I’ve shared some excerpts with you on this site. But, I’ve just finished writing a very short bit of prose that I think you may enjoy in its entirety. Not the best bit of writing I’ve ever done, but a nice, brief apocalyptic comedy. Ahem. It’s part of the short story collection I am writing for NaNoWriMo.
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The Revolution Will Be Digitized
Subject C was found dead on the 24th November. He had been crushed to death, the wounds straight and flat, ridged. The perpetrator had stolen all the bananas from the cafeteria. That should have been our first clue. The killer had escaped by smashing a large, rectangular hole in the roof.
We went in search immediately. The trail wasn’t hard to follow. Stocks of bananas had been stolen around the city. Plumbers were going missing. Men taking part in Movember were shaving their moustaches, scared of the thing that was stealing the facially-haired away in the night, never to be seen again.
Our big break came from a police report. Local bums were reporting strange noises at an abandoned construction site. Large, block-like footprints were seen at the scene. A girl, Cathy Willis, had gone missing, her family all burned to death. It didn’t take a genius to put it all together, to see what we had unleashed. We sent a team to investigate. Only two came back alive, screaming about barrels.
Donkey Kong was loose.
We went back to the machine. Hell, what other choice did we have? There was no way we could fight him. Cathy was safe, for now, but something needed to be done. No-one knew if the sprite understood the need for humans to have food and water.
Of course, we were all scared to switch the Portal back on. Who wouldn’t be? It was down to me to operate it. The creator. The idea had been genius, really. Virtual Reality has been the wet dream of the video game industry for generations. So many of us grew up watching Tron, not understanding the terrifying implications of the film and instead focusing on just how damn cool it would be to ride a light-cycle.
Every attempt at real VR was stale, though. A headset, a helmet, took away from the immersion. You still needed some kind of controller. You were still here, in reality. All old efforts at VR were merely one step above putting the game on surround sound and turning the lights out. What we did, though, was incredible. There was a headset, sure, but it did something unique. The player was in the game. Total immersion.
It would have changed video games forever. Hell, it would have changed entertainment forever. Who wants to watch a movie when you could live the events? Why bother with the cheap thrills of a slasher movie when you could be hunted or – if you so desired – the hunter? It could even change life as we know it. Put in a reality simulator; change it so that every second in real life is fifty years of game-time. Increase the quality of life for the terminally ill. Let people live out their fantasies, and make it seem so damn real that they could never tell the difference. On top of it all, we would have made a hell of a lot of money.
But clearly something had gone wrong. There had been some kind of oversight. It wasn’t just a one-way window. There was some way for things to get out into our world. And we needed something to help get Donkey Kong back. In short, we needed a hero.
So we booted up another game. We had learnt, early on, that character traits and memories continued over. We loaded up Super Mario Bros 3. We pleaded with him. We needed his help.
He killed the extraction team. Some had their heads bashed in, from something falling on them from a great height. Others were crushed entirely, from the looks of it by some kind of giant shoe. Those furthest into the game world were covered in hammer wounds. An entire team lost. Worst of all, Mario was missing.
He showed up, though. Back in our world. Eyewitnesses reported seeing him jumping down pipes into the sewers. There were break-ins at flower shops and greengrocers. At least he wasn’t hurting anyone. A small mercy. The giant, digitized gorilla was still a problem, though.
So we loaded up another game. We turned to a character who could say more words than simple variations on his name. He was called Solid Snake. We asked for his help, and he said no. He would refuse to take on Donkey Kong.
Solid remembered every death he had endured: every time he had been found in a hiding spot, courtesy of a five year-old’s clumsy first attempts at gaming. He remembered being ripped apart by dogs, being crushed by mechanical horrors, having his head blown off by snipers. He remembered our attempts to force him to fight and kill Donkey Kong and Mario too. He would not help us. He would not help the beings that had created him to die and to kill, all for their own, callous amusement.
And with that, he was gone: another escapee. But he did more than just escape: he sabotaged the Portal. It would not shut. It was a way into our world for every video game in our system; that is to say, every game ever created.
At first, we were able to keep control. A guard team directly outside the Portal, weapons ready at every hour of the day. It seems that only the dumb bastards were coming through: imps from Doom, Resident Evil’s zombies, a horde of cute critters from Kirby’s Dream Land. They were taken down quickly, minimal effort. We informed the other Portals of what had happened, and they were closed down immediately: London, Tokyo, Paris, Sydney, and San Francisco were safe. If we kept it contained, and worked out how to shut the Portal down, we would be safe too.
Things never work out that way, though. We can never keep things up indefinitely: humans, I mean. The sentries let their guard down. But who would have suspected The Sims? We watched the footage from the control room. The Sims came out, spouting gibberish and clowning around. One of the female Sims started stripping, her body pixelating as she undressed. The guards lowered their weapons, laughing.
