[Trapped, 2,452 words, Genre: Science Fiction]
* Image courtesy of Dirk de Bruyn
Shaun was sitting on the porch of his home. His home looked onto the suburban streets. He was caught up somewhere in the ghettos of Australia. The place was stuck in Western Australia, caught up in Aboriginal housing projects. The community, for the larger part, housed those with native DNA ancestry. Tied to the land, stuck in the cycles of poverty without any way of getting out. Any of the individuals who were lucky enough to get a job or improve their situation were beaten into submission by other family members. Then their pay cheques would be split amongst the different components of their family to be spent on liquor and other intoxicants, all as a means of escapism to escape from their surroundings. It was self-perpetuating. Those cycles of poverty. And as much as the liberal academics would place the blame on the ancestors of the white colonists, you could never ignore for a significant part that the Aboriginal people were also doing it to themselves. It was a double edged sword and both edges were cutting deep into the individuals who would want to make something of themselves. Those few individuals could not break away from their family, for they would not be accepted by the white communities who had built up a certain degree of hate for them from all the robberies and the antics of alcoholism. And they were chained to feeding their brethren the exact fuel that exacerbated these problems under a penalty of a physical exaltation.
And Shaun he would sit there on his porch. Under the heat or the rain, depending on what season it was, and keep silent as the marvellous imprisonment unfolded itself for his viewing pleasure. There wasn’t much point in owning anything, in his opinion. A car, a bicycle, anything of worth; it would disappear the second that he closed his eyes for rest. Such was the poverty that he was living in. He had come to the area several years back under the premise of employment. Once he was here, he had his car stolen and it was difficult to get to work. So he lived in one of these abandoned houses that was falling apart from weather wear. The paint peeled back at the sides of the house, the sun had calculated that vengeance upon the establishment. When it rained, it poured through the roof. No aboriginal would live in the place he called home, with their government refurbishments and builders contracted to the maintenance of their own homes, they saw themselves as above that. But the up-side was that he didn’t have to pay for rent and the steady stream of welfare payments that came in would allow him to slowly destroy himself with cask wine and cheap beer.
He would watch the kids, the teenagers, their black skin would shine under the heat of the sun. They would travel into the town and run amok, then return back to the area with some form of bounty and share it in equal parts. They had never adapted or adopted the white colonial point of view, and seeing how history was written in the textbooks, it was easy enough to see why.
Shaun finished his beer and threw the empty beer bottle out onto the lawn to rot away with all of the other rubbish and debris. Then stumbled over to one of the surrounding bush in which he could empty his bladder. As he pulled down his pants, he could already feel it. That burning sensation, like dried chilli flakes thrown down his uretha, he had picked it up somewhere along the line. Sleeping with faceless women in drunken states. There was a pause before the steady stream of piss came gushing from the tip of his penis. He steadied himself against the tree. He noticed some of the aboriginal kids walking towards his esky, housed with ice, where he kept his liquor. So he called out, “Yar’ little cunts better not be taking my beer!” And as soon as he called out, he heard their footsteps run in the opposite direction and so he once more concentrated on his stream of urine.
What the hell was this? The sun slowly baking his skin, the constant refreshment of his flesh with beer? But how did he come to this stage? How was he, born in a middle class family, subjected to this subjugated state? He hadn’t always been a drunk, he hadn’t always lived in such surroundings. So how the hell, did he end up here?
Shaun put as much thought into those questions as he did about going to see a doctor about his urinary tract infection, which wasn’t much, not much at all. Better to kill those thoughts with liquor than to dwell on them and send him to an undercurrent of his own personal hell. The consideration of those questions came down to one response and that was that he hadn’t been lucky. Not lucky at all.
He finished taking a piss and returned to his chair on the porch of the old, rotting, sandalwood home. He opened up another bottle of beer and began to pour the liquid down his throat. It was coming on at half past four, the sun wouldn’t set for a few more hours yet. But the consistent intake of alcohol took its toll on his system and made him drowsy. He idly placed the beer on the ground and almost spilled it on the floor. He cocked his head to the right side of his body and lost consciousness there in his seat, passing out from heat stroke and all the beer that he had drunk. He was bloated, and before he entered a deep sleep, he would let out little burps here and there.
The sleep nibbled in upon his mind, slowly encroaching and encapsulating it. Bringing it to a point where he was teetering on the great edge of a deep darkness. From that darkness he was pulled into an all encapsulating light.
And suddenly he was on a hospital bed. He couldn’t move his arms or legs. He felt paralysed. Above him was a doctor’s face. “Shaun, Shaun, can you hear me?” Shaun slowly moved his head up and down to signal that he could. His mouth was too dry to mouth out any words, “We’re going to pull you out of the simulation. Do you give your consent?”
Shaun was confused. He didn’t understand what was happening. He mouthed out the word, “Simulation?” But only a dry creaking came out of his throat.
“I just need to know one thing. Do you give your consent? Nod your head for ‘yes’.”
And so Shaun nodded his head and gave his consent.
Then he was back there. In the dark space. The rest of the dream passed by easily. He woke up to where he had been. In the chair, the sun was down and darkness pervaded the area. Black shadows moved in and out of the night. Some of the surrounding houses were lit up and you could hear people drinking and listening to music in them. His head throbbed and ached from all the alcohol that he had drunk the previous day.
