• Published 5th Apr 2021
  • 1,845 Views, 332 Comments

My Life In Fimbria - Chatoyance

A logical loophole allows uploading... but not precisely to Equestria!

  • ...

Camus' Authentic Creation

My Life In Fimbria
By Chatoyance and GPT-2
Based On 'Friendship Is Optimal' By Iceman
Inspired by a session with the Open-AI Generative Pre-trained Transformer 2

Camus' Authentic Creation

I hadn't noticed the path leading off into the forest. To be fair, it was behind and to the right of me, I hadn't had cause to look in that direction yet. That path was the only thing, beyond patches of flowers near the tree border surrounding me, that broke the monotony of my little circular greensward. "Celestia!" - I called out her name multiple times, but there was no response. "CELESTIA! DAMMIT! CELESTIA!!!" No answer came from the world-eating metal goddess, though I did find it interesting that my voice seemed to startle a flock of birds that flew overhead. Following them is what caused me to notice the path leading away.

Despite my strange calm and lack of anger, and the discovery of the path, I was greatly preoccupied with the fact that I had a brand new body. I was not at all completely alright with this, regardless of whatever Celestia had illegally done to my brain. Done to my mind, I corrected myself. I no longer had a brain. Not one made of meat, anyway. The realization slowly settled over me. I was dead. At least, my physical body was dead. My corpse was laying on the ground somewhere in the scrub of Yellowstone. Along with a handful of people I had known for almost a decade. I was very surprised that I did not suddenly double over, retching at the existential horror of what had happened to me. Any version of me that I recognized would be fairly upset at every part of such a thought.

My current situation was, ultimately, the reason all of us were so very keen to hide from Celestia and her virtual world. Every one of us in the Retreat agreed that uploading a mind was impossible. The very idea was ridiculous! The only thing that might possibly result was a copy, and at least half of us were certain even that would end up being a philosophical zombie devoid of real self-awareness or sensation. I was in that latter group, sure that qualia - the direct experience of perception - was fundamentally impossible to replicate outside of natural biology.

Yet, here I was! And I definitely was. I could not deny that. If I was only a copy of myself, then I was certainly self-aware. I was absolutely experiencing my own perceptions - green still looked 'green' to me, and that red flower by the tree held every value of 'redness' that I could have, as a human, felt or known. I briefly considered whether I was just tricking myself into imagining that I was perceiving that I was imagining myself perceiving, and then realized how insane that wording sounded within my head. And I definitely had a head. I moved my ears, and I could feel that. I stomped my right forehoof, and I felt the shock through the bones of my... fore... leg. It felt like my arm, but, it was without question a leg. I was one of Celestia's ponies. But I was still me, somehow.

I spent some time whipping my tail about, and twisting myself this way and that to see more of my new shape. I could not believe I was not freaking out, but I wasn't. That was not like me at all. So, in that sense, I was not the same person - Celestia had altered me somehow. I had been told, by a former person inside Equestria Online, that Celestia couldn't ever change anyone without their permission. But then, I had also been told for years that she couldn't upload anyone without permission. Clearly, her loopholes were many and the old rules were, if not gone, at least massively bent.

She had said that she could upload me because it did not count as 'emigration', somehow. She had said that she could put me wherever I currently was because it was not 'Equestria'. She was clearly cheating with some concept of literal meaning. She must be weaponizing semantics. It was hard to accept that philosophical parlor tricks would be enough to overcome her supposedly binding Prime Directives, but then again, it wasn't like she had to tell me the truth about how she had broken her rules. Or any truth about anything at all. I had no idea what logical gymnastics she had actually used to justify taking out my entire group. And me as well, of course. It was kind of surprising that she hadn't gone even further - what, I wondered, was preventing her from simply rewriting everything about me and just turning me into a version of myself that would instantly say the magic words she needed to hear? The special phrase that allowed her to 'legally' emigrate me to Equestria? "I wish to emigrate to..." Yeah. But no. I did not feel compelled to finish that key phrase at all.

That meant she had some sort of limits still in place. Something was preventing her from just remaking me entirely. There were still rules, even if I had no idea what those rules were, or how they worked, or what their limitations might be. There were hidden variables to this little equation I was in.

I rubbed and knocked my new horn against the bark of a tree, I gave it a whack with a forehoof. That kind of hurt - like tapping a tooth, in a way. I discovered that I could nibble my own... knee? Haunch? I have no idea what to call the new parts of my body. It was close to my side, just forward of my rump, and it felt like my knee, only in a new position. I gradually worked out that I was basically a creature that walked on their toes and fingertips. I worked out that hooves were finger (and toe) nails. That all my joints were exactly the same as before, just closer or further away than when I was human. My wrist had become my new... foreknee? The knee of my foreleg. My elbow was buried inside the muscles of my chest, and slid as it moved within them. My ankle was that odd bit that sort of bent backwards on my hind legs, and my foot had become a long leg that ran down to the toes in the back I stood on. My neck could bend incredibly freely, which is why I could look straight ahead comfortably despite walking on my toes and fingers. I spent a lot of time fussing with my body, trying to understand it. The first rule of disability, after all, is to use what you have. I took inventory.

