I wake up on a table. The same table. I am still in the white slacks, black t-shirt, and white coat. I no longer have the pens. What happened? I remember going under. I remember waking up. But what after that? Where was I? I remember heat and pain. Hang on. The room is different. I’m not in a white room anymore. It is green this time. Still the red circuitry. Still the brightly colored cords. Still the white surgery table. But what happened? I don’t remember being there for long. All I remember of that place is fire and rock. It was very hot. Painfully so. Maybe I was set on fire? Am I dead again? Or is this death at all? I think about my family. My fake family.
My mother… and father… and sister, and brother, and uncles, and aunts and grandmas and grandpas and friends andcoworkersandbossesandpetsandstrangersandmistressesand… and…
I stand there for a moment, remembering how none of it was real. Just code. All of them. Just numbers in a sequence. Just ideas manifested in a computer. Desires maybe? What does it matter? They aren’t real. Oh well I guess. Nothing I can do about that. I remember the second room, and look for the arrow, unsure of what else may be changed. The color of the room and table are different, why wouldn’t something else be as well?
I find a lime green arrow leading me into the next room. It is the same shade of green as the last room. This one, much like the second white room, has no wiring or circuitry. It does have a screen and a table. Exactly like the last set of rooms. On the table I find a new letter. I read it.
“If you are reading this, then you are, for all intensive purposes and for all you or your conscious mind know, dead. If everything went correctly, you were set on fire by the scalding hot volcanic rock of the last planet. The fires there exceed the fires of any other planet by thirty times at the very least. If the simulation went as planned, you did not last longer than a single day, and will not remember much of that world for that reason. However, that was crucial to the success of the study. Hopefully you still remember your last life. The life from Earth. Unlike your Earth life, you did not have family on the volcanic world. No progeny. No spouse. No blood or law relatives. None of it is relevant to the study. We gained the information needed from those interactions on Earth. You will be completing this study with no more family. You will have no more human contact. Thankfully, and fortunately for you, the study for heat is also finished. The planet you were just on, the simulation you just ran, was named Onina. That planet as well as its inhabitants no longer exist. You were thirty two years, five months, and fourteen days old in this last simulation. Hours, minutes, and seconds are not relevant to the study. The simulation you just participated in was created by you one week ago. You took some time to adjust to the new simulation after the shock of the last one, unfortunately. You are thirty two years, five months, and fifteen days old. Hours, minutes, and seconds are not relevant to the study. You have forty seven years, six months, and nine days left to complete the study. You are alone. Good luck.
I place the letter down and feel like I am going to scream again. I never had time to write myself another letter. At least with the last one, I could have written it before I entered the simulation. But this time, this time I didn’t write anything beforehand. I do not scream, however. I simply reach for the remote and begin the process, hoping against everything that this next world provide some answers. I type in code to design a new simulation. I try to enter the parameters for other humans but the screen seems to reject the attempt. Out of curiosity I attempt to do the same for extreme heat, and the same happens. I get an idea. I try to type in parameters for every type of environment I can think of. Cold, arid, humid, forest, desert, urban, rural, all of it. After a few minutes of typing I look up and see red letters on the screen flashing, “QUOTA FULL. EXECUTING SIMULATION”. Past the red words I see only my first thirty seconds of coding. Then I notice my reflection. I look different. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something odd about how I look.
After deciding I won’t be able to get much of the study done at once, I just lay down on the blue table that had come out of the ground while I was typing. I’m not even sure where I’m going. Oh well, nothing I can do about that. Before going under I realize what looked off about my reflection. My face was burnt and charred.