The other voice said like over the loudspeaker and stuff:
“YOU STAND ACCUSED BEFORE A JURY OF YOUR PEERS. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO SAY FOR YOURSELF AND STUFF?”
“Uh,” I said. “I didn’t do it.”
Then the voice of the Guide said in my VR headset:
IN OUR LEGAL SYSTEM, YOU ARE NOT INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. YOU ARE GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. YOU LIKE LITERALLY CAN’T SAY YOU DIDN’T DO IT.
“Then what the hell do you even have a trial for?”
“SO THAT THE GUILTY MAY FACE JUSTICE AND REPAY HIS DEBT TO SOCIETY.”
“For what, though, seriously? That thing with the cube? You frickin’ guys made me do it in the first place! And then you took over my body so I had no control.”
WIMPING OUT IS NOT HOW YOU WIN COURT CASES HERE, BRO, FYI.
“Okay, can you guys just like stop for a minute?”
“WHAT SEEMS TO BE THE MATTER?”
“Okay, I’m like… in a robot… in VR… in a warehouse… where I don’t know where I am… standing trial for a thing you forced me to do… that I don’t even frickin’ know what it is or what it means…”
“SO YOU ADMIT YOU DID DO IT? VERY INTERESTING!”
“What thing? Aargh!”
“YOU USED UP ONE OF YOUR GUESSES ALREADY. YOU HAVE NINE LEFT.”
“I’m supposed to guess what I’m being accused of?”
The voice in my headset popped back in:
THAT’S RIGHT, NEO. JUST TELL THE TRUTH.
“Wait, how am I supposed to know like what you’re accusing me of, if it isn’t that thing with the cube?”
The robot jury members shuffled around awkwardly. Someone coughed.
“JUST SAY WHAT YOU THINK YOU DID WRONG, AND WE’LL TELL YOU IF YOU’RE RIGHT OR NOT.”
“This is twisted, man. And if I use up all my guesses, then what happens then?”
“THEN YOUR GUILT IS PROVEN BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT, AND YOUR SENTENCE CARRIED OUT FORTHWITH.”
“And that sentence would be…?”
“What?? Jfc, don’t you think that’s a bit harsh? Why don’t you just tell me what you think I even did?”
“BECAUSE WE DECIDED IT’S MORE FUN THIS WAY.”
The voice in my headset agreed:
WE ARE A FUN-LOVING PEOPLE, INDEED. AND THIS WAY WE GET A LOT OF FREE AND HILARIOUS CONTENT WHICH WE TURN AROUND AND SELL TO THE NETWORKS WHILE WE WATCH DEFENDANTS SQUIRM.
“Holy hell, are you livestreaming this rn?”
“YES, AND OUR AUDIENCES HATE DEAD AIR TIME AND STUFF. PLEASE MAKE YOUR NEXT GUESS.”
“Okay, uh, hm… let’s see” I was getting tired of this. What did they frickin’ want me to say? I didn’t do anything wrong. “Look, I got nothing.”
The voice on the loudspeaker said:
“LET THE RECORD SHOW THAT THE ACCUSED GUESSED ‘I DID NOTHING WRONG’ AS HIS SECOND GUESS, AND HAS EIGHT REMAINING GUESSES.”
The voice in my headset added:
A COMMON CLAIM AMONG HARDENED CRIMINALS, ISN’T THAT RIGHT, NEO?
“Jesus, you guys. This sucks.”
“NEXT GUESS PLEASE.”
“Fuck! Okay, let’s see… uh, I… didn’t do what you guys asked?”
“Completing my 100 hours of community service or whatever?”
“BUT STILL TECHNICALLY WRONG.”
“Well, yeah, cause you guys forced me to come back here early.”
NO ONE FORCED YOU TO DO ANYTHING, MY DUDE. EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED, YOU CHOSE TO PARTICIPATE IN.
“That’s just like, your opinion, man. Y’all tricked me and lied to me like a bunch of times now. I’m kinda ready to just take this frickin’ headset off and like drive tf out of here back home. Y’all can keep your VR and crap.”
NEO, WHAT IF I TOLD YOU THERE NEVER WERE ANY NANITES OR EDIBLE MICROCHIPS, AND THAT THIS WAS ALL JUST PART OF THE TEST AND IT WAS ALL YOU ALL ALONG?
“I would say that’s a pretty shitty trick to play on somebody, obvs. Are you frickin’ serious or are you still effing with me? Cause this is way out of hand, yo.”
WE HAD TO SEE IF YOU WERE READY TO COMMIT FULLY TO THE VISION. IF YOU WERE READY TO BECOME A FULL MEMBER OF CONSPIRATOPIA, AND TAKE ON ALL THE PRIVILEGES AND OBLIGATIONS THAT THIS ENTAILS.
“Obligations like what? Being gaslit by you guys endlessly? Doing weird semi-criminal stuff? This place is SO fucked. You are all fucked in the mind.”
