Safe & Secure

Life in a pocket universe was far, far too dull. It required a special sort of moron to enjoy a reality featuring zero chance of “misfortune.” Sadly, her grandparents were precisely such. When New Worlds Inc. had brought sub-universe 63, “Safe&Secure” online 400 years ago, they were first in line.

63 alternatives, and they opted for the one with acronym S.S. You couldn’t make this shit up.

Worse still, at 19, Siobhan had absolutely no option but to stay here. Citizens of “S&S” didn’t’ come of legal age till forty-one. Till then, you could do anything you liked; anything except vote, marry, take political office, leave the universe, or die.

Between all the natural law tweaks, the bio-engineering, and constant administrator oversight, living was hard-wired. S&S dissuaded anyone who thought they might like to die someday from migrating here, due to the arduous paperwork, and universal constant suspension, required.

Siobhan wasn’t blind to the benefits. Animal fears were still very real in Universe 1.0; technology, though miraculous, was not omnipotent. Multiversal news never lacked for stories of disaster and loss. There was pain ‘out there’ that was absent here.

It was just so dull.

With an infinitude of experiences available, every day felt resolutely empty. When you can’t meaningfully fail, she believed, you can’t meaningfully win.

Her parents, not unsympathetic, maintained that these were years in which she could develop, safe from harm.

“Siobhan,” said her father, “there’s still pain here. Heartbreak remains; you can still fail in your ambitions. In here, however, you escape the scars, inside and out, that our ancestors had no option but to bear.”

Soon after, she started Death club.

First up was wrist cutting. She earned some minor discomfort before her ancillary glands manufactured analgesic and coagulant, whilst immune-nites made repairs. 15 seconds later she had pristine wrists and inconvenient stains.

Though unspectacular, the posted footage gained a respectable viewership, and her first members, within the hour.

They agreed to try hanging next. What a bore; even for over-achievers like Siobhan who calculated the drop needed to break vertebrae. Due to enhanced tissue integrity, and tweaks to gravitational laws, there was no impact. They all just hung there, not suffocating.

Hi-tech approaches were out. Safeguards were so hardwired into potentially devastating atomisers and maser knives, that bypasses rendered them inert. Instead, Siobhan suggested antique engines of destruction.

Siobhan was not one of the lucky few to find one. The fortunate three agreed to simultaneous live casts. Not actually suicidal, each directed their weapon at a limb of choice. Indeed, suicidal tendencies were now virtually impossible, such was the impact of generations of foetal gene editing.

The precautions were needless. The two lasers seemed to operate, but invisible beams produced only slight warming. Petunia156’s ancient shotgun didn’t even fire.

Georgiegirl, theorised, in live chat, that Admin was monitoring and neutralising their efforts. So Petunia156, without premeditation, tried shooting her brother. Failing in crippling her sibling, this succeeded in creating a massive furore when journalists caught wind.

Siobhan was outed as the ringleader of a death cult. How was this possible in their haven universe? What was administration going to do?”

Siobhan’s parents called a conference, and earnestly tried to connect with their troubled daughter. Except she wasn’t troubled, distressed, or particularly irrational; just fed up. Ultimately, they realised she didn’t want to die, just to find some meaning.

Two months later, life on the intergalactic tree-ship returned to normal, and multiversal media stopped trying for an interview.

Siobhan looked up “How to build your own guillotine.”

All you needed was a large kitchen cleaver, some wood, and something heavy to weight the blade’s descent. It took a few days, and a sudden enthusiasm for carpentry club.

Anticipating, at best, a nasty cut, she left no note, nor offer her parents a fateful goodbye over morning porridge. Her day was routine until 1500 when she went live in the backyard.

Messages of support, and congratulations on her woodworking skills poured in over the Uninet. Without hesitation, she laid down and made to pull the release.

The sway of the branches above her abruptly stopped; time stood still.

She blinked, finding herself staring up into a beautiful face. A mellifluous voice floated down, “Let’s talk.”

Siobhan pulled the cord; nothing. Sighing, she stood up to see a figure at least 8 feet tall, ebony dark and dressed in only a loose white robe.

“Ok,” Siobhan said, ” I guess you’d be from Administration?”

The figure nodded.

“What,” she interrogated, “do you want?”

Smiling, the androgyne replied, “I’m Attriana, it’s nice to meet you too.”

Siobhan waved, “What’s on the agenda, Attriana?”

“Well,” came the calm reply, “you are trying to get dead. It seems … counter-productive.”

Siobhan had to laugh, ” Hardly. We’re trying to live.”

Attriana considered before replying, lips pursed, “And what definition of living is it, that you find dissonant with S&S?”

Siobhan’s thoughts took time to crystallise.

“My father,” she said finally, “told me I could live without accumulating the scars of misadventure. I could grow without disfiguring my spirit or body.”

Attriana nodded, and Siobhan continued, “But I don’t agree. I say our scars define the value of our lives. I have, we have, the right to our scars.”

Attriana replied, “Perhaps, perhaps. Yet, Siobhan, we need to reach an understanding. We’re seriously considering a dedicated watch to prevent one of you getting … lucky. In that event, the terms and conditions of S&S are universally voided. Basically, we’d all be in the shit.”

Though taken aback by such frankness, Siobhan could not miss such an opportunity.

“Could we not, Attriana,” she suggested, “find a middle way?”

“Such as?” the other replied.

Siobhan made an offer.

That night, the family met for dinner as usual. Her mother, unable to miss the wild grin on her daughter’s face asked its cause.

Siobhan answered by holding up her hand; sans little finger. Her father feinted, and Siobhan, well, she had to laugh.


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