Published on , 878 words, 4 minutes to read

Thena suddenly saw a large red sign labeled "system overload" in front of her. She tried to push it away but wasn’t able to do anything. After a bit of struggling something added the text “Get out of your pod to initiate repairs”. My...pod? she wondered.

Suddenly her arms started working again, but she wasn’t able to see them, only feel them. She reached up to her face and felt a weird kind of mask. There was a handle and she pulled on it. Finally that message went away, but it swung up and over. She had never seen any of the messages do that before. The room started to light itself up.

Thena looked down at herself and gasped. She did not see what she was used to seeing. She saw a body in a black and orange jumpsuit. It appeared to be male too. She decided she needed to see herself in a mirror. Dreams don’t let you look into mirrors right? This is just a bad dream. She got up out of her bed and stood on her feet, only to take a step and fall right over on the ground with muscle cramps she’s never felt in her life.

After massaging her aching muscles (which was hard because it was nearly all of them) she managed to crawl over to the mirror and took a good look at herself. She managed to get on her feet again after bracing for stability on the conveniently placed bar. There was no doubt. Her avatar was male. It felt familiar though, like it was something she should have known about but the details didn’t come to mind.

Anyways, system overload, that means the server needs to be rebooted right? Why couldn’t the automatic system handle this? Was that compromised too? Thena ambled her way to the door out of her chamber and looked for the server cabinet symbol. It was difficult to find much of anything though, everything in her visual awareness seemed to blur out about 2 meters in front of her. Oh, right, glasses! Thena got back into the room and looked for her glasses.

The details of her former life were slowly coming back into focus. Thena was an employee at one of the big corpos. She didn’t really want to be reduced to a body in a gelbed permanently wired and tubed into the machines, but after the climate got so harsh humanity had no other choice. Putting on her glasses, Thena took one last look at herself, confused but somewhat recognizing that stoic male stance that used to let her stand out in the crowds, then she ambled out of the room again and looked for the server cabinet.

My chamber is behind me, so my server room is front front left. Thena took a few steps forward and then turned to the left and walked until she hit a wall.

Walked may not be the best term for what kind of motion was used though, it was a half-limping barely committal stride, but to someone stuck in VR for 30 years this was the best you could expect out of that person "walking" without any practice. This physical body felt different, more “real”. Thena’s virtual form had moved without any restriction or limit. This body was full of restrictions. Strides were restricted to a small angle. The knees had to be consciously bent. The arms had to swing to maintain balance. Balance itself was an issue too. It was all very weird for Thena. She was trying to not think about the body’s layout very much.

Thena finally found the server cabinet symbol and twisted it to open. The lights weren’t blinking like they should be. There was a friendly sticker in Comic Sans above the switch that said "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" Thena grabbed the switch and turned it solidly off.

The noises of her room had stopped, leaving Thena in silence and darkness. It was peaceful. There was absolutely no sound. Thena didn’t want to tempt fate though, so she turned the switch back on and all the lights turned on like they should. More lights on the servers kept blinking in their happy patterns. A voice came on from above saying "System startup complete. Your pod is ready Micheal. Enter your adaptation room as soon as possible. It is not safe out here."

Micheal. Thena despised that name. That name reminded her of her former self. The self that died in that pod. The self she was born from. She shrugged it off and tried to not think about it. Her stride was a bit more sure now and she was able to make it back to her pod without falling over. She made it into her bed and pulled the face mask over her. It sealed in place and everything went dark as she faded back into Terranova.

Like this kind of writing and short story format? I have a biweekly newsletter on Revue that has a huge backlog of these stories that I was never really happy with enough to post here. I have also added its feed to my /feeds page.

Facts and circumstances may have changed since publication. Please contact me before jumping to conclusions if something seems wrong or unclear.