T, wake up! Come on, my boy...
Where did the voice come from? Who was talking to him?
T. Get up. You are gonna be late for school!
Who was that? Was he still sleeping? He had left school behind decades ago.
T... co... me... on... plea...
The cracking of the headphones woke him up frightened. The white of the furniture blinded him. His limbs felt heavy. Frosted. As if he hadn't moved in weeks. He had moved, right?
Sighing, he straightened up. Sharp pain twitched through his limbs as his back left the backrest of the BCI-VR chair. He felt dizzy. He had moved lately, hadn't he?
Why didn't he know that anymore?
After blinking several times, the white track began to form shapes. First the table, right next to the seat. Then the remote control for the said seat. A small, narrow bed, that looked like it had never been used. Next to it, a chair with a window behind it. It was night. However, the bright neon light in his box, as they called it these days, made it seem like broad daylight. He felt weak as if he was going to fall if he tried to stand on his feet.
The box was enough to hold the objects to enable a decent life. At that time, 2057 AD, the seat, a bed, a table and a small cupboard fit into it. The chair next to his bed was considered a waste. He also didn't know why he had gotten it once. But now it was standing there. And didn't bother him.
He slowly put his feet down on the almost icy linoleum floor and winced inwardly. Was the heating down?
He took another deep breath before standing up with a quick movement. He swayed, slightly. Not enough to fall over, but the dizziness creeping into his temples almost made him sit down again.
Why did he wake up?
He walked slowly towards the window with small steps and let himself fall on the chair with a groan. That was why he had gotten it. So that he could comfortably look out the window. Groaning, he let his head drop against the window, feeling the icy cold eating its way into his brain.
That had put him in this situation. His brain. He didn't think he was particularly smart. But others saw it differently. His brain made sure everyone liked him. But he saw it differently. Not that he didn't like the people around him. It was just that he didn't know what to do with them. Didn't know how to move in a social circle so as not to offend.
However, that was not a problem. His brain got him a degree in a very prestigious company. The people there didn't care that he couldn't string five words together without stuttering. They didn't care that his hands were dripping with every handshake. By fear.
It didn't matter because his brain made him graduate as the top student in several decades. Two full master’s courses. Parallel. With unbeaten top marks until this day.
Slowly he opened his eyes and looked into the grey darkness. He saw nothing but boxes. Piled up. Ridden together. Their dirty white almost blurred with the color of the sky. He couldn't remember when the sky had been blue. When the night was fully black. Since no one couldn't even get out of the box without breathing protection, the world was a rigid grey. Sometimes lighter, sometimes darker and yet always the same.
And it was his fault. Sighing, he stroked his greasy hair, put his palm on the windowpane before dropping it back into his lap. It was his fault. An accident. Nothing that was planned. At least not at this point.
The mission had been clear. Develop a technology that makes it possible to connect and control automated prostheses with the nervous system. And that's what he did. He had developed various prostheses. They had been successfully connected to the nervous system. And then driven by his ever-present curiosity, he fiddled with it for a few more experiments. And it happened.
BCI VR was born.
His clients were so enthusiastic that they almost forced him to investigate this "accident" and develop it further. In just a few years he had managed to create a literal virtual reality. Fully tangible. A chair, glasses and a transmitter that was supposed to move a leg.
Don't be so surprised... You always wanted that for yourself anyway...
For a moment he didn't see the boxes across from him. He saw himself. Sweaty, dark circles under the eyes, torn lips, sunken cheeks.
He blinked and focused his gaze again on the grey of the world he had created.
There he had it now. His legacy. A world that could be anything they wanted. In which they could do what they wanted. In which they could have whatever they wanted.
He thought people were starting to get interested slowly. Would eye it suspiciously. But he was wrong about that. Because the world in which people lived was so miserable, so unsatisfactory, so ugly that they pounced on it like a horde of flies.
The launch at a trade fair meant that there were years of waiting periods for the product. Everyone wanted the equipment. Everyone wanted their world. And so he went on researching. Developed the platform further. And they tore it out of his hand as if he had given birth to the Messiah. Everyone wanted a transmitter set in their brains, took out large loans to buy the hardware.
And then the decline began.
The streets were getting emptier because who wanted to go out into the rain when they could lie comfortably on the beach and could feel the salty water of the sea. Why take an hour-long journey to see and experience a new place, when you can just sit down in a room and there it was?
