safeties including Cerebral Cortex Burnout Prevention have been disabled. You have been warned. Please select Continue to proceed.”

I reached my virtual hand out to the Continue button. Am I insane? The game will run through an infinite number of adventures and scenarios until the timer runs out. A dozen different developers had worked on the simulations ranging from the Battle of Rorke’s Drift to billionaire playboy and virtually everything in between. And I had no choice in which simulation would be running or the duration.

“Fuck it!” I shouted as I pressed the Continue button.

“Multiple Adventures Module Loaded”
“Total Duration: 10 hours”
“Safety: Off”
“Number of Simulations: Unlimited”
“Gender Selected: Female - Fixed”
“Age: Random”
“Rating: Up to ‘R’ - Fixed”

“15 seconds to insertion”

Wait? What? Gender selected is female? What the fuck? Shit! I didn’t check the switches. Apparently the module won’t over-ride hardwired options and switch settings. Mom must have played her virtual soap opera module before she left. And I forgot Mom bought me a BB 400 that was fixed at a R rating. Since I’m stuck as female, that’s probably a good thing. Exit! Exit! Abort! Where’s the Cancel button? Abort dammit! Abort!

“Insertion complete”

*          *          *

I fell face down on soft green grass. The wind was blowing wildly. I looked up at the weathervane on top of the barn and it was spinning like crazy. My long blonde hair whipped around my face. The skirt from my blue and white dress billowed around my legs. The wind was causing the door to the farmhouse to slam open and closed. The overcast sky was dark and menacing.

What the fuck? Where am I? Behind me came the sound of thundering hooves. I turned around and saw several people on horseback riding hell bent for leather. As he thundered past me, one shouted, “Run girl! They’re coming! Hurry!”

Several people on dirt bikes and a couple jeeps came bouncing by. Someone in one of the jeeps shouted, “Get the hell out of here, girl! We dare not stop!”

From over the hill came a strange, electrical sound. I really couldn’t make it out. The cellar door on the farmhouse flew open and a middle-aged woman poked her head out. “Jenny! Hurry girl! Get to the cellar. They’re coming!”

I started running towards the open cellar door and started to cry. “Mom! I’m scared!” I ran as hard as I could.

I looked over my shoulder and saw in horror these strange wheeled vehicles and an army of even stranger tall, pale beings with elongated heads and large eyes. They exposed long, sharp teeth when they screamed and charged towards me.

Oh my God, what the hell are those things?

I stumbled when almost to the cellar door. Mom shouted, “Jenny hurry! Run. We have to lock the door. Those creatures can’t open cupboard doors. Hurry!”

I picked myself up and started to run again. I got a few feet when a hand with long skinny fingers and large talons at the tips grabbed my arm. I screamed in terror as I tried to pull away. I felt sharp pain as it bit my arm. I pulled away, ripping my dress. I ran the rest of the way in my underwear and dived into the open cellar door. Dad slammed it shut and bolted it. There was a sudden, awful pounding as the creatures desperately tried to get in.

Mom slumped next to me on the stairs leading down into the cellar. “Oh thank God you’re safe.”

With his eyes opened wide, Tommy, my brother pointed at me. “Dad. Look at her arm.” He started to cry.

Dad picked up my arm and looked at it. “You’ve been bit!”

I shook my head wildly. “Oh no Dad! It’s just a scratch! It’s nothing!”

Dad pulled mom down into the cellar and away from me. He reached over and picked up a shovel. “Oh God honey. I’m so sorry.” He swung the shovel towards my head and I felt the blade connect to my neck.

“Next simulation…”

*          *          *

“Oops. Sorry!” The boy who bumped me and caused me to drop my books bent down and started to gather them up.

I bent down to help. I looked at him as I picked up my notebook. He was David. That gorgeous boy in my English class. I just stared at him a moment as he put the books back in my arms. I blinked a couple of times to clear my thinking.

He smiled at me. “I guess I need to watch where I’m going.”

I smiled at him. I couldn’t believe he was actually talking to me. “It’s okay. I’m just clumsy.”

He cocked his head as he looked at me again. “You’re Jenny in my English class, aren’t you?”

I raised a hand, nearly spilling my books again and giggled. “Guilty.”

