He remembered how he had stood there, dumbfounded, in front of the body. Some distance away, a sailboat seemed to be floating in midair. From time to time, gusts of wind had filled her black sails.
“Bring in a sailboat.” He pointed at a spot on the blue surface that represented ocean.
Wiggling slightly over the blue, painted surface that signified water, there it came: a huge sailboat that seemed to fill the entire space of his office.
Its keel formed the centerline at the bottom of the hull. It extended downward as a blade beneath the vessel, increasing its stability. From time to time it rubbed against the office floor, giving a shrill sound of friction.
With a swift hand gesture, bringing together his thumb and forefinger, Michael shrunk the vessel down, till it appeared to be at same scale as the seascape underfoot. Flow vectors appeared, forming wavy blue pleats capped with foam, over which the sailboat started rocking.
Meanwhile, Michael remembered Mr. Armstrong telling him how he had steered his sailboat away all by himself, how his muscles still ached from pulling up her sails. Just for fun, shouldn’t he place him aboard this vessel?
“Create man.” Michael pointed at the deck. “Name him Mr. Strong.”
A broadly constructed wire figure stepped out. It held on to the mast for dear life and occasionally, gave a sharp, abrasive pull to raise the black sails.
“Let Mr. Strong wear a life jacket.”
Selected at random from some e-commerce site such as eBay, an immensely thick vest appeared, featuring large armholes for unlimited range of motion. Its bright straps and adjustable belts tightened around the waist, to keep the vest snug and in place. It wrapped over the wire shoulders, barely concealing a somewhat crooked back.
The sailboat wiggled about over the geometrical waves when—splash!—Mr. Strong fell off, nearly sinking between one blue pleat and another. He would dutifully climb back onboard, only to fall off and climb back again.
Michael was determined to find out why this infinite loop started to play out. “Show me an internal view of the code.”
A storm of pixels whipped across the space, settling here and there in small heaps of dust. Out of it grew long, straight links. These, in turn, produced round, hollow nodes that started to arrange themselves into a complex structure, a structure that represented logic and data.
And just as Michael identified a broken link in the midst of it all, there came the sound of heavy footfalls down the corridor.
His heart skipped a beat.
“Stop,” he said hurriedly, and the structure melted away just as the office door swung open.
In stepped the real Mr. Armstrong.
Haunted by discovering the body of a beautiful dancer, Michael sets out to create a virtual reality simulation of her murder. Can he bring the mystery to life? Can he solve its clues in time, before the killer turns on the woman he loves, Ash?