The Reality

“The Reality”

       There were no signs of life in downtown San Francisco, except for one man.

       As Jimbo strolled down the long, empty streets, he could hear TVs playing automated ads. “Try Jincorp haptics systems, it’s almost like you’re in the game!” One of them blared. A little too much in the game. Thought Jimbo.

       There should’ve been someone outside, even on a rainy day like today. But the haptic systems changed all of that. They gave their user full tactile sensory inputs for any music or game designed with them in mind. Some haptic rigs even came with complete noise cancellation. 

       Then they brought it one step farther. VR was included with every haptics system. People started to lose themselves in unreality. It was suddenly so much more appealing than reality. By the time people started realizing what was happening, it was too late.

       That’s what led to all of this. Empty streets, trash littering the ground, flickering street lights. There was no one to fix any of it.

       I should pick a place to get some supplies. For that was the reason that he decided to stray outside that night. After hearing some worrying stories from online friends, he had decided to stay in his apartment as long as possible. But once he ran out of food, he decided that he would have to risk a trip outside to purchase some food at a nearby store.

       He wasn’t sure if he was relieved or frightened at the implications that no one was outside.

       Eventually, Jimbo spotted a CWS. It wouldn’t have a lot of groceries but he could probably get enough there to last for a while to come. Once he entered, he saw that he had surmised correctly, the shelves were barely touched. He grabbed a shopping cart and started loading it up with the most nutritious groceries he could find. It would have been better to go to a proper grocery store but the city was creepy enough that he wanted to get back to his apartment as fast as possible. 

       Once Jimbo had filled his cart, he went to pay for it at the register in the back. There was no one at the register. Come to think of it, he hadn’t seen anyone in the store. “Hello, is anyone there?” Said Jimbo. A deathly silence followed his question. Wondering where the cashier was, he went up to the register to look for any sign of them. A slight movement behind the register caught his eye. There was someone on the floor! 

       Going around the cash register to get a better look, Jimbo saw that it was a man who was curled into a fetal position with full haptics on. Jimbo needed to know what was going on. He started stripping the man of his haptics. Luckily, the man was wearing some undergarments under it.

       Once exposed to the real world, the man had a dazed expression on his face. Once his eyes started to focus, Jimbo said, “Are you alright?” 

       “Y- yes, I am now. Is this the real world?” Said the man. 

       “Of course it is, why wouldn’t it be?”

       “You don’t know what I’ve been through.”

       “Even if it isn’t the real world, the only course of action is to behave as if it is.”

       “Ok then, we need to run.” Said the man.

       “Before that, explain to me why I should trust a barely clothed man I just met. My name’s Jimbo”

       “Fine. I’ll tell you what’s happening.” Said the man. “My name is Nathan. Jincorp’s haptics technology is good enough that its users can’t distinguish virtual from real. Since everyone uses its tech nowadays, they’re using this to garner more power for itself. Now that I have disconnected, they know that something has gone wrong. We need to run away while we can. I’m actually surprised that you haven’t been using haptics.”

       “It’s a long story, I can tell it to you later. My car is a couple blocks away, we should make for that.”

       So Jimbo and Nathan booked it out of the CWS. They were heading towards Jimbo’s car at top speed. Once they were about halfway there, the silence of the city was breached. A van could be heard in the distance. Jimbo and Nathan picked up their speed.

       They could hear the van gaining on them. They were almost to the car. Their surroundings became bright as the headlights of the van approached and illuminated their surroundings. 

       “We’re almost there! Just a little farther.” said Nathan

       Luck was not on their side that day. The van pulled in front of them when they were a mere fifteen meters away from the car. Suited figures piled out of the van. One of them said “Hands up.”.

       “I didn’t do anyth-” Jimbo started to say.

       “I said. Hands. Up.”

       Nathan and Jimbo had no choice except to comply with the demands. They couldn’t fight six men. Once the men saw that Nathan and Jimbo were compliant, two of them pulled out tranq guns and shot Nathan and Jimbo.

       “We were so close.” Was the last thing that Jimbo heard before he went unconscious.

       Jimbo dreamed. He dreamed of when he had first moved to San Francisco a couple years back. He had needed a job. When he arrived, he couldn’t find anything suitable for him. Strangely enough, the only job offers in town were for Jincorp. Jimbo hated Jincorp with a burning passion. They had been slowly buying up the tech industry over the years to create a monopoly. In fact, Jimbo’s own company, Sheng Technology, had gotten bought out when Jincorp initiated a hostile takeover. It took them a mere three months to take total control of his company.

       Instead of getting a job, Jimbo ended up spending all of his time online. He was an avid gamer. However, within the past couple months, Jincorp had become the topic that everyone wanted to talk about. There was a slew of lawsuits involving people starving to death while using their haptics. There also was a sizable amount of conspiracy theories about what Jincorp’s plan was for the VR technology that they were making. It turns out that most of those conspiracies were right.

       When Jimbo woke, he was in a dark room smelling of metal and fear. “Ah, you’re finally awake.”

       “Who are you?” Said Jimbo

       “Who am I? That is a deep question. For now all you need to know is that I am a PR member in Jincorp.” Said the voice. “You are a problem. There were only a couple hundred residents of San Francisco who weren’t using our technology. The others have been dealt with, you are the last one.”

       “Let me go. You have no right to do this to me!”

       “I’m afraid we have every right. The mayor of San Francisco has signed a law in which everyone must use our technology. There is no escaping it.” Said the voice. “You have two options. You can either voluntarily don the gear, or we can force you.”

       “How am I going to be able to eat while in the gear?” Asked Jimbo. “You’re just going to starve me.”

       “Don’t worry about that. After we threatened to not feed the residents of San Francisco, president Moore gave us funds for feeding all of you intravenously.”

       Deep in his heart. Jimbo knew that there was no way for him to escape. “Give me the equipment. I will put it on myself.”

       “No need, You’ve had it on this entire time.” replied the voice.

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