He steadied the books in my arms. “Let me make this up to you. How about a movie Saturday?”

Oh my God! David just asked me out on a date! I just stood there for a moment in panic. Finally I composed myself. “I’d love to, David. That’d be great.”

David’s eyes sparkled as he smiled at me. “Great. I’ll pick you up at six thirty. Hey, I gotta run. See you at the game tomorrow.”

I hugged my books and giggled off to my next class.

          *          

I took a deep breath. What the hell is going on with this game? I thought it was supposed to be adventures and shit. I mean girls must get tired of this romance shit sometime. And why am I excited about a boy anyway? Suddenly I felt a touch on my arm.

“Earth to Jenny.” said a cheerleader next to me. Her name was Carrie. “Are you going to join us?”

Another cheerleader shook her head. “She’s such a space cadet.”

I giggled. “Sorry.” I started shaking my pom-poms as we ran out in front of the bleachers at the stadium and began chanting our yells. I was so excited to finally have made the squad. I didn’t want to screw up.

“Jenny!” I heard my name shouted. I looked up and there was David sitting in the student section waving at me. I grinned broadly and waved back.

Carrie noticed me wave and looked up into the stands. She grinned at me. “New boyfriend?”

I kept looking at David. “I sure hope so.”

I finally looked away and went on to cheer for our team.

We lost.

          *          

“You can’t go out dressed like that!”

I looked down at myself. David would be here any minute to pick me up. “What’s wrong with how I’m dressed, Daddy?”

Dad folded his arms. “That skirt for starters.”

I looked down at my black, pleated scooter skirt. “What’s wrong with it?” I heard a car pull up outside.

Dad frowned. “It’s up to your navel for one thing.”

I glanced at the door expecting the doorbell to ring any second. I tugged on the hem of my skirt. “What are you talking about? Mom!? Help me out.”

Mom laughed. “Your skirt is just fine. Dad stop. You’re driving your daughter crazy.”

The doorbell rang. I rushed to the door and stopped. I took a deep breath and composed myself. I slowly opened the door. “David! I wasn’t expecting you so soon!”

David smiled at me and then looked over at my parents. “Hello Mr. and Mrs. R.” He turned back to me. “Ready?”

I picked up my purse from where I had it hanging on the back of the couch. “Yes.”

Dad stood up to his full height. “Have her back by eleven.”

David nodded. “Yes sir.” He took my hand and led me to his car.

Ever the gentleman, he opened the car door and held it for me as I sat down, sweeping my skirt under me. He closed the door and hurried around to the driver’s seat.

I looked over at David as he drove the car away from out house and towards the strip mall where the movie theater was. “What are we going to go see?”

David glanced over at me. “That new Tommy Kincaid movie, ‘The Princess of Q’fahr’. Kind of an action and comedy flick.”

I grinned. “I love his movies. They’re always so funny.”

We made it to the theater without incident. David bought our tickets and got me popcorn and a drink. We lucked out and got good seats near the center. Once the movie started, and I had depleted my popcorn, I leaned up against David’s shoulder. He slid his arm around me. I smiled as I looked up at him. He slowly bent his head down and touched his lips against mine.

I managed to get my arm around his neck and pulled his head down towards me. He then gave me a long, deep, passionate kiss. I tingled all over and melted into his arms. This was heaven.

“Next Simulation…”

*          *          *

I burst through the doorway of the crowded café. I had turned over several tables hoping to impede the pursuit of four burly Arab men chasing me. David was sitting on his motorcycle, legs draped across the sidecar.

I shouted to David, “Start it up! Hurry!” I jumped onto my Indian Scout and with one heavy kick breathed life into the engine. I pulled my goggles down and shouted, “Go go go!”

With a shower of rocks and dirt both our bikes sped off down the dusty street. My pursers jumped into a van and gave chase.

David and I blasted out of the small North African village. David looked over at me and shouted to be heard above the wind noise and thunder of our motorcycle engines, “Did you get the map?”

I grinned and pointed back at the pursuing van, my scarf whipping in the wind. “What do you think?” David laughed.

Suddenly my rearview mirror shattered. I turned around and saw the van was now quite close and two men were leaning out of the windows firing on us. I reached down and unclipped my holster and got a good grip on my Mauser 1912.

