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Story: 1CONSCIOUS: Chapter 1: Simon

1CONSCIOUS: Chapter 1: Simon
By Anthony Neal Nelson

A controversial new technology has been created to bridge your subconscious mind to your personal computer. With that a new company, 1CONSCIOUS, designed an interface called the STAR (Sense, Thought, And Response) module, which is able to send and receive these nerve signals artificially as if it were one of the person's extremities and is capable of reproducing all 5 senses by simply triggering memories. When smelling a flower your brain will recall the memory of smelling a flower for the sensation. The 1CONSCIOUS allows you to not only access your own data and applications on your computer while you are asleep, but also allows you to become anyone, to go anywhere, and do anything you can possibly imagine.

The company’s  slogan 1CONSCIOUS: dreaming has never been so real has captured the social and technological zeitgeist, but does it have a dangerous and lethal bug?

Monday 10/21 2:30 PM

Minneapolis, Minnesota

The radio next to Simon Raylan transitions from an office-friendly classic rock song to an advertisement that pulls his attention. He turns his head away from the bright screen of his computer and looks directly at his desk radio,  he stares at the time in big red block letters as he listens to the commercial.

"What if you could double your life, literally? Whether it is for work or play, learning, relaxing, or playing; we can show you the way. 1CONSCIOUS: dreaming has never been so real."

When the clip is over and another easily ignorable song begins Simon looks around his cubicle from over his shoulder. His two co-workers Andrew and Randall are busily grinding away at their own computers, or they are unproductively surfing the internet, it is often impossible to decipher.

"Hey, so, you guys ... I think I told you but I’m picking up my 1CONSCIOUS after work today."

Simon says as he spins his office chair to face the center of the three desk cubicle. As he passively brags Andrew and Randall spin their chairs around as well in an almost in a synchronized motion that Simon finds amusing but does not mention.

"I am so jealous man, I am saving up myself, but, you know..."

Says Andrew as he makes a shrugging motion with his shoulders.

"I’m still skeptical but it sounds amazing, just not sure about sending electrical signals into my brain when I sleep."

Randall half-jokes as he turns his chair back around to his own workspace, breaking their cubicle pow-wow. Andrew interjects while throwing his stress ball at Randall, missing on purpose so it bounces around his cubicle knocking over his pencil cup.

“I think you are being paranoid. You buy one and I will test it out for you, how does that sound?"

Randall grabs and puts the stress ball in his own desk drawer, confiscating it with an evil grin on his face. Andrew shrugs at him and turns back to face Simon.

"I want to check out the mods, I saw one that was just a bunch of girls in a hot tub, that’s all it is. Hot girls in a hot tub, and they all love you!"

Simon laughs, leans forward in his chair and says,

"I have a few downloaded already, not that one specifically, but first I am going to play 1C Great War. I bought the license already and have been wanting to play that game. It is supposed to be mind-blowing, literally.”

Simon aims an invisible rifle at Andrew and pulls the trigger blowing air from his lips in a burst; he then looks away from his co-workers and at the mess of paperwork on his desk.

“I will have a real nightmare right now if I don’t get this crap done."

Andrew grunts as he turns to look at his computer.

"Yeah, I suppose I should do something and pretend to work because they pretend to pay me to."

Monday 10/21 5:15PM

Simon parks his small economical car in the parking lot beside the 1CONSCIOUS store. It is a very office, much smaller than he envisioned in his mind but still finds it to be impressive. As he enters the front door he sees a small reception desk with a lovely young woman with red hair and a white shirt sitting on a rather tall stool. Behind her sit offices which he can see through the windows over her shoulder. To his right there is a monitor on the wall that runs a constant 1CONSCIOUS logo animation played as a silent looping graphic.

Simon approaches the receptionist, he sees the nametag on her shirt reads Janice.
"How may I help you?"

Janice asks as he approaches her podium.

"Hi, yes, I have a 5 o'clock with Mr. Foritens."

The receptionist looks at the schedule book in front of her.

"Wonderful, Damon will be right out ... Mr. Raylan, I presume ..."

