The beast was moving swiftly, his hot breath leaving swirls of mist behind him. Clawed feet propelled him in powerful strokes through the long grasses of the Lower Aden. Gentle rolling hills of golden grain trimmed by green forest.
In the distance, the moonlight was glinting off of the snowy peaks of Upper Aden. A river of silver flowed in valley. Some might consider the scene naturalistic to the point of cliché, but the serenity of the Lower Aden was considered by most to be a glorious masterpiece and heaped much worship on its designer, financial and otherwise.
But the beast didn’t consider it at all. The beast had a job to do. He had a contract for fear.
The beast was moving through a dark wood now. Almost without sound he raced between dark trunks, moonlight coming in twinkling flashes through the canopy above. Not far now. The sound of a band could be heard faintly reverberating in soft notes off the moss covered trees.
The beast slowed to a stalking pace. He moved in the shadows. With a crouching posture, the beast stealthily moved around a farmhouse and down a shadowy alleyway. The tight streets of the village were all but deserted but for the sound of brass instruments beckoning him towards the center of town.
The beast came upon the backside of a church, its high stone walls and steeple towering above the rest of the village. The beast adeptly climbed up the stone and pulled himself along on all fours across the peak of the steep roof.
It was a carefully curated scene of cheer and merriment. Hundreds of torches provided flickering golden light around the village square.
On a small wooden stage, a small band was accompanying a singer in a jaunty sort of polka. In front of the band, dancers were swinging around in time to the music. The audience responded with appreciative drips of joy for the band and the dancers.
Oh what a lovely tune. One drop of joy for the band.
Look at her dress, so authentic to the period! She looks wonderful. One drip of jealousy.
Isn’t it all so marvelous? A few drips of nostalgia to be spread among the event organizers.
On the other side of the square patrons strolled through rows of wooden stands where artisans hocked their one of a kind pieces. Cosmetic customizations, unique clothing and other items, artisanal algorithms; all could be had at this emotional bazaar.
One stand had a hand painted sign that read ‘Living Drawings’. The clerk could be seen painting their next piece. On it a half-painted man dressed in formal military style clothes was hurling insults at the painter in French accent. “Zese are not ze clothes of a French Generale. Zis painting is neizer historically accurate nor very skillfully made, you peazant”. Behind the painter a renaissance style scene showed a nude woman reclining in a bed of leaves and slowly beckoning you to join her. On the frame of the painting was a sticker which said ‘Sale Price – 285 FC’.
The next stand was selling toy soldiers. On the counter a small war was being waged, as soldiers in bright red lined up and aimed their muskets at soldiers dressed in blue. Smoke rose into the air as the line of musketmen fired, and screams could be heard as some of the blue soldiers fell to the ground in agony. A nurse dressed in white and carrying a box marked with a red cross ran out to help some of the blue soldiers. A blue cannon behind the line of blue soldiers fired, and a cannonball eliminated a few of the red soldiers from the battle.
A sign in front of the stand had a list of prices: Musketmen – 25 FC/piece, Cavalry – 42 FC/piece, Cannon team – 125 FC. Underneath the sign read ‘Make your next party a real battle!’.
Just displaying their trinkets made for a decent passive income for the artisans as shoppers took in their presentations, but selling their goods was the real goal and could keep them going both inside and outside the Metaverse for years. And buying such items could lead to real profit as well; players who knew how to curate an authentic emotional experience for those around them stood to gain.
At the center of the market was a peak into the economic heart of the Metaverse: the emotional exchange. A chalk board listed the emotional spot price, the rate of exchange for those drips and drops of emotional quanta flowing into and out of people’s accounts.
|Emotional Quanta||Spot Price (FC/EQ)|
Officially called feel credits, but more commonly referred to as feels, FC were the hard currency of the emotional economy, a form of frozen emotional wealth crucial to the dynamic emotional exchange. Across thousands of different worlds and subspaces within the Metaverse, the emotional economy was the only real constant. A data visualization layer showing the emotional economy would reveal a colorful flow of emotional streams in constant exchange between players and the world around them.
The real magic sauce of the Metaverse was the emotional blockchain, encoding neural patterns from real-time biometric data into quantified emotional responses. These emotional quanta would then draw down the FC account of players as they reward those delivering emotional experiences. The richest individuals and corporation of the Metaverse were those that had learned how to consistently provide compelling emotional experiences to players, often drawing them into addictive storylines that could go on for years.
And players could not get enough of the Metaverse. In the past players had spent vast sums of legacy currency to keep their FC flowing, but increasingly players were making a living within the Metaverse which they would exchange to support their real world lives. Economists estimated that if the Metaverse were a nation state, it would be the third largest economy in the world. The world economy was undergoing a new phase change, just as the information economy had eclipsed the factory economy, which had itself replaced the agricultural economy, now the emotional economy was eating the world.
