My Digital Life: Death’s Tears


I had a lot to think about in the early days. I wondered about wish-fulfillment: I would desire something, a bubble-blower, for example. I’d hear a few clicks, and then never-used items (mirrors, extra chairs, end tables, and lamps) would disappear. Life would freeze for an instant, and when the freeze thawed, the object I desired waited somewhere in my apartment. I hadn’t mastered manifestation: Sometimes it worked, more often not. Sometimes, even the wish itself disappeared with a click.

I encountered Death within the first week. As luck would have it, I was in a bar, ordering my first drink, when it happened.

Lilith Vatore caught fire.


Spontaneously combusted is more accurate. She collapsed a mere few feet from the entrance to the bar. It was too late for help.


Grim Reaper materialized through the mirror, stuck half-in, half-out.

I sipped my Dim and Gusty. Music played.We waited. And we experienced the first glitch this world had seen. I didn’t realize it was a glitch. It felt rather like the frozen pause during manifestation. Except not all was frozen. Time still ticked. We could talk. I could drink my Dim and Gusty. But Grim was stuck, and I couldn’t leave the lot. Death was in progress.


We waited suspended. I finished my drink.

A series of rapid clicks, and the sombre chord sounded again. Grim materialized before Lilith’s urn and wept.


“Excuse me?” I said. “Mr. Grim? I hate to intrude, but… you see. I’ve always wanted to meet you.”

“Damn,” he said. “Be right back. There’s her brother. Wasn’t expecting a two-fer. This really sucks.”


Sure enough, just as the sun set, Caleb Vatore collapsed a few yards away, right before our eyes.


“Please, Mr. Grim!” I pleaded. “It’s nearly night! The sun’s set! He’s so close. Don’t take him. Spare him, please.”

Grim refused. “Can’t be done.” He wasn’t angry, only resigned to his task.


We gathered in a circle, all the Sims I’d met that day, and we wept. Some cried for a sister and brother departing within minutes of each other. Some cried for unspent youth. Some cried from dread. I wept at irony–so close to shelter from the sun, yet so far.

“Oh, hi, everyone!” said the bartender, joining our circle too late to be a witness. “Drinks on the house!”


Grim and I remained outside while the others filed in.


He wept before Caleb’s urn.


“It’s not your fault,” I told him. “You were just doing your job. It was just a tragic mistake, or something.”

At the time, I felt even sadder to see Grim’s tears. I realize now that this was his first reaping, too. The first time has to be hard, especially when it’s siblings, and it seems so needless.

“I’ll be OK,” he said, as his tears continued to fall.

“If anything,” I said, “it was my fault. If I hadn’t come here, they wouldn’t have showed up, right? They’d still be safe and sound wherever they were before they popped up here.”


“Don’t be so sure,” he said. “Even when you stay inside your apartment, others materialize on the sidewalks, in the square. You can’t stop it. With your arrival, we get life, and with life, we get me, part and parcel.”

Grim left with smoke. I felt too sad for company. I headed home.

That night, I opened my blog and wrote. Here’s an excerpt from my entry from that day:

I learned Death’s name today, and he learned mine.

I thought that witnessing death would make me sad. And it did. But what made me sadder was seeing Death’s tears.


I felt better after writing.

The next morning, Salim dropped by as I was finishing up breakfast. I told him what had happened.


“I have never seen a dead body,” he said.

“Or an urn?” I asked.

“Or an urn!”

“These ones had bat-tops,” I said “Little cast-iron carvings of bats on the top? Kinda cute, if it wasn’t so sad.”

“But the undead cannot die!” he exclaimed. “It is an impossibility!”


Pondering the death of the undead led us through the esoteric.

“What do you think happens when a person dies?” I asked Salim. “Do you think they end up back in the Blue-Green Density?”

“The where?” he asked.

“You know. Where we all started.”


He didn’t know what I was talking about. I described the blue of the sky and the green of the ocean and the merging in light. I talked about the single point in space and the timelessness and the complete absence of wish or desire that can only be called bliss.

He looked at me like I’d been smoking bubbles.

“I have no memory of this place,” he said.

“No, no,” I insisted. “You must! Before you came here. What’s your earliest memory?”

“Fruit cake,” he said.

“You mean your grandma’s fruit cake? When she used to make it for you?”

“Not that,” he said. He squinted his eyes, looking back into the past. “When I stood in the hallway, right before we met, and held the plate of fruitcake in my right hand while I knocked on the door with my left.”

