Metaverse Mortality (flash fiction)

Here’s a piece of sci fi/cyberpunk flash fiction about the metaverse and online criminals. It’s about 570 words and has an estimated reading time of 2 and a half minutes. Let me know what you think!

Hashim had vague memories of life before the metaverse. He even had dreams about them sometimes. Playing outside with toy soldiers in the backyard, back when the weather was a bit cooler.

Now, the average summer temperature in Baltimore was about 97 degrees. They called it the “Danger Season” in the city, and the only reason you left the air-conditioning inside was for basic necessities or emergencies.

Not that Hashim left his apartment much anyway.

He spent about eighteen hours a day in the metaverse, mostly playing shooter games or at the virtual casinos. It wasn’t until he met Okubo, a mysterious casino user and frequent chat room partner, that he began to get into crime.

As Okubo taught him, robbing a virtual casino was pretty easy. Some of them were run by independent users with weak security contractors.

But recently, Okubo wanted to up their game.

She talked about a heist of Warvas Global. Hashim knew how insane this idea was – they were a mega-multinational with an infamous security force.

But if they pulled it off, they’d never have to work again.

“Ready, partner?” Okubo said. Her voice was modified, as always. He began using that technique recently, too, now that he was a hustler.

“This is dumb as shit,” he replied, “but why the hell not?”

Question: If you died in the Metaverse, did you die IRL?

Hashim thought about this as they attacked the Warvas firewall. No one knew for sure. Of course, there were plenty of rumors. But no one kept track of the metaverse; it was a Wild West sort of thing. And the federal government was too weak now to regulate anything.

So, Hashim pondered his mortality as Okubo did most of the work. His only job was to save the passwords quickly as they appeared.

The passwords popped up in his view like rapid-fire; he saved them quickly, feeling frenzied but also an adrenaline rush.

“Oh shit.” Okubo’s worried voice came through.

A skull and cross-bones image appeared, and Hashim felt a sharp pain in his head. “Okubo?” he yelled. “Hey, you seeing this?”

She didn’t answer.

“Okubo? Where are you?”

The image vanished, replaced by flashing red lights. They were the kind of strobe lights and visual mind-fuck that induced seizures. And it didn’t take long for Hashim to begin feeling a killer migraine.

“User 7865,” a monotone voice blared. “You have violated Section 2.34 of International Metaverse Code, requiring immediate elimination. Be advised. The full force of punishment will commence in ten, nine, eight, seven ….”

Hashim panicked, but it was no use. He was so disoriented and caught in the trance-like flashing red lights that he couldn’t disconnect. He was screaming, but no one could hear him, probably. He lived alone.

“Three, two, one … Elimination protocol enforced.”

An electric shock zapped Hashim’s headgear, and, within a few seconds, his brain was fried. He slumped onto his bed.

Hashim’s body wasn’t found until three weeks later when the corpse began to smell up the apartment floor. The landlord had the maintenance man toss it in the Dumpster, which baked in the summer heat for a few days.

No one knew he died in the metaverse, but rumors spread about it. Indeed, no one could confirm the question about dying in the metaverse.

Hashim and Okubo found out the hard way.

The End

Author’s Note: I read an article about the metaverse recently and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Wikipedia defines the metaverse as a “collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the Internet.”

According to some articles I read, some people predict the metaverse will one day replace the internet. Facebook is, apparently, investing heavily in it, and Mark Zuckerberg can’t stop talking about it. Of course, the idea could utterly fail and never materialize. Still, it’s fun to think about.

Another couple of things: The term “metaverse,” and maybe even the concept itself, was coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. It’s funny how sci-fi ideas come to life sometimes!

Also, this story was heavily influenced by William Gibson’s cyberpunk stories. Many of those stories involved “console cowboys” in cyberspace hacking and robbing people.

Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply