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Jay Durandal
Age Rating:


Bryce (screen name: Mario) had been wandering between band camps that littered the application’s full dive virtual reality space (or appspace) when he decided to visit Escher’s Waterfall.

A few of his friends were there and one, Alexia (screen name: Cherry), had invited him to join. He muted the mind-reading input controller that was wirelessly connected to his head-mounted display.

These apps are always insecure, he thought, ultraparanoid as he unmuted the brain-computer interface (BCI) and switched to first-person view. It was a model of Escher’s Waterfall, rendered in the (Blue) Unity engine, known for its stunning, realistic graphics and lighting effects that flexed the boundaries of ultra-fi VR without any performance issues.

He switched to continuous locomotion and proceeded up a flight of stairs to examine the impossible machine from below. With an uncapped framerate, silky smooth sparkling water poured over the wood-textured wheel of the watermill. From a traditional perspective, water appeared to zigzag up two tribars and tumble down again -- violating several laws of physics.

Stricken with boredom but unwilling to leave, regulars were running the narrow, shallow, 20th century brick-mapped water channels and leaping from truncated paths. Those who survived the drop were out in the appspace searching for glitches.

“Fall damage?” Mario muttered. “What fall damage?”

Everything around him looked quite normal: a non-playable character (NPC) standing on the flat roof of her home, calmly hanging laundry out to dry, while another NPC -- the miller -- stared up at the sky. Both seemed oblivious to the impossible waterfall, though they were programmed to comment extensively on the piece.

“Mario!” greeted his friend, Cherry, from a balcony. Her avatar waved. Mario returned the wave, distracted by what appeared to be a cluster of moss and lichen, enlarged many orders of magnitude, swaying in the breeze.

“What are these doing here?” He asked all visitors. No response except, “Ask the Oracle”, an app based on the old Internet Oracle, wherein visitors would ask a question anonymously and be answered anonymously.

Mario craned his neck, eye trackers tracking his pupils to view two towering supports for the waterfall’s aqueduct. They were topped by two compound polyhedra. To the left three intersecting cubes, to the right three octahedrons.

Seeing them for the first time triggered an NPC: “Escher loved mathematics and art!” said the woman airing out laundry in an infinite loop.

“Newbie alert!” A regular yelled, before leaping from a ledge.

But Mario’s mind was absent as he planned out how he’d grab a pillar of the first and highest tower, scale it and view the solids. It would be tricky, and he wanted to capture a 360 degree video of the geometric marvels.

One problem: the appdevs had disabled video-capturing from anywhere within the New States. So Mario decided he would leave, then proxy into the appspace. That wouldn’t be enough; the Internaut would have to use a different immersive video recorder that hadn’t been blocked.

Mario exited into a sea of Internauts in the massive search engine, GoogleVR. He was using Cherry’s layout, who’d customized everything to look like something out of Tron, a classic film from the Old World with an aesthetic of space, skyscrapers representing social networks towering over the appscape.

The wealthiest, most popular celebrities were using Twitter, lounging in customizable personal spaces and providing witty takes about topics relevant to issues of the time. Billions of network denizens across the virtual megacity were in the flow of browsing apps. Mario pulled up saved apps, then followed directions in his HUD across the appscape to Daydream View, an app store which sold immersive video recorders that would bypass most blocks.

Most. So it was a matter of trial and error. Or luck.

He was auto-greeted by Violaine, co-founder of Daydream View. A deepfake neural network of the developer, his search engine was powered by Google and answered most questions before anyone could finish asking them. The store was almost empty save for a few visitors browsing VR game recorders and other expensive items.

Hoping to get lucky, Mario bought a VeeVue 360 Video Recorder and Editor for the old USD equivalent of about $89.90. This will have to work, he thought, pulling up his transaction history and watching the credits deduct from his account.

He exited into organized chaos to make his way back to the Waterfall. Into a world of ads, bots, and users with custom avatars. Mario didn’t have time for it, so he switched to flatnet, opened Escher’s Waterfall, then slid back into first person view.

