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 by Miracle Jones

The suburban Cracker Barrel is almost empty.  It is a Tuesday night.  Tom, a decent looking Gulf Coast man in a thoroughly retro white t-shirt and a zipped-up black leather jacket…a nod to the basic affinity between priests and all bachelors of a certain age…sits alone at the bar area.  

His security familiar is surely the most artistic security familiar that has ever been inside this restaurant. It is clearly custom, and not from a package. The few customers here who have augments keep staring at it in abased wonderment.  He designed and coded it from sketches that an old girlfriend drew for him long ago, back when he thought “girlfriends” were a good idea. 

His security familiar is tiny. You can only see it fully through augments of your own, the same kind he and many others have grafted into their ocular nerves in order to opt out of the horrors of consensus reality. To people without augments, his security familiar is just a ball-bearing sized drone.  It buzzes all around him, taking pictures, streaming data, feeding him information.  However, to those with augments, it looks like a six-inch-high woman with fairy wings and bright green skin.  The fairy wears a leather bondage mini-skirt and her proportions are “problematic.” She is made from lights and code, otherwise she would never be able to lift herself up and fly on such gossamer wings, being so top-heavy.

Tom is waiting for his date, a woman named Lila that he has only met a few times.  There is a black bag at his feet full of equipment. 

Lila lives in the apartment complex right down the street from this chain restaurant Cracker Barrel, whose survival must depend on rush-hour traffic from the feeder road. He got here way early so he could at least have one drink in him before she showed up. 

The music here is procedurally generated alt-country twang mixed over soulful Bible verses delivered in a manly tremulo, most likely lifted from some audio book New Testament.  Every now and then an oldies pop song comes on that makes him almost smile. He likes oldies: he likes masturbating to old porn where all the people in it are surely dead, for instance.

He first meets Lila at his cousin Charlie’s wedding, and then again at Charlie’s house for a barbecue.  He lives in the city and she lives out here, so they are exotic to each other, even though they have this mutual connection, this pivot point that draws them together twice in quick succession. He becomes “known” to her: this makes him “safe by default” which makes her “willing to take a risk.”

They take notice of each other at the wedding. Her security familiar is a seven-foot-tall baby blue grizzly bear drone.  It is a package and not custom, obviously, but it is an expensive package.  She has a date at the wedding and can’t talk to him the way she would like to talk to him. Tom is with his family and can’t talk to her the way he would like to talk to her. It is clear from the start that they have a certain dark chemistry.  Lila is bubbly and outgoing…outspoken, not ever deferential when confronted with a sufficiently strong opinion. Instead she flips her hair back and seems to flush with excitement.  

The second time they meet, at the barbecue, every time he says something, she disagrees with him, no matter what.  It is too easy. He sends his familiar to rest on her shoulder and she never even brushes it off.  

Every time he says something self-deprecating and mild, she slaps her thigh, contradicts him, and stares at him like she wants to eat him.  He gets the idea.  When he steps outside to smoke a cigarette, she follows him, chattering away to create a mystifying cloud of noise.  When they are alone, he passes her his cigarette and she takes a drag, holding the cigarette awkwardly. 

“Can I see your phone for a second?” he asks.

She hands it to him with a small noise of shock and excitement, like a bunny being squeezed.

“Code?” he asks.

“0125,” she says, breathily.  “My birthday.”

“Don’t worry,” he says, punching it in. “I’ve already forgotten it.”

He types in his email address for her.  Then he takes his cigarette back, takes a deep drag, and blows smoke in her face while she looks around, suddenly skittish, to see if anyone is watching them.
He leaves the barbecue early.  Doesn’t even say goodbye.  

He ignores her for a week, and then he sends her a long email asking her what the closest restaurant to her place is. His letter is effusive and complimentary, full of charming personal anecdotes and revealing personal details. The subtext is brutal and clear.

She sends him back a one line response with just a time and a place.

He does manage to get one drink in him like he has planned, but only one, because she arrives right on time.  He slides back on his barstool as her security familiar pushes open the doors and lopes inside.  She follows behind the giant blue bear, frowning, timidly inching into the restaurant. Does she ever come here?  She lives right down the street.  Surely she must come here. Finally, she sees him and puffs up, grinning, walking over to him quickly and voraciously.

She is wearing a low cut pink sweater and capri pants with platform heels.  Her hair is shoulder length and she is slender and completely flat-chested, like a boy.  She wears bright red lipstick and Tom is old enough to know when a woman has spent a long time doing her makeup.  He surmises that Lila has left work early to get ready for him and this fills him with the good kind of contempt.

“Hello,” she says.  “It is great to see you again.  I wasn’t sure if you were going to be able to find the place.  Or if you would still want to come and meet me.  Thanks for picking a place so convenient.  Nobody ever wants to come all the way out here.  I love that jacket, by the way.”

Tom smooths his hair back.  He turns to the side and motions to the bartender.

