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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Action/Adventure · #2177146
The idea of a Dream Machine is not a new idea, but for the disabled or in a coma patient?
I took the idea for this short story from my novel “Another Star in the Sky,” which may also be found online at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and other online sites. The idea of a machine which could be used for vacations is not a new idea, but using one for those who are disabled or in a coma, now that is something new. I hope you enjoy the story.

The Dream Machine

I woke up in my room, lying on my bed. I stretched, yawned, and sat up. I was a little groggy and having trouble concentrating. I mentally checked my body: two feet, two legs, one torso, two arms and hands with the usual four fingers and a thumb. I reach up to my head and felt my face; yep, two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. My hair was the same as always. I was me. I was not sure why I needed to check myself, but something did not feel right.

I swung my legs off the bed and sat on the edge of the mattress. I looked out of the bedroom window and saw that the day was sunny and clear. Except for a few small clouds, it was a beautiful day. I searched for my slippers, found them, and put them on. I got up and went to the bathroom. I washed my face, brushed my teeth and combed my hair. The sense that something was wrong was growing.

Back in my closet, I picked some comfortable clothes and got dressed. I looked around the room, searching. Everything looked normal, except that everything felt wrong. I looked over to my television and stared at it for a while. There seemed to be something wrong with it, but I just could not figure out what it was. I looked at my dresser and the stuff on top of it. The pictures, my cell phone, and the other stuff were the regular things I always put there. Still, something did not feel right.

I finished dressing and headed for the living room. This was my home yet it was different. I heard sounds coming from the kitchen so I headed in that direction. I avoided the coffee table on which I had often hit myself.

My dad was sitting at the dining room table reading a newspaper. He turned to me when he noticed that I was standing there.

“Good morning, sleepy head. How are you feeling?”

I smiled and answered, “I’m OK, I guess.”

“Ariana,” I heard my mom calling me, “You’re awake. Good, why don’t you join us for breakfast?”

I knew she was not so much asking me a question as much as telling me to sit down at the dining table.

“I’m really not hungry,” I said as I headed for the table and sat across from my dad.

My mom walked in drying her hands on a towel and sat down in the chair next to dad. Then she sat there smiling at me.

“I had the strangest dream,” I said to them, “but I don’t remember what it was. It left me feeling weird, and I can’t seem to shake it off. It’s like I am not all the way awake yet.”

Dad’s smile waned and he said, “Ariana, we have something that we need to tell you.”

I looked at him and then over to mom, and then back to dad. They looked serious, though they were trying to hide it behind strained smiles. Something must be wrong.

“Ariana,” my mom started, “There was, uh, there is, uh, oh my, I can’t.”

She turned to my dad with her eyes pleading for help.

“Ariana,” he said, his smile was gone, “You were in a car accident.”

“Accident?”

Were they asking me a question?

“No, I haven’t been in an accident,” I said.

A sense of dread started to wash over me. I was not sure I wanted to hear what they had to say to me.

“No, Ariana, we’re telling you that you’ve been in a car accident. You and some friends were driving along the freeway when the car’s front right tire blew out. The driver lost control of the vehicle and it flipped over several times. You were thrown out through the front windshield.”

I stared at them waiting, hoping they would start laughing and tell me that they were just joking. Maybe today was April Fool’s Day. Of course, I never knew them to joke about something as serious as this. I searched their faces for any clue that this was not real. Then I thought about something.

“When did this accident happen?” I asked them.

I was sitting here in front of them, healthy as could be. How could I have been in an accident? I wanted to hear that answer. Dad opened his mouth, paused, and then spoke.

“Ariana, the accident happened six months ago.”

I blinked my eyes rapidly and stared at him even harder.

“Why don’t I remember an accident? And anyway, if I was thrown out through the front windshield, how could I have healed this quickly?”

My mom was able to speak again, there was a tremor in her voice, “Ariana, you aren’t OK. At least not in the way you mean. The truth is that right now you’re in a hospital, in a coma.”

“Coma?”

