History Lesson (a short story)

Every Tuesday night, storytellers and poets gather in the Bardic Circle in Elven Glen of Second Life to exchange their own work and that of others that they like. Each week we have a voluntary “challenge” to include five words chosen at the last session in a new story or poem. I wrote the following story for last week’s meeting, incorporating the five words: WIND; ECLIPSE; STAR; COLD; LOST (P.S. Anyone is welcome to attend the Bardic Circle; you can come directly at 7 p.m. slt any Tuesday night by clicking here.)

HISTORY LESSON
a short story by Bay Sweetwater

One cold afternoon on the faraway star of Kith, 6-year-old Eep did what angry children often do: he packed a little bundle of his things — the milky sandwich drink, a small blanket, and a tube of superglue for unpredictable mishaps — then crept down the ramp to the loading chute, keeping his loud magnetic rollers off til the very last moment.

He had chosen the moment of the eclipse to run away, when all was dark and his parents would not see him. The wind stilled, the perfect moment for liftoff. He strapped himself in, took a deep breath, and hit the hyperdrive button.

The ship hurtled past galaxies, years compressed upon years, and Eep left his childhood behind him quickly. As he grew in years within a moment, he began to comprehend what he had done. Too late, he understood why his parents had always forbade him to touch the hypercar: without knowing how to configure powering algorithms, the time jumps, and especially the orientation drive, he was lost in spacetime immediately with no power to return.

Finally by chance, Eep thudded to the ground. Pulling on his rolling treads, he navigated carefully across what looked like a grid of sorts, molded into meadows and hills, paths and streets, even oceans and large islands. Around him he saw for the first time the creatures he had studied in his schoolbooks on ancient lore:  a fairy sitting on a mushroom, a dancing bunny, and a muscled humanoid talking to several other more curvy humanoids. Around his field of vision he saw what appeared to be a log-in screen. This at least was familiar.

He punched the log-in button and suddenly found himself staring at his real self out in space, still inside the hypercar hurtling through spacetime. Thunderstruck, Eep understood what had happened: he had fallen into a virtual world in a hyperjump, but because he had not configured the orientation drivw, his roles were reversed: the avatar he had become was now his real self, and what had been his real self was now an avatar, speeding out of control through unknown galaxies!

Quickly, Eep built a computer with a navigable media prim for a screen (this was child’s play on Kith) and got his avatarian self under control. But what next? Questions thundered through his brain: Would he be an avatar for the rest of his life? Would his real self always be under his avatar’s control? Would he always have to log in to live his real life? The whole thing made his brain hurt.

Finally he came up with a plan: he built a website on the media prim and uploaded a machinima video of his situation. He IM’d his parents and explained as best he could, and told them to watch the video. He asked them to create avatars for themselves and come visit him in Second Life. That way, he figured, they could at least all get together and have some sort of blended avatarian-“real” life.

Well, as you all know, that was the famous first instance of a blended “real”-avatar family. Of course, that was many years ago, and genetics has now blended avatarian and so-called “real” features quite seamlessly. We no longer distinguish between “avatar” and “real” any more than we distinguish between a man and a woman. And the boundary between online and offline is a quaint historical artifact that you can still see in some museums.

That’s all for today, students. There will be a quiz tomorrow.

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