“Please be patient. Reality.exe has crashed and needs to be rebooted.” -- RecklessPrudence
All things considered, there are better ways to discover that life is merely a simulation and reality is a figment of some mystery coder's imagination. Regardless of the methods of discovery, it is quite a momentous reveal. And more than open to chaos.
For all that potential, there was nothing. Not darkness. Not light. No shape or colour. Not even static. The people were not falling. They were not flying. There was no gravity. There was... nothing.
Just... minds. Suspended in the void.
"Where are we?"
"What is this?"
"I can't feel my feet! I can't feel my feet!"
"Could you feel them before?"
"Uh... I... don't know. I never thought of it."
Please be patient. Reality.exe has crashed and needs to be rebooted.
"What was that?"
"Who was that?"
"Was that real?"
"Is this real?"
"Are we real?"
The silence did not last long. The voices in the void didn't like the emptiness.
"Well, if we aren't real, how do you explain what we can hear?"
"You know... I'm not that creative. I couldn't make this up. I don't think I could make you up. So... we're real, but... reality isn't?"
"It seems that way. Unless we're separate files kept in a holding area until everything's restored."
"Thanks. I think I have enough doubt about my existence as it is."
"Sorry. I have a bad habit of thinking about things a lot."
"Can you at least try and think of something positive?"
"Well... the people running our program want it back. So they've put us somewhere where we can't come to harm. They care. Whoever and whatever they are... they care about us."
"Are we going to remember this when reality comes back?"
"I don't know. I hope so. I'd like to meet you when we have our reality back."
"Really? Nobody likes me in the real world. Well. Our real world."
"I'm in Des Moines."
"No way! I'm in Des Moines, too."
"I'm a barista there. My name's Shirly."
"Really? Which cafe?"
"Bean There Dun That, combo coffee shop and army surplus store."
"I'll look it up. I'm Dennis, by the way. How can I let you know I'm me?"
"Tell me...the vorpals are calling."
Dennis got to say, "Vorpals," before the world blinked back on. Gravity. Air. A body that lived. Sound and sensation and everything just as it was before things went... into the void. His phone was still his phone, and he used it to google Bean There Dun That.
He didn't know what he wanted with her, but he knew that a thank-you was a good start.
Everyone was going about their day as if they were in a dream. Everyone had that dazed look on their faces. Dennis could understand why. He probably had the same look on his face. But finding Shirly and thanking her for what she'd done was... It was important.
Bean There Dun That was all the way on the other side of town from his usual stomping ground. There was a retro vinyl store on one side and a Goodwill store on the other. The air was redolent with caffeine, sugar, and tunes from the Dinosaur Era. And it was full of the type of people he'd been raised to despise. Modern weirdoes, foreign weirdoes... and queers.
He came up to the counter. "Is Shirly working here, today?"
The goth on the other side said, "Yeah...?"
"Can you tell her that Dennis is here and he says... 'the vorpals are calling'. Those exact words, please."
"Dennis?" said her voice behind him.
She was everything he had hated before... whatever it was. She was fat. She was foreign. And he was pretty certain she was not quite a woman - with or without The Operation. But then he remembered that she was the only voice in the void that had had anything reassuring to say.
"I wanted to thank you," he said, and he meant it. "In the void, we were all voices. Yours... You stopped be being scared. And I wanna hang on to that."
She looked scared. "I hope you do. You look exactly like the kind of guy who'd beat me up for breathing."
He shrugged. He did. And he would have... before. "Like you said. They care. So... maybe we should start?" He scratched at his buzz cut. Blushing. "Um. Wanna go somewhere together? I could... buy you a coffee?" Idiot! She works in a coffee shop!
She was starting to not be scared of him. "Coffee sounds cool, actually."
All around the world, little pockets of hate were dissolving. All because they had spent some time with nothing to tell each other apart.
[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / welcomia]
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