The sun was out and there was a light breeze.
Gladis looked through the window of her apartment. A woman was returning home with her dog. A few cars were parked on the street.
She walked around in her lounge to the kitchen bench, picked up the cup of earl grey she had made a few minutes ago and sat on the couch. She picked her phone from the coffee table and unlocked it. There were a couple of new messages, but none she was interested in. She checked the messages, put the phone back on the coffee table, took a sip from the cup and lay on the couch with her left arm over her eyes.
The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds. A bird was chirping outside and the sound of cars and trucks passing by in the street could be heard. She had lay on the couch for a few minutes, when the phone vibrated.
Gladis shuffled in her place, but continued to lie in the same position.
A few minutes later, the phone vibrated again.
Gladis did not move.
A few minutes later, the phone rang.
Gladis woke up with a start and sat upright on the couch. There was still light outside. She picked up the phone from the table and looked at the screen. The call was from Chivonne. She unlocked the phone and took the call.
“Hey!”, said Gladis and pushed herself back into the couch.
“No, not exactly. I was just lying on my couch and dozed off for a while.”
“Yeah, of course, I am ready. What time are we meeting tonight?”
“Ok, that sounds good. Four hours should give me enough time to freshen up and get ready.”
“Let’s meet at the corner of 3rd Street and 5th Avenue. There is an old playground there. We can then walk down to the place from there.”
“I don’t think there is anything to prepare for. I am not aware of anything.”
“And how are you feeling about this?”
“Why? What are you anxious about?”
“Don’t worry. I have talked to people who have done this before. It is not illegal and I have heard mostly good things from everyone who has been there.”
“Yeah, you do that. I will see you in a while. Bye.”
Gladis put the phone back on the table, sighed and mumbled to herself “and not entirely legal either”.
Four hours later.
The sun had set, but there was still some light out.
The sign at the top of the stained-glass door read “Old Stone House”, the entrance to an innocent looking building sandwiched between two huge red brick apartments.
Gladis and Chivonne looked at each other. This was their first time in this neighborhood.
Gladis took her phone out and looked at the time. It was 7:59pm. She watched it change to 8:00pm and pressed the button on the door.
A few moments later, they heard footsteps and a shadow could be seen on the door.
A man, dressed in ragged jeans and a white t-shirt opened the door and asked “Where do you want to go today?”
Gladis and Chivonne looked at each other. Chivonne looked surprised and then, as if she remembered something, said “Oh”, shuffled the contents of her wallet, took out a paper and replied “To the edge of consciousness”, to which the man replied “Seat belts extra. Come on in.”
Sean closed there door after Gladis and Chivonne entered the building.
“And I only take bitcoins. I am Sean, by the way.”
Gladis replied “Of course. I am Gladis and this is Chivonne.”
Sean said “Follow me.”
Gladis and Chivonne followed Sean up a spiral staircase. Sean stopped at the second floor and said “The room is on the third floor.
There was a room on the second floor, with a chair and a desk with papers strewn all over it.
On the third floor, Sean entered a lounge followed by Gladis and Chivonne.
There were two large leather chairs in a corner of the room with wires sticking behind them and a large leather couch near the door.
Sean casually jumped on to the couch, with his legs towards the chairs and said “So ladies, take a seat each and relax.”
Gladis took the chair that was closest to the couch. Chivonne stood near the door for a while, looking at Sean and then at the chairs.
Gladis adjusted herself in her chair and looked at Chivonne.
Chivonne, as if waking from a daze, walked to the remaining chair and sat in it.
Chivonne shuffled around in her chair for a few seconds, before settling comfortably. She had a worried expression on her face.
Sean lay on the couch, stroking the black and white cat that had jumped out of nowhere on to his lap.
“That’s better. So, are you ladies comfortable in your chairs?”, asked Sean. Gladis replied “Yeah” and Chivonne nodded her head.