It was hard to aim as our motorcycles bounced over the rocky road. Two of my shots found their mark in the radiator of the van. I smiled with satisfaction as steam began spewing from the ruined radiator. A few minutes later, there was no one behind us.

We didn’t slow down until we stopped at a remote well, several miles from the road we had been riding on. I killed the engine and dismounted my bike. David did the same.

I examined my bike for a few minutes to make sure there was no other damage besides the mirror. David went on to the well and lowered the cup by a rope down into the water below. He poured the water over his head before lowering the cup again for a drink.

“They’re going to follow us,” said David matter-of-factly.

I just smirked as I took the cup from David and lowered it again. “Let them. Without the map and the winds covering our tracks, I doubt they’ll find us.” I pulled the folded map from my blouse pocket and opened it.

The map should lead us to the last city of the kingdom of Ra. It pre-dated ancient Egypt. According to what I’d been able to discover, the king of course considered himself a god. Two kingdoms were to be joined by the marriage of his daughter, Princess Kiya to the prince from the other kingdom. According to the texts, she was murdered by her sister to prevent the marriage. Both kingdoms collapsed shortly after that. Their locations and what treasures they contained have been lost to time, buried in the ever shifting sands.

I tapped the map. “I think we’re close.” I pointed at the map as David stepped close. “See these glyphs? Here’s the well we’re at. Just a few klicks and we’re there.”

David took another drink from the well water and sighed. “I sure hope you’re right, Jenny. This has cost a lot of effort.”

I leaned over and kissed David. “With the reward the museum will pay us, it’ll be worth it. No one, not even Arabs have seen this city for centuries.” I turned to walk back to my bike.

David whistled. “You know, those dark brown riding pants and brown, lace-up, knee-high riding boots don’t do your figure any justice.”

I laughed and walked back to him. I put my arms around his neck and gave him a long deep kiss. “With the reward we’ll be paid, I’ll be able to live in silk gowns.”

After a few minutes of kissing, David abruptly pulled away, a look of concern clouding his face. “Do you hear that?”

Suddenly alert, I stepped back from David. “Trucks! They’ve somehow followed us! We gotta scram.” I pocketed the map and pulled my goggles back down over my eyes and ran for my bike.

Right in front of me, dirt started flying up from the impact of forty-five caliber slugs from a Tommy Gun being fired from a truck pulling into the small oasis. The man pointed the Thompson at David and I in a gesture that said we shouldn’t move.

A long black convertible drove up in front of us. In the passenger seat was a man grinning from ear-to-ear and wearing a broad-brimmed hat. I recognized him instantly as he got out the car. It was Erick Von Bedeuten. He steals antiquities and sells them on the black market. A middle-aged woman, dressed like the locals stayed in the backseat of the car.

“Well, well, well. Dr. Rollins. How pleasant to finally make your acquaintance.” said Von Bedeuten with a sneer.

I took a step towards Von Bedeuten. “How did you find us? I’m the one with the map!”

Grinning like the cat that ate the canary, Von Bedeuten reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a piece of folded paper and waved it in the air. “Look doll. You never heard of making copies? I had to kill a guy for this. They were keeping this really secret.”

I stood my ground, not showing any fear. “Are you going to kill us too?”

Von Bedeuten laughed. “Naw. Not yet anyway. Get in the truck.”

          *          

The beams of our flashlights danced on the walls of the large chamber in what we took for the palace. There were several large stone tables placed around the floor. There appeared to be partially completed mummies on the tables.

Von Bedeuten let out a low whistle. “Get a load of this, why don’t you? It looks like they beat it out of here in a hurry. They didn’t finish. I wonder why?”

“Why don’t you ask one them?” quipped David from behind me as he pointed at a mummy.

Von Bedeuten pointed his Thompson at David. “Maybe I’ll let you ask them. Shut your trap.” He waved his arm expansively around the room. “You know what I’m not seeing? I’m not seeing any gold around here.” He turned to the woman who had ridden with him and had quietly followed down into this chamber. “I thought you said there was going to be treasures beyond belief here.”

The woman smiled without humor. “You’re just not looking in the right places.” She walked up to the partially wrapped mummy of what appeared to be a girl, but it was hard to tell.