I started laughing. The joke had gone too far. They finally blew it. They had me going there for a while. How could I be in a coma and be sitting here at the same time?

I stopped laughing long enough to say, “Come on, mom and dad, what’s really going on?”

Their demeanor did not change. They were not kidding. They really believed what they were saying. Now I started getting scared. I stopped laughing. I saw that my hands were trembling. I felt my heart pounding. I started to feel faint. Tears formed in my eyes. They really meant it. Something terrible had happened to me.

“You really were in an accident, Ariana,” said dad, “You really are in a coma.”

“Ok,” I said, partially calling their bluff and partially beginning to accept their story, “How can I be in a coma and be here at the same time?”

“Ariana, do you remember that aliens landed on our moon about two years ago?”

Their arrival etched the day in my memory. I was watching television when the President of the United States cut in with a report about aliens landing on the moon and something about trying to get in touch with them. When they did not hear from the aliens, five astronauts went to the moon to make contact. The astronauts found that the aliens had experienced some kind of trouble with their engines. They said something about a meteor strike or something like that. Circumstances stranded the aliens in our solar system and could not return to their homeworld. Since then the aliens, who call themselves Lydeans, have been working with humans on many projects and stuff.

“Of course,” I said, “everyone knows that. What do aliens have to do with me having an accident?”

“They’ve shared some of their technology with us,” said dad, “One of those things is something called a 'Dream Machine.'”

“Dream Machine?” I grimaced, “I don’t remember anyone talking about a Dream Machine. What’s that?”

“Well, Ariana, about five months ago, after your accident,” said dad, “the news media reported on a story about the daughter of the British Prime Minister. She had also been in a car accident and ended up in a coma. The Prime Minister’s wife was approached by one of the female astronauts who had gone up in the enterprise to meet with the aliens, and she told her about this Dream Machine.”

Mom chimed in next, “The aliens don’t have the means of healing people who are in comas. What they did have was an option that provides some interaction between the person in the coma and her family and friends.

“How does this thing work?”

I wanted more information.

Dad spoke up again, “On their planet, the Lydeans have an apparatus which is used for providing someone with the means of vacationing without having to actually leave. It can allow the person to spend what will seem like weeks of resting and/or entertaining, in a matter of hours.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” I said.

I could feel my anxiety growing. My heart was still pounding and my palms were getting sweaty.

Dad continued, “Because the machine can be programmed with software, like a computer, they can control what the dreamer dreams and how he or she interacts with the dream. The dreamer will wake with the memory, and emotional and physical benefits of a long vacation, except in a much shorter time.”

“But,” my head was reeling, “surely someone would know the difference between something that is real and something that is fake, right? I mean, when I play my video games the characters look realistic, but you can tell they’re not real.”

Mom answered this question.

“Ariana, do we look and seem fake to you?”

“Well, no ... and yes. Yes, because all of this feels funny somehow. At the same time though, everything seems normal.”

“Well, she said, “When someone is in this trance-like dream, or whatever it is, they believe that it is real. As far as they are concerned, they are actually living the experience. The aliens took the technology further and used it on Lydeans with critical injuries. When the person is placed in the unit they immediately wake up in a world that is programmed by the scientists.”

I was starting to understand and had more questions.

“Are you saying that I’m in one of those things right now?”

I looked around the room. Everything looked real to me, but it just felt funny.

“Yes,” they both said simultaneously.

“But,” I said, thinking I had found a flaw in their story, “If I’m dreaming all of this because I’m in one of those machines, then how did you get in here? Are you both in a machine too?”

“No, baby,” said mom, “We’re wearing headsets and sitting on comfortable recliners next to your machine. With those headsets, we automatically wake up inside of our avatars.”

I just stared.

Dad smiled and said, “These bodies you’re looking at are called avatars.”

“Avatars?” I said, frowning at them. I stood up, walked over to the window, and opened the curtain. I saw a car driving by with a couple in the front seat talking to each other. Mrs. Hudson, our neighbor from across the street, was outside working on her garden. I looked up into the sky and saw some birds flying by. I watched all of this with a sinking feeling in my stomach. Were they all computer generated too?