It was almost too easy.

He proxied in from Japan somewhere with an unrecognizable device that may or may not have been a video capturing app. Cherry was gone but the site retained a steady stream of visitors coming and going insofar as the mental cost was low.

Mario took in more of the machine. The aqueduct, which started at the waterwheel, flowed endlessly behind it.

From where he was standing, Mario could see the illusion: directly overhead were ledges of the two tribars. Water flow stopped at each ledge. He noted that the bottommost aqueduct formed an L, the middle a Z, while the uppermost aqueduct was a ledge from which water magically emerged to tumble down unto the wheel.

The miller explained the illusion. “A 20th century viewer of this piece typically looked down at the scene diagonally,” he said, quoting directly from Wikipedia’s paywalled article.

“Which meant that, from the viewer’s perspective, the aqueduct appeared to be slanted upward. The viewer was also looking across the scene diagonally from the lower right. From the viewer’s perspective the two left-hand turns were directly in line with each other, while the waterwheel, the forward turn and the end of the aqueduct were all in line. The second left-hand turn is supported by pillars from the first, while the other two corners are supported by a tower of pillars that begins at the waterwheel...”

Mario caught sight of a Curl-up under an arch of a small bridge, which connected the flat roof of a house to the watermill.

A fictional animal invented by Escher, it glared at Mario with two stalked, beady eyes and -- true to its name -- curled up and rolled around the climbing expanse of terraced farmland, which butted up against the walls of the appspaces’ hemispherical skydome.

“The Curl-up is elongated and armored with several keratinized joints,” the miller quoted. “It has six legs, each with what appears to be a human foot. It has a disc-shaped head with a parrot-like beak and eyes on stalks on either side.

“It can either crawl over a variety of terrain with its six legs or press its beak to the ground and roll into a wheel shape. It can then roll, gaining acceleration by pushing with its legs. On slopes it can tuck its legs in and roll freely. This rolling can end in one of two ways; by abruptly unrolling in motion, which leaves the creature belly-up, or by braking to a stop with its legs and slowly unrolling backwards.”

Suddenly, Mario wondered who was watching, besides a few regulars. The appdevs, he thought. They logged every event “to help improve the experience”, but also to track users around the appscape to determine their interests. Mario was sure he’d get more invites to Escher art pieces as he browsed with GoogleVR.

In any event, he was determined to get immersive video of everything. Surely it’ll worth something to someone, he reasoned. But that wasn’t the only reason he wanted the video. There was also the satisfaction of doing so. ThreeVee, the internet’s largest immersive video-sharing app, needed a 360 video of Escher’s fall, and Mario wanted to be the first to deliver.


Mario spawns at the bottom of a stairwell; an entry to the quaint villa. At the top of the steps is an open space. Behind him, to his right is a home with a large balcony, where the woman is hanging clothes. To his left, some steps descending unto a rooftop, where the miller stands with his back against a railing.

Mario loads a parkour control scheme and takes a deep breath from muscle memory.

He’s not going to actually run. Instead, he merely activates the neuronal mechanisms that trigger locomotion, then begins capturing immersive video.

It works.


A sigh of relief in enveloping, holographic audio, then a burst of speed.

Jump-kicking off a brown painted wall.

Looking down for a beat, the ground loses some of its high-rez texture and --

Grabbing the ledge of a small arched walkway serving as a bridge to the mill.

Looking up. His arm extends into the field of view, gloved hand gripping the edge of the small bridge while flecks of dust create light rays over a startled, magenta colored curl-up.

He hangs before climbing with his heart rate, standing to capture a 360 degree view. He stops a regular idling on the only steps to the bottom water channel. The regular looks up and flashes an obscene emote.

“Nice recorder, newb. How much did you pay for it?” Emphasis on “pay”, like spitting out an ugly verb.

Hands-free leap over the regular, splash landing in the L-shaped channel.

Sprinting with the flow of the channel, aqua blue water sloshing around red running shoes.