She handed Von Bedeuten a small paper with something handwritten on it. “Repeat this chant to the mummy of Princess Kiya and you will see something amazing.”

He handed the paper to me. “Here. You do it. I don’t trust that old broad. What is she doing back there?” The woman had gone to the back of the chamber and was digging into various pots and sprinkling around the colorful powders she found there.

I looked at the writing. It was written phonetically and I started to say the chant. I felt silly doing it. “What is this supposed to do?”

The woman spun around, her eyes flashing. “Do not stop the chant! We must complete the incantation on this day at this hour or the soul of Princess Kiya will be lost for another ten thousand years!” She pulled a pistol out from where she had it hidden in her clothes. Angrily she shouted, “Do it!”

Von Bedeuten spun around, raising his sub machine gun. The woman fired and he winced in pain as she shot him in the arm. He dropped his weapon. "I am the resurrection of Sacmis, High Priestess, wielder of magic! I intend for Princess Kiya to fulfill her destiny so her soul may rest.” She pointed at David. “This man will stand in for the prince she was ordained to marry. After the two of you are wed, you will be entombed forever in this chamber!”

David shouted, “Lady, you’re insane!” He took a step towards her, but she pointed her pistol at him. To me she shouted, “Keep chanting!”

Worried that this Sacmis or whoever she is would hurt David, I continued the chanting. This went on for several minutes. Above us we could hear peals of thunder. Sacmis sprinkled more of the strange scented powder around the stone table where the long dead princess lay.

Suddenly, I saw a finger twitch. Then her arm moved. I nearly fainted when the girl sat up, her head whipping around wild-eyed. She was a beautiful girl with the blackest eyes I’ve ever seen.

The girl, obviously terrified began shouting in a strange language. Sacmis laughed and raised her arms. “My princess! You have awakened!”

Von Bedeuten turned to face the girl. “This is incredible! A living mummy! She’s worth a fortune!” He reached for her. But the girl pulled a dagger from belt she wore, her clothes dissolving into dust. With a single movement, she thrust her dagger through Von Bedeuten’s throat. With a shocked expression and gurgling noises coming from his mouth, Von Bedeuten sank to the floor.

Sacmis had picked up the Thompson and was waving it at me. “Now we need your blood for the sacrament.” She raised the weapon at me. David lunged at her, knocking her to floor just as she opened fire.

The bullets raked across the ceiling stones, chipping large chunks away. There was a loud crack as the stones shifted. A column in the chamber moved to one side. Dust and rocks started to fall all around us.

Sacmis, still lying on the floor cried, “No! No! It’s not complete!”

The girl snarled as she leapt on top of Sacmis and started clawing at her and screaming.

I ran over to David who was just getting up from the floor. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”

Grabbing my hand with one hand and picking up a fallen flashlight with the other, David led me across the chamber to the rope ladder we had used to descend into the chamber. Columns were starting to fall. Large pieces of the ceiling were falling on Sacmis and the girl. There was one final scream as part of the ceiling fell crushing both the girl and Sacmis.

We climbed to the top and watched as the sand in front of us sank as the chamber below collapsed. Air forced through the falling rocks sent streams of sand flying as the ground shook and rumbled. Von Bedeuten’s henchmen had been exploring another part of the chamber when it all collapsed. After several minutes, David and I stood in total silence. Not even the wind stirred.

I collapsed in David’s arms. “What the hell did we just see down there? And it’s all destroyed. Just stone and sand.” I laid my head on his shoulder and cried quietly.

After a few minutes, David pulled me away from him. “Wait a minute. What’s this?”

We walked a few feet through the burning sand and saw a gaping hole in the desert floor. Below us, were several tons of shifted stone and beneath that were piles of precious jewels and gold.

A cold breeze blew up through the hole and then all was quiet again.

David brushed his fingers through my hair. “I guess we don’t go home empty handed after all.”

I looked up at him and grinned. He then bent his head down towards me and gave me a long, deep and passionate kiss.

“Next Simulation…”

*          *          *

It was a gorgeous summer morning. Through the open barn doors, I could see leaves swaying in the light breeze reflecting the sunlight. I ran my brush along the flank of Mister G. Mister G being the name of my horse! A cool breeze passed through the barn, stirring my hair that I had put up in pigtails this morning.

