Ziperovich & Silvis
The first generation Boxes were buggy as hell, they’d power off and you’d die, they would get hacked and you’d spend 60 years staring at a Cambodian golden shower video on repeat, they would sometimes even have system failures and you would see, hear, and feel nothing but complete blackness for eternity.
When LiveTech came out with Box 19.5 it was finally the product it was meant to be and it was almost perfect by every account. 94% of humanity was plugged in, 22 trillion beings stacked like anchovies at the LiveTech warehouses for barely pennies. The golden age of technology was upon us and no one could say with any legitimacy that it was better outside the Box than in, it was a horrifying, painful world outside the perfect comfort of the Box and no one wanted any part of it. At orientation, or birth as it was once referred to, LiveTech explained life before the Box in stunning detail and showed how the Box was life perfected.
The Box was invented in 2042 by a certain Dr. H.L. Heigel and he chose these as his last words before he continued on to his digital death: “The Box will forever and always be the epitome of human existence.” The Box made earth livable again for all the trillions of its inhabitants and it saved humanity from extinction after we found we were incapable of living on any other planet; after the great space colony failures Heigel declared: “Now, we must find a way to live within ourselves, the search turns inwards.” He paved a way for humanities massive population to live on earth and to live with pleasure insurmountable.
The Box isn’t actually a box, it certainly doesn’t feel like living in a “box” and it doesn’t look like a box. Rather, it looks like an adult in the fetal position covered in green holographic currents that click and chirp and buzz and beep according to whatever algorithm the person in that Box is using. Every Box is essentially a simulated existence, although that term is frowned upon because people hate to think they aren’t living “real” lives and in 2067 the word “simulation” and “simulated” we’re deleted from the LiveTech mainframe and there are less problems with that now, of course.
There are countless human beings climbing Mount Everest every day in their Box, having sex 900 times a week with 900 different, beautiful, disease free people, writing novels at cafe’s in 19th century Paris, watching lions eat Christians in the great Roman Coliseum, flying through space and time ignoring the laws of physics or perhaps just drinking orange juice in the mornings with their children all in the same millisecond. No human before the era of the Box could ever have imagined a life so full and rich and a reality so colorful with such purpose and beauty and possibility. The Box allows anyone, the poor, the rich, the tall and handsome, the short and ugly, the graceful, the beleaguered and depressed and stupid and genius to become whatever it is they want and to do whatever it is they want to do without any limitations, all through electricity flowing through your brain. It is the ultimate expression of humanity. It is the great equalizer. You feel like a beautiful woman accompanying you to your first Nobel prize acceptance speech in Prague or perhaps you feel like racing a Ferrari through 1998 Los Angeles, the Box is capable of letting you do anything you want whenever you want however you want simply by allowing you to tap into its vast network of preprogrammed experiences and all you have to do is think it and it becomes your reality. The Box transformed and elevated human existence for everyone. LiveTech’s motto is: Be Anyone Doing Anything!
In the past the majority of the population of earth could expect short, dull lives of dreadful poverty and hunger for food and water. Even the more fortunate people born in industrialized nations were usually bored, fighting wars, or sick. The days when men slaved all day at menial labor with no meaning for little reward and women had excruciating pregnancies with horrifying, painful births and slaved over the tedious children they produced all day are gone. There is no longer the need for government, lest you call LiveTech and it’s Final Maintenance Committee a government, there are no countries or wars, there is no class or political struggle, and during the last official Happiness Index there was almost 100% Happiness. Even religion has been relegated to the trashbin in this new world. If life is perfect and every desire is fulfilled, there is so little time to think about anything else.
You can get married in a Box, have Christmas with your perfect family on the top of a cloud in a Box, and even father a child in a Box. There is truly only one thing you cannot do when you are in a Box, and no one is really bothered or thinks much about this single limitation anymore. You cannot leave the Box. You are born into your own latest generation Box and you die in that very same Box. No one would ever leave their Box so the issue is largely irrelevant, people are too busy using their imaginations to tap into and add to the vast meta-library at LiveTech’s Preprogrammed Life Experience Database and of these experiences, there are infinite possibilities. Everyone finally content with life. The epitome of human existence.
I was born into my Box and I never had a thought cross my mind about leaving my Box, the network usually deletes these glitch ideas anyway with their Bliss Protection Agency programs so that we don’t have to worry about them. I was born into a late generation Box and so I had very little if anything to complain about. Life was better than good. I was living in perfection, the epitome of human existence. We all knew what life was like in the days before the Box revolutionized human life and we all knew the horror of war and disease and marriage and divorce and physical pain. When I was born I went through orientation or what you might call an introduction to human life pre-Box and I stood among the dead in horrible battlefields watching the pointless carnage over politics or religion, I watched disease ravaged bodies in hospitals waste away in pain and suffering, I saw the overcrowded slums of Mombasa and the criminals of the pre-Box cities stealing and raping and murdering people. No, I had no desire to leave my Box and its ultimate perfection. No one could conceive of anything other than the perfect, painless, freedom of the Box.
