Chapter 4:

New flavors of pudding

FICTION: If you held the power of god in your two hands, would you save the world? Would you doom it? Or would you watch from the sidelines, just as you had done before?

I had a very difficult time trying to materialize properly in eLSE.

The irony is, you’d expect a virtual world built with code to be exactly where you could go and do anything. While the real world is cemented with set rules like the laws of physics, you could manipulate just about anything within a program.

It would have been easier on me if things really were that way.

Science, morals, logic; ideas that are all thought to be well established and cemented; they’re all a sham. I’m no physicist or historian, nor can I even do more than a moderate level of mental math; but I don’t need any of that to tell you with certainty that what’s considered fact is about as accurate and reliable as your daily horoscope.

Take the medical field, for example: In 1954, the first donated organ was successfully transplanted from one human to another. Less than ten years later, the first limb was successfully reattached. Fast forward to 1995, the first live organ transplant took place, with both patients leaving the hospital alive and functioning. In 2004, stem cells were transferrable. And by 2036, humans were walking around with 3D-printed organs in their body.

That’s less than one hundred years between major organ failure spelling certain death, and being comparable to a broken bone.

The first computer ever built, which occupied entire rooms worth of space, had a fraction of a millionth of the computational power of a palm-sized cellular phone built just fifty years later.

Even the human lifespan had nearly doubled in just the latter half of the 21st century.

No modern impossibility is ever a matter of if. It was just a matter of when.

And of course, when you factor in an anomaly like myself, nothing in life seems to really follow the rules of logic anymore.

But programs and virtual spaces, meanwhile, are cemented in consistency. They’re grounded entirely in logic, by a long list of commands which tell a computer exactly how things are supposed to work. There is a limit to what you can do and what you can find, and that limit exists based on how that program was designed to function. You can’t defy that unless you go in and change the code itself. It’s a world that I am unable to traverse as I please; a world with rules and constraints that I, too, were bound by.

Even god could be reduced to a mere mortal within the confines of a man-made program.

Though, I had rules that I had chosen to follow too; I had already made the decision for myself that I would no longer interfere with humans.

So of course, I procured a work-around.

Given to me by a certain connection of mine was a program that allowed me to spectate upon these worlds without being seen nor perceived, just like in the outside world. Because I refused to be seen. Even in eLSE, a virtual space where you could become anyone or anything that you wanted, I chose to remain as nothing.

Such an appeal had long since escaped me.

But I wasn’t willing to stay away from the technology either. For such a space was home to many, many stories which were yet to be told; a world that I had yet to witness in its entirety. “eLSE”, a virtual space born from one man’s vision to escape his own flawed self, I still considered a part of the natural world.

To me, that world was just as real as any other.

And this time in particular, there was a concert which I simply couldn’t miss.

Vi, one of the world’s most popular solo artists of the time, was what you’d call a “Virtual Idol”. They existed only in the digital world, and couldn’t be seen nor touched in real life. Of course, just like any real celebrity, it was often a manufactured persona made to appeal to the masses and sell product.

But to many players, eLSE wasn’t simply an escape from their mundane lives. It was their reality.

And Vi, too, was very real to them.

I had arrived just in time to catch the end of their concert. It certainly wasn’t my first, but each experience was unique, and pushed the boundaries of digital performance. Each performance, the idol’s appearance was tweaked from the last.

But I wasn’t just talking about outfits.

Always lacking in distinct facial features, Vi had a pale white head with splotched paint across her face, as if an ink-stained curtain had been tightly pulled over her front. The pattern was unique and colorful with each appearance. It reminded me of a classic Rorschach test. Though long outdated, I’m sure that’s what it was meant to represent.

And their figure and representation was different each time; their physical form was simply an outlet of expression. This time, they were “she”. Wearing a long, puffy dress of feathered whites and reds, the singer’s movements were like a dove. She moved as her voice softly echoed from the center-stage; dancing swiftly in midair, suspended at the center of a crystalline bubble. It was unlike a real-world performance. The producers had recently acquired a sponsorship with the LiFE brand, and given a hefty budget to properly show off just what was possible in such a limitless world.

Monitors were spotted throughout the pure-white skybox, offering close-ups to the other spectators who were freely allowed to float around the outside of the stage. The entire experience was a work of art, guided along by the masterful movements of the musician at the centerstage.

All the screens suddenly focused onto the nape of her neck , as she curled up into a ball and grabbed hold of a zipper which was attached far above where the straps ended on her dress. As she began to pull it downward, the glistening white skin began to part cleanly at her spine; revealing nothing but a thin, bony human skeleton underneath.

She continued to ring her voice out, louder and more intense, as she shed the skin of a human, and became no more than a mere skeleton with a head of flesh. The ink cleared from her face, leaving nothing but vague indents colored in white, where facial features should have been. And then, she was still and everything became silent. Her detached hide stretched and deformed outward into blooming petals, which all quickly withered and fell in a timelapse-like sequence.

The world went black, and all of the viewers were logged out one by one.

All except me. I enjoyed the extra period of silence, before the server itself was shut down post-concert. Almost like a little bit of post-production that added to the experience, to me it was part of the art.


“That was amazing!”

“Thank you. I worked very hard on the concepts… Though, much of that credit belongs to my choreography director as well.”

“But the idea for shedding your own skin and withering away as a flower was yours, right?”

"Well, yeah, that section was, more or less...”

“Then that was my favorite part!”

“Just because it was the part I came up with?”


“You should try to have a bit more of a deeper appreciation for these sorts of things…”

“But it’s fine as long as I enjoy it, right?”

Vi blushed.

“Yeah… It is.”

The artist shared a virtual meal with her recently acquired boyfriend, in their own shared private server. She overlooked the warm valley sunset which stretched out from their table, watching interloping moons peek out from the other side.

It was all an effort to avoid the piercing gaze of her loving companion. Not that she didn’t like it; it was just embarrassing to be stared at so intensely. It was her first time in a relationship online, and sometimes she still didn’t quite know how to act or respond.

“You’re… looking at me too much.”

“Should I stop?”


She didn’t say anything, but a splotch of pink ink across her face which was generated to represent blush revealed a clear “no” in response to the question. The avatar had been so meticulously coded and crafted by her team of concept artists, and yet to see those nuanced features used to show such meek, regular expressions felt almost ironic. The two made a cute couple.

“So you’re a girl this time?”

“Yes, it felt right for the tone and theme I was going for.”

“Just a gut feeling?”

Vi nodded.

“I think you’re cute as a girl. Of course, I like you always and in every form, but you’re acting especially cute right now.”

She didn’t respond. Her whole head was splotched pink, in one of the rare moments that she cursed the meticulous design and features of her crafted avatar.

“I think you’re cu-”

“I heard you.”

“I know.”

“I- I could be a girl more often, when we’re alone. If you’d like that…”

“I like you most when you try to express yourself as you want. It’s like when my favorite brand of pudding comes out with new flavors. It’s no fun if you try to change just for me.”

“So I’m just pudding to you…”

“My favorite brand.”

Some purple got mixed in with the pink, sinking into the white canvas of a face.

Of course, the concert was only a fraction of why I came here. What I really wanted to see was this lovey-dovey rom-com-esque scene between an unlikely virtual couple.

Incidentally, pudding was involved in Vi’s next performance.

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