Dexter sat in front of his computer, with no intention to work. Under the dim light of his room, the molding mugs, the used tissues, and the half-eaten food spread around a mess of tangled cables like dead insects trapped by a bush of poison ivy.
This used to be a perfect place for Dexter to work, or at least perfectly acceptable. But after his conversation with the mysterious woman in the large, bulky cape, and the abrupt ending of it, Dexter’s world was turned upside down.
What’s the purpose of working? What’s the purpose of living?
What’s the purpose of anything?
The woman told Dexter that the world around him was imaginary. Simulated. Artificial. Computer-generated. A place, or a state of being, known as the Matrix.
“We have no time. The agents are coming,” Dexter could hear an urgent whispering in the mysterious woman’s ear bud, as he was being told that the world he lives in was essentially a gigantic computer game.
She must be on cracks, Dexter thought. Or she must be crazy. But the calmness in her manner and the confidence in her voice!
Maybe he was the one who was going crazy?
The woman stopped talking and frowned. “How much time?”
The ear bud answered: “less than 30 seconds. I don’t know how they found us… but they are only a few floors away!”
She turned to Dexter. “Take this pill and come with us! To the real world!”
Dexter could not answer. A few moments of hesitation, and the woman swore: “Dammit!”
What happened next was so fast that Dexter didn’t know how stunned he was until he was on the floor: the woman withdrew the pill, ran to the window, and shouted “we will be back for you” before she jumped. At that precise moment, the door was busted open, three suited men ran in, one of them pinned Dexter to the floor, the other two leapt out the window after the woman.
The woman did not come back. Three weeks after that strange encounter, some horrific investigation by the suited men, and waking up in his room realizing he might have had a strangely vivid nightmare, Dexter convinced himself that everything was his imagination.
But this must be the first time in the history of mankind for a man to lose all motivation in life, because of a single nightmare.
A box appeared on his monitor. It was his old classmate and business partner Chen.
“Hey buddy, how’s going?” a line of text appeared. “Almost got the prototype over here, how’s the software coming along?”
Dexter sighed. What’s the point? If this whole thing was imaginary…
“Dude, are you still thinking about your nightmare?” Dexter could almost picture Chen’s incredulous, annoyed look. “So what if this world is some kind of a game? You’re in it, I’m in it, and we get hungry if we don’t eat for 5 hours. You better get your acts together man, or our project would just die, and us with it.”
Right, the project.
After Dexter met Chen in college, where they took up computer science and engineering, they soon decided to drop school and focus on their project full time. They learned more from the internet than from any balding professors combined, anyway.
Suddenly an idea clicked in Dexter. “Hey, how about we take a break from the project and figure out whether we are really surrounded by a computer simulation?”
No replies from Chen. His little head must be calculating the risks and possibilities… or simply swearing.
“Maybe the dream was a sign, a sign for us to look at the big picture. If we discover the controlling mechanism of the world, or merely the pattern of it, we would be rich, rich, rich!” Dexter added, hoping that would do the trick.
Still no word from Chen. Maybe he was sympathetic now. Or maybe he was worried for his future with this wacko partner. Or maybe their private direct line was malfunctioning.
Dexter let his imagination run wild. Sure, a world-wide computer simulation sounded too absurd, but finding out any controlling patterns in politics, religions, weather, or economics would mean a world of opportunities.
Chen finally agreed to take 2 weeks off their ongoing project, in exchange for Dexter’s promise to resume working on the software part of the project if the crazy search of world controlling mechanism failed.
Little did they know, that promise would never have to be fulfilled.