FICTION: MULTIWORLD - THE SEARCH FOR SOLACE
He had been fortunate. Life had treated him well.
His privileged position through the status of his parents meant his education had prepared him more than adequately. His subsequent employment in the Ministry of Information and Social Connection meant he had superior access to many options unavailable to the average man and woman across Multiworld.
He was sitting at his open window as he did most mornings at this time, gazing across the sparkling towers of Astrilia, the sky a perfect blue, birds singing, a cool breeze on his brow... content.
However, his contentment began to fade, as it tended to quickly these days. The calm morphed into that vague anxiety that demanded change. He became restless.
He took a bottle from the cabinet and poured himself a shot and quickly swallowed the burning liquid that always gave him a short period of relief from the longing.
He took another. Then another. But it was of no use, he knew that.
His eyes moved inexorably to the base and the chair sitting in front of it.
Inevitably his desire for the change drove him to cross the room and sit down in the place where all else disappeared from view.
He stretched out and put his hands on the pads.
Only very few in Astrilia, or indeed across the Multiworlds, had access to so many identities. Each one was so incredibly expensive. He had access to twenty-two of them so far and another three on the way.
It was still highly unusual to even have your own identity on base. A base itself was generally an acquisition only elites could afford. A treasured possession... but it could also become a source of obsession.
So it was for him.
He hated and loved it simultaneously. He wanted to return to normal but the strange pleasure of it drove him to remain addicted.
His mind moved through the choices.
Sarah? Not today.
Joy? A better choice, but no.
Colleen? That could be nice. Okay. Why not?
Ignoring all other choices in his desire to be quickly carried away into the depths of difference available to him, he chose.
All burdens of his present life were gone in an instant.
He looked down at his beautiful new body and was instantly delighted by happy thoughts and memories. His own tired brain was suffused with a lightness that made his heart leap.
He was walking down a lane outside a country town somewhere. The year, far before the present. The lightness of her body was the greatest joy. Gone were the aches here and there that he had felt for so long in his own.
It was a pleasant sensory but his butterfly mind sought other pleasures and he flicked over the internals for more variety. She was a simple soul, that he knew. No great dramas arose. Life in a town of some five hundred souls, all in some way conjoined.
He smiled at the naive thoughts of the girl, the little fancies, the attraction to the baker’s apprentice, his muscular frame, his kind eyes and dark, wavy hair. He vicariously swept through the entire history of the involvement and unblushingly felt every emotional nuance and innocent erotic response. He had recently resolved to maintain some distance regarding the most indulgent aspects of this voyeuristic pursuit... but wondered how long he would maintain this degree of self-imposed discipline. He felt the seductive pull of full and unhindered temptation within him growing with each submersion.
Contenting himself with an average day, he watched as this life so other from his own progressed with all its little mundane but delightful pleasures and equally inconsequential pains. The refreshment his brain experienced was intoxicating as the hours passed... until the signal arrived.
He sat back in his chair, smiling contentedly. In his mind softly repeated, “Thank you Colleen.”
The room was now almost dark, only a pale reflected light permeated it here and there from the nearest tower.
Soon the depression reemerged. And with it the usual irritable anxiety, as if his nerve endings had been attacked by a strong dose of caffeine.
He thrust away the desire to resubmerge and walked to the still open window.
The night air was cold and fresh and he threw wide his arms as if to embrace it. He felt joy... though bitter tears of loss soon began to fill his eyes.
Today was a workday. Thankfully only four hours for such as he. Mundane tasks were the usual fare. However, not today.
There were clamourings for access.
Astrilia was a major city, even in terms of the galaxy-wide expanse of the Multiworlds. There were more than enough distractions for the populace. However, less attention than needed had been paid to green, social spaces where normality could survive in close proximity to concrete. In response, many of the usual addictions had arisen. Most of these, however, had been abandoned or treated leaving many hungry for more. The pressure to escape lives was growing and growing exponentially.
Thus demand for access to the base was reaching close to a fever pitch.
The threat of riot and even insurrection hung in the air.
Social cohesion was in danger of fragmenting.
He could hardly believe what he saw on-screen, a situation that was confirmed for him by the supplementary information he had received at his workspace today. The stress vector analysis was peaking and calls for solutions were being encouraged by all at the ministry.
Far down on the street, all was far from well.
Back home he refrained from entering his usual haunt, the base room.
Instead, he immediately went to the rear balcony to relax and calm his mind, attempting to relieve it of its background buzz of vague fear. His fingers tapped on the mahogany chair arms though he was quite unconscious of this. His eyes sought consolation in the fading blue of the sky. Determining it would help, he took a few deep breaths. But it was of little use... his mind drew him mentally away, away and toward that place of sanctuary for his weary mind.
