I'm going to miss myself when I'm gone.
So strange. When I was younger (and dying was far less imminent), I longed for death all the time. The noise of my anguish was so near deafening that I yearned for nothing short of an immutable silence.
But now -- now that the end is drawing near, I no longer wish to be dead. It's as if, having practiced all these years, having mastered the art of being alive, I have become attached to living. It has become so dear to me. I just can't bring myself to let it all go.
This poses a small problem when you are about to go into battle. I may have signed up to fight -- but I did not sign up to die. I guess I should have thought this thing through a little better.
Now it's too late. Tomorrow I march, and since it's a suicide mission, my prospects are not very promising.
I have been laying here for two hours, listening to myself breathe. I wonder what it might be like to see myself not breathing. No more air in and out; no more chest up and down. I imagine looking into my own face and seeing my lifeless stare, blank glassy eyes, gaze fixed to nowhere. It's my body, but I'm not home anymore. Permanently, irretrievably gone. The whole idea is creeping me out.
The girl next to me has been whimpering on and off all night. She is like me: small, female and rather upset. I am beset with shock and disbelief. She is curiously gripped in this other way. Finally, I tap her on the shoulder and invite her outside to talk. She accepts.
Outdoors, under the murky gray sky, leaning against the grimy parapet wall, she is quiet at last. Perhaps it was not so much my desire for conversation as it was my desire for her to hush. I do not understand how the others could sleep.
I reach out and rest my hand on her hand. I fancy that I can feel her heartbeat in the flat of my palm. Nothing seems real anymore. I want to touch her wrist, to take hold of her arm, to confirm her pulse, to reassure myself that she is really alive, but I feel odd asking. Besides I don't want to freak her out anymore than she already is. She might start sobbing and gasping again.
How on earth did we get to this awful terrible place? It actually began not that long ago…
Sometime in the early twenty-first century, there came an unexpected shift. It began when affluent males from industrialized nations were drawn to role-playing video games, cutting edge at the time. The development of powerful graphics technology coupled with the commercialization of the internet gave rise to the design of elaborate virtual worlds, hosted on computer servers and accessible for gaming round the clock.
The level of detail in some of these games was astounding. At any time and for as long as desired, players could immerse themselves in a reality very different from their own. In this reality, with only a little effort, rewards were not only guaranteed attainable, but progress was achievable at a much faster speed than in real life. Players could become someone shockingly different than who they were in real life -- or they could become a much less inhibited, much more extreme version of who they were in real life. Most importantly, in the game, you felt no physical pain, and death was not a permanent condition.
Because participation in these games required access to advanced technologies (the programming of the game itself, a computer powerful enough to run the game, a network connection fast enough to keep up, and a membership admitting you to the server), it was not surprising that such access required a certain amount of wealth. And since most of the games involved a fair amount of warfare strategy, it was also not surprising that more males than females were drawn to the games.
Playing the game was irresistible, was intoxicating. There were elements to pander to just about every human drive. Some would play for days at a time, stopping only for sleep. Many preferred socializing with others in the game, rather than socializing in the real world.
It was not long before the visuals in the game became life-like. And not long after that, keyboards, mice and monitors were replaced by small goggles and intricate finger sensors. Players would lay partially reclined, donning their high-tech eye pieces; all motion in the game controlled by a mere faint gesture of the digits.
At the same time the sons were waging war in their virtual worlds, their fathers were waging war in the physical world. Despite being a minute fraction of the world's population, the wealthy managed to secure most of the planet's valuable resources. Having first engineered the police and the military, they perfected godlike technologies for killing. Eventually, the middle class faded into obscurity. The top layers were absorbed into the upper class, and the rest completely slipped, becoming the "working poor." Those at the bottom quickly learned not resist too much, for it might mean outright extermination. There were so many of them, and thus, any one of them was expendable. And this, in turn, also made them more exploitable.
But the bellicose fathers were growing old and feeble. Soon they would be passing on, and their sons would be charged with the responsibility of taking over the machinery of oppression and safeguarding the sources of the wealth. Remarkably, the sons just wanted to keep playing the games instead. For them, having grown up entirely inside the games, the virtual world was by far more entertaining, more comforting, more desirable. Unfortunately, without the wealth and power, they could not continue to play.
Enter the Great Savior. Only the Great Savior does not come to save the poor masses. He comes to aid the slacker heirs.
When I was born in 2011, the Great Savior was among the last of those to pass through the great halls of higher education. By the time I was 10 years old, the Great Savior had secured himself among an elite group within the privileged class. As a scientist and a government leader, the Great Savior spearheaded a movement to undertake and refine many extraordinary innovations. Each development did not seem life altering in and of itself -- yet the sum total became a revolution that altered the course of human existence. Needless to say, the Great Savior was not much of an ethicist.
