Mike's Expedition
Author: Хуан Ифань / YIFAN HUANG


My Chinese name is Huang Yifan and English name is Aria. I come from Guangdong ,China. I am a student majoring in English Education from Guangdong Polytechnic Normal University. The topic of my story is to call people pay more attention to the real life instead of the virtual world. Many people nowadays are trying to escape the troubles and hardships of life and spend all their spare time in the computers, phones and PlayStations. In the imagined reality we could be anything, fulfil any desire, become an angel or demon without any scruples.How difficult it might be to control this alternative reality and prevent people from turning into the beast hungry for bloody and unsavoury entertainment. I do not feel that humans are mature enough to accept the reality without boundaries being left to their own devices without fear of being punished.

In my story the rapid development of science and unfavourable environment conditions makes people immersed in the virtual world and do not care about the changes in the outside world as well inside their own souls. They are growing colder  and more robot like. However the little boy Mike wants to find a real amusement park in reality. Can he realise his wish?















One morning in 2100 the little boy Mike holding his beloved bear vaguely opens the rest cabin from the inside and crawls out of it. Mike's big green eyes are still sleepy and his curly hair is messy because he just waking up. He couldn't help but yawn greatly. He puts the bear under his stool, rubs his round face with his chubby hands to drive away his drowsiness and makes himself up. At this point in time Mike  usually would be in the virtual world getting ready for class instead of leaving the pod. Yet today Mike has a different plan. He is going on an adventure. But he had forgotten to ask Miss Helen for leave and hoped she would not blame him.

Mike presses the button next to the lounge cabin .A robot appears soon in his room carrying a plate with several bottles of nutrient solution. It is Mike’s housekeeper. When Mike needs the nutrient solution the robot would appear as soon as Mike presses the button. The first thing to do is to fill your stomach or you wouldn’t have enough energy to take risks. Mike casually picks up a bottle of nutrient solution and drinks it. Mike sticks out his tongue and thinks that the nutrient solution is as tasteless as ever, really bad to drink. But it is the only way to get any food so people got used to it. He still puts the rest of the nutrient solution in his pocket. He will save it for later. Replenishing energy during the adventure is the most important thing. With rations ready and bear in his arms Mike is ready to begin his adventure. One thing he forgets, though, is that he is still wearing his blue bear pyjamas. It doesn’t make him look like a daring warrior. Unfortunately no one is there to remind him. As Mike walks through the living room his look drifts towards a large room where through a gap there are two rest pods larger than Mike’s to be seen. Mike hesitates a second and walks into the big room. He looks at the calm faces of his parents in the rest cabin and seriously says goodbye to them. "Mom and Dad, I'm going to explore today. Don't worry about me, I'll be back soon." Parents are not responsive. They are drifting away into the magic world of anything is possible. They don’t really have a real work. Robots are taking care of all service and medical needs. Some citizens have even stopped walking at all. They would come to for a few minutes. With clouded eyes they would look around the little room and safety of the pod. Next they feel the pinch of hunger and the realise they need to drink that horrific liquid. As momma used to say, it is very good for you. Dumping couple of bottles they stare thoughtlessly at the room. It is small with no windows. Walls are covered with wallpaper imitating jungle or waterfalls. Faint sounds of nature flow from the hidden speakers. Temperature is nice and comfortable. They all are wearing same uniformed made from sustainable fabrics. There is nowhere to go and they have nothing to do. Some of them have kids. But it does not bother them. Created universal care system watches and educates the children. They are learning new tricks of virtual space cause they have never seen anything else.

Mike is studying his parents faces carefully like faces of strangers. There was a time he wanted their caress and warm words. But then he got used to their cold expressions. Well rather not cold but indifferent looking always at something in a far. Their polite smiles and empty conversations soon turned into the silence. They were heroes of the virtuality, winners in pretend space races and alien beauty pageants.Each day they were supposed to come up with 10 ideas of new competitions, spaces or platforms. Then they were playing in secret rooms where no one could track their activities. Or competing on the planetary level. No one really cared about restoring suitable living conditions.