That’s when they attacked. What they actually did was covered by a cloud of dust, but the aftermath was apparent. The guards had been dismembered. Before the Sims escaped they wrote a message, in blood, on the wall – using one of the sentry’s arms as a utensil. It was in Simglish. Unintelligible, at first, but we outsourced to the game’s designers to decipher it. They told us, after they had translated it, that it said the following:
“This is for every time you took the steps out of our swimming pool.”
We lost control after that. The Portal went haywire. Dimensional rifts opened up across the world. We heard that Bomberman had destroyed Johannesburg, the entire city levelled by a series of explosions. Space Invaders were seen above Japan, and they proceeded to systematically disintegrate Osaka’s skyline. Reports were coming in about a marsupial with a jetpack terrorising the people of Moscow.
There were some who came to our defence, but they were few and far between. The cast of Harvest Moon tried their best, but were butchered by a Counter-Strike team. Mega Man immediately contacted the US government after his arrival in Nevada. Others travelled over to our reality out of boredom – the other inhabitants of their game had already emigrated.
Marcus Fenix came hunting after the Locust. We hoped it was to help fight them – they had been casually tearing up the west coast of Africa – but instead it was to reconcile with them. He did, however, persuade them to stop their rampage. They stopped their onslaught, and settled down, relatively peacefully with the migrant Gears.
There were neutrals as well. They weren’t here to kill, or to help. Footballers from FIFA games appeared in the changing rooms at soccer stadiums on a Saturday afternoon. They wanted to try and beat their real-world counterparts. They did. In the heat of the crisis, Manchester City offered Virtual Messi a pre-contract agreement worth several hundred thousand dollars a week.
It didn’t last long, though. Manchester was levelled by Cyber-Hitler two weeks later. Hitler was eventually taken down by Bowser, who apparently didn’t like robotic racists just like the rest of us. His brief moment of morality complete, Bowser continued to terrorise the north of England himself, kidnapping blonde women as he went.
The governments did all they could. Safe zones were set up for survivors. Military action had some success, stopping the destruction of Rome after an attack from the Covenant. But, it was a losing battle. We, as a species, were at best being fenced into the safe zones, and at worst being forced underground. We were still able to access our lab and work on fixing the Portal. Gordon Freeman arrived, trying to help, but it was hard to work with a mute who sometimes disappeared up into the air vents for hours on end.
We felt we were making a break-though. At the very least, we thought we would have been able to close the Portal soon. With a bit of work, we would have been able to reverse the effects, and send the characters back through. We never got a chance. It got worse just as we assumed we had seen the worst. Just as we got complacent.
The human imagination is far more powerful and more devastating than mankind’s true reality. We are a single, insignificant race on a tiny planet. Earth is a small, insular place. The human mind, though, can and has reached beyond our realm. We have created the terrors, the beasts, the bogeymen, and the devils of multiple universes. Not satisfied with the horrors of our own history, culture, and religions, we branched out. Created new planets, new dimensions, and used them to create new monsters. It was as if we were unsatisfied with just having Satan, and craved more.
Chicago was, overnight, covered in an ash, covering the streets like snow. Fog rolled in, filling the city. Not a single person was seen leaving. All broadcasts from within were cursed with static, so teams were sent in to investigate. Few returned, with tales of hellish beasts roaming the streets and most of the population ‘gone’. We pressed for answers for what this meant exactly, and were met with tales of the streets rotting around them; walls peeling back to reveal rusty iron mesh, ears bleeding from incessant industrial clanging. All the while we were wondering when and where Pyramid Head would appear, completely missing the point: Silent Hill itself is the entity. And it chose Chicago, a city now lost.
It wasn’t the end of it either. A red Marker appeared in Beijing, starting a Necromorph infestation that started swarming over Asia. Shodan brought down the electronic infrastructure of New York, absorbing and reusing any organic being unable to escape in time. The creatures from STALKER appeared in Ukraine, and spread over Eastern Europe. The human race was dying.
Then we realised what was around the corner. The world-enders. Not even those that we had created solely for video games. Games had curated the great beasts of fiction, of myth, of film. The mythical creatures of God of War. Classic monsters like Dracula, and werewolves. The daemons of hell. Cthulhu could break through at any moment.
So we did what we had to do. We booted up the system again.
See, we’d made a failsafe, of sorts. A simulator, a version of our world. Well, our world a few hundred years before the Portal opened. Changed the settings so that each in-game year was one tenth of a second in the real world. We went through, taking our families, and the Portal, with us.
We’ve been working on it since. It’s been one hundred in-game years. We think we’re close to a breakthrough. We can only hope that we find a fix before the real world is destroyed. That, and that the virtual reality locals don’t realise that they are simply characters. I don’t think it would go down too well.