Julie agreed to the movie but would not sit through another unrealistic proposal. Erik made popcorn as a peace-offering, and burned it again, so an acrid smell filled the room and burned her eyes. She checked her watch and noticed colored lights from the television reflecting off a small pile of wood near the fireplace
“Oh my God, Erik, I’d rather be chopping wood! Why am I doing this?”
He paused the streaming and frowned while her blood pressure red-lined. “At least give me a chance to explain the invention.”
She blamed him for their bankruptcy. He once made a huge scientific splash by recording brain activities and discovering specific patterns emerged when people lied. However, despite warnings from colleagues that his device needed more work, he hastily launched a company and marketed a lie-detector. Then someone figured out a way to beat it, and their post went viral. The company crashed.
Now, two years later, he struggled to develop another invention and she resented wasting time, listening to his half-baked ideas. Their physical relationship froze, and he feared she would rather live without him.
He pointed to the paused television image. It showed a horrific glowing creature, like the one that decimated the Krell civilization on planet Altair IV. He knew every frame of Forbidden Planet. Even as a child, the Sci-Fi movie intrigued him.
She shook her head at the monster whose eyes looked like red LEDs. “That thing reminds me of a bad dream.”
He forced a smile. “It was a bad dream. The Krell developed a technology to create matter from thoughts and project it anywhere on their planet, instantaneously.” He pressed play, and the creature jumped back to life. “Brilliant, but they overlooked something. Their own subconscious could access the technology too. While they slept, their nightmares churned out an army of jealous and vengeful monsters that murdered the Krell population in a single night.”
She glared at him like a mother about to scold her child. “Come on, brilliant? Even for a movie it was ridiculous. They literally killed themselves.”
“True, but I’ve done better than the Krell. Instead of actual matter, my invention only creates digital images from thoughts. It transforms brain activity into animated 3D holographic projections. It’s fantastic!”
“So, you’re thinking nobody can get hurt by a hologram?”
He nodded. “It’ll be perfectly safe and make money. Lots of educational and entertainment uses.”
She groaned and turned away. “Just think it all the way through this time. Try cautious instead of impulsive for a change. Honestly, you seem just like these Krell, except you’re nonfiction. You actually exist and make big mistakes.” She turned off the television and picked up a magazine.
Erik missed her affection and wanted to revive their relationship, but her incessant berating frustrated him. Rejected again, a fantasy of their attractive neighbor entered his mind. Vanessa always had a great smile and inviting words for Erik, but he always resisted. He quickly dismissed the thoughts.
“I’m not like the Krell, Julie. My device works, and when people see it, they’ll buy it. We won’t be able to keep up with the orders. Our financial problems will be gone.”
She flipped a few more pages without looking at him. “Gone? I’ve heard that a lot the past couple of years.”
“Well, let me show it to you.” He watched her, expectantly, but she continued reading. On days like this, when she could not smile, he gave her space or risked an explosion. But not today. He opened a box and removed a helmet attached to a holographic projector. “Think of something we did together you really loved.”
She sighed as he put on the helmet. “You really need me for this?” Her voice blended impatience with sarcasm. “Okay, sledding at your dad’s farm. The time it snowed hard.”
“Perfect, now put down the magazine because you won’t want to miss any of this.” He leaned back, closed his eyes, and focused on the snowy evening in Vermont fifteen years ago. He recalled they sat together on a hill as huge snowflakes descended. She held a thermos of hot coffee and handed him a cup.
As the images coalesced in the room, her mouth dropped open. “I can’t believe it. You did it. I remember, it was exactly like this.”
When Erik heard the thrill in her voice he relaxed for the first time in months, and his imagination soared. He envisioned countless applications, and moments later these new thoughts projected, replacing the snowstorm scene. She stood transfixed by the progression of images, and her heart raced from an adrenaline rush. However, in the excitement, Erik’s concentration slipped again to his recurrent fantasy. Julie screamed, “Vanessa! You and Vanessa!”
Startled, he opened his eyes and saw the hologram. It showed him and Vanessa at her pool having sex. He panicked and grabbed his chair tightly. “No, that never happened!” He stared at Julie. “It’s just a daydream. I’m sorry!”
Furious, she picked up a log poker from the fireplace and struck him. He tumbled to the floor, stunned and unable to move. Holding the poker above her head, Julie suddenly stopped and glanced toward the fireplace. Colored lights from the hologram reflected brightly off a stainless-steel axe decorating the mantle. Erik watched the lights strike Julie’s face, creating an eerie, pixelated quality. Her eyes glowed like LEDs.
He thought of the Krell’s deadly nightmares.
She reached toward the mantle.