 Mike still is staring at the pod as if expecting something to happen. Of course nothing happens. Disappointed Mike turns away from the big room and heads for the door. Where is Mike going to explore? On the ground. He has never been on the ground before.

Outside the house there is a long corridor and at the end of the corridor there is an elevator. It is gloomy though it is morning now. Artificial light fails to create an illusion of rising sun and Mike already knows it is not a true sky. He leans against the railing of the corridor and shouts excitedly, " Let's have fun together!» No one responds for there was no one in the hallway. Only Mike's voice echoes over and over again. There is no noise in the rooms on either side of the corridor, making Mike's footsteps particularly loud. All citizens are supposed to «invest» ideas at this time so additional rooms made for sports, reading and handmade activities are empty. Well they are almost always empty anyways. Mike has never seen his parents going there. Only couple of times he would sneak out with his best friend to touch some paint or gentle natural fabric. Or feel the pages of paper books. Mike loved the smell. He would press his little button nose to the barely used book’s page and breeze in a little dusty smell. Then he would look at the colourful pictures of life outside. Lush trees and flowers which must have smelled divine, little cute gardens with ponds filled with bright red fish, and of course children’s parks. Bright and amusing rollercoasters, slides, roundabouts, gunny clowns in orange wigs with round red noses holding bunches of neon coloured balloons.

   Mike would want to call some companions to join him but there is no one available. Everyone must be at school now. To be trained in new Metaverse spaces creation. Mike holds the bear comforting him and says, " It doesn't matter. I am with you.» Who is there for whom?

Mike walks freely down the hall and enjoys the feeling of being down to earth, which is not at all like walking in the virtual world. In the virtual world you think you're walking on the ground but your feet feel like you're walking in the air. Soon reaching the door of the elevator Mike steps into the elevator and presses the button on surface level 1. Yes, that’s right. The elevator is a means of going from the basement to the surface. Mike stands in front of the clear glass door and watches himself getting farther and farther away from the corridor overlooking the underground world like the interior of a honeycomb . Different from the noise of the honeycomb  the world is as quiet as a tomb as if no life lives here. In fact hundreds of millions of people live here. He says this to his bear with a pretend sadness, "Look around here again. We are going to a new world." But the tremor in his voice betrays his excitement. Bear looks at him blankly. Mike doesn’t care. He hugs his lovely bear tightly.

Mike recalls the amusement park projects he has played in the Metaverse and he knows that they have existed in real life. He wants to find the real amusement park. In the virtual world he has played all possible roller coasters. It is not exciting at all. The feeling is similar to sitting on a rocking chair. Mike wants to ride a real roller coaster and experience the wind blowing across his cheeks. "When I get back from my adventure I'm going to show off to John and tell him all about the real roller coaster feeling." John is the best friend of Mike at school. Mike feels like he is on a mission and it makes him feel full of energy.

 "Ding dong" When the elevator stops the sound of it pulls Mike out of his reveries. Mike hugs his bear and watches expectantly the elevator doors open slowly in front of him. As the elevator doors fully opens Mike yells, «Here we go!» Then he runs out excitedly with the little bear hanging from his arms.

All around him is dusty and yellowish. There is no wind blowing. The air is so thick it is possible to cut it with a knife. There is not a piece of green anywhere to be seen. A wave of heat hits him. Running a few steps up Mike feels the unbearable warmth. In just a few seconds he is sweating and dizzy. What’s worse his heart is beating violently and his throat dries as if it would dry out . Mike thinks that he is suffocating. He tries his best to turn around and look for any protective shade or safety pod. Or maybe a surface service robot.. However he passes out before he could go back to the elevator . A moment before he loses consciousness he sees a bright big ball of light. «That must be the sun, right?" Mike trying to think and faints. Mike does not understand that the world outside is completely different from what he has imagined. There is no blue sky and white clouds. The sky is grey and the air is twisted in the heat. The bear he was holding has fallen to the ground. One button might have been pressed. The bear’s usually black eyes emit red light and a metal voice sounds: "Detected the external environment temperature is 60 degrees Celsius which is higher than the human body tolerance temperature. Open the alarm mode." It turns out that the bear is not a simple puppet bear but an intelligent robot. He has sent a message to the hospital and there will be robots to save Mike soon.