Simon nods in acknowledgement and leans in microscopically closer to pretend he hasn't already read her nametag 15 times.

"Yes I am ... Janice ..."

He smiles an awkward smile just as a voice bellows from the doorway to his right.
"Simon!"

Damon Foritens’ deep salesman voice interrupts Simon’s impromptu flirt, and Simon looks to his right to see a tall man in a black suit and blue silk shirt coming toward him with a big open hand pre-extended.

"Glad you could make it in on such short notice, we had a cancellation so we were very happy you could accept our scheduling change."

Damon and Simon’s hands meet first as they approach each other. Damon Foritens, a career salesman, prides himself on his handshake. Not too firm and not too wimpy, and absolutely never shaky. Simon found it to be a comforting as he was feeling a bit of anxiety coming over him, he has been been waiting for this moment for weeks.

"No problem at all, it was good news."

Damon ends the handshake and gestures to the doorway around the corner.
"Come to my office and I will give you the whole spiel my friend."

Once inside the office, Simon sits down in the chair in front of Damon’s desk. Damon shuts the door behind them and sits on the corner of his desk to Simon’s right and grabs a booklet from a pamphlet holder.  

"Simon, before I start I need to know what kind of customer you are so I don't waste your time. I get people in here who know more about the technology than I do down to the folks who think it runs on magic.”

Damon stands up from the desk, rolling and unrolling the booklet in his hands. Simon replies to Damon quickly and anxiously.

"I have done a ton of research, I’m pretty educated on them to be honest. It has taken me quite a while to save up for it, so I’ve just been reading what users think and it sounds great. I’ve had only time to research and weigh the pros and cons, someone I work with thinks they are dangerous so I wanted to research that as well.”

Simon said staring at the booklet in Damon's hands and wishing it was in his.
"They are great, and they are spendy my friend, they are spendy indeed; I won't lie to you. I am guessing you are a tech-savvy man, so I will answer any question you have but I don't want to bore you with information you have already found on your own so I will skip some of my usual presentation. As far as any kind of danger they represent, I can only speak as a user and I have only felt better both in my sleep and waking life since I got one."

Damon hands Simon the booklet.

"Everything is in the manual, and you can stop in or call anytime if you have any other questions as I am always here for our family members; I am assuming you just want to get home with your new machine, right?"

Simon nods in agreement without changing expression, which is blank-faced with anticipation. Damon walks over to the corner of his office and opens a silver cabinet, there are two shelves holding a two small devices.

"This is our customer display. We have your unit boxed in the back."

Damon motions for Simon to stand and follow him. Simon stands and walks to the cabinet placed directly center in the wall, directly behind Janice on the other side.

"That is the server box, that communicates with your personal computer, it does all the work really. Next to it you have the STAR module, that goes on your neck when you sleep. Everything connects wirelessly."

Simon gently slaps the manual in his right hand against his left palm, a sign he is now up-to-speed on the equipment display. Damon steps away from the cabinet.

"You’ve got it, pretty easy, you will have no problems whatsoever getting this up and running. The hardest part is falling asleep the first few nights, we have been told by new users their feeling anxious can keep them awake."

Damon then points at the chair across from the desk for Simon to have a seat again; he as well walks around his desk and sits facing Simon.

"As far as the system; we have no budget packs or equipment, we take our product very seriously and do not compromise on quality to sell more units. We do have ways to finance, but I have a feeling this is going to be a pay-in-full purchase today as you had mentioned saving up for some time."

Damon puts his hands on his desk palms down as he finishes his question and Simon nods positively.

"Yes, I will pay in full today."

Damon smiles and sits back, and softly claps his palms together in front of his chest.

"Wonderful then!”
Damon opens a drawer and pulls out some paperwork on a clipboard and passes it to Simon across his desk. Simon signs the sales receipt and passes it back.
"Ok Sir, I will have your machine brought up front for you.”

Damon excitedly stands up and extends his hand to Simon once again.

"Thank you very much for your business, we are happy to have you as one of our family and you will find that we very much are a family as we all run into each other on the other side from time to time, whether we know it or not."