“Let me explain a few things first. I will need the payment upfront. 500 bitcoins each. There are no refunds, no matter how it turns out for you. What you are about to experience is perfectly safe. That said, relax yourself and do not panic at any point in time. If you are feeling nervous about anything, this would be a good time to say no. I want you to enjoy this and come back happy. Unhappy customers are not good for me.”
Gladis spoke first. “I think I am ready. I really want to do this. So, yeah…” and turned to look at Chivonne.
Chivonne looked back at Gladis and then at Sean and said “I am ready too, but just a little bit anxious. That is all.”
“Schiwon, right? Did I get your name right?”
“It’s C H I V O N N E, Chivonne.”
Sean replied “Chivonne, there’s nothing to worry. Remember, the experience of your journey will depend on the how you enter the session. Relax and carry happy thoughts and you will have a wonderful experience. That is all I will say for now. Tell you what. Let’s get Gladis strapped on and see how she does. And after that, if you feel comfortable, you can join the ride. How’s that sound?”
“Yeah, that is fine by me. Is that alright, Gladis?”
“Yeah, sure. I don’t mind. I am happy to go first.”
“I don’t want to feel guilty, considering both of us came here together. I may or may not do it, depending on how it goes with you. You don’t mind, right?”
“Like I said, I am fine with it.”
“Cool”, said Sean, “Gladis, do you want to make the payment?”
“Yep, just a moment.”, said Gladis. She took her phone out of her pocket, touched a few buttons on the screen and pointed her phone towards Sean which had a display of what looked like black and white squares arranged randomly.
Sean took out his phone and scanned Gladis’ phone screen. There was a beep from his phone.
“Fantastic. That’s lookin’ good. Stay seated and I am gonna go get the gear for you.”
Sean left the room and returned with what looked liked soft gloves, two helmets with glasses and soft fluffy shoes.
“So, there are two parts to this. This gear, that is, the gloves, the helmets and the shoes will disconnect you from this space and time. I will then connect the wires behind your chair to the helmet. And then, it’s over to you.”
Gladis asked “What do the gloves, the helmets and the shoes do?”
Sean replied “Like I said, they disconnect you from this space and time. How? The gloves and shoes are specially built to remove all touch sensation from your hands and legs. You will feel numb in your hands and legs. It is impossible to completely remove all touch sensation, but it will be close. The helmet does two things. It will cover your eyes, which should blind you completely, well, almost completely and it covers your ears, so you will not be able to hear anything.”
Gladis interrupted and said “Ok, I see what you are doing.”
“Good, very good. And then the wires, they connect to certain parts of your brain and introduce electric currents. I can go into the detail, but you probably won’t understand it. Suffice it to say that those are the ones that connect into your thoughts and take you where you need to be.”
“Ok”, replied Gladis.
Gladis pushed herself back into the chair, making herself comfortable and smiled at Sean.
“So, are you ready?”, asked Sean.
Sean helped Gladis put on the gloves, and the shoes, while Chivonne watched with curiosity.
“Are you comfortable?”, asked Sean
“Yes, I am”, replied Gladis.
“Good. Now, I am going to put this helmet on you and connect the wires. Before I do that, do you have any questions?”
“Yes, how does it know where I have to go?”
“Oh, didn’t I tell you earlier? Never mind. This is what you will have to do. Relax completely and keep thinking, continuously thinking about the one place you want to go. Imagine that place, if you can and then, what needs to happen will happen. Understood?”
“Sure.”, replied Gladis.
“One last question.”
“How do I return? How do I stop?”
“Oh, right. The setup is preprogrammed to terminate after two hours. There is no other way for you to stop it. You will have to complete the two hours and only then, will you return. Got that?”
“Don’t worry, those 2 hours will fly and you will wish you had spent more time.”
“Alright! I am ready now. Let’s do this!”
“Okie dokie. Once I put the helmet on, you won’t be able to hear me or anything else. Understood?”
“Have a wonderful journey. Enjoy.”, said Sean.
“Come back safe, Gladis.”, said Chivonne.
Sean put the helmet on Gladis and connected the wires.