Meanwhile in a virtual school in the metaverse Helen, the teacher of Class 12, Grade 3, has her hands full. On a closer look you will find that among the students in this class are Iron Man, Spider-man and Barbie Princess. The reason why is that people can change their physical image as they want in the metaverse, even children can do so. She thought it to be a little annoying especially if there would be several characters of the same kind. One might think it’s fun for kids but they are getting confused too. Some might change their appearances and virtual signatures and only if you press Confirm identity you might see their real name and face appearing in the floating icon above their head. She used it as the last resort of course cause children are impatient and nervous from lack of live care and being raised by computers. Also many were spoiled by the option of doing whatever because nobody got hurt in teh metaverse however hard you might hit them. That lead to many fights even during the lessons. Unfortunately over time not only boys but also girls joined in and there was even a wrestling rink to sort out their disagreements.People gradually loosing their grip on reality and forgetting how real people looked like. You could always be perfect there. And the fact that their real bodies became more feeble and limp didn’t bother them anymore.

So yes, you may see all kinds of characters in the school. What you see is not necessarily real. Anyway what is Helen busy with?

When Helen was walking round her class this morning she feels something is different. As she is trying to figure out what is different one of the children says loudly, “Miss Helen Luffy still hasn’t appeared today." Helen feels slightly uncomfortable. She doesn't see Mike, the student who likes to change his image into Luffy. She is a little alarmed for she has never seen a student miss her class before. At first Helen comforts herself that maybe Mike has not turned into Luffy today. It is not until she has counted the whole class that she realises Mike has not come to school today. Helen is worried for she has no idea where Mike would go. There are not many options though. So she would try to calm herself down and call a service robot to inquire about boy’s whereabouts.

At this moment Mike's best friend John says nervously to his teacher, "Miss Helen, Mike... He has been going to amusement parks lately and talking about looking for real amusement parks. I thought he was joking..." Helen is freaking out. Couldn’t he have fun in the Metaverse? Apparently Mike isn't even in the Metaverse today. For those who need to work and study when entering the meta-universe they must first complete their daily assignments. After that they can move freely in the Metaverse. So during this study period if Mike isn't in school he definitely is not in the Metaverse. Helen regrets that the students  have been told about the safety and real situation on the ground before. In general it is okay not to know what is going on on the ground. Most people never leave their rooms in their entire lives, let alone go to the ground. They wouldn’t even think of it. In that way the technology of the Metaverse was so mature and intensely developed in times when humans still lived  on the ground. So when underground period started people didn't need to leave their homes at all. Living above ground was no different from living underground. For some Metaverse was all they have ever desired. So the government does not pay attention to the popularisation of ground conditions or mitigating them. They would happily invest in more virtual spaces to keep population happy and satisfied. It would still be much cheaper that reclaim the lands and fight off the sun radiation burning the lands.

Why don't people live on the ground anymore? Since the global warming intensifies the outdoor temperature reaches the lowest 50 degrees Celsius which is higher than the human body's tolerance temperature. Even if you stay in the air-conditioned room indoors you are prone to heat stroke. Humans were no longer fit to live on the surface and all people moved to underground settlements. Due to the limited underground space the government can only use the limited spots to build houses and no other entertainment places. Growing crops and raising animals is difficult because of climate change and limited land resources. Fortunately the problem of food was solved when scientists developed the nutrient solution——a potion containing various essential nutrients for human beings. In addition the structure of the Metaverse has been explored and built up. People connect their brain neurones with the computer brain of the meta-universe through the rest cabin so as to enter the Metaverse where they can play, work and study. In the Metaverse people don't get hurt and don’t feel pain. You can become what you like and thus do whatever you want. No one can resist the temptation of the Metaverse. Only when they need to supplement the nutrition they will temporarily wake up and return to the real life to take the nutrient solution.People think they have nothing to do in real life because intelligent robots could do everything. Therefore  they are immersed in the virtual world.

