Palo Alto, October 1994
From My Tiny Life, 1998

The Low-Humming Room Full of Bone-White Boxes
You are in a quiet, low-lit room full of
 stacked metal boxes, their surfaces mostly
 white, like old bones, studded here and
 there with pale green-yellow pin-point
 lights that flicker on and off. The boxes
 are computers, 25 of them or so:
 collectively they hum a damped and hissing
 drone. There is carpeting beneath your feet
 -- thin, corporate, and clean. There is an
 exit to the south.
You see The Server here.
Pavel and The_Author are here.

Pavel shrugs.

Pavel says, "Well, there it is. Not much to
 look at, really."

The_Author looks at The Server.

look server

The Server
You see a box as unremarkable as any other in
 this room, only more so. Three feet square
 by one foot high, some cables slithering
 out the back, no flickering lights or any
 other outward indication of activity
 within. The box sits at about knee level,
 stacked unceremoniously on top of another
 one just like it.

The_Author has come 3000 miles to look at
 this machine.

The_Author crouches for a better look and
 wonders at his disappointment. He didn't
 think he was so foolish as to hope for more
 than this. He didn't expect to feel the
 emptiness he feels inside him now. He can't
 imagine what it is he expected, really.

The_Author stands and glances momentarily at
 Pavel.

look pavel

Pavel
You see a portrait of Santa Claus as an early-
 middle-aged man. Thick brown hair to
 shoulder length, a full, dark beard, and
 eyes that underneath their long, fine
 lashes actually do appear to twinkle in the
 manner of the mythical Father Christmas.
 But Pavel is otherwise not very mythic-
 looking. He is wearing jeans and running
 shoes, and his T-shirt hangs loosely over a
 comfy paunch.
He is awake and looks alert.

@aliases pavel

Pavel is also known as Pavel, Pavel_Curtis,
 Haakon, Lambda, The_Archwizard,
 Keeper_of_the_Server, and God.

Pavel seems, perhaps, to sense the Author's
 wish that there were even the slightest
 note of drama to be wrung from this
 profoundly uneventful moment.

Pavel says, "Well you know, I brought
 PennyAunty down here once and do you know
 what she said?"

Pavel says, " 'My world is in there.' "

Pavel mimes, with outstretched hands and
 eyebrows raised, the wonder that his
 earlier visitor felt before the silent,
 bone-white presence of the Server.

Pavel shrugs.

The_Author smiles awkwardly. He is the
 slightest bit embarrassed. He knows now
 what it is he was expecting to find here,
 and it's ludicrous: He really felt, without
 admitting it to himself, that he was going
 to see what PennyAunty only pretended to
 see. He thought that he was coming here to
 finally gaze directly at a world he had
 been living in for months.

The_Author realizes now that during all those
 months he never really doubted LambdaMOO
 was in this box, compact, condensed, its
 rambling landscapes and its teeming
 population all somehow shrunk down to the
 size of the server's hard-disc drive.

The_Author remembers with a twinge of
 newfound understanding the way the people
 there sometimes attached the curious prefix
 "tiny" to the features of their world, the
 way they spoke of "tinyscenery," and
 "tinygovernment," and so on.

The_Author thinks of how impossible it was to
 ever quite believe the place was not, in
 fact, a place. Of how he never could quite
 shake the thought that LambdaMOO existed
 somewhere in a concrete sense, that
 somewhere, out beyond the scrim of fantasy
 and distance through which he interacted
 with the MOO, it waited to be seen unveiled
 -- an X on the map of the material world, a
 thing as tangible as any rock, or house, or
 island.

The_Author knows he isn't the first person to
 make this kind of mistake. He knows that
 new technologies like this one have a
 history of sowing metaphysical derangement
 in the minds of those who first behold them
 -- that in the middle 19th century, for
 example, even educated Frenchmen were known
 to fear the camera's gaze, suspecting that
 it could not work its representational
 magic on a person without stealing a little
 of his soul.

The_Author, come to think of it, is carrying
 a small camera in his pocket at this very
 moment. Why not? he asks himself.

The_Author pulls the camera out and aims it
 at the Server, and shoots. Perhaps, he
 muses (deciding to indulge his metaphysical
 derangement just a little longer), perhaps
 through some strange alchemy of
 representational technologies the camera
 has captured an image of the Server's soul.
 Perhaps it will produce a photograph of
 what he came to see: The tiny world of
 LambdaMOO and all the tiny people in it.

The_Author puts the camera back in his
 pocket. Three weeks from now he will hold
 in his hands the photo he's just taken and
 he'll look at it and think, "My world is
 not in there. The 1s and 0s of it maybe,
 the nuts and bolts. But not its soul."

The_Author will have to start all over then.
 He will have to try and find another way of
 representing what the camera failed to show.
 He'll have to go back to the night it all
 began for him and trace his steps from
 there.