I heard some footsteps crunching on the hay covered floor of the barn. I looked around Mister G’s head and saw David Vincent approaching carrying a couple boxes. David was really cute and I was always happy when he came over to help out on our farm.

David tipped the brim of his broad brimmed hat and nodded at me. “Good morning, Miss Jenny.” He started to set the boxes down. “I brought these over for your pa.”

I looked down at the boxes. “He’ll be glad to get those for sure. Thank you for bringing it.” I patted Mister G on the nose.

Looking embarrassed, David looked down at his feet. “Happy to oblige.” He paused for a moment and then still looking at the barn’s floor he said, “Well, I guess I’ll be getting back.” He started to step away, and then hesitated.

Smiling weakly, he finally looked at me. “You know that dance the Henderson’s do?”

I looked over from Mister G to David. “That dance they have every summer at their barn that they’re doing this Saturday? Everyone looks forward to it.” Everyone loved the big dance each year. The Hendersons would dance and sing as well.

David took off his hat and fidgeted with it. “I was ah…kinda wondering Miss Jenny if you…uh…um if you’d like to go with me… um ah…”

I stepped around from Mister G and smiled at David. “Why David Vincent! Are you asking me to the dance?”

David smiled. “Yes ma’am. I’d shore love to have you come with me to the dance.”

I walked up to him. He was at least a head taller’n me. I couldn’t believe he just asked me to the dance! “I’d love to, David. But I have to ask my ma first. Come by tomorrow and I’ll let you know.”

David grinned. “I’ll be here!” He then turned and walked quickly from the barn.

          *          

The loud backfire let me know that David had arrived in his old pickup truck at our farmhouse. I sat patiently on the sofa waiting for his knock on the door. It took a few minutes, but it finally came. I jumped up and ran to the front door. I was wearing my blue and white dress.

“Hello Miss Jenny,” said David at the door. He was holding flowers he’d picked himself from his farm’s garden.

I laughed as I took the flowers. “Just call me Jenny, silly! Come on in for a minute. Make yourself at home.”

I ran to the kitchen looking for a vase to put the flowers in. “Look at my flowers, Ma! Aren’t they pretty?”

Mom smiled at me. “They’re very pretty.” She kissed my forehead. “Have fun at the dance. Pa and I will probably be there as soon as he gets cleaned up. Be back by ten, ya hear?”

“Yes Ma!” I ran out of the kitchen. David stood up when I walked into the living room. I smiled at him. “Let’s go.”

It was a bit of a long drive to the Henderson farm along a dusty dirt road. The sun was setting and it was absolutely gorgeous. The radio didn’t work in David’s truck so the only sound was the occasional backfire.

David looked over at me. “You sure look pretty Mi… Jenny.”

I smiled at him. “You too, David. Well, handsome, not pretty.” It was the first time I’d seen him wearing something other than overalls.

Finally David parked his truck along a row of other trucks parked next to the barn on the Henderson’s farm. David took my hand and led me to the wide open door exposing the brightly lit barn interior. Clapping and fiddle music was already filling the air as folks from all over the county were getting into the hoedown.

Mrs. Henderson greeted us at the door. “Well hello! Aren’t you two just the cutest couple! Come on in! We’ve got fried chicken and barbeque along the far wall over yonder. Just help yourself. Enjoy the dance!”

David touched the brim of his hat. “Thank you, ma’am. We will.” He looked over at me. “Eat or dance first?”

I grinned. “Let’s dance.”

We got in the line just as the band started playing “Cotton Eyed Joe.” I’d never seen David so animated before. We danced and doesy-doe’d until the cows came home. I don’t know when I’ve laughed so much. I never understood why they’d let chickens get in the bread pan and peck out dough.

David finally looked over at me and wiped his brow. “You look tired, Jen. Let’s get something to eat.”

I let out a breath. “I agree!”

We left the dancing area and walked over to the long tables loaded with all sorts of food. I grabbed a chicken leg and David went straight for the brisket. I wondered out the back door of the barn into the cool night air.

I smelled the cool fresh air as I nibbled on my chicken leg. This had to be the best night of life! Dancing with the most handsome boy in the county had finally gone from day dream to reality. I just stood there lost in my thoughts for several minutes.