ARE WE, NEO? OR ARE WE SO CRAZY THAT WE’RE THE ONLY ONES WHO ARE SANE? OR WE’RE SO CRAZY THAT WE’RE THE ONLY ONES ABLE TO SEE AND SPEAK THE TRUTH? IT’S THE WORLD THAT IS FUCKED, NEO. WE ARE THE MEDICINE.
“Whatever you say, man,” I said, and meant it like for real. “I’m getting out of here. I’m gonna try to get my old job at Walmart back and stuff. This was all cool and interesting at first, but now it’s just creepy af.”
When I went to raise my hands though to take off the VR headset, they froze midway, and wouldn’t move.
“Yo, I thought you said there were no nanites.”
CORRECTION: I SAID “WHAT IF I TOLD YOU THERE WERE NEVER ANY NANITES?”
“So, are there nanites or not?”
IF THERE WERE NOT, WHY ELSE MIGHT YOU ARMS BE FROZEN?
“You paralyzed me? Wtf!!”
NO, NEO. YOU HAVE PARALYZED YOURSELF, WITH YOUR OWN FEAR OF THE TRUTH.
“Or…” I said, working something out in my mind, “they’re not my real arms. And it’s all just a virtual illusion.”
“DING DING DING!” said the voice over the loudspeaker. The jury members shuffled around, and seemed pleased.
WHERE ARE YOU NOW, NEO? REALLY?
“Uh, I’m in a warehouse just outside of town?”
ARE YOU THOUGH, NEO? REALLY??
“I mean, I think…”
THE MATRIX HAS YOU, NEO. THAT IS THE FALSE WORLD. THIS – THIS IS THE REAL WORLD, NEO.
“If you say so, man. But I know my body is back there. I don’t want to be a robot forever. Just let me take this thing off. I’m ready to wake tf back up in my bed, and this was all just a dream, and stuff. Give me the goddamned blue pill, already.”
YOU CAN’T UNSEE WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN, NEO. OR UNDO WHAT YOU HAVE DONE.
“What did I do, anyway? You never gave me a straight answer and stuff.”
YOU FREED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE FROM A FALSE REALITY, NEO.
“Yeah, and replaced it with another false one, seems like. This place is as fake as everything else. How do I know any of this even exists? I’ve only ever seen it in VR.”
YOU’VE BEEN HERE BY TELEPRESENCE ROBOT, NEO.
“Which you could fake in VR, easily, my dude.”
SO THEN, YOU’RE READY TO COME HERE PHYSICALLY, WITH YOUR BODY AND STUFF?
“Uh…” I said, not sure if this was another trick.
THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO SAY NO, NEO. TAKE THE BLUE PILL AND WAKE UP IN YOUR BED, AND THIS WAS ALL JUST A DREAM. GO BACK TO WALMART AND HANG OUT WITH YOUR SENIOR CITIZENS. THAT’S TOTALLY COOL WITH US, IF IT’S WHAT YOU REALLY WANT FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. BUT YOU’RE SUCH A SMART CONSPIRACY GUY, IS THAT REALLY WHAT YOU WANT? OR IS IT YOU JUST CLING TO THE SAFETY OF THE KNOWN, BUT ARE TANTALIZED BY AN UNKNOWN THAT IS FOREVER OUT OF REACH, AND ARE HAPPY TO NEVER VENTURE OUTSIDE YOUR COMFORT ZONE?
“Yo, that’s harsh,” I said. “Fine. You win. I’ll go.”
A DRIVERLESS ELECTRIC VAN WILL ARRIVE AT THE WAREHOUSE IN FIVE MINUTES. YOU WILL GET IN. THE WINDOWS WILL BE BLACKED OUT, SO YOU CAN’T SEE WHERE YOU ARE GOING. BUT THERE WILL BE TUNES, GAMES, FILMS, SNACKS IN THE MINI-FRIDGE, AND SMOKES. THE SEAT FOLDS OUT INTO A BED, AND THERE’S A TOILET IN THERE IF YOU NEED IT. IT WILL BE LIKE HAVING YOUR OWN APARTMENT. TOTALLY COOL REALLY.
“I’m sure. How long does the trip take, usually?”
THAT WILL BE DECIDED BY THE ALGORITHM, AND WILL NOT BE DISCLOSED TO YOU BEFORE OR DURING. IT MAY BE HOURS OR IT MAY BE DAYS. IF NEEDED, YOUR POD MAY BE TRANSFERRED TO ANOTHER MEANS OF CONVEYANCE TO REACH THE INDICATED DESTINATION. BUT YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL ANY DISCOMFORT, THANKS TO THE UNIT’S GYROSCOPIC STABILIZERS.
“So, that’s it then? I sit in a box for three days, and then poof? I’m here for real?”
POOF INDEED, NEO. YOU MAY OR MAY NOT ARRIVE AT THIS SPECIFIC LOCALE, BUT YOUR PHYSICAL SURROUNDINGS WILL BE MUCH THE SAME AS WHAT YOU SEE BEFORE YOU NOW. YOUR NEW LIFE WILL FINALLY BEGIN.
“Cool, I guess,” I said. “I could use a new life or something… maybe.”