“Two glasses of water. And we aren’t staying for dinner.”

He puts a five dollar bill on the counter and the bartender picks it up, bored, uncaring.  She pours two glasses of water for them and then backs away. Lila sits down on the barstool next to him, her eyes flicking to the bag of equipment at his feet. He knows what it looks like: it looks like he has packed an overnight bag. But he hasn’t. He does not actually intend to stay the night with her. 

Her familiar lays down behind her, resting in the big open area by the door. It is empty enough inside this suburban Cracker Barrel that nobody seems to mind that she has brought it inside.

His own security familiar flits over and lands on his shoulder.  The fairy drone struts and poses along his back as Lila watches.

“I can’t get over how cool your familiar is,” she says.  “Not like mine:  I got my bear from work.  It’s a package, part of our health insurance.  You made your familiar yourself, right?   Charlie said you were an artist, that you do code and stuff.  He actually warned me about you, did you know that?  He said you were weird and quiet but that you always had a new beautiful woman you were dating and he said nobody knew how you did it.  I think he was trying to talk me out of coming to see you, but he didn’t do a very good job.  He just made you seem more mysterious.”

Tom picks up his glass of water and takes a sip.  Then he picks up her glass of water and also takes a sip.  The gesture is not lost on her.  

“I have just a regular boring job in an office,” she says.  “I studied psychology and art history and every single person asked me what I was going to do with it, and now I work for an insurance company. So they were right, I guess.”

She slaps her own thigh and laughs, throwing her shoulders back.

“I guess there is some psychology involved in working at an insurance company: it’s amazing how people never think they are going to have an accident or die or that their loved ones are going to have an accident or die.  My job is mostly talking on the phone, though I have to travel a bunch.  Which is pretty okay.  I am pretty outgoing.  I don’t mind that part. You know, you don’t look very much like Charlie.  Was your mom at the wedding?  I don’t think I met her there. God, I am just rambling. What did you study in school?”

“I didn’t go to school,” says Tom.  “Just did computer stuff.”

Her thigh jiggles close to his. He pours water into his hand and then puts his wet hand onto the flesh under her dress, far above her exposed knee.  She gasps.

He picks up her glass of water again.  He spits into it and hands it to her. 

“We aren’t eating dinner here,” he says.

“No,” she agrees.

He looks at the glass of water in her hand.

“Aren’t you going to drink it?” he says.

She lifts the glass of water to her lips, trembling as his hand moves higher up her thigh.

“Hey, whoa,” says the bartender, moving over to them, banging one hand on the counter.  Lila lowers the glass she is about to drink from, looking over at the bartender, a middle-aged woman with close set eyes and a strong jaw.  Her neck is chafed and pimply where her stiff collar grazes it.  

“He SPIT in that glass of water,” says the bartender.  “I saw him.  I saw him do it! Don’t drink that water.”

Lila blushes and lowers the glass of water.  But Tom puts his hand over hers and raises it to her lips again, sliding his hand higher and higher up her skirt, inch by inch as he does so.

“He spit in it,” says the bartender.  “Did he tell you that?”

Tom pulls the glass away and holds it out to the bartender.  

“Do you want to spit in it, too?” he asks. “She’ll drink it and we can watch.”

The bartender stares at him, and then at Lila.  Lila’s eyes are closed and she is breathing heavy.  Her skin is flushed from her face all the way down to the long open v of her sweater. The bartender sighs and frowns. She walks away.

Tom spits into the glass again and puts it back in Lila’s hand.  

“Drink up,” he says again.

She drains the glass, making pretty, girly gulping noises. Then she puts the glass down on the counter.  

“Maybe we should get out of here,” she says. “I mean, I live around here.  We should go, right?”

Tom calls his security familiar over to him.  It perches on the bar and Lila smiles.

“She is adorable,” says Lila.  “Does she have a name?”

“No,” says Tom.  “No name.”

The security familiar fairy begins to dance to the twangy country music interspersed with the manly Bible verses, moving back and forth, holding herself, blinking her long high-definition eyelashes.  She gyrates in time, running her long green hands over her body, over her leather mini-skirt, over the leather bra barely containing her cartoonishly disproportionate curves.  She struts all the way around the empty glass, leaning out and fluttering up to lick the rim, running her whole body across the clear hard smooth surface.  

Under Lila’s skirt, Tom’s hand squeezes her thigh and rubs the underside of her knee with two fingers in time to the security familiar’s rhythmic gyrations. She arches her back and grabs the back of her stool to steady herself.

Tom holds one finger out at eye level, as if he is showing Lila a rare invisible butterfly.  The fairy drone flies up and and kisses the finger, winking at them.  Then the fairy grabs Tom’s finger with both hands and runs her tongue along the top and then the bottom, flitting through the air.

“She’s totally tame,” says Tom. "Does whatever I want."

