“Is it in?”
“Then press play.”
A sharp white pitch shot through Huxley’s ears, right to his brain and the darkness behind his eyes splintered and shifted, stabbing his retinas with a searing brightness. Huxley arched his upper body violently and gritted his teeth for an instance. Then the pitch dropped to a low, steady hum and Huxley sunk back with it.
It was daylight. Huxley was outside, surrounded by oaks and the smell of dew and damp leaves. The sunlight fell upon him in mottled shades of green and the faint whisper of running water trickled softly in the distance. Huxley looked down at his legs. Shook them. Balled his fists and struck his thighs. Felt the dull thud of pain. Smiled. Then he turned towards the sound of the stream and began to walk.
Huxley walked slowly at first, his legs leadened – as they always were. But soon he was into a rhythm and could feel the blood pumping through his veins, the crunch of leaves and twigs underfoot, the stretch of his thigh muscles as he lengthened his stride. He was running now, full pelt; twisting and turning past trees, launching himself over logs, hardly touching the ground as he sprinted towards the quickening sound of water.
Huxley shot out the tree line like a bullet, and skidded to a halt. His calves burned madly with exertion and Huxley bent over double to catch his breath. When he finally straightened up, legs still shaking, hands on hips, Huxley took one look at the clear, icy blue river in front of him and quickly removed his boots and socks. Then, with his trousers pulled up tightly to his knees, he waded in.
The freezing water flowed fiercely past Huxley’s numbing limbs, and he had to grip tightly onto the jagged rock bed with his bare toes just to stay upright. Huxley took each step carefully, dragging the raw soles of his feet across rocks and pebbles, crouching to keep his balance. He was almost half way across the river when a sharp white pitch shot through his ears, right to his brain.
Huxley came to and wiped the drool from the corner of his mouth.
“Sorry Chief,” the technician said, “that’s your twenty minutes,” and he removed the headset, wires and earpiece from Huxley head and placed them carefully into a small silver box in front of him
“What do you think?” he asked
“Not bad ,” replied Huxley, “the river was a nice touch.”
“I’d like something a bit more advanced next time though. You know, cycling, skiing, something to really get the legs going.”
“No worries, I’ve got just the thing,” said the technician. “As long as you’re good for the credits that is.”
“On the counter on your way out,” Huxley gestured.
“OK then, I’ll guess I’ll see you next Thursday, same time,” said the technician, and he picked up the silver box, taking the small bag from the counter by the door as he left.
Huxley turned his chair and wheeled himself over to the window. Daylight was waning outside, bathing the dull concrete cityscape in an even more greyish half-light. Huxley drew the curtains and turned off the tall lamp in the corner of the room. Then he settled down comfortably in his chair, took a long, deep breath and shut his eyes – it was daylight – he was outside!