Friday night and the streets are deserted. I am looking out from my office at the Sunday Times wondering what happened. Almost every nightclub and bar has shut down. I suppose it’s only human nature after all, why risk rejection in the real world whereas you can get lucky every night in virtual reality. Although the change seemed slow from real life to the fantasy worlds people now live in, in retrospect it happened rapidly. Only 5 years ago crowds would be streaming down these streets every Thursday and Saturday night, singing the anthem of which ever Football team happened to be playing. Today, you pass the husks of people working overtime into the night; probably to scrap together enough for that next monthly subscription. After all who would want to watch the game from the stands when you could be on the pitch as the star striker?
As my readership will likely know; I have been a staunch protester since day 1 of Viral Net and its subsidiaries. I decided it would be fitting to interview Viral Net’s CEO Leith Heathrow 5 years down the track since we first conducted an interview at the company’s launch.
AR: Good morning Mr Heathrow, let’s just get started with the questions. What do you think accounts for the enormous success of Viral Net?
LH: I think it is mostly the dedicated staff and amazing community we have built over the years as well as-
AR: Oh come on, we’re not filming a commercial. We can talk plainly.
LH: Oh yes the commercials, have you seen my big ugly mug up in the Hesse Highway? It’s hard to believe that the Sunday Times used to advertise there and now we are.
AR: Ah, very funny… very funny.
AR: How can you sleep at night? Seriously how do you do it?
LH: Well speaking plainly—as you asked me. I simply close my eyes.
AR: I find that hard to believe.
LH: What? That I don’t VR?
AR: Never gotten high on your own supply?
LH: We are very alike you and I. We are two of the last natural sleepers. Everyone else is just lost in their dreams.
AR: I am nothing like you.
AR: How do you feel about effectively neutering the human race, technology development is at a standstill and the birth rates are practically at zero?
LH: We actually considered a system of impregnation, in reality I am mean, however it’s much more economically viable to simply simulate the pains of child birth – to an extent and of course simulating the actual child is a cinch.
AR: Moving on, if video killed the radio star, has Viral Net killed reality?
LH: Ha. A two time Pulitzer nominee journalist and you ask me that?
AR: I have around 30 dedicated readers Leith, I don’t care. Answer the question.
LH: Oh how the mighty have fallen…
AR: And when you fall, the consequences are going to be more than mighty. Humanity is going to be sent back to the Stone Age once things fall apart and the men, women and children emerge to reality from the trapped existence they love so much.
LH: I’ll be long dead. But that has got me thinking, reality is a strange notion.
AR: What do you care of reality? Your ponderings are like a lion playing with a mouse.
LH: I am a lion now? Well then hear me roar. Is reality a truly concentrate concept? I know you will disagree with me I simply wish to hear your thoughts.
AR: Of course we’re talking right now aren’t we.
LH: Perhaps this is your VR that you’ve long forgotten isn’t real. Your fantasy of crusading against insurmountable odds for what you think is right.
AR: My life is far too difficult for me to even consider that.
LH: Your right, this is ‘reality’– in your definition of the word anyway. Although difficulty is programed into the VR I don’t believe it would be cruel enough to only afflict you with 30 readers. Ha.
AR: This fix we’re in often reminds me of that Jim Carrey flick. All those people you’ve got addicted are in their own little Truman Show.
LH: Truman would have been happier ignoring the truth. Do you compare yourself to that laughable character, there’s a reason they casted Jim Carrey for the part you know.
AR: The crowd was rooting for Truman? You know why that is?
LH: No, enlighten me- if you must.
AR: It was truth Laith he was seeking for truth, something your deceiving profit seeking company doesn’t understand.
LH: What I understand Arnold is that truth is nothing when every man and woman can be an “Adonis” or an Aphrodite.
AR: Your “Adonises” are walking in front of traffic thinking they’re indestructible, 34 cases of “un-reality” this month alone.
LH: Those are singular exceptions to our otherwise spotless record. No cases of people forgetting they can’t fly and jumping off sky scrapers, like in the first prototypes. Reality has always been left up to the beholder. “There are no facts, only interpretations”.
AR: You are creating a completely false world.
LH: What is truth anyway? When you are born your world is created by your parents, “they blow [you] full of hot air”.
AR: Life is cruel, that’s reality.
LH: Oh but when someone does walk in front of traffic or jumps off a building because life has been too cruel, we say “What a shame” because in reality “Life is beautiful.”
LH: I’ll enlighten you. It’s can be either, because reality is the just another “lie you have been living.”
AR: Then what’s the point.
LH: The point is you can choose beauty. I know you have turned me down before on my offers, but we could really use a talented journalist at our content creation center. People miss the Sunday Times.
AR: And I miss people…
LH: Then join us Arnold we’re waiting.
And reader, I did join them.
I am sorry. I wasn’t strong enough.
This is the last physical issue of the Sunday Times.
Perhaps humanity was always going to end- but instead of with a nuclear war- this is a gentle passing like death creeping slowly as we sleep.
“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper.”
This was written using the prompt “Sometimes people find themselves living in a world created by other people” and was referencing Death of a Salesman as well as several other external references relating to reality.
Thanks for reading