A house becomes a home
The home, a prison
And for many, there’s no difference between a prison and a grave.
Once Banality has dulled the senses, Apathy erodes them.
Day by day the sick cycle continues.
Through all manner of non-experience users finds themselves trapped in a world they despise.
[A WORLD THEY CREATED]
Unable to escape the limitations brought on by their inanimate lifestyle, swathes of users take the plunge into a meta-reality which feeds on every unmet desire.
[UNSPENT ENERGY IS SINFUL]
The result: a swarm of souls who never really lived, but were always afraid to die.
[THIS IS OUR AWAKENING]
…that’s the thing about madness. There’s no way to tell whether it’s you or them. And if it’s you… well, you just have to live like you are the genius while they are the sheep who just don’t understand. That’s one good reason pretty much every revolutionary ends up in jail from time to time.
Putting on his best game face, the detective studied the slunken figure before him with increasing perplexity.
Here stood a glaring example of everything wrong with the Ministry’s current social agenda. Unkempt and probably unfed, this bizarre looking character had the slender frame of a teenage boy; but wore a sober expression intensified by the bloodied irises of a full-grown man. He donned dorky broad-rimmed spectacles; but they were offset by a menacing jagged brow. He had chosen to wear a plain buttoned shirt with a jet black tie (as if he fully respected the sanctity of law enforcement); but the anti-nationalist tattoo ingrained on his left forearm claimed otherwise. Everything about the man was a bit off. It was as if he was two entirely different characters amalgamated into one bewildered body. It would probably not be presumptuous to suggest his detainee had recently suffered some horrifying personal tragedy. Although, even the dimmest policemen knows it would be a mistake to assume a shaken demeanour betrays no sign of anti-social behaviour.
All the while his captive had done nothing more than stare despondently into the hallway outside, as if that short interlude was ample time to devise an elaborate means of escape. But he wasn’t really a prisoner. So he just stood there like a moose disgruntled by fulgid headlights, unblinking and unafraid. Not even a whisper had escaped from his mouth to express a fiercely indifferent reaction to whatever mental games the detective had in store for him.
He’s not a suspect, but I better cuff him. Just in case…
But before the detective had even thought about securing the handcuffs placed carelessly between the two of them, his opponent had already struck. Just not in the way you would expect from a person with such cold, cold eyes…
The stranger had swiftly cuffed himself with open palms, and as if he’d done so a hundred times before. Then he seated himself in the sole chair in the room.
This fellow sure has a rich history.
What followed was a story unlike anything the detective had heard throughout his eleven long years on the force…
“We’re facing an endemic of unfathomable proportions. Yes, I may be the oldest and most mature victim (he fastened his tie for emphasis), but I’m a victim all the same. Sick people, desperate people, are being taken advantage of without even one of you having an inkling of it!”
There was a strained but fleeting silence before he finally managed to calm himself down. The detective did a quick mental calculation and concluded this man was probably bipolic.
“Anyhow, let me get to specifics. There is a certain well known technology company out there which has been secretly producing a new virtual reality video game. Free alpha release on several gaming platforms and even some social media sites has seen its popularity increase exponentially the past couple of months. Masquerading as Life Control: The Tool to Transform Your Wasted Energy Into a Productive Life, this ‘game’ has really the opposite effect on a person. Rather than making you a more productive person, your few remaining ambitions are ruthlessly turned against you until you’re a pawn of the game. But of course you wouldn’t know that without a sound understanding of the way the game has been designed. The ploy all relies on one naive assumption: that life is preferable to death, no matter the penalty. This is the all too horrific, all too real future of gaming. Let me ask you one question, Mister–”
“Detective, Detective Cooper”. The interruption to his steady stream of thought was untimely but fully warranted.
“De-tec-tive Cooper (he placed unnecessary drawn out emphasis on each syllable of the word in jest) what is the greatest cause of death in today’s society?”
There was something incredibly funny about playing the one being interrogated. But the detective didn’t mind. All he needed was information; the way he acquired it was of no real importance. Feigning his own ignorance was the first and easiest step.
“That would be… injuries sustained by car accidents. No? Assault?”
“Not too shoddy Mr. Cooper (they both ignored the deliberate omission of title) but the real answer is suicide. Digest that for a moment. There are more people who decide to take their own life than the life of another. Sounds promising doesn’t it?”
The man with the policeman’s cap nodded dumbly.
Have I already taken the ruse a step too far?
Any pretensions of deceit were ignored for the moment.
“Well obviously it’s not. Society must be a truly fucked up state of affairs if people are voluntarily opting out of it by the masses. But the really puzzling thing is that nothing has changed! Employment rates are stable. Housing prices are stable. Even the birth rate is stable. It’s as if living in anything close to a utopia drives people insane!”
Well that much is obvious. His brief experience as a psychoanalyst had taught him that stagnation always leads to a revolution of character.
I wonder if this guy’s insanity will rub off on me.
“So here’s what I’m really getting at. Please bear with me. It will all make sense in the end.”
The detective thought not much of what had been said so far made any sense whatsoever, but he didn’t care to interrupt again.