Think: Run. The brain-reading tech controls every step, including Stop at the L channel’s drop and Turn 180 degrees, spinning an environment made of many colors.

A blur of someone jumping from the ledge as Mario leaps, grabs, and pulls up to the second level of the water channel.

Freerunning. Confidence building; dopamine stored up for release. Frontflipping over a slow-moving visitor. Bending the first corner, the highest tower sliding into view.

Keep running and concentrate on gaining momentum. There’s a convincing radial blur effect.

Catleap to grab the uppermost ledge. Pull up. Slip and splashdown flat, submerging briefly. Spring up gasping for air, overwhelmed by the fear of drowning.

Two regulars peer over the top ledge and laugh out loud. Spiky hair in the glare. Mario looks above them: part of the simulated sun occluded by Escher’s compound of intersecting cubes.


Glancing over the side of the channel. Cherry spawns in. “Where are--?” Bird’s eye view of Cherry’s avatar. Default human body shape and skin clothed in customizable techwear.

“Up here!” Eyes meet, leaning over the edge and waving with one hand, presenting a stunning panorama of the villa and terraced land.

Dolly zoom-like effect on everything below: a daunting sense of vertigo.

“Is that from Daydream?” she tsks-tsks, immersive audio casting her voice from below. “Those are --”

“No.” Mario lies. Back on his feet and ready to try again. This time he loads a different pair of gloves with high gripability.

Backing up to the first corner of the second level water channel. Think: Sprint. Leap. Grab.

“Haha.” Laughs a young J-Pop stalker fan. “10 creds says he’ll fall again.”

Sprinting. The 3D sound of footsteps smacking water, breaking surface tension. Gathering speed to bound once, twice, then three times -- reaching for the ledge.

Got it. Hold on tight and pull up into a sitting position. The spiky haired visitors vanish, ragequitting in unison.

“Ha! Pay up!”

But they’re gone and the so-called newb is laughing over the pleasant trickle of the waterfall. Over the birds perched at the height of the tower. Over the gentle breeze, probably taken from stock sound clips starting at two credits each.


The top level was supported by four columns that had been vandalized with VR gamer tags. Mario would’ve had to shimmy up a column to reach the highest point of the fall.

But balancing on the top level, against the flow, had taken more brain power than he’d expected and he stumbled while reaching for a column, the horizon tilting at a dizzying angle.

Then Mario fell down the fall, immersive video capturing it all.


He lay for a moment, then pulled himself up from where the wheel-powered aqueduct began.

“Ouch...” Cherry said as he exited the channel and vaulted over the railing some three meters to the ground, where several visitors had gathered.

“Did you tag a column?”

“How much fall damage did that take?”

“Waterfall is a lithograph by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher,” the miller said abruptly. “First printed in October 1961. It shows a perpetual motion machine where water from the base of a wa--”

“Skip intro!” Three or four visitors shouted at once.

Mario stopped capturing immersive video. Paranoid, he glanced around for a moderator bot. A bot that would boot him if it detected a Daydream recorder. The Waterfall’s source code was owned by the devs and capturing immersive video would violate several copyright laws in the New States.

The small crowd of visitors and regulars dwindled with their curiosity. Cherry’s avatar was sitting lotus style in front Escher’s extraordinary moss and lichen garden. She could’ve been doing anything from arguing with her girlfriends to paying off owed credit to playing FarmVue. Either way, his friend was away, and would likely remain so until kicked off the server for being idle too long.

Mario walked close enough to her avatar for a message to pop up: “Switch to this outfit?” He agreed and was instantly clothed in the same getup configured for male avatars.

He wore a lightweight, sleeveless H2H casual slim fit zip-up hoodie over a vantablack printed teeshirt bearing a single, stylized word in hex color red: “CyberPunk”.

Ironically advertising the subculture, the teeshirt hung over a pair of MOKEWEN techwear. Harem pants that were hiked up to his knees, they were covered with flair for WANarchists.