“Avatars are computer generated representations of real people,” he said, “They are used in computer games and such. The difference here is that these "Avatars" are programmed to look and react like the real people they represent.”

“So you’re saying that they made copies of people I know and that I will be able to interact with them?”

“Yes,” said mom.

“Are the avatars going to react like they’re real or like robots?”

“According to the aliens,” said dad, “they claim that you should not easily be able to tell the difference between the avatars and the real people you know. The exception, they said, is when the real person is connected to your dream, they will occupy their avatar and the person you will be talking to will be the real person.”

I turned away from the window and looked at them.

“So,” I said, “You guys are my real mom and dad inside of avatars that look like you?”

“That’s right,” said mom, “Right now you are speaking with your real mom and dad. We’re really here.”

I went back to the chair and sat down.

“So I’m supposed to just live here in this house, and ... do what?”

“That’s the beauty of this thing, Ariana,” said Dad, “It can be programmed so that you can do anything at all. Since the machine will be accessing the dream portion of your brain, they can literally program a whole world for you that can be anything you want. You can choose to pick up right where you were before the accident, or do something different.”

“What do you mean anything?” I asked with a growing interest.

“Ariana, we mean anything,” he said, “You can choose for the programmers to leave everything in here like it is out there, in the real world, or change things. For example, you can tell them to program the world to allow people to fly, or for magic to work, or for people to look like aliens, anything at all. You can go to college and become an architectural engineer, go into space, get younger or older, be a man or a woman; you can make any changes you like.”

“I can change back and forth between sexes, and do real magic or fly?”

“If that’s what you want. This world can be programmed to allow anything at all,” said dad.

“Can I hurt in here? Can I die?”

“No, dear,” said mom, “While the programming will allow a limited amount of pain and discomfort, mainly to keep the sensation of reality, you can’t really be hurt or die. You could break a leg in this world, but it won’t hurt exactly as in the real one would. On the other hand, it will heal faster, or immediately if you so choose. Of course, when the dreamer dies in real life their program ends in here.”

“Yea,” I said, not really wanting to think of that, “I have a question. How do I get in touch with you guys when you are not connected?”

Dad answered, “They said that the dreamer has a programmed means of activating what they call a 'contact request.' When you want to contact us, you just send the signal, and the program will reach our communication devices that include headsets, which they provided for us. All we have to do is put the headsets on and here we are.”

“Mom and dad,” I said, “It kind of sounds like you’re telling me I’m going to be in here alone. I mean, yea sure, there are avatars but I’ll always know they’re fake.”

“That’s one of the drawbacks, Ariana,” said dad, “but you also have the choice of asking the programmers to make you forget. You will believe that this is the real world. If you do that though, you will never know that you can make contact with us, your real parents. You will believe that the avatars are your real parents. Do you understand, Ariana?”

“Yea, but,” I said hesitatingly, “They wouldn’t really be you guys. Right?”

“True, Ariana,” said mom, “but you’ll never know, that is if you chose to forget that this is a made-up world. To you, our avatars would really be mom and dad.”

“I don’t think I like that idea,” I said.

“We were hoping that you would feel that way,” said mom.

*****
Waking up in this "world" is really weird. Did I really sleep, or does the program just make me think I did? Hmm, I will have to ask someone about that. I do not remember dreaming. Uh, wait a minute, can you dream in a dream? I guess I will have to ask about that as well. Right now, I have to finish getting ready. I know I could just snap my fingers and I would be dressed instantly, but I like doing it the old-fashioned way because it helps me feel like I'm in the real world.

You know, it is not bad in here. At times, I actually forget that this is a dream world. I asked them to let me decide when I want to change the physics of this world. For the most part, I want things to be the same as on the outside. That is what I have started calling the world of those who are awake.

