BY DAVID HENSON
Copyright is held by the author.
Mom’s holo-image comes into focus in the viewbox. “Johnny, I’m glad you contacted us. You have to talk to your father.”
“Everything OK there? Where is he?” He’s usually next to her at their table when we talk.
“He’s been popping in and out all day with that darn teleportation ring you sent us.”
“I said it’d be better if you’d wait till I came over and gave you a few pointers.”
“Well, you know your father. He — Oh! —” Dad is suddenly sitting beside Mom.
“Hi, Son,” he says. “Thanks.” He touches the band on his finger, then puts his arm around Mom. “Martha, you have to see the pyramids. But be careful. Wait till the camel lurches three times before you climb down from it. Son, you should’ve got us two so we could travel together.”
“Well, Dad they aren’t cheap. They —” He’s gone. I absent-mindedly wave my hand at something tickling my ear. “Dad! You can’t go around startling people like that.”
“Sorry, Son, couldn’t resist.”
“Please. Pop back home and take the ring off. I’ll be there in a few days.”
“Will do, but I’ve got one more stop first. Great Wall’s on my bucket list.”
Dad, please just go back home and —” Never mind.
I turn back to the viewbox. Mom is shaking her head. “See what I mean,” she says.
“I should never’ve sent it to you ahead of time. I guess he’ll be there after China.”
“This is unbelievable, Johnny.”
“I know. I —”
“No, I mean it’s really unbelievable. You know those simulated reality rings you gave us for Christmas. I think I’m stuck in SimReal and just don’t realize it.”
“No, Mom. You’re not in a simulated reality. Look at your hand. You don’t even have your SimRing on.”
“Well, I wouldn’t if I didn’t put it on in SimReal this morning, would I? That doesn’t mean —”
Suddenly Dad is crying out in a muffled voice: “Help! Help! I materialized in the wall.”
“My God,” Mom shouts. “Johnny, what should I do?”
Before I can tell her about the ring’s built-in safety features, I see Dad in the background coming round the corner talking with his hand up to his mouth. “Studs! Drywall! How do I get out?” he says as he sits next to my Mom.
“That’s not funny,” she says, then starts to laugh.
“All right, Dad. Off with the ring.”
“OK, OK.” Dad pulls off the ring and lays it on the table in front of them. Just then my wife yells to me that it’s time to leave. I turn and ask her to give me a couple of minutes. When I look back at the viewbox, the ring is gone . . . and so is Mom.
“Dad, did she —”
“Pyramids, son, pyramids.”
“Promise me that when she gets back, you’ll put the ring in the box.”
“Aye, Cap’n,” Dad says with a salute. Then he gets a serious look on his face. “Son, your mom and I have been wondering if all this is real. Even before this teleportation business. Now . . .” his voice trails off.
“Dad, Mom and I went through that. We —” Dad’s image flickers as he taps his viewbox.
“Feels solid,” Dad says to himself. “But then everything in SimReal feels pretty authentic, too.”
“We’re not in SimReal, Dad.”
“How can you be so sure. Teleporting all over with a ring. You have to admit, it’d be easier to pull off in SimReal than real real.”
“John, please,” my wife calls out from the kitchen.
“Dad, I have to leave. I promise you this is all real,” I say. “Talk to you later.” I turn off the viewbox, hesitate, tap it a few times and go.