The Lady was being taken apart in front of me. The printers were erasing the walls she was bound to, replacing them with a more modern, trendier place for a young man named KeD who had recently relocated in the neighborhood. The return of the walls to their molecular state, and their recycling into a shiny new structure, made the citizens who came to participate in the ceremony quite emotional. The most dedicated followers of what had almost become a community cult had decided to gather one last time to see their beloved figure sink into oblivion, and were now crying and moaning in a childish yet terrifying display of anger, sadness and lack of understanding. A middle-aged woman had tried earlier to stop the new occupant, begging him to leave the wall untouched but he had other plans and pretended he couldn’t do it with the template he was using. Of course, they all knew it was not true, but although they had legitimate reasons to their cause, it was a fact that she hadn’t manifested for a long time and nothing they could do was enough to stop urban renewal. It began as a joke. Someone had set up on this wall a huge and static augmented representation of an old woman, poorly modeled, on purpose maybe or by lack of desire to do any better. The item was viewable by any idiot with a healthy implant. It was supposed to look like she was laughing and pointing her finger at the people passing by and i must admit the effect would have been majestic if some attention had been paid to getting the proportions right and the expression somewhat realistic. The most noticeable thing was her absence of eyes — the reason why she was going by the popular nickname of "the eyeless lady". But to the masses, she was nothing but an uninteresting and hardly noticeable piece of augmented junk. Nothing particularly important, it would stand there, with no story, no meaning, no purpose, abandoned to its own sad fate. Until one day she came to life. It was probably just a bug, a collision issue with the other polygons floating around her, or a problem on our retinal displays, but when you looked at her face from the corner of your eye, you could see multiple triangular shapes strobing out of her empty orbits. It made her look like her disturbing gaze was following you, watching you, quietly judging you. She quickly became a curiosity for the people of the neighborhood, and the curiosity turned into a meme, and the meme became superstition. While some skeptics would only see a program error in the phenomenon, most people interpreted it in their own mystical way. And as usual others followed the trend for the sake of participating in the global excitement. Men, women and children came from everywhere to see the glitch. Lovers would kiss under the "eyes" of the lady, people would come here to meet and chat, while the most inspired ones would add an augmented personal touch around her to manifest their adoration. It wasn’t the image that mattered anymore, nor the glitch, it was the shrine this place had become for citizens. It was all the good memories associated with her. As time passed, it blew out of proportions. Far-fetched theories were circulating about her, giving life and meaning to her polygonal existence. After a few months, the lady had reached a sacred status in the collective mind. It was as if a mishap in the shape generation engine had triggered tremendous changes in the way people saw their environment. Word spread that this glitch was not so accidental but rather a long expected sign of life in mankind's manipulations of the virtual world. And as she was becoming a symbol for new age beliefs, her preservation became a hot topic in the constant debate Stream, so much that people who tried to settle here were discouraged by the complexity of the process. Perhaps she got tired of her imperfection being the center of attention, because one day, with no warning whatsoever, she stopped glitching. Her eyes had disappeared. It might seem ridiculous now, but many people felt like they lost something that day. Something meaningful to them. She had become a part of their life, a part of their self-made culture. Even worse was the feeling of loneliness all the activists who had been fighting for her felt when she stopped looking at them, as if she didn't care. After months and months of deliberation it was decided the wall could be destroyed and replaced and that the Lady could just vanish, since the reason of her adoration was no longer there. The memories of a few emotional souls were not enough to stop the conviction it was a simple a waste of space in the balance of the cityscape. The destruction had been delayed for a long time, and there was no reason to delay it any longer. Even the debate had become a mere murmur in the Stream. So when KeD decided to move in here, his request was accepted. He ignored the rare fanatics who were trying to defend their lost augmented icon. It was only local superstition after all, and even if it wasn’t gonna help with his integration in the neighborhood, he had plans for his house which required the wall to be removed. There was no place for old beliefs in his sense of architecture. People gathered one last time to bid farewell to the eyeless lady. They were secretly hoping for one last glitch as her image disappeared from the augmented realm, but nothing happened. Then they said goodbye like they were never going to see each other ever again, and as KeD entered his house for the first time, they all went separate ways, looking for new icons to worship.
Normal, Like a Glitch
Short fiction on AR and the value of digitally native objects
27 Apr 2012
N O R M A L S