Out of Toronto 4.0
A Prophecy of Pain
It had been another long day of trying to be nice to the people at the Square Peacock place. I didn’t stay for long, but every minute I have to spend fully in meat space is an eternity. I needed to find a way to fix this communication issue.
I flopped down on the bed and finished the food bar tossing the wrapper aside and pulling the blankets up around me as I sunk further into the matrix. I just wanted to go home, to catch up on the days news, post up a few tidbits of my own, check on my friends.
As I sunk into the Matrix I watched the layers of the meat world peel away, I felt a hand slip into mine, I didn’t have to look to know who it was. The small hand was one I knew as well as my own, I gave her a squeeze and looked down. Magic Meg’s face was set and serious, she stared ahead and the world continued to peel past what it should. It warped and twisted around me, I could feel it scraping over my skin and Meg pulled me closer to her. I held my breath unsure of where we were going, unsure who was taking me there.
Meg’s tiny form hadn’t changed and I still sometimes felt like a child when I was with her. Neither of us were anymore, I wasn’t sure she ever had been. But she was more like a child, like a whisper of who she had been. And I was older, stronger, more sure of who I was. I would find a way to help her, I had to. “When you love someone you help them,” a memory of her words ran through my thoughts unbidden.
The world around us lurched and peeling. Layers of code, thousands of agents floating about, millions of people immersed in the real world, billions of pieces of junk, a few good things glowing. I felt my heart race, something was wrong. I couldn’t feel my feet. I didn’t have any feet.
I still had a hand, my fingers laced with hers, but the rest of me didn’t exist. I wanted to reach out and feel it, I wanted to stay here forever. This was where I belonged. The resonance, the deep resonance, the warm, perfect comfort.
Meg’s fingers dug into mine and I focused to pull myself back together, I watched a hand float past and pulled it back to my arm. I would lose myself here. I wanted to lose myself here. This was heaven, where I would go to die.
“You must not die today.” It wasn’t so much a voice that spoke to me as a wave the ran through the resonance all around me. 01. If 01 spoke it, it was true. I would not die today. It felt more like a command than a statement. My limbs came back to my body and I tried to hide the sadness I felt from being apart from the resonance, I wanted to be one with it.
“You must know your friends.” The truth of it warmed me, I could feel them. My memories of them brushing at my skin and my thoughts. Viper winding around my neck, <!— slinking in the shadows, N dancing in brilliant colors, Meg squeezing my hand. But other images filled the world, a girl full of implants and fury, a shell of a man at a bank of computers, an older man with cybernetic arms, a young woman surrounded with fire, an orc whooping behind the wheel of a car. I frowned at these images. I tried to make my mouth move to form words but Meg’s fingers dig into my skin again. She was right. If 01 speaks it, it is true. I clung to the images for some understanding.
“You must listen.” Ringing echoes of pain soared through me, through the resonance, through the world. Tears formed on my face and hung suspended on my cheeks as the screams drowned everything. Pleading voices begged for mercy, twisted yowls hungered for the release of death. Tens of thousands of souls ripped apart – cast adrift forever in the sea of the Matrix before the matrix itself was ripped asunder. A thin and perfectly calm voice threaded through the horror, words I couldn’t make out but a rhythm I knew I’d heard.
“You must remember.” Meg shifted next to me. Her body rippling and changing her hand growing and shrinking in mine as I saw her forms. Her eyes pierced mine as she stood tall enough to look me in the eye. Her body ripped apart and her scream joined and drowned out all the others. All that was left of her was her tiny hand clinging to mine and I sobbed loudly my body folding in on itself as her fractured body grew from her hand where I held it.
“You must fight.” Images that were not my own filled the space around me. A girl with her head cut open, her brain full of wires. An elven man wasted away to nothing decking in. An arcology with people beating their hands bloody trying to escape. A hospital exploding and a city on fire with riots. Cities shutting down completely abandoned. Nukes exploding in the heart of the world.
“You must watch.” A young Japanese woman I felt I knew, I knew was real, filled the space in front of me and I wrinkled my brow in confusion. Her face a placid lake unreadable and cold. As she moved, hundreds of strings moved from her fingertips to unseen marionettes. Around her was the air of something far darker and sinister. Meg pulled herself closer to me again. Suddenly billions of lines of code flowed around me, between my fingers, whispering through my hair, caressing my cheek.
“You must not fail.” The pain was crushing. The world disappeared, the resonance faded away from me, ripping me out of heaven, throwing me to the ground from space, I couldn’t breathe, I was dying. Around me reality burned and code blazed as millions of intelligences were rended apart. I felt people reaching out in the matrix as I screamed, I knew it was worse, I wasn’t going to die today.
I woke sobbing and screaming in pain. Tears still streaming down my face, I pulled on my clean scrubs and picked up my bag. I stared at the room as I stuffed my sensors into my bag and wiped the tears from my eyes. My hands shook as I opened the door and stepped out of the room and the matrix. For the first time in many years I left it fully behind. I walked out of the building and up the street until a cab pulled over. I got in and asked for the best hotel in town.
My face still puffy and red I curled my feet under myself and stared out the window at the city. Bare, empty, dirty, dull, colorless. It rolled beneath the wheels and I felt the brush of the matrix against me, calling to me and I let out a sob and pushed it away. Tonight I would hide.