Upgrading Reality

“You have arrived at your destination,” Tyler’s phone informed him. He looked around the forest but only saw familiar, normal-looking trees, grass and dirt. There were no hints that anything might be out of the ordinary or otherworldly.

“Hmmm. Bug, or Easter egg?” Tyler chuckled as he wondered what possessed his phone to send him there. “Let’s try again. OK Google, find me another reality,” he made the command and bet on it being an Easter egg. He was ready for the phone to pick another random nearby location. It surprised him a bit when his phone replied.

“You have arrived at your destination.”

“Bug it is,” he shrugged and turned to walk home. As he turned, his phone vibrated and the screen changed.

[Downloading Upgrade] appeared on the screen with a red progress bar. 

“What the hell?” Tyler asked himself. He looked around the clearing again; this time something caught his eye. Sunlight revealed a thin stream of sparkles flowing through the air like energy. He tried to move to get a better view but every step he took disturbed the sparkling strand. 

After searching for a better view, Tyler sighed and threw his hands up in frustration. He noticed the line moved even though he was in place.

“Wait a second,” he glanced at the screen. The red progress bar was at about 70%. He focused on the few sparkling dots he could see in the air and slowly lifted the phone; the line moved. “Gotcha!”

Now that he found one end of the beam, he searched for the other end. Tyler held his phone up and walked it around until he centered on the beam, then he walked forward to follow it.

When the progress bar was at 98% he found the other end. At the edge of the clearing, a tiny black hole hovered in mid-air; whatever was coming out of it connected to his phone. The black dot was only about half the diameter of a dime and it seemed to be an actual hole in reality. As he examined it, his phone vibrated.

[Installing Upgrade] appeared on his phone; it continued to vibrate. Tyler watched his phone with concern as the vibrations grew more intense; then, the screen cracked.

“WHAT THE HELL!?” he shouted. More cracks appeared on the screen and even on the phone’s metal body.

[Upgrade Complete] All at once, the vibrating stopped. The phone disintegrated into a phone-shaped pile of white sand in his hand. Confused and frustrated, Tyler squeezed the sand but could not close his fingers.

“Huh?” he asked and poked at the sand with his other hand; he felt something smooth in it. He explored it with his fingers until he was able to get a grip, and he pulled out a small card-sized pane of glass.

[Upgrade Complete] was displayed on it along with more text underneath. [Welcome to the AlterNet!]

“Is this my phone?” he asked the forest and tried swiping along its surface. The messages disappeared and somehow his familiar home screen was set up with an icon that he did not recognize.

“Well, why not?” Tyler pressed the new icon labeled ‘TraverseTaxi’. The moment he touched it, the tiny black dot he’d forgotten about opened up to a giant hole that he could walk through. Someone stepped out.

“Taxi?” The fresh-faced teenager asked with a practiced customer service smile.

“Uhh..,” Tyler shrugged. He thought of several different ways to explain what just happened but none of them didn’t sound crazy. Instead, he reasoned that the stranger might know more than him. “I don’t know what’s going on.” he wagged the small glassy card at the stranger.

“No problem, it happens all the time. C’mon,” he smiled and tilted his head at the tall black hole. “You’re about to have your sense of reality destroyed.”

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