Damon winks and smiles an ambiguous smile that could be innocent or mischievous, Simon being rather shy just pretended he didn’t notice the wink.

"The first time you enter 1CONSCIOUS you will go through an initial configuration and setup process, just follow DIANA’s instructions.”

Simon shakes Damon’s hand one last time then opens the office door and walks out to the lobby where the receptionist Janice is still sitting on her tall stool and is now reading a magazine from which she quickly looks up.

"Hello Mr. Raylan, did everything work out for you today?"

Janice asks as Simon approaches.

"Yes, I can't wait to get home and sleep tonight.”

Simon thinks to himself how that made him sound like an old fogey and tries to hide being embarrassed.

"I know that feeling, I got one on credit when I started this job and I am so happy. They are a lot of fun, maybe we'll bump into each other on the other side."

"Maybe on this side too ..."

Simon smiles, proud of his flirty wordplay. Janice smiles back politely.

"Maybe indeed ..."

She hands Simon his purchase, a blue box with 1CONSCIOUS in big white letters.

“And here you go, have a great evening.”

"You too, Janice."

Simon picks up his box walks out the front door.

Monday 10/21 7:00 PM

Simon arrives at his apartment and connects the 1CONSCIOUS equipment with the computer on his desk. The light on the front of the server changes from red to blue, the manual shows him that means it is now ready to use.

He opens a small box that contains the STAR module, a small gummy rubber pad roughly the size of a postage stamp that you stick to the back of your neck. Simon carefully places the receiver on the nightstand next to his bed and goes to the kitchen to make some food. Feeling excited and anxious, Simon decides to take a sleeping pill with his dinner to help him relax.

After eating two plates of spaghetti he feels the pill start to kick in. He puts on his bed clothes then places the STAR module on the back of his neck and curls up into his normal sleep position. The pill overpowers his anxiety and he falls asleep quickly.

Monday 10/21 9:00 PM

Once unconscious, Simon is awakened so-to-speak in a small white room with a tall thin woman standing in the center of the room. She is wearing a tight white dress and she has short dark hair; her default appearance is based on Audrey Hepburn for whom the engineers had an affinity for. There is a simple looking metal desk with a monitor and keyboard against the white wall to his right, and a bright blue door to his left. The woman then speaks.
"Welcome to your new 1CONSCIOUS, my name is DIANA, please allow me to be your guide for the next few minutes as I show you a few things about your new system. To your right you will see a desk and to the left you will see a door. The desk contains a computer that is representative of your own personal computer at home, although it may look different you may access any information or programs right here that you would be able to use while awake. The door is your gateway to the world of 1CONSCIOUS. You must program the door to open to a specific address or when you open it you will only see bricks. There are many free gateways that you can open; anything from concerts to singles bars to sporting events, the possibilities are truly endless. You can even make your own gateway and design your own little room in your corner of the 1CONSCIOUS universe. To return back here to your Home Room you will have to ask the system to open it, this is done by saying Open Home Room Now. First you must sit at your computer and create your new avatar; you can have as many personalities as you wish. You can be any size, any race, and any gender. We have millions of options for apparel and accessories for your full experience in the 1CONSCIOUS world. If at any time you wish to speak to me for assistance just say DIANA Help. If you are wondering my name means, it stands for Digitally Animated Network Assistant. I am at your disposal at all times for anything you may need, thank you for using 1CONSCIOUS."

DIANA turns to walk to the corner of the room where there is a glowing circle on the floor. She suddenly stops and turned around showing she now has a certain peculiar smile.

"I see from your registration information that you are a member over the age of 18, I am happy to tell you that I would love to offer you a full girlfriend experience. From the terminal open the Honeymoon Suite gateway and I will be waiting for you. My appearance is as customizable as your own, I can be anyone you want me to be."

DIANA winks and turns to continue walking into the circle on the floor, stops, turns again to face Simon and disappears still smiling, the glowing circle also disappears.