He went inside to the furnishings of his home and made himself a cup of coffee. He didn’t have any milk, so the coffee that he was making was black. He made it on a small stove cooker, one of those things that you could purchase for a couple of hundred dollars from a camping or general supplies store. What the hell was the simulation? What was that dream that had just run through his head? He went outside to pee, he found the same bush that was now the general depository for such acts. Someone walking past could smell it for a mile away. But this was derelict housing, the whole surrounding area was, nobody expected anything better than this and the smell of urine hung heavy in the air. He once again pulled out his cock and delivered another litre of urine to the area. The burning sensation never left and he gritted his teeth to get it all out.
He went back to the cooker and found that the hot water had boiled and made himself a cup of coffee. It was black, like he had planned, through the lack of other filaments. His mind once again came back to think of ‘the simulation’. He had heard of these things before, simulated realities. He looked around to the dilapidated house that he lived in. And then he thought to himself, ‘if this is a fantasy, why the fark am I living here for?’ It was an ironic setting if this was his fantasy… Perhaps he was some rich eccentric who dreamt of living in poverty, but could not afford the risk of living that dream in reality. Or perhaps his own psyche was torturing him into living this existence. The more he thought about it, the more confused he became. He came into a deeper consideration of his current predicament and found that it wasn’t that bad. He had always been an optimist in that sense and thought, well, at least he could walk. Better than being stuck as some vegetable in a hospital bed. That’s when he remembered. In the dream, he couldn’t move the lower half of his body. That had to be it… Somewhere along the line he had done himself a serious injury and found himself unable to walk. So now, he lived in this reality, a simulation of the real one. With one exception, he could walk. It made him angry and confused at the same time. Somewhere out in the real world, there was a paralysed version of himself out there, and the best he could do was live this vapid existence.
Shaun attempted to remember the point where he had been brought into this reality. The point in which the ‘accident’, if there had been one, had occurred. His mind stirred, between the sips of black coffee and the pain of the hangover sent shudders of pain through his body. There had been a time, when he was travelling in his youth across Asia that he had rented a motorcycle.He had crashed, he thought it had been a close call, but perhaps on second recollection, it wasn’t. That had to be it.
He finished his black coffee and took a deep breath of air. Farkin’ hell! That was quite a trip or realization to lay on someone. It almost brought him to tears, the idea that somewhere, out there, he was paralysed and bedridden. Some nurse was cleaning out his bedpans as he lay there in this entranced state.
For a few hours, he muddled around the house. He walked from one area of the house to another, reading a magazine that he read underneath gaslight. He read up about different things. How the English royals were having their latest baby, how the politicians were making a right royal mess of diplomatic relations and how the world seemed doomed for the following centuries. What the hell sort of reality was this anyway? ‘A realistic one, where he could enjoy beer and not have a care about the world’, he contended.
After a while, he crawled up and onto the moth eaten mattress that lay in the corner of one of his rooms. His eyelids grew heavy and he once again fell asleep.
When he opened his eyes. He was once again surrounded by doctors. They were dressed in white uniforms. They saw that he had woken up.
“Shaun, Shaun, we’re going to give you something to rejuvenate your legs…” The doctor above his head told him.
Shaun once again nodded as the bed that he was on elevated on an angle, allowing the doctors access to his spine. From which they produced a large syringe filled with a clear blue liquid and injected it into his spine, just below the head, in the neck. His body was caught up in a couple of severe spasms and then he felt it. The sensation returning to the rest of his body. He could move his legs again. He was cured, by some miracle he was cured. The doctor opened up his mouth and with a tube, filled his mouth up with a liquid to lactate his mouth, so that he could once again produce his own saliva. He moved his mouth around and tongue, he began making small sounds. “My legs, my legs feel weak.”
“I bet your whole body would,” the doctor responded.
From there, the nursing staff helped assist Shaun in a shower and into a clean pair of clothes. The clothes were not what he expected. They were a pair of orange overalls with a number imprinted on the back. When he asked the nurse about it, they told him what was going on, “You’re a prisoner. One of your parents has died. You have leave from the virtual prison to attend the funeral.”
“Oh,” Was all Shaun could manage to say. All of his previous assumptions were incorrect.
Shaun was accompanied by security staff, taking him to a cemetery. He looked outside the window as the van, driven by prison guards, rolled across the highway. Everything looked so different to what he was used to. There were digital signs everywhere and as he looked at the people who were walking along the streets, they had all this odd looking headgear on that he failed to recognize. He didn’t know what was going on. This whole world was completely foreign to him. A part of him wanted to be back out nowhere, in the simulation, causing himself further pain every time he pissed. It was not a nice world, but it was a world that he had come to accept.
They arrived at the cemetery and went into a mortuary where a procession was taking place. He stood as the funeral procession took place at the back of the room. He recognized his mother who sat in the front row. His father had passed away. He didn’t know how, or what had happened. He didn’t know why he was confined to a virtual prison and perhaps that was the greatest torture of all. Not knowing.
The funeral ended and his mother walked past him. She stopped a moment, turned and confronted Shaun. He didn’t know what to expect from her. When she spat in his face, he wiped off the flem, turned to one of the prison guards and said, “Take me back. I want to go back from where I came.”