Dangling before the teeshirt were three necklaces: RGB colored microcircuit boards attached to a chain. They’d clink together as he sprinted around appscape, his hands covered in fingerless leather gloves.

“Decent outfit.” Mario said to Cherry’s blank avatar. She’d muted her eye trackers.


Mario decided he’d captured enough video. The disappointment of having fallen made him want to try again (it was an engaging past time), and he planned to do so after uploading the video to ThreeVee.

He stepped back into the infinitely branching traffic of GoogleVR, joining the flow once more -- billions of avatars travelling at different rates. Some walking, some running. Many zipping around on “light cycles”.

Others stood in front of apps and vanished into flatnet.

The entire appscape was alive; the search engine, an organism. Social networks were entities that ran on user-generated content; Facebook, the superstructure of a lowercase “f”, towered as high as the graphic’s engine could render.

“It all looks so simple on flatnet, huh?” Cherry spawned beside him, exiting the Waterfall app. She’d changed outfits.

“Eh, too much walking. How is this practical?”

Like Cherry, Mario was using the free version of the Tron appscape. Light cycles were included in the premium version, although they were cosmetic and wouldn’t travel any faster than what he’d paid for.

“I like it.” She opined. “Makes GoogleVR more realistic, like a VRMMORPG/FPS mashup.” Cherry noted his outfit and smiled in reality.

“I don’t know what to think. All of this is still new to me,” said Mario.

Mario received a notification. He ignored it, breaking into a sprint.

Cherry did the same, closing the gap immediately. Browsing at faster speeds, she’d outrun him if she knew where he was going.

“What’s the rush?” She glided next to Mario, running in parallel. The microchips on their necklaces clinking together with each step.

Cherry could see her legs and feet. Legs covered in bionic leggings, white, black, and gray, with just a hint of red, detailing metal joints, pistons, etc.. Her feet were covered in glow-laced Gravity Defiers, every step leaving a digital footprint that was traceable from 100 million steps.

Mario was browsing with a proxy so his 3D printed AirWalk footprints beelined from various servers in Japan.

“The video of the climb and fall.” Mario said finally. “If it goes viral, maybe businesses will want to sponsor the content.”

Another notification. This time Mario checked the sender. It was an ad for Escher’s “Relativity”, pushing him to visit another fully rendered Escher model. This one rendered in the (Red) Unity engine.

Mario deleted the notification. He didn’t trust apps made in the Other States.

Yet the first notification went unnoticed as he continued sprinting with traffic towards ThreeVee, represented on the appscape as a megasize movie theater.

Tronesque, of course, with sharply angular architecture resembling the historical ruins of the festival hall of Tiroler Festspiele, of Erl, Austria by Delugan Meissl. Searchlights waved across the appmosphere: a landmark app surrounded by hundreds of competitors.

But before he could get there Cherry received a notification. She checked it and stopped in the center of traffic, hundreds of avatars zipping by or walking around her automatically.

“Wait, Mario. Stop-!” said Cherry. But Mario didn’t want to stop in the middle of web traffic, making his proxy traceable. He sprinted past Bandcamp’s band camps and through popup ads for channels on VTube, itself a superstructure on the appscape.

He stopped at ThreeVee, turned around and was suprised to have lost Cherry. He scattered the floating multishaped iterations that had taken an interest in him. Tracking bots.

“What part of Do Not Track don’t you understand?” Mario asked. Many bots scattered, while others merely evaded his swats and returned to their orbits.

On cue, an ad splashed across his visor to upgrade the Tron theme: “No More Tracking Bots,” standing out in #00FF00. For the old USD equivalent of about $37.65 a day, he could add Tron theme 2.0, giving him access to light cycles and a dozen abstract forms of transportation.

The recommendation popped up frequently in the free version. But this time he gave in and upgraded to Tron Premium. The appscape shifted to ultra-high poly 16k resolution, 240hz, to a pixel rate of 6 billion pixels per second.

