I stand in the bathroom with a kitchen knife as I’m cutting off yet another dose of a good night’s bliss from the sleeping pill. I take out a quarter of a pill – the presence of the moment dilutes a tad and the despaired mind begins to chase a whirlpool of thoughts. The cut quarter is put in a pouch and the rest of the mass glides away against the sleek surface of the room; at the moment when it should stop, the envisioned associations begin to contemplate the sleepless night, something along the lines of an overplayed old-school Action RPG video game. I throw a glance at the pill; it’s got to be Pac-Man – is that a coincidence, or not? Because of their complexity, arcade games seem quite close to the modern day Action RPG genre, though generally that doesn’t really matter – the pill just stops like that, so what? Yet sleep and the action in it is being put aside – I google the original version of Pac-Man in online mode, a creation of Toru Iwantani, and by the clicks of the arrows on the keyboard I start to play. The 8-bit sounds encourage me even more to put off my bedtime – level after level and the timeless GAME OVER appears again and again, until the battery window pops up on the screen, warning me to plug in the computer at its critical 4%. I wake up the next morning with a sore throat and a cold...
The future is now!
It was the summer of 2001. Walls of the small nine square-metres room were covered with electronic music posters indicating a rather unconcerned lifestyle. This was Stephen’s home.
Although the view through the window suggested it was afternoon or evening more likely, Stephen was sound asleep. As his mind cleared leaving the alpha state, Stephen started to feel his body and understood he is awake. It was hard to open his eyes since the wet sheets were still trying to hold him down.
Having stared at the pale ceiling for a while, Stephen took the PC and bent his knees. There was a glass of water at the bed that he drank up immediately. It was ten past six and it was getting dark. Stephen took a look at the latest photos from the different.lv last event, and opened mIRC. He then entered his login and password to connect to the server. First, he wanted to send a command to bot in the chat channel, but it didn’t work this time. Stephen thought that the script was wrong and tried again and then again, until he was banned from the channel named #dreamcatchers. Instead of being kicked out, he had been added to a closed channel named #the_future_is_now, which was only accessible by specific persons. Stephen sat up, put on Lichen by Aphex Twin on Winamp and tried to figure out what was going on, trying to fight the sleepy mind with a slight amount of motivation. He gazed into the screen for some time, and then addressed the others in the chat room.
Stephen: Hi, can anyone explain why was I kicked out of #dreamcatchers and added to this one?
Structure: It had to happen, and we’re glad you’re finally here.
Structure: It wasn’t by accident that you entered the wrong script, as if. We counted on that.
Stephen: What? What did you count on? Although I’m clear like a crystal, it starts feeling more like after a regular rave.
3D_blender: Stephen, it was you who created us, and it’s not a coincidence. Your Notepad documents are full of various drafts, and the fact of you communicating with us right now is only the result of your virtual life.
Structure: Welcome back to future!
3D_blender: You are now speaking to three beings — we’re neither humans, nor bots.
Stephen: :D (laughing)
Stephen: Fine, I’ve got no time and I have to work. And I thought that those midweek raves are too much.
Stephen thought, it was just some friend trying to fool him, but even the command ctrl_q didn’t work. As he continued chatting, he lit up and put Lisbon Acid on Winamp.
Stephen: You’re well-prepared, but ok, let me hear your rubbish :D (laughing)
Trendy: Well, how to put it… We’re three cognitions and we’re stuck here on the Internet since the beginnings. We are an accidental result of combinations of several scripts and we want you to help us to get free.
Stephen: What? Why me? 3D_blender just said that you are body-less, how do you imagine me helping you? I’d suggest using less tranquilizers.
3D_blender: Yes, we don’t have a body, we’re a concept. A concept that you will have to realise by 2017.
Stephen: But it’s 2001 now, and I don’t plan my life even a week ahead.
Structure: You’ll manage it, you’ll see it. Time flies and 2017 will struck sooner than expected.
Trendy: Time is not a linear thing, you know; we’re stuck in here, so listen to us more carefully and do what we ask.
Stephen: It won’t work, I’ll simply turn my PC off and go to have my late breakfast.
3D_blender: Do so, there’s only one “but”. If you don’t help us, you won’t help yourself in the future.
