That Unforgetable First Time
Some people never get over that first unnerving trip into the helmet.
They don't make it through training. They wash out. These unfortunate
wretches are forced to seek other careers as lawyers and uniformed
First they hypnotize you.
Look into the monitor...
I am surrounded by a gray haze. Perfectly relaxed beads of sweat
slide down my smooth, untroubled forehead.
The haze is blue-gray now.
"Are you comfortable?" asks a muffled voice. I lie and answer yes.
They fiddle with the helmet. They fiddle with their monitors. They
mutter to each other in voices too low to penetrate the machine clamped
around my head.
The haze continues to slowly change color. Test patterns float before
my eyes. Numbers. Letters. Tubes of glowing neon gas in simple
shapes drift by. Now I can smell a faint aroma of... what? Vanilla?
At first it's like deja vu. That little voice just behind your left
ear is you--your thoughts translated and played back. Your first
tendency, no matter how many times they warn you, is to repeat to
yourself what you're hearing, which of course starts you off on a
feedback loop. That's the part that permanently scares the shit out of
"I want you to think about a few things for
The technician's voice is no longer the muffled noise outside the
helmet. It's now a tiny, clear voice inside my ear.
"Think about your earliest memory."
"Think about something you ate yesterday."
"Think about something that scared you."
"Think of an erotic moment from childhood."
"Think of a time when you were cold."
You'd have to be pretty naive to believe that the only functions
the helmet is capable of are translation and filtration.
Once it took me about a week to notice that while I was in the helmet I
was under the impression that every one I knew had red hair--family,
friends--I even thought of myself as having red hair. It was only when
I came back in after a particularly long stay in the great OutThere and
was startled by my own reflection that I realized something was not
right. I told the technicians. They laughed. There had been a lot of
that going on lately they said. They'd take care of it.
While I'm mapping the hypersphere the helmet is mapping me
After a while I begin to suspect that the little voice just behind
my left ear is not entirely my own.