Hanford sank into the molded, velvet-lined depressions that fit his naked body exactly
|THE FREEXION DEVICE
a short story by Gale Peterson (iguanamountain)
Hanford made sure the outer doors were locked, the windows barred. He climbed without hesitation; cool as all can be, into his elegant, sound-enveloped, coffin-like container. He called it his bed, but it was more than that, much more. Sleek, fanciful of line, gleaming like some 1950’s automaker’s future dream, only without the wheels. It stood, revolving ever so slowly on a pedestal of polished and ribbed black marble.
Hanford sank into the custom molded, velvet-lined depressions that fit his naked body exactly and the door seals flowed shut; the upper half lowering smoothly to completely encase him, including the air feeds to his nostrils and the nourishment-oxygen combination that fit easily between his eager lips. “Soon my darling, soon.” He whispered giving himself totally to the device as it slipped painlessly under his eyelids.
The first time he had tried it with a clumsy demonstration model they brought to his home, making a professional fuss about the power and satellite position. Watching them setup the machine made Hanford very nervous. It looked like a big, fat coffin. If the people from the Freexion Company hadn’t been so confident and encouraging, he never would have allowed the part that actually sealed his head into the encasement device. Also he didn’t like the idea of these strangers seeing his pale, slightly pudgy body in all its naked flaws. The Freexion woman was very clinical and impersonal, insisting that everything, including his genitals had to be encased by the probing robotics. “All of your senses and all of your very sensitive areas are included. Nothing is left out, especially bodily functions. Remember, once you are involved, you could be inside the device for a number of days.”
Hanford wasn’t sure he liked the sound of her voice when she said, “Involved.” He felt a moment of extreme panic when the warm clinging stuff wrapped around his head, pushing into his ears. He felt as if he were being buried alive. I’m going to die! He thought; ready to start screaming, “Get it off me!” But instead, at the moment the stuff, thing, whatever it was, slipped into his nose and mouth while creeping under his eyelids; his universe opened up to a vast, wide vista.
He stood on a bluff overlooking a golden, sun-warmed beach with the glittering deep blue of the ocean beyond. The salty air blew up, stirring his hair, cooling his skin. He could hear the surf and seagulls calling as they circled above.
He looked down to see perfectly tanned feet peeking out from a soft, white robe that fell open in the breeze to reveal a flat, muscled stomach and well-developed chest. This is me? He ran his hand lightly over the firm muscles, noting the perfect skin. The tan he always wanted. This is really me?
“Hanford?” The voice, soft and throaty, came from behind him. He turned to see her undulating forward out of a pinkish mist; hair a silky wave of blonde-red, breasts rising and falling with her motion barely covered by the sheer golden fabric that clung to her thighs.
“Hanford? I don’t know if they mentioned that I’d be here.” Her brown eyes sparkled with excitement.
“I…uh…No, I don’t think they did.”
Her beauty stunned him. He could feel the warmth of her body as she stopped in front of him, tossing her silken curls behind her delicate neck. “My name is Clare, and I had to meet you!”
“I don’t…I mean, I…I’m Hanford.
Her laughter thrilled him. “Of course you’re Hanford. I know that.” She leaned closer, one hard touching his arm. “You’re perfect! I knew you would be.”
The contact was electric. Hanford could feel the blood rushing to his brain and his penis. “Clare…I…God! You’re so beautiful!”
“Oh Hanford, you’re sweet to say that. But you know I’ll always be here waiting for you.” Her other hand caressed his heavily muscled chest. “Your perfection dazzles me! I’m devastated that I have to leave you so soon.”
Never in his life had he felt desire. This was lust! Could this be possible? “Clare, no. Don’t go!”
She was already moving back, the pink mist rising around her. “Soon, Howard. Soon.” And she was gone.
He had filled out an extensive questionnaire when he first approached the Freexion Company about their so-called sleep-time-escape programs that promised “total and complete virtual experience to fill the sleeping hours of your life.”
But this! The sensation was exhilarating, sensual. Something he had never felt in his life…never! He turned to see a marble column rising behind him with a flared rectangle at the top that opened into a display screen. The face of one of the Freexion men said, “Hanford, How do you like it?”
“This is fabulous! I can’t believe it.”
“Wonderful. We knew you’d be pleased.”
“I mean I can see and hear and feel. This place! So beautiful! And the girl, Clare? I mean, I’ve never…”
“Yes Sir, but remember this is just a demo. The real thing will be customized for you…in every way.”
“How soon? I’m ready now!”
“Twenty-four hours at the most, Sir. But now, this is the end of the demonstration. You have to terminate. Please press the red button in the center of the control column.”
“Do I have to? I could stay here forever.”
“No really sir. The demonstration unit does not include all of your bodily functions. Please press the red button.”
Hanford reluctantly pressed the large, round button, feeling the solid click it made…and his perfection dissolved. It was suddenly dark. The thing was slowly withdrawing from his nose, mouth, ears, face, genitals. He felt a draft of cool air as the openings along the side unsealed. Reality returned with the bright glare of late afternoon, pollution-filtered sunlight through the windows of his 26th floor condominium living room. Someone handed him a robe, which he gratefully slipped into, covering his sudden embarrassment. The people in the room were all smiling. He found himself relaxing into their pleased laughter and congratulations. It had been a life-changing experience.
An attractive woman, her hair pulled back into a fashionable knot, wearing a dark suit, placed the order form, ready to sign, on the table. Her brown eyes flashed. “If you’re ready, Hanford?”
Hanford lifted the pen, tears of gratitude streaming down his face. “Everything I’ve ever dreamed about,” he sobbed. “Now my life is complete!”
The Freexion people smiled knowingly at each other across the expanse of the elegant room as Hanford offered his right arm for the credit swipe of his personal chip.