I can admit, I’ve never really given much thought to the outer world. The people outside of these walls, I assume, are resistant to change, to stepping into the future, and adjusting to the new normal. But, who am I to judge? They are free to do as they please as are we. There are stories and occasional whispers of a growing disdain to our way of life, yet I can’t seem to fathom why. We’ve chosen peace, a haven from the chaos that existed before I was even born. For whatever dissatisfaction they encounter in their lives, surely it has nothing to do with us.
The astute words of our dear founding father replays in my mind, “the future is now, there is peace in acceptance and pain in resistance.” I was only eight years old when I heard that speech. Having a front-row seat to the wonders of Zach Wattenberg, the genius himself. Back then, my parents served on his council, performing their necessary duties to improve the lives of us all. They adjusted the settings and placed my headset comfortably over my eyes. Then there I was. A witness to unvarnished greatness. I felt his presence through his avatar, as he waltzed across the glowing stage with a smile. For a moment, I was sure he looked in my direction, transferring an energy that awakened my focus. Though it was difficult to comprehend most of the speech, I just knew every word spoken was absolute brilliance. After all, this man is a visionary, the mastermind behind our charmed existence. He saw a pathway to connecting the world, allowing us all to be the creators of our own reality. To bridge our differences and exist in pure harmony by releasing the limitations of our physical bodies. We have him to thank for this captivating way of life. Surrounded by such elegance. The freedom to be whatever we choose, go wherever we please and experience whatever we like. Those on the outside may say we live through a screen and that’s no way to live. But, I’ll be the first to advocate that the places I’ve been, the experiences I’ve had, things I’ve seen and done in just my brief life, are things they can only dream about.
I too have felt the sun on my skin. Felt its warmth, seen its glow. I’ve witnessed a full moon reflecting its brightness over our zone. I can choose to experience the real thing whenever I step out of my pod, but the marvel of our world is that this magnificence and more is available any time or place, with a simple selection through a button. One click away from sailing through the stars. A click away from floating mid ocean. From enjoying a plain grilled cheese sandwich on a Bali beach at sunset. That’s unlimited power at my fingertips. What could the outer world possibly offer that I don’t already have?
I live in VesCal902-Zone10. Here, the grass is always lush; the trees are always full, the graceful breeze is always delightful, the air is clean, and the atmosphere is forever peaceful. I don’t leave my pod much but, occasionally I stroll through the zone, sometimes meeting a fellow resident in person. 95% of the people living here occupy pods identical to mine, or shared pods for families. It’s not much, but it’s everything we need. A bed, bathroom, some storage, a desk and refrigerator. There’s no rationale in taking up more space than is necessary. Not when my avatar lives in a penthouse overlooking an insane city view. If I want to experience it, I can. My zone is one of many in this location. All circular and enclosed within a towering wall that protects us from them— the ones outside I mean. Before they constructed the zones, I believe they knew this place as California. I learned it was beautiful, with palm trees and beaches, the perfect place for dreamers. Now, however, that place has lost its magic. Those people beyond our walls destroy each other and everything around them. So the only place to thrive safely is within the zone. They are everywhere. On every continent and country. Some are individual zones designed specifically for people who they referred to as billionaires in the old world. I presume they’re important people, whose security is imperative within our society. On this floating rock suspended in space, the zones are the only barriers between civility and savagery.
My parents are the only reason that the outer world comes to mind. About a year ago, they abruptly left without an explanation. The report I received detailed that they embarked on a mission, bringing aid to the outer world. There’s been no contact with them since, no access to their VestaTrust, which means I’ve had to fend for myself. I hope they’re safe. I expect it’s only a matter of time before they realize the grave error they’ve made and decide to rejoin me here in paradise. Until then, I’ll continue to live my very best life.
This year I’ve chosen to become an MMA fighter. And the best one that the VestaVerse will ever witness. All I need now is 20,000 more VestaBucks (VB$) to equip my avatar with all the strongest techniques. Then I’m undefeatable. I’ll test that theory this weekend. It’s already mapped out. I’ve entered the tournament, meeting the minimum requirements. Only a few wins under my belt, but that's the best position to be in. I’m the underdog. The unlikely victor. That’s until I collect the whopping VB$10M grand prize. Nobody will see it coming — I’ll be the new overnight celebrity. With enough VestaBucks to experience the lifestyle of a king! For now, I still need to come up with the funding, which means at least 2 more days at this dreadful job. My eyes are mostly closed, with brief glimpses to witness the degradation. It’s an experience I don’t desire in my waking memory. I sacrifice my avatar to the fetishes of depraved individuals around the world. I’ve sacrificed my physical body for the last month, consuming food only available in the free package. So I have to win. No, I must win.
Right on time, the drones deliver my meals for today. No excitement there. It’s only the same as the week before and the week before that for the last month. Milk and cereal for breakfast, grilled cheese and green salad for lunch, chicken substitute with green beans for dinner, and two packets of potato chips to snack on all day. Absolutely nothing like I enjoyed with the elite package my parents had. But it’s a sacrifice I’ll make a thousand times over. As I slide the door of my pod open, there’s a chill I haven’t experienced before. A feeling of unrest in the pits of my stomach and tingling in my mid-brow. Something seems awry at this moment, as I bend over slowly to collect my meal package. Dozens of residents convene with a presence of concern looming on their faces. It’s abnormal to see this many people in one space and at the exact time. What’s more concerning is the armed wall guards ushering the residents back to their respective pods. They appear to be arguing as they make their way home. I’m curious to know what brought that many people out of their pods at once. That encounter was distressing. Still, I’m encouraged to mind the business that pays me. So I’m off to enjoy my breakfast with a scenic Caribbean waterfront view. I’m sure if it’s important, there’ll be an announcement at some point today. After all, there are no secrets here.
