Photo credit: Fandango

It could have been any time of year except winter. Jake hoped it was a nice, cool summer morning. He didn’t like the heat, but summer mornings were just about right, like the Goldilocks of seasons and times of day.

He was in the mountains he guessed. Didn’t matter really. He was free for a while, free to walk, hike, run, scream, anything.

He felt good, strong, alive. Jake couldn’t remember a time when he experienced the world this way. He took a deep clean breath.

“Mr. Francisco. We’re done calibrating the system and are shutting down now.” The voice was disembodied but it was Simmons.

“So soon?”

“We can put you back in VR when we get the programs uploaded, probably next week.”

He sighed. When they turned it off, the VR world would vanish and he’d be a bed-ridden ALS victim again. Doctors said he had a year left. The virtual reality his company invented was the only way he’d be able to live out his days as an able-bodied man.

I wrote this for the FFfAW Challenge for the Week of January 9, 2018. The idea is to take the image above and use it to inspire the creation of a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words long. My word count is 173.

I had a lot of different ideas for the image and then I noticed that when the screenshot or digital photo was taken, a four-arrowed cursor was also captured just above and to the left of center. That gave me the idea for a person enjoying the great outdoors only to discover he’s in a “holodeck” or something.

I fleshed the concept out a bit more and came up with the story you’ve just read. A friend of mine is an ALS sufferer and while he can still get along without a motorized wheelchair, he’s approaching that particular milestone all too quickly. He needs a machine to help him breathe sometimes, which is why I had my character take a deep breath.

To read other tales based on the prompt, go to

40 thoughts on “Virtual

    • Thanks. In the 1990s animated series “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest,” a genius bad guy named Dr. Jeremiah Surd who was severely disabled by nerve gas hacks into Dr. Benton Quest’s virtual reality called “QuestWorld” to cause both real and virtual havoc. I suppose there isn’t a person in the world with a debilitating disability who hasn’t dreamed of being able to escape the reality of their body in such a manner.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Loved this story. What a marvellous way to escape disease and debility. I’d never thought about it before reading your piece but I visited one of only 4 in the world 2D/3/d visualisation cave at Sunshine Coast University and we were in that African village dealing with the problems learning about motors that weren’t there but that you could walk around to understand the concepts. Then I went to the interactive lab where visualisation using 3D and virtual reality allows the wearer to interact in a way that is powerful and would enhance learning as you could manipulate, become immersed in and try concepts that are purely in your imagination. Here they can become real. I put on the goggles and whilst stationary I walked around the outside of a building. wherever I looked I walked. It was terrifying as I had to stop myself from falling off a cliff. I certainly became quite disoriented as I tried to save myself from various scenarios. These would be put to marvellous use in people with conditions such as ALS.


    • It would be a fine solution, even if the person could only spend part of each day in VR. You can’t escape ALS of course, but you might be able to escape the experience of ALS for a bit. Thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Certainly a good use for VR, I just wonder, although undoubtedly making it easier for the sufferers, would it really be enough to make up for the loss in actual reality. Interesting points to ponder, nice one James.


    • If it were something you could plug directly into the brain (sort of like the Matrix) then it might, but otherwise not so much. Still, it would be better than sitting in a motorized wheelchair or laying in bed staring at the ceiling and waiting for your body to shut down.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good eye to find that cursor thingie. I didn’t see it myself when I cropped and signed the picture. Great use of my faux pas. Your story reminded me of an episode of “Black Mirror” from a few seasons back. Nicely done.


  4. What a fantastic idea. I can easily see terminal patients living their last days this way. It’s a gentle way to see them off to the next world. Great take on the prompt!


  5. I pray that scientists will come up with treatments that can stop such terrible illnesses. Until then VR may have a role.


    • The way I’d depicted VR doesn’t exist. VR is a thing obviously, but it won’t give an ALS sufferer a full “immersion” experience where they can take deep breaths and have the sensation of walking and running in a real, outdoor environment. I also pray that effective treatments are developed to combat this horrible disease.


    • I hadn’t even heard of the series before today. I looked up the episode and found this in the “Goofs” section: “Kelly’s Carson City Nevada home overlooks the Pacific Ocean which is impossible since the Pacific Ocean is over 400 miles from Carson City.” Bit of a geographical faux pas but it sounds intriguing. I’m guessing “ghost story” given the hints in the IMDb synopsis.


  6. I would pick such a ‘virtual’ reality any day over actual reality. And it certainly would be a boon, especially for people who are unable to move. It has been covered in sci-fi movies for some time now, but the focus normally is on the pitfalls, for the threat is what sells in a movie. In reality, the benefits should far outweigh the dangers according to me.


    • There’s a downside to spending all your time in VR which was highlighted in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Hollow Pursuits. It can be very socially isolating if you relate only to virtual people. However, for severely disabled people, it can also be a boon as my current story suggests.

      Liked by 1 person

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