Virtu-Life

 

Murray Burns loved video games. He loved other worlds. He loved being in control of a character and saving them from surrounding doom. This was because no-one real really liked him and in the outside world he was totally alone. There was always another life in video games. 

 

As a boy he was generally bullied and spurned. His parents hated him. This was because he said things that gave others the fear; he always pronounced every blatant and painfully hidden truth that came into his ken. If a classmate had a spot, he would describe it; if his teacher had a hangover, he would interrogate; if his mother had her period, he would comment on the smell and lambast her irritability; he asked his father if his tie were at a friend's house when he returned late from work one night without it. He had no concept of lying and this made him terrifying to everybody. Eventually he was old enough to legally be thrown out of the house and so he was. 

 

He got a loan, found a bedsit, and studied Computer Programming at college. He was incredibly good at it. The language of coding had no ambiguity and as such was comforting to one who could not comprehend any subtlety of discourse, never mind the blurry landscape of the lie. He invented a game while at college. It was called "MyFriend". Essentially the game performed the function of a virtual imaginary friend which you could bring around with you. You and the game could do things together and talk about the things you did together; it made comments on your interests, laughed at things you said, and 'listened' when you told stories or discussed your thoughts. "MyFriend" was a massive success and Murray became a millionaire when Facebook bought the rights. 

 

But Murray did not care much for money. He invested most of his fortune in his new project - "Virtu-Life". "Virtu-Life" was an idea for a new computer game which Murray had been planning for most of his early years. The game was based on the latest Oculus Rift technology; a head-set that wrapped around your entire head, blocking off your facial sensory perception and immersing you fully into a virtual reality. Murray was the first to invent a suit to go with the head-set. This suit could account for the remaining senses uncircumscribed by the previous technology - touch, balance, and muscular movement. It was soon clear Murray's virtual reality was more real than real reality. 

 

The game "Virtu-Life" was ready after two years’ investment and obsessive work. But Murray was not going to market the game. It was for himself alone. He had finally given up on other people, especially after leechers had been trying to get a suck at his millions, and so this one was for him and no-one else. Inside the reality of the game was a perfect life. The life Murray had always wanted. Food tasted better and colour was brighter. Music sounded clearer and sensations were sharper. Everything was in a good mood. And he had friends. Girlfriends. A family. They cared about him. He cared about them. He lived for them. He lived for others …

 

Months later he took off the headset for the first time since putting it on. We don't know what he saw or felt but we do know that he would never see the real world again. We know that soon after this re-encounter with the truths of reality, he superglued the "Virtu-Life" helmet-suit painfully to his bare flesh.

 

From day to day Murray could be seen around the city, immersed in his own wonder world. Others jeered and pitied him like they always had. He did not seem much to care. Some gave him food as he looked emaciated and dried out, while others told him to get a wash. He did not notice. 

 

He was found dead some weeks later, wasted away to organ and bone, in an alleyway downtown. The headset of his Virtu-Life was still firmly stuck to his face and his arms were outstretched with longing, embracing his family of mournful ghosts.