People lost their jobs because they were lost in the world. Sold everything they owned to make a living, just so they wouldn't have to leave the house. Sales for his child went through the roof as globalization gradually came to a standstill. Nobody bought anything anymore. Everyone spent their money only on the bare essentials. Eat as cheap as possible, i.e. finished products. A roof over your head, as cheap as possible, so the prices for rent and living space fell to the earth core because nobody wanted to spend their money on expensive villas.
Since a lot was simply no longer consumed, entire branches of the economy collapsed. The stock market came to a standstill because nobody was investing any money anymore. Agriculture died out, because suddenly factories popped up, producing all kinds of things artificially. Porridge that gave all the energy and nutrients with a spoon that you could otherwise only take in with tons of food. Pills that suppressed the feeling of hunger.
At some point, no more cars were produced because nobody wanted to drive them.
He shook his head. What was he thinking?
For a short time, the general production of essentials came to a stop because no one went to work. But he had a solution for that too. The program he had written enabled a few people to run an entire factory over his system without anyone having to be physically present. So all production facilities for the few commodities were networked with the platform and people were hired who were willing to spend a few hours of their time in the program operating the machines.
Nobody noticed, but the changeover caused considerable damage to the environment. The factories produced so many exhaust fumes that there was no place on the planet that wasn't covered by a thick layer of smog. Whole branches of the animal world went extinct. The water was so polluted, the seas were practically empty. The forests were bare and whole swaths of land disappeared into the parched, poisonous soil.
At the beginning of the development, the nations were still concerned. They had quarreled. War waged. First in reality, then it was moved to the platform to keep losses at minimum. There had been no winners. They just stopped at some point and resigned themselves to the fact that the development was just the way it is now.
The air was too dirty, which wasn't bad because nobody left the house. Nature died, which wasn't bad because nobody wanted to experience it for real. The waters were dead and toxic, which wasn't bad because they were now drinking sodas with all the nutrients and calories in one can they needed for a full day.
People didn't go out anymore. People no longer met in reality. This also had consequences for reproduction.
Where there is no courtship, no children are born.
If the world was previously overpopulated, the birth rates now fell so far that the governments considered introducing a birth obligation.
The longer he thought about it, the harder his head began to ache. He was supposed to take one of the fast-acting pills that would obliterate virtually any physical discomfort caused by using the platform for too long. Or maybe eat one of the artificial apples that looked like little marshmallows?
Slowly he got up from his chair and turned to the seat. He could just go back into the world. Let himself be massaged by his catgirls. Maybe it was just his neck that was sore. And since every touch on the platform was like actually touching him, at first glance he didn't know what to do with a real massage anyway.
And his catgirls were so wanton.
He shuffled back to his seat, let himself fall onto the white leather with a groan and felt the built-in sensors adapt to his body. Maneuvered him into the perfect position to prevent thrombosis and the like. Briefly, he reached next to him, fished one of the small pills out of one of the compartments of the seat and tossed it into his mouth, swallowed it dry. He didn't need anything more. Now he had everything in his body that would keep it alive for the next day.
A push of a button and the helmet with integrated glasses and headphones lowered itself down and over his face, connected to the transmitter in his brain and let him rush through a brief moment of connection.
It felt like small surges of electricity were flowing through every fiber of his body as it connected itself with the code.
It got dark around him for a moment when the glasses went online. For a moment he heard nothing when the headphones logged in.
And then he was in his apartment and Kana was standing in front of him. "Hello T! There you are again! Finally! Where have you been?” she squeaked, tossing a lock of pink hair over her shoulder and lunging at him.
Her full breasts pressed against his muscular body. She smelled of vanilla and cinnamon. Like Christmas cookies from his childhood.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mio jumping over. Her long blond hair was swaying unnaturally, while her long legs made her do pirouettes, pulling her too-short skirt far over her hips so that he could see the rosy nothing that she wore because he wanted her to.
“You can't leave us alone for so long!”, their fluffy ears lowered, their unnaturally large eyes with glittering tears fixed on him, as if he were the light of their existence.
He had no use for sunshine. Fresh air. Clear water. Green grass. Touching other people.
Because he had everything here. In the arms of his catgirls. In his loft, high up, above the city he had created for himself. In his world, in which he has always wanted to live. In a body he's always wanted to possess.
Kana and Mio came closer, blurred before his eyes as they pinned their heads together, their little mouths tipped in a kiss.
BCI = Brain–computer interface