The security familiar begins to hike up her skirt, extending her long green legs sideways. In reality, she is nothing more than a floating ball bearing circling the tip of Tom’s extended index finger.  But now the cartoon projection overlay turns around, bending over, and then she thrusts his entire finger inside of her, throwing her head back in silent ecstasy, moaning and bucking her hips as she impales herself on his rigid digit.

Tom times his ministrations beneath Lila’s skirt to the back and forth of his security familiar’s impossible thrusts, moving his index finger back and forth in front of Lila.  His security familiar moves deeper and deeper on him, clutching her breasts, rocking her hips, riding the finger as if she is a demented insatiable sea monkey.

“Oh my god…” whimpers Lila.

Her thigh is sweating.  She presses her legs closer together and Tom moves his hand up higher until he feels moisture at the edge of her panties.  People in the Cracker Barrel are starting to stare at them. Tom grabs his security familiar, making a fist, making her disappear in his large gnarled hand.  

“We can go now,” says Tom.

Lila gets up and moves to the door, clutching her purse.  Her giant bear drone awakens as she comes close to it, alert now, looking at her.

The bartender comes over to say something, but at the last moment she just glares at them, taking their glasses away, aggressively wiping away the spots of moisture where they didn’t use a coaster.

“We can walk to my place,” Lila says as they step outside of the restaurant.  “It isn’t far.”

They walk across the Cracker Barrel parking lot toward the side street.  It is dark now, and they are silent for a few moments, listening to the hard and heavy crunch of the giant drone bear that follows them, loping over the gravel of the parking lot, protecting Lila from threats.

“So what do you for fun?” she asks him in a rush.  Her steps beside him across the parking lot are clipped as her kitten heels pick their way over the uneven asphalt.  “I have a blog, you know.  It’s called Bad Corporate Art. It gets a bunch of hits, but that is totally an accident.  The blog is really simple…I take pictures of bad corporate art…you know, the kind you see in the foyers of big business buildings and in the bathrooms at PR firms.  Corporations always think they need to have art on the walls and it is always, always bad.  How could it be good, right?  I get sent tons of places to sign documents and so on…I mean, we do insurance for whole companies.”

He doesn’t say anything. His familiar buzzes around and then lands on his shoulder.  

“I think I really like the paintings that are just pastel modernist shapes the most,” she says. “You always see these pastel modernist shape paintings in corporate bathrooms where everything is cream-colored and carpeted, where there are just soothing seashell lines everywhere.  Right there on the wall will be some pastel shape painting.  Just a bunch of pastel cones or balls or cubes or pyramids.  They are meant to be soothing or something.  My theory is that it is meant to help big-time corporate executives deal with taking a shit. Like, it might be the one time in their day they might accidentally reflect on their own humanity and so these paintings are there to thwart this.” 

“Creativity is a happy fire,” he says finally.

“It would be better if all these corporations spent money on actual artists,” says Lila. “Where does it all even come from? I bet corporate art is so bad because they spend millions on buying art that their deadbeat sons and daughters make, or else the deadbeat friends of their sons and daughters.  It is all a contained, closed system…bad art, bad people.”

“Computer programmers, people who write code, often think of themselves as artists,” says Tom.  “We like to think that what we do is creative.”

“I say, if you have the money, invest in some old Russian icons or even just some original prints from good comic books, at least,” she says.  

They move into the parking lot of a three story apartment building and she grabs his hand and pulls him to the stairwell.  The giant blue bear looms over them, following from behind.
“This is it,” she says.  “Second floor.”

She holds him for a second and he can tell she wants him to kiss her. 

Tom hefts his shoulder bag, switching arms, pushing past her and walking up the stairs. She follows him. On the second floor, they thread through the potted plants along the walkway.  She grabs his hand and he holds it.  She stops in front of a door and unlocks it with keys from her purse. The bear moves in first, trained to always check for danger, just in case.

Her apartment is all pink and lime green.  Lime green couch, pink curtains, pink rug, lime green electronics. There is a coffee table made from an old trunk and there are two giant gifs hanging on the walls of women in beehive hairdos posing with bears in front of orange brick walls. The kitchen has a lime green linoleum floor and Tom can see stainless steel countertops and a 3D drug printer.

Her giant blue bear curls up in an empty corner, watching them both through its milky eyes.

“I tried to clean up a little,” she says.  “I don’t have a roommate or anything. So it’s just us in here. I like living alone, but since I got the bear I feel more safe.”

“Do you have anything to drink?” he asks her.

“Sure,” she says, walking over to her refrigerator.  He checks out her ass as she opens the door and she sees him checking out her ass, so she spreads her legs and lifts her skirt up a little, teasing him.  He smiles.  The bear picks its head up, watching him, and then it drops his head back to its paws.

“I’ve got some beers and a bottle of vodka,” she says, opening the freezer and pulling out a chilly bottle of Absolut.  

He comes up behind her and puts his hand around her throat, peering into the cold freezer.

