Story A Day, Day 6 – Counter Matrix

Header image by Kimmo Palosaari.

The wall of sound almost knocks you back as you enter from the coatroom; an assault on as many senses as possible, a no holds barred light show, an adrenaline-fuelled train with no brakes, a relentless beat that shatters the earth, an atmosphere that smells of everything and nothing. You take a millisecond to adjust your senses to this place and take everything; in this millisecond, every single person you look at is in motion, ranging from gesturing to elaborate styles of dance.

The ceiling is several storeys above your head. There is one floor up some stairs ahead to the side, just as populated. The club space is vast – you can barely see the bar at the far side through the sea of people between you and the wall. Dotted around there are circles of people watching dance-offs in the centre. It feels like it will never end, that it will survive the end of the world.

It begins to feel wrong. Like it shouldn’t last forever, as if everybody should be sitting down, having the last drink of the night, or moving on to the next place, yet nobody is showing any signs of fatigue. You know for a fact that this has been going nonstop since you walked past 8 hours ago.

Somebody brushes right past your shoulder without so much as a glance, carrying their drink right under the arm you raise in reflex. It almost looks like the glass passes right through your arm.

Then the power cuts for a moment and everything briefly goes silent. The music starts up instantly, as do the lights, but the people don’t. Loud murmuring can be heard from the crowd. They don’t seem to stop talking amongst themselves. You notice the music has restarted a minute before it got cut off, and…you’re a few metres from where you were standing now. It seems less crowded in here, too…

You hear a few words repeated in the murmuring: “offline”, “powercut”, “matrix.”. You ask a nearby person what’s happening.

He turns his head and then turns around. “You don’t know?”

One of the women holding a glass standing next to him overhears.

“Oh, no, you don’t know? Oh my god, I’m so sorry.”

Another man standing nearby overhears too, as does the woman standing next to him. By now, all four are facing you, holding their wine glasses still and exchanging glances. The second woman exhales and they look at her as if she’s about to say something, but she relaxes and looks down. The first man you spoke to speaks up instead.

“Alright, so, we’re not real, right? We’re all holograms. All made of light and force fields and all that”, he explains.

“We don’t know where our real selves are”, the first woman continues,

“We were put here because there was an…invasion of this city? And it was to fool them into thinking there were people here. To make it look like somewhere there were people?”

The other three nod in agreement.

“They kept us on. Don’t know where any of them are now, but nobody new’s come in so they’re probably not here. We’ve been on ever since. Just partying nonstop.”

They cheer and raise their glasses together.

“Anyway, you have fun, okay?”

They raise their glasses again and turn around. They want to forget, and you decide it’s best to let them. You relax briefly, but the power cuts again, for a whole second. It feels like you’re halfway to falling asleep. The people in the club knows what’s going on. You realise what happened; the city is deserted. Wherever the people are, the invaders, your real self, they’re not here.

You head to the bar for a drink.

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