Why am I doing this? My fingers trembled while buttoning my shirt. I haven’t ventured out in the physical world in a long time.
From my virtual window, I glimpsed a steady drizzle falling. The usual. Carefully, I removed my world-management headband and placed it on the energy box. The room became black.
Like most people, I live exclusively in the virtual world. Work, shopping, movies, everything conducted from within my dwelling. My coworker, Karen, has asked me to visit her church for months. While we work at the same virtual bank, Karen lives in the physical world.
Down in the garage, I climbed into a waiting transport pod, programmed the church’s address in the control panel, and sped off. My knees pressed against my chin and my left elbow bumped the door. This thing needs a window. Another reason I don’t leave the dwelling. The two-minute ride felt like twenty.
As the pod’s hatch opened in front of the church, I felt the sun’s heat and glare and scrunched my face. What was that smell? Flowers? I forgot about those things.
Karen looked exactly like her avatar, so I recognized her immediately. My avatar, on the other hand, hadn’t been updated in several years. She strode toward me, hand extended. “Welcome. Let me show you around.”
Say something. “Um. Hi. Thanks for inviting me. Nice day outside, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it’s a beautiful day!” Karen led me over to a row of kiosks. “Put your right thumb on the pad.” The screen flashed “Welcome” and then “Tranquility”.
“Oh, Tranquility. You’ll love that one. It’s over there. John and I are going to Harmony.” She lowered her voice and added, “We got into a little fight last night.” She dashed off in the opposite direction adding, “See you after the service.”
I trudged down a long, bright corridor. Clumps of people laughed and talked. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
A sign outside the third room flashed, “Tranquility”. I opened the door and stepped into a lush garden filled with a canopy of gigantic trees. A stream trickled past clumps of chairs. Birds chirped softly. It felt familiar, like a place I’d visited as a child.
A tall man greeted me at the door. “Welcome. Sit anywhere. Plug your com. chip into the armrest, if you brought one.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled, slipping into a nearby chair.
Some musicians played music, and then the tall man, who introduced himself as Pastor Andy, spoke. I tuned him out and stared at a butterfly flitting around my feet, until he asked if anybody out there felt lonely. My head snapped up. Many people raised their hand.
“In the world we live in, it’s easy to become isolated and feel deep loneliness,” he said. Wait. Did he read my mind? I did a thumb scan back there, not a brain one, right? How could this guy know my thoughts?
Andy continued, “I find myself tempted by the virtual world to spend more and more time away from my family and friends. That’s why we made sure this church didn’t move there like many others have. We need human contact. God created people to live around others.
“Over two thousand, one hundred years ago, God sent His Son, Jesus, to the Earth. At times during His life, Jesus felt lonely. He knew the importance of human interactions, of not being isolated. God wired you to be in real relationships with people.
“You may be here today in the physical world for the first time in a long time. I want you to know you can be safe here. The physical world is filled with authentic people who seek to follow God. The virtual world will not meet all your needs. Only Jesus will.”
Those last two sentences echoed in my head. Maybe there is more to life than the way I’ve been living. Maybe I do need to get out of my dwelling sometimes. Today wasn’t that scary.
Back in my dwelling, I slipped on my management headband and plugged in the com. chip to download the pastor’s message. I settled down in my chair and glanced out the virtual window. The rain had stopped and sunlight streamed through the thinning clouds.
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