Normal, Like a Glitch

Short fiction on AR and the value of digitally native objects
27 Apr 2012
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.