Neo wakes up in an unfamiliar simulation. He stands at the edge of a city, sun beating down on his neck, doesn’t recognize a thing. Buildings, cars, even garbage cans – it’s all unnervingly different.
Odd as it is, it must be like any other simulation at its roots. He’ll find a phone booth and dial out, get back to the real world. He walks into the city, reading nearby graffiti, he will find answers in this land of angels. He can feel it.
A group of teenagers pass him, laughing loudly.
“Nice costume, nerd!”
“Yeah Halloween’s next month loser.”
He looks down at himself – clad in all black – to the teens in eye-piercing neon shades. He continues walking, ignores their last jeers. The opinions of the manufactured or brainwashed don’t concern him.
There are signs everywhere, yet none filled with information he would like. There are advertisements for cars and clothes and films, the overwhelming materialism is sickening. Should be enough to startle the masses out of their battery charging lives.
It feels like an exaggeration of all that was wrong in the previous simulation, his skin itches with it, he needs to get out. (Is this simulation stronger? Logic would dictate so.)
Neo walks through the whole city of Los Angeles, not a single phone booth to be found. A nasty suspicion has been building in his gut as he looks, only cements when he finally finds a single phone booth at a bus stop.
There’s a huge ‘out of order’ sign taped across the door. He tries and fails to call anyways. The last bit of hope sputtering out and fading, his rib cage hollow.
The machines’ improvements to the simulation removed the escape hatch. A natural progression, one he should have anticipated. He’s truly trapped here.
“Sup Neo? Lookin’ good bro.”
He jumps at the words, an intoxicated stranger giggling as they sit on the bus bench. He grabs them, pulls them up by their shirt.
“You know my name?”
Their features darken, “Dude, cool cosplay or no, boundaries.”
The words are nonsense, but the fear is clear as day on their face. He drops them, “What is –”
They walk away quick, before he can finish his question, muttering about fans and batshit and reeves, whatever that means.
Neo sighs, heading out of the station. Time to get answers the old fashioned way.
Neo doesn’t understand why the library is so much larger than before. He’d think the machines would want the masses uneducated for safety, but perhaps they’ve grown arrogant. (Or perhaps it is as he feared: this simulation has no escape, the population’s intellect is irrelevant.)
The library’s computers are fancy garbage. They’re inundated with unnecessary photo-realistic images and games, run slower for it. He feels like an old man – back in his day, computers were strictly for business. Regardless of this world’s attempt to distract him with so many colors and ads – how are there even more ads on the computer than outside – Neo is able to access a search engine. Intelligent machines doesn’t bring up anything useful, but the Matrix does.
Neo’s fairly certain the machines have developed a sense of humor, and are currently laughing at him. That’s the only explanation for this world having his life story as a set of movies, filmed decades ago. Reality stops halfway or so through the first, as it veers very strongly into fiction.
It’s a good sign, if weird. Weirder still that he wins in the movies. He must’ve been close to saving the world for the machines to single him out like this. Researching the cast, the lead actor looked eerily like him when it was filmed. The man lives nearby, and Neo’s curious, perhaps the machines unknowingly left a clue in creating his counterpart.
“Incredible,” Keanu breathes, reaching out and pausing, hands suspended in midair. “May I?”
Neo doesn’t know what he’s asking, nods anyways.
Warm hands, no calluses, brush down his face.
“Every fan is a gift, but you, you’re something else. What’s your name?”
He chuckles, “Civilian name then.”
Neo frowns, “Thomas Anderson.”
“Don’t tell me then,” Keanu says, smile hasn’t faded a bit. His hands are still on his face, almost ticklish as his fingers start petting his cheeks.
Keanu’s eyes burn into his, “Neo, come inside if you want to discover how deep the rabbit’s hole goes.”
It isn’t a question, Neo stepping into the house.
“I don’t usually do this sort of thing,” Keanu says with an amused smile. “Honest. But there’s something about you – a glimpse into the past perhaps, ideas of what could have been – irresistible.”
Neo doesn’t completely follow, but he’s had decent luck in the past with chasing the white rabbit, spots a painting over his shoulder that solidifies the decision.
“You feel that energy?” Keanu asks.
Neo doesn’t know, is then shoved up against the door and being kissed.
Keanu tastes like fabricated extravagance, and Neo feels like a fool for forgetting for even the briefest of moments. He’s fake, he’s part of the simulation.
Neo still kisses him back. Blames the warmth and comfort of the body pressing against his, blames how very good Keanu feels compared to this terrible world.
‘It’s basically masturbation,’ some of the guys had joked about fucking the woman in red. He never got the appeal before, knowing the image was false. But Keanu…
If he’d taken the blue pill, would this be his life? Is that the difference between them, for Keanu noticed something too?
Keanu isn’t real, he reminds himself, as the man kisses down his chest, shoving his shirt up and off. He groans when Keanu’s thumbs press against his hipbones, he’s always been sensitive there, makes a note to test that out on Keanu later. Fuck. This isn’t real, no matter how good it feels, he can’t lose sight of that. Of who he is and his duty to the world.
He should leave. Knows better than to play with temptation.
…but this world, this horrible world, doesn’t have an exit. As long as he’s trapped here, he’d much rather take all that’s been stripped from the real world. All that he never got to explore.
“Still with me?” Keanu asks, mouth clamping down on his thigh through the pants.
Keanu grins up at him, “Good. You’re going to enjoy this.”