“Not much in here, honestly,” he says. “Are those Choco Tacos?”

“Yes,” she says, breathing hard.  She breathes in his scent. She pushes back against him.

He reaches past her and takes a Choco Taco from the box.  

“Your ice cream is racist,” he says, opening the cellophane.

He moves away from her, also taking the bottle of vodka from her hand.  She lets the freezer door close.

“Sit down,” says Tom.  “And I will tell you what is about to happen.”

They both sit down on her couch.  She watches him while he eats the Choco Taco in three big bites.  Her eyes move from his mouth to his crotch and back again.  He washes down the Choco Taco with a swig of vodka straight from the bottle. He balls up the wrapper and hands it to her.

“Throw this away,” he says. “Hold your skirt up as you walk so I can see your delicious naked ass.”  

She stands up as if she is an electronic toy and he has the remote and scurries to the kitchen to throw away the wrapper, holding her skirt up so he can see, just like he has asked her to do. The bear yawns.

Tom pulls his bag over to him and unzips it. 

“You like doing what you’re told,” he says. “I mean, to say the least.”

She nods.

“And you feel safe here with me in your own place?”

“Yes,” she says meekly.

“Then we are going to do some exploring,” he says.  “You are going to help me test something I made. It is completely safe. Don’t worry.”

“Okay,” she says.

“Have you ever messed around with a neural projector before?” he asks her.

“Sure,” she says.  “In college. I mean…I like real life better, though.”

“Yes, me too,” he says.  “But in this bag I have a SinSations brand neural projector that I have modified.  I have taken out some of the safety features because I think they were put in by puritans and fraidy-cats.  But you aren’t a puritan or a fraidy-cat, are you?”

“No,” she says meekly.

“Usually, with a neural projector, we both plug our brains into this box and there is a scenario all keyed up for us. I could beat you up using a neural projector and you would feel it every time I hit you, but it wouldn’t hurt you, not really, wouldn’t even leave a mark.”

“I’ve done that before,” she says.  “In college.  But like I said, I like real life better. I don’t mind…real pain.”

“Shut the fuck up, you stupid bitch,” he says.

She breathes in hard, falling to the floor to hug his legs like a koala climbing a tree, nuzzling against him. They both get very excited for a moment. But instead of reaching out for her, he reaches for the vodka and takes another sip, washing the last vestiges of the Choco Taco out of his back teeth.

“As you are clearly aware, there are built-in limits to what you can do with a neural projector.  The machinery attempts to replicate reality; to create a world that we can interact with physically and that makes sense to us geometrically and which has limits.  Physical boundaries.  But these limits and boundaries can be turned off.  I have illegally altered the firmware of this particular SinSations brand neural projector in my bag and I would like to use it on you and record the experience.  Are you comfortable with that, you dumb art history slut?”

She nods immediately.

“Yes,” she says without even thinking about it.  

He grins. 

“You sure?”

She thinks about it for real for a moment now.

“Yes,” she says definitively.

“Better loosen up, then,” he says. He hands her the bottle of vodka and she takes a long pull from it, staring at him.

“Let’s go to your bedroom,” he says.  “You will need to be lying down for this.”

She stands up, wobbly on her heels, and her bear stands up as well, cocking its head to the side.  His fairy swoops around the room taking everything in, photographing everything, taking video which streams back to his apartment in the city and which he will watch later, dissecting each moment, plugging important variables into an old fashioned spreadsheet that gives him comfort.

Her bedroom continues the pink and lime green theme.  Her bed is pink; the thick carpet lime green.  Orange curtains give the room a womb-like atmosphere as the sodium arc lights of the parking lot bleed in.

“Take your clothes off,” says Tom.  She smirks.  She does, removing her skirt and her top and standing in front of him wearing nothing but her short heels.  She stands there while he takes two large bricks of machinery out of the bag, and then squints along the wall, looking for an outlet.  He holds up the plug, finally looking at her naked body.

“Over there,” she whispers.  “Behind the night stand.”

“I am going to hit you with this cord,” he says.  “I want to hit your ass with this cord.”

He waits for her.

“Yes,” she says.  “Please.”

He doubles up the electrical cord so that the plug is in his hand, and lashes out at her, smacking her thighs and bare ass with it as hard as he can without raising it over his shoulder.  She shrieks.  She falls to her knees again and looks at him with milky, loving eyes.  She stays that way as he plugs in the box and puts it on the bedside table.  Next, he plugs in a different box…one that he has made himself…and then he opens the binder full of needles and spine clamps.

“Lay down,” he says.  “Lay down on your stomach, actually. You have ports?”

She lifts up her hair, revealing the two puncture wounds behind her ears. Of course she has ports.  She is eighteen isn’t she?  

“Like I said, I haven’t done this since college,” she says, laying down on her stomach, lifting her ass up off the bed ever-so-slightly.  She is very wet.  She looks over her shoulder and she can see that his pants are bulging.  She can tell that he is enjoying all of this, every moment, no matter how cool he tries to seem.