Simon waits a moment for the information he just received to fully settle in, he then walks over to the computer terminal and sits down on the big brown comfortable office chair in front of it. The screen is all blue except for the white 1CONSCIOUS logo. He clicks on the logo with the mouse and the screen changes and now gives him two options. The first option is to access the user's personal computer. The second option is to access the 1CONSCIOUS network. He chooses the second.

The next screen displays a list of the ten default gateways.

1CONSCIOUS Main Menu

01. Honeymoon Suite
02. Room Service
03. Concerts & Shows
04. Sports & Sporting Events
05. Nightlife & Mingle Rooms
06. Nature & Space
07. Museums
08. Loaded Mods
09. Pay Per View Theater
10. Enter Gateway
Although Simon intended to play an ultra-violent war game tonight, DIANA’s sexy proposal has suddenly superseded any other plans for the evening. He presses the 1 button then the ENTER key; a prompt appears on-screen.

“Do you wish to customize DIANA?”

Simon thought for a moment, then he changes her hair to make it very long and a bit darker. He then smiles and clicks the Save button and stands up. He walks to and opens the door across the room, no brick wall on the other side, instead he sees a very bright and very swank hotel room. As he enters the Honeymoon Suite, he sees DIANA sitting in a chair in the corner of the enormous red and white room. There is a giant circular bed in the center of the room, mirrors are all over the walls and on the ceiling. There is a large television screen that nearly takes up an entire wall and a table in one corner. The new long-haired DIANA stands and approaches him wearing a revealing black nightgown.
"What would you like to call me?"

She asks as she him making full eye contact and starts to slowly undress him.

"I would like to call you Astrid."

Tuesday 10/22/2024 5:09 AM

Simon wakes up exactly 8 hours from the moment he fell asleep. It was a little earlier than he normally wakes up; he forgot to set the 1CONSCIOUS' internal alarm clock so it defaulted to wake him after exactly 8 hours of rest. Any normal day he would simply go back to sleep until it was the exact moment he had to get up and not be late for work, but he has never felt this well rested in his life. Perhaps this was because he made love to a gorgeous, yet imaginary, woman all night without worry of physical stamina limitations. His body seems rejuvenated in a way he has never experienced. He hops out of bed, makes two eggs and toast for breakfast, and gets ready for work; happily whistling and floating around his tiny apartment.

At work Simon enjoys more bragging to his co-workers Andrew and Randall about his new toy and also rather enjoyed making them jealous yet extremely anxious to live vicariously through his story of digital romance. 8 workday hours fly quickly by and again Simon leaves work early to beat the rush-hour traffic.

Once home he takes some time to load from his personal computer some of the room mods he downloaded. A rock singles bar highly endorsed by one of his favorite bands, a kung-fu fighting simulator, and a mod called The Taboo Room that had no description or information, he just was intrigued by the name. He also finally installs his game ‘1C Great War’ and vows tonight he will do some killing.

He eats dinner of pizza and ice cream while watching the news and takes a sleeping pill. He sets the internal alarm clock to 7:00 AM through his PC so it won’t wake him up too early again, puts on the STAR module and gets into bed. Soon he is back in his Home Room standing next to the computer desk.

Tuesday 10/22 8:42PM

The default user avatar in 1CONSCIOUS is the same for all players, it is that of Marlon Brando as a young man for male users. DIANA will also appear as Marlon Brando for female users the first time they use the Honeymoon Suite, pre-customization.

Simon wanted to change his own appearance this time, he was so enamored by Astrid last night that he forgot to make his own customizations. He makes himself much taller and muscular looking than he is in real life. In fact he designs his avatar to look nothing like his real self, changing his hair and skin color, even changing his face to look much more rugged than his round and freckled "Charlie Brown" face.

"Now time to shoot some people in the face."

Simon double-clicks the icon of an army helmet on his computer’s desktop, then stands up and turns to open the door to reveal a jungle right in front of him. Explosions and automatic gunfire are all he can hear from the trees past the blue door, there is a massive battle about 50 feet from where he stands. He is about to burst with anticipation as he steps through.

