Tag Archives: Jungfrau

The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 28: Rehab

Wedged into an envelope of ice some thirty feet down into the glacier, Rain is grateful that her default setting is Ataraxia, that wonderful state of shock that helps human beings, and even transhumans, to accept the most dire of consequences with a detached, almost bemused, interest.

She knows that her left hand is broken and her left shoulder is dislocated. There are some shards of ice in her nostrils. It’s a good thing, too, she thinks, that she is programmed to not feel pain beyond the point of sensory notification to reduce and avoid further damage to her robotic body, this “tenem,” which serves as a transhuman vehicle for Morgana’s transferred consciousness.

Of all things to think about, Rain wonders if Morgana can feel this cold in her nose. Up above, at the surface of the glacier where the crevasse swallowed her up after the frozen cap of snow gave way under her weight, she can hear the rescue team calling her name, hoping to elicit a response from her. She can’t move, though. She can’t get the words out to shout back up, “Yes! I’m alive! I’m here! I’m waiting for you!”

The rescue team spools out light weight nylon cord, lowering into the icy void daring, powerful, wiry demi-gods with the prowess of spiders and the finesse of surgeons. Their words bounce off the shimmering blue walls and echo above and then far below her.

Rain replays Morgana’s memory of sitting on an old faded quilt in a park, very pregnant and crocheting a baby blanket, while her little boy suddenly runs headlong off the grass and into the street. Cars screech to a halt, people are screaming, Morgana is screaming. Her little boy lies in the street. Time stops. A bird’s trill flutters through the silence. And then…What’s this? A miracle? Little Travis scrambles to his feet, crying hysterically, more scared than hurt. Scraped and bruised, he runs to Morgana who gathers him to her in a tight, desperate embrace. She sobs with the horror that she could have lost her sweet baby boy. She sobs with the self-recrimination of any mother who has been granted a reprieve from the instant unfolding of a tragedy in progress for which she blames herself. She sobs with an overwhelming gratitude that makes her giddy with glee at her incredible good luck. Yes, this is a true miracle!

Oh, God, I will bear whatever burdens you send me in return for saving my child.

As the rescuers draw closer, Rain remembers falling into this crevasse, how she was magnetically drawn from the safety of the glacial trail by Morgana’s memory of chasing a little boy out into the busy park-side street choked with traffic. Now Rain remembers running frantically onto the ice field, chasing an imaginary child while everyone shouted at her to come back: Graciela, Grégoire, and all the other people who were making the trek up to the Mönchsjoch Hut, even that jerk, the Beefy Belcher, adding his braying jackass bellow to the deafening chorus of entreaties, all replaced by the sickening sound of the cracking ice cap, and her precipitous fall through the void.

Popping noises and explosions of color fill Rain’s head as she hallucinates a repeating loop: A little boy runs out into the street. She chases him and falls through the ice and disappears. Finally, the loop slows and then stops. Her frozen lips warm for an instant as she tastes a coffee kiss that produces tingling sensations in some remote, frozen parts of her body that make her glad to be alive. Right behind her numbed, closed, frozen eyelids, the last little lights flash, the last overheated circuits sizzle and pop, and everything goes dark.

Rain feels herself being lifted out of the crevasse and strapped into a safety harness. Gentle hands and soft voices reassure her that all is well. An electric winch pulls her to safety. Although she is aware of the commotion around her, she cannot respond or even open her eyes. She is vaguely disappointed that her visit to Jungfrau will be cut short and that she will be deprived of Graciela’s company that had so delighted her.

She is taken to a quiet room somewhere back at the train station and is undressed and then packed inside what seems to be a coffin that must have been molded to her body. Her face and body are shrouded with thin, soft velvet and the lid is tightly closed and secured with metal latches. Comfortable in her little cocoon, she drifts into a state of semi-consciousness. The coffin is wheeled to some large echoing area where it is left to wait for what seems like forever. Then she hears the train screeching along the rails and wonders what awaits her at the Spa.

The latches are released by someone who has done this before. The lid is opened and the velvet is pulled slowly from her face and body. The warm air feels good.

