Our world is way different from the world my grandparents lived in. The Big Change happened in those years when my parents were born. They don’t really remember what life was like before. The children born after them don’t even know as much as they do. The whole world changed, and everybody’s life turned to its opposite. It was a new technological invention that caused it. It looks like a contact lens, but you can’t just take it out or put it in. We got it when we were born, and everybody has one in their left eye. It’s invisible if you look at someone; people can see only their own lenses. My grandfather says that it looks like when you play a video game and you are the character in it. You have a tab or whatever floating on your side. In this tab a lot of ‘buttons’ appear with different names on them, and you can choose where you want to go. For example, if you select the one with the word ‘plaza’ on it, you can go to the biggest plaza you’ve ever seen. It’s not real, so we are not teleporting or anything like that. It’s more like a virtual world. We are in our body, doing everything we want. We are not controlled. There’s no difference between reality and these worlds, but you can tell which is the ‘original’ one; you can feel it, but it is really hard to decide. The tab does not disturb your eyesight, because you can swipe it away by only thinking of it. You control it with your brain and your thoughts. How cool is that!
I don’t really understand how anybody could live without the lens. It makes our life easier, and that’s what the State wanted too: to make our lives more comfortable. There are worlds for having fun and worlds with different landscapes. You can go from one to another easily and fast. Of course, you can also go to these places without using your lens, but who would do that? It takes more time and effort; because of this, people don’t travel anymore. With my friends Ryan and Beth we always meet in these virtual places when we are not at school. Ryan is more outgoing than Beth and me. He enjoys jumping between worlds very much and always invites us too. People who are older rarely use it and say that it’s useless and stupid. They think it’s pointless, and they rebelled many times when the lenses were invented. They said that it controls and brainwashes us. I didn’t believe them. I also heard that a lot of people went crazy at the beginning. They didn’t know which was the real world and which was the virtual. I always thought that these were just made-up tales that my grandpa told me, because he was against the lenses and the State because it invented it. You can’t die in virtual worlds, so when you jump off of a cliff or even drive into a wall with a car, you don’t have to worry about what will happen to you. But luckily you’re not doing it in your original world.
The days went on, and I didn’t see either Ryan or Beth for a long time because we were on school break. A lot of new worlds were created, and I tried a few of them and found a new favorite. I was there with my mom. This is a world where it is always summer; there are festivals and beaches, swimming pools and aquaparks everywhere you go. There are booths where you can buy ice cream, snacks and anything you want. There are colorful beach umbrellas standing in the sand. I enjoyed being there, especially because it was fall and I don’t really like that time of year.
Soon the break was over, and we went back to school. Everything was ordinary. One day I was talking with Beth in front of the school when Ryan came along. He stopped next to us, said hello. He was a bit strange, constantly looking around. He said that he was busy, so he went toward the school. We didn’t worry about his being different. Maybe he had just had a very strange school break. We didn’t see him for the rest of the day. The next morning when I went to school, I saw something strange on the roof. I didn’t recognize it at first, but it was a person standing there. It wasn’t just a random person; it was Ryan. I ran to the door and opened it as fast as I could. I ran upstairs, went up to the roof. Ryan was in front of me. He noticed me and turned around. He was smiling, but I didn’t know why. I couldn’t think of anything but to stop him from what he was going to do.
“Ryan, what are you doing here?” I asked. He was still smiling when he answered.
“Just trying something new. I have always wanted to know how crazy it feels,” he said and turned back.
“Ryan, don’t! It’s a really bad idea. What are you thinking?” I asked him. I was really confused. I didn’t know why he was doing that. He didn’t seem sad or anything.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be okay,” he said and jumped into the nothing. I was standing there and didn’t really know what I saw. I was shocked and probably not moving for minutes, just looking at the point where Ryan had been standing a few moments ago. The next minutes or hours—I don’t know how much time passed—were very hazy. My next clear memory is of sitting on my bed. So here I am, staring at the wall and thinking about what was happening. Ryan. He jumped off the roof. But why? He had no reason to do it. Then I realized why he was weird and why he did what he did. He thought that he was still in a virtual world. Everything my grandpa told me was true. Everything. And I didn’t believe him. But now … now I do. I believe everything. The lenses are not for us; they are against us. They control us even if we don’t feel it. The State is lying to us. They say that they want us to live an easy life. But it’s not the truth; they don’t want us to live a normal life. They did this to Ryan. My train of thoughts was interrupted by the pain I felt when I ripped my contact lens out.