"Guardian Angel, give me a library and read me something interesting", a naked, Hector commanded from his seat on the bed, where he leaned against the wall of his bedroom. The bed was the only furniture in the room and the walls appeared as a black lined grid on a white backround."
"Be more specific," the electronic voice of the Guardian Angel computer instructed,"There are exactly 5,000,260,099 volumes in the library with 100,000 more being put on line every milasecond as we speak."
"Cancel," Hector said, changing his mind,"I want to go cycling on the Heritage Trail."
Immediately the holographic program began running and he found himself wearing skin tight shorts, a cycling jersy, fingerless gloves, a lightweight helemet and shoes that locked onto the pedals of the bicycle. He pedaled along the trail which followed one of the city's three rivers, the Alleghany. The aerobic benefits were real, but the scenery was just an elaborate illusion.
Hector had been spinning for about an hour when he saw a woman walking towards him. She wore a white collared shirt and a blue skirt and she was carrying a white wicker picnic basket. It was his mother.
"I thought you might be hungry," she said as he braked and rolled to a stop beside her. This, too, was a delusion. Hector knew, it was the scenery that moved or stopped, not the bicycle.
"I had a picnic lunch replicated for us," his mother explained.
Hector leaned his bicycle against a willow tree, and they sat down in the shade. It was pleasant, but artificial. Nothing here was truly real, except, Hector, his mother and the food. It was too perfect. Hector had heard about the real Outside; wild winds that picked people up off the ground and tital waves that treatened the coastal cities.
"Have you ever been Outside?" he asked his mother, in between bites of fried chicken.
"Yes, when I went to pick you up at the incubator in the reproduction center."
"What was it like? Did you see other people?"
"I was Outside only a few minutes, to walk there. It was nearby. No one else was about. The street was empty and the sun was shining, but it was cold. My clothes did not keep me warm enough."
"You wore clothes," Hector mumbled thoughtfully as he chewed.
"You can't go Outside bare, Hector. You'll either be too cold or the sun will burn you."
Though he knew the dictionary meaning of the words burn and cold, Hector really had no context in which to really understand them.
His mother continued," This virtual sun is pleasantly warming, always giving off a comfortable amount of light and heat, but the real sun burns through the depleated ozone and can scorch your skin, if you're not careful."
Hector then realized why holoprograms that mimicked the Outside included clothing.
"Is it true that my father lives Outside?" Hector asked her.
"Yes," she answered. "You know, he just donated sperm. We never had a relationship."
"But he is still part of who I am. I'd like to go Outside and find him."
"I don't think it's a good idea. Outside is cruel and grim. It's no place for a young boy or anyone for that matter," she said unwrapping some brownies.