Rain cannot open her eyes and cannot move even a finger, but she can feel that someone is gazing at her, taking in every detail of her face and body, inspecting her injuries, bending her limbs, caressing her face and stroking her hair.

Warm lips alight on hers and she is filled with the ecstatic realization that her Mystery Man has found her. Oh, how she has ached to be with him!

She hears footsteps behind them as her Mystery Man hastily replaces her velvet shroud.

The footsteps slow, then stop, and a woman’s voice breaks the silence.

“I just heard that our little girl has gotten herself into some trouble! How extensive is the damage?”

Rain remembers the voice—it’s Veronica, the attractive woman with silver curls who appeared at her bedside in a lab coat taking notes on a clipboard the first day Rain woke up in the Spa. Veronica was so nice to her. She helped Rain get dressed and then took her on her initial tour of the Spa.

“Bad enough that she’s going to need some joints recast. Her left shoulder has been dislocated—not a big deal. Her left hand is broken and it looks a little complicated but nothing that can’t be fixed. What worries me is her visual capability is not functioning nor is her speech, both of which should be functioning in auxiliary mode in spite of the powering-down by the safeguard mechanism, but we won’t know much until we can conduct a complete diagnostic assessment.”

“And what then? Do you think she’s salvageable?” asks Veronica.

“Absolutely. It would be such a shame to scrap her, but she’s going to need some digital and mechanical rehab. I’ll oversee the whole thing personally. She’ll be fine in no time.”

“Do you know how the accident happened?”

Rain’s Mystery Man, walking over to his computer, taps a few keys, and answers, “Not exactly, but there’s one thing I do know: She’s been hacked.”

Veronica walks over to the coffin, pulls the velvet from Rain’s face, strokes her cheek gently, then replaces the velvet. She closes the coffin, secures the latches, and announces, “Well, I’ll take her off your hands—the lab is waiting for her.”

Through the closed coffin, Rain can feel her Mystery Man’s disappointment at being separated from her once again.

The coffin glides smoothly on its perfect, little, soundless wheels out into the hallway as Veronica shepherds it away from Rain’s Mystery Man.

A single tear slides down the side of Rain’s face.

Music Credit: Amy Winehouse – “Rehab” (Vevo), youtube.com
Illustration Credit: scoopnest.com

To Be Continued in Chapter 29

Leave a comment

Filed under Science Fiction, The Our Little Secret Travel Agency-The Novel

The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 24: The Devil is in The Details

6360984813994187777720594_sociopath_1-lanczos3

 

 

 

 

 

Robots of all kinds swarm through the black, silent, cold hallways. Most of the robots here at the Spa process visual information, and those that do, also have the ability to navigate and interact with their environment without light. Not all the robots “know” this. The ones that don’t, are not programmed to access their auxiliary night or infrared visual capabilities, and will be as clumsy or as helpless as a human being is when confronted with darkness.

Rain is wandering through a dark hallway, running her fingertips along the damp, cold wall, treading lightly just in case the floor isn’t where she thinks it is. The darkness is so black that her mind conjures up the memory of light in protest. When she sees a glimmer of light in the distance, she believes for a moment that her mind is playing tricks on her–but no, it’s a light alright!

Approaching the light spilling through the glass panel of an office door, her eyes ache as her pupils contract. She sees the back of a man’s head. He is sitting at a computer, manipulating 3D images on a screen, rotating them, making changes, tapping the keys. On a long table next to him, holograms of naked women two feet tall parade past him. Each one turns to him and waves or blows him a kiss or twirls as if for his amusement, and then moves on to allow the next woman her five seconds of attention.

The man swivels around on his chair to face her as she walks through the unlocked door. They are both surprised to see each other.

Rain’s Mystery Man’s face is wondrous with adoration. Rain’s gaze is locked onto his burning eyes. Every fiber of her being draws her towards him. She straddles him and sits high on his lap. She melts into him, and locked into his embrace, she drinks in his deep, hypnotic kiss.

