VOYAGE WITH THE VISITOR: THE NULL WORLD
“What is this place?” I asked my extraterrestrial Visitor.
The two of us gazed down on the expanse below. Through a combination of electrochemical and pheromone signals emanating from the Visitor, I was able to understand when it spoke to my mind: Look.
The planet above which we hovered was swarming with shuffling creatures.
We call this the Null World,
the Visitor said.
The beings upon it looked so familiar, although I didn’t know why. They were of various shapes and sizes - tall, short, spindly, round - yet based upon the same blank template. They ambled past each other heedlessly, either not knowing or caring that others were nearby. I noticed two things right away: they were hooked to at least one portable object, and parts of their faces were oddly misshapen.
Their noses are the first to atrophy,
said the Visitor, followed by their ears. Their tongues, which were once so useful for the formation of words, now only help them to swallow. Their devices keep them alive.
“Devices?” I asked, feeling queasy. I didn’t want to know what they were, but some part of me already did.
“Maybe try and communicate with one of them,” I said. “Telepathically, like you’re doing with me.”
The Visitor widened its two black, gleaming eyes, until they morphed into one that spanned the bridge of its tubelike nose. I saw it focus upon one of the figures below, and the image grew ever clearer. The creature himself - a bald-headed male - was intensely focused upon the flat screen that he carried. Two seconds passed, then five, then ten. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck tingle as my galactic guide attempted to reach the creature’s mind. Apparently, this telepathy did not only affect its potential recipient.
Nevertheless, the male did not react. He simply moved on, leaning in closer to his beloved techwear.
The Visitor drooped its head: I said “Hello”.
After hesitating, it let its one eye separate into two again.
We looked at the creatures once more. Despite all of their aimless shuffling, their fingers fluttered with manic purpose. They mashed and swiped their thumbs against screens that only they could see, and bobbed their heads to musical vibrations they could only sense - not hear. I shut my eyes tightly against the scene.
“What’s wrong with them?” I asked. “Why don’t they notice each other, or even themselves? Huh?”
They fear death, and seek to escape it by uploading as much information as they can through their technology. Unfortunately, what they’re actually doing is downloading themselves onto these devices. They want to live forever, and in pursuing such a goal, they die.
This paradox was too much to bear. I kept my eyes shut, shaking my head over and over. It couldn’t be.
my companion replied, and that’s why I’ve come for you.
The Visitor soothed my mind, and the Null World - Earth - disappeared.