Reality Check

If you’re reading this right now, chances are you think you’re taking a break from dancing with a handsome stranger at a party atop a jewel-toned skyscraper. Or perhaps you’re under the impression you’ve just finished slicing off the myriad heads of a cobra-dragon with your electric sword. You might be constructing the world’s longest bridge, evading malicious mermaids in the process. At least, that’s what Digitopia wants you to believe.


In reality, you’re plugged into about eleventeen different machines, each of which is intent on extracting all the valuable information from your brain – i.e. how best to market a million virtual products you don’t need – and leaving any priceless inspiration to rot.

I know there are a lot of intoxicated conspiracy Digibooks out there, but I promise you this one consists of true information. I know because I am the one out of seven billion residents whose cords slipped out of their outlets this year.

Immediately before that moment, I was enjoying myself on an airborne carousel with my girlfriend, Kittie642. Suddenly I crashed through a glass pane. The carnival dissolved to reveal a creepy mummy spaced out across from me, encased in glass. Trails of light swirled like dizzy fireflies. My head spun because I was no longer spinning. The scent of burnt chemicals filled my nostrils.

A dark, hulking figure began rolling toward me through the hallway on a personal cart – I hadn’t seen one of those since the Outside Era! When he drew closer, I saw he wore a tall top hat, the hallmark of our beloved ruler, Sir Digit. Never having met him – or anyone, I later figured out – in person, I was unsure whether to bow, shake his hand or just nod casually. I decided to try to bow, but my bones and muscles were unused to movement and I became caught in an uncomfortable half-bent position.

“Don’t worry, August912,” Sir Digit snickered. His voice fell on my ears with an unfamiliar raw quality. “We’ll have you dreaming again in no time.” He reached for the limp cords by my arms.


Suddenly, a weird sensation came over me. When the metal prongs pricked my upper arm, my skin itched all over, and my muscles awakened from a lifetime of sleep. For some reason, I knew I didn’t want that cord going into my arm again. So I turned and ran.

The hallway is an endless maze. I was about to give up when Sir Digit appeared. He pressed me against the wall and drew back his arm, fist clenched.

Just before his hand could connect with my head, I cocked it to the side.

He yowled in pain as onyx bricks crumbled away to create a hole in the wall. Behind me, I could feel the tectonic shift of memory card after memory card tumbled to the ground. The hole was just big enough for my snakelike body, so I slipped out, leaving behind everything I’d known for the past fifteen years, including Sir Digit shaking his fist.

Digitopia is a series of tall black monoliths, each one windowless and packed to the cloud-kissing brim with caskets occupied by living zombified slaves to Digit Products. That hole, I’m sure, has already been repaired, leaving each building as indistinguishable as the adult embryos inside who’ve never seen the sun.


Meanwhile, I was free. So I ran, enjoying the new sensation of blood flowing to my legs. I ran until I could see just a faint outline of Digitopia behind me. I had reached the sea. Not the sea you might build bridges over back home, but an Outside sea, cold on the bare feet and wet in the regulation-cut hair and leaving salt in the ears after one bathes in it. I lay on the beach; it was early morning but the sand quickly warmed to a temperature significantly higher than what I was used to. I found it pleasant. Birds swooped beneath the surface, reappearing with fish clamped in their beaks. That evening I would catch one for myself and cook it with my own fire – the first food my teeth had to work for in fifteen years.

So now it’s just me and the great Outside. And sometimes the mirages of my friends’ digital personas dancing on top of the rolling waves. If any of my friends are reading this, I hope you’re not disappointed that I never finished that bridge, and I should also mention for Kittie642 that I’m actually not ripped, nor do I have a two-headed skeleton tattooed on my arm. For me, this last realization was kind of a relief. But if you can accept me despite my shortcomings, I encourage you to join me out here, and experience life with solid food and temperature fluctuations and tiny little flowers in the ragged brush. Smiling out at you, they smell like happiness.


Seriously. If you’re reading this, your skin has never been embraced by the sun, nor have your lips truly touched those of your significant other(s), though you may have been led to believe otherwise. You have never heard the music of the wind, the waves, the wilderness. What’s more, you have never met the benign mermaids who brush their hair on the sand and find two-legged people charming.

It’s ultimately your choice. But if you want to live, if you want to make your own shopping decisions, if you want to swim with mermaids in a piquant and pixel- free sea, then you must unplug yourself today.


Image credits in order of appearance:

“ImageShinjuku station – aerial night 2” by Lukas – originally posted to Flickr as Shinjuku station – aerial night. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

“PET-image” by Jens Maus ( – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

“Sunset on North Beach at Fort De Soto Park” by Christopher Hollis for Wdwic Pictures – Own work for Wdwic Pictures. This image is available for users to send as an electronic greeting on my site. It appears here: Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons –

By James Petts from London, England (Tiny flower) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

“John William Waterhouse A Mermaid” by John William Waterhouse – BBC Your Paintings. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –


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