alobear and I came up with the idea a short story meme after reading the excellent 365 Tomorrows. My story is fairly derivitive (and there are anticedents long before the obvious) and not the best work I’ve produced but it’s okay.

Dream within a Dream.

“So, you’re saying you want us to live here?” Susan sat down on the edge of the bed. It was hard and unremitting like everything else there. “Jack this is a shack for fucks sake. It’s like something out of one of those awful historical dramas they forced us to integrate at school.” By the look in his eye she knew it was already too late. She knew that he was lost to this now. Some new vision for him to cling onto somewhere even further out. For the nth time she sighed and knew that she would be lost with him yet again. After all who else would want someone like her if she wound up alone in the world they’d helped create?

“Don’t you see? It has everything that we need! There’s plenty of wood nearby, a stream for water, loads of room to plant crops and even animals to hunt not too far away.” The thought of a freshly dead animal being dumped on the houses one and only table for her to gut and cook made Susan feel physically sick. “Oh, don’t look like that. Breath the air – feel how clean it is! It’s safe here there’s no food riots, no state lockdown…” “Do you intend to us to spend the rest of our lives here by ourselves then?” “Oh course not. Smart people are looking to come to places like this all the time. All we have to do is be ready for when the arrive. Hey! I could be sheriff!” “So what happens if we get sick or injured here?” “Oh, come on – I’m not going to remove all the positive benefits of being here. It’s supposed to be a challenge for us. You remember when humanity still had challenges? Anyway don’t worry about that kind of thing – we’ll still be immortal.”

“Dammit Jack! If you have to pick somewhere that isn’t even bloody real to hide in why not pick somewhere better than this? I’ve hopped some excellent ancient Roman sims, there’s renascence Europe or…” “No! Where’s the challenge of learning to fit into another society run by others? We’ve tried that remember? No, it’s starting again from the beginning. It’s the only way.”

“What about our children? I’m going to be too old soon. We’ve been moving about so long – don’t you forget your promise.” “I haven’t – what better place could there be than here to bring up the next generation? All the playroom in world and no corrupting outside influences. No need to wake up every day feeling inferior. Look, I’ll arrange for us and anyone who comes with us to become permanent uploads. We’ll sort out a space in a roid deep in the belt where no-one will ever come looking. We’re not going to be like everyone else these days designing out kids down to the last neuron and then dropping them out of a tank. We’ll build them the old fashioned random way – I’ll make sure their sims are as close to period reality as possible.”

“So what do we tell them? That they’re really just ‘ware running inside a rock floating in space?” Susan knew she looked as though she was about to cry. This was one step too far. She’d coped with their moves to the desert ecology, the moon and Mars all in a vein to stay one step ahead of the Convergence and now Jack was suggesting both hiding and in a way finally giving in to what they’d been running from. She’d always known it would be inevitable in the long run.”No, of course not! We tell them that this is real. Would you want them to go back to Earth and be swallowed by the Coalescence? No, this is what they will know. If there are problems we can always edit their memories – ours too for that matter if you think it will help.” “So, they’ll grow up here thinking this real? Whatever we choose to tell them about the history of this place – I suppose we can arrange for the evidence of that to be real too?” “Absolutely! Now you’re starting to understand.”

Susan looked at the floor. “Jack, have you ever considered what will happen when they grow up? What their children will do? How many generations it will be before they create their own symneurons and fall into their own Coalescence? What do you expect our descendants to do then? Hide away in a dream within a dream like we’re doing? Maybe it’s already happened a billion times. Maybe the start of the universe was just a group of scared people locking themselves away because they couldn’t face the future.” Jack looked at her and blinked. He wasn’t used to his wife making deep statements. He’d married her for her looks and humour. He was the genius of the family as all of Earth had come to know before it was too late. Susan changed the subject. “Besides if we’re all immortal and this sim is designed to represent limited resources it won’t work in the long run.” “Well, we’ll just have a tweak a few parameters when it’s all up and running. I’m sure it won’t be hard to work out. Maybe the first few generations live for a long time and the later ones less. Let me think about it.” As Jack hummed and walked away lost in thought Susan mumbled to herself, “And so it was that Jack and Susan begat Adam who begat Noah begat Shem…”

Resigned Susan stood up and moved to follow her husband outside into the simulated sunshine. She knew she could be happy here eventually just like she knew how much she loved Jack. She admired again the way that subroutine of her consciousness ebbed and flowed. She watched the pathway that lead her to smile execute before it reached her lips and then felt the feeling while critically examining the response network. She didn’t know if Jack knew, she didn’t know if everyone in the world knew and it was God Almighty’s last sick cosmic joke that no-one dared to say. Perhaps all those sucked into the Coalescences were having the last laugh or even finding out where the real root of their reality lay. Maybe that explained why they were all so insane.

Jack came out of his reverie. “I think I’ve worked out a way to do it. I know you find this sort of thing hard to understand but I’ll break it down into easy steps.” Susan took his arm and went forth to listen to the future.