By Athena_Silver

Chapter 1

When what's real isn't...

The awful shadow of some unseen Power Floats, tho' unseen, amongst us. Hymn to Intellectual Beauty by Percy Shelley

The room's walls were all painted with an almost annoying shade of a white/gray color. In the middle of the room there was a long metal table, covered with a white towel. Mechanisms under it table kept the table warm enough to be comfortable, fortunately. Sasha really hated the cold. The woman in the room with him was using her well-shaped hands to massage his body, from head to toes, in relaxing movements that occasionally made him groan in pleasure. She was a beautiful brunette with honey brown eyes and a soft and warm voice that whispered at his ear orders like 'relax' or 'turn on your back'. It was paradise indeed. A wonderfully sexy woman with the hands of a goddess and a smile to die for. If only it was real...

Sasha had been hearing the soft voice of the woman talk about how strong and attractive his body was when her voice suddenly changed. A familiar voice replaced the sexy and warm tones of the woman's and all but screamed the words 'Get Out'. It was strange hearing another voice coming from the brunette's body yet it was a natural occurrence where he was. It had happened before various times. Sasha sighed exasperated. He was enjoying his time there so much... But he couldn't just ignore the words, even if he wanted to. He got up from the table and kissed the woman who had her voice back.

"I'll see you another time, Nicki." He said.

Then he looked to his left wrist where his watch was. A watch that wasn't only a watch but his ticket to reality. Whatever reality it was. He pressed a button on his it and a whirling of light enveloped him. When it stopped he was unplugged. Sasha took the virtual reality helmet away from his head and looked to the owner of the voice he had heard before. Shay was sitting on a chair next to him, staring. Her green eyes glimmered with contained anger and her mouth was closed, her lips only a thin line. Her cheeks were of a reddish color and her raven hair seemed to have been hit by a hurricane. He prepared himself for a sermon, the all too familiar sermon his twin sister often gave him. It didn't take long for the words to come out of her mouth.

"You missed it! You stayed in here playing with the computer, emerged in an artificial world and you missed the damn reunion! How dare you? Don't you know how important it was for Trisha?"

"Sorry. I forgot."

"You forgot? That is all you are going to say?"

"Yeah! Should I say more? So what? I missed a damn presentation of hers. I went to others, why shouldn't I be allowed to skip one?"

"Because it was the most important. She wanted you there! And, instead of going, you stayed here, playing with your machine. Do you know how hateful that is? How superficial it is? It's not even real, that world you seem to cherish so much."

"Oh, come on, siss, don't be so damn straight. Relax a little."

"It's not real!"

"It's more real than this forsaken land we live in!"

"This is New York. There is nothing of forsaken in it!"

"Yes there is. This world is disgusting. Have you looked closely to the world out there? Have you at least seen the news? Murder, rape, robbery, vandalism, kidnapping, the destruction of the rain forest, the pollution of the oceans... I could keep this all day long, telling you what is wrong with the world. But I haven't the time or the patience. I choose my own life and it is here, inside this computer. I prefer to create my own reality. At least it's not something I feel disgusted with."

"Reality may not be the best there is, the best world. It isn't perfect but it is better than a dream. Whatever wrongs exist in here, it still is our home." She sighed. "Fantasy is not the truth. Reality may be less colorful but it is our reality. You can't change that by hiding."

"Can't I? Just watch me!" And with these words he grabbed is helmet ready to place it back in his head. Shay didn't let him. She took it away from him with a rough push and the helmet fell on the floor and rolled under a table. Sasha looked at his sister, furious. He was getting tire of her, always putting him down, everything he did was wrong to her. She was his twin, she should support him more. But no! Instead she despised him and it was shown in her every word, in her every act. He hated that. Mostly because he had a temper hard to control and every little thing set him on. He just wished he could cold down a bit so he could just ignore people and what they told to him. Unfortunately that was not the case.

"What did you do? Can't you just leave me alone? Pretend you don't have a brother anymore and let me live my life in peace."

"You call this a life? Stuck inside your home, separated from everyone out there, lost inside a world that is not real? I pity you, Sasha. I really do. I just hope that, one day, you'll find that it is better a world without perfection than a world with it but without feelings. Or hope. Because computers can't give you that. Have a nice day, Sasha."

And she left. Sasha just shrugged. He hated when someone messed up with is carefully closed life, especially his sister. He wondered why people always said that twins were the best of friends, always taking care of one and another, agreeing in everything there was and never fighting. Whoever had said that had been hallucinating, perhaps, because there wasn't anything true in that. He and his sister had never been best friends. Well, maybe as children but that had been a long time ago and now... now they were no longer children. They were two adults with nothing in common but part of their DNA, the part that gave them both their green eyes, their dark hair, the pale white skin... There weren't many brother-sister twins who looked as alike as they, yet there were many who, psychologically, were more alike than he and Shay. For that he thanked God, if he indeed existed, what he highly doubted. He really didn't want to be like his sister, who abominated computers for the simple reason that she didn't understand them. She had never tried to. It was good for her that she was an artist, a painter, because, in a world so controlled by computers as theirs, she would never get a job without computer skills of some kind. That way she would have to forget her disgust towards the machines. On the contrary, he loved machines. They were his life. He had always loved computers and he was good at it. A Hacker of the best there were although, officially, he was a legal (and very good) computer software and hardware expert. All very professional. And, inside VR, he was the master, especially with the worlds he himself created.