The holographic parade continues at their side. The naked women continue to blow kisses and twirl in their direction, seemingly oblivious that their audience is otherwise engaged.

Rain wakes up, stretching, aware of the beautiful white chemise teasing her expectantly charged skin underneath. She moves her almost too-warm feet until each finds a cool spot on the mattress. Her toes wriggle while her eyes scan the smooth ceiling. She smiles, remembering that she is back at the Spa, beginning a day that will be like no other, an adventure, in a body that is an adventure in itself. Remembering her real body makes her appreciate all the more the eight hours she will enjoy in this sexy, sensual body, her “tenem.”

She is glad there is no one sitting by the bed, taking notes and/or perhaps unfair psychological advantage of her slowly-awakening state of consciousness.

Kicking the covers off, she inspects her long, thin, shapely legs and feet, running her hands over every inch of herself, reveling in the perfection of what is just too miraculous to be anything associated with her real life self. She hears herself laugh with joy, and is delighted all over again that her voice reminds her of tinkling bells. She remembers that in real life, she paid an awful lot of money to transfer her consciousness into this tenem, this body that she herself designed, but at the moment, all she can think of is how grateful she is to be here, and how this feeling is worth whatever fortune she may have invested in (or squandered on) this endeavor.

Holding her hands in front of her face, she smiles at the little heart-shaped “birthmark” on the back of her right hand, and reflects that all glitches in life should be so sweet. Maybe a lot of glitches are sweet but we just don’t realize it because most glitches are not heart-shaped.

Remembering the closet, she practically springs out of bed, and slides the door open, knowing that whatever is on the hangers will give her some inkling of what she can expect to do today.

A black turtle neck sweater and a pair of stretchy black pants, and a beautiful pair of sleek black boots with a rippled sole. Oh, and there’s a gorgeous white coat of faux fur with a hood. It occurs to her that she’s probably going outside. Somewhere inside her, there is a five-year old jumping for joy at the prospect of building a snowman or sledding downhill on a Flexible Flyer.

Pausing in front of the mirror, she admires the beautiful woman looking back at her. Every woman who is not beautiful appreciates the assurances of loved ones that she is beautiful. Being loved or appreciated does give one a sense of beauty, but actually being beautiful, seeing oneself as objectively beautiful? There’s no other feeling quite like it in the world. Why should that even matter? Only a woman who isn’t beautiful can answer that question. A beautiful woman could afford to say that it is disappointing to think that beauty had anything to do with personal worth. Oh, but who cares about personal worth anyway? Feeling good feels good, no matter the reason.

Touching her lips, she gasps as she experiences for a moment that passionate interlude with her Mystery Man. With butterflies in her stomach, she wonders if that really happened or if it was a dream or a hallucination. Whatever it was, she’d sure like to experience that again.

Out in the glass hallway shimmering with light reflected from the Alpine snow surrounding the Spa, she follows the aroma of freshly brewed coffee. Noticing the red headed beauty she met in the café last time, she hurries to catch up with her.

“Graciela! Good to see you again!

Like Rain, Graciela also has her coat slung over her arm.

“I’m so excited, Rain! Do you know what we’re doing today?”

“I have no idea, do you?”

“Yeah! After breakfast, we’re taking a train to the top of Europe, and we’re going to explore some blue glaciers! Ever done that before?”

As giddy as school girls, they find their way to the buffet breakfast, and help themselves to little croissants, cheese, mango jam and grapes.

Graciela steers Rain over to a comfortable booth. A handsome young waiter offers to pour coffee for them and, all smiles, yesses and thanks, they nudge their coffee cups over to him.

Both fuss over and pick at their dainty little breakfast.

“Don’t you just love the clothes here? In my real life, I feel like my closet is filled with sack cloth and ashes. And it’s not like I don’t have the money—I do! But I have no sense of what looks good on me, and believe me, not much does. What about you?”

Rain puts her little croissant down and fiddles with the grapes.

“I feel the same way. Part of the reason is that a body like this would make sack cloth and ashes look almost fashionable. Tell me the truth—what’s your real body like?”

