The Law of Gravity
by Sam Ferree
That sunrise was the best they had made yet. The air was cool, not cold, and the Termination was just the right shade of pomegranate red around the sun. The light breeze smelled like oranges. It reminded me of candy, not real fruit, just that imitation flavor that somehow tastes better than the real thing.
“I think Lauren’s dead,” Lukas repeated, his avatar’s young face contorted in disgust. Lukas had chosen a runner’s physique, because, out there, he’d been a track star in college; why that mattered to him was beyond me.
“What do you mean you think she’s dead?” I asked. We were sitting at Reel Café — a not-so clever pun, I thought — at the edge of the patio. We had met there every Monday morning for years.
My coffee was cold and my cigarette spent. Lukas had ordered his usual Earl Grey and a grapefruit, but he hadn’t touched either one.
Lukas shook his head. “Her avatar is in Smith Field. Just standing there, staring off at nothing. It’s been doing that for weeks. I spoke with a friend of mine, an administrator. They’re shutting down her account because her fees are overdue. She hasn’t been away from the Flat for more than two days in decades. She’s dead, Noah.”
“So she’s been away for a few weeks. That doesn’t mean anything.”
“But it’s a pretty good sign she isn’t coming back.”
The orange scent was fading and Lukas was silent. I said, “Well, what do we do?”
“What?” Lukas looked up. Eventually, he shrugged. “I suppose we arrange a funeral.”
I nodded, but said, “I don’t actually think she’s dead.”
“She is,” Lukas muttered. His twenty-something avatar wore an old man’s bitterness.
I picked up my coffee. The mug looked like it had been made by a five year old. Everything about the Reel Café had that hokey-imperfection. When you sat in the chairs, you half-expected a distinguished looking gentleman to walk up and ask you to please not sit on the dadist art.
I dropped the mug. It shattered with a disappointing crack. A nearby waiter started toward me, glowering and brandishing a towel like a gladiatorial weapon.
“Why did you do that?” Lukas asked.
“Just testing,” I said, knowing that Lauren would have been less than amused. (Continue Reading…)