Down in the third sub-basement below Mortimer’s castle here at Media Underground, I just finished a three week investigation into Halo 3 Live. I had some suspicion that the gamer PinkUnicorn12 had hacked into my X-Box game controller and installed a remote program to make me lose every game I played against her and all of her online friends. I also found I lost to random players and even a five year old boy with a broken arm who said he was eating a sandwich at the time. I remember hearing his exact words, “I just pawned your bitch-ass down”. I knew there must have been some security breach with either the game controller or my X-Box console. Statistically I had been able to win one or two games out of 1000 games played. I switched controllers and nothing seemed to add up. Then the phone rang…
“Inman, this is Mortimer.”
“Ah… (long pause)… Yeah?”
“Get off the X-Box for Christ sake while I’m talking to you on the phone.”
“I’m sending you to West Africa for an initiation into the Bwiti ceremony. You are to meet up with the head of the tribe. The Shaman’s name is N’ganga. You’ll take massive amounts of a drug called ibogaine. During the ritual the visions will come on pretty strong for about eight to ten hours during which time I want you to look for machine elves, the Terrence McKenna kind. Grab one as your spirit guide and find out everything you can on Simulated Reality.”
“Yeah ok… just a second… Oh no, you took my Plasma Rifle bitch!”
“Inman this is important. Put down the controller.”
“Ok I got it. Machine elves and SimCity, I used to play that game. I’ll get on it.”
“Not SimCity you retard. Simulated Reality. It’s the proposition that…”
“NO! NO! NO! You whore! Goddamit!” (explosions in the background)
“Put it away for the last fucking time Inman or I’m coming down there. It’s not the video game SimCity. Look, just get a pen and write this down… Simulated Reality.”
“Simulated. S-I-M-U-L-A-T-E-D as in fake reality. Jesus I can’t believe I have to deal with this. Did you go to public school? Look, you have your mission. The plane leaves for Gabon tomorrow. I know it’s a weird way to go about this and it may be a shot in the dark. N’ganga has been a buddy of mine for years and he’ll talk you down if you go nutters. I had Klein on this one at first but he says he’s allergic to Tabernanthe bark or some crap. Anyway keep a diary because I might be able to find clues from your notes. Write everything down. Don’t freak out and remember, look for anything out of place or ask a machine elf spirit guide. I need to know if the universe itself could be a computer simulation indistinguishable from “true” reality. And if it’s possible that someone could actually hack reality.”
I put the phone down. I stare at the wall for a few seconds. Did I just hear what I think I heard? This is the ultimate paranoid conspiracy and he’s lost his goddam mind. He’s gone Syd Barrett batshit-crazy and he’s trying to take me with him. I’ll have a psychotic breakdown from some bad reaction to ibogaine, wake up barefoot and penniless wandering around West Africa, collapse from malnutrition and dysentery and finally end up being torn to pieces by wild hyenas in a dried up river bed. There’s no way I can go on this trip. I’ll have to fake the simulated reality study.
At first I thought it would be easy. I’d just type simulated reality into Wikipedia and make a few notes. Scribble weird crap in a diary with mathematical symbols and rub dust all over the cover so it looks like I’ve been in the desert for three days. No problem. That’s when I remembered N’ganga would be waiting for me in Gabon. If I don’t show up he’ll ask Mortimer what happened. I’ll have to hire a guy to fly down to Gabon, have him meet up with N’ganga posing as me, he’ll take the ibogaine and write a few things down about elves, send me his notes and I’ll mix that with the Wiki simulated reality material in a dusted up diary.
Sounds like the perfect plan right? Turns out the guy I send down there used to hang out with N’ganga in Glastonbury in the late 80s. And N’ganga isn’t N’ganga. His real name is Niles Octavious Hall the twin brother of the Governor General of Jamaica Kenneth O. Hall. Niles O. Hall was the Black Rebel Jamaican Freedom Fighter who later migrated to Gabon and became a Bwiti initiate. Kenneth O. Hall was the Dean of the State University of New York who later became the Governor General of Jamaica.
Just a side note, the Bwiti ceremonies are led by a (male or female) spiritual leader who has extensive knowledge of traditional healing practices, hexes and spells. Their spiritual leader is called an N’ganga. So N’ganga is not only not Niles O. Hall’s real name, it’s not even his fake name because it’s a title. If Niles or the “N’ganga” meets my fake Bwiti initiate dupe posing as me and recognizes him from Glastonbury I’m fucked.
Luckily the guy who was supposed to be me, Ian, didn’t blow my cover and I called Mortimer to tell him I missed the plane. Thinking quickly I also told him I was supposed to meet my “assistant” Ian in Gabon who has a satellite phone and laptop so I can be initiated into the Bwiti ceremony over Skype in the comfort of my office in the third sub-basement. All I really had to do was dose myself with a placebo here, look for the machine elves in my own imagination and tell Mortimer it was all being done according to the Bwiti ritual over remote live video. Sound simple?
Ian doesn’t have a laptop or satellite phone or even a video camera. So I had to write and direct a ten hour fake Bwiti ibogaine ritual on film. First off I couldn’t find a guy who looked like Ian or N’ganga. We tried some kind of computer graphics thing with a friend who said he worked for Pixar. That looked completely retarded. Then we figured the shaman and Ian would probably have tribal paint all over their faces and beards with crap in their hair. No one would notice if they were dancing around with dirt all over everything. We hired two actors who looked the part, painted their faces and recorded the whole thing with an iPhone. I thought the acting was weak at first. I tried to motivate them about machine elves while looking for weird shots with the iPhone. One guy started waving his arms in the air like a Shaman and the other wrote stupid shit in a diary.
So summing up, I don’t know if the machine elves are real. I don’t know if reality is fake or not. I don’t know if I’m sitting in a comfortable chair right now in another part of the universe with a brain-computer interface. I don’t know if I interact with a simulated world and if it receives feedback from me. I don’t know if virtual people exist or if they’re just other poor schlubs strapped in a chair interacting with their brain-computer. I don’t know much of anything. And even if this world is simulated and let’s just say for the sake of argument it is. I found a few clues…
TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD – “Male, female, father, mother, the thunderstorm, the hurricane, the thunder, all phenomena are naturally like magical illusions. However they arise they are truthless. All things are untrue and false.”
LAO TZU – “The world is formed from the void, like utensils from a block of wood. The Master knows the utensils but keeps to the block. Thus he can use all things.”
FREDRICK NIETZSCHE – “Why couldn’t the world that concerns us be a fiction? And if somebody asked, ‘but to be a fiction there surely needs to be an author?’ couldn’t one ask simply why? Doesn’t this longing perhaps belong to the fiction too?”