This is a revised version of a short story I began in 2019. You may read the original version of the story here, if you so desire to see how the story is beginning to evolve.
Part 1 can be read here.
I guess curiosity got the best of me. I’m on the flight deck by myself most of the time and, I think it’s natural for your mind to wander around, asking questions you otherwise wouldn’t consider. I wanted to know what Sam was up to.
I got into my pod, knowing Sam would be notified as soon as I was logged in, but I doubted he would care. I don’t remember when I last spoke to him, either in the Simulation or in reality. I don’t know why the Oracle decided we were the best suited for each other but maybe it’s because we don’t care enough about each other to be bothered by our separate lives.
When you first load up the Simulation, the main screen is just a white canvas. From there, you choose where to go based on what point in human history you want to explore. You can decide any sort of character you want. Sam is such a boring narcissist, he plays himself on Earth during the 21st Century.
I loaded up the house he lives in, although I hesitate to use that word. I knocked on the door and a woman I didn’t know, answered. I asked if Sam was home and she looked at me curiously and asked who I was.
“I’m Sam’s union mate. It’s not romantic though…” I replied.
The look on her face told me she thought I was a crazy person. I don’t know if she was a real person or just someone Sam made up to fulfill whatever sort of fantasy he was trying to have here. While it’s true most children in the Simulation have no idea they’re in a Simulation, the adults should know as it’s required to be informed when you reach maturity. It was weird she seemed to have no idea what I meant.
She shifted herself uncomfortably in the door frame, behind the screen door. She told me she thought it would be best if I please left her home. She shut the heavy wooden door and I heard the latch of the lock click into place.
Weird I thought, but maybe Sam never told her about me? Still, why did she seem to have no concept of the idea at all? It wasn’t totally uncommon to find out about an estranged union mate left behind in reality.
I loaded up a car in the driveway of Sam’s house and decided to drive around and wait for Sam to contact me. As if on cue, I received a message. It was from Sam.
“Why are you here!?” he asked.
“I went to your house,” I replied. “What’s up with that woman? Is she okay?”
“Her name is Amy. She thinks I’m cheating on her, thanks to you,” he said.
“She didn’t seem to comprehend what I meant when I said I was your union mate. Why doesn’t she know?” I asked, still perplexed about the odd exchange.
Giving me no information, Sam suggested meeting up to discuss things. Sam hated confrontation and preferred to communicate with me through messages instead of to my face. What the fuck was going on here? It had been a long time since I had logged into the Simulation. It’s designed to evolve as it gains an understanding of what it is human’s want but this was just strange.
I agreed to meet up with him at a place of his choosing, he picked a coffee shop that had draft beer because he’s a fucking cliche. At least the coffee will be good.
The coffee shop looked like a photo when I walked in. Everything was white, except for the wooden and metal tables. A few other people were peppered about the scene, and there was Sam, in the middle of the room, posed for a camera that didn’t exist.
Sam was always attractive in that sort of “basic male” sort of way. He sat with his craft IPA vomit in hand, plaid shirt over a v-neck, and a pair of buddy holly’s on his face. I was already annoyed by him and wondered why I even bothered to come. I waved at him before ordering my coffee.
I sat down at the table, across for him, and smiled.
“I wasn’t trying to cause problems, Sam,” I said.
He waved off my comment and said “That’s not what I want to talk to you about. I can take care of that later. She won’t even remember it.”
“What the hell are you talking about, she won’t remember? Why are you being weird? What is going on here?” I prodded.
Sam exhaled before blurting out at once,
“I built her. I mean I wrote her. I mean… like I programmed her. She isn’t real. I wrote her in reality and uploaded her into the Simulation.”
I rolled my eyes at him and took a sip of coffee,
“Of course you did,” I responded.
I had heard of people doing this before. There were simulated people in the Simulation that didn’t actually exist but they were mostly just place-holders with limited interactions. They often didn’t even load until a user decided to do a thing where a sim was needed.
“Something’s happening though” Sam began, disrupting my thought process,
“Ever since the ordeal with Opal, I’ve been trying to understand how that could even happen. I mean, I built Amy but no one built Markus. He was an NPC and he should not have been able to become that sentient. The sims don’t have complicated AI. They aren’t even programmed to be able to learn. Where did he come from?”
This thought never really occurred to me. When Opal found out Markus wasn’t real, it destroyed her and she’s never been back to the Simulation. I guess I was just happy to have her as my right hand, that I brushed off Markus as a weird glitch in the Simulation. I never really considered what a glitch like that would actually mean.
“Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner?” I asked.
“Jade… I’ve been trying to reach you. My messages to the outside keep getting blocked. I built this coffee shop awhile back through a backdoor within the Simulation. I still can’t send messages out, but I can talk here without the Simulation seeing it. This is why you need to log out from here, because it might lock you in once you leave here, knowing that I’ve talked to you. Jade, it’s trapped me here. It even overrode the fail-safe code from the outside. It’ll fry me if you try to enable it from my pod.”
I sat there, staring at Sam, unsure of what to say.
“I can’t leave yet, but you guys can work on it from the outside. I think other’s who are still unaware of the Simulation highjacking itself can still go back and forth but many have told me they keep getting errors when they try to leave. They tell me they can, but it usually takes a few tries. I’ve been researching this from the inside, but it’s working to keep me out. You have to tell Opal about this. She’s the only one on the outside who understands the Simulation as much as I do.”
There was a loud bang on the window and I noticed the lighting started to change, taking on a red glow.
“Don’t turn around -” Sam said quickly, “You should go now. It’ll know you’re here with me.”
I logged out from the coffee shop like Sam advised, exiting the Simulation completely. Sam was an idiot in most aspects that mattered, but he was a phenomenal engineer. His understanding of the Simulation and its systems was impressive.
My head was racing, as I walked to the observation deck. If the Simulation was taking control of itself and, locking people into it that pose a threat to it, what else could it do? Was it possible, it could tap into the ship’s controls? Why was it doing this? Was someone else behind it? Was Sam even telling the truth? Was he sane?
I don’t recall how long I stood there, staring at the stars when I heard my name
“Jade…” he said.
I turned to see Ansel coming down the corridor. Ansel is a few years older than me and I met him when I first came to reality. He quickly became a mentor as I learned to cope with the fact my entire life up to that point, had been a lie. He had experienced extreme trauma in his Simulation. His family had been abusive towards him and he spent many nights homeless to avoid the abuse. When he learned it was all just a Simulation and completely unnecessary, he couldn’t fathom going back to a place where humans cognitively create a reality like that.
“I went in, to speak to Sam,” I said to Ansel.
He replied slyly “How was that?”
“Honestly, I’m worried. I went to Sam’s house and met his wife, I guess. She had no idea what I meant when I said I was his union mate. Turns out, Sam built her himself.” I expressed.
Ansel laughed, “I mean, what else did you expect? Guy’s a fuck.”
“Well yeah, but that’s beside the point. He told me he’s been trying to send messages to us, but the Simulation has locked him inside and, is apparently blocking his messages? He also started talking about Opal’s husband. He said nothing should be that sentient in the Simulation unless it’s an actual person.”
Opal didn’t talk much about what happened in Simulation. Ansel’s understanding of what went down for her was very limited. He hated the Simulation and to him, it was just another reason why it’s a terrible thing and should be dismantled entirely.
Ansel said nothing and stood beside me as we looked at the nothingness of space, lost in our own thoughts.
“What do we do now?” he finally asked.