“There’s no way to make a perfect neural projection without the spine clamps lighting up your nervous system so that the gateway processor can make you a proxy body,” he says.  “It will feel strange.  A lot of people say they feel like they are a robot or on drugs.”  

“That sounds nice,” she says as he sterilizes the needles, holding them up to the flame of a cigarette lighter.  “I’m not really the type of girl you would think would be into this kind of thing, am I?”

“You are exactly the sort of dumb slut I think would be into this sort of thing,” he says. 

Her hands jump to her pussy.  She squeals. She sticks her tongue out at him.

There is a lot of preparation required. He has to lube up the ports and get the adjustments right on the spine clamps. She starts to get antsy as he works. 

“When I was a kid," she says, "I remember that I would always make my brothers play ‘capture and torture’ which means that I would hide and if they found me, they could do whatever they wanted to me. Like lock me in the closet or tickle me until I peed.  They were younger than me so I had to make them swear not to tell my parents.  I hope they don’t remember any of that.”

He comes ups behind her and puts his hand on her ass.  She moans so he slides two fingers into her pussy. She lifts her ass off the bed toward him, clenching it.

“Keep talking,” he says.  “Don’t stop talking. I have to calibrate the projector.”

“What do you want me to talk about?”

“Anything,” he says. “Your favorite color.  Your favorite animal.  Your favorite restaurant.”

“My favorite…”

He slides his fingers back and forth.  He forks them across her clit and squeezes, and then slides her juices all the way back to her asshole.

“Talk,” he says.

“Have you heard of this place called Food Friends?”  she says after a long moment.  “It’s a weird place in the city.  I bet you know about it.  Have you been there?  It is owned by this artist who is getting kind of famous.  All the food has candy googly eyes all over it. The steaks, the potatoes, the dessert, the salad.  It all has googly eyes, like a cute cartoon…”

He drives his fingers into her wet asshole now and she gasps.  She hears him unbuckling his pants, and she turns around to look, curious. His pants come off and then his shirt. He screws two bolts into the box and makes some more adjustments with the needles and then he dims the lights.

“I am going to plug in the needles now,” he says.  “Your ports are clean?”

“I have to sanitize them every day at work,” she says.  

She feels him hover over her, feels the pressure of his body on her back and shoulders.  He grabs around her throat and lifts her head up.

“Keep talking,” he says. “More about the restaurant, I guess.”

“I only went to Food Friends once,” she says. “It was for my friend Katrina’s birthday. She thought it would be funny.  Actually, it was kind of unsettling.  All the bright colors, and the faces made it seem like…”

There is a sudden burst of pain as he inserts a plug into her brain and she yelps, drawing out her screams like an opera singer.  One of the connectors screeches into her brain, shocking her with a sudden wave of nausea and agony. Her head throbs and the skin on her face and neck crawls.  She feels so dizzy that she nearly falls off the bed while trying to get oriented as the room rolls over.  Tom catches her before she can hurt herself.

“I’ve never used such deep pins,” she says. “Back in college…they were basically headphone jacks. I mean, the ones I use for work are just…more shallow.”

“These go all the way in,” he says.  “Can you handle it?  There is one more.”

“Yes,” she says.  “I can handle it.”

“I want this to be a spiritual experience,” he says, holding her face in his hands for a moment. She nods.

He comes back around behind her.  He lowers his face and begins to lick and chew.  She squirms and pushes back against him, rocking, as he flicks at her pussy and asshole.  With only one plug in her head, she is half in and half out of the neural projection, and so she feels the pleasure from the pressure of his tongue as a depersonalized sonic wave, crawling up her spine but also not quite reaching all the way into her mind.  This makes it even better somehow. She squeals and he puts two fingers inside her, curving upward, massaging the electric crenelations of her moon-map interiority.  Then he steps backward.  She throbs. She has a headache in her asshole.  And then there is a shocking wave of joy and intensity as something hot and hard and round dips down and fixes itself to her.  Her whole lower half begins to vibrate.  A white hot vibrating sun moves up and down her clit, making her flex her toes and bend her knees. 
“Oh my god,” she says.

“My familiar,” he says. 

“I am going to come,” she says.

“Go ahead,” he says.  

She squeezes her knees together, but the ball just vibrates harder.  She pushes against it and it gives, softly.

“Noooo,” she says as she lets go. And then: “JESUS!” She stretches her whole body out, hooking her arms around her pink pillows.

He waits for her body to stop pulsing. It takes awhile.

She hears the flick of the lighter again.  Her vision swims as input tries to take hold from the connection in her brain.  

“There is one more,” he says.  

She sees colors, shapes… but nothing resolves, yet.  The throbbing in her head becomes a pleasant euphoria that matches the ecstasy in her pussy. The numbing agent on the needle blunts the worst of her brain’s immune response. 

