Cyberdrome Deleted Scenes
Part #3 - Final Prologue from 2006
Since the previous two Prologues made many test readers think that the story was about fighting the plague in Utah (which it isn't), I decided to write a new version. I had an idea that Alek suffered from seizures caused by a previous deep-interface accident, and decided to make that my new Prologue. In the final version of Cyberdrome, published in 2008, I decided to give up on Prologues altogether and just jump right into the action of the story. If you have already read the book, I hope you will agree with my decision. Here now is my final attempt at a Prologue for Cyberdrome.
"Is this where I belong?" Alek Grey asked the empty room as he stared at the white padded walls surrounding him. The sleeves of the matching white straightjacket hung carelessly down to his sides.
"You tell me," the psychiatrist's disembodied voice said. Her tone was at once soft and caring, like his mother's, yet dispassionate and professional, much like his father's. "You have felt a sense of displacement ever since the accident."
"Do you do that on purpose?" he asked, now lying on his back on a leather sofa inside an archetypical psychiatrist's office. "I mean, the whole mother/father, good cop/bad cop role-playing game. Do they teach you that in shrink school, or is that something you thought up yourself?"
"You tell me," she said from behind the oak desk. He was facing the white featureless ceiling of the office but he knew where she was sitting. It was where she always sat; behind the big desk, behind the wall she put up every session so that she didn't have to feel his pain. So that she didn't have to deal with what he was going thought.
"What do you mean?" he asked. He knew what she meant, of course, but he liked playing the game as much as she did.
"I mean simply that this is your dream; you define what is real and what is not real."
That threw him. "Dream? You're telling me that this is all just an effing dream?"
"You have difficulty swearing, don't you? Even in dreams." she asked, changing the subject as she always did. Asking questions when she should be answering them.
"You're effing right I do," she said, looking around the room. "This place could be monitored. I could-" He froze when he saw the small static cloud sitting quietly on another leather sofa on the other side of the room. "What the eff is that thing doing here?"
"As I said, this is your dream. You tell me."
"Oh, I get it," he said when he realized that he was looking at a mirrored wall. The couch on the other side of the room was his couch. "Oh, I get it perfectly well. That is me, right? The cloud is me."
"Of course," he said. "Isn't it obvious? I was locked in a neural interface for umpteen hours, no sensory contact, no brain activity whatsoever, and so I invented that thing to keep me company. I invented that cloud to keep me sane." He looked at the thing sitting on the couch. His nemesis, his ally. "Isn't that what you want me to say? If I admit to that, if I admit that it is all in my head, you will let me go? You will let me out of this prison?"
"What makes you think you are in prison, Alek?" she asked in her best impression of his mother's voice.
"Because I can't get out," he screamed, suddenly angry. "No matter how hard I try." He took a deep breath and lowered his voice. "It follows me everywhere. Every time I close my eyes, it is there, waiting for me like a faithful dog, or a hungry wolf."
"Which is it?" she asked, knowing full well what his answer would be. "Faithful dog or hungry wolf?"
"Both," he said for the umpteenth time.
"You have said that it helps you."
"Of course it helps me," he said, already tired of the repetition. "I've told you so many times."
"Tell me just once more."
Alek threw up his hands. "Didn't you tell me this was a dream?" he asked.
There was a slight but perceptible pause before she answered. This was something knew he realized; something she was unprepared for. "Yes, Alek. I did say that."
"Which means that I can end it, right?"
Another pause, this once longer and more obvious. "You are a lucid dreamer, Alek, which means that you have some degree of control of your dreams. It is possible-"
"Then shut up," he yelled, and the dream ended.
Alek opened his eyes, but the latent image of the psychiatrist's virtual office continued to display across his field of vision. He blinked three times quickly, switching his contact lens displays back to transparent mode.
He took a drink from his somewhat diluted triple-shot iced mocha, and wiped a bead of sweat off his forehead. Another seizure, he thought to himself. Third one this month. The automated psychiatrist program and was supposed to help him work though the episodes, but from what he remembered of them, they weren't working.
He glanced around the interior of the "All Day" coffee shop and breathed a sigh of relief that no one seemed to be looking at him strangely. The coffee shop had become one of his favorite early morning hangouts since moving to Washington, DC from Seattle the previous year. The iced mochas were always perfect, that is, with extra chocolate, and Cheryl, the server, always saved the back corner table for him. He would hate to have to give it up because his seizures were scaring people away.
The projection TV up near the ceiling in the far corner of the room was showing maps of the quarantined section of Utah...