by Marian Allen
Leland pinned the tin star on his vest and buckled his gun belt. He fitted the immersion mask over his face and said, “Wild West Gunfight on.”
The smell of hot dust and drying horse droppings filled the mask. He tasted whiskey and unfiltered tobacco, with the foul undertone of medium-rare steak. He should have specified he was vegetarian, but he hadn’t expected the reality to go as far as this.
He shifted his weight from foot to foot and felt himself stride, spurs jingling, down the street he saw passing to either side. The sun was high and hot.
A horse neighed farther along the street. A man in black stepped from behind the horse, shaking his gloved hands to limber them.
“That’s far enough, Sheriff,” the man said.
“This is my town … er … Blackie,” Leland said, hoping the session wasn’t being recorded for quality control. What a lame name for the bad guy! But nobody had told him he’d have to make up names – he’d put that in his evaluation, for sure: Instruct users what, if any, creativity obligations they will encounter, and/or supply appropriate choices for them to use. “In my town, I say what’s far enough.”
Pretty good line. He wouldn’t be embarrassed if they caught that one on tape.
“Slap leather,” Blackie said.
Leland remembered that “slap leather” was on the list of gunfight challenges.
“Make your move,” he replied.
In slow motion, Blackie’s hand went to his hip. In slow motion, Blackie drew his gun.
Leland watched, rooted and stock-still, as the gun’s barrel rose and moved, more and more slowly, glacially lining up with his heart. He was supposed to draw and fire, his opponent programmed to lose.
Blackie’s gun stuck in mid-aim. His arm trembled with the strain of turning it on Leland. His mouth twisted in a snarl. His face reddened with effort.
One word slid through his teeth, oiled by fury. “Draw!”
Everything went black-and-white, then red, then black-and-white, while a buzzer sounded Aaah! Aaah! Aaah!
An ever-so-slightly mechanical male voice announced, “Program terminated due to disuse. Please reset and re-initiate program. If you have encountered a problem with your equipment or experience, please–”
Leland removed the helmet with shaking hands. He pricked his finger as he undid the sheriff’s badge and put it, with the mask, on the testing room table.
He never wanted to run into that Blackie character again. He had a feeling that, next time, Blackie wouldn’t bother with meeting him face-to-face. Next time, he’d be playing poker or riding through the dusk and he’d get a bullet in the back. No, somebody else could test the Wild West module. Unlike the VR engineers, Leland knew when to quit.
Why, yes, I did see Westworld, why do you ask?
Today is Tuesday, so I’m posting at Fatal Foodies. Today’s post is about cooking with Shakespeare.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: Have a character respond to a stimulus the way an actual person actually would, not the way they imagine they would.
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