I wandered through the simulated scene, my PVC-clad feet tapping lightly on the synthetic floor. Bright lights filled the area, their harsh neon glow illuminating a fairground full of complex toys, the most advanced of its kind. Blue 4D war craft simulators lined the west end of the area, adjustable wrist controllers piled on top of them. Purple fashion simulators were arranged on the east side, their keypads littered with synthetic belts. I walked over to these, wanting to start my round of final inspection on something a little lighter. Wrapping the weightless white belt around my waist, I focused my eyes on the screen in front of me and waited for the program to take over. Suddenly I was no longer in a machine-filled room but standing in one of the most exquisite shops in the world.

“Miss Fiona Zuckerberg, please choose a destination,” said the monotonous voice of my propaganda voice actress, “New York, Paris or Tokyo.”

“New York,” I said, and the shop around me disintegrated into a thousand tiny megapixels only to rearrange themselves into the scenery of New York a split second later.

“Welcome to New York, the fashion capital,” said the programmed voice, “Your tour begins with Scarlett Boutique.”

I tried on a dozen or more dresses, letting the inner girl in me take over. The synthetic belt worked wonder, delivering the image of each outfit onto my body with the utmost precision to detail. I mentally ticked the “Satisfactory” box for “Appropriateness and Precision of Design” on the inspection report, smiling slightly.

“I’ll take the violet sequinned strapless,” I said.

“Only one? Why Ms Zuckerberg, had your mother never taught you that consuming is the mother of happiness?” said the voiceover, “Take them all, take as much as you can. Consume to your heart’s desire.”

“Yes I know that,” I said. The simulation program that taught ‘consuming is the mother of happiness’ was used for toddlers of two to four years, a light-hearted consumer’s guide that I had made in my days of being a programmer.  

“After all, beauty and appearance...” started the voice.

“...speaks louder than words,” I finished, reciting the motto of one of the earliest games children are exposed to.

I wanted to continue consuming around New York and through to Paris and Tokyo as well, but the program was scheduled to be released in an hour and I needed to test the remaining simulation packages. Regretfully I pressed the ESC on the lapel of my acetate coat and closed my eyes as the fashion program collapsed around me to take me back to Level 1, Virtuality. Walking briskly over to the other end of the area, I stopped in front of a war craft simulator and pick up the wrist controller. The light blue band was a little tight for me but was the perfect size for the program’s intended user. I pulled my arm up into a salute, and was immediately transported into the world of war. The boom of machine guns thundered through the air, punctuated by bright flashes of light. I touched the first button on the wrist controller and smiled with grim satisfaction as a pistol appeared in my palm. Masked men attacked me from left and right, their outstretched arms wielding fatal weapons. It was pure chaos, a synthetic environment where there was not a peaceful moment to think. Or in other words, the perfect simulation program to keep those Dells, Microsofts and Toshibas in their place. I gripped the pistol harder and wrapped my finger around the trigger, aiming and blasting off as many enemies as I can into oblivion. Satisfied with the mass of fallen enemies around me, I clicked ESC.

“Programs are satisfactory; I must give Harry Jobs a promotion after this,” I said to myself, then louder, “Send for the first group.”

As if they were waiting for my command, the first group of children appeared in the middle of the area with their supervisor, their avatar figures vibrating with excitement.

“Good morning children,” I addressed the group of Dell pluses, “I am Ms Fiona Zuckerberg, CTRLer of Australia’s Simulation Department. Today you are all very lucky, because you will be taking part in the most exciting simulation program yet. There are two new games, one for the boys and one for the girls. You are to take one simulator each and strap the belt or the wrist controller on. Then consume or destroy to your heart’s desire.”

The children were already scrambling towards the machines before the last word left my lips. I walked down the east side of the room, smiling as I watched the six-years-olds tighten the synthetic belts around their tiny waists. They were almost identical, perfectly adorable children programmed before birth by the best to be only what we wanted them to be in this virtual world. The girls could’ve easily been twins but for the different colours of their hair and eyes, and the slight variation in their skin tone. Two little girls have decided to share a simulator, taking off into the fashion capital hand in hand. Their eyes, a pair of blue and a pair of brown, shone with the same excitement. Their clasped hands were of the exact same size, their faces mirror of each other’s. Perhaps in the real world they were as different as a keyboard is to a mouse, but in this virtual world identity have been stripped back to the barest minimum. After all, in a place where privacy no longer existed, what is the point of identity?

I shook my head clear of these thoughts. Even as an Apple triple plus and a CTRLer of the most important department, I could still be deactivated if thoughts like these are heard. They were simple heresy, questions in the mind that will one day undoubtedly lead to trouble. I marched briskly to the other end of the area, as though I could just walk away from all these notions. My head snapped up as I heard the cries of a child, the beginning of a struggle that have never happened in Level 1, Virtuality for decades. The supervisor was holding onto a boy in the middle, her tanned arms keeping him in line as she tried to convince him to put on the wrist controller. The child kicked and yelled, his arms flailing wildly as he tried to break free of the supervisor’s grasp. I hurried towards them.

“James Gates,” I said, reading off his name tag, “What’s wrong darling? Is the wrist band too tight?”

He didn’t reply and continued to struggle, his tiny face damp with pixels of tears. I held onto his shoulders and crouched down to face him.

“What’s wrong sweetheart?” I repeated, “Tell me so I can fix it for you.”

“I want,” he said through tears, “I want the real world.”

They used to say that Dells are nowhere near as intelligent as Apples, but they were wrong. The Dell plus children caught onto the meaning of that little boy’s words faster than the internet, and within seconds chaos dominated. Just like that, a few words wiped away four entire years of virtual simulation work. Five simple words that echoed the exact yearning of my heart: I want the real world.

The End

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