Fetching a bright, electric green baton from his gloriously rendered harem pants, he transitioned into a light cycle; a 5th generation personal transport bike. Powered by pure liquid energy, he beelined away from ThreeVee, merging with traffic to track Cherry’s footprints.


The light cycle may have been a cosmetic upgrade for browsing, but handling one was an out-of-orbit experience.

Mario increased speed by pushing the front and rear ends of the virtual vehicle further apart, exposing its engine in the process. The front wheel was locked forward, so steering was not done by turning the front wheel, but by tilting the entire bike. When attempting certain maneuvers, a pair of small fins would spring out just behind the vehicle, to aid either balance or braking.

And, just like that, the netizen zipped into a machine code bit storm, between fractured dataframes -- noisy noise, procedurally generated and pixelated.

He saw an Electrotech Carnival cross a static swamp.

Eerie. Quiet. Dark.

He slipped into a legacy system, slid thru missing corridor data.

Passed towering energy columns and throbbing green memory banks...

A throwback forward, it was a ride worth every credit.

Then Mario caught sight of a “shitstorm” raging in Reddit.

Poisioned by irony, followers of Ceiling Cat and Basement Cat were warring in the appspace. A blinding rainbow of nukes lit Reddit’s appmosphere until a Mod who called himself “Ceiling Cat” spawned in, peeking into the skydome.

“I’m gonna taek vengeance; I’m gonna spare no wan!” Ceiling Cat boomed.

“I r redeemr! teh lord almighty iz mah nayme! I iz teh holy wan ov reddit!”

Silence spread across Reddit’s appspace. For a beat, Mario heard only the buzz of the bike’s engine. He laughed. Then war continued, the tide turning in favor of Ceiling Cat.

Cherry’s tracks appeared, neon purple footprints containing her User-Agent string, among other things.

“There you are,” Mario said.

Meanwhile one of Basement Cat’s highest-ranking Mods spawned into the appspace: his personal favorite. Even at a distance he could make out her shiny black feline form in Tron’s premium theme.


She was pure information; her body a library, her spinal column a crystal staircase of knowledge, each of her tail’s cells precisely arranged volumes of methodologies, treatments, laws and technologies.

It was all waiting inside her, wheels and triangles, logics and semiotics, engines and nanochips, senates and parliaments, the intricate lattices and spindles of invention, shining with the oil of tasks undone.

She burned with the black, heatless fires of thought.

An idealist, she would not be censored.

She did not believe in playing favorites, it was a matter of principle with her.

“Woot! Woot!” Mario cheered, the tide of war turning in favor of Basement Cat. Brilliant orbital lasers streaked down into the appmosphere.

Cherry’s footprints became more vibrant on the appscape; he was getting closer. For whatever reason, she’d returned to Waterfall. As he rode the bike into the Waterfall app, vanishing in a spark of electric blue light, he remembered the unchecked notification blinking in his HUD.


Spawning into the map, Mario skipped up the steps and glanced around for Cherry. The Waterfall was crowded with visitors -- so many it caused noticeable lag and a drop in framerate. He wasn’t going to find her visually, so he opened a user search for his mutual friend.

The first search returned 0 results in 0 seconds.

Buggy app, he thought. Then he opened the second notification, while noticing the first was from the app devs of Waterfall.

“Hey droog,” it was Cherry. “Did you get a notification from Waterfall?”

“Yeah,” Mario replied, opening live chat. “Thought it was spam.”

Cherry appeared in the top right corner of his HUD. “Where are you, man? Search is broken. Too many lusers in the appspace--”

“What the hell’s going on?” He cast his sights on the crowd. Dozens of visitors were walking, running, and climbing ledges to reach the top ledge, where the water fell.

“Meet me inside the Laundry Lady’s house,” she replied.


Weaving through visitors, Mario slipped through the door, entering Escher’s House of Stairs with a start.

“Whoa,” was all he could manage when greeted by the home’s surreal interior. He’d never seen anything like it: stairs ascending and descending to doorways. More than 40 curl-ups crawling the stairs and rolling around, coming and going through one of more than a dozen open entrances and exits.

