“Wait. You talked to him?” Alice asked incredulously. “It must have been a sim.”
“That thought did occur.” Maiv set the lucky cat next to the cube. “I often wonder at the things people bring with them.”
“My first gift to her. I got it out of a vending machine. I just casually tossed it to her, saying I already had this one. I was so happy when I saw it hooked on her bag the next day.” Alice picked it up and turned it over in her hands. “Was it a sim?”
Maiv left the glasses alone for a month while she planted a garden and made more repairs to the roof. The septic system had to be cleaned out too; a hundred years of tree roots had done their best to dismantle it. On a day when it was raining too hard to work outside and she’d run out of indoor jobs, she took out the VR glasses.
It was not Marco’s heavy footsteps in the rain she followed this time. These were lighter, running fast through a bright autumn morning. She was surprised to find her childhood friend Alma sobbing where she tripped over a tree root. But this was Alma at thirteen, still gangly and waiting to blossom. Ghostly voices surrounded her.
Now Maiv was angry. She yelled, “Alma! Don’t listen!”
The whispers stopped. Alma looked up uncertainly, razorblade poised above her wrist.
Maiv took a deep breath. “Good. Now go home. Your mother didn’t mean it. She drinks too much and needs help. Tell the foreman.”
Alma’s hand trembled, nearly dropping the blade. “He won’t listen.”
“He will. Alma, it gets better. You grow up and are happy. It’s not like this forever.”
Alma sagged. “When?”
“Soon. A little at a time.”
She dropped the razorblade and stood up, dusting off her pants. “I’ll be back if you’re lying.”
“It was that easy to change her mind?” Alice asked skeptically.
Maiv shook her head. “No. Alma ran away so many times when we were children. I lost count of the number of times she missed school or work because she had cut herself. But the foreman was eventually convinced to intervene. Her mother was sent off to a dry farm to learn not to drink. A doctor came by monthly for years to help Alma. It was slow going but she eventually got better and quit hurting herself.”
“The ghosts did that to her?”
“The ghosts probably encouraged her but they didn’t put thoughts there she didn’t already have,” said Maiv. “Not that they don’t try to find your weak points. Some just are easier for them to amplify than others.”
“Hmm… So you could change the past? How?”
“Not sure. There are stories; ancient Indian burial grounds, Atlantian crystals, magnetic resonances in the iron mines. Time seems to be strange here.” She gave a slight half-shrug. “Don’t ask me; I’m a farmhand, not a scientist.”
“Maybe the VR system was creating stories based on security footage and your reactions,” suggested Alice.
“That thought occurred. But there were physical changes in the forest; not just in the VR.”
Copyright 2014, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved