I think computer viruses should count as life. I think it says something about human nature that the only form of life we have created so far is purely destructive. We've created life in our own image.

–Stephen Hawking

Sandheart

I opened my eyes to a blue sky, and sunlight draining through trees. Stray leaves descended from their roosts, as a warm breeze migrated across the courtyard. Every day, I would find myself under this tree. This tree stood tall, and held an authoritative place in the yard. Acting as a land mark, my tree attracted stares of admiration. I too found myself staring up at it, as I lie letting the world flow around me.

Every day, I admired the great pillar, and every day, the same nagging question echoed in the back of my mind. I wonder if the real world has trees like this. Chuckling to myself, I would extinguish the though with my usual suited answer; of course the real world doesn't have trees like this, this world, is everything the old world failed to be. That's why it was called crystal earth.

My musings had distracted me, from a rapidly approaching individual. When a voice rang out, I almost flinched out of surprise.

"Josh!" a light and exited voice called.

I sat up and brushed of my back. I looked up to greet my newfound company. Tracy stood above me, practically jumping with energy. I stood up and stretched as she began talking.

"What are you doing out here? I've been looking for you everywhere! I even had to use B.L.U.E to track you down." She made and exaggerated gesture and feigned exasperation.

I smirked, "well, sorry to mildly inconvenience you."

She nudged me, "come on, my brother and Jordan are already there. They sent me to come get you."

She latched onto my arm and began to half drag me across the courtyard.

"Do you have any idea how lucky we are?!" she was bubbling with anticipation, as anyone would have been. Tracey and I were on our way to see the creator, the one who invented the utopia that was crystal earth. The creator almost never showed his face to the public and as such, he and become a revered enigmatic figure. Him giving a speech to all of crystal earth was truly something to see.

They say life in crystal earth, goes on for eternity. If that were true, you would be lucky to even glimpse the Creator's face once.

"Ready?" Tracy's voice recalled me from my thoughts.

"Ready." I replied trying to mask my growing excitement.

With a smile, Tracy brought her arm up. Clinging to her wrist was a simple pink band. With one tap to the band, the B.L.U.E menu sprang to life.

A hologram of a woman rose above Tracy's wrist. The woman had her brown hair tied in a tight secretary-like bun; she wore classy glasses and a business like suit. She was practically the poster child for office woman.

The woman nodded at Tracy and spoke in a soft, welcoming voice. "Hello and thank you for B.L.U.E. How may I help you today?"

"I need you to take me and my bud here to Emerald square." Tracy gestured to me.

The woman hologram, B.L.U.E, turned her attention to me. "Passage for two, to Emerald Square." She confirmed. A small beam of light resonated from her and made its way over to the small blue band on my wrist. "Joshua Blair and Tracy Hillder, are you ready?"

"Ready!" Tracy spoke for us.

B.L.U.E nodded "commencing transportation."

And with that, we were off. Traveling with B.L.U.E was like standing still, and having the world swirl around you. In one fast dizzying moment, we were in Emerald Square.

Tracy steadied herself, and let out a breath. "Man, I can't imagine life without B.L.U.E. Traveling, info, help, locating stuff, that chick does it all." I nodded in agreement.

Though, "chick" wasn't all that correct when referring to B.L.U.E. B.L.U.E was the most sophisticated data base in Crystal Earth. It was accessible to everyone in Crystal earth, and it provided countless features that made life in crystal earth a breeze. B.L.U.E could do anything.

Emerald square was packed. Practically everyone in Crystal earth had gathered. The square was an infinite space, and expanded to meet the capacity of people. So, it stretched farther than I could see, and every inch was covered with exited people.

"Hey, after the big speech, do you want to fight dragons with me in the fantasy realm?" Tracy asked as we scouted for Jordan and Tyler.

"Of course," I responded "I'm only two dragon scales away from crafting an inferno sword."

Tracy and I babbled on about video games for some time before we stumbled upon Tyler and Jordan. Among the big crowd our little group seemed so small.

"What took you guys so long?" Jordan asked with his usual lazy tone. "You could have missed the speech."

"Oh you worry too much, B.L.U.E would have told us the speech had started you know." Tracy rebutted.

"Alright everyone be quiet." Tyler cut in, using his peacekeeping voice.

Tracy opened her mouth, but was cut off even before she started.

A loan beep cut through the crowd, and projectors lining Emerald Square lit up with the Crystal earth logo.

"May I have everyone's attention?" a booming, but calm voice resonated and silenced the vast sea of people.

A man had made his way to the overlook of the square. His face was then plastered on the holograms for everyone to see.

Cheers and applause erupted from the once silent mass of people. The man raised his hand in greeting, and gave a charismatic smile. He was the creator.

His hair was silver, and he had classic features of a confident and powerful man. He carried himself with and air of magnificence and appeared as if he were on a higher existence then those cheering below. George Cole, was the creator's real name, however, no one dared call him by it.

The creator raised his hand, and silenced the crowed once more.

He spoke with a tone dripping of pride and admiration. "Welcome, everyone! I hope you've enjoyed the world that I've created for you." Another wave and cheering swept over the crowd.

I glanced and Tracy, Tyler, and Jordan. They wore faces of pure attention as they jeered along with the billions of others in the crowd.

"A once thought to be wise man said," The creator continued "but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. Well, looks like he was wrong." The creator let a proud laugh out, and the crowd joined in.

"Life in crystal earth is an eternity; here we are free from the plagues of illness, injury, and death. We have liberated ourselves from the deformities of ugliness, imperfections, and aging. Where we were once at the mercy of the old imperfect world, this, crystal world, is ours for the making!" He made a grand gesture and strode around the platform like a proud lion. "Crystal earth is everything the old world failed to be! The old world was riddled with abominations, given to us by the once called gods! Humans once prayed in thanks for the imperfect world they were thrust into, but we, my friends we are the gods, and we make the world as we desire!"

The crowd erupted with rejoice, they looked at the creator with admiration, and awaited his every word with bated breath. The charge from the crowed illuminated in me, and I too was proud of this world, and grateful to be free of the old one. I swelled with respect and gratefulness, the creator was a perfect man. He had created a world, so realistically like the old one, but free from its crippling faults. We felt warm air, we smelled the blooming flowers, and we ran through the golden fields. We were free from the tyranny of the old world. Free from its natural disasters, its pain, its injustice, its different cultures, its death and pestilence. In the old world, perfection didn't exist, and that was its downfall.

As the creator continued talking, the crowd followed his every move, like snakes being charmed. He spoke with courage, and charisma, and I was so engrossed in his speech that I almost didn't notice movement in the corner of my eye.

The abyss of people around me faded into the background as my attention was commanded by it. The roar of the crowed subsided in my ears, as if someone had simply turned them off. It blazed like a beacon, and made the ecstatic crowd around it appear as if it were in slow motion. I felt like everything was moving so fast, yet so slow at the same time. I locked eyes with it, and there we stared at one another.

It was a deer.

A deer stood like a ghost in the infinity of people. No one looked at it; no one acknowledged it, no one, but me. It gave off a misty white light as if snow were falling around it. It was pure white, with startling blue eyes, and had great Ivory antlers that stretched out like the branches of an old tree. Our eyes were locked, but I wasn't staring at it, it was staring at me.

Its eyes bore into me. Its gaze gripped me like the talons of a hawk, I couldn't look away. I felt a blast of emotion tower over me; my soul was shocked with jolts of feeling. I wanted to scream for help, and at the same time I wanted to fall to my knees and weep. I felt something rise around me, a darkness that was suffocating with misery. I felt panic and fear strike through me, only to be overridden by an alien hopelessness. All I wanted to do was cower and beg for respite. Yet I couldn't look away from its deep, chilling blue eyes, eyes that were dripping of sadness; the same sadness that had coiled into my heart.

In the end, it was the deer that had broken our connection, in one swift movement; it raised its head towards the creator, who was still talking. In an instant I felt the grip around me release, and the sadness retreaded like flowing water. I collected myself and let my bleary eyes drift over the creator. As I did, the deer's features distorted, only to return to normal in an instant. Glitch, I thought quickly still numb with surprise. As if it had heard me, it returned its attention to me. I stiffened, when our eyes met once more. However, this time the only unpleasant part was the forlorn look in the deer's eyes. Then it was gone.

It left as abruptly as it had come, dissipating into the background. Yet I was still shaking with horror. The world seemed to return to me and crowed lit up with electricity, along with the creators booming voice.

"Humanity has come far," the creator was still musing. I desperately tried to collect myself. Remnants of emotion still lingered in my veins, and confusion swam through my head.

"We climbed out of caves, and created. As we advanced we created another world, cyberspace. At first, cyberspace was used for pleasure, pitiful video games, and later mediocre business activities. When I first set out to create a perfect world, I asked myself, why stop there?"

I glanced around in a flurry at the crowd around me, was I truly the only one to see that deer?

Tracy noticed my fidgeting

"Josh, what's up?"

I bolted my head and faced her, panic alit in my eyes, "did you see that?"

"See what? Just pay attention, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity!"

So, I was the only who saw the deer glitch.

The creator continued tirelessly

"why should cyberspace be reserved for occasional actives, why should we waste a world that is at our complete control? There is no reason! When I realized that, I began to mold and bend cyberspace into this perfect home that you have today. It started out as a virtual vacation program, all you needed to do, was be hooked up to crystal earth's core. In the real world, all you had to do was put on the helmet, and away you'd go. Your body would be kept alive, while your brain would be miles away. My utopia was so perfect that people never wanted to leave. Then I asked myself another question, why do they have to leave? The only reason people couldn't stay in crystal earth forever, was because their old human bodies would not allow it, their bodies needed nutrition, water, exercise, oxygen; and then it came to me,"

Calm down josh, I thought to myself, it was just a glitch. Nothing more. Focus, this is the creators speech, I've been waiting for this for months.

"why don't I create a way, for us no longer need our bodies. And thus crystal earth's elaborate neurological link system was born. We no longer needed bodies, all you needed was a preserved brain, and that person would be free in crystal earth." The creator paused, and collected himself. "However, this utopia did not come without its price. The incident of 2098."

The mention of the "incident" causes an immediate shudder to descend upon the crowd.

The creator swallows and continues in a gentler voice than before. "we all remember that day, regardless of how horrific, it was a needed step to the completion and perfection of this place."

The incident of 2098 I thought to myself, in hopes of taking focusing my mind. The incident of 2098 was caused when a hacker attacked crystal earth's programming while it was first being tested. The hacker desolated the newborn crystal earth and horrified the entire word by destroying what so many had longed for. In order to minimize the damage to crystal earth, the programmers decided to manually shut it down. This effectively stopped the hacker, but, by then, the damage had been done. Perhaps the worst part of the incident is that people had even died at the hands of the hacker. There were a handful of testers in crystal earth's virtual world, and when the hacker turned the very fabric of its reality inside out, he did the same with the beta testers; and when crystal earth had been shut down by the creator and his team, they also shut down the beta testers, killing them. Four hundred and three people had died.

"All the people who died did not die in vain." The creator caught my attention, and I found myself finally focused.

"The incident was indeed tragic; four hundred and three people lost their lives, one of them, being my son, Wallace Cole. However, this incident strengthened crystal earth, and showed us what needed to be improved. It also taught me and invaluable lesson." The creator stopped, and for the first time I saw something other than pride spark through his eyes. Anger.

Anger flared through him and he spat the next words out like venom.

"it taught me that wherever there is greatness, there will be cowards who seek to destroy that greatness. Greatness is threatening to weak men, and out of spite and fear, they seek to eliminate all things great. They could not achieve greatness themselves and as such they cannot tolerate anyone to succeed while they fail. So, remember this people: the price of greatness is enemies!"

The crowd roared once more, but for some reason I found myself lacking the vigor they had. Once again the crowed seemed to slow around me, I felt separated from the masses of people around me, even separated from Tracy, Tyler and Jordan. Perhaps it was my run-in with the glitch, but if felt different. When I looked up at the creator, it was not pride, excitement or admiration that sparked through me. I felt something nibble on my soul, a small nagging feeling that simply would not subside. It was a small foreign feeling that had burrowed into me, and it was the feeling of dread.