Moments of Bliss
Everybody has their own intuitions about dreams. Some think they are just a recap of the day you had, creatively melding everything we know, telling a story using recent experiences. Some are lucid dreamers; they are able to dictate almost anything in their dreams. The more experienced lucid dreamers know exactly when they are about to take control in a dream, as they can program themselves to have something out of the ordinary show up in their dreams, notifying them that lucidity has begun. I have been a lucid dreamer for as long as I can remember. Determining reality from fantasy used to be easy for me until late.
Over the past few months, my dreams have seemed to blend in with my state of awareness. There are times when I walk down the street or sit at my desk at work and wonder if I am in a state of awake or if this is just a movie that my brain is showing myself to grasp at the remaining fringes of my sanity. Obviously, when I am flying or hanging out with a dead relative, I can at least count on those times to be my dream state. Anything else, I seem to drift in and out seamlessly, a helpless buoy in the oceans of my mind.
In my most recent dream, I was in the back yard of the farmhouse in which I grew up. Behind me stood the deep-rooted, sturdy childhood home with the white siding and black shutters. Even after a hundred years of being a home for my family’s lineage, it still looked as though it could last another hundred years. To the left was the old barn that sheltered livestock and horses for my family for generations. The stories this large barn could tell, if it could talk, would be plentiful. One of my most memorable stories is standing outside in front of it talking with my dad. I still remember -- as though I am there right now -- my father telling me to do what makes me happy in life, no matter what. As the moon and street lamp were starting to glow in unison and the sun had gone away, we were taking care of the horses for the night, and I recall him turning to me after our discussions of my future. He said “Do what you love in life, and everything else will fall into place. You will understand more once you are older, but life can be far too short and people can deprive themselves of genuine moments of bliss if they live out their existence in false pretenses and false hope” This took me by surprise, as I was always under the impression that he would want me to be a rancher like his father and grandfather. I had asked “What about the farm? You mentioned so many times that I would be in charge of this place after you? What about the tradition?” He paused for a second and then said “I know you aim for something beyond this. I can see it as I watch you grow. Besides, sometimes tradition is just uninhibited peer pressure from dead people.” I chuckled a bit as a building wave of liberation washed over me. The freedom of being able to live my own life, while having my parents by my side, was such an overwhelmingly joyful feeling that unfortunately not enough people are able to experience for themselves. That memory had to be one of my first genuine moments of bliss that my father had talked about that day. In front of me, the sun was setting over the small pond. Painted lines of pink, orange, and blue shined brightly on the water as it mirrored the darkening sky. The cool breeze piercing through the warm air told me it was late summer, quickly turning into fall. I was able to take influence by dreaming a red ball bouncing past me, signifying that I was not awake. This was my go-to technique to determining consciousness, and it seemed to work almost every time. In a moment of impulse and curiosity, I asked myself where the ball goes when I construct it. I have nothing but time, right? I decide to follow it.
The ball continues past the border of the yard and into the neighboring field of wheat. I stay on its track as it continuously bounces through the waving golden straw. Even with the sky progressively turning into a violet and navy blue, keeping track of it becomes easier as it increasingly becomes brighter and brighter, as though the sun has transported some of its brilliance into the ball itself. The ball makes its way through the field of wheat and into a field of corn with stalks towering over me, but I am able to follow it effortlessly. The ball, now looking incendiary, reaches the end of the corn field and stops near a single trailer in the middle of an empty parking lot. I do not recognize this place, and the sky is now a matte black. Where have I wound up? This newly discovered office trailer, illuminated only by a lone street lamp nearby, seems only to contain a large filing cabinet sitting next to an even larger computer monitor according to my view inside the front window. My inquisitiveness led me this far, why not take a look inside?
As I open the trailer door and fumble for a light switch, an overwhelming feeling of unease washes over me. I find the light switch and flip it, only to find that the power does not work. Why do the lights never work in your dreams? In a stroke of brilliance, I remember the glowing orb and bring it inside. I put the ball on top of the filing cabinet and start opening drawers as a spy looking for intel would look in a movie. Oddly enough, intel is exactly what I found. It was a manila folder with big red words screaming CLASSIFIED, but the only thing inside the folder was a scrap of paper with a message that read: “You need to see this.” The other side, unfortunately, did not show any information or data; it only showed letters and numbers: “m0b51m | 51mul4t3”
After reading the back part of the scrap paper, the filing cabinet vanished, making the glowing ball fall to the ground and shatter. The pulsating brightness that was once contained in the ball expelled and radiated throughout the room, sending enough blinding waves of light and electricity to throw me backwards. As I sat up and the ringing in my ears from the shockwave had started to subside, I can see there is only one light that still remains… from the computer screen that is now turned on.
The humungous screen only showed two textboxes. As I looked at the scrap of paper, surprisingly still in my hand after the blast, I realized these letters and numbers would fit as log in credentials. As I entered the last character into the second textbox, the screen went black. I barely had enough time to realize that this is the most vivid and intense dream I have ever had before the screen had flickered back on with a list of what appeared to be numerous articles about a company called ‘MOBSIM, Inc.’ While skimming through and occasionally clicking on some of the articles, a similar pattern of words and phrases start to show in each one. Quotes like “this highly controversial company…” and “…taking a deep delve into virtual reality and simulations…” start coming to the forefront of my attention. After scrolling to the bottom of the articles page, I noticed the last link was to an email. The email read:
“Members of the Board,
I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime years ago when you hired me; I would also like to thank you in advance for taking the time to read what I have to say.
