I woke up the next morning and headed to the bridge. I was greeted by Opal, my copilot. I met Opal in the Simulation when we were kids. We grew up together, being each other’s right hand through all the hurdles of adolescence. We both found out about the Simulation at the same time.
Opal didn’t immediately leave the Simulation, as I had. It was the moment I had discovered my mother wasn’t a real person. She was an algorithm of human traits thrown together to see what would happen. How could I remain in a place that I couldn’t distinguish what was real and what was fake? I was raised by a Simulation that thought it understood what it means to be human but failed to understand what is beyond logic.
That wasn’t the case for everyone. Opal’s parents were both real people who had walked in reality. They had lived there for years, but were required to enter into the Simulation for the lives of their children. They were grandparents now to her brother’s children and saw no reason to leave anymore. Understandable, this reality isn’t kind to the elderly.
What did it for Opal was finding out her husband wasn’t real. Every meaningful person in Opal’s life was real and that was enough for her to remain in the Simulation. I envied her for this. When she had met William, she felt a sense of completion and was eager to emulate the companionship and completeness she saw in the people who surrounded her. They had children together and followed a dreamy, perfect projection of their lives.
It was a Thursday and she mentioned to William that she should visit me in reality. She wanted him to come with her but as she said this, William stared back her with a confused look on his face. She came to a stop in her sentences and the room fell silent. Opal explains it as the loudest silence she had ever heard because even though there wasn’t anything making physical noise, the inside of her head was reminiscent of the ancient nuclear bombs we read about in our history class. William wasn’t real, because William didn’t know he was a Simulation. Their children weren’t real.
It was three years ago, Opal left. We’ve been working on the ship crew together, ever since. When I stepped through the door of the bridge, she didn’t notice me. She was intent on a beeping noise and a map of the stars being laid out before us.
“What is it?” I asked.
Opal jumped slightly and replied,
“I don’t know, we are getting pulled into orbit and… the ships sensors found a rock, I think with possibility of something to sustain us. I sent out the androids, see if we can get anything on it.”
“Well, that’s the most exciting thing to happen in 3 years. How long will the androids take?” I asked.
“Probably a few hours,” she explained.
I let out a sigh and then said,
“I went back in yesterday, to speak to Sam.”
“You did!? What happened?” Opal cried.
“He’s married to someone else. She’s not real though and he knows it! He designed her! Like that’s weird, right? …I don’t know how he can stand it. I asked him if he was ever coming back and he said no.”
“Yeah, definitely weird. I mean… obviously.” she laughed and then asked, “Are you okay?”
“I am. I don’t know why I went back. I guess just to confirm it, closure or something.” I replied.
“I think you’re doing just fine without him. You’re the captain of the whole ship, you could shut him down if you really wanted to. Fuck him.” She stated and then asked, “Should we get Ansel, about this?”
“No, not yet. Let’s wait for the androids to get back. It’s probably nothing important.”
“What would we do, if we ever met hostile life out here?” Opal pondered.
“I don’t know. I mean we’ve never found anything overly remarkable anyway. It’d be kind of cool though… if we survived, obviously.”
“What’s it beeping about?” Ansel asked as he entered through the southern door of the bridge.
“We are getting pulled into orbit and the ship found something on a rock. I’ve sent out the androids to get a better read on it, see if it’s worth checking out.” Opal explained.
“Oh good! I thought something broke again.” Ansel laughed to himself.
Ansel had been fascinated with the ship ever since he got in reality. He had left the Simulation when he was 15. After living on the streets for several months, he met Kegan who told him not to worry because even the Simulated streets were better than reality. When Kegan realized Ansel didn’t know about the Simulation yet, he opted to tell him the truth as a way to comfort him. Ansel didn’t see it as a comfort, however. He became obsessed with the notion of a Simulation until he read one day, children as young as 14 could enter into reality if they chose to and with parental permission. Ansel forged his parents signature and went to the Oracle to ask for a release. He never went back.
He first searched his parents in the log book to see if they were real. He had hoped they weren’t because at least then he could just hate the machine and accept humans might not be bad and had simply lost control of the Simulation to create such trauma for children. As he went through the register, however, he found that there is a deep darkness in humans, when the names of his parents came up on the screen.
After that, Ansel became obsessed with the ship and how it worked. He wanted to know everything about the Simulation and what the ship was designed to do. He became the apprentice to the head engineer, Liam. Liam had never had children and took in Ansel like a son. He loved and cared for Ansel and I think if Liam hadn’t taken care of Ansel then and cooled his fire, he would be a dangerous person now. Ansel still felt anger and bitterness towards his parents but could understand they are the outliers.
When Liam died, Ansel took over as head engineer of the ship. Opal has recently become his apprentice. She’s more interested in the software of the Simulation and how it’s structured rather than the actual ship. She’s been increasingly obsessed with the Simulation for the past few months. I suppose we all have our hobbies, what else are we going to do for the next 3 – 6 years?
Want more? Part IV is available! Until tomorrow, friends!