Cherry was straddling the carapace of a curl-up that was glitching into a wall -- another bug caused by too much activity. Other curl-ups followed their program, doing what Escher had imagined.

It was an impressive and logic-defying masterpiece and, except for the strange ticking sound made by walking curl-ups, it was quiet.

“What’s up?” said Mario, still perplexed by the home’s interior. “Why’d you come back here?”

“Check your notification from the devs,” she replied.

Mario opened the notification and was greeted with Waterfall’s Terms of Service.

“These Terms of Service govern your access to and use of our app.” Mario read aloud.

“By submitting, posting or displaying content on or through the app, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce... such content in any and all media or distribution methods now known or later developed. This license authorizes us to make your content available to the rest of the world and to let others do the same. You agree --”

Mario felt something like frustration welling up inside him. He didn’t remember agreeing to anything.

“This is bull-,” he started.

“Keep reading,” Cherry urged.

He continued to read, some parts to himself, other parts aloud.

“...that this license includes the right for Waterfall to provide, promote, and improve the app and blah blah...”

Old World legalese. His eyes glazed over until he read, “...such additional uses by the app is made with no compensation paid to you with respect to the content that you submit through the app as the use of the app by you is hereby agreed-”

A curl-up bowled by him, almost knocking him over a ledge. Mario was livid, a signal that triggered his avatar to kick at the beastie.

“I d-d-didn’t ag-g-gree t-to anything!” He said, stuttering over the laggy voice channel.

“...as being sufficient compensation for the content and grant of rights herein.” Cherry finished.

Seconds died.

“So...what does this mean?” But Mario knew what it meant before Cherry could rejoin with, “Check the video.”

Hesitant, he checked it and saw an immersive video -- his immersive video -- chopped, edited and remixed by the apps devs.

A work of art reduced to an advertisement for Waterfall.

One he was being compensated for merely by using the app.

The video was heavily doctored to make him appear incompetent: there was the shot of the regular flashing an obscene emote while calling him out for using VeeVue. The shot of his first unsuccessful catleap to the highest ledge, which literally made him gasp for air. There was laughter, mockery. The bet that he wasn’t mentally capable of reaching it.

Then, the fall. More laughter, but louder this time. Too loud for Mario. He stopped the advertisement in mid-fall.

“Wow...” He said, preparing a rant riddled with F-bombs.

Cherry hopped off the sunset orange curl-up. She wore a buttoned up, medium sized, star constellation covered Virtika soft shell jacket, featuring a helmet-sized hood and Virtika embroidery. It matched her leggings and attitude.

“Yes, they stole your video --” She began.

“They stole my video!” Mario said, not listening.

“Yes.” Cherry repeated. “But, look around outside. You’ve gone viral!”

“Huh?” Mario was confused until a few regulars strode in on the backs of curl-ups.

“Hey! It’s Mario!” One of them said.

“Epic run,” said another. “Where’d you buy those vintage parkour gloves?”

And another: “I recently installed a FreeMind controller. How long before I’ll be able to jump like you?”


“Uhh...” Mario wasn’t sure what to say. Being so new to the full dive VR experience, he’d assumed less about his mental ability to get around. Moreover, he’d failed to reach the highest point of the map. Why weren’t they laughing at him?

“I, um, fetched the gloves from Precision,” he started to answer. Then he realized why they were impressed: training a brain input controller was a difficult process. The advertisement may have slammed him for using VeeVue, but it also displayed the so-called newb’s ability to move through virtual space using a popular controller.

It turned out Mario’s natural ability had taken most visitors some time to imitate, the majority failing the first jump-kick for need of more training.

“How do I get out of this place?” Mario looked around, confused.

“Take an upside-down left over there,” Cherry pointed in some vague direction.

“Huh?” He spun around while she laughed.

“Derp. You get out the same way you came in.”