When I first got hired, Floyd was on the verge of creating simulated life, and I was astounded by his intelligence and acumen. When I was a part of the team that created the Adam and Eve project, the beta simulation tests, I was eager to be his understudy and see what else we could accomplish. I was even his second in command when we launched Project Z, our most polished version of the simulations that were available to the public and financially catapulted this company to what it is now. I still remember how Floyd had the groundbreaking idea to pitch ‘sleep mode’ as a venue in which people could do the impossible, which, as you now know, was just a dwelling for bugs still in the system that developers did not have the time to fix due to the shareholders forcing us with a tight deadline.
Together, we have created worlds, but during immersion into our new project -- which includes fixing aforementioned bugs and allowing our clients to pay for premium, purchasable services such as stronger genetics, higher chances of luck/money, and being able to inject emotions and feelings straight into their system -- it appears as though Floyd is starting to lose grips with his clarity and memory while inside the simulation and making these upgrades. I feel as though his worsening condition could hinder the shareholders’ views on this current venture. He knew the risks of syncing the simulations directly to the brain, which is why he refused to allow anyone else to go in and work on the prototype, but I think with his age and the mental state in which he entered the simulation after losing his father, it is time for him to be pulled out. Should you agree, I believe it is the right time for me to take his place, spearhead the project, and have a press release saying that he has chosen to retire as we have discussed earlier.
Thank you for your time.
My heart sank. It started thumping so loudly I was able to hear it clearly as the computer screen went black again. Something tells me this time it will not be turning back on. Am I in one of these simulations? Is that the reason for the recent blur between fantasy and reality? Why in the world would I get this information in my dreams? Have all of my dreams merely been release valves to allow for glitches these people were not able to debug in time? This certainly does not feel like any glitches are happening. I have never felt more in the dark.
As I sit alone in the darkness, thoughts racing through my mind, I try to gain control of my dreams. Maybe gaining some sort of lucidity can help me figure out what is happening. However, the only object that keeps flashing in my brain is a boot.
Functionality normal. Extracting attributes from storage S:\MOBSIM\simulate\dreamscape\Floyd\project_phoenix.
“Welcome back!” Sloane exclaimed with excitement.
“Shut it down, delete every file and remove any trace of this new project ever existing,” I alerted the development team with a stern tone while ignoring Sloane.
“Floyd, what the hell do you mean?”
“I have spent so much of my time constructing and perfecting new lives for people that I forgot about the only one I have that is truly real. I exhausted so much time trying to get things right for simulated worlds and virtual realities, but does it not seem like a way to abandon our own world we have right in front of us? While ice caps are melting and trash piles up in our very real planet, people are looking forward to inhabiting other planets, whether it be Mars or virtually created worlds. When are we going to take a moment of self-reflection and realize that maybe we are the problem? When do we connect the dots that Mother Earth tried to create an entire pandemic to show us that we, in fact, are the virus?”
“What about the board? The shareholders? They will not have any part of nixing the project whatsoever. They are expecting a record year, what are you going to say to them?”
“I am going to tell them that I quit. I am going to say I do not want to spend any more of my life selling false pretenses and false hope to a society that is imploding just for a quick buck.” I look into Sloane’s eyes with vehemence and say “Feel free to continue your petty games and politics, though; it seems I have outgrown them.”
“But we have created entire worlds here. Are you really able to turn your back on the tradition and precedence that we have set within our fields of work?”
I chuckled at thought of tradition and said “Why not? You, as well as this company, have turned your back on me.”
I walked out of the office building and got into my car. As I drove out of the parking lot, out of the headquarters, and out of the bright lights of the city illuminating the darkened sky, I started to wonder about a life inside the simulation. For those in the simulation, would I, the programmer, be their God? I would not want to be recognized as a God of a world so flawed. Thinking about the specifics of the virtual world, the details became somewhat ridiculous over time. Celebrities were put on a pedestal by “regular” people for writing and acting out stories that were ironically made strictly for the “regular” users; some of these best stories were written about what these celebrities truly wanted -- a “normal” life. People would compete in games for a chance at money that the hosts would make in a single episode. CEOs started to make over 200 times more what other workers would make. People allowed their entire livelihoods to be centered around jobs and money so much that those with little or no financial status were not even able to get proper health care. The contrast of success and power in these virtual worlds became unmanageable, and those selected to prevent these sorts of things did not seem to care whatsoever, as they were paid off by the successful and powerful. I mean, what sort of silly simulation would allow such stupid things to happen within a society, made-up or not? I guess that is what happens when you let interns write code because a deadline is staring you down.
I pull into the old childhood farmhouse as the sun is starting to rise above the horizon like a Phoenix setting fire to the darkness. I needed to be here. In my earlier days, I would always go here to remind myself of where I started off. It reminds me that no matter how well I do in my field of work, no matter what kind of technology is being created in a mile-a-minute city, this is a place where time just seems to slow down. You can come out here and just take a second to relax and self-reflect. I will always love this place.
I close the door and see my dad coming out of the barn. He just got done tending to the horses, I am sure. He sees me, shows his wholehearted smile, and waves me over to greet him. I run towards him when a familiar warmth washes over me.
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