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- Did you hear about that experiment the university’s lab is looking volunteers for? – sipping a beer asked Eric.
- Oh yeah, do you know what is that about? – in turn asked Beatrice. They were at a student party in his friend’s place in the city. Music was playing pretty loud, bunch of people drinking, dancing, and talking in smaller groups. They were in the same class before and now they were in behavioral psychology. They weren’t very close but interacted in a friendly way around campus.
- I’m not sure but I think they want to research how virtual reality affects people’s health, broadly speaking. I think I will volunteer, it looks interesting.
- Have you messed around with VR much?
- No, not really. More reading and watching videos about it but haven’t experienced it myself.
- I see, that’s cool. Let me know how it goes. – she said and went to get another drink. Eric stayed a little longer and went home. Two weeks later he enrolled to participate in the research.

Is this real or not? Where am I? He was thinking this when walking through a bizarre, futuristic looking city environment. There were hundreds of skyscrapers of different shapes made from unrecognizable materials. Some buildings had detailed, circuit chip looking exterior, they seemed to be alive as though pulsating with electricity. Others had a plain surface, no visible signs of windows or other familiar parts of structures. Everything looked dark lime color, not only buildings but the air itself was heavy, seemed like it’s soaked in a greenish dense mass. There were also loads of organic structures like trees and shrubs scattered among the buildings; but they were not individual units, rather, they looked like conglomerations of different species such as tree/flowers/fungi all meshed together. He was walking among the buildings and the phantasmagoric vegetation, curiously looking around, drifting from one strange thing to another. His thoughts were also drifting and he could not focus on anything specific for more than a brief moment. He wandered upon a pulsating structure and touched it. Nothing happened.

- Should we introduce any other inputs? – asked the man in a white coat.
- Yes, the sign. – said the guy in a suit who seemed to be in charge.

He kept walking when he noticed something painted on the ground. Came closer, saw an unfamiliar sign or symbol which did not mean anything to him. He stepped on it. A small window opened on a building nearby and inside there was a leaflet. He went there and took the paper. It said: “Do not be afraid. This is just an experiment and a learning experience. You chose to be here, remember? Keep moving. ” Well that’s weird. I don’t remember. What is this place, I have never seen anything like this, he thought. It does not make sense. There were no people around. He did not know how long it had been since he became aware of the surroundings. As is often the case in new environments, time expanded, he felt like several days or weeks passed while it had been only several hours. He wandered some more, gazing at the towering buildings and bizarre plants never seen before and was astonished by all this novelty. Eric’s mind was spinning. The note said this is an experiment. But what is it about, whom or what is being studied here? Suddenly he felt exhausted and sleepy. Everything went black.
When he woke up, the surroundings were completely different from the previous ones. There was a vague memory of some sci-fi, digital type of urban landscape in the back of his mind. However, this was something else altogether. First thing he noticed was intense, dry heat percolating through the body. Not a drop of water could be seen around, his mouth felt like trying to swallow cotton. In fact, as far as the eyes could see, there were plains, no buildings, no people, or animals. The ground was of intense hues of orange, yellow and red; it looked like sand but felt different when touched – harder, rougher substance. Is this some kind of a desert? He started walking, it was difficult as the surface was unstable, whatever material on the ground was, it was draining his energy. No shade in sight, no cacti or bushes or anything. This cannot be happening. This isn’t real. I must be dreaming, I will soon wake up.

- How long has he been walking? –asked the suit.
- Three and a half hours. – said the scientist in a white coat after checking the control panel.
- What is the temperature setting in there?
- 37 degrees Celsius.
- He is severely dehydrated by now. We need him conscious. Introduce the stream.

