Paul is in the waiting line to enter the cemetery. He finally wants to try the experience told by his friends a few weeks ago.
- “You will see that you will like it!” says the girl Alyssia who waits with him patiently.
- “I hope so, you know I’m sensitive”, Paul jokes.
- “They told me that someone almost threw up on a grave but only because they had been drinking”.
- “Reassuring”, Paul replies.
The evening had already started a long time ago; the music spreads to them. Tickets have been sold online for months before and they were lucky to be able to reserve two. However, they both have tickets to a “semi-full experience” access. The price of the “full experience” tickets was too high when they finally decided to participate. The stories that circulated on social networks about the experience were contradictory, increasing the charm and the desire to learn more. Paul knew the cemetery where the evening’s event took place. It was the cemetery of his village, where he grew up before moving to the city a few years ago. His two grandparents, an uncle and some other person Paul had known directly or indirectly during his adolescence were buried there. He had done about sixty kilometres tonight to please Alyssia in attending the event. She was also super excited because it was the first time for her to enter a Catholic cemetery.
Finally, it was their turn. Paul gently shakes the girl’s hand. They cross the threshold of entry after the initial checks and signatures for the waiver of responsibility in case of traumatic or other events.
- “Have fun guys! And try to get out alive! “, Jokes the man of security.
At the entrance, a luminous panel described the experience to the public:
- “Welcome to the experience of the year. You will have the unique opportunity to meet people, friends, acquaintances, strangers and simply dead and reconstructed human beings thanks to the cross-data collection of social networks, experiences made by them, testimonies of the living, automatic and public data. But don’t worry! They are holograms who want to have fun with you. Allow him to be happy for an evening. Be happy with them”.
The entrance was marked by panels explaining the semi-complete experience. No information was provided on the complete experience. The hostesses were very young girls and boys ready to pour cocktails and legal synthetic grass. After a few cocktails, they decide to go hunting for holograms.
- “It will be fun you’ll see! And then there are also Christiana and Alex who have already arrived for some time”.
Once through the gates, they find themselves in a maze of corridors of tombs. It was the new part of the cemetery, where the graves were lined up on a wall. A mass of young people walks fast to get to the track, the oldest part of the cemetery.
- “Come on, let’s see a hologram up close!” Alyssia shouts.
They approach a tomb where several people had already gathered. They see the blue figure of the hologram from afar.
- “Here, here! Have you seen it? She is a woman! And dance and talk too! “
The reconstructed figure is a middle-aged woman, wearing the same clothes as the tomb photo and the same hairstyle. The face is also realistic, with the same expression. He moves on the space of the tomb and dances with the group, telling his story of life and death at times. The audience is delighted with the spectacle of technology, giving voice to the dead. Alyssia exclaims:
- “Is fantastic! No? It almost seems real! “
Their ticket allows them to move freely in the central area of the cemetery. Almost all the tombs have a corresponding hologram: older adults, young people, women, children reconstructed on their grave who dance to the music, continuously telling their story. Holograms are programmed to dance with the audience, to have fun and entertain. The final effect is a myriad of blue holograms that move to the rhythm of the music next to flowers and chrysanthemums, in collective euphoria. The public is delighted and gets involved in the new frontier of entertainment. Alcohol flows in rivers, some synthetic smoke substances to increase the excitement.
Guys hunt for holograms of cute young women so they can dance with them, take photos and videos for social networks, go through the holograms and hear their story at times. Mature men hang out with cute little teens. Some single women go in search of men with a dark and deep face, hoping perhaps to be able to conquer them. The holograms of older men and women are assaulted by groups of very young teenagers too premature to be attracted to women and who prefer to be able to make vulgar jokes among themselves. Everyone finds the holograms fascinating, almost more interesting than the living who are there to participate with them in the collective experience.
Alyssia moves euphorically between one tomb and another, listening to the stories by some holograms that strike her for their expressive face.
- “I want to meet someone interesting tonight,” jokes with Paul.
Soon her eyes are bright, and she even sheds a few tears when listening to a story of a hologram woman. However, the incisions are soon erased by the laughter provoked by another hologram. Alyssia is wholly transported by the flow of emotions and sensations in which she is immersed, all amplified by alcohol, music and collective excitement. Everyone is aware that they are participating in a unique experience.