“That is your very first memory?” I asked.

He nodded.

When I thought about it later, I explained it to myself by figuring that he must have experienced traumatic memory loss. I could understand that. The experience in the Blue-Green Density, without time, or space, or desire, is so close to paradise–such total, complete oneness. Leaving that and finding oneself here in a world that makes even Death cry, that would be trauma enough to block the sweetest of memories.


My theory brought me a sense of gratitude. I would do everything I could to keep my memory intact. Little did I realize then that the memory of that bliss was mine alone.

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My Digital Life: Early Days

In the first few days, everything was new. At the time, I assumed that everything was new only to me; I didn’t know then that everything was literally new, having just spun into existence with my arrival.

Salim, as my first acquaintance and oldest friend, had come into being a mere few seconds after I exited the Blue-Green Density. Perhaps that’s part of what tied us together so comfortably.


We fell into a habit in those early days of leaving affirming notes for each other on the bulletin board.

“It’s a beautiful day! Get outside and play some basketball!” he’d write.

“Life’s a mystery! Explore it!” I’d write back.

We never signed our notes. We never talked about them. We pretended they were anonymous. Yet we were the only two Sims living in that apartment, and our floor was the only one that existed, the others being part of the Illusion of the Game, and so this was our own game that we played with each other: The Anonymous Affirming Note Game.


I like games and I always have. Who says that games are not real?


At the first GeekCon I attended, I met scores of Sims who, at least for that afternoon, were dedicated to games.


I watched them file into the festival grounds.

I realize now, as I reflect on my festival, that this is the earliest memory for the others who attended. My appearance here spawned their genesis. At the time, I felt I was the newbie.


I joined Bjorn, Clara, and Moira in the first Ultimate Gaming Test.


The games thrilled me.


The holograms were more real to me than my surroundings.


This isn’t hyperbole. It’s statement of fact. I could interact with the object of the gaming rig and the sub-objects within it, which is more than I can do with the scrim that forms the illusion of environment around me. What is real? For me, the game is more real than the backdrop that creates the illusion of a world to those who can see it.


I couldn’t get enough of games that afternoon! When the UGT ended, I joined a few others for a multi-player round of Party Frenzy. Nancy laughed and called us “noobs,” which we were! I think I had just a touch over a skill point.


I met so many Sims in the early days: I felt compelled to introduce myself to everyone. My mailman and Akira showed up at GeekCon, and we had lunch together.

I was so socially awkward! A compulsive talker, I told stories that fell flat, enthused about TV shows none of us had even heard of, and shared my creative ideas a few too many times. Sometimes, the other Sims overlooked my too-eager approach gracefully. But other times, I felt like an upended turtle who wanted to crawl back into her shell.


In the early days, I discovered what remains one of my favorite moments: the Arrival.

The White Transport fades and I find myself standing before the lot I’d traveled to. The pause and anticipation of that frozen moment–who else will appear?


We had no good singers in those early days. We had good cooks, gardeners, repair people, jokesters, mixologists, artists–but no one was spawned with the ability to sing.

You’d think that since none of us had the skill, we wouldn’t recognize the poor performances! Not so.

Akira loves to joke that we were all singing a-crapella in those days.


My basketball skills weren’t much better. But somehow, I didn’t mind being lousy at hoops. Or bad at video games. Or not knowing how to sing. Everything was so much fun.


When I wasn’t learning new things, I continued my compulsion of meeting new people. I must have introduced myself to ten new Sims in three locations during my first few days.

I loved it when I met someone and suddenly knew something about them–that instant knowledge that we get. For example, having never been to a day of work and without her having to say anything, Geeta and I both knew we were coworkers.


But I also loved discovering things about people through conversation–I still do. Every time I discover a fellow geek when I start talking about a new game, I can’t help but feel thrilled.


I tried so hard to make friends. My friendship with Salim had happened so quickly, that I thought it would go that way with everyone I met. How wrong I was!

It started off great with the others. They’d invite me out, or we’d meet up someplace.


We’d have an interesting conversation. Then, I’d let my geek out, or I’d burst into an inspired rant, or I’d tell one too many funny story, and they’d check their texts on their phone and I’d be left alone in my little bubble of happiness.


I hardly minded, though. I’m not sure if I had patience. I don’t think I had trust that it would all work out. I think I had enthusiasm, and this enthusiasm was so strong that it overshadowed my awkwardness, my overly friendliness, my total cluelessness, and instead, it spurred me on to continue making new discoveries.