She grabs her own thighs, twisting on the bed.

Tom grabs her neck and then plugs in the next needle, jamming it home.  She shrieks, not expecting how strong it will be.  There is no place to turn now: pain flows into her from both sides of her head.  She chokes on her own spittle and begins to cough.  The throbbing makes her gag and she grabs hold of the bedspread, moaning. 

“Can you handle it?” he asks again. “I can turn it off any time.”  

The needles are so deep in her brain.  All she can see is black and purple. It is like falling into a bruise.  She thrashes around, but he holds her, and she doesn’t ask for him to remove the plugs.  Slowly, the darkness resolves into shapes and patterns.  Slowly, the pain becomes static with meaning and she feels some other ghost-spirit take shape.  The real part of her laying on the bed recedes.  She brings a ghost hand up in front of her face. As she watches, the ghost hand shimmers, becoming more solid. She is a sleeper dipping back into a dream.  She flexes her hand in the dream world, letting her paralyzed body in her own bed be spell-corrected, deleted, typed over, and forgotten.

“This feels…creamy,” she says.  “I’ve never been so deep.”

“Can you feel anything?” he asks. His voice comes from far away, the voice of conscience or an evil impulse.  

“Yes,” she says.  “It is just blackness now though. Just me in the dark.”

“I am holding the scenario,” he says.  “Once I plug in, we will join each other in a consensual bidirectional neural projection.  Hold on.”

She touches her own thigh and yes...there is the ghost of a feeling. She smells burnt toast.  She presses harder and the feeling becomes more firm and solid.

She laughs.

“It is like being awake during a dream,” she says.

“That’s exactly what is happening,” he says.  “Neurologically speaking. Okay, hold on, I will join you. The clamps are on you now, just so you know.”

From far away, she hears a grunt and feels pressure against her prone, sleeping form.  Half a man materializes in the air in front of her.  The two of them still occupy a formless void.  Then there is another grunt and the world begins to fill with color.  As she watches, she sees Tom struggle into being beside her, naked, smirking. For a moment, she is afraid. The she remembers her big blue bear watching over them, watching over everything.  All she would have to do is shout.

Her vision swirls and then she finds herself in a hard, round rainbow bed in a room with grey ceilings and floors.  There are clean, sparkling windows all around them, showing streaking stars.  They are flying through space.  She looks down at herself. She is wearing a blue uniform with some kind of short skirt.  Tom stands above her with his hands behind his back.

“We are on a spaceship,” she says, leaning back, stretching out on the massive rainbow bed.  She can spread both her arms and legs and not reach the edge. 

“So nerdy,” she says.  “I love it.”

“It takes some practice to maintain an environment like this,” he says.  “One of us has to stay in control, and there is no way you could maintain the solidity of the environment, given what is about to happen to you.”

“What do you mean?” she says. “What is about to happen to me?”

“First, I am going to hit you,” he says. “Just as a test.”

“Do it then,” she says.

He slaps her, sending her flying across the bed.  The sting on her cheek is real.  The pain rocks her body and she slips away for a moment.  Her nose stings and she cries out, yelling his name lovingly.  She lands with her knees splayed open and she realizes that he has not provided her with any underwear.  She smirks at him.

“It is fucked up that you like doing that,” she says. “You are a monster.”

“Is that the best you can do?” he says, touching her lip, touching her nose.  It swells slightly. “Nothing I do here will actually hurt your real body. Even though you can feel everything.”

“That is…wonderful,” she says.

“You will still have the memory of the pain,” he says. “I can’t do anything about that.”

“Yes,” she says.  “The best part.” She rubs her knees together and then gets up on all fours, crawling toward him.

“Anytime you want to leave, all you have to do is leave,” he says.  “It’s easy as that. Your will here becomes law. You have to want to be here to stay here, so I will always assume that you want to be here as long as you stay here.  A neural projection is basically a consent machine.  Not like real life.”

“Yes,” she says.

“We should practice, though,” he says.  “Try to will yourself back into your real body, like Dorothy with her little ruby slippers.”

Lila closes her eyes and thinks “there’s no place like home.” Instantly, she moves into her real hands and feet. Her head aches slightly. She focuses on the feel of her own bed beneath her and the warmth of him next to her, inert and powerless. Tom is curled around her, almost tenderly. The clamps along both of their backs connect to wires that fall down both sides of the bed and sweep away to the two boxes. How does she get back to the dream, though? She closes her eyes again and thinks “there’s no place like getting fucked by a sociopath you barely know on a spaceship in your head” and she instantly returns, blinking, as if she never left.

He grins as she rejoins him. He bends down to her and lowers his face to her crotch. Then he moves back to her face.  He spits into his hand.  He kisses her while he roots around for her clit.  When he finds it, he squeezes it surprisingly gently, and then begins rubbing it back and forth. His eyes go dead like a fish as he tries to imagine the shape of it, how it must be swelling, what juices are flowing into and out of it.