I finished putting on my Starship Commander’s uniform and headed downstairs. I added a second story to the house because I had always wanted a second-floor bedroom. Yep, I just asked the programmers to add it and poof, there it was. In the living room, I walked over to the transporter and keyed in the coordinates.

“Mom,” I yelled, “I’ll be back later, OK?”

“You take care, Ariana,” she yelled back.

Mom had told me yesterday that she was going to cook me a lemon meringue pie today. I love lemon meringue pies. Yea, I know that they are just software programming in my dream. However, when you are in the dream, it's all real to you. You can feel the pie, smell the pie, and taste the pie. Yea, taste it. I asked them to program my senses, you know, sight, taste, smell, touch, and hearing so that everything will always seem real to me. I just asked not to remove my awareness that it’s all just programming. That way I can enjoy things and still not fool myself.

Anyway, I stepped into the transporter and closed the door. The transporter was my idea. I wanted to be able to do all sorts of fantastic stuff, but just snapping my fingers and disappearing from here and appearing there was weird to me. I tried it once and it disoriented me to the point that I got sick. I thought I was going to throw up. Therefore, what I decided was that I wanted them to program a stand-up coffin looking thing in our living room that would “transport” me to the new location. I know that the transporter does not really “transport” me anywhere, as in actually moving me from here to there. The fact that I tell myself that it does, helps me deal with the change of environment much better.

Anyway, I entered the transporter and pressed the big red button next to the door. That was my idea too; I wanted something easy to operate. The door rotated and closed, and a light flashed. I like flashing lights. Then the door rotated open and I stepped out.

*****
“Commander,” Ensign Perez said as she walked over to me, “You are needed on the bridge.”

The avatars never seemed to notice that I stepped out of the transporter. Heck, I don’t think they even noticed it existed. Maybe they thought I was stepping out of my quarters, or the restroom, who knows.

“What’s the problem, Judy?”

“The Alliance reports that the Kaltonians have broken through the barrier and are heading this way. Military Command believes that they are in route to Earth. We’ve been instructed to stop them here, near Mars, at all costs.”

I walked quickly down the short hall and entered the Avenger’s Bridge.

“Commander on the Bridge,” announced Number Two.

All the officers saluted.

“As you were,” I told them, “What’s our status, Cruzita?”

The green skinned, pointed ear Science officer gestured to a holoscreen to her left and said, “The Kaltonians will be in range in ten minutes, Commander. Their armada contains two Avenger class Warships and five Cruiser level Battleships.”

I was watching the holoscreen the whole time she was speaking because the screen showed the different ships as she referred to them. They were nasty looking vessels. The Kaltonians obviously meant serious business.

“Number Two,” I said in my best command voice.

“Yes, Commander?”

I softened my voice a bit.

“Nancy, what’s your assessment of the situation?”

“Ariana, I think that we need to strike fast and not let up until we destroy them. I suspect that they will fire on us as soon as they are within range.”

I nodded and turned away from her and ordered, “Bring up the shields, ready all weapons. All personnel to battle stations.”

The klaxon began sounding and a verbal message announced, “All personnel to battle stations.” The message repeated three times and stopped.

I walked over to the navigation station and put my hand on Sergey’s shoulder.

The Navigation officer was among the first Russians to achieve the level of competency that he has in his field. I had complete trust in his abilities.

“Move us away from the space dock until we are out far enough to confront the enemy without endangering the station.”

The Navigator manipulated his console and carefully moved the Avenger away from the station.

“Commander,” Nancy called out behind me, “The Kaltonians will be in range in one minute.”

“Cruzita,” I said, “Put me in communication with the Alliance ships.”

Due to the way the Kaltonians organize their attacks, we had to spread our defenses throughout the solar system. My division only has three Avenger class warships and five Battle Cruisers.

“This is the Commander,” I said, “The enemy is about to enter weapons’ range. You have the authorization to use all force to repel, stop, and destroy the enemy. We are the final defense between them and the Earth. We must stop them at all costs. We will not have a second chance. Commander out.”

