Author : Gavin King

The edges of my vision blurred blue.

I shook my head to clear the visual illusion away, but it just seemed to intensify, the padded walls of my room taking on a strange, mottled cerulean that dissipated when I looked directly at it.

Was this what the doctors and scientists called neurojack withdrawal? That was how it began, they said: strange visual artifacts. Then the auditory hallucinations. Then, psychosis, delirium, catatonia, flights of fancy… in other words, a total break from reality.

Hundreds of journalists and thousands of blog posts, thinking they were being oh-so-original, had commented on the irony that a flawed virtual reality technology would cause these exact neurological side effects. “Those jackheads,” they say, “They turned to technology to escape from reality and now they cannot return!”

They don’t know. Only the few people like me, those of us that had the surgery before the government banned it, know what the real reasons for our symptoms are. But we aren’t telling anyone.

They lock us up in psych wards because they don’t understand that what we have—the “madness”—is entirely self-inflicted. The neurojack showed me such endless potential for fantasy, but that wasn’t the point. Sure, at first I indulged in the normal milieu of virtual brothels, arena combat games, god simulations… the sorts of things that other neurojackers with a modicum of programming expertise will make for their own benefit and then give other people access to.

But after a while, like all of us, I turned inward. My virtual homespace, once a luxurious marble mansion with hundreds of artificially intelligent servants, stopped appealing to me. I changed it to a simulation of utter simplicity: floating, blocky shapes, suspended against an uninterrupted, 360-degree blue sky, with a few billowy clouds to make for perfect flying weather. I stopped visiting the dens of debauchery, I stopped using the “intoxicate” setting on the jack inputs. I just flew, and thought.

And when I heard about the first of the jackers going crazy, I knew why. When they came for me, took me away from my apartment to a padded cell with no Internet “for my protection”, I didn’t resist. I was finally at peace. And the jack had taught me that I no longer needed the aid of technology to be where I wanted to be.

I sat down on the hard mattress, found a comfortable position, and closed my eyes. The blue around the edges of my vision closed in, resolved into—I dropped into a meditative state, using the newly created neural pathways that the neurojack had helped me to forge—yes, an endless blue sky. And there were the puffy clouds, beckoning to me.

I held my arms out, heard the wind in my ears, and flew away.


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