Chapter 6: Vireco

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"Grrrrrrrr."

"Good morning, Constantine."

Erika smiled toward the hellhound on the sofa chair. In response, Constantine growled even more and intimidated Erika into retreating.

"Good morning, dad."

"Huh... good morning, Eri..."

A tall black man answered Erika with a worn-out expression. He was Erika's father, Reidel.

"You got home only now?"

"Yeah... too many emergencies for one day."

Reidel covered a yawn with a big palm. Even against Erika's height - her father was a giant. He looked more like a professional basketball player than a doctor.

These dreadful genes which reside in my body... will I also grow huge like that?

Erika shuddered at this thought for at least the millionth time in her life. She sighed and walked into the kitchen to collect her breakfast.

Her mother was already gone for a business meeting. Nonetheless, Erika's breakfast was loyally prepared by the SmartCook. It was a miraculous high-end cooking machine which was becoming the standard in new houses.

The SmartCook had a direct access to their smart refrigerator, which constantly monitored its own contents. Just by having the right ingredients stored in the fridge, the SmartCook could prepare a vast variety of dishes for the whole family.

Erika was always reassured when she looked at the SmartCook. When this automated chef will become the standard everywhere, the need for human cooking will almost entirely disappear. Having zero cooking knowledge will become commonplace and acceptable by everybody.

N-not like it has anything to do with me or anything.

Erika struck a dignified pose as she took her plate and sat down to eat. Meanwhile, Reidel confidently approached the sofa chair that was guarded by a black hellhound.

"Har. Move, you stupid dog."

Reidel stretched his big hand toward the dog and roughly rubbed Constantine's head. Unlike with Erika, the black dog didn't growl or glare. Constantine submitted to his master's wishes, like a hellhound greeting his evil lord.

"Har, you stupid dog."

Reidel let out a tired laugh as he patted Constantine. He turned on the TV and dropped back on the sofa chair.

"A new disturbing fact came into light in recent days."

A familiar newsman reported something, but Erika didn't pay much attention... at first.

"We call it 'Virtuality-Reality Confusion'. We refer to it as 'VRC' or 'Vireco'."

An interviewed doctor spoke to the camera.

"It's a condition caused by prolonged exposure to virtual reality technology. The brain of the subject confuses reality with VR, and carries experiences and sensations from VR into reality."

Erika listened with curiosity. Most of this information already floated across the internet for a while. Erika read many articles about it. However, this was the first time she saw a public announcement on TV.

"Har, making it sound simple. It's not just about how long you use VR."

Reidel sneered with a headshake. The newsman ignored Reidel's snarky commentary and moved on to give examples of Vireco.

"Common cases include: retaining sensations like pain, uncoordinated body functionality and overall numbness. One patient even suffered a heart failure, but luckily survived to tell the tale."

When put that way: the condition sounded incredibly scary and worrying. However, Erika read that Vireco was very rare and its side effects didn't last for long.

The newsman eventually presented some of that relieving information. Nevertheless, it felt that he was paid for shouting "DANGER!".

A doctor was brought on screen again, this time to deliver guidelines regarding safe VR usage. As someone who used VR only in her dreams, Erika didn't have much interest in that topic.

While her father was distracted, she quickly headed into the kitchen with her unfinished meal. She poured the leftovers into a black trash bag and carried the bag toward the exit.

"I'll be throwing the trash."

"Mhm, good girl."

Her father nodded in approval, unaware of the conducted crime.

"Grrrrrr!"

Perhaps Constantine knew about Erika's misdeeds. But, she ignored the hellhound and strode toward the door.

"I'll be going."

"Wait, Eri."

"Yes?"

"Laura said somebody is feeding the cats in the area."

"M-my, i-is that so..."

Erika's throat ached as if she gulped a knife.

"Stray cats may carry diseases. Make sure you avoid contact."

"... I see. Of course, dad."

She sighed in relief and calmed down her throbbing heart.

"I'll be going then."

"Take care."


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