Graciela laughs and shakes her beautiful red curls.

“Do you really want to know?”

Rain giggles. “Of course, I do!”

“Well, let’s just say I haven’t looked in the mirror at my real body forever, because it’s too depressing to see what’s happened to it. I got rid of all full-length mirrors in my home years ago when I was a mere 40 pounds overweight. From there, it just got worse. Now I’m about 100 pounds overweight. I don’t worry about how things look anymore, only how they feel. If something fits and I can move in it, and if the colors and patterns don’t clash, good enough. What about you?”

“Well, I’m the same way really, but luckily, I’m not at the point of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. To tell you the truth, I was never all that vain to begin with, but I did go to hell with myself for quite a few years. I ate whatever and whenever I wanted. But the surprising thing for me is that having this incredible body feels so good that I find myself making some positive changes in my real life. And you know, what started out as an escape from my lousy life is beginning to feel like I’m discovering bits and pieces of the life that I could have had. Like maybe, not only can I salvage some of the good, but also create something a lot better than what I had before.”

Rain surprises herself with that realization and wonders if Morgana, whose name she wouldn’t be able to recall because she’s programmed not to, will remember this.

“Well, I wish that were the same for me. I find that all the great experiences I have here make me more dissatisfied with my life. Each ‘visit’ leaves me more resentful of all that’s gone wrong for me. The only time I’m happy is when I’m here. And I’ve only got nine more visits left.”

“Can’t you just sign up for another 30 visits?”

Graciela shrugs. “No, not really. I already went into debt with the first 30 visits, so no. This is it.”

“Maybe you could come back for a real life visit. That could only cost you a few thousand dollars,” suggests Rain.

“Come back here in my own body in my own clothes? Now that’s depressing!” snorts Graciela.

They both chuckle at the stark truth of Graciela’s reaction.

The waiter approaches their table. “Ladies, there’s a train leaving for Jungfrau in ten minutes. If you are planning to go to the Top of Europe, please proceed to the glass hallway within the next few minutes. Don’t forget to bring your cold weather gear!”

Rain and Graciela join the crowd assembling in the glass hallway. They are led to cable cars taking them to a small mountain train station.

As the cable car begins its ascent away from the Spa, Rain recognizes a man peering out from the glass hallway. Morgana would recognize him as Chlaus, Jerinda’s husband, but Rain can only puzzle why she should know him. She wonders momentarily if Morgana will remember who he is or why he is here.

The train waits in the glittering snow, huffing out clouds of steam, as the excited crowd boards, each little group finding and staking out their favorite seats.

The train’s whistle hoots out a warning that they are about to depart. The doors close and the conductor walks through the aisles making sure that everyone is settled in and comfortable. Screens from the ceiling slowly descend and everyone is treated to a short film that explains the excavation of the tunnel and the building of the miles of train tracks that made this arduous journey possible.

After the film, attendants with rolling carts walk through the train’s cars with hot coffee, teas, and hot chocolate.

After an hour which passes so delightfully, they emerge from the tunnel into the blinding whiteness of the mountain top.

Outside at last, Rain hears little popping noises inside of her head. “Graciela, do you hear any popping noises inside your head?” she asks nervously.

Graciela laughs. “Yes, I do, but don’t get nervous, Rain. Remember that you left the real you, the flesh and blood you, back at your house. However real this body may seem to you, it’s just a machine, and those popping noises are the stresses caused by the change in temperature and pressure. No matter how perfect these bodies may seem to us, keep in mind that we are an experiment and that they’re still working the kinks out of us.”

“Eeeuuwww,” says Rain. And they both laugh. But Rain, in all truthfulness, never realized, until this moment, that she was just an experiment.

And neither did Morgana. Not that Morgana will remember this.

It’s all there, in the small print; you know, the stuff that no one reads.

Music Credit: The Chemical Brothers – The Devil is in the Details/Beats High Quality (You Tube)

Photo Credit: Sociopathlife.com

To Be Continued in Chapter 25

Leave a comment

Filed under The Our Little Secret Travel Agency-The Novel