Stephen: Khe-khe, well, fine. I’m listening :))
Trendy: As far as we know, you spend a lot of your time on the Internet and are aware of its progress. Therefore, you will have to build us bodies, a room — a special portal we could use to escape.
3D_blender: Yes, a real physical room, no 3ds Max will work here!
Structure: We’ll guide or, more precisely, instruct you and you will have to realise our concept.
Stephen: It’s getting more interesting, tell me what should I do and I’ll run to grab something to eat, meanwhile.
Trendy: Postmodernism and the digital era have taken us as far as they could, and the 2017 will be the year you finally receive your last academic degree, don’t miss this opportunity!
3D_blender: What Trendy meant is that there’s a possibility to exhibit us like pieces of art. And that’s how we’ll escape, by taking another form. Something like an altar, interdimensional intersection… It must be like a portal.
Structure: Yes, that’s how we will end our cycle. 3D_blender will email you visualisations and description. We’re outlining only the main idea here.
Trendy: Make something matching the time, more or less. You can refer to 1990s, maybe. And maybe connected with the Internet, more or less. Instructions will be more specific.
3D_blender: Check your email to understand.
Stephen clicked on Internet Explorer icon with his mouse and logged in his hotmail account. Slightly surprised he looked at the received visualisations and instructions about how to implement the plan. Stephen reread the just-received email several times, as he couldn’t stop wondering about being involved in something ethereal like this. Music continued to play, and Stephen got back to chat. He kept on smoking while listening to what his friends said, until it was all more or less clear. It was 6:06 AM already, and some light started to appear in the room. With Heliosphan on the player Stephen said goodbye to his friends. Just for fun, he tried pressing ctrl_q once again. This time it worked and mIRC disappeared from the screen just a few seconds later, replaced by an ultraviolet desktop background that hadn’t changed for several years. The next was command shutdown right from the command line.
Stephen closed the PC, put it on the floor, got up and walked to the window. It was sunny with barely any clouds, and people from the opposite nine-story building were rushing to job and school. Stephen was tired, but couldn’t fall asleep. He took half of 1 mg Xanax and swallowed it with some water. Some twenty-five minutes later he was sound asleep. Dream after dream took his subconsciousness over just like a layer after layer each replacing another. The old pensioner couple upstairs had turned their TV-set in too loud, as the left flat neighbour Valery continued renovating his bedroom. But Stephen didn’t hear any of that. Dreams generated by his unconsciousness were full of events and kept Stephen asleep.
Years, days, hours and minutes flew, and Stephen kept on living his life as he used to have, more or less. Sixteen years four months two days six hours and fifteen minutes later, Stephan tried to wake up and stared at the ceiling for some fifteen minutes. He picked up his PC and opened gmail.com account. There was one message there. An email from firstname.lastname@example.org. He opened it and saw a short greeting:
Slight and crafty smile appeared on Stephen’s lips. He put the PC aside and started to get dressed. He brushed his teeth, took an apple and drugs for nerves, put in iPod earbuds and went to defend his Master’s Thesis.
Transparent gate to nowhere
Back then, it seemed to me that the desire to pass through the transparent gate to nowhere is merely an excuse to be lazy. I wanted to sleep out all my internet dreams and to escape from the shards that were caught up within me, without my even knowing it. That night, I really was in a hurry; I didn’t even manage to clean up my “History” folder. I connected to the server around four o’clock. I deliberately zig-zagged, but even so the presence of the sea rendered slowly, pixel by pixel, although I hadn’t expected this. I tried to escape, but the Internet froze and I couldn’t get back to sleep, forcing me to wake up. I opened my eyes to the sight of visual poetry, exclusively subordinated to my thoughts, but whose meaning and significance bemused everyone. Scrolling faster and faster, and not focusing on the context, I vacantly stared at images, at the same time resting my back against a non-existent wall. I thought to myself - I don’t want to go on, not even realising that the transparent gates to nowhere were just a couple of internet dreams away. I wanted to be there, but I gave in; there was no wall, but I still rested my back against it... What was the point of doing anything else! Internet dreams are like chain links, while the link in a chain is akin to an internet site one has visited, and tonight I once again lay, eyes shut, with my head pressed into a pillow - all I can see are the internet sites I’ve visited, of which there are too many. Eventually, the tingling became more intense and the internet connection was lost.