There was some concern among academics as to whether the market structures of the Metaverse were adequately stable to support an economy without a constant inflow of capital from legacy currency, but the common folk didn’t preoccupy themselves with such worries.
There was just no appetite for worry in the Metaverse.
Because, of course not all emotions were equal. Supply and demand dictated emotional value in the Metaverse just as it had in the legacy universe. Dynamic futures markets exchanged vast sums of feels every day, a complex network of distributed intelligences tried to predict the emotional future of the Metaverse. What emotions would fall into or out of favor? Which emotional needs were being well served and which ones were not? Fortunes could be made for those who could best model the demands of the emotional market.
In the current state of affairs, the spot price on fear and sadness had steadily risen over recent months. Still, people seemed stuck in a state of constant excitement and wonder over the raw potential of this new Metaverse and few projects were appealing to more pessimistic emotions.
The situation had not been helped by a massive advertising campaign which had been hinting at a new technological breakthrough. Tonight was to be the big reveal for a technological innovation which had been billed as the most important innovation in the history of the Metaverse. Excitement and wonder were everywhere. Similar partied were going on around the Metaverse. This was the multi-dimensional launch party for the future.
The beast was a natural reaction to a world brimming with positive energy. They don’t know it but they hunger for fear and sadness. The beast was here to bring that fear by exploiting a golden opportunity for emotional profit. The beast would be hated, but he would also be rich. News about what was going to happen here would travel fast, bringing emotional income from across the Metaverse.
The music stopped, and the crowd cheered appreciatively.
The beast curled its lips into a sneer.
From a red and white tent emerged a man wearing a tailed tuxedo, accessorized with a tall black top hat and a crystal topped cane. The ringmaster had dark features and a curled moustache, a was wearing a wide-eyed curious smile that made him look to be somewhere near the edge of insanity. He walked in a purposeful stride up the stairs of the small wooden stage. The crowd cheered and clapped, directing a great tide of excitement towards the stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” announced the ringmaster with arms raised above his head in an open palmed gesture to quiet the crowd as they vibrated with expectation.
“Tonight, you have come to bear witness to the beginning of a new Metaverse. But what could this new technology possibly be? In this magical realm where anything can happen…”
To punctuate this the ringmaster opened his hand and a sparkling beam of white smoke shot into the sky followed moments later by meandering flakes of snow falling from the sky. The thick snowflakes descended silently, muffling the din of the crowd as they breathlessly took in the magical scene around them.
“In this magical realm,” repeated the ringmaster, “what experience could we possibly give you that do not already have? What could possibly be so important. What could possibly be so revolutionary?”
The ringmaster paused to allow the crowd to froth a little more with excitement.
“Without further ado, I give you the future,” his chest thrust out, the ringmaster threw his arm towards the red and white tent from which he had emerged.
Out of the flap of the tent stumbled a man dressed in dirty clothes. The man was pulling on a leather leash. At the end of the leash, a sheep emerged reluctantly from the tent. For a moment the sheep stood staring at the crowd, chewing on whatever it had been enjoying before it was pulled out of the tent. The crowd stared back in silence.
The man pulled the reluctant sheep up onto the stage, leaving the leashed animal and returning to the red and white tent with an annoyed expression.
“Behold,” said the ring master with a broad smile and a grand gesture of outstretched arms towards the sheep. The crowd stared back silently as the sheep continued to chew.
“People of the Metaverse, what you see before you might appear just another simple representation of a farm animal, I assure you it is something much more than that. This is no empty avatar. Right down to the level of its cells and its very DNA this sheep is as real as you or I. This sheep is composed of a unique cellular structure from its stomach, to its muscles, to its brain. Capable of all of those biological functions which you might expect, from birth, to eating, to reproduction, and even death, this is a real sheep.
This sheep does not simulate life… it is alive.”
The ringmaster paused as the people processed what this could mean.
“We, the people of the Metaverse, are but visitors to this realm but this sheep is among the first true inhabitants here. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the birth of Metareality.”
As the crowd erupted in cheers and applause there was a crash as the beast landed on the wooden stage in absorbing the fall into crouched posture. In a single motion, the beast swatted the ringmaster from the stage and took the head of the sheep within its powerful jaws. Blood poured from the mouth of the beast as it swung the sheep back and forth.
With a flick of its head the beast hurled the dead animal over its shoulder, where it eventually landed in a heap of flesh against the stone wall of the church.
In a deep growling voice, the beast bellowed at the crowd.
“Welcome to the birth of destruction, the birth of war and pestilence, the birth of loss and regret.
Welcome to the birth of death”