*****
The holoscreen showed the Kaltonian armada spread out and start firing. Heading straight for us was one of their Avenger class warships. They began firing on us.

“How are our shields holding?” I asked Nancy.

“We are at one 100 percent, Ariana.”

With each strike of enemy fire against our shields, the ship shook slightly. I had to hold onto my Command Chair to keep from falling. I jumped into it instead and strapped myself in.

“Send out the Fighters,” I ordered.

Almost immediately, I could see on the ship’s main screen that dozens of Fighters were streaming away from the Avenger. I turned to look at the holoscreen that displayed views of the other Alliance ships and saw that they also had ordered their Fighters into the battle. At the same time, I saw that the enemy ships’ Fighter class attack vessels were streaming out of their Warships.

I glanced back at the main screen and saw explosions everywhere. The Avenger’s guns were going full speed. I glanced back to the holoscreen and saw that the other two Alliance warships, the Challenger and the Battle Dragon, had combined their fire on one of the Cruiser class enemy ships and succeeded in breaching its shields. I watched as the enemy ship began a series of explosions from within its main core culminating in an enormous but silent explosion that reduced the vessel to broken and torn pieces. Immediately, our warships turned their fire on the second of the enemy warships, and I reacted in kind.

“Wei Long,” I called out to the weapons officer, “Concentrate our main weapons on the warship being attacked by the other Alliance ships.”

“Aye, Aye, Commander,” he replied as he manipulated the console in front of him.

The Avenger’s gunfire moved from the present target and onto the enemy warship. I glanced back to the holoscreen just in time to see one of our Cruiser class ships explode.

I was stunned for a moment; that was unexpected. I had thought we might be able to defend our position without loss of any Alliance ships.

“Nancy,” I said, turning to face her, “Which ship was that?”

“The Cypress, Captain Jake Steller commanded her. He was due to retire next year.”

I saw red.

With clenched teeth, I turned to the Weapons officer, “Ready the main laser.”

Nancy turned to me, a look of surprise on her face.

“Commander, Ariana, that’s supposed to be a last resort weapon,” she said.

“Ready the damn thing!” I ordered.

“The laser is ready, Commander,” announced Wei Long.

“Target the main enemy warship and destroy it,” I shouted.

“Firing away,” said Wei Long, pressing down on his console.

The whole ship shook. The energy needed to fire the laser was immense. The reason the laser was a last resort weapon was that it could literally drain a ship’s energy resources to the point that it weakened the shields. I glanced at the holoscreen and saw the Challenger swing closer to the Avenger, and combine its force field with ours. Thank God for Logan. He must have seen the Avenger fire the laser and realized that we were going to have weakened shields, and needed time to replenish them.

I quickly looked back to the main screen and saw the enemy ship that we were firing on explode. It began as a fireball in the ship’s fuselage and then expanded throughout the ship sending bits and pieces of broken and torn metal in all directions.

“Open communication channels to the Alliance ships,” I commanded.

“Channels open,” replied Cruzita.

“This is the Commander,” I said, “Concentrate as much fire as you can on the remaining warship.”

Immediately the other all the other Alliance vessels turned their main weapon’s fire onto the enemy warship, while still maintaining defensive fire on the remaining attackers.

“Commander,” Number Two called to me.

I turned to her and saw that she was pointing to the holoscreen. It showed another enemy vessel, a Cruiser level Battleship, exploding.

“Yea, baby,” I shouted, as the Avenger shook again. We were taking a beating. The weakened shields caused us to feel each strike of the enemy’s weapon fire much more intensely than before. The ship rocked once again when Nancy called to me.

“Ariana ... the warship.”

I turned to the main screen again, just in time to see the remaining warship start its series of explosions.

“Yea,” I screamed at the screen.

The rest of the officers also broke out in cheers as well.

“We are not finished, people,” I yelled, “Concentrate on the fight.”

There were two more explosions to the left side of the main screen. That meant that the enemy only had one more remaining Cruiser. It stopped shooting, turned, and was beginning to speed away.

