An excerpt from “Control Theory”, a Science Fiction Love Story, available now on Amazon…
Faith screamed and kicked off the precipice. Sunlight streamed through the snowflakes dancing in the air around her. Time was suspended for an aching moment as her vision lurched, looking down between the tips of her skis at fifty meters of vertical rock, sickening vertigo, a narrow stripe of 45-degree powder far below her. Time returned as the air rushed past her ears and the mountain came up to meet her. She almost made it, both skis touching feather soft in the middle of the snowy strip, at a perfect angle. All she had to do was ride it down at 80 miles per hour until it broadened out to a powder field with less of a breakneck slope. But some chunk of ice caught the inside of her right ski tip; her leg exploded out to the side and the tip caught the rocks. Her legs both broke as they were pulled apart beyond a ballerina’s split, she slammed into a windmilling roll, over then over then her head smashed into one side of the canyon, became a bloody mush as her consciousness flew.
“Damn it!” she cursed, shaking off the death. “That hurt. Siri, what are my lifetime stats on that couloir? What? 43% on over 500 tries? And 2 deaths? That doesn’t feel right. Have I really died twice on that same fucking rock? Damn. Okay okay, I know I didn’t die all that often. How many times did I actually ski it, in realspace? Never? Seriously? That does it, I’m going. Oh shut up. You can’t stop me. Charlie!”
Two hours later Faith was at the base of Whistler, stepping onto the maglev gondola and ordering a quick latte for the 10 minute scenic whisk to the peak. She’d pick up some rentals at the top, and printed some outerwear suitable for the day’s weather, cloudy and cold. She had to turn Siri off to shut her up, and calm her panicking mother who called, probably on Siri’s suggestion.
Without Siri, it took a little work to find that same cornice; she hadn’t skied in realspace for… she forgot how long. She didn’t bother in the Sim with all its realspace analogue constraints; in the ski cybers she just reappeared at the top of the run at the blink of an eye. Realspace was a pain. But damn, it brought a different feeling to standing on that cliff! A different kind of fear. She edged up to the fall, ski tips out in space, the couloir’s rocky borders barely visible, a scary bit of them. But the snow was perfect, a huge fall of powder the night before, soft and forgiving. She thought the canyon looked wider than in the cyber, safer, but that could be illusion. There were no safeties here. A shrinking fraction of enthusiasts even bothered with realspace skiing any more, despite the great climate control.
She took a deep breath. Closed her eyes. Scanned left and right, Siri off, but all the game sensors on, cameras and microphones and pheromones and other, measuring everything about her and around her. “Okay, folks, I’ll be honest, I’m terrified here. You’ll see from the readouts that I’m not in the game development cyber, that I’m real here on Whistler, going to try this damn couloir one more time. I hope the med robots are ready if I fail, but I’m literally shaking so much I’m not sure I can jump, even if I summon the courage to try. It’s not the cold, it’s the memory of trying this over and over. Try the full version, friends, don’t use the child settings that cut off before any shocks or pains of failure. I did this to make it real for you! OK, here goes.”
But she didn’t soar off the peak screaming. She inched forward, caught her breath and inched back. Breathed heavily, tried to breath calmly. “Oh…”
She kicked it. Silently this time, teeth clenched but body loose. Skis sinking into the brilliant white crystals just as clouds parted and the sun streamed across the canyon. The snow accepted her like a tender embrace, like the perfect golf swing. She floated down the canyon and onto the huge field of snow like a searing knife through butter, and gently, gently, slowly felt gravity reclaim her as the expanse flattened out. Effortlessly she slowed with sweeping turns, and finally dropped onto her back in the bed of powder. She opened her mouth to say something, perhaps to scream in delight, but she had nothing left. She just breathed.
I wrote a short story in high school, submitted to a Canadian national fiction contest, and won an Honorable Mention. Now I’m digging through boxes in the attic and basement, searching for the original handwritten text.
I’ll post it here when I find it…