Paul is a bit surprised by the proposed technology, being passionate about computer science. “It’s an interesting idea,” he says. He had already participated in several experiences with holograms but none in an original context to immerse himself intensely. While walking among the tombs, try to study the activation system of the holograms, how it was possible to program them, collect the data on the individual stories and make them so realistic. The only thing that distinguishes them from humans is the space of action of the width of the tomb and the blue colour from head to toe. Paul follows Alyssia with his eyes, who has joined a couple of friends, Christiana and Alex. He sees them burst out laughing, dancing and moving with the holograms. He can’t relax, unlike Alyssia. Growing up in the village, he is afraid to come across a hologram face of someone he has met. This is why he moves slowly between one tomb and another and tries to avoid unexpected encounters.
As the evening progresses, the alcohol soon makes everyone more vulgar and relaxed, gradually forgetting the residual sacredness of the place.
- “Hey nice hologram, dance for me,” jokes a teenager to a hologram of a young woman with long straight hair.
- “Come on, she’s dead, can’t you see?”, A girl from the group accuses him, continuing to laugh too.
Many are involved in dancing and laughing with holograms. Some are immersed in hysterical tears listening to the sad stories of some holograms.
- “Let’s go explore another area” invites Alex to the group.
- “No, no, we don’t have the right,” Paul says seriously.
- “But yes, come on, I’ve already heard the story of the holograms in this area”.
- “Yes me too,” says Alyssia.
- “I’m curious to know what the complete experience is. We can try to enter sector B, and if they find us, we can say we are wrong”.
- “Yes, yes, good idea, Alex”.
- “The second sector is immediately after the alcohol zone. Let’s get in line to have a drink, go around the stand and then release in sector B. Easy isn’t it? “.
Paul has no desire to listen to Alex and always follow his invitations to transgression. He long prefers when to spend time alone with Alyssia. He should never again participate in events where he was too. He reluctantly lines up with the others. At some point, he gets distracted and loses sight of them.
- “What do I do now? Am I going or waiting for them here? If I don’t go, Alyssia will take me for the usual coward ever! Damn Alex and his ideas! “While deciding what to do, the hostesses are distracted to applaud the entrance from the hologram guest on stage: the most important personality in the cemetery. He decides at that moment to jump and run into sector B, separated by a thick plastic curtain.
He is immediately amazed by the absolute silence of the place and by the low and rare lights. It takes some time to get used to the darkness. The cemetery in this sector appears to be in its original state, without having been set up to host the event. Then he starts looking for friends while he inhabits his eyes and shouts their name. Nobody answers him. He tries with the phone but doesn’t pick up. He takes a few steps forward and begins to distinguish holograms next to the tombs. Only this time there is no music, and the holograms seem dull and dull next to the graves, illuminated only by the small yellow lights. Paul decides to get out of the place, which he doesn’t like at all. He can hardly identify with his eyes where the plastic awning is that it serves as a separation between the two sectors. Accelerate your pace to be able to reach the exit. However, as he turns his head, his gaze falls on a hologram face sitting on a grave. There is the paternal uncle who died of a heart attack.
- “Damn, no!” Paul says to himself in a low voice, almost out of respect for the hologram. “Oh, no, no, not my uncle! It cannot be true”.
Paul freezes and can’t move his legs. He has to say hello to his uncle, and he can’t get out of there pretending he didn’t see anything. He takes a few steps in the direction of the hologram, that seems to be reviving and turns to look in its path.
- “His uncle, I’m your nephew, Paul!”
- “Hi, Paul, how are you?”
- “Can you answer?”
- “Yes, we are more advanced holograms than sector A”.
- “How is it possible?”
- “We can connect with the original emotional and cognitive system, based on complex algorithms. Remember, I donated organs to death, including testing my nervous system. “
- “Fascinating …. and how are you?”
- “Well, we’re here to discuss with you”.
- “Yeah, hmmm,” says Paul, who can’t imagine what kind of conversation he should have with a hologram. Remember that you never talked too much with your uncle even while alive …
- “How is the family?”
