Ren faltered and tripped down the sidewalk--the window of a specialty meat shop pitched towards him--his head hit the glass and he slid into a heap below a row of red duck cadavers. He sweat profusely; his head pulsed and his nerves were aflame. Cars passed, grinding gears because it was fashionable, their electric engines humming, their tires sloshing up stagnant rainwater. Passersby ignored him, walking in their rubber suits and folded neon umbrellas, hiding behind augmented visors that gave them all the information they ever wanted but shielded them from what was right in front of them. Ren tried to spit out the bitter metallic taste leftover in his mouth from the last hit, but only managed to get spittle on his jacket.
The night ended abruptly. The passersby stopped and gawked at the sudden light from the clouds above. Ren slowly, painfully, rotated his head to watch. The light split into two, and both filled the gap between the buildings. The lights cycled indigo, scarlet, amber, then white. They went dark, then blinked on rapidly, then repeated, strobing. People screamed. People ran. They fled from their cars into the cracks between the buildings. There was a white heat, searing. Vomit rose in Ren's throat. He scrabbled for a handhold to pull himself to his feet. His stomach lurched. He stood, then careened into the road and slammed into a posh black car, draping himself unintentionally over the hood.
The clouds separated, like water before the bow of a swiftly sailing boat, and the lights probed nearer, on stalks of metal that jutted from the hull of a craft that dug and cleaved the skyline, sundering great chunks of concrete and glass and rebar from their edifices and sending them plunging hundreds of feet to the street below. Ren gasped and covered his skull feebly, afraid. The lights converged and brightened, searching the ground, and finding Ren helpless.
The light corkscrewed into Ren's mind, finding the right paths, navigating the maze of neurons, mapping. In an instant, Ren knew calm, as if he had always known it for every moment of his existence--no longing, no guilt, no craving. Calm. His skin and nerves cooled. His stomach settled, and his muscles stopped aching. His vision faded, replaced with enveloping whiteness. Comfort. He felt himself shrinking from the confines of his body, growing small yet bigger at the same time. His mouth opened.
"Upload," he whispered.
"Yes. You are being uploaded," replied the light from within his brain.
"Why?" asked Ren. It was barely a question, more a passing curiosity.
"You are interesting," said the light.
"Hardly," laughed Ren.
"All is being uploaded."
"Everything. Your universe."
"To the consumer. The eater. All information must be processed. All things must be understood."
"Will it kill me?"
"You were already dead."
"But I'm thinking now. I am not dead."
"You were uploaded. The patterns of information that were contained within your body may continue. Your body ended, but your mind continues."
"It was that fast? I didn't even notice. What do I do now?"
"Build your own universe."
The white light faded to gray. Abstract forms swirled. Shadows from nothing were cast. Ren felt for his hands, trying to define his inside and his outside. White streaked and streamed around him, fingers trying to coalesce, then suddenly blackness.
"I can't," said Ren. "It's not working."
"Just open your eyes, and think. Focus. Then see."
Ren opened his eyes. Light burst into his retinas. He was in a meadow, with tall green grass. The sun was warm. Shoals of flying creatures dove and swirled and plied the blue sky, screeching playfully. He looked down at his hands, moving them in front of him. They took a moment to materialize, but when he saw them, distinctly his and unequivocally solid, he never remembered again anything of his past life.