By the Light of a CyberWorld Moon
By David M. Castlewitz
Copyright 1996 by David M. Castlewitz
Kathy clicked on the V-City icon and entered her account name and password.
"Entry barred," came the reply. "Account restrictions applied."
The Red Dawson cloud hovered near a virtual freeway with cars careening through cloverleaf access ramps and zipping along the straight-aways. The other mentors’ graphics sat on chairs arranged in a semi-circle. The director, ephemeral as ever, coughed loudly, breaking the silence.
"As I said, we will do this in stages. A separation code will appear as a token," he said, emphasizing every other word. "Take the token with your character's name on it. When you double click, the character will appear in place of the token. Do not speak. Do not move. Listen to me and obey instructions."
Kathy held her breath.
"Hopefully," the director continued, "well get through this with only three sessions."
A token appeared in mid-air, with "Edith" emblazoned on it. Kathy positioned her cursor on the graphic and double-clicked. The token dissolved to a wisp of smoke. Within the smoke, a blonde haired woman materialized. She was clothed in a white gown with many folds and a beaded belt of gold and silver. Her face was triangular, her eyes were shut, her small mouth was puckered, and she clasped her bony hands together at her stomach.
"Stand. Everyone stand and step away," the director ordered. Kathy obeyed. Edith raised her chin, opened her eyes. They were bright blue, but seemingly unfocused. Elsewhere in the room, the other characters took shape. Helmut wore a blue suit. He was muscular looking, very tall and blonde, with a rugged, pock-marked face and a high forehead. An army nurse in uniform burst forth, along with the government officials, Edith's parents, and other minor characters from the novel.
"I'm Edith," came the whisper.
"No talking," the director warned.
Edith stepped away from the chair, held her arms above her head, and spun on her tiptoes, back arched, long hair waving about. "I'm Edith," she screamed. "Edith."
The minor characters melted away, leaving Helmut and Edith as the remaining graphics.
"Introduce yourselves," the director ordered.
"Edith, I'm Kathy."
The Helmut carrier, Xavier Campbell, said nothing at first. The director prodded him.
"I'm Xavier. Helmut? Helmut?"
Edith glowed. She stepped towards Kathy and held out her hand. "Thank you," she whispered. Kathy moved her cursor to a "hug" emoticon and clicked. Her graphic wrapped its arms around Edith. Xavier's graphic did the same with Helmut.
"Very good," the director said. Edith vanished. Helmut dissolved.
"Where'd they go?" Kathy asked, snapping her head forward and almost wrenching her interface glasses loose from the computer.
"To the depository," came the answer. In the virtual room, Sam Gleason separated from one of the walls. He'd been absent, Kathy realized, and wondered if that was intentional.
"There's a reason why there are three sessions," the director intoned. "We have to do everything very slowly."
Kathy shuddered. There seemed to be a lot of precautions built into the process.
"Which is why you won't be carrying your charges any longer," Dawson said. "I realize many of you enjoyed our facilities." He chuckled. "I can tell from the bills you racked up."
Many of us? Kathy thought. There were only the three of them. And how many other trios of actors in other groups training the same programs?
"In other words, our accounts are restricted," Kathy put in.
"Precisely," Dawson said. It sounded like a reprimand.
Campbell spoke up. "Does that mean our salaries are up to date?"
Dawson laughed. "After the third session."
"We'll meet every other day," the director said. "You'll be allowed access to the rehearsal rooms and any other areas we designate."
"If you've enjoyed V-City so much," Dawson added, "consider opening an account. Meanwhile, thank you all for a job well done. I'm sure the next two sessions will proceed smoothly."
Any reason why not? Kathy wondered, but didn't ask. "I've been getting my e-mail through V-City," she said.
"It's already been taken care of," Dawson explained. "All mail will be re-routed to your regular carriers."
Kathy frowned. It was back to twice-a-day deliveries.
"All right, people!" The director clapped his hands together. "Tomorrow morning, session two."
The rehearsal room dissolved and Kathy removed her interface glasses. She put her hands behind her head and scratched her ears. Edith's voice! A little girl's! Just as she'd been hearing off and on for the past three weeks. She sat up straight. Was that why they were so careful with the introductions? she wondered. Because they -- Dawson, the Director, all of them! -- knew the truth?