“Oh. Here you are.”

I turned around to see David walking towards me, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. “That was damned good brisket.” He stopped and looked sheepish. “I’m sorry, Miss Jenny. I mean to say that was really good brisket.”

I walked up to David and put my hand on his chest. “Just call me Jenny.”

David’s face reddened. “I don’t want to seem too familiar with you.”

I laughed. “We’ve known each other since we were both five!”

David grinned and pushed his hat back. “I reckon you’re right.” He put his hands on my shoulders and stared intently into my eyes. “You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.” He pulled me a little closer.

And then our lips touched. I moaned a deep sigh. I’ve been waiting for him to kiss me since junior high when I finally stopped thinking boys were yucky.

We lay down in the tall cool grass behind the barn. We could still faintly hear the music. It was a beautiful night with the sky blazing with stars. We kissed a long time.

          *          

“Ma, I really don’t like this picture,” I said staring at a framed photograph hanging on the wall of the living room. Ma just chuckled.

The picture was of the preacher standing in front of David who was looking scared, Pa holding his shotgun and me with my belly sticking out from being seven months pregnant.

Ma said, “The baby’s crying. Time to feed him, Ma.” She chuckled again.

“Next Simulation…”

*          *          *

We were all standing in the middle of the football field, holding hands with the girl on either side of us. All of us nervous and not just because everyone in the stadium were focused on us.

The announcer said over the speaker system, “And our new homecoming queen for this year is …” He paused for dramatic effect. “Jennifer Rollins!”

I let go of the other girls’ hands as I put my hands in front of my face to hide my mouth gaping open. Holy crap! It’s me! I started to cry.

David, in her gorgeous black sequined gown stepped near me and whispered in my ear, “I hate you! I should have won!”

“Next Simulation…”

*          *          *

It was chaos. TV cameras all over. Flash bulbs flashing. I tried to focus on the reporter with his microphone directed at me.

“And so Miss Rollins. What’s it like being married to a Beatle?”

“Next Simulation…”

*          *          *

I nodded at the reporter. “Yes. The rumors are true. Donovan wrote that song about me.”

“Next Simulation…”

*          *          *

David struggled against the soldiers who held him. “Jennifer! My love!”

I stood tall and straight, still wearing my chainmail armor. I looked with disdain at the man in black robes standing next to me. “So this is my reward for freeing France?”

The man in black held out a document. “For your crimes against the king, you are hereby sentenced to death.”

David reached out towards me. “No! You can’t do this! She saved us!”

The man in the black robes nodded to two soldiers. They grabbed me roughly by my arms and forced me to lie down on the guillotine. They locked my head in place.

David shouted, “Jennifer I love you!”

I wasn’t going to give my executioners the satisfaction of seeing me cry. If they expected me to plead for mercy, they didn’t know the woman I was.

“For France!” The last words to ever leave my lips as I saw the bottom of the bucket rise up to meet me.

“Next Simulation…”

*          *          *

“Lieutenant Dan!”

“Next Simulation…”

*          *          *

I wondered what the commotion was about. The woman I was talking to turned to look past me. She gasped.

“The prince has arrived. The prince is here.” She smiled. Most of the other women at the ball turned to see Prince David make his entrance. He was so handsome in his military dress uniform, his chest covered in medals.

It had been rumored that Prince David would miss the gala in his honor as he some many other affairs of state to deal with. But here he was, keeping his word. Not only was he gorgeous, he was a man of honor.

I watched him from a quiet corner of the ballroom as he walked from one group to the next. All the women were dressed in beautiful satin gowns. All the men either in military dress or tuxedos. Every girl here dreamed of dancing with him.

But every girl here except me had always been high class. My father rose to the upper class by working his fingers off to give my mother, brother and me a better life. I had nothing against the others here. Most of them had hard working fathers as well. And some were born into a world their grandfathers had built for them. The prince only had time for people of elevated status. There never seemed to be enough time in the day.

I stood there alone in my self-imposed exile from all the beautiful people satisfied that I at least got to share a room with the prince.

As he greeted an elderly couple nearby, I saw him look over at me. I know he was looking at me as I was standing all alone. He talked briefly with the couple before moving on to the next group. He glanced at me a few more times.

