I fear that if I were to stumble onto something big—like real evidence—I would die. I mean, not technically die, but I would wake up wherever my real body is being stored, and this life would be over.
If I do this thing, it might be the last thing I do.
I've wanted this answer for a very long time, so why am I so afraid? I am always looking. Looking for proof, looking for clues…maybe a little wink from the engineers?
Although I fear that if I were to stumble onto something big—like real evidence—I would die. I mean, not technically die, but I would wake up wherever my real body is being stored, and this life would be over. The engineers would congratulate me for figuring it out. I had been right all along, they would confirm, I had been living in a simulation. Beaming, the designers would ask me about the “Earth” experience and exchange pleased glances anytime I spoke of a detail they were particularly proud of creating. I would learn that it was just one of many timelines in one of many virtual worlds, and as I would overhear one engineer boast, "Not even close to the best one". I would be assigned a cross-reality counselor to help me adjust to my new life. They would teach me how the language and culture differed there, and I would marvel at all the possibilities, both real and virtual, I had never even imagined.
And my life here, the one I know and love, would be gone.
Despite suspecting there is a real world somewhere, I still love this place—my mom, my dog Ernie, and I want a chance to experience more of it. This is why I fear that moment—when something stands out in such a way that I feel my very existence shift, and can see that this is a beautifully designed program, and wake up.
I think that moment is now.
I just found 20 thousand dollars in my bank account. Twenty-thhhhhousand dollars (!!) with a bank memo for, "Writing Contest Grand Prize Winner". That money could change everything for me. On one hand, it could really help me financially, on the other hand, "I" might be an avatar living in a virtual world, and this money is proof.
Because here's the thing—I didn't enter the competition. A friend sent me the link to the contest over a month ago and I wanted to write something but one year into the pandemic, the muse juice was running a bit dry. True, the guideline to write about that iconic little black notebook sparked something. I remembered an old crush who had turned their's into a journal-meets-song-lyrics-meets-sketchbook. I wanted to pore over every sheet bound within that mysterious book.
I recalled casually leaving mine open once, hoping he would see the eclectic, flaneur aesthetic I’d curated within those pages. I had engineered this little space, cut out magazine collages, lyrics, sketches of the bridges over The Seine, in hopes that he would be enchanted. And so I wrote about that—my crush, the longing to be seen and the sensation of holding a book full of my words and drawings. I was a designer of worlds too. In the story I explored my fear of discovering that we are in simulation, and what it might have felt like if he didn't believe me. He would say he loved me back, and despite his skepticism around the idea we inhabited a virtual world, he would let me have my beliefs. It was cute, but nothing I was thrilled with.
I let the deadline pass. I never entered my piece.
Yet, moments ago, I got the bank notification. Just as I read that staggering sum something caught my eye. On top of my bed sat a little black book. It wasn't mine. I had never seen it before. My heart was racing. On the front was a sticker. I couldn't make out what it was. As I got closer, I saw it was an upside-down word. I flipped it over and read.
So here I am. Holding it in my shaking hands, that small, Italian-made journal. Is this it? Are these my last moments here in this world? Should I call my mom? If I open this page, will my old crush disappear? Worse yet, did he ever exist, or was he just a bunch of ones and zeros scrawling pop punk lyrics into that notebook and feeling like no one understood him?
Was there ever a notebook at all?
I am holding the little book against my thudding chest, doing what I can only describe as praying, "Let me stay, let me stay, let me stay".
I have to do this. I have to know.
I hold the journal out in front of me. I open up the first page, and my heart explodes as I read the words,
"If I do this thing, it might be the last thing I—