After two wretched nights at my job, I now have what I need to equip my avatar. It’s game on!
The night of the tournament brings waves of excitement and anxiety. I’m loaded with the skills necessary to take this thing home. Yet dread consumes my physical body. I’ve spent all of my VestaBucks to prepare for this, so I refuse to let my body place limitations upon my avatar. Looking at the headset resting on my desk, it’s obvious to me it’s now or never. I pick up the equipment, placing it slowly over my eyes and, with a few clicks, I’m met with the sounds of a roaring crowd and thousands of spectators teleporting in at the same time. I follow the sign for participants, signed my name before being escorted to the players’ lounge. There, hundred of hopefuls gather, flexing their muscles and bragging about their tricks. I have no need for new friends or admirers. So I find a corner and await my first fight.
Time drags on and I’m called to the stage. I meet with my first opponent on the spacious playground. The full crowd is silent upon my entrance, the light blinding my eyes, but only after a single round, my opponent’s avatar appears lifeless on the ground. I’m announced winner. My hand thrown in the air to symbolize my victory and the crowd loses their composure. It all happened in a blink. I imagine it’s the motivation I need to shake off this anxiety. Returning to the lounge, I’m greeted with high fives, friend requests, and compliments, but my mood remains the same. I feel off and I can’t place it. Fight after fight, I dominate. Soaring on the leaderboard as I expected. Winning over the players and the crowd. Yet, the feeling of glory refuses to attach to me. My sweaty palms grasping the console for dear life as I make my way out on stage for the last time tonight. I stare boldly into the face of last year’s champ, the people’s favorite. I’m coming for that title. We square off and the battle is pretty even. Blow for blow each round, we remain equally matched. Until the final round, where I activate my newest techniques. Now I have this fighter exactly where I want him. Only a few seconds left till the title is all mine...
A deafening screech explodes my eardrums, and my visuals become static. I throw my headset off in anguish. And like that, I lost everything. Having no clue whether I won the fight failed to matter. Did I just experience a technical malfunction in the VestaVerse? This episode should be impossible. With my virtual life in havoc, tonight seems as good a time as any for some fresh air. Again, crowds of people gather on the lawn as I open the door of my pod. This time, they fixate their eyes on the sky. So I join them. My heart stopped briefly when I faced what captured their attention. This gargantuan projection of an owl with blaring yellow eyes and wings stretched to each corner of the zone. It circles overhead as a predator scoping its prey. I’m scared, but in amazement, finding it unthinkable to stop staring. By now, everyone who is not a member of the council or tech support has made their way outside to witness the spectacle. A few circles later, the owl fades and reappears perched on the shoulder of a masked, hooded figure. The projection expands to show an army of hooded characters standing in a triangle formation behind the first. A mordant, robotic voice echoes from the sky projection. Its words I’ll remember forever.
We are the OUTER WORLD LEGION. Our mission is to wake you up from this life of illusion. To welcome you back to the world of physical experience and free you from the captivity of deranged individuals with too much resources and time on their hands. I know they have groomed you to fear us, to dread life beyond your walls while they feed you a fantasy of a virtual dream life. What if we told you that all they have taught you was a lie? We are born in this physical form to experience this earth as our home, to feel it, to connect to it, to live it and be it. Picturing a beach is nothing compared to feeling the sand crunch beneath your feet. WAKE UP!
Cowards have sold you a lie. They destroyed our homes, drained our natural resources, captured and murdered other living species for their own enjoyment, poisoned our foods and experimented on us as if we were lab rats. They extorted us, sucking away all the financial wealth while ridiculing us for having little. These people controlled the planet through wars and disease, while we remained impoverished and dejected. Then we fought back, refusing to play in their little game of world domination. We discovered that life meant more than we experienced, and we wanted more. WE DESERVED MORE. So do you!
They have refused to face us and the destruction that they caused. As the weaklings they are, they gathered their wealth and designed these zones to escape the problems they created. They left us to pick up the pieces of their hubris. And that’s what we did. Collecting ourselves and rising above the ashes. Here tonight with a warning that justice is rapidly approaching to serve those most deserving. We open an invitation to those of you brave enough to step outside and into the light. Join us in the lands beyond the walls.
The hooded figures vanish, leaving a projected logo in the skies. O. W. L with the yellow-eyed bird hovering over. I turn to face the silent crowd, all suspended in a state of shock. It wasn’t long before the guards appeared, scurrying us back to our pods. My mind race with ranging thoughts. Did I win the tournament? Is the VestaVerse still malfunctioning? I needed to evade the heaviness of this night. I returned to my pod, ready to grab the headset, but didn’t. Is it possible that the O. W. L is telling the truth? Were they responsible for crashing the VestaVerse? I’d never imagined the people in the outer world possessed the means to hack our sophisticated systems. Is my life one big illusionary lie? A fantasy project created by villains. It is at this moment that the concept of reality seems daunting. An atrocious realization that after all this time, I’ve been alive and had never once lived. So, I reach into my desk, retrieving a pen and paper to spill my heart in this letter.
Writing this last line, I feel no hesitation. It sums it all up in one simple sentence.
My name is Xara Perrigo, and this is my petition to join the Outer World Legion.
Tomorrow, when I exit past the wall, I know there’s no returning. But, it’s my life, my choice and I choose to live.
About the author
Reconstructing the norm one pen stroke at a time
Curiosity drives my passion
Intrigue serves my inspiration
Ink to paper is the vessel
And, the stories are my gift