And then he turned and approached me. A shaft of cold shock shot down my spine. Prince David is walking towards me. Little nothing me. I tried to compose myself.

Prince David walked up to me and smiled. As he took my gloved hand and kissed my fingers he asked, “And who might this lovely creature be, standing all by herself?”

For a second I forgot my name. I took a deep breath. “Your highness, I am Jennifer Rollins.”

Prince David looked thoughtful for a moment or two. “Rollins…Rollins… Oh! Yes. I know your father. He’s a very good man.”

I bowed my head slightly. “Thank you, your highness.”

Looking about the room, Prince David said, “I’m a little tired of greeting people. Could I interest you in a few dances?”

Oh my God! Did the prince just ask me… me! of all the other women in the ballroom to dance with him? I thought I was going to die right there of shock.

I smiled at him. “I would love to, your highness.”

He took my hand and smiled at me. “Call me David. May I call you Jennifer?”

Blushing twenty shades of red, I said, “Most certainly your…David.”

He led me to the dance floor. I could see the expressions of the other women at the ball as they watched the prince lead me to the floor. I couldn’t help but smile.

As we took our positions on the floor and began to sway back and forth to the gentle chamber music, Prince David looked at me and confessed, “As I was greeting all these stuffed shirts, I was looking for the one woman I would dance with. Sadly I have to leave soon, so I could only dance with one woman. And I saw you standing alone. A more beautiful creature I’ve never seen before. Miss Jennifer, you are the most stunning woman here. Even if you weren’t standing alone, you’d be standing out.” He smiled at me.

If I blushed any more, my face would fall off. The man who might be king one day called me the most beautiful woman he’d seen. I don’t believe it for a second, but I’m not going to argue with him!

He drew me closer to him. “You’re that very special combination of a simple woman wrapped up in grace and charm that makes you the rarest find of all.” He smiled at me again and I just melted. I’ve never felt this attracted to a man before. Here he was, a prince but so down to earth. So charming. So totally gorgeous.

He bent his head down to me and pressed his lips gently against mine. I felt his kiss all the way down to my toes! I slid my arm around his neck as his kiss deepened. I know people will call me crazy, but I fell in love with Prince David with that one kiss. It’s a kiss like no other. The whole world shrank down to just David and me. Everything else receded away from us. I didn’t want this moment to end.

David pulled away from me. He smiled sadly. “I’m sorry my fair lady, but I must be going. The affairs of the state can never wait. Would you consent to have dinner with me at the palace?”

Oh my God! Does he really have to ask? Would I ever say no? “I would love to, David.”

“I will send for you.” He kissed me again and then turned and hurried from the ballroom.

I just stood there, watching the man I’d just fallen in love with walk away from me. I whispered, “No. Please don’t go!”

“Ending Simulations… Releasing insertion. Thanks for playing.”

*          *          *

I sat bolt upright crying. “No! Don’t end there!” I was drenched in sweat and the blanket I had placed on the recliner was soaked. Mid-morning sunlight was playing against dust motes. I was starving and as my aunt Martha in Texas would say, I was powerfully thirsty.

I stood up on wobbly legs and looked down at me. The diaper panty I was wearing was full. At first I was completely confused. “What the fuck?” I shouted. Why am I a boy? What the hell? I’m a girl! What’s going on? I’m a girl dammit. I’m a g…and then I slowly realized that I am a boy. I had completely forgotten who I was while the game was running.

I took a shower and got dressed after downing several bottles of water. I decided I should probably get something for lunch. I looked at myself and the mirror and grunted a laugh. The most beautiful creature was I? I shook my head.

When I got into my car, I noticed I was almost out of gas. Typical, I thought. I’m always out when I need to go somewhere. I drove into the gas station at a convenience store. I went inside to pay.

When the guy behind the counter turned around to ask what I needed, my heart leapt into my throat. Never in my life have I been attracted to guys in any way, shape or fashion. But this guy was just gorgeous! His name tag said “David”. When he smiled at me I melted. I had bought my water bottles at this store last night before starting my gaming session. Here was the man I had fallen in love with many times during the game. Fallen hopelessly in love with on the final simulation. Looking at his beautiful face, I had to admit that I was in love. Insane. Crazy.

This is going to be a problem.

*          *          *

The End



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