“It all feels completely real,” she says. 

“It is completely real,” he says.  “As far as your brain is concerned.”

He lifts his hand up and then she feels something cold and metallic touch her thighs.  She spreads them, ready for anything, but it is only the same small ball-bearing rolling up her leg.  His security familiar still has a presence in this spaceship overlay. His true love, she thinks.

“Just so you know, we both have dual presence,” he says. “Just in case your house is on fire or something. But you won’t feel anything from real life unless something changes there.”

The ball begins to grow warm against her leg.  She presses hard against it, enjoying the cold sizzle it gives off, the way it remains in place no matter how hard she pushes against it, like a hard hand.  

It begins to vibrate again, slowly crawling down her body.  She gasps as it move into her again.

Tom also returns to her pussy, sticking his tongue into her in the spaceship bed.  She feels both things happening simultaneously: he is going down on her here in her dream at the same time that his security familiar drives itself inside of her, buzzing and vibrating with a rhythmic pulse that must be automatic, but still seems to be organically adjusting to the bucking of her hips.

“Oh god,” she says, after awhile, squeezing both his head and the warm mechanical ball.  “I’m going to come again.”

“No,” he says, lifting his chin out of her and wiping his mouth.  The ball shuts off as well and her muscles clench and then the feeling recedes.  “Not this time.”

“Why? What?” she sits up, grabbing him, and he pushes her back down on the bed.  He holds her that way for awhile while she wonders if she has done something wrong.  Slowly, breathing heavy, he returns to her pussy, taking it in his mouth again.  The ball returns as well, and then she is clenching his head with her thighs and lifting her ass up off the bed. Suddenly he stops again. She flips over onto her belly.

“I want to suck your cock,” she says, frustrated.

“There is a reason for the double awareness,” he says. “There is something that we can do here that we can’t do in the real world. I have modified the firmware of the SinSations device so we can do something special.”

“Oh really?” she says. 

“Yes,” he says.  “All the nerves modeled by your brain are also modeled by this device and then fed back to you.  But that doesn’t just extend to your external nerves. Your internal nerves are also modeled.  There are more of them and they are autonomic.  There is a part of your brain that needs to know what your kidneys feel like at any given moment, but it isn’t part of your conscious awareness unless something has gone wrong. Here, the boundaries between us are porous and arbitrary.  The box creates simple collision detection and object management code that might be turned off.  Here, we might walk through a wall and not feel it.  Or, even better, we might walk through a wall and feel every morsel of agony as it passes completely through us.”

He puts his fingers in her pussy and shoves upward.  She gasps and looks at him with suitable amazement. 

But then he does something disturbing.  He keeps pushing.  The pleasure and pain builds as his fingers go further and further.  She can feel his whole fist sliding into her in a way that doesn’t seem real or right. Her eyes widen and she tries to shift her hips to take it.  No, no, no, no, no, she thinks. She feels pressure, she feels the pleasure and pain of her body being ripped apart, but there is no bleeding or tearing.

She cries out and bends to grab his arm, but he keeps pushing.  She feels him in her belly, feels her organs penetrated and tickled, feels strange hungry clawing in her abdomen and then she begins to scream.  His hand is now sticking out of her stomach.  He waggles his fingers.  She screams, staring at him, as he moves his arm around, causing her body to ripple with agony and her legs to shiver uncontrollably.

“STOP,” she screams.  “STOP.”

“You are still here,” he says. “My puppet.”

She can't help but move where his hand moves as he jerks it back and forth.  It is all the way inside her, like a gaff in a fish.

He covers her mouth with his other hand before she can scream again. Then he slowly pulls his hand out of her. The pain immediately goes away.  Her body throbs, but it is an empty throb. Aftershocks.  He holds his hand out to her. She stares at it, and rubs her belly where his fingers were just protruding.

“You ripped open my stomach,” she says.

“No,” he says.  “We temporarily merged our neural projections.  My neural cells passed through yours, lighting up both sets, which are tracked and sorted according to an algorithm that I wrote because I am a fucking genius.  Of course, the nerve endings in my fist and forearm are different than the ones in your snatch.”

She laughs nervously.

He stands up, putting his erection in her face.  She gets on all fours and looks up at him.

“Grab it,” he says.  “Don’t be shy. You want revenge or are you going to be sweet?”

She takes his dick in her hands and begins to stroke it.  She moves it up and down. It grows slick.  She can feel her hands tingling on it, growing warmer and warmer as she moves her hand up and down.  She licks it and then puts it all the way in her mouth, working her tongue along the big vein on the bottom.  He holds her head there for a moment and she squeezes the back of the shaft.

“Squeeze harder,” he says.

She does.

“No, HARDER,” he says.  “Break it off, bitch.”

She gets to her knees, getting traction, getting torque.

