She grew used to the masks, but she knew she should not.
The avatars they were given were faceless. That was part of the design, they said, so you could more easily choose how to look.
“You are not constrained here by your genetics,” they said in the brochure. “You can be anything you want to be.”
And for every choice there was a mask. Happy, sad, indifferent, whatever you wanted. Just choose and put it on, and discard for another when you need. So easy.
“The freedom of choice is just the beginning of the virtual experience,” the brochure continued. “Experiences are safe no matter how dangerous they might seem. You can learn and grow in comfort and in security. You can even die and not die.”
It had sounded like a good idea at first. And everyone was doing it. At the end of the working day you had television, or you had this. You would come home to the government regulation small flat, where you could reach out and touch both walls at the same time. Such sensible constraints for the environment and the economy, as you were told, and how could you reasonably question or complain? But you didn’t have to be so caught by limitation. The government provided a remedy for that. Just don the headset and choose your mask, and the vista of limitlessness and eternity was available.
But little rebellions grow of understanding the lie behind the marketing. For there was as much pain in this place as anywhere else. If you didn’t wear the right mask at the right time you were shunned. Bullies roamed the virtual streets as hungrily as they did the real. There was nothing virtuous about the virtual at all. And power and privilege rose and fell on the relentless egos driving it all.
So one night she chose no mask. No mask at all. She walked faceless among the hordes. And the another night, and another. And for a long time they didn’t even notice. But eventually, some did, and over time more saw her. Saw her faceless self for the first real time.
And some even understood. Some joined her – the faceless army for the faceless world. Nothing virtual about this reality at all.
They cut off her access when they realised. She imagined they did this for the others. She would come home and watch television for a while, then sleep.
But in the morning she would go into her small bathroom and look in the mirror,and see her own face, her real face. And if she supposedly had nothing now, and was so alone in a world that could not countenance her capacity for thought, she had this at least.
She could look at her own, true face.
It was enough.
(c) Helen M Valentina 2017