Anyone out there remember the good old days? Basketballs and bicycles, “Tag, you’re it!” and “Race you to the corner!” The noise of a neighborhood football game in the backyard. The sound of feet pounding through the house. Moms and Dads everywhere screaming, “Go outside and play!”
Homes and yards today are very different. The exuberant voices have quieted, the running feet have slowed. The games have become virtual, friends meeting in cyberspace instead of in person. And the sounds of the virtual world and the real world are sometimes hard to distinguish.
Picture this: a mom sitting in her office writing a new chapter for her book, one ear cocked, as always, for the sounds of children, pets, husband, and other miscellaneous visitors. She hears the plaintive cry of a cat. Repeatedly. Upon investigation, she discovers that it is merely a virtual pet, crying out to be fed/played with/brushed or whatever else the computer program demands. She returns to her creating. In another room, her husband is attempting to speak in a computer-simulated monotone. “Yes.” “Service.” “No.” “Service.” “YES.” “SERVICE.” Is he crazy? No, he is merely trying to get a voice-recognition phone system to connect him with the service department.
A baby cries. A baby? We don’t have a baby. Are the cries coming from inside the house or through the open window? No, Mom, it’s just a virtual baby. Mom wonders if young mothers ever ignore their babies cries because they think it is merely the older children playing with virtual babies instead of their living siblings. Mom settles back to continue her sci-fi novel. She is deep into the description of a space battle that seems so real to her she can actually hear the sounds of space ships. Wait. Why are the sounds coming from the living room? Of course. A group of kids, computers in hand, have flown into space to defend Earth from an alien invasion. Mom returns to her writing. She can’t help wondering if a real alien invasion occurred, would anyone notice?
And then the creepiest sounds of all. Subtle sounds that take a few moments to break through the writing fog. Shuffling footsteps. Distant moans. Mom looks at her watch. Is it time for dinner already? Are her poor, hungry children dragging themselves down the hall demanding nourishment?
Nope. It is the apocalypse. The virtual zombie apocalypse, that is. The undead are dragging themselves across computer screens not down the hallway. Mom returns to her work, hoping that the day the real zombies show up, she will be able to tell the difference.