Her fingers push through the solid flesh of his penis and he shouts out, putting his hands over hers.  His eyes are wide and totally lit up. He roars.  Both of their interlaced fingers sink deeper into his penis, pushing into the adipose sponge like pizza dough.  She makes a tight fist and drags it through his penis, stroking the deepest veins inside the shaft itself.  Her fingers dissolve into the flesh and she feels the prickles and itch on her palm as she literally skins the dick in front of her, pushing through his whole dick with her fist as if it had a centimeter thick layer of foreskin.   

His penis seems to strain higher and higher, punching out like a yoga-mom saluting the sun from his tightened balls.  She leans forward, stroking the inside of his dick harder and harder, tightening and loosening her grip on him as she jerks.

His eyes narrow and grow more malevolent as she hurts him. Now he pushes her hands away, grabs her head in his hands, and shoves his dick into her willing mouth.  But their bodies are porous here and his penis goes further down her throat than she has ever let a dick go before.  Instead of choking her, it goes right through her throat, tickling parts of her that have never been touched up before, that she has never tried to stimulate.  She slobbers as she moans.  

She thinks she might choke, but she discovers she can still breathe.  None of this is real.  She could leave any time.  

He runs his hard dick through her entire body as she bucks beneath him, moving it down her chin, splitting her neck and letting his dick rip open her chest. It is utter, utter agony, but that's all it is.  There is an explosion of pleasure and pain as he finally drags his cock down to her clit and lingers there.  She is pouring sweat, screaming, clutching him as if they were falling together from a skyscraper window. 

The pain of it makes the colors around them gyrate and buzz.  Her heart beats wildly and her whole body is on fire.  As he turns her over and fucks her in the small of her back she shouts and cries for him to go deeper.  He drags his dick through her body, all the way up to her head again.

“Yes,” she says, feeling his dick in her voice box. 

“It tickles when you talk,” he says.

“Do it,” she says.  

He rotates so he is above her, bending her over so that he can rub her pussy with one hand, twisting her into a convenient pretzel.  And then he begins to fuck her in the brain.

With every penetration, her head lights up as if her head is being slammed over and over again into a wall.  Lights flash and she screams, but she doesn’t stop him or pull away.  Her vision becomes a hurricane of color. Figures move at the periphery.  She rotates her head as he slams into her.  She tries to speak, but his balls slam into the side of her head and each stroke of his penis is like a kick from an angry, enthusiastic horse.

She begins to trip out.  Time slows down and colors melt together and she can hear the rhythm of her heart as her thoughts stretch further and further apart.  She waits for each heartbeat and each wave of pleasure, but the fuck-pain pulls her apart, opening her like a bag of chips, as the spongy nerves in her skull are smashed, busted, beaten by his throbbing cock.

She grabs him, holding him tighter as her orgasm begins, shooting through her.

“There are…other…people…here,” she says.

“What do you see?” he shouts.  “Do you see something? Are you tripping?  Are you tripping out yet?”

He doesn’t stop fucking her in her brain, but she isn’t imagining it: she does see something. Ghostly figures move closer and closer to her and she tries to make them out.  They aren’t alone here.

“Tell me what you see,” he says.  “Tell me what it feels like.”

“I feel…so goddamn high,” she says.

She is surrounded on all sides. Faces loom in at her.  The faces are painted white…death faces…clown faces…pixels and melting greasepaint.  Red noses and enormous grins.  They wear business suits and have slick yellow hair.  Business clowns. They have googly eyes.  Googly eyes everywhere.

She recognizes them somehow.  They are familiar to her.  They are here for her.

She begins to scream. She knows she can leave any time. But the predictable agony mixed with the jackhammer joy-sickness are too much and she cannot will herself away.  She arches her back, gasping and roaring.  The googly eye business clowns surround her, leaning closer like doctors at an operating table.  

As his dick slams further and further into her brain, the business suits melt away into fluttering purple robes. The clowns grow taller and taller and thinner and thinner.  Their pale clown faces become the rouged faces of corpses and then these melt away into hollow-thin nubbins, barely big enough to contain death grins. The googly eyes expand. These are giant unworldly praying mantis-like creatures like very tall matchsticks.  They are feeding from her and she likes it.  Did she make them with her mind?  Is this what being killed feels like? How many ways are there to die?  The creatures dissolve into pastel abstractions: rods, cones, pyramids, spheres, cubes.

Far away, her security familiar stirs and she can feel its breath against her bare feet. She feels Tom slow down, nervous. Her bear could rip his throat out with a word.

“Keep going,” she yells.  “Don’t you ever fucking stop.”

He speeds up again and she anticipates his eventual orgasm: her brain filling with his warm cum, their bodies merging like whirlpools draining into each other, taking his load right behind her eyes where the head of his cock bashes her eyeballs up against her skull, her mind sucking it all down and containing the spurt and slosh of it like a cheap condom. 

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(c) Miracle Jones 2017