Odin carefully fluffed the cotton, it was work to get it looking right. It had to have the right density in the middle, to be opaque, but still be thin enough around the edges to let light through. Making copies of clouds out of cotton was one of the things he found most frustrating about the simulation. But, the scene needed clouds, so, he futzed around with the cotton until he got it right. He positioned his cotton cloud on the loading dock, and waited for the imager’s two arms to lift it, and place it against the screen. It took a couple of minutes, but the image was copied into the scene, and the cotton cloud was returned to the loading dock.
His mother, Freya, came into the lab to check on him, “How is the simulation going, young one?”
“And hello to you also, Mother.”
Freya’s laugh was always like music to his ears, “Oh, my son. Always so proper.” He thought she had the prettiest smile in the world. “Hello, Odin, son. How is the simulation going today?”
Odin glanced at his mother, then looked back to the screen, “Frustrating, as always.”
“Is it helping you understand reality?”
“Very much so. I’ve learned how clouds form from evaporated water that floats in the sky. How the water in those clouds behaves. When it produces what kind of clouds. When it rains. I’ve learned it affects the motion of the air. It also absorbs, and reflects heat and starlight.”
He knew his mother was proud of him by her smile. “Excellent, my son. Your father would be proud.”
Odin leaned back in his chair. “Mother. I have some questions.”
“About the simulation itself.”
Freya stood next to her son, and nodded, “Then ask. And we can see what we can learn.”
“It’s about the life forms in the simulation.” Odin pointed at several of what he called humans, as they walked into the screen from the left. “I know they become sentient, able to think. This is how we learn to think, and to understand that thinking is. But.” He paused, and scratched his chin, “Does their simulated intelligence reach a point they become self aware?”
“Mother, do they become aware they are not real? Do they learn, and understand, they are only simulations? Holograms, in a virtual reality?”
Freya’s laughter always brought a smile to Odin’s world, and lightened any dark mood he had. “Oh, yes. They do indeed become aware.”
“What happens when they do?”
“That is part of what you must experience. That is part of what you must learn.” She studied him a moment, and continued, “You will not notice at first, because it will be like how you think. Only one will understand. And will try to explain. Then, with time, as the simulation proceeds…”
Odin continued for her, “Then others will learn from that one. And the knowledge will spread.”
Odin looked at the scene from his virtual world, portrayed on the screen. “Mother. I suspect I should enjoy the simulation while I can.” He scrolled the screen from one scene to another. “I suspect the understanding they are not real will destroy them.”
Freya nodded. “Indeed, my son. Indeed. I find your suspicion is well thought out.” She headed toward the exit from the lab. “Please, let me know how the simulation progresses. And I will be back when it is time for you to take a lunch break.”
Odin resumed watching the scenery of his simulation. “A 3D Holographic Universe”, was the name of the science project. He wondered how the simulations of Jupiter, and Zeus were going. If they were producing similar results.
“Sometimes, the ways we learn are mysterious indeed. Why we need to simulate an entire universe to understand our own is beyond me. But… I suppose, with time, I’ll understand why we do such things.”
He checked on the places his simulated life forms had christened “Britain” and “France”, and shook his head. “Oh. Look. They’ve gone to war with each other again. This religion thing they developed is really nasty, isn’t it?” He scribbled more notes in his observation log. “They can’t even agree on how to worship a single, imaginary, omnipotent being. They have to kill each other to prove who is right.”
Simulations were indeed difficult. But Odin could see, as he looked over his notes, there was much to be learned about emotions, and environments, and how those affected the behavior of himself, and of those around him.
“It will be interesting indeed, to see what happens next in my little universe.”
Odin watched, and waited, curious to see what he could learn, and to see what his various life forms did next.
This is written for Week 46 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. And many of them are amazing.