I’m lost. Lost.
A billion cries echo through the dreamscape, each one alone. An eight year old girl plays in a world of green hills and teddy bears, but where is her mother? Playing in a world of neon-lit clubs and short white skirts, while the father rides a tyrannosaur and shoots big game on Oreon. They are all lost.
Long ago we stepped into a virtual world, as a man steps into a river, and stepped out again shaking the drops from our feet. Dry land seemed grey to us, hard and dreary. We dived again, and came up for air, and saw a different shoreline rushing by.
“Get out while you still can,” shouted the old ones, fishing from the shore. But we felt the air cold on our shoulders, and sank again to where we were warm and weightless. Soon enough the river swept us out to the sea, and we floated there on our backs in the dead salt plains, sleeping, dreaming.
What dreams! The women all beautiful, rich and adventurous according to their tastes – some sucking in endless admiration from shadow-men, some destroying them wantonly for pleasure, some ruling wide universes, machine-ghosts their subjects. The men strong, clever, potent, free of all constraints – wives, children, families, labour. Then there were all those who chose to be neither male nor female, because the virtual world is nothing if not choice, infinite choice.
There came a time when we wanted to go home, and found that we’d forgotten the way. The virtual ocean was all around us, it was all we had. We flitted from dream to dream, from world to world, but none of them felt real. We were lonely. We could not wake up.
I’m lost, cries the eight year old girl. Faint through the hills comes the sound of a horse neighing, of galloping hoofs. She looks up in surprise and terror. She hasn’t chosen this. A blur of white, a cloud in motion. She covers her eyes, cowers, opens them to feel cool breath on her forehead. Eyes gentle as soft amber look curiously down at the small, frightened spirit, unchained from its anchor. Ears prick forward, catching the childish sigh.
“A unicorn,” whispers the child, to whom all such creatures are drearily commonplace. “Where’d you come from? Did I make you up? I don’t remember.”
“From reality,” says the creature of legend, and with its horn of silver lightning, it pierces a rent in the fabric of space time, and the little girl can see her own home through it, real as dreams can never be. It looks dull and slipshod compared to the green hills of here, but her heart flees towards it like Dorothy’s towards Kansas.
The unicorn paws the virtual earth, and watches the lost humans stream back to waking, through the hole that he has made. When the last lost one is gone, he turns and gallops away, to graze on the distant stars. Back home, where we belong, we do not believe in him.