Couldn’t find a good picture for this one. It’s really bizarre and hard to describe. The dream began as I was sitting in a coffee shop watching news on my phone. Something about a new craze people were getting into. They interviewed a variety of people about it.
“It’s whatever you want it to be” said a college aged woman. “It accepts me for who I am” said a teenager with a neon mohawk. “Out here, everything I do is wrong. But when I’m inside of it, nothing I do is wrong.” The camera pans to the thing.
It’s this nebulous, amorphous blob kind of thing. With rounded blobby pseudopods extending outward like a web. It’s covered everywhere in soft, plush fabric. In some places, leopard print. In others, satin. Seemingly only around individuals who prefer that material. What does it look like underneath that covering, I wondered.
There are people nestled into it like a huge bean bag chair, all over the place. They have something like a VR headset on, but it’s clasped around their entire head, with a pulsating cord leading into the main bodily mass of the gigantic thing.
All over it are blinking eyeballs with long eyelashes and mouths with lipstick on the lips, and perfectly straight, white teeth. Also monitors, displaying whatever it is you like. Internet jokes, your favorite TV show or whatever else. The mouths constantly spout pop culture references and slogans promoting tolerance.
“I don’t know where it came from, but I don’t care” a chubby black man in a suit says. “It gives me whatever I want, when I want it, and doesn’t judge me.” He then gleefully puts the VR headset type thing back on his head. I have a bad feeling about it, but can’t say for sure why.
It doesn’t seem to be hurting anyone. They all go to it and connect themselves to it of their own free will because they feel ostracized in some way. Alienated by society. It shows up and offers them an alternative. A refuge from the world, but in exchange for what?
Days went by. Weeks. It just kept growing. Eventually it reached my state. Just a single pseudopod at first, but it quickly branched out into every neighborhood. The more people connected to it, the faster it grew. There were protests of course. Riots even, by people fearful of it.
But for every one person who feared and opposed it, ten more loved and defended it. Until at last, one day, everybody who wasn’t afraid of it was connected. The remainder of humanity were the stubborn holdouts. It sent crawlers for us.
Those VR things that go on their heads had their own spiderlike legs, trailing the connecting cable behind like a tail. Like a mechanical version of the facehuggers from alien, but with VR goggles underneath. I didn’t wait for it to come to me, I came to it.
I was loaded with weapons, ready to fight. But an old friend stopped me. I thought he’d succumbed to it years ago. He said that he did, but that he’s free to come and go as he pleases. That they’re all free to come and go. He said people defend it because it really is a better way to live, not because they’re brainwashed, or being coerced.
“The only way you’ll see I’m telling the truth is if you try it.” He had one of the crawlers with him. I wanted to fight. But I also had to know. He assured me I could leave immediately after and never connect again if I didn’t like it.
So I willingly put it on my head. I was, in fact, horrified. I saw everybody doing whatever they pleased. Indulging in what were, before, unthinkable taboos. It was amoral anarchy, and the creature, or machine, or whatever it is, facilitated all of it. Let us openly express what we hid from the world, however terrible, so that we would love it.
So that we’d join it, become part of it and defend it. I accosted several people doing depraved things and demanded they justify themselves until I, myself, was accosted. “That’s the only thing not allowed in here.” It was my old friend.
“Behavioral prohibitions all made sense at various points in the past. But there’s no longer any need. We don’t need to constrain ourselves anymore. We can be whoever, whatever we want to be. It’s all okay in here.”
It still felt wrong. But the longer I stayed, the more I noticed how happy everybody was. What a huge chunk of humanity lived in a repressed state before. If it’s all just some sort of simulation, is there any harm to it? I realized I could feel myself rationalizing it.
Part of me recoiled in horror. But I could see nothing wrong with my reasoning. Even knowing what a strange, nightmarish monstrosity it looked like from the outside, the inside was so beautiful. So soft, forgiving and understanding.
Is it a ploy? To fool us into cutting loose so we’ll show our true colors, only to later punish us accordingly? Is it parasitizing us somehow? I voiced these concerns, but was told that I was looking a gift horse in the mouth. Everybody else was just content to let it be what it appeared to be.
What about the crawlers, then? When I asked, he defended them. “Many people are just fearful because it’s unfamiliar. When given a taste of what it’s like in here, even a brief one, it’s enough to change their mind. That’s what the crawlers are for.” I asked what becomes of those who still refuse to join.
He assured me they’re left alone, to make whatever life for themselves is possible in an increasingly abandoned Earth. “You’re lucky to even be in the position to turn your nose up at it. Think of how many impoverished third world families lined up eagerly to join. It solved all of their problems. No more hunger. No more danger, no more homelessness. It can solve your problems too if you let it.”
I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something about it was sinister. But when I disconnected, I found the Earth empty. Everywhere I drove to, the streets were barren. I could find no new activity on the internet, nobody I called picked up and all TV stations were dead.
Absolutely everybody but me was connected to that thing. The last of them finally caved some time while I was in there talking with my friend. I wondered at how time might pass differently inside versus outside. I wondered what sort of life it would be on the outside, by myself for the next few decades.
There was no hope of destroying it by this point. It would be one person versus the rest of humanity. All I would accomplish is to destroy myself. The only possible avenue of happiness, of not dying alone, would be to compromise my convictions and connect myself to it for good.
I don’t know why I didn’t. I guess I’m stubborn, and that nagging voice telling me something was wrong with it only got louder and louder the more seriously I considered giving in. I wound up alone, but some part of me always knew I would. I now had all the time in the world to study the thing, and devise some way to kill it.
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