Kasumi slowly opened her eyes. She felt the sensation of her clothes against the hard steel bed, and her muscles ached from lack of use. Her mind started to return to her, and she began to think with sharp clarity, "How long have I been resting?", she wondered. She hoped her father, Takuya, hadn’t missed her long.
She reached around her neck and felt the Tamashi monitor on her head. It didn’t weigh very much, and she was amazed it didn’t obstruct her vision. She felt around the side to find a cord plugged into the outlet behind her. She held it in her hand and remembered the day she plugged herself in.
Kasumi was defiant that day, and wanted to prove that she could handle the responsibility of plugging herself in. She marched into the hospital, which was half-filled with people who felt the same. The nurse that day had been very friendly, and told her that she could unplug herself at any time. She said that the Tamashi computer heads were to monitor the patient’s emotional state and ensure that the process went smoothly. Kasumi nodded, and was fitted for a Tamashi head that afternoon.
When she put the head on, and laid on a fresh hospital bed, the nurse handed her the cord attached to her Tamashi head. She said that for liability reasons, she had to plug herself into the wall; after that, the chemicals would start to enter her brain. Kasumi nodded and committed to returning home by dinner, so that she could prove her father wrong. With that thought in mind, she plugged herself in as chemicals began to overwhelm her brain.
Kasumi's eyes wandered toward a distant window, where she could see the night sky. She remembered the last night she spent with her father, how they had watched the sunset together, and how they’d debated what kind of a life she should lead. She’d left to "plug in" to prove a point. She wanted to show him that she could handle the temptation of temporary euphoria, and that she had the self-control to come home that night for dinner. But her muscles were weak, and she was in a different building now. She was afraid that a few days had passed, and that her father had missed her.
She pulled out her cord from the wall along with a separate wire attached to her head, and started to walk around the facility. It was a massive gray building with high ceilings and dark gray floors. There were long rows of beds along the side walls of the corridor, which had to be around a hundred feet wide. Each bed had people in it, with Tamashi heads that lit up in bright colors, just like the advertisements. They all laid comatose on their beds, and all wore the same white shirts with white pants.
No one answered, and no one in their beds moved even slightly.
"Is anyone in charge?!" she exclaimed. And as she looked further down the corridor, she saw him. A man sitting in what appeared to be a large chair elevated on top of a larger platform. He was clearly plugged in like everyone else, and even had a Tamashi head. He wore a full suit and what looked like a crown on his head. He wasn’t conscious, but still had an imperious air about him. Bewildered, Kasumi walked in the other direction around the corner.
There she found a large room filled to the brim with clothes. Clothing racks filled every square inch of the room, and she could see huge varieties of colors and patterns. Her first thought was that these were clothes confiscated from people when they were plugged in, but the clothes were so extravagant, they resembled theater costumes more than regular clothes.
Suddenly, everyone around her started waking up. Some jolted right out of their beds, while others sat there confused, staring at their cords. They all started making their way towards the front where Kasumi was standing.
"Hi, everyone!" she shouted.
They all stopped in their tracks and stared at her , as the room went silent.
"Hi, everyone. My name is Kasumi... and honestly, I regret being here" she started, gathering herself, "I thought I could plug myself in for a day, because I wanted to escape how I was feeling. And today I woke up and found out that more time had passed than I’d thought. I don’t know how many days I’ve been gone, but I know it was too many. I look around this room, and all your Tamashi monitors are different, just as they advertised, but your bodies are frail. Some of you had trouble getting out of your beds. I know that the Tamashi machines give you bliss, and I know how appealing that is. I don’t claim to know what some of you have been struggling with.
You may have had it hard and needed an escape" she paused, "But if we ignore that pain, we end up ignoring life too. I’m not sure why I woke up just now, and woke you all up with me. But we have the opportunity here for a fresh start. My father … My Dad told me to carry Nozomi (hope) with me before I left. I want you all to have Nozomi too. We should all leave here and start to live our lives again"
"When did you get plugged in?" a concerned voice asked.
"Wednesday," Kasumi said. Everyone started exchanging glances.
"Does anyone know what day it is?" Kasumi asked.
"I know how to find out!" a voice said. A man stepped forward with deep blue watercolor on his Tamashi screen, "I’m a painter and an amateur astronomer. I know how to tell the time by the stars, but my mind is more artistic than mathematical. Depending on how much time has passed, I’ll need someone who’s good at m..."
Suddenly a man burst towards the front, shoving several people aside.
"-ath" he finished.
"Yes!" the man panted, with his hands on his knees, "That’s me! Whew, what are we calculating?"
"Are you any good at math?"
"Look at my face" the man said, with his screen covered in graphs.
"Alright then. Let's go" the first man said, and they walked together out the main doorway.
Kasumi noticed two people on opposite sides of the crowd glancing towards each other. She could tell they were deliberately keeping their distance. One had a white monitor with a red outline, the other had a black monitor with a dark blue outline.
The two people avoiding each other sprinted through the crowd, shoving people to either side to dart around the corner to the room with the clothes. Curious, everyone began to slowly follow.
A woman from the crowd approached Kasumi with a birdcage on her monitor, "Hi there" she said, concerned, "did you volunteer to be plugged in?"
"As opposed to what?" Kasumi answered.
The two men from earlier burst through the main doors.
"Well that really was interesting" the man with the graphs said, "And you’re sure you had those stars right?"
"If you’re sure you had your math right" the second man said.
The first man gravely cleared his throat, "Attention everyone! We’ve looked outside and used the stars to calculate the exact date. We are confident in what we’ve found, and understand what this means. To some of you, this will come as a shock". Everyone in the main area stared solemnly forward, while everyone in the clothing room listened intently.
"It is April 7th, 2042."
Kasumi's ears started ringing as she collapsed to the ground. Her eyes blurred and she started shaking as everything disappeared around her. Every noise was replaced by a stunned silence as her mind began to wrestle with what she’d just heard. Seven years. She had been asleep for seven years.
"Hey, hey" the woman with the birdcage screen patted her shoulder and knelt by her side, "It’ll be alright, okay?"
"My Dad!" Kasumi shouted, "I have to see my Dad!" she scrambled to stand back up, and darted towards the doorway. She shoved the two men aside and burst open the main doors. She walked outside to her first breath of fresh air in years and gasped at the sight before her.
Ahead was the outline of a dark city, lit only by the light of the stars. Hundreds of buildings were outlined before her, but they were pitch black, with no electric lights as far as the eye could see.
"What the hell?" Kasumi whispered.
"There’s a lot you don’t know," the woman said.