Virtual Planet

(Translated from Romanian by Mihaela Alecu.

For Romanian click here)

Both I and my brother Tudor liked, back then, computer games. Especially those online that we use to play in a group, with “friends”, unknown, from all over the world. We most loved strategy games, we consider the others – action, fighting, war – to be for children. In fact, we weren’t ourselves anything else but grown-up children. We sort of acted like them, if not completely separated from it, then at least regardless of the real world. It wasn’t only until parents would call us to eat, that we came back to earth. Or when we had to do our homework… We never had problems with school, as we were both considered precocious, ever since kindergarten. We had long gone beyond the curriculum for the 12th grade, although we were only in the 11th grade. In fact, we were already preparing ourselves for college, of course, IT, we both got into college at our first attempt with the same grade (we weren’t twins for nothing). To be honest, up until then, we were identical in “everything”. Only then our paths separated, so to say. Even though physically we stayed together, professionally we separated: I specialized in processing and design, whereas Tudor in programming, more precisely computer animation and games.

Our parents, who were always there for us, strongly believing in us, after we graduated from college, help us with money to create our own firm. It is better to be your own masters, then to work for others, they told us. I couldn’t but agree. This is how the company was created (it’s a little bit too much said, but trading company is too common…) The Virtual Planet. It had two departments, of course one for design, and the other for programming. I was head of the Design Department, Tudor of the other. And at first, our only employees were mother who was an accountant would take care of our bookkeeping, whereas father, a lawyer, was the company’s jurist.

I can’t say it wasn’t difficult at first. The Romanian market although it is not saturated will barely make room for newcomers. It is just like any other socio-economic and cultural sector. The best example, in the end, is that of public notaries, but we can generally speak of any group: acts like a secret society. To be accepted, therefore initiated, is difficult. I can immediately think of another example, that of a friend of mine, a writer, who actually had to put up a good fight until he first managed to publish a text in a cultural magazine. It was not important how good the content was, but how well (un)known was the author. After the first text, others followed, the volumes, until he became a personality, a name in the Romanian culture. Then, the magazines would look for him… as he likes to say, remembering that start “At first I use the magazines o make myself known, now they are using my name. Too bad however that everything is and moves so slowly.”

It was the same for us. Until we became a well-known name we have to fight. In the economy it’s not so simple, nor so complicated, as in the cultural field. It is somehow similar, yet different. Market economy is a jungle: although others went on those paths before you, they will be immediately covered with vegetation again, and you will have to go through that field as if you would be the first one to do so.

Never mind, I must admit that Tudor and his Department first brought the largest gains. Only afterwards I caught up. I formed a network of stable and sound customers. Incomes, the same. However, Tudor continued to play. And to create games. Some were successful, others were not. But nobody would complain and everybody was happy. Soon we expanded and we hired more and more people and we marketed more and more products. We liked what we were doing, although now we were no longer supposed to work hard. It would have sufficed to only monitor, but we work hand-in-hand with our employees. The company allowed us to do this, it wasn’t like a factory. It was like a family.

Then, Tudor got the brilliant idea to create, according to the model of virtual cities, not another city, but a planet. Why should we make do with a city, when we can create our own planet? Especially since the company was called that. And when he started working, he didn’t stop until it was ready. He had created an online page which was totally different. A true virtual planet. One which was open to everybody and, most importantly, free. The principle is simple: money comes from advertising, the more visitors you get, the more will the price and especially the number of commercials grow.

I was the first one invited on his planet (and the second inhabitant, after Tudor himself). There were only a few simple rules, and anyone could become an inhabitant. My brother had named the planet according to his own name: Thudor. He would have wished to call it Borges[1], to honor the creator of another planet, a different planet, but he did not know if you had the right to do so. I thought that the name he had chosen was very appropriate. Anyway, the attraction was the planet itself. And the freedom you had to create, inside the planet, your own country, town or just family, the options being, as they were virtual, practically unlimited. The main rule was that simple as in life itself: once you entered it, you could no longer get out otherwise than forever, if you decided to die. Otherwise, as a Thudorian you could have whatever life you wanted. You could meet other inhabitants, you could make friends, search for a job if you wanted to, or simply be rich, if you would so decide, you could go shopping, to the pool, you could play football etc. if I were to give only a few examples. But, in fact, and probably I am repeating myself, there were no limits!

It is obvious that the virtual planet had a huge success. Tudor gave up all other projects, assigning his employees to take care of them. He decided to only make sure things went well for his site. He was a Thudorian as active as one could be. He liked to organize conferences on different topics, and he would post posters himself in towns. The rooms were always filled, but never scanty, as every time when a new person arrived a new seat would appear. I attended such meetings myself. They were absolutely extraordinary. I happen to remember especially the one on the subject “The Space We Live In”. The participants’ ideas would scintillate in the air, the spirits freed from all bodily inhibitions – would be given their own head.

Of course there were some who would rather stay on the beach all day long, or at the pool bar, go play different sports, gamble, lose or win, according to their own virtual luck. There’s no point trying to describe anymore, anyone can imagine the infinity of options and available opportunities. There’s one more thing I must add, maybe the most important of them all, the disappearance of violence. It was a completely open society, where freedom knew no limits and moreover because it was the creation of all users, the Police, Justice, the system – in general had nothing to do there. The virtual planet, the creation initiated by my brother Tudor, was, in one word, perfect!

This was precisely the problem, when Tudor came on day running to me and told me he can no longer leave here, and that he decided to leave forever and that he wanted to know if I was going to go with him, I did not understand. We were never separated, but I didn’t like to go anywhere. I was not attracted by America, although I would visit quite often, since it was from there where most of our money came from, nor the European Occident, nor exotic countries. I wanted to visit as much as possible, especially since I had the money to do it, I would do it every year, but I did not feel the need to leave Romania. It was the place where I felt best, where I was home. He was, I believe, disappointed. He told me indirectly by serving me the phrase “See it yourself!” Then he told me I did not understand that he wanted to move to a different place.

I laughed as if it was a bad joke and I did not take him seriously. He got upset and I could not cool him off. He then left me with the regret of not having taken him seriously, but I was not laughing at him, but at his ideas which I found unjustified.

When I saw him from the window waving at me and getting into his car, I was no longer in the mood to laugh. I shouted at him to wait a while longer for us to talk, but he left in a rush. This happened a few days ago. I haven’t seen him since.

But this morning I received an email from him, through which he was inviting me to go visit him, saying that he was no longer mad at me. I headed towards the address from where he had sent me the email. I got there in an instant. I found his dead body in front of the computer, the webpage displayed was of course that of the virtual planet, Thudor.

I saw someone on the screen waving at me. Only then I understood…

[1] See Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis, Tertius


Published by dorin

Full time husband and father; full time writer; full time artist (#fineartphotography). And in the free time, I like to travel, to read and to learn new stuff.

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