“Open a channel to the Battle Dragon,” I ordered.

“Channel open,” said Cruzita.

“Captain Marquez,” I said, “Can you hear me?”

“Yes Commander,” she replied, “Loud and clear.”

“Erika,” I said, “Fire your laser on that retreating ship. We can’t allow it to escape.”

“Aye, aye, Commander,” she replied.

I looked up to the main screen and saw a bright red line appear in the dark background of space. The line extended from the Battle Dragon until it met up with the enemy Battle Cruiser. There was a momentary flash of light, and then silent darkness.

“Nancy,” I turned to face her, “Finish dealing with those enemy Fighters. I’ll be in my ready room.”

She smiled at me and turned issuing orders to the crew as I left the Bridge and walked back into the hallway. I went to the transporter and stepped into it. I pressed the big red button, the door rotated and closed, and the light flashed.

*****
When it rotated again and opened, I was looking out onto my living room.

As I stepped out of the transporter, I could smell the pie. My stomach rumbled from hunger. I walked around and into the kitchen. Mom was just placing a plate with a piece of pie on the table.

“Milk or water?”

“Milk,” I said.

I sat down. Mom got another plate with a piece of pie, and came and sat across the table from me.

“What’s with the uniform?”

She asked this as she pressed her fork down on the pie and cut a piece off.

“I went on an adventure to save the Earth from alien attackers,” I said.

“Did you have fun?”

“It was great, mom. It was great.”

*****
Today is the Fourth of July. People are celebrating the holiday everywhere; I am feeling a little down. I had sent my real dad a message to contact me and was waiting. While I waited for him to enter his avatar, I had asked my dream world dad to tell me about Triton, Neptune’s moon. Dad has always been a solar system buff.

“Well, Ariana,” he began, as he pressed a button on the computer console causing a holoscreen to appear, “Triton is the largest moon of the planet Neptune. William Lassell discovered it on October 10, 1846. It’s the only large moon in the Solar System with a retrograde orbit, which means it has an orbit in the opposite direction to its planet's rotation.”

He gestured on the screen, and the view changed, “At 2700 km in diameter, it is the seventh-largest moon in the Solar System. Because of its retrograde orbit and composition similar to Pluto's, Triton is thought to have been captured from the Kuiper belt.”

He gestured again, and a new slide came up.

“Triton consists of a crust of frozen nitrogen over an icy mantle believed to cover a substantial core of rock and metal.”

Another gesture and the next slide came up.

Come on, real dad, I thought to myself, pleeeese answer.

“The core makes up two-thirds of its total mass. Triton has a mean density of 2.061 g/cm3 and is composed of approximately 15–35% water ice.”

Next slide.

“Ariana, Triton is one of the few moons in the Solar System known to be geologically active. Consequently, its surface is relatively young, with a complex geological history revealed in intricate and mysterious cryovolcanic and tectonic terrains.

Next slide. How long was it going to take dad to return my call? My eyes were beginning to glaze over from all the data my dream world dad was throwing at me.

“Part of its crust is dotted with geysers believed to erupt nitrogen...”

My dream world dad flickered and looked like someone had shocked him with a stun gun. Just as quickly he looked calmer and then turned to me.

“Hi, Ariana, what’s happening? I got back to you as quickly as I could.”

“Hi, dad,” I said, suddenly feeling cheerful, “I was just feeling lonely and wanted to speak with you.”

“Haven’t you been fighting any space wars lately?”

“Sure, I go on adventures often. I just wanted to spend time with you. Mom came to see me yesterday.”

“Well, Ariana, how are you adjusting?”

“Actually, it’s not bad at all, dad,” I said, “I do wish I was able to go back to the real world. Can you tell me some news from out there?”

“Well, did mom share with you about the Space Center we now have on the moon?”

“No, she didn’t,” I said, “But then she’s not really interested in that kind of stuff anyway.”

Just then, mom came into the room. Well, dream world mom, actually.

“Dear,” she said to dad, “Would you like some tea?”

