Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dionysus and the Virtual World

Today I called on my friend, Dionysus Polygamsus. He greeted me wearing discoloured, stain-ridden pajamas, and an Emily Dickinson hairstyle. It was late afternoon. The poor man was on his knees. He reeked of self-destructiveness. His shabby appearance numbed my senses.

'I hope you've brought water with you,' he gasped.

As I entered the house I found it hard to adjust to the darkness. His five wives, and twenty-six children, each kissed me on the cheek. I grieved for each one of them. I walked to the centre of the living room which was empty of furniture. Its strange vacancy matched the lifeless faces gazing at me. The house and inhabitants had lost shape. The walls trembled, and the air was numb with fear. What was Dionysus doing with his life? Each wife and child looked at me with suspicion through a veiled light. 

Suddenly, Dionysus jumped up, and clutched at me with clammy hands. 'Hold me,' he cried. 'I haven't slept for weeks! Please, hold me!' He pushed his half-drowsed, oily face into my shirt. 'Don't look at my ears! I can't stand people looking at my ears!' There was hardly any flesh on him. He was a ghostly winter sun. I remained speechless within my frozen body. He fell to the floor, and gripped my ankles.

'I want to be someone else.' Dionysus shouted, waving a bony fist under my nose.

'We all have such a desire from time to time ...  '

'A woman!'

'Which one?'

' No! Me!'

'You're a woman?!'

'No. I want to be a woman.'

I was afraid to move. I realised Dionysus' affair with computer games and social networking had become a sickening, dark obsession. He was addicted to games based on violence, destruction and death. He liked to play the hero, usually banishing a chainsaw. Me? The words orcs, warlocks, trolls, gnomes, inflict "menopausal night sweats" on me, even when sunlight towers over the streets.

'What about your children, your wives?' I said, trying to calm him. His family looked pale and drawn; some resembled gargoyles. He had become fixated with pixelated images to the detriment of his own flesh and blood.

'I don't care about them. I've virtual children and virtual wives to look after! Don't you see?!' he answered bitterly. 'With technology I can be someone else. I can finally lead an exciting life! Real life is dull!'

I told him I could arrange for a doctor to call. When I suggested he required professional help it was evident he didn't know what I was talking about. 'It's too late.' Dionysus shouted. 'I'm having a passionate lesbian affair with a gay man. You have to believe me. I'm in love.'

I felt I was being pursued by a nightmare without end. In truth, he scared me. 

'Can't you see!' he continued. 'I only exist inside my computer.'

I couldn't intervene to save Dionysus. He had been colonized by cunning advertising, marketing and false images. He told me of living for months on-line, surfing game and fantasy sites. By the sad look on his face I knew he was deluded.

Walking home I realized I didn't exist inside, or outside, my computer. Suddenly, the bright colours surrounding me became dull, frail. Time slowed down. I disappeared.


Reflections: Until today I felt totally in control of my 'life' and 'emotions'. However, while my back was turned, they conjoined to take my car keys, mobile-phone and car. Their quest? To experience a plume of volcanic ash, and cones of lava, in some god-forsaken country covered in ice.

I find their sense of humour naive and disruptive. They photograph each other - with my mobile-phone camera - and send emails to disclose how their "wonderful" journey is progressing. Meanwhile, I sit in frozen misery waiting their return unsure of my whereabouts.