Another curl-up rolled by him. This time he stepped out of the way of its path-finding algorithm.

“Precision?” One of the visitors remarked. “Their gear’s priced higher than space junk!”

“That’s because you’re poor!”

“At least I have a gig, instead of living off the microstate!”

They argued as Mario exited to the Waterfall map, where visitors seemed to have doubled in size. He looked over the crowd. Newbies were sloppily climbing, falling, and running about like prepubescents, practicing parkour with new BCIs.

He’d started some kind of trend. One he needed a clue to promote.

“Hey!” Someone said, pointing. “It’s Mario, from the ad!” Everyone within range turned in the direction of his avatar.

“No it isn’t,” a visitor objected.

“Yes. That’s Mario, who fell. Hey, Lancer!” they shouted at a friend who’d been trying to climb a wall. “Lancer” stopped and shifted his attention to Mario.

“Isn’t that Mario?”

Mario was speechless as word of him spread exponentially from visitor to visitor like some kind of virus. Eventually there wasn’t a single newb in the appspace who didn’t think they were standing in the presence of a pro.

Nevertheless, a clique of regulars cast their doubts:

“He’s not that good.” Mario glanced up. The spiky haired regulars were sitting in their previous spot on the ledge of the third level. “He fell, remember?”

Some random visitor booed the regulars. But most emotes were head nods and thumb-ups. Mario cringed as blood rushed to his face in hard reality.

Then it hit him: he could do it again; complete his run to the top of the cubes. He changed outfits, control scheme, and sucked in air from muscle memory.

“He’s gonna run!” Someone yelled from under the small bridge. “Get out of the way!”

Like before, Mario ran towards the wall and jump-kicked to the bridge. He sprinted, leapt, flipped and climbed his way to the top ledge.

“Whoa,” the two regulars stood up and made room for him. A barrage of Likes -- the unofficial currency of reputation -- displayed in the lower left corner of his HUD.

“How’d you do that?” One of them asked. “You must’ve hacked your controller. I’ve never seen anyone move like that after two tries.”

But the climb had taken a mental toll. He felt dizzy and struggled to focus. Balance, he thought. This ledge is mine.


Mario stood. Insofar as he didn’t stay focused, the water current inched him towards the fall.

Balance, he meditated while eyeing the graffiti-tagged column and, before a thought could enter his head, he sprang towards it. Climbing compulsively, he saw Likes streaming in from the crowd. From ground level, Cherry saw her friend climbing higher.

“Yeah!” She shouted, visibly excited in real life as Mario triumphantly climbed to the top of the cubes and...



“What?!” Bryce yelled into an empty apartment. He’d crashed back to the app browser’s lobby, his GPU running hotter than a nuclear summer.

After taking a minute or two to get reoriented with his surroundings, he removed the head-mounted display, disabled the brain input controller, and checked the time.

It was 3 o’clock in the morning.

A ringtone by futuresynth band, “Venusian Snow”, sounded. It was Alexia ringing his smart glasses.

“Bryce, you’re a genius,” she began.

“I wouldn’t say that.” Bryce adjusted the glasses on his nose, which pinched after hours of wear.

“You’ve started a micro-controversy over whether or not you’ve quit on purpose. Regulars think you left to make an impression. Visitors think you were kicked by the devs.”

Bryce, still amped up on the experience, removed the glasses, rubbed his eyes, replaced the glasses and peered through a window. City lights strobed as his pupils adjusted to reality’s infinite depth.

“Looking at the city?” Alexia asked. He was sharing the view. “If I know you, you’re about to crash in real-time.”

“Yeah. Let ’em figure out what happened.”

A notification from Alexia.

“Mood,” she replied. “Alright, see ya tomorrow!”

Bryce commanded Google Home to shut off the lights, but, just before calling it a night, he checked Alexia’s message.

It was an invitation to an impressive-looking VR remake of M.C. Escher’s “The Tower of Babel”.

Bryce saved the invite, then rolled his wheelchair to bed.

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Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.