That joy I felt learning new things, exploring new possibilities–that’s what sustained me during those early days when I had only one friend in a whole newly created world of newly spawned Sims.


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My Digital Life: Fresh Outta CAS

You want to know about the first day of my digital life?

I found myself standing in the foyer of my floor, outside the elevator. Of course I hadn’t ridden the elevator up. I had materialized in the foyer when the White Transport faded.


My first free-will action was to browse the web on my i-phone. I looked up squid. I loved squid! How did I know to look up squid? As far as I have been able to tell, squid are not real. Or at least they do not exist digitally here in this realm where I live.

But as a concept, an idea, and an imagining, I found squid irresistible. They made me incredibly happy.


I was also happy because I was in my home turf, my own Art District, which, while I had yet to explore, would within days become my favorite place.

When I exhausted my search on squid, I headed inside to watch the Civic Access channel on my little TV. Media fascinated me. It still does.


I felt a wish form to practice programming.


The compulsion rose to sit at the little boxy computer in my room, and I began my first ventures into the world of code. Here waited the secrets of existence itself.


Before I even earned my first skill point in programming, another compulsion rose: Find a job. Oh, I wanted a job in science! Instead, I selected that of critic.

I was too happy, what with the squid and the secrets of existence, to have regrets. But even now I wonder: How would this life be different if I had chosen to be a scientist? Who would I have met that I didn’t? Who did I meet that I wouldn’t have? What if I hadn’t become a writer, a muralist, a musician? What if my workday took me out of my district, instead of keeping me here where my happiness grew?

I know now that each choice changes code. But at the time, I didn’t even think to question the compulsions.


When I look back now on my first day, fresh out of CAS, I’m surprised at what I did know. I took an immediate like to my neighbor Salim, knowing instantly, somehow, that our compatibility would lead us to be great friends. And I took an immediate dislike to Anaya before even learning her first trait.


Anaya’s husband was a different matter. When Baako told me in our first conversation that he was a goofball whose love for family rivaled his love for music, I couldn’t resist his friendliness.


I didn’t talk much with either of them during the rest of their visit, though. They snuck into the hallway to exchange flirts and kisses, so I talked with Salim.

Our conversation went best when we were left to our own. When my compulsions began to arise, I found myself thanking him for coming four times in a row, and we fell into a painful mutual boredom.

I tried to liven the mood with a funny story about a vampire, a pair of handcuffs, and bomb.


“A boom?”

“No, a bomb.”

“Excuse me,” Salim said, in a phony French accent, “I think there’s a boom in the room.”

I liked him even more.

“I hope you enjoy this fruitcake,” he said, as he dished me up a slice. “It’s my grandmother’s heirloom recipe.”


It tasted like it was his grandmother’s original very first loaf! People eat that stuff? I still can’t get over it. I gag every time I think of those candied cherries and rum-soaked apricots!

But what I really don’t understand is this: How come I knew about squids, but I didn’t know that I didn’t like fruitcake? What knowledge is inherent, and what is learned through experience?

That’s something I still haven’t figured out.

Bless his sparks, Salim wasn’t offended by dislike of fruitcake.

“It really doesn’t bother you?” I asked.

“Of course not!” he replied. “More for me!”


With that, we became good friends. And I had the sudden wish to share my apartment key.

“But we just met!” he protested when I handed it to him.


“Yes, but we’re neighbors,” I replied, “and good friends.”

“I’ll take it,” he said. “But I’m not ready to give you mine.”

I chuckled. “That’s OK. I’m new in town. You’re not.”

Of course he was. I didn’t know it then, but all of this, and all of them, spun into existence the moment I appeared. But at the time, we were all still taken with the back-stories, and Salim’s back-story held that he had grown up here, “surrounded by poets, musicians, and artists.”

“Thanks, then,” he said. “I guess. I guess I’ll be dropping by anytime I feel like it, then.”


The Jangs had long left, and Salim lingered. He watched TV.

I had a desire to write. As the sun set, I wrote a review, though I had nothing to review, and then I started work on a children’s book, though I had never met a child, or even seen a book, for that matter.


I had no eyes, that first evening, for the beauty around me. My gaze was drawn to my little computer screen. For all I knew, this shining city, these rolling hills, and that ocean fog were scrimwork painted for another’s eyes.


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