The room was coldly clinical, glaringly pale and claustrophobic. I spent an hour or two in there most nights, and I didn't give a fuck.
The thing was, even though I was in the room for so long, I was only aware of it for a few minutes each visit. Let me explain.
Walking into the room, it wouldn't have been immediately apparent what its purpose was. The wall opposite the door was festooned with cables, flickering lights, and anonymous outdated boxes of electronic who-knows-what. Except I did know. The whole unsightly mess was designed, hacked and perverted from its original purposes to provide me with an experience. I had done the design myself. The hacking was a specialist job I contracted in. The perversion was a joint effort, and the journey was as glorious as the destination.
Some of the cables hung out from the walls, supported by an elaborate series of ceiling strung support wires, terminating in delicate shielded cable clamps. The cables, in all the colours of the rainbow, reached out to the leather recliner, and draped down its sides, ready for the regular occupancy of its single user. Me.
One of the few friends with whom I shared the knowledge of my room's existence told me the whole mass of equipment was a giant vibrator. That's not right, but it's not too far off.
Perhaps if I describe one of my experiences, it might all make more sense. Last night for instance. Yes, that should do it. Hope you're not easily embarrassed. I'm not.
I dropped my bags on the floor just inside the front door of the house, turned and locked it behind me, and headed for the room, losing my work clothes as I went, entering the room wearing just my panties. I'd have to take them off too, but it felt strange dealing with all the electronics completely naked. My red hair was swinging around in my eyes, and I gathered it all into an elastic band before hitting the main power switch, and starting the complex power-up sequence.
I've got a nice body. Really. But I'm shy about it. It's only when I'm alone like this that I'm comfortable with it. I have a mirror mounted at one end of the room, and I stopped and looked closely at my reflection while the equipment started, and I liked what I saw. I'm not tall, but not short either. Not fat, but bigger than I want. I like my breasts. Smallish but firm, seriously freckled, like most of my skin. My best feature is my eyes though. I've been told that they possess depth. I've no idea what that means really, but they are nice, just the same.
As the computers booted, I fed in the obligatory passwords to allow them to connect with the Outernet. If you don't know what that is, you have no place in this century. Just in case you only came out from under your rock this morning, I'll tell you. The Outernet is the FTL intragalactic version of the Intranet. That enough? No?
Okay, the Intranet connects all the computers on the planet, more or less simultaneously. All that fuss over the last few years, with the arguments about Einstein's speed limits, ended in the realisation that he was right. Sort of. It is impossible for any sort of matter to travel faster than light. The secret is to use something other than matter. An obscure scientist in Serbia discovered something called sub-tachyons, which the propeller-heads say is not matter, but it isn't non-matter either. I don't understand that any more than I understand the Book of Revelation, but that's what they say. Anyway, the outcome of all of this is that whilst we can't travel to other planets any faster than light, we CAN communicate with basically anyone instantaneously.
That's enough of that. Suffice it to say that the commercial result of all that technical gibberish is the Outernet. A practically delay free cheapish network that reaches every civilised world in the galaxy. You keeping up?
And that's what all this gear was for. It was an Outernet virtual reality setup. But not just any setup. This one was sexy. Well, sexual. No, sex-oriented. Shit, I can't explain this very well, can I? It lets me have sex with someone an unimaginable distance from me, without being able to tell the difference. Nearly. It's not perfect, at least not yet. But it's good. Better than anything on the market. Much better.
As all the kit came online, little dots of light at the recliner end of the cables began to glow, some steadily, others blinking on and off like a Christmas arrangement. Checking the door was locked behind me, I dropped onto the leather recliner, leaned back and lifted my bum from the cool surface, and pushed my panties down my legs with my thumbs. The computer stuff was over now. It was time for a little body manipulation.
I grabbed a handful of cables from one side of the seat, and proceeded to attach the glowing ends to various parts of my skin, starting with the hardest to reach, my toes. The dots were essentially data collectors, picking up blood flow, temperature and pulse patterns, and relaying them back to the computers for analysis. I worked my way up my legs, dropping dots onto my freckled skin as I went, relying on their ability to stick sufficiently.
As I neared my thighs I carefully separated out some special dots, small blinking blue buttons, and attached them in specific places around my genitals, holding my springy red thatch of hair to one side or the other as I went. Two of the cold blue dots had to be placed right next to my clitoris, and I always felt a mixture of arousal and revulsion as I attached those.
I continued up my body, attaching more regular dots, until I used up the wires from that side of the chair. I reached just below my breasts before I had to start with the wires strung from the other side. There were no normal wires in this bunch. A few more blinking blue ones to attach to my nipples, and some special larger dots, designed to collect and transmit information and intended to be stuck in various places on my head. The nipple dots were a strange shape, and my nipples needed to be erect for them to attach properly. Depending on how much of a hurry I was in, I could either lie back on the leather, and construct something sexy in my mind, or I could wet the ends of my nipples with saliva, and watch them puff up as the saliva evaporated. That was quicker, and I was in a hurry, so that's what I did. I had an appointment, after all.
I knew from experience that the tips of each of the head wires would glow a gentle orange when attached, but I could only see this second-hand, through the mirror, and I preferred not to look if I could help it. I looked more like a mutant machine than a sexy woman at this point, and I didn't need that image in my head if I could avoid it. In any case, once all the probes were correctly attached, a green light began to glow on the bench in front of me, and I knew I was ready.