In his early years, he worked diligently to consolidate mass media. Once this was fully accomplished, only official news was broadcast. Although many outlets existed, all were controlled from the same origin. To facilitate the spread of the official word, all television and radio subscriptions (cable and satellite) were eventually administered to the public free of charge. And to further control the public's perceptions, all telephone and cell phone service was systematically monitored. Any transmission deemed seditious would lead to arrest and possible execution. The public internet -- once a bastion of the free press -- was disassembled piecemeal. Since all the servers and routers gradually came under unified control during the same time that the rest of media was being consolidated, it too came under the unrelenting jurisdiction of the Great Savior. Again, anyone initiating a contrary transmission would be rooted out, and both the language and the individual blocked. Ultimately, existing media technologies were used to perpetuate the status quo, and no further media technologies were allowed to develop.
At the same pace, institutions for higher learning were extinguished. Such information and educations were reserved for only the wealthy, and at the hand of the Great Savior, all teachers and teaching for them would become virtual. Virtuosos and clever inventors from the masses below were immediately plucked. If they exhibited an appetite for the cloistered world of the wealthy, they were assimilated. If they did not, they were eliminated -- but not before the knowledge was extracted and virtualized.
Not unexpectedly, print media fell from favor among the masses. With a never-ending abundance of images spewing from their televisions and no authority pressing for the importance of literacy, reading became less and less important. Soon the reading skills -- and indeed, the free thinking -- of the populace atrophied. Proficiency at deciphering text was advocated for the express purpose of reading what was broadcast on TV.
All these transformations, however, were not the greatest achievements of the Savior. His truly revolutionary contributions pertained to the virtual game world. Through a marriage of science, technology and medicine, the Great Savior earned his title by precipitating the next big stage in gaming.
It came to pass that the players could literally plug their brains into the game. The Great Savior abandoned the goggles and sensors in favor of a direct and fluid connection. By the time I turned 19, a processor had been developed to transform the electrochemical current from the brain into a stream of 1s and 0s readily understood by any computer. Embedded on the side of a player's skull, an apparatus the size of a large postage stamp housed the processor and a device to broadcast its signal wirelessly.
Nowadays, the players hang from translucent tendrils as if floating on air, their bodies delicately suspended from above to avoid skin ulceration. In perfect climate control, nourishment is injected intravenously and waste removed via catheter. So injected are the chemicals necessary to simulate desired real world sensations as well as to mask undesirable real world sensations. States of mind (like sexual orgasm or eating a delicious meal) are all induced electrochemically.
Inside the game, players experience the virtual world uninterrupted. Any event or sensation that is lacking, need only be conceived, then coded, and the required chemicals designed or redesigned.
Naturally, the lives of the players depend heavily on an elaborate system of machinery. Maintenance of the machinery requires other machinery. And all this other machinery requires caretaking… which comes from the working poor. The players' continued existence necessitates a continued control over the masses. Subsequently, the Great Savior became the architect of a virtual world which actually regulates the rest of the real world.
The game incorporates real information from the outside world. As part of the quests and battles in the game, players perform gratifying exercises, which also serve a practical function in reality. In essence, the machines have come to operate as vast extravagant replacement bodies, each controlled from inside the players' heads.
The populace, oppressed and exploited, are used to maintain the machines, and the machines are, in part, used to maintain the very same populace. Meanwhile, the wealthy live by skimming off the top of the system. Safe from pain and an untimely death, they just play. And when the body and the brain die, another body and brain will be cloned to take it's place -- the machines are designed to create and incubate it until it reaches the consciousness necessary to plug into the virtual world, where it will grow and learn and play.
The Great Savior made it all possible. He understood the fundamental principle: that in order for one man to do no work, another man must do twice the work in order that they both shall live.
Well, it's time for the pendulum to swing back down to center.
Living conditions for the rest of us have become deplorable. Most are ill; most feel anxious, exhausted, frustrated, empty, and restless. They sense that something is wrong with them, but they are not sure what. The endless hours of television, the endless parade of mind-numbing distractions, the endless noise prevents them from any depth of thought. They just keep doing the busy work, trudging through the sludge, punching in the clock, going through the motions.
A few of us, though, started talking. A few of us started thinking. It's difficult to enjoy anything when there's poison and sickness everywhere. We need to clean things up a little. But all the work we do goes into the System, instead of into us. All the knowledge and energy is tied up in their System, instead of in us. We need to break free.
Soon, the few of us came to see that in order for all of us to break free, we need to shut down the System. We need to shut down their noise.
The insurrection has been slow. Due to the sweeping media restrictions, information must be passed person-to-person by word of mouth alone. I began recruiting when I was 26. It took over a decade for the rebellion to gain any momentum.
Now, after years of struggling, organizing, strategizing, it all comes down to this one moment. Good or bad, right or wrong, the fate of these seventeen girls rests with me; the fate of all of humanity, with my one last action.
Tomorrow, we march. In five days, a coordinated international attack is scheduled. Teams much like mine will be precisely positioned all over the globe. Our destination: the virtual world servers. Our objective: to bring down the game.