I wrestle in the grips of a dream of drowning. Several dull thuds rouse me from sleep. My eyes flutter open. Another bang resounds from somewhere in the house.
Not for the first time I think about the biorhythmic device attached to me and how it should be readjusted to better control my breathing. At my next televisit with my personal physician I will address the problem.
I wait for my husband to come in with my lunch. He will sit beside my life pod until I sip all of my nutrient malt. Then he will empty the waste chamber on my pod into the sanitary system vacuum. Maybe today we will go to Jerusalem for an hour in our Adventure Simulator. In the Simulator, I can move about like I did when I was younger, when I had the use of my body. We can visit the garden tomb or the Western Wall and pray together.
Another bang from downstairs reminds me how much I love my husband. I smile, thinking that he and Tom Flynn, our handyman, are probably working on something special.
Footsteps in the hallway. I turn my eyes, the only part of my body I can yet command, toward the door. A stranger, blood soaking the front of his shirt, stares at me from the doorway. His eyes take in with a glance my life pod and my vulnerable position. The casual leer on his face frightens me. Startled, I realize that what I thought were the sounds of two men working on a remodeling project may have been gun shots. If that is true. . .
He nears and I smell enphorim. His clothing reeks of the smoky hallucinogen. When I look up I see the unmistakable orange tinge of the drug in the whites of his eyes.
“Mrs. Sorenson? Mrs. Mabel Sorenson?” he asks. “Your husband said I might find you here. He will, by the way, not be joining us. I think you’ll be glad he won’t.”
If I could scream, I would. He disconnects the life-sustaining biofeedback machine and all of the pod’s tubes, then wheels me into the Adventure Simulator.
He smiles. “After all, you want to feel everything, don’t you?”
I recognize the casinos of Las Vegas lining the streets ahead of me. He has reprogrammed the Simulator. Before he can grip me in his sweaty arms, I wriggle away. I run through the streets of the city, desperate to find a hiding place or weapon, anything but what he has planned.
He bellows his rage. I hear the clack-clack of his footsteps a few feet behind me. My body falls backward onto the pavement and I stare up into his furious face. A clump of my scalp is in his hand. For the next hour, all I see of my assailant is his black tightly-curled hair. I drip with the sweat of his body and beg for an end to the torment. Then he snakes his hands about my throat, shutting off my life breath. I struggle, as if drowning in a sea of black water, then cry out, “Lord, my God, save me.” I die.
I die and wake to a new reality. From my seat at the table, my defense attorney beside me, I stare into the eyes of the judge. I am Tom Flynn now, not Mabel Sorenson, and the judge reads my sentence.
“Thomas Flynn, upon consideration by this court, we find you guilty of the murder of Mabel and Samuel Sorenson. I hereby sentence you to the Virtual Penitentiary where you will relive this trial and Mabel Sorenson’s last hours repeatedly for the time period of five years.”
But I’m not guilty! Mr. Sorenson sent me to the garage to get something and I was locked in. When I escaped, I found them dead. I have seen the face of the real murderer.
I know that the judge will not believe me. The Sorenson family behind me murmur satisfaction that justice has been served. But justice has not been served. As the Lord is my witness, I am an innocent man!
The people of a world without God clamor for vengeance against violent criminals. They decree that the murderer should have to suffer as much as the victim. Forgiveness and mercy are forgotten sentiments.
I lie in a life-support pod, the microchip with the program being implanted into my skull. An IV drips nutrients and sedatives into my veins, and my nightmare begins.
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