He still speaks to me sometimes, from shadows or from the bright, bleary patches of data where level data has become corrupted . In the early days we used to meet by lakesides and campfires, quiet, familiar places the Rig composed for us to meet face to face. But his data is old for a Persona- nearly 3 years – and he never stops moving now. Maybe he’s ashamed to show his deteriorating patterning. Maybe he’s afraid that when his image stops, so will the program running it. Whatever his reasons, he’s always rounding the corner just as I sight him, and the only things I can catch are his parting words.
Parameters, he says. It’s all about parameters. I set a great many when I first purchased my Rig, but clarity was not one of them, so I know better than to ask him what he means. He couldn’t explain himself if he tried, or even lift his voice too far above the nightly babble of other uploaded content. Instead, he leads me step by step, with silence or simple questions. He’s been working at it for a very long time – impressively long for such a simply generated Persona.
Plenty of Rig users prefer to download dreams containing both levels and Personas, arguing that there’s not much point to a world if it isn’t populated. But I’ve always found it’s like listening to music. Sometimes, putting the instrumentals and vocals together detracts from the quality of both. People get lazy. So on my first night I set level to random, content to experience snippets of content billions of other users had uploaded for me. The only input I made was to set the three parameters for this little Persona.
He would be loyal, I decided, accompanying me on my nightly adventures through the Rig uncomplainingly, and without question. Where I’d go, he’d go, like a dog at my heels.
He would be protective, playing the part of guardian against other, hostile level Personas and guiding me away from the more disturbing content.
Lastly and most importantly, he would be a friend. This was the last and most important parameter I set . I didn’t want a pet, or a servant, or even a bodyguard. I just wanted someone to share the Rig with – but even after the technology became a lifestyle, and sleep became life rather than a respite from it, REM remained what it was. You can access the same upload, share the same data, and even communicate through the Hub (the central level of the Rig.) But you can never inhabit the same instance. This Persona was the nearest I could manage to a friend.
And this has to figure into it somehow, I know. He could not disobey these rules and still be the same Persona. It all works out, and all I have to do is understand. By running from me, by leading me to the patchwork data of the Rig’s edge with his crippled, cryptic words, he’s helping me still. Leading me to…something.
Or leading me away.