A compelling tale of the future that just might be, by Author Tavinder New
OUT NOW, Dione the new virtual reality system!
The huge billboard poster flickered with the only advert holographic projection . The streets were dark, but the advert illuminated like a candle making it the center of attraction as though it were the essence of existence, but for the majority of people it had become just that.
“Wow that looks amazing, I have to get it, it’s better than the Miranda system which came out last year,” said my brother walking with me down the street, drawn to projection like a mosquito to the light.
He was addicted to getting a new headset every year. He was actually putting the Miranda system on as we spoke, going to the Prehistoric age, immersing himself in another world.
Everyone was wearing one, but I didn’t.
This was my world, the future, a world of virtual reality. Headsets in every home, laying on the coffee table instead of books which no longer existed. No one read anymore. Headsets were a way of escaping the actual reality of the world where employment was low and people would use the reality systems as a way of escape instead of alcohol or recreational drugs.
“These dinosaurs look incredible! There is a Diplodocus eating some vegetation. ” He pointed in the direction of a house, but he was walking in his world. “There is so much beauty here, it’s amazing. You should get one, Ceres. You are so dull because you don’t have one.”
But I didn’t want one, I didn’t see the point of escaping to another world, but Colton didn’t understand that.
“Colton I’d rather read books,” I said frustrated with the same conversation.
“Who does that, Ceres? Books….!!!!! I mean that is so lame and what is the point of doing that?
“People think you are weird and odd, you know?” He turned his head up and down, left and right. I thought he was the one who looked stupid wearing a headset on his face. People didn’t talk to each other directly, they were always playing the game.
As we walked down the street, people everywhere had a Miranda and were in a world of their reality. There were many world’s that you could access: Prehistoric, Theme park, Roman, and Ice Age were some of the few. You could immerse yourself into another reality, touching, feeling and exploring places that were not real, anther way of deterring the dark, miserable world that was our present.
Our present consisted of houses that were derelict, dirty streets, and high unemployment. Technology was creating these virtual reality systems for people who didn’t have a future or hope. There was none, only the mundane. So the games were a form of escapism.
Colton didn’t have a job, there was no work anymore. So I understood his need to run away into another world. Sometimes I felt isolated and useless too, but I read books which I had found in the trash or thrown away in the fields. I held them close during the night when I could hear people wandering the streets wearing their headsets. The Miranda was used twenty four hours a day. Often you found corpses in fields or streets, people died due to their addiction, forgetting to eat their rations from the government. They would simply decay or rot in place. Only their headset remained, and no one bothered to give them a burial.
“Dione, Dione,” said some kids as they ran down the streets wearing the Miranda, I could no longer see people’s faces, or their eyes, just a void of a black headset covering them like a mask from life and soul. They were dressed in rags as I was, smelling of rancid dirt. Everything had a fixed allowance: food, water, education and medical supplies.
I could not remember actually looking at anyone directly in the eyes, contact was made via Miranda, by other users connecting with their virtual self who was often strong, sexy or rich unlike their reality which was poor, destitute and suffered from malnutrition. I had made no contact with people for a long time. I had no Miranda, so strangers wearing them had often walked past me. Colton only spoke to me. He was my only human contact even though he immersed himself into these games.
“Ceres I am meeting so many friends in this world of Prehistoric age. There are so many people in this world, and talking to them is amazing.”
He rambled on as we walked with me to our home which lay in squalor. Sometimes I couldn’t tell if he were talking to me or other people. Only when he used my name did I know for sure.
I felt lonely in my own world, facing headsets down the road, and looking around at the dark, dingy, dirty streets. I was tired of reading books and making no contact with other human life, only through reading tatty paper’s that I found unnoticed by other people.
Colton still wore his headset even though we had reached home, the headsets had a tracking device, but which people move in and out around objects in the real world. It also had a device to aid you going home if you needed it. But home was not a pleasant place to be. Our house, had tatty furniture, dust, cobwebs, scare food in the fridges. All technology and money was spent on the devices to entertain instead of develop people or provide subsistence. So devices were used as a daily practice, some people would not even sleep during the night. Colton would wear his during the night often only to take it off when the new adverts were charged into the headset as a way of publishing the next game.
I could not sleep during the night. Hardly anyone could with the Miranda. Dampness and cold ran through our home like a stream train through our bones and body.
The Miranda system was the only device which actually had heating, therefore you were warm during the night wearing it and Colton would be relaxed wearing it, since it became soft when its wearer was laying down. The Miranda system had so many features that aided addiction, but it was seen as a way of life rather than dependence. The government didn’t care about us only the Miranda system as a way of controlling us and what little money we had through donations of our blood.
“Ceres you have to get one. The new Dione system will help you find a partner or friends. You are so lonely. I am going to get friends and eventually even find my special someone.”
That’s when I knew, that Colton was no longer going to be speaking to me. Hhe would eventually find another virtual reality partner, someone with whom he had the same interests, and he would forget me and my books. A tear trickled down my cheek onto the wooden flooring. I was tired of being the only person without a headset, without heating, only reading and lonely. Colton would no longer talk to me and I would be simply left roaming the streets alone. I knew that I had to get one, it was the only way.
“Colton…… ” I said trying not to sniff and show that I had been crying. “You are right, I will get the new Dione system when it comes out.”
“Good,” he said as he turned his head away and completely submerged himself into his reality. I knew that was the last time Colton would ever speak to me. He was now a part of the gaming reality, totally immersed in it, and so was I.
Tavinder Kaur New is primarily a short story writer, who lives in Dagenham Essex. One of her short stories ‘ If I had Known’ has been published in City Lit Adult Education Centre in London in their Between the Lines Magazine in 2010. She has been also chosen to read her poem ‘I Want’ in the Barking and Dagenham Folk Festival in 2015. She has attended many writing courses in City Lit Adult Centre and currently in Barking and Dagenham Adult College. She has a BA honours in English and Cultural Studies and also a Level 3 diploma in Counselling Studies. In addition she has a blog where all of her collection of poems and short stories have been published: http://tavindernew.blogspot.co.uk/.