Chalice? Perhaps later.
Gulliver? Also no.
Pearl? A possible.
Muno? Yes, Muno...
He gazed far out from the temple across the misty green forest far below. It was too high here to even hear the calls of the birds. All that was heard here was a slight soughing of wind as it encountered a carefully nurtured bush nearby.
Muno’s mind was calm, soothingly calm, crafted from decades of meditation, of thinking of almost nothing and experiencing the lives of others even less.
He smiled inside his mind. This was what he needed now. This silence, this contentment, this deep and nurturing peace. He allowed himself to be totally submerged in the all-pervasive sense of peace he found in Muno’s mind.
The only interruptions involved the droning pleasures of a communal mantra. The familiar sounds of bells, cymbals and occasional trumpet. Nothing of it discordant to him as it may be to others. Just the sounds of spirituality of a daily routine that could only be ended by the full escape sought for.
As the evening sun burned orange on the horizon and pink-serrated clouds dimmed Muno sank even deeper into his inner sanctuary of peace, the mind solace that had become his life.
The feeling was always the same on him surfacing. At first the last calming traces of another being, the refreshed otherness of the distinctly different. But this never lasted longer than moments. The here, now and perpetual anxiety soon returned.
He now began to hear the first few noises from below that he had heard in his largely secluded life. The carrier took him to and from work each day, he had no need to descend to ground level. Up here in his tower home, he had felt free from the everyday... but now it seemed determined to encroach upon his sanctuary in the skies.
The noises were few at first but no less disturbing for that. What sounded vaguely like a scream was the first to find his ear. Coming out of a doze on his rear balcony he was not quite sure if he had really heard it. On later days a distant buzzing could be heard, and then stayed as a constant.
His screen at work implored him more and more insistently to recommend changes through the policy committee, to design or co-construct changes within the great, inter-connected ministry social connectivity program as a matter of ever-increasing urgency.
He simply stared at his monitor with no ideas entering his now increasingly befuddled brain. He could feel panic rising slowly, but inexorably within him.
There appeared to be fires burning on the horizon. How could this be? There had been no need for such a thing for a hundred years and more. Yet there they were, three columns of smoke rising high into the air.
What was happening?
Bill? No, he had been a mistake.
Pearl? Yes, Pearl.
The sea was smooth as silk as she cast her eyes calmly over it.
Layer upon layer of horizontal colours from sky to sea lay before her and to the east, a soothing mat of green.
The myriad fishing boats before her bobbed gently up and down. The net she repaired lay familiar between her fingers. There was a serenity in this familiar task and a deep humanity lay within her, infused by the Buddhist culture surrounding her.
Life was hard for Pearl as seen by his eyes, but incongruously he saw it did not seem so to her. It was so full of usual certainties, of a rooted sense of correctness and familiarity, stability and routine, of family and supportive relationships that all appeared perfectly in its place for her.
As with all base material she lived in a world long gone.
The sadness of this fact never failed to enter his consciousness at some time or another within the experience. This was the bittersweet awareness that even the most refreshed brain could not avoid recognizing.
As ever the signal warning of the safe time period passing drew him out and saw him gradually emerge.
This time, however, with an even greater sense of loss and sadness than before.
The level of background noise was increasing. Now he was sure he could make out the occasional individual voice from time to time and it increasingly unnerved him.
Going to work began to be a trial whereas before those four hours had passed quite pleasantly in an administrative haze. Now the warnings of disquiet were far too frequent for his liking. He began to feel he was living a waking nightmare he had to escape from at all costs.
It was the burning tower that finally decided him.
It has burned all one day and all the following night.
He determined to join the base.
He made all the necessary arrangements putting all his affairs in order well before time.
The many privileges he had were no longer giving him the sense of true living he experienced in the times he was living on the base.
So he chose the option his status afforded him.
The complete personality and memory transfer to the base was not a simple process. His application was also not a formality. However, his relatively elevated status and a newfound desire to provide a mirror of the time of the now obvious dissolution and alienation decided the base administrators.
This form of virtual suicide was after all quite uncommon for candidates considered worthy of base code entry.
The anaesthesia was applied slowly as he submerged to his chosen favourite personality which had been Colleen. Her innocently kindhearted, deeply peaceful personality permeated his being as his own personality slipped gently away.
Those of his kindred elites who could afford to could now upload him and experience his life in full. Though as his last vestiges of consciousness left him he saw that it could only be the historians of the future who would have any interest in doing so.
He was not sad to leave Astrilia, there was nothing for him here anymore. Only his descent to an absolute addiction to anotherness side by side with an encroaching darkness from below.
He was content at last.
He would merge with the void.
He would enter in peace to the place of all dreams and final solace.