There were two types of worlds inside the VR program. The computer generated worlds, projections of real places, stored in the computer's memory, or those simply based in those places or just created from scratch by someone. In this case, Sasha. He loved his worlds. They were his creation. He created houses, fields, rooms, and even people, all from his imagination and then... then he walked inside his world, feeling all the joy of a proud father. Now he realized what God may have felt when he had created Earth.

Anyway, it was not time for thought rambling or whatever he could call it. His encounter with his sister had left him in a state that only the computer could cure now. Quickly he found the helmet, placed it in its place and he inputted some instructions into the computer. The screen soon flashed with information:

Computer Virtual Reality Program

VR File Number 2265-DH

Loading Now...

Sasha soon saw himself facing the most beautiful sight ever, one he had created. Inspired by the Niagara Waterfalls among others, by the exuberant vegetation of the tropical forests, by the hills of Scotland and the forests of New Zealand, and by some sci-fi and fantasy movies, he had created Paradise. Not a very original name, though, but it had been the best he had been able to think of at the moment. And indeed it was just that. Paradise. A sight for the human eye. His sister wouldn't call this a piece of junk if she saw it. But he had no intention of showing it to neither her nor anyone else. It was his own private place. His biggest Creation.

He was on top of a cliff, looking down to a vastness of various shades of green, blue and brown. In its middle, crystal buildings raised to greet the non clouded light blue sky. The golden sun that gave life to this little piece of heaven lightly illuminated the green of the trees and fields. Because there was life there. From microscopic organisms to intelligent human life. All created by him, of course, with a little help from the computer's data banks where was stored the necessary information for a creation of that kind.

Sasha began his descent to the lower valley, where his own personal home was placed, a home he himself had diligently decorated with some of his own furniture creations, although he was not the artist kind, like his sister was. But with a computer a person could do anything. No limitations of any kind in the process of creation, except, perhaps, the memory space of the computer but that was a problem Sasha didn't have to worry about as his computer had unlimited memory at his disposal. Which was good because his imagination had no limits either.

His house was in the center of the little town he had built, a town inhabited by computer generated persons, whose program could be changed at will. If any of those so-called people bored him he'd just delete the corresponding file and so long X or good bye Y. Also, in his town, no crimes happened, nothing peace disturbing ever occurred because he had made sure of that. His world was perfect. He had even once experienced creating some alien life forms to add to his world but he hadn't like the results much, with the exception of some, which still lived in his world.

His world. Those simple two words made him shiver. Only inside a computer program a person could virtually own a world, a country, a land, a city, whatever. That was one of the miracles of VR. One of its beauties. It surprised him how short was the number of people with a VR program installed in their computer. It was so much better to be lost inside such a perfect world than to face the harsh reality. A reality that scared him more than anything else. No, virtual reality was indeed the right answer. No problems to solve, no responsibilities other than those he created to himself, not a thing he couldn't control. Because that was the word of order here. Control. Control over not only a world but over one's mind. That kind of control couldn't be obtained out there, in the real world where everybody wanted to live, including his sister. Unknown to him was the reason why people wanted to live in such world. It was so... ugly. In one word: horrible. This was his reality. This was no fantasy. It was more real than the world out there. His sister said he was hiding but he wasn't. He was discovering, searching. For a new and improved world, perhaps, a world created inside a computer but a world that, with the proper care, could be set free in reality. Then, virtual reality would be no longer virtual.

"Good morning, Sasha." One of his computer programmed neighbors said. Soon every body with whom he crossed path was greeting him. He just nodded to them. No words came out from his mouth. No words were needed to him. His neighbors couldn't complain of his rudeness because they were not programmed for it. Or, if something happened and they did comment, a simple touch on the DEL key would erase the annoying program, which had deliberately insulted him. Sasha was very rigid in that aspect. He hadn't created an entire world from scratch to be insulted by its inhabitants.

When he reached his virtual home, he immediately dropped on the light blue couch of his living room and he switched on the TV. He could catch every cable channel there was with his computer and his virtual TV had an enormous quantity of them. Unfortunately, like all in reality, there was nothing good there. So he had created himself some channels with all his favorite programming. He ended up falling asleep on the sofa, which was possible even in VR.


Author's Note: All comments, constructive criticisms, and overall impressions are very welcomed. After all, we authors live for feedback. I'll try to write the next chapter soon. I am going through a 'Writer's Block' as of lately and I'm full of work but when I can...