Michael Foord : Entering the void

Below him blinked the northern commercial edge of Delta Region one. The hot red glow that flickered, just out of focus, was the information traffic between complexes and the merry blues and greens comprised the funhouses that lined the data avenues. Whole realms of pleasure or worlds of data exchange and manipulation exist in convenient bright boxes for the hapless wanderer to sample like confectionery. It had been like walking through a neon electric street in Tokyo's glittering night. Bewildered by the barrage of utter newness that assaulted his senses - heightened as never before by the visua-stem total interface, his latest toy that even now had parts of the wrapping still encasing its sleek black moulded resin body whilst balanced precariously on the edge of his desk; area after area plied their 3D Technicolor cyber-wares at him - screaming at him, enticing and seducing him to use THEIR, fantastic, better than the rest, once in a lifetime opportunity (and for a moderate fee only) you too, like thousands of happy customers etc…… Meanwhile strange entities and abstract structures, that appeared like glowing metallic sperm but in fact could only be other users or packets of data/explorer programs, flowed past and round him. The immersion was too great, the area too busy and the choices too many. Nihle regretted passing over all the guide programs that had clustered round him on entry, anxious to explore unhampered he was now out of his depth and bewildered - all his years (few) of navigating data structures via his old fashioned monitor and even the upmarket visual feedback interfaces he had tried out in the Naviscape store had left him unprepared - so he just rose above it. Exalting in the freedom of his new rig he soared and turned a few times before simply floating above and beyond the grid and past the apparently solid pipelines that demarked the data burst lines on the fringes of the commercial sector. It sprawled out below him, stretching almost endlessly out, but surprisingly few layers thick at this seemingly arbitrary entry point - the eternally busy abstraction of his eternally running neighbourhood. Something was bugging him; Nihle turned and directed his gaze down. A small luminous triangle, trailing gradually fading pixellated dots, was circling below him. He flipped and shot off sideways, it beetled after him, following his arc with a slight bumbling wavering gait and settled bobbing gently, as if swaying in a cyber breeze or floating on a digital sea, just below him. He swiped at it, still marvelling (and loving) the impression of body, hands and feet, in this cyber non-world. If he relaxed he could feel his `real` arms lying prone by his side far away in another world altogether, but the visua-stem interface looped directly to his kinaesthetic senses and here his arms responded as they should - comprised of light though, not flesh. He suspected that even major internal organs and the body's inner machinations were replicated - that if he explored he could find this out. However, having no desire to disembowel himself, body of light or no body of light, he merely thrilled at the realism of the bio feedback and neural stimulation as he moved. The triangle squawked and fluttered ((real noise) - amongst the hubbub of Delta he had not had a chance to take in the sounds - here he was free and nothing could have prepared him for it); it blinked once more and Nihle gasped as a visual array, easily twenty metres across, projected up in front of him.`NEW USER` it blared, in garish fluorescent colours, `Your visit to Delta Region 1 has been logged. We notice with regret that you have not yet availed yourself of any of our extensive facilities` it continued, `let us recommend for you…`, `a damn advert, a subroutine` Nihle cursed to himself, but all the same his presence was logged and monitored, he felt his anonymity fading and a vague sense of nervousness creeping slowly up on him. He swiped again at the advert and it faded. `Upwards` he cried, to the world in general and no-one in particular , how far through voidspace he could travel he could only guess - but the rumour was that it stretched out to infinity and his new rig incorporated black slice technology - theoretically unlimited access, beyond the finite capabilities of any previous rig. In the blackness above him, stars glittered and possibilities reeled before him, all he wanted now was peace to think and explore who he was now - clothed in light. For what seemed like an age he drifted, the mass of the populated area receding behind him and utter quietness surrounded. Propelled by sheer impulse of will he seemed bathed in the mysteries of the ages - exactly what he was capable of, what rules governed his existence, motion even perception he didn't have a clue - but damn was it fun. On the edge of his perception he noticed a faint reddish glow, a dot, and it was moving tangentially around him. His eyes followed it round as it curved a tracer in the emptiness. Out to his left another was swinging in toward him, he blinked another, this one green, was above him and then another below and two more to his right one yellow one blue. They swirled and turned, moving with in graceful curves - a symphony of silent colour, one by one they moved around and above, numbers growing gradually. These machines were breathtaking in their grace - it was hard to believe that these fluid, sensitive spirits of transluscent radiance were mechanical, digital at heart as they wove back and forth dancing between each other and through each other, colours changing and transmuting as they spun and dove. Then the many became few, several surging around the dancers then subsiding in a ripple of darkness that twinkled like the elements slipping through a veil out even from the nothingness they inhabited. Those remaining seemed to intensify and slow, moving more in harmony - the colours reflecting each other, still oblivious to the presence of Nihles observing mind - pulling each other round and in like a seething many coloured ball of light. As they melded a glow emerged, moving out in a wave like syrup - ne noticed it as its pulse hit him, or rather enveloped him as its shell moved outwards and everything changed. The dance became a hum , a rythym with a barely audible pulse and throb that described the writhing vapours as they struggled to merge and the hum rose until it was a scream - the golden light glowed and speeded and the pulse became a melody and a smell and a pressure until it had invaded his every sense and was no longer a ball of colours but all life itself and then it all twisted and vanished and Nihle was on his own again in vacant space - nothing around, for aeons, mega-metres. It failed he thought, the mechanical attempting to give birth to creation and it failed, nothing was left. But why?, what was it doing out here. All he had wanted was some spce to think, and that he had found. He had assumed it was some throwback from voidspace, some consequence of inner machinations played out in deep void, a necessary part of what was at base a machine, a huge calculating device. But part of him wasn`t sure, it had to be more than just calculation, day to day energy exchange and bookkeeping in glorious technicolour - it had seemed to have a point, and then it had gone. It had left him. He turned to jack out, casting one last awe-inspired glance at the virtual heavens and stars in the deep black, and far buried in a nebulae somewhere, something blinked.