The Desert of the Real


© Danny Bowman

Life after the Matrix. Morpheus called it “the desert of the real”. I should have taken the blue pill and stayed in wonderland. No, then I’d be lost. We won. We defeated the machines, removed all those people from the power source. They died to free humanity.

We didn’t murder them, they just didn’t want to live without the simulated reality of the Matrix. I don’t want to live without it, without her.

Trinity died fighting the machines. I’m blind. We still won. We have reality, but it’s a desert. Now that I look back, the fantasy was much better.

Written for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Friday Fictioneers photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for creating a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words. My word count is 100.

Obviously, I’m referring both to the 1999 film The Matrix and the third film in the trilogy The Matrix Revolutions (2003). Yes, I’ve changed how the trilogy ends. I let Neo live, but to prove a point. Sometimes the fantasy is more interesting than the reality, and the cost of facing reality is high.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to

62 thoughts on “The Desert of the Real

    • Thanks. Actually, the way I would have ended the trilogy was to load Neo and Trinity back into the Matrix permanently, sort of like how the sentient computer programs such as Agent Smith exist there. They could finally have a life together as a couple. No adventures, just life.

      The only way to defeat the machines would be to kill millions, maybe billions of people. Depends on whether or not you think it’s worth it. Sometimes the simulated fiction is better than the harsh reality.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is great and I too prefer this ending. I once heard a buddhist nun say that our perceived reality is like the calm, reflective surface of a deep lake. Who know’s what’s underneath? I wonder if you’ve ever heard of ‘World on a wire’ by the german director Rainer Werner Fassbinder? That was made in the seventies and is still my favourite virtual reality fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s never too late, Michael. I first saw it on DVD but besides hearing it was a good movie, I had no idea what it was about. It was a terrific experience. I highly recommend it.


  2. There’s such a strong assumption that we’ll root for the “truth” over the deception, but I think the other side deserves a good hearing too: sometimes the reality really sucks, and some good escapism is perfectly reasonable.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is a fascinating little story, James, bringing a human, emotional, dimension to an existential debate which stretches back at least to Plato. It also has immediate and direct relevance to how we live our lives today. Have we reached the point when some people wouldn’t want to live without their TV, smartphone, VR headset? How will the increasing development of the smart home affect that?
    Thank you for writing it, James.
    All the best

    Liked by 1 person

    • Both Larry Niven and Spider Robinson have written stories about “wireheads,” people who receive continuous electrical stimulation to the pleasure centers of their brains, some to the degree that they let themselves starve to death because they can’t make themselves shut off the current. The ultimate addiction.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good job!

    Concerning the comment on reality and whether or not it’s best, I read a rabbinic story in which the angels were debating the Creation of Humanity. Truth said, “Let him not be created, for he will tell lies”, so God cast Truth to the earth. The other angels then urged God to bring Truth back.

    While this was written centuries ago, it seems particularly relevant in our post-modern era.

    Your story makes me think of this.

    Liked by 1 person

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