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EMPATHY™ — a fiction by ollie francis
A fiction inspired by The Guardian’s new VR app
There’s a place just around the corner from where I live. Great coffee. Really great VR. Not the usual sort you get at home, but proper, total immersion VR. Strap yourself in and get the full experience, shot straight through your spine.
There’s this one Scene I really like — gives me a better buzz that anything else on offer; and not for the reasons you might think. You can keep your skydiving, your monster wrestling and your spaceships; playing them is like watching reruns anyway. You re-emerge into the real world with a weird sense of disappointment — like you’ve just wasted an hour of your life living someone else’s. I think it’s something to do with the fakery of it — I don’t know, I’ve been playing that kind of thing since I was a kid and it never feels like I’m doing anything new.
But the system they have at this place is amazing. The neuro-link is top of the line — it puts the experience straight into your head; you don’t even have to wait around playing the damn thing: it’s just *boom* and you remember playing it, start to finish. The memory is there in your head instantly; every smell, every sound — I’m getting one for home. It’s seriously that good.
So, it took me a while to find this one Scene — the one I like. I’d heard about it from a couple of friends. Buried deep within the games selection. You, like, had to go through all these sub-menus and stuff like that before you could find it. No accessible through search or anything; you actually had to look for it yourself. I had to order two lattes, it took me so long to work out where they had hidden it. No name or anything — just a file placeholder. But you should see the number of hits it’s been getting. It’s, like, not in any of the chart rankings, but it’s gotta be the most popular game they have. Serious numbers racking up.
The crazy thing is that the Scene itself is a pile of shit. It’s this neuro-link to this guy in the US held in solitary confinement. Real-deal — not fake. A straight up neuro-link. And when you’re there, it’s pretty messed up. You’re in this six by nine cell and there’s just a sink and a toilet and a bed and that’s it. There’s a table as well, with this little fold out stool attached to it. It’s got nothing on it.
When you’re there, you feel like shit. It’s like you can’t think straight, and you get really paranoid, really quickly, at all the noises coming from outside the cell. It’s crazy.
But the buzz you get when you re-emerge. It’s like, you end the Scene and you’re back in the real world in this pretty awesome coffee shop and you remember who you really are and suddenly everything just feels better. You’ve suddenly got your own life back and you’re free and everything that seemed crap before just feels, I don’t know, so much better.
Honestly, mate, you’ve got to try it. I’ve been going every day over this last week. I think I’ve tried pretty much every coffee on the menu. Some of them twice! Trust me, you’re gonna love it.
Originally published on Tumblr