by Jeffrey Wikstrom
Carpet ocean, stretching over miles; hills and valleys and ravines, all upholstered. The green indoor-outdoor gives way to blue, as land gives way to sea, but the texture never changes. When it rains, as it sometimes does, the drops pass through the carpet without making contact, as though they or it aren’t really there. It’s there enough for me to walk on, at least, though spongy in some places and firm in others, as though it conceals hidden frames or foundations. Out on the blue carpet-sea, it feels stretched, tight, as though I walk on a drumhead. Maybe if I cracked it open I would find a vast dark expanse of water, lit by undersea jack-o-lanterns and holes that show the sky without breaking up the carpet-underside ceiling.
None of it is real, of course. That probably goes without saying.
It’s funny; I wasn’t supposed to experience time at all. When they loaded us into the ship, we were told that the travel would be instantaneous from our perspectives. One minute lying down in the big white plastic tombs, the next freshly decanted and opening raw new eyes. We would transition seamlessly from fluorescents and anesthesia to the light of some distant new sun. Certainly I have no memory of consciousness during departure. I wouldn’t have wanted to be aware, during that dreadful acceleration which pulped our bones, and wrecked our flesh. By then they had already guided us from our old bodies into the safety of simulation and storage.
This curated world never bruises me or shows me sharp edges. Trees are padded poles, slick vinyl trunks capped by rubbery green spheres fifteen, twenty feet up. Stairsteps run up the hillsides, though even the steepest rises are shallow enough I don’t really need the footholds. Fat plush toys, pink and green and blue, gambol across the plains and mimic living beasts grazing carpet-grass, or drinking from carpet-brooks. They ignore me, even when I shove or punch them.