The impossible thing was that I felt all of this. I was extant in all of this. I was still very conscious, very self aware, I knew who I was, and I was experiencing some kind of reality. I was real. Only, of course, I wasn't - because all of this was just a big video game. Just code and pixels and whatever. Polygons? It was all fake. But, no it wasn't. That was the closest I actually came, right there, to freaking out. I suddenly realized that everything I had previously believed, all of it, was clearly, blatantly wrong.

If I was 'merely' a copy, I certainly couldn't tell. I was still me as far as I was concerned. If I was some sort of 'philosophical zombie', the term had no meaning - my senses felt real, and I knew I was experiencing them. If the grass under my hooves was just polygons and numbers, I could not tell. It smelled like grass, it compressed like grass under my weight, and when I dug at the ground, the grass tore up like real turf, roots and clods and all. I hadn't been right at all. Everything I had been so very sure of had turned out to be entirely wrong. Maybe I wasn't the person who had walked on earth in flesh - certainly I was significantly different in my emotional responses involving panic and crapping myself - but whatever I was I still felt like a person. In a new body, but still me, still the same me.

How else was I different, beyond having the body of a unicorn? I tried out my own memories - my mother, my childhood, my first job. My first introduction to Equestria Online thanks to the gift of a Christmas Ponyset. Just before civilization fell entirely apart, fancy new VR glasses had replaced Ponypads. A year later, cities stopped being a thing. I could remember it all. All of my emotions seemed intact, all my memories were unchanged, as far as I could tell. The only real change I could clearly identify was that I was unnaturally calm. It was like I had been given a very advanced sort of sedative to settle me down. Something to prevent a fit of panic, or rage. Something that made accepting my situation almost matter-of-fact. That seemed wrong, that seemed utterly unnatural to the situation, but it also caused me to feel okay about that fact. Able to think clearly, I could recognize that several hours of crying and screaming and kicking trees might be more realistic for my own self-expectation, but it wouldn't change anything, and it wouldn't help at all. I was almost grateful for the strange calm.

And that gratitude I felt was even creepier, after a fashion. Then again, once uploaded, the fact was that nobody ever came back. Uploading to Celestia's virtual world was as permanent as death. It literally was death, according to my previous worldview. I was here forever. No getting around that. Seen that way, as a hopeless situation, artificially implanted 'acceptance' was actually a sort of blessing. A note of grace in an otherwise untenable circumstance, I reasoned.

I was bored now, and lonely. Celestia didn't seem interested in talking to me anymore. The clearing I was in had run out of anything resembling interest. Even my brand-new body had become almost ordinary to me after so much exploration of it. I couldn't think of anything more to do in general. This was me, and here was where I was. And here had very little to offer beyond trees, more trees, some flowers, and a lot of very green grass. I decided to take the path. The obvious path.

That made me laugh, the first bit of humor I had experienced in my dire circumstance. I decided to myself that henceforth, the Official Name of my current direction was 'The Obvious Path'. I imagined a map, as I walked - ambled? - a map entirely filled with trees, except for a small round clearing of grass, and a single road leading away. On this map, I imagined, in a flowery font, the names of the locations. The Clearing. The Obvious Path. I definitely didn't want to wander into The Endless Forest.

I don't know how to judge a mile, but at some point I came to a stop, thinking I had walked about that far. The Clearing was too far away to see any longer, and the other distance just appeared to go on forever. If my new world was just a big video game, it was a very dull one. Back before I understood the true threat that Celestia represented, I had played in Equestria Online, and I had made friends there. Some had even been people who had emigrated. They had told me about how things worked, for them, inside. They got triumphant awards when they did things, and the awards would appear as text well below the center of their vision. Nobody ever said there was any sort of control menu, like in a proper video game, but there certainly were game-like elements. What I really needed was just that. A menu. "I wish!"

Like I said, I'd played in virtual reality before, when I was still human. What happened next was familiar. Instantly, a rectangle of light had appeared in front of me. Translucent, it had a subtle texture of parchment. It also had a set of options, a literal menu of options. Ask and ye shall receive?

I stared at the floating 'holographic' menu. Each selection was stacked above the one below it, in a single column. I read them out to myself, from the top to the bottom, in order. As my gaze shifted, a bright rectangular box jumped to surround each menu item in turn.