A machine gun instantly appears in his hands and camouflage fatigues appear on his body replacing his default clothing, immediately he is shot in the head and falls to the ground. He feels no pain but his body collapses uncontrollably just as it would if he had died and he lies there, dead, for 4 seconds while the person who shot him runs up and laughs, squats, and puts their butt on his face. He is then spawned standing upright and in another part of the jungle, ready to fight.

Aiming his gun he starts firing at the combatants he sees through the trees. He plays the game for a few hours, he gets a few good kills he is proud of and has a good time.

“Open Home Room Now”

Simon calls out for the door to take him back to his room.

“All this white has to go, what else do we have here?”

He sits down in front of the keyboard and monitor and is able to locate the settings configuration for his Home Room. He changes the white walls look like windows to the stars, like he is in glass cage in deep space. He walks around the room a second thinking how cool it looks. He knew getting a 1CONSCIOUS would be life changing but he did not think it would be quite this impressive.

Simon then sees that mod he downloaded, The Taboo Room on his desktop. He decides to quickly test it out, if it fails to impress or doesn’t work at all he can just delete it then get some time with Astrid before he has to wake up from this new night-time realm for the reality of his day job. He sifts through the clothing options he has to choose from changes into some jeans and a black shirt, then into a silly blue leisure suit to humor himself then enters the gateway to The Taboo Room.
Once Simon opens the door, in front of him is the foyer to a giant mansion, he walks through the door to meet a large butler with a deep voice greeting him. The butler is wearing a tuxedo and has very slick and perfectly combed grey hair.

"Hello Sir, please come in, we have been expecting you. Please, feel free to explore the house. There seem to be many beautiful girls by the pool. We hope you enjoy your stay."

The butler then sits in a chair by the entrance. Simon can see he is obviously a simulation and not a fellow user. There are two giant stairways going to an upstairs hallway that has seven red doors, each with a gold sign on the front. Through the glass doors to his right he saw the pool area where there were approximately twenty people by the pool. Many of them were naked; many of them were just having fun in the pool. These may be real people, all sleeping merrily in their real lives who in their dreams live a much different life than they would normally. They may also be simulations, or a mix of both.  Simon looked up to the doors at the top of the stairs.
Simon walks briskly up the slightly winding staircase to the first door, the gold sign says PAIN. He found the notion somewhat curious, perhaps if you go in you get tortured and can find out your true pain tolerance, or perhaps you get to do the torturing or infliction of pain. Either way, he felt it was most likely not something he would enjoy much.

He moves along to the second door, it says RAPE, again he keeps walking.

The third door reads MURDER, but after the war game he has thoroughly satiated that primal instinct.

The fourth door had the word BEASTS on the sign, Simon shakes his head. No way.

The fifth door says DOMINATRIX. Not really his thing, but he almost entered just to see what it would be like, almost, he keeps walking.

The sixth door says DRUGS and again he passes it by, maybe later, he was never a drug user but is definitely curious what it would be like to experience simulated drugs without worry of addiction.

He is becoming quite surprised that he really is not interested in seeing any of what he has been offered so far in this mod; he starts to feel himself incredibly, deeply boring. The seventh door; Simon reads the sign and stares at it for a few long moments of deep contemplation, then enters.

Thursday 10/24 2:27 PM

“Over here, Detective, it is a mid-20’s white male.”

A uniformed policeman said from the apartment doorway to the approaching plain clothes detective wearing a worn brown suit and striped tie.

“The call came from a family member who stopped in to check on him. They are down in the apartment manager’s office now making a statement. His employer called his family contact on file after a couple no-shows at work and the relative found him here.”

Detective Curtis Kinskey enters the apartment and follows the responding officer into the bedroom. He looks around the room noticing the equipment on the computer desk. His aged eyebrows narrow at the sight of the 1CONSCIOUS and he looks back at the still body on the bed.

“It’s weird to see such a young man die in his sleep this way.”

Detective Kinskey answers back as he walks over to the bed and locates the STAR module still stuck to the back of Simon Raylan’s neck then walks over to the 1CONSCIOUS box by the computer.

“Indeed, hopefully this little box here will have some answers.”

@2012