“Evelyn” – A Sci-Fi Short Story
April 25, 2017 § Leave a comment
For my final project, I attempted to write a short story within the genre of science fiction. In the story, called “Evelyn”, progress in both the realms of artificial intelligence and virtual reality result in an interesting research application: the main character enters a virtual world inhabited by A.I. in order to study their behavior. What he finds complicates his understanding of humanity, embodiment, and reality. While the story is too long to post in its completeness, below I have posted an excerpt. In these passages, the main character, Joseph, describes how it feels to enter an immersive, virtual reality:
“When the servers power up, and the headset turns on, there is at first a moment of darkness. Your vision goes black, your skin goes numb – every bodily sensation dissipates, and the mind recedes into itself. You forget the humming of the laboratory computers, Dr. Armstrong’s firm grip on your shoulder, the weight of your own body. You forget the commute you made that morning through vacant streets, forcing down breakfast as you drifted between anxiety and sleep, the self-driving car cradling you down the highway. Without sensation, without memory, you have to constantly remind yourself that you are alive, that there is a real world, that you have a real body.
Then light comes, quickens in a flash, and you can see grass beneath you, twilight draped across distant mountains. A fig tree towers beside you, older than the world it lives in. Its leaves flutter to a wind you cannot feel, reach for a sun that sparked into existence just moments ago. A river is born mid-roar; songbirds harmonize in a celebration of birth. And there you are, at forty-three, a witness to creation.
You close your eyes and take a breath, a deep breath, expecting a cascade of crisp air across your tongue. Instead, you taste a dry, dusty warmth. This is laboratory air, you remember, air that has traveled in and out of the machines, dragging the heat of simulated physics and artificial thoughts away from the circuitry and into your lungs.
The disconnect brings nausea, and the nausea brings fear. You’re floating, without anything to ground yourself – a mind without embodiment.
In several minutes, the nausea will subside, your tastebuds and skin will react to the world around you with precision, and your new body will appear; a slim, powerful body. You’ll forget the body you left behind, now just a vacant shell stretched out on a mattress, its flesh fed and maintained through an IV. This is not you; you’re peeing on the wild daisies, not through a catheter; you’re eating fresh, wild figs plucked straight from the tree; you’re sitting in a one-room cottage writing notes in a journal at midnight, the pencil dulling with every letter you write. The suit simulates every perception, every feeling. In one world you lie down, in the other you stand. In one world you think motion, and in one world, you live it…”
– Zach Gospe