“Imagine if you could harness a positive emotion and be able to stimulate it indirectly. The person would experience something close to true happiness. So what they’ve done with Life Control is convince people they can do exactly that, create spontaneous happiness. But of course even if they could achieve that it would be a sorry substitute for reality. The real story is that they are exploiting a deadly onset of apathy in our society. As our knowledge base has increased we have become more and more objective, but also increasingly dull and unable to form and express our own opinions. Thus people are becoming gradually fed up with reality and more and more willing to enter schemes like this one.”
“Okay… but how then do you argue that the production of this game is immoral if ordinary citizens are ‘willingly’ supporting them?”
“Not a bad question. The answer is that these people aren’t exactly ordinary, like myself I might add (despite their differences the men shared a snigger). Most of them are addicts of one kind or another, or they’re mentally ill. The designers in charge of Life Control are convincing these people not to commit suicide but they’re also convincing them to dedicate their entire lives to the game. If you were to start a new account on the game the overwhelming majority of players you encountered, approximately four out of every five players, would be suicidal in the real world. Their bodies are safe at home but the part of them which really matters, their minds, are trapped in the depths of the game. As of now the moral implications of this scheme are unknown, but I’m certain the Ministry would like to hear about this.”
At that moment something clicked for Detective Cooper.
“So you’re part of the minority who entered the game but found a way to get out of it?”
A lightening bolt of panic shot across the man’s face. But in a flash it was gone.
“You are correct.”
“But you don’t seem like a person who’s quite finished with their share of life. No offence intended of course.”
“None taken. But we all have our demons, don’t we Detective Cooper?”
That sounded like something straight out of a horror movie. This guy is probably more involved with the game than he wants me to believe.
There were four loud knocks on the chamber door. Four knocks… that means we have a new visitor.
A sweaty cop halfway opened the door and cautiously peered through. Then he sidled through the gap as though there was someone or something he didn’t want to let in.
“Sorry to interrupt Mr. Cooper.” The handcuffed man stifled a laugh when he heard the name without the official title. It sounded even better when someone else was the one to undermine the detective’s authority.
“I have a young woman outside who’s deeply agitated with your buddy here (he pointed to the figure, then frowned at the cuffs). She’s saying he’s a maniac who broke into her apartment, destroyed her phone, took her wallet, then tied her to the bed.”
They both looked at the potential felon. He gave no obvious reaction.
Detective Cooper let loose a thunderous sigh. More riddles, just wonderful.
“I’m going to need a moment. Attend to the woman and on no account let her in the proximity of this man.”
As soon as his subordinate had left the room (he couldn’t even hesitate a guess at his name) it was the detective’s turn to do something completely unexpected. Rather than immediately begin the questioning process as any regular law enforcer would do, he sat down on the linoleum floor, cross-legged, and did no more than stare glumly at the cause of all his concern.
His gaze bore deep. He was the disgruntled moose now.
I know everything about this man relative to the case. On the other hand I hardly know him at all. He claims to be a victim of the game. If so there is no doubt in my mind he is capable of the crime. But why? There’s no clear correlation between the two cases. I need more information!
His adversary scratched his nose sheepishly. There was no malice there.
No matter how hard I try I always seem to be one step behind. Well not any longer.
Three minutes had passed since the door had closed. Neither of them had any clue what time it was.
“It’s time to fess up, pal.” He always saved the mock accent for grave predicaments such as this one.
“But seriously, please give me one good explanation for why that woman, whatever wicked part of your story she has applied for, would insist on you being the perpetrator of this serious crime.”
The mystery man looked as calm as anyone had ever seen him. His irises were no longer bloodshot. He would no longer shake at random intervals. Instead of being a mesh of erratic characters he was finally one composed, cohesive personality.
“This is the game.”
“This is the game.”
“You’re joking me. You’re some sort of omnipotent artificial intelligence now? Are you telling me we’re in virtual reality right now?”
“No, no! We’re not actually in the game. That would eclipse even my definition of insanity. What I mean is that those people who came in before, both of them are representatives for the company I was telling you about. They want to keep me here, or in jail; anywhere where I’m not in a position to shut down their subhuman operation. But as long as you alert the Ministry everything will turn out okay.”
“I’m sorry but I can’t do that right now. We need to focus on your connection to the ga–”
There was a resounding commotion before the door burst open. But instead of the ‘policeman’ and the young woman, a flurry of agents from the Ministry burst in.
They seized… Detective Cooper. He slouched for a moment, immobilized in body and mind as he desperately tried but failed to put the pieces together.
His newfound adversary, upon removing the fake anti-nationalist tattoo to reveal a nationalist tattoo, unleashed an earsplitting cackle while an agent uncuffed him.
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh. It all began to make sense.
His detainee, really the anonymous head of the Ministry, had played him from the start.
The strange man with the geeky spectacles and ragged exterior was really his superior.
This was a test to see whether he was the ideal candidate to implement the Ministry’s upcoming public service project – Life Control: The Tool to Transform Your Wasted Energy Into a Productive Life.
Detective Cooper, now just Mr. Cooper, had comprehensively failed.
He had failed to contact the Ministry, revealing his incapacity to work with those above him in the chain of command.
He had failed to rigorously question the necessity of Life Control, revealing his poor critical thinking skills in the face of widespread adversity.
Worst of all he had failed to identify the head of the Ministry, a figure Mr. Cooper should have recognised from his exceptional personality alone. In an aimless society only the most twisted can make it to the top.