The scientist did as he was told, he typed something in the keyboard and water appeared in the monitor which showed the environment of the simulation.  Meanwhile, the same three thoughts kept going around in his mind while walking, ‘How did I get here’, ‘what is this place’ and ‘I want water’. A sparkle caught his eye. He gathered the remaining strength and rushed towards it. Yes, yes, thank you, yes, a stream of water was calmly flowing among the burning dryness. He fell on his knees, dumped his face in the water, poured water on his head and splashed his face and drank until he couldn’t anymore. Water was surprisingly cold. He sat on the edge of the riverbank to take a break and noticed something sticking out of the sand. Brushed the sand off with his hand, he saw a stone plate with a symbol etched on it. Have I seen this sign before? He pushed the stone, and a few meters away a whole appeared in the sand. He came closer and looked inside. There was a paper, it said: “You signed up for this. It is difficult now but if you endure and overcome the challenges it will be well worthwhile the trouble. Keep moving”. What the hell does this mean, I did not sign up for this nonsense. Did I? If there is water here, then people must live around, too, he thought. He followed the stream for who knows how long (they knew, it was two more hours) and then everything went black again.

- Are you sure you want to run the same protocol? All previous subjects could not function after the second module. –asked the scientist hesitantly.
- Yes, initiate the third module. Conditions have to be the same for experiment to be valid.
- Starting the third stage. – again he clicked the commands on the computer.

When he became aware of himself, he thought ‘how does it keep happening’. He was lying on a thick forest floor. Trees, leaves, flowers, a million shades of green was breathing around him. He was in a jungle. There was a distant memory of something very hot, a scorching sunlight on his body and deep thirst. Looking around he thought how strange that was, I am in some lush, loud, strange place now, why do I remember being exhaustion by heat? He stood up. All kinds of unseen trees, vines, leaves were intertwined around him. Barely any rays of light were piercing through dense canopy. This time it was not silent, he could hear dozens of birds singing, shouting, laughing. He spotted monkeys jumping from branch to branch a few times. It is so beautiful but how did I get here? A slight headache made this new place feel real. If my head hurts, it must be a real experience, he thought.

- What would you like to happen next? – asked the scientist.
- Most importantly, don’t overload the system. You know what happened to the previous subjects – they stay in the simulation permanently. We must avoid this or else the government’s regulatory team will be able to detect our operation. – said the director. – Let’s see if he can find the supplies we left him.
- Understood.

He was slowly making his way forward. But the picture in his mind of what is going on was a pile of muddy mess with barely any directions or familiar objects. ‘Didn’t I sign up for some strange experiment at the university’s research lab? I remember glimpses of a presentation and descriptions claiming volunteers would be contributing to ‘cutting-edge multidisciplinary research into the nature of reality’ and the like. When did that happen? Two, three months ago? It seems forever ago. Indeed, it was supposed to be an experiment at university’s research lab. They put an ad online looking for volunteers to participate in a virtual reality research the purpose of which was to study the subject’s behavior in different environments and the effects of VR simulations on their physical and mental health. That was the official description. However, it was a front for a secret government programme seeking to study human subjects, mine data from them and create certain profiles with the purpose of complete and ultimate knowledge about human beings in order to control them.
The way this clandestine government operation was set up was that the simulated environments had an enormous amount and wide range sensors – which is a new technology being tested – that captured a vast scope of information about the subjects. The sensors were invisible, installed and programmed and present everywhere – every inch of the buildings, the ground, the plants, the animals had them – in each of the simulations. Every step and breath subjects take, every eye movement they make, their pulse, all the physiological parameters were tracked, measured, identified, analyzed and saved. Yet, that was just the surface level – what they were really after were thoughts, emotions, impulses, fears, rationalizations and deepest inner reflections. The goal was to know a person absolutely, understand what drives him/her and develop procedures to exert influence without them even knowing about it.
2021-08-21 17:15
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Balsų: 4 Kas ir kaip?
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2022-03-30 10:27
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2021-08-30 23:04
Homem Aranha
Ačiū už komentarą! Norėjau išplėsti daugiau, bet nesugalvojau kaip, knietėjo įkelti greičiau.. :)
Pabandysiu judėti toliau.
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2021-08-30 09:51
Pavadinčiau tai Grey Mirror, nes pabaiga nenušešė iki Black :))
Bet hey, potencialo pilna ir dar norėtųsi paskaityt!
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