For those of you not interested in the Open Critique Day, I thought we’d continue with our “Return to the Cave of Time” story.
When you’re stuck in a cave with a wild-eyed old man featuring a glowing hand and magical time-altering powers, it’s good to be optimistic. Which apparently we are, as we decided by a two to one margin to go forward to the future instead of backwards to the past! So let’s peel back the pages and see what sticky situations we can get into. So to speak.
You are lying in an open silk-lined box. Is it a coffin? Not exactly. You are hooked up to a tube and wires, as if you were in a hospital. Yet you don’t feel sick. You feel well — very well in fact, though you can’t sit up.
Something you can’t see is holding you down. You hear soothing, almost hypnotic, chords of music. The light in the room shifts from sky blue to yellow-green to red-orange to blue again. Moving your hand to your scalp, you feel wires coming out of your head.
Where are you? How did you get here? Suddenly you remember — you traveled through the Cave of Time, and you asked to see the future. This situation is so weird that you must be far in the future.
Looking around, you see that you are in a long narrow space that reminds you of the cabin of an airliner. On either side of you other coffins — you can’t think of a better word for them — extend as far as you can see in both directions. The ceiling is invisible because of a dense fog that begins a few feet over your head. It’s as if you were in the middle of a wird dream; yet you don’t feel scared. Even though you’re held prisoner, you feel pleasurable sensations, as if you were eating your favorite ice cream — while hearing great music, while seeing a beautiful sunset, while getting a good back rub! Whoever has captured you must have hooked a wire into the pleasure center of your brain!
The music changes key. A robotic arm inserts a clear plastic mask over your mouth. You start to gasp for breath, but then realize you don’t need to — oxygen is being fed into the mask. A moment later your coffin tilts, sliding you into a tank of warm water that’s moving rapidly, as if it were a swiftly flowing stream.
Instinctively you start swimming against the current. Thanks to your oxygen mask you have no problem breathing. You stroke and kick hard, glad to be exercising your muscles and relieving the tension of being confined in a box. Your tubes and wires are still firmly in place, and your body is held by straps under your shoulders and around your waist.
This must be how people keep their muscles from wasting away, you think. Ingenious, but horrible. Everything is decided for you. You go through the motions, but you have no choices.
As if you were stuck inside an interminably long chunk of exposition inside a story that’s ostensibly interactive!
The people who rule this world must think they are providing the perfect life, but it’s more like a prison!
Suddenly the current is moving more swiftly. As you speed up your strokes, you feel even more pleasurable sensations.
Oh yeah, you read that right — “As you speed up your strokes, you feel even more pleasurable sensations”! Words to live by!
You swim faster, faster, until even with almost pure oxygen flowing into your mask, you’re reaching the limit of endurance. Then, as if some computer had been monitoring you and knows that you can’t swim harder, the current eases.
The water level falls, and you are left weightless, suspended in warm air currents that blow and swirl about your body. In less than a minute you are dry. Robotic arms lift you back into your coffin. Your life — if you can call it that — goes on as before.
You have been lying quietly, trying to adjust to the reality that lies ahead, when you are startled to hear a voice. It must be entering your brain through one of the implanted wires. It speaks in clear but stilted English.
“You have been identified as an alien intruder. Your bioanalysis shows an 87.37 percent probability that you understand the English language.
WTF? Language is encoded in your biology?!
“Your brain-wave reaction to the preceding statement has increased to 99.97 percent probability that you understand the English language. Stand by for transport.”
A moment later you lose consciousness.
And Doctor Octopus was happy!
But Holy Unalleviated Blocks of Exposition, Batman, that’s a lot of verbiage! No wonder we lost consciousness. I need to go eat a Twinkie or something to give me the energy to keep typing. I tell you, getting a back rub by Doctor Octopus while watching a sunset and listening to classical music and feeling greater pleasure the more we increase our stroking is definitely starting to sound like the lesser of two evils here. In fact, it’s starting to sound disturbingly like my high school years …
You’re awake again, seated in a chair. Whenever you move, the chair adjusts itself so that it’s molded to your body, giving you the most perfect and comfortable support imaginable.
A woman is seated near you.
Oh well, so much for sounding like my high school days.
Her body and face seem elongated, as if she were an image in an amusement park mirror; yet her face is beautiful, and her olive-hued eyes are warm.
“You are alien of uncertain origin,” she says gently.
Apparently the bioscans are good enough to detect we speak English, but not quite good enough to tell we’re human.
“Our computer will determine what can be done for you.”
“Who are you?” you ask. “And where am I?”
“My name is Celeste Four-Three-Three. I am your overseer. You are on Colony Suprema Eighty-seven to the Fifth Power, Proxima Neptuna, Galactica Virgo Group Eight Hundred and Four, and you are very fortunate to be here.
“Through advanced technology all problems of life have been solved, all needs taken care of. There is nothing for our people to do but to exist in a state of perpetual pleasure.”
A sharply focused light beams at your face, increases in brightness for a moment, and then fades. Celeste 433 continues.
“Our monitors show that you are not completely happy in the supremely pleasurable life we have made possible for you.You must have an irrational quality in your personality, obviously acquired in your previous culture. This could cause difficulty. Therefore, I must ask you: Will you accept your good fortune and a life of perpetual pleasure, or will your thoughts and actions become rebellious? Answer truthfully. Our monitors will show if you lie.”
Which’ll it be, folks, and why?