creditsby loo wei juan, photo credits.
A perfect world exists only in the imagination of Man.
I opened my eyes. I cleansed. I went to Sector H-D-27. I screwed on 1000 bottle caps. I ate meal H- LL956-27-256-1. I screwed on 5000 bottle caps. I ate meal H-LL956-27-256-2. I returned to Sector H-14. I closed my eyes.
Finally, I was home from work. Finally, I was no longer just another cog in a vast mechanical world where everyone served a purpose. Finally, I was no longer Human-Lance-Larkson-#956-27 years old. Here, in my own little world, I was anyone, and everyone. Life was perfect. Life was bliss.
The feeling of relief was always palpable after another day at work. My beautiful wife always sensed my moods and as usual, embraced me with a whisper at my ear, low and kind and alluring.
“Forget it, my love. You’re home, with me, with our beautiful house and our beautiful world. Don’t think about it, just forget it, forget all about it, my darling, darling love…”
As I held her tighter and felt her warm figure around me, and listened to the sweet nothings at my ear, I could not help but wonder: forget about what? There was something – there – but it was too far out of reach for me to remember, and with her by my side, why would I ever want to remember?
The night dissolved slowly into dawn, and I slipped into my perfect world.
I opened my eyes. I cleansed. I went to Sector H-D-14. I screwed on 1000 bottle caps. I ate meal H- LL956-27-257-1. I screwed on 5000 bottle caps. I ate meal H-LL956-27-257-2. I returned to Sector H-14. I closed my eyes.
The world was a scary place. And who better for the job than Secret Agent James McKenny, legendary spy and master thief all rolled up in one! None other than me, of course. I smiled smugly to myself, as I holstered the pistol and ran a hand through my hair. I sauntered into the nearby bar and approached the waitress. My smile was, of course, devastatingly handsome and with a blush and a giggle, the waitress handed me a glass of clear golden liquid.
“On the house, sir. Anything else I can… get you?” The tone was transparently flirtatious, and with a grin, I raised my glass and toasted her, taking a long gulp. A soft touch at my bicep had me glancing back, an eyebrow raised, at the well groomed lady coyly staring at me. I smirked. Tonight was a good night, as usual.
A beep from my watch interrupted the gorgeous woman before she could say a word, and without further ado, I was reluctantly forced to awaken. Curses! I hated this part of my life. Why did I have to continue working anyways? I had supported the NEWorld back in my heyday, did that not grant me some privileges?
Evidently not. Ungrateful little shits that they were, although, I unwillingly admitted to myself, I would be in a much worse situation if not for NEWorld. We were forbidden to speak of the world before this one, the one where everyone chose their jobs and spent most of their time in the physical world experiencing everything through their own means, and there was suffering and inequality and wars and hunger and death inflicted upon everyone, especially the old and weak.
But NEWorld was different. Everyone did something for each other in NEWorld, although they might not quite seem it. Everyone contributed, and in return, when they closed their eyes, everyone was provided their needs and wants, every wish fulfilled and every dream accomplished. Everyone was happy.
We lived in our heads, and worked with our bodies, and were satisfied with that.
At least, the majority were. However, everyone knew of, but spoke not of, that small fraction that opposed NEWorld terribly, citing that “Life should be our own!” and “Living in dreams is dreaming of living, not actual living!” and all that jazz. I knew that that minority would always exist, but as time went by, they would decrease. Already, their fruitless protests and violence were beginning to decline in number and ferocity.
I was grateful for that. Reminders of how I should be fighting for my freedom and humanity were disconcerting, and the tinge of guilt at my, arguably, betrayal of the human race nagged at me like that little titbit of information you can never forget but never want to remember.
Another beep cut through my thoughts, and I sighed at the electronic warning to start work. With a low groan, I hoisted myself up, aching body and soul. If only work were over, and I could return to those two beauties again! Old, tired bones protested my movement but I stood anyway, disregarding the recommendation to “BEGIN CLEASING” and instead hobbling my way to the hellhole, also known as Sector H-D-74.
I ignored the mindless drones around me, knowing without asking that they all belonged to Sectors H- D-10 through H-D-40. The young ones had never had another life, and it unsettled me only sometimes to see their blank expressions and lifeless interactions. Older members of NEWorld, like myself, were the only ones who still remembered a world where people laughed and mingled and spent time together outside of work. And when we were gone, no one would be left to remember.
Shoving down the swelling feeling in my chest, I tried to convince myself that I was innocent in this, that I was only doing what anyone else would do, that life was perfect, that this was right.
I did not succeed.
The world had been destroyed. People were being harvested, bred like animals and kept in their own glided cages of delusion. I knew better, NEWorld was a trap, and most of Mankind had fallen into it.
My comrades were disappearing by the day. The newest generation knew nothing of freedom and love and the real world. Traitors grew in their complacency, and I could find no way to make them regret supporting the NEWorld, for stopping the NEWorld order was becoming more and more of a hopeless one-man crusade.
I knew my resolve was wavering.
To a world driven to its knees by corruption and pollution and ignorance, NEWorld had seemed like a perfect solution. It kept the entire world population fed, content and happy, without having to work too much. It could, and had, brought a planet on the brink of destruction back a reassuring net of safety.
People were short-sighted, and the consequences escaped them all. At the time. By the time realisation began to set in, the sticky webbing of promises of a perfect world had already ensnared the residents of Earth, and it was a wonderful lie to be enslaved to. A lie that seemed like the truth was the most dangerous of all.
People wanted to be lied to. They denied the truth, denied that technologically induced lucid dreaming had been exactly what everyone wanted it to be – not an outlet for stress, nor a platform to experience new things, but a fantasy world for them to get lost in, to lose themselves, to pretend that they were different, were better, were flawless.
They were not. Their wordless denial of their shortcomings just made the truth stand out more. Life now revolved around fantasies dreamed up by the perversions of Mankind, and real life, with its pitfalls and joys and suffering and elation, had been replaced with a hollow, cheap imitation.
I closed my eyes, massaging the bridge of my nose, wishing that I could save the world some way, but like everyone else, I understood enough of human nature to know that taking away that imaginary castle in the air was nigh impossible.
People wanted utopia, but perfection could only be found in their imaginations.