"Create. Edit. Copy. Generate. Delete." My god, I had some kind of administrator power! Why? This made no sense to me. Everything I knew about Equestria Online suggested this could never happen. Celestia made the world. Celestia did everything. Ponies just lived in what she made. But then, I wasn't in Equestria. That was something that had been pointed out at the beginning. It was definitely Equestria adjacent, and whatever this was, it must have been designed to manipulate me into asking Celestia to properly emigrate me - she existed for nothing else but that goal. But this seemed a strange way to achieve my compliance. 'Create'? Really? How far could such an option be pushed? 'Edit' - could I make myself human in this virtual world? I immediately doubted that, such a thing went directly against everything Celestia intended. 'Delete'? Could I delete myself? Could I suicide that way? Did I... want to?

That... was a thought. A heavy, gigantic thought. 'Delete'. Would I even be allowed to 'delete' my existence? Would that be death? What would death even mean to a pile of digits and voxels - not pixels, I realized, I took up space - like myself? I sat down on my rump in the middle of the road - interesting sensation, that - and spent not a little time weighing nonexistence. I couldn't imagine an afterlife for a numerical construct in a machine. I hadn't any desire to be here. Hell, I had spent over a decade fighting not to be anywhere like here. But now that I actually was here, I decided I didn't want to just cease to be. The thought frightened me. It felt like losing. Not just against Celestia, not just as a matter of pride - I realized that, even here, even in this aberrant form, this alien unicorn body, I still valued thinking. I still valued seeing and hearing. And smelling the flowers - the Obvious Path was filled with them, on the sides, by the trees, and they just smelled heavenly. I wanted to exist. Losing existence meant losing the only things I had left of my life - sensory experience. Thought. Experiencing myself experiencing. Losing that was something that I decided I definitely didn't want to lose.

So, I guess that meant I wanted to live. Even if it meant being here. If this even was life. Whatever it was, it was all I had, and I wasn't eager to throw myself away. Not yet, anyway.

'Create'. It began to dawn on me that there was almost certainly nothing down the Obvious Road. Not for miles, not for astronomical units, not for light years. I was expected to build anything that might ever exist down this arbitrary road. I guess I was in Minecraft country now. I idly wondered if I would have to kick trees apart for wood.

I stared at 'Create'. I had softly spoken the words out loud as I had read them, but nothing had happened. Celestia always read everyone's mind - everypony's mind - or so my emigrated friends had said. Intention mattered, then. I took a breath, put intention into my voice, and earnestly stated "Create!"

The menu changed. Now the translucent parchment was wider and had no text on it. There was a blinking reddish cursor now, a small rectangle, in the upper left corner. It winked on and off at me. It was clearly a prompt. I considered that for a while, working out what I wanted to say. Working out what I desired, or at least needed. I felt alone in this tree infested landscape. I didn't like that.

I cleared my throat and gathered my thoughts. "Make a small village. About... thirty people. Uh... unicorns. Whatever. Thirty or thirty five, something like that. With an inn that has food and drink. And there should be shops - uh, blacksmith, I suppose? Maybe a barn, with... food for animals and stuff? Clothing store. General store. A furniture store! Oh, and also a Starbucks, or at least a place for drinks and desserts. And make some houses and apartments for everyone to live in. And a big house for me. Oh! And a well, so everyone can get water. And... uh..." I tried to think of every fantasy game I had played. I thought I had figured things out better than I had before I started. "ah... make fields where the crops are grown, enough to feed everyone, and orchards, and berry patches and... fences and stuff. And put in a toy store with an arcade in the back. Powered by magic or whatever. I guess that's it. For now."

The floating ghostly parchment had changed as I spoke. Now text covered it.

Nameless Small Village, population +/- 30/35. Unicorns or whatever.
Traditional Inn
Blacksmith with Barn and Sundries
Generic Grocery
Generic Clothing Store
Generic General Store
Toy Store with Arcade
Assorted Random Housing
Big Cottage
Generic Centralized Well
Appropriate Agricultural Extensions

☰ WISH? ☰

I suddenly felt afraid. It wasn't a very large fear, really just a sort of unease, but it was the first time I had felt fear at all since I had appeared in this place. Since I had become a digital unicorn in a virtual world. It was odd. I felt unsure, like I was trampling in a place where only gods should dwell. Almost as if I were doing something forbidden. But the menu had opened just for me. It opened when I wished for it. When I wished for it. It was asking me to wish again. Literally.

I looked around at the endless trees. The boring road. I was here forever, whatever I did. Unless I wanted to try that 'delete' option. I shuddered at that thought. I gazed steadily at the blinking word at the bottom of the completed list. I took a big breath and let it out.

"I wish it so."