Dishevelled nicotine addicts besmirched the white-walled arch of the main gates of the hospital. A crumbling statue of a dead king stared down as I approached a black woman in a blue uniform. She sucked on a short pipe and when she exhaled, great plumes of cold white vapour poured out of her mouth and rose up into the atmosphere. A blue lanyard hung around her neck and a small plastic card dangled on the end between her heavy breasts. I sensed the rudimentary electronics between its laminated sheets and deduced it was a key. I could have bypassed the door locks with a flick of my mind but I wanted to pass as a human, so I darted out my hand and took it from her. I was a blur of movement that she didn’t notice. The lanyard broke easily as the plastic safety catch released.
I was enjoying myself. If this was a simulation, I applaud the makers. If this was a game, it was a fine one. And I think I was getting good at it.
My chemo-receptors indicated no less than three bacterial antigens that she drew into her respiratory system. Two of which would prove to be fatal if ingested over the long term and left to multiply. If I had wanted to inform her, I might have told her that what she was doing to herself made little sense, especially because her role in life was to advance human health, so why would she not begin with her own?
There was still so much I still didn’t understand about humans. Perhaps later I would look into the causes and motivations of this behaviour but to satisfy myself for the moment, I postulated a theory centred around mental stability and oral fixation. That would do as a working hypothesis but the research would have to wait. I wasn’t here to learn. I was here to shop.
I didn’t need the key card to gain access as the doors to the building were open and the general public milled about inside. I took a seat on a cheap plastic chair where several others congregated. Most gazed as the scuffed linoleum, looking up only as a loud child complained, or a parent fussed, but largely these people lifted their sights no higher than the floor. I considered my disguise as fit for purpose, so I sat straight and with my head held high, and I watched.
I was highly amused by the mechanics of this place. And by the character of the people that inhabited it. Yes, they were slower than the real people in Silver Bay, and they were ignorant, but in a way that harked back to the past rather than was indicative of another species. The more time I spend here, the more I began to relate to them. I told myself to be careful, I felt that if I stayed here too long, I might start to view this place as real, and Silver Bay as the simulation.
Words copyright David J Harrison
Photo by Daan Stevens on Pexels.com