I can’t account for what happened. Perhaps it was a glitch at LiveTech’s Central Division of Technology or perhaps one of the few remaining employees they kept outside the Box for physical maintenance of hardware got the bright idea to unplug some people against their will and violate the conduct sections of Network and disconnect them from the confines of their digital utopian bliss. I don’t know and I doubt I ever will. I just know what happened after.
I was with a beautiful, perfectly proportioned brunette in a lavish bed in silk sheets in a penthouse at the top of a grand hotel in what used to be London and then I felt something I had never felt before: physical pain. Darkness. I felt my body creaking as the various aches that ran through it manifested and my eyes opened and adjusted to a dim light in a massive warehouse center and as I looked around me I saw millions or maybe billions of people of various sizes and shapes in the fetal position covered in this translucent, wavy green holographic electricity stacked on ledges all the way to the ceiling around these huge circular towers, all of them enclosed in the same glowing, pulsing electric light. None of them looked awake but I could see how each person would twitch and I imagined these twitches to be whatever experience they believed they were having taking place in their brains.
I climbed down from my rack after removing the various adaptors and plugs I found protruding from my body, they were plugged into a kind of metallic tower that rose up to what I imagined to be the top of the ceiling many times over for each circular stack of glowing green, twitching, fetal bodies. The muscles in my body quivered and ached but they weren’t completely atrophied somehow so I began to climb down to the ground. At first I was so disoriented that I didn’t know which way the ground was but after some time I began to get used to the feeling of my body and its movements and I found that I was able to use my eyes and ears to determine where I wanted to go. In my Box I had never before experienced the laws of physics, people flew or jumped or walked depending on whatever program they felt like using, I was now at the mercy of gravity and as I inched around trying to make sense of this new world it became apparent that this body I had never seen before wasn’t capable of much beyond moving clumsily and with difficulty. I inched my way down, climbing down stepping gingerly from each small shelf to the one below it and I realized I came to the bottom rather quickly and this is what makes me believe still that someone unplugged me deliberately. The ground was a matter of balance and I took my first steps trying to find mine. I spent a long time just walking toward a light, it was a different light, brilliant and golden, that was unlike the glowing green everywhere else or any light I had ever seen before and I just walked straight in that direction until I finally approached a large door with a red button in its center. Whatever was behind the door was the source of that yellowish light that drew me toward it and the light spilled from the borders of the door into the dark facility.
I pressed the red button and a gush of depressurized air could be felt releasing and I heard something click and the door unlocked and slowly slid open and I saw the yellow light becoming larger until the door vanished completely. I was staring at something I had never seen. I walked out into the hot sun and felt the warmth of a thousand days in the Box compressed into a single moment and a rush of air carried by the wind blowing into my face and onto my body that felt like nothing I had ever felt before and I walked boldly forward into this new realm. I looked down and saw that I was on the lip of a great valley and I saw the massive warehouses that filled the valley and I felt the great humming being exuded from the warehouse behind me and the warehouses in the valley below me and this great buzzing electronic vibrations led me to my first philosophical realization as a real, non-digital person: this electronic heartbeat I could feel running through and around me, carried by the wind, was life inside the Box. A great cadence of pulsing and throbbing currents flew around the warehouses and I realized that I had lived in these currents, that everyone plugged into a Box was at this moment just a buzzing electricity conducted by a grand machine.
My first instinct was to escape the throbbing pulse and I ran, slowly at first, higher up, until I reached the absolute peak of the valley upon which lay a large collection of trees where a small rugged footpath of dead plants and soil lay in the center. I started down this trail away from the great digital throbbing and I found myself in a clearing where I found a blackened pit where a fire had once been. I touched the burnt logs and felt soot come away on my finger and as I stared at the black dust on my hand I heard something like a voice but different, more human than I had ever heard. I can’t explain how everything was in a way the same but so much different but this is how it was.
It was as if a veil had been lifted from my eyes and the color and feel of the world had some kind of added dimension that I never knew existed. I walked toward the voice I thought I had heard. At the end of the clearing was another trail and I entered a darker, thicker forest and walked through it, through thorny bushes that scraped my pale skin leaving small bloody lacerations and huge hanging leaves from gigantic trees that held dewy condensation which I drank from and past giant spider webs that caught on my face. I walked for what seemed like forever until I began to see the forest thinning out, the trees becoming less thick, the plants covering the ground receding behind me back into the depths of the middle of the deep wood from which I was emerging from.
I stared out from the edge of the forest upon a great blue water and I saw and felt and heard the white waves thrash the beach becoming foam running up the sand. I walked out of the forest back into the sunlight and I looked across at a panorama of blue ocean under blue sky and it was endless, I could see neither the beginning nor the end and it was as if the entire world was surrounded by this thrashing, living force. I walked, naked feeling the sand caressing my feet and the sun and its warm, decadent radiance upon my body and as I walked feeling these things I saw a group of children with dark golden skin playing at the edge of the beach by the foamy water. I heard them laughing as each wave crashed, running toward the water and away from it as if to tease a great beast. As I walked I threw my hands out up at the sun in the sky and as I walked toward the children I used my voice for the first time to howl in joy.