Suddenly a question from Mike comes to Helen’s mind: "Miss Helen, what do you think about the feeling of riding a roller coaster?" Helen replied, "You could try it yourself." Mike said, "I've tried it. It's like sitting on the chair but it seem to be unlike the description in the book." As a child, Helen had ridden real roller coasters many times. It was not like sitting on a chair but he did not know how to describe it so she just replied, "Almost, almost." She could not forget Mike's puzzled eyes. She did not expected Mike to go looking for a real amusement park.

While Helen is looking for Mike the rescue robots also find Mike who is unconscious . For a short time the high temperature doesn't affect the robots. After longer time spent in the scorching heat the robot will malfunction due to excessive thickening of hydro-plasma solution. So the robots quickly lower Mike into the medical cabin and return to the elevator. The medical cabin is not only insulating and protecting Mike from the heat but also treating him. The rescue robots carried the medical cabin back to Mike's home and placed it in Mike's room. In the process the robots have recorded everything they do and passed it on to the main computer brain. So before Helen communicates with Mike's housekeeper  she receives information from the computer brain and learns about Mike's experience.

In order to prevent the students from having such accidents in the future Helen tells the principal about this case. The headmaster holds an information session and tells students not go to the outside world. The principal also reports the incident to the governmental personnel and they are very surprised. Because the elevator is usually used by robots for dispensing nutrient solution and taking readings of the situation on the surface . They do not expect that someone would ride the elevator to the surface. In order to prevent this kind of peculiarity from happening again they add the function of recognising living people in the elevator. No one can take the elevator to the ground anymore. What about Mike's parents? When they hear about what happened they think, "When Mike recovers and gets back to the virtual world we should teach him to stop doing so."

No one visits Mike because they know the robot would take care of him well. No one cares about why Mike went to the surface. They assume it is because Mike is very naughty. In the rich tapestry of life in the Metaverse people quickly forget about Mike. Poor Mike laid alone in the medical cabin with his brow furrowed. Nobody knows whether he is sorry for his failed expedition or sad that no one has come to see him. Through it all only his bear keeps him company. The rest cabins in the big room were silent. It seems like nothing ever happened.

 When Mike goes back to school many of his classmates gather around him, including his good friend John. They are both concerned about Mike's illness and curious about his experience. His classmates bombard Mike with questions: "What's it like outside?" "Why did you faint?" "What did you do out there?" "Is the outside world more fun than the virtual world?" Mike is about to be swamped with one question after another. In order to protect his good friend John steps forward and shouts, "Everybody ,be quiet and let Mike think." Surrounded by his classmates Mike is very excited and he feels that there would be many people willing to explore with him. He replies, "It's quieter than underground. And it's so hot above the ground that I felt dizzy. It was really a novel experience. I want to go again. Do you want to come with me?" Unbeknownst to Mike his elevator to the ground had been sealed. After he answer, some people say dismissively: "Why bother yourself when the virtual world is so much fun and you won't get sick?" Others say, "Mike, it is really funny but the principal said we can't go out to the ground." The crowd soon dispersed leaving only John with Mike. Mike says to John, "There's no one on the porch in front of my house. If we don't go to the amusement park above ground we can play hide-and-seek. Why don't people want to go to the real world?” In the virtual world although life is very easy and happy, there is no disease and no pain. However Mike always feels empty and he has no sense of reality. The intense shock before nearly dying was a liberating experience. Why is he so different thought Mike to himself….















Only Bear knows that Mike longs for the sense of reality. He wants to find real company, to experience the real feeling instead of the virtual world he can not touch or smell meeting unknown people manipulated within the unreal world. What kind of people are there?. If it were you, which one would you choose?


Metaverse :The original English word "Metaverse"from Neil Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel Avalanche.