I always hesitated before I pressed the connect switch, and this time I couldn't help but glimpse quickly at the wire encrusted image in the mirror. Nice breasts though, I told myself, and smiled. Then I pushed the switch.
Traversing the virtual menu with familiar abandon, I navigated to the meeting hotel where I had agreed to find Mark. The heads-up clock assured me that I wasn't more than a few minutes late, and as I searched the bar, I was relieved to realise that he wasn't here yet. I should explain that whilst the hotel and all the things in it seemed entirely real, I could still see, and feel, the room I was really in, if I concentrated hard enough. I seldom did.
Taking a seat in the bar, I waited for the drink to arrive. That was another thing about the virtual world. It has its own rules, and it was a damn sight more efficient than reality. In a real hotel, I'd have had to tell someone what I wanted to drink, and pay for it. Not here.
"Melissa. God, you look good."
It was Mark, and of course I did. Who would choose to look unattractive, given a choice? "Hi Mark. What took you so long?" Eyes, mouth and voice were all smiling, as I took in the vision of his body. He too would have to be nuts to look anything less than perfect. he was a tall slim man, about a year younger than my virtual body, strong without being threatening, dark, sexy as hell. He had let me know that this was not what he really looked like, but that wasn't a surprise. I didn't really look like this either. Mark said his real name was Lucas, and that he was older than he looked, a little overweight, and needed continuing sight treatments. I loved him anyway.
"You been here long Mel?"
"Eternity, Mark. Or two minutes, whichever is less."
"Oh, good. I had some trouble with my gear."
"I got stuck in traffic. I was surprised to get here first."
"Well, you managed it. Reliable as well as sexy. How could you be any better?"
"Well, there's the distance thing."
"Three hundred light years isn't that far, Mel."
"Not in here, no. Anyway, we promised we wouldn't discuss that tonight, remember?"
"So we did. Sorry. So, dinner?"
"Um, are you hungry Mark?"
"That's a loaded question."
"So is that answer."
"May I be so bold as to offer my lady a suggestion?"
"Oh, go for it! This should be good."
"Let's skip the drink..."
"... and the meal..."
"I can see where this is going."
"... but have the dessert."
"Oh. Dessert? What exactly?"
"Mel, you can do better than 'oh'."
"Oh. Upstairs? Or somewhere else?"
"Can I surprise you?"
"Sure Mark." He was the most romantic man around. I knew he'd come up with something good. I watched as he lifted his hand and seemed to punch his fingers at an imaginary menu, like a man pushing an elevator button in the old days. I knew he could see a list of choices in front of him though, so I left him to it.
He looked back at me after a few seconds. "Ready my dear?"
"Always, Mark. You know that." And he took my hand in his, and we vanished. At least, if there were any other virtuals in the bar, that's how it would have looked.
To my eyes, the deep woodgrain of the hotel walls was instantly replaced by the bushy green of the edge of a forest, and the sound of waves crashed around my head as I took in the rest of the view. We stood on the edge of a deserted sandy beach, a large full moon hung low in the dark sky, and the air temperature was perfect. Mark stood beside me smiling and still wearing a suit and tie. I was still in the evening dress I had selected for the hotel.
"May I change my clothes then, Mark?"
"Indeed. Choose something for me as well, would you?"
"Uh-huh." I was already engrossed in making choices from the menu in the air in front of me, and wasn't able to carry on a discussion as well. It didn't take me long to find what I was looking for, and as I pushed the virtual button, both Mark and I shimmered and reappeared dressed at I had requested.
Mark looked stunning, though casual, in an old-style Hawaiian shirt, and board shorts, and I was wearing a skimpy yellow bikini, a stunning contrast to my black hair, and pale skin. Oh, I forgot to tell you about that, didn't I? I like being a red-head in real life, but Mark has never seen me like that. I've got long black hair down to the small of my back here, and not a freckle in sight. Silly, I know, but I couldn't help myself, and I can't back down now.
"That looks wonderful Melanie, but why bother? You look more naked like that than you do naked."
"That's the whole point. And you get to remove the boldly labelled yellow parts."
"I like the shirt though. Nice. Can I add that to my wardrobe?"
"Yeah, sure." And he quickly flicked through his menus, adding the clothing to his list.
"Right, all done. Come here." We had an unwritten rule. Once we had set the scene, and the clothing etc. We stuck with everything else as though it were real. No more changes to the environment. We were stuck on this beach now. Tough huh?
I was stunned as always as his lips touched mine. I was completely unable to believe that any of this was pretend, and I pushed the notion away, and carried on. "Hey big fella, wanna swim?"
"I thought you'd never ask Mel. Shall I carry you?"
"Save your strength for later."
"It's a deal."
Mark threw off his shirt as we neared the water, and we approached the waves with my arm around his waist, his strong arm about my shoulder. As our feet touched the water I shivered a little, but it wasn't cold. We just kept walking until the water started to lap around my waist, and then I let Mark go, and dived into the next wave, swimming under water for a while before bursting through the surface, and looking back at the mostly dry Mark.
"Come on honey, get wet!"
"I will. I will. I just can't do that like you do." And he continued walking slowly toward me, the gentle waves slowly wetting more of his body. "Can you see the raft, Mel?"
"Raft? Oh. Oh, yeah, there it is. that's not far, is it?"
"Nope", he replied briefly, before dunking the rest of his body under the water, and flying back up just as quickly.