“Yes, uh, sure, with some milk, please” he replied.

“I’ll be right back,” she said smiling as she left.

Dad followed her with his eyes until she left the room.

“She does look like the real thing, doesn’t she?”

“Yea,” I said, “The only difference to me is that this mom won’t ask me how I’m doing in here.”

Dad and I started laughing.”

“Well, Ariana,” he said, “There’s a base on the moon from which the Planetary Space Administration conducts its business. People from all lifestyles and countries are able to apply to and work at, the Space Center. I understand that there are now regular trips to the local planets and moons by scientists from around the world to explore and do experiments. Uh, we did tell you about the Drovanians, right?”

“Do you mean the bad aliens? They were coming to attack the Earth, but they were repelled by the good aliens, right?” I said.

“That’s them. You know how much interest I have in space matters.”

I smiled but did not dare tell him that I had dream world dad prattling on about Neptune’s moon, Triton before he got here. I am not sure how he would have reacted.

“Well, Ariana,” he said excitedly, “We now also have bases, they call them outposts, on many outer planets and moons. They serve as an early warning system, in case of danger to our solar system.”

Just then, dream world mom returned with dad’s tea.

“Here you go, honey,” she said to him, “Nice and hot, and a splash of milk. Just the way you like it.”

She handed him the cup on a saucer, and then leaned forward and kissed him on the lips.

Dad kissed back.

Dreamworld mom stood back up.

“You’ll have to excuse me,” she said, “I have some things to do. I’ll see you later OK?” she said, winking at dad.

“Yes, sure, I’ll see you later, honey?”

I watched the exchange with much amusement. Dad was behaving as instructed when interacting with dream world mom. Her avatar did not know that this was real world dad speaking with me, so he was supposed to behave normally so as not to cause her alarm. She straightened out some magazines I had tossed on the coffee table and then walked away. Dad kept looking at her the whole time.

I coughed, and he looked over to me.

“Uh, dad, that’s not mom. I think you were looking at her a bit longer than was necessary.”

“Hey, Ariana, I am a healthy man. I was just wondering.”

“That’s gross, dad,” I said, faking a disgusted look, “I don’t think I wanted to know that.”

We both started laughing again.

“Look, Ariana, I have to go. I will make time soon again.

“Thanks for coming dad.”

He reached over and hugged me, and he said, “I love you, Ariana.”

Dad flickered again, and he said, “Now where were we, oh, yea.”

Next slide.

“Triton has a tenuous nitrogen atmosphere less than 1/70 000th the pressure of Earth's atmosphere at sea level.”

*****
I stepped into the transporter and pressed the big red button. The door rotated close and the light flashed. Then the door rotated open and I stepped out of the transporter. I looked around the cabin and saw that everything was in order. I enjoyed coming here when I wanted to relax. I went to the front door and exited the cabin. I stepped out into a wonderland. The cabin was nearly a hundred feet away from the lake. The sun was at high noon position, but the outside temperature did not feel hot to me.

I could see that rain clouds had passed over and were now far away, and I noticed that the ground was quickly drying. I walked toward the lake, avoiding the picnic table that was in the way. I neared the lake, looked over to the dock, and saw the canoe. I walked over to it and got in. I strapped on a life preserver and sat down. I got hold of the oars and rowed softly, forcing the canoe to move out onto the lake’s crystal waters. About halfway out, I stopped the canoe and let it just float there.

I leaned back, and lay onto the canoe, and used the other life preserver as a pillow. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face. I knew that there was a world on the outside. For me though, this was the real world now.

I let my left leg dangle into the water; it caused the canoe to rock slightly. I glanced back to the cabin and saw mom come out and walk to the picnic table and place some food there. Probably chicken, I thought. I hope she brings out some watermelon too.

“Ariana,” she called out, “Dinner will be ready in a little while, OK?”

I waved, acknowledging that I heard her. It is all good, you know. It really is.

I whispered to myself, “Ariana, It’s all good.”
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