- “Your daughter is fine. She got married and had a nephew, ”says Paul, relieved to know something about his cousin, thanks to the information he received from his mother. He has no idea how old it is that he doesn’t see his cousin.
- “Very well. And, how are you?”
- “Me, ok. I finished my exams at university. I have a girlfriend … “
- “And wouldn’t you like to be a hologram too?
- “Ehmm to be a hologram, you know uncle… “. Paul is surprised by the question. He can’t understand if his uncle was inviting him to die.
- “You know, sooner or later we will all become holograms. It is the new frontier of science; it is the future. Your future may already be now. Why wait? “
- “Um, uncle, I, I should, you know …” Paul stutters who begins to feel uncomfortable. He looks around and notices that the other holograms are looking at them. It almost seems like they are listening to their conversation. Then look to see if there are other live participants in the sector. Is it possible that there is no one else? The ticket price was excessively high, but sector B was presented as the VIP event of the evening. He was sure that all the tickets had been reserved. And why weren’t Alyssia and the others there? It was their idea to come to sector B. He didn’t even want to set foot there. He had to tell it to Alyssia. He could not bear that his will was challenged each time in the face of the choices and preferences of others. He had to make up his mind once and for all to assert himself firmly when he wanted to say no and not always follow others in ideas he did not share.
- “Don’t worry Paul. I know how you feel. We are here to have fun. I am inviting you to have a unique and unrepeatable experience. To be part of all of us “.
As his uncle said these words, the holograms on the graves rose and began to make their way towards him. “Holograms are just projections; they can’t do anything to me,” Paul thinks. But seeing the mass of holograms piling up next to him was starting to make him nervous, and he suddenly began to panic.
- “Go away, go away. What do you all want? Uncle, uncle. “
- “Your uncle for me is just the earth on which I get up, it is the system that gives me the sap, it is an intelligent system that feeds me. For me, your uncle is nothing else “, says the hologram looking him straight in the eye.
- “I, I …. what do you want from you?”
- “We have everything you could want. We have the cognition, and we have the emotions, we have the movement in the collective flow, we have the complex representation. And we can do much more than you: we use collective intelligence to think and act, remote communication and telepathy between all the holograms in the cemetery. We are connected and generated from the same database. We are one and a thousand. Now we just want a living system that is the body for us to act for us. You are our experiment”.
Paul didn’t understand everything his uncle’s hologram was saying. He instinctively pauses to scan the blue face to find in the memory of the remembrance traces of the face he knew. I feature seem so familiar, so reassuring. In that moment of reflection, the mass of holograms silently surrounds him. The uncle moves to join him in front, going beyond the area of his grave. Paul is curled up and squirms, unable to move. He is afraid to touch his uncle and to be touched. He grits his teeth and waits in apnea. Then he hears the holograms that begin to scream in a confused way, and some start to run in a direction opposite to him as if to prevent action in progress. At the head of the hologram race, he glimpses two figures that seem familiar to him.
- “Grandpa Paolo and grandma Aurelia!” Paul shouts as he sees them running towards some electrical control panels.
Suddenly all the holograms disappear. Emergency lights are on throughout sector B. It recognizes the exit awning. He takes courage and starts running. In sector A it is chaos: the holograms have disappeared, the emergency lights on, people are invited to leave the cemetery due to a general blackout. Paul’s legs are still shaking. It begins to follow the mass in an inert way. As he passes through the initial corridor made of tomb walls, his gaze falls on a mini tomb. It is the common grave of the two grandparents. Surprisingly, in the photo on the vault, there is also the uncle, in the centre of the two grandparents and who seems almost forced to sit, held still by the hand of the two grandparents on his shoulder. They smile at him serenely and satisfied, almost as if after having concluded a rescue action.
- “Hey, are you here?” Alyssia says to him, reaching him from behind. “We haven’t seen you since. While we were in line, we met some friends, we got distracted, and then we never saw you again. We stayed in sector A looking for you all evening. And we found out that in sector B they didn’t even sell a ticket when it became known that it was for an experimental project with no fun!”.
- “Thank you, grandparents”, Paul murmurs in a low voice before leaving the cemetery.