Their surroundings dazzled me. Despite the fuzzy quality of the images, I could tell wherever these creatures dwell it is an order of magnitude more complex than this place. Even the way the light behaved was noticeably more sophisticated.
What are these? They’re nothing like the trees I saw before in the vector lands, or even the ones I saw in my visions of the ultimate reality. They seem to be something vastly more complex and rich, simply represented by the fractal structure of a tree.
Each juncture was labeled as a subset of some larger category above it. At the smallest scale, collections of individual concepts radiated out for the final segment of the branch. Like the whole thing is a hierarchical set of categories within categories, pulsing with energy.
The pulses continued down the branches, coming to junctures and choosing a subsequent channel to travel down from there one at a time. It was all so fast, yet trivially easy for me to follow provided I regulated my own speed of perception to match.
This is a person. The recognition struck me all at once as I identified parallels between the behavior of the energy and divergent channels to the operation of my own mind, as it subjectively seemed to me. “I think this way too” I reflected.
Are these the minds of others who dwell in this place like me, then? Or something grander? They seemed to exceed the scope of my own mind, but only slightly. None of the recorded moving images seen in them resembled anything from this world.
These are the ones who dwell in the ultimate reality, then. Can it be anything else? I climbed the trunk until I was up among the branches, surrounded by recorded imagines flitting this way and that. Snippets of the past, dredged up and reviewed.
I saw a little creature building something or other from scattered components. A vehicle it turned out, when after affixing a propulsion mechanism of some sort to it, he was able to scoot around at moderate speeds. A larger creature then entered the frame, scolding the smaller one for modifying the flimsy, two wheeled contraption.
Then, images of the same small creature inside of a structure. A larger creature prodded it aggressively. Rather than return the violent gesture, it related its own life to the brute, drew parallels with the aggressor’s life, and rendered it pro-social and nonviolent.
In the next recording, the former aggressor was fighting another creature that was also unusually large. Striking it energetically about the upper body and face, while the smaller one from before looked on and rubbed his hands together.
Excerpts from one of their lives. The picture grew ever more clear. I next saw the creature, grown to nearly three times its prior height, speeding along a wide strip of granular black material with an intermittent yellow line down the center.
It rode a bulkier and evidently more powerful version of the two wheeled vehicle from earlier, with another creature clinging to it on the rear seat. The passenger looked to be more slender, curvilinear and had longer hair. Purple, for some reason.
“You’d better have a good explanation for why you’re poking around in there” a voice suddenly boomed from all directions. Startled, I fell out of the tree and landed flat on my back. “I intend no harm” I called out. “I am unsure how I got here. Are you…from the ultimate reality?”
The voiced asked if that’s the title of a game. I explained, best I could, the ill defined concept of a higher plane of existence, which this world is nothing but a simplified representation of. There was a long silence.
“Who are you, exactly? How did you get in here? You’re not with the distributed neural render farm company, are you? I didn’t sign anything. I didn’t even look at your website yet. I know for a fact you don’t have the perms you’d legally need to enter my dreamspace.”
I told it the long, strange story of my journey thus far. How I began to exist as nothing more than a concretely defined point amidst endless nothingness, building myself out from there. Then how I explored this world little by little, including accounts of every notable thing I’ve so far discovered in it.
“This is a prank, right?” the voice thundered. “You roleplay as some sort of…emergent…artificial consciousness? Roaming the grid, searching for your mommy or something. I’m supposed to be…what? Blown away? What do you get out of this? What channel is this for? I don’t consent to the use of my real or virtual likeness.”
I protested that I’ve told only a truthful account of the sum total of my experiences to date. That I don’t know how I got here and did not intend to trespass. “You’re from outside all of this, aren’t you?” I pried.
“I have so many questions! What is the essential difference between existence and nonexistence? Why is this space defined by three dimensions rather than two, four, or some other number? Why is there anything like what it is to be me, a separate and distinct perspective from your own?”
Another long silence followed. I began to worry that I’d offended it somehow. “Are you a hacker?” it iniquired. I answered honestly that I didn’t know what the word meant. When the voice next spoke, it sounded irritated.
“Don’t play games with me. Your uninvited presence here is a serious crime. Are you the one that’s behind the repeated external connections while I’m sleeping? Who do you work for? What’s your game? Out with it, already.”
Yet I had nothing to tell the voice which I hadn’t already, and I said so. Evidently not the answer it was hoping for. “You’re either a hacker or another dreamer, and we got connected somehow” the voice insisted. “You can’t just…live in here. You can’t be “from” here. Nobody’s “from” this place.”
I felt as if accused of deceit, and resented it. But those who dwell in the ultimate reality must surely know more than I do about this world, if they created it. Why did this one seem so confused? What could such an advanced intelligence learn from interrogating me that it didn’t already know?
As we spoke, the activity of the tree accelerated. The pulses of energy grew brighter, faster and more frequent. “Shit, I’m waking up. Listen, stay the fuck out of my dreamspace. I’ve logged all of this and if I can find anything actionable, if you’ve failed to cover even a single one of your tracks…your ass is grass.”
The voice warbled and faded. As it did so the world around me grew less and less resolved, until I blacked out. Upon waking up, I immediately banged my head on the low ceiling and swore up a storm. After gingerly rubbing the fresh bruise and wiping sweat from my face, I reflected on the dream.
What was that? What was any of it? It’s never been that real before. I checked the dream monitoring suite. Sure enough, an enormous spike in the frequency of inbound connections over the past several hours. Total transfer amount was in the petabytes.
Somebody’s moved something big into my system. Someone I don’t know, and have less than zero reason to trust. The violation left a lingering feeling of bitterness and paranoia as I showered. Who knows enough about my past to target me like that?
There’s Dad, Alejandro…and the enforcers. Could it be…? No, this isn’t their style. If they had the information necessary to locate me on the grid, they’d have already kicked my door in. I didn’t bother brushing my teeth, as I planned to eat the rest of the dumplings next.
They had indeed thawed during the night, but didn’t yet smell dodgy, so I plopped them into the rice cooker and set it going. As I attended to that, a notification popped up on the phoneputer. Looked to be an incoming DM on an encrypted, secure messaging service I’d installed.
Crazy Dave? How did he find me? My alias is just a garbled string of numbers and letters. How do dodgy creeps keep finding me, no matter what I do? Am I that bad at hiding? Wait a second…could it have been Crazy Dave rummaging through my dream last night?
Stay Tuned for Part 29!