Friday, January 24, 2014


Today In The United States of Avatars
By David Edward Nell

A muscular man found an appropriate moment to sneak up on two women at a restaurant table. “Feel my biceps, sis,” he told them, performing suggestive poses.

They swatted the air like he was a fly but he kept posing for them.

An officer patrolling the street saw what was happening and poked his tablet to start up iWhistle. He triggered a high-pitched noise only the troublemaker could hear, and it was so debilitating the fellow shambled over like he had been hypnotised to walk in that direction, towards his judgment.

“Why the ears?” the muscle man sulked.

“What were you doing disturbing those ladies there?” the officer demanded to know. “Putting to test your perverted pickup lines, I reckon.”

“I was trying to be friends?”

“Hold on a minute,” the officer said, scrutinising the troublemaker's appearance like he had discovered a new area of interest. “Is there something you'd like to tell me?”

The muscle man went quiet.

“You won't mind if I open up my iIllusionDestroy program here and–”

“Okay, okay,” sighed the muscle man, and when he tapped his shirt pocket, no more was he an adult with a heavy build. Now he was his true self: a young boy.

“I knew it. An avatar,” the officer remarked.

“So what?” said the boy. “It makes me cooler.”

“Don't you know using iPersonify outdoors is illegal?”

“Since when? Who says?”

“The law.”


“It's not bollocks, and don't use such foul language. It's the law. I say you're breaking it.”

“In that case, I don't care, because you can't do anything to me. I'm only nine.”

“Well, you sure will get a good wallop when I tell your mum.”

“No, no, please don't.”

“Where's your iPersonify? Where are you hiding it?”

The boy reached into his pocket. He hesitated then handed the pebble-sized device to the officer. “Everyone's doing the avatar thing,” he tried to explain, pointing at the ladies. “They're not real. Why do you have to take mine away? Why not them?”

“Friends of yours?”

“Part of a local network. I knew they were in the area. Saw on my program. Was trolling them, that's all. Wanted to have some fun. I'd never use iPersonify to fool real grown-ups, I'm telling you.”

“What version are you using?”

“1.0. I wish I had the latest, because you can do so much more, like interact with other people who have lower versions and whatever. But this is all my mum could afford to buy. And–”

“Spare me the details. What about those ladies there? What version?”

“I think they're on 1.61, because–”

“Quiet. I bet you go buy alcohol under that guise, don't you?”

“No,” replied the boy, looking down at his feet guiltily.

The ladies had just finished sharing a milkshake when the officer grabbed their shoulders. “Save me some time, won't you?” he said, softly. “Hand over iPersonify and I'll save you a trip to the slammer too.”

“But we're just a pair of attractive, grown up women having a fancy brunch and a scandalous chat, because that's what women do.”

“Right, you asked for this. I'll let iIllusionDestroy do the unveiling.”

“No, wait, fine, you've got us.”

The ladies transformed. Their heads levelled with the table's height and then they were little girls. Not without snivels and shakes, they did as told, as the officer had reached out his hand and insisted again. They mourned their loss.

“Now you've learned your lesson,” said the officer, pocketing their devices.

“But this is so, so, so unfair.”

“It's the law.”

“But everyone does it,” they said, and the boy, hiding behind the officer, nodded in agreement. “Everyone in this restaurant is using iPersonify. How can we be doing wrong? I mean, our mums just bought us ours yesterday at the mall. I don't understand. I hate you.”

“The fact is, this is illegal junk, and that means you're not allowed to own these things. Do you understand? And – wait – what do you mean by everyone?”

The girls showed him to the indoor section of the restaurant. A man in a corner was smoking a cigar, peeping over a newspaper every now and then to watch three chatting women nearby at a different table. Elsewhere, there was a couple holding hands and a tall chap having a dance to no music. And in the middle of it all, a grey alien humanoid, waving for someone, anyone to notice it.

The mad officer stormed in and shouted for their attention. “You lot of Otakus are sad, pathetic, depressed, lonely losers who need to learn how to live life like normal people do,” he ranted. “My word. No wonder this country is going downhill. Don't you read the news? Don't you know what you're doing is illegal?”

None of them said anything. They seemed unsure of what to say.

“You will all hand over your iPersonify gadgets this instant.”

“I don't know what you're talking about,” said the newspaper man.

“What he said,” said the alien.

“Or will I have to use my iIllusionDestroy and find out the hard way and maybe give you lot a taste of prison life? Do you know what they do to tech-fraudsters? Your choice, guys.”

Silence. And then they cooperated. Altogether, they changed into teens. The officer went around and, to groans and sighs, confiscated their devices. Then he had ten quantities of iPersonify.

“Excuse me,” someone with a high voice interrupted. The officer hadn't noticed the spectacled man who was in some dark, hidden corner, playing with an assortment of various devices. The well-equipped fellow had his hand raised in the air like he was in a classroom. He was enthusiastic about being picked.

The officer turned to him and sneered. “Are you also hiding something from me, nerd?”

“Actually, no. But I happened to hear you mention iIllusionDestroy. The thing is, no such program exists.”

“Nope, nope, nope, you're wrong. It's a police–”

Someone turned the entertainment monitor loud just then. A newscaster was describing the appearance of a man who was going around with a hacked avatar stealing iPersonify devices from unsuspecting children. Everyone in the room stared the officer down while the newscaster continued.

“...wears a police uniform; has a moustache; shaved chin; a very red face; big booty...”

The officer began walking backwards, giggling nervously. Everyone got up from their chairs and activated laser knives.

“There's no need for violence, friends,” urged the officer.

“I agree,” said the spectacled man.

“Listen to the nerd boy, guys,” agreed the officer.

“Yes, please. Everyone take a seat.”

And everyone did.

“Because we all know how to handle real losers.” The spectacled man whipped out a gun and fired a beam. It was an instant hit. The officer watched his body fade into blackness, and as his clothes disappeared, all the iPersonify gadgets fell on the floor.

And as a result of the shot, the officer became who he really was: a fat thirty-year-old.

“I was just trying to have a bit of fun, mates,” the fat man explained, scratching warts. He looked around, saw the dirty looks he was getting and then ran away from the restaurant, frightened for his life. He ran so fast he tripped in the street, and then he got up and ran again. Until a drone came to pick him up into the air and take him away. And then his attempt at an escape was useless.

Everyone in the restaurant got their devices and turned their avatars back on again.

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David Edward Nell writes from Cape Town, South Africa. He can be touched at


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