By Jamie Marina Lau

Missives from the Future: 2039 (Jamie Marina Lau)

To Dr. V
Suite 14 - Virtual Reality Regression Therapy
RE: Medical History: November 2039 – March 2040 
23/11/39: First appointment for full virtual environment immersion. Dr. discloses that regular check-ups will continue every week for the first month and then every fortnight, it is made clear that it is an impermanent implantation and that the nano-bot will detach from the neuron independently at any time desired.
2/12/39: Recorded interview conducted. Questions regarding my intentions, the desires I wish to fulfil with the program, how often I will be using it. Dr. also reveals popular motives from other patients which include: most prominently, gaming and secondly, businesses in healthcare, engineering and design. The Dr. seems most excited about the tourism benefits and the hybridized business she is launching with her personal travel agency branch in a month.
23/12/39: The first conference after approval is held in virtual setting. They show us hallucinatory, and strange indescribable shapes to channel addiction. I don’t show any immediate concern to this back then. Silicon Valley, 1985, a group of programmers discover VR. Palo Alto sparks early doomsday, but the Dr. assures me, we are trained from an early age to use technology in moderation – VR promotes moderation explicitly.
24/12/39: I notice when you are in VR, your body is weightless if you want it to be.
25/12/39: I hear rain but don’t feel it sometimes. And then when the rain kicks in, it feels silky. I wonder if I appreciate everything more in VR. Today is optional and our usual Instructor has taken the holiday off. I don’t have plans so I join. We watch movies in VR, our bodies are floating in the middle of a steamy room in Blade Runner. We pause the movie and catch the smoke in the air.
26/12/39: The conferences are split into specific interest groups. I am in the ‘miscellaneous category’. Instructor tells us we are miscellaneous because of our expressed interest in VR curing mental states or tangible mental health issues. Some people are nodding around me. I had never explicitly stated this in my interview with the Dr. This is the first time I feel distrust in the program. I had also thought the Dr. was to keep it confidential anyway.
27/12/39: Miscellaneous travels to an isolated beach town in the Southern Districts facing the South China Sea. We are told this is the filming location of many Cantopop music videos. The buildings are small, we smooth them out with our hands, they are pink and white colours. The ground is concrete, there is washing on lines. I touch material. I have no shoes on now, the ground is hot and flat. There are children with remote control drones. Their laughs are in a different language. Instructor tells us out of nowhere, this beach has been noted as the highest drowning rate along this coast. Tells us, sometimes people swim without knowing how and the waves are too big. This feels odd when I am in my VR body. First time I feel my arm and it is nearly completely there.
28/12/39: Today it feels like we’re in Sega Saturn. And then the pixels clear up and we are in in the 2020 Mars expedition. It is a desert and there is low whirring which sounds like thunder coming but never comes. Instructor says we are going to look at the Jezero Crater. I observe the lake in the crater and it looks like a bloodsucker. This is promised land, says the Instructor. Jezero looks like bruising. The land feels like bruising against my weightless feet. It bumps me up and down unphysically.
1/1/40: When I am not in VR, I enjoy my friends more. Today I begin to itch under my forearm which I’ve never found aggravated before. I have this craving for less weight, especially today around all my friends. And it is hot today. On the television with the New Years predictions I hear that this will be the hottest year on record, with the most humidity. When everybody cheers for this, I find my ear begins to pierce loudly. I am recalled to the silence on Mars.
12/1/40: Today is a new experiment they are trying for the first time on customers. It is optional. I volunteer. It’s organized by EA, who experiments with family and household simulation for gaming, counselling and therapy. I express my concerns of anxiety from noise and heat to Dr. Dr recommends me to join more attainable VR sessions, such as the household simulation. I am given a husband and two kids. I am designed to be maternal for them. They are designed to remind me of reality.
I am in this immersive session for what I think is the few hours after work 6pm to 8pm. It is 3am when I dispatch.
30/1/40: First withdrawal. I was satiated alone, escapism is temporary but I could’ve lived in the EA simulation longer. But they’ve not written the next chapter yet. I could come there every night, but I am bored. My husband cooks the same stew. I become bored. I find myself emailing the game-writers. They recommend me some Japanese otome games – which are not full immersion. Nothing feels present tense, or like correct information. Dr. tells me I have lost too much weight.
20/2/40: Miscellaneous group social space. Someone expresses harassment in VR session. She goes on to express that she feels that she should not be upset because it is all just data in the end and nothing personal. It’s this meeting where I begin to get a major anxiety over whether she is really expressing this, or whether she is lying to cause issues about full immersion. This might be paranoia. The next group member describes how VR has replaced anti-depressants for them. They have been spending time in airports, elevators, beaches and carparks – practicing to breathe. Another opens up about their body image. I’m particularly interested in this and whether they’ll mention the weightlessness. But they don’t, they are just talking about time spent at nude beaches and in saunas. This is when I begin to feel I am exempt from the group and from the VR community. I start to have thoughts that I belong entirely to virtual immersion. Dr. tells me I have gained too much weight. I develop distrust.
2/3/40: I take time off work and set automatic message responses to anyone that could message me. Tonight is when I attempt to be un-resigned from full immersion. I have spent time learning the program fluidly so I will not be reminded of my itchy arm, or my body sweating, and I will focus on immersion. I have breakfast at my mother’s old house, I go to Alta California, I smoke in the Mojave Desert. I spend days walking around Lovelock, Yokohama I see masked chefs.
6/3/40:  Carson ICU Hospital admittance from heat-induced seizure

This story was written by Jamie Marina Lau.

Portrait of Jamie Marina Lau

Jamie Marina Lau

Further reading