Trying out WordPress
January 5, 2012
I figured I’d start this with a repost of my last story from my other blog (my workshop). I’ve taken to using WordPress associated blogs elsewhere, so I’d like a consistent username.
Also, I’ve heard WordPress is better for story focused blogs and the like. So, there’s that.
What follows is my short story titled “Fake Cigarettes and Cold Coffee”, it’s a first draft and in need of revisions. I treasure comments and I’d love to hear about what anyone has to say (though I am aware of some grammatical issues with it as well as the OMGEXPOSITION that needs to be cleared up). So, without further ado…
We used to say society was fake because it was made of plastic, but at least it was still made of something. Generations of shifts in popular culture have fashioned something that has so little reality to it that it’s difficult to say if even the choices are real. Black coffee became coffee and cream became drip coffee became the espresso became the cappuccino became the latte became the ice-blended latte. Now, after this metric shift in good taste, all we can buy is blended, sugared caffeine preparations rather than anything even resembling the coffee our grandparents drank. The only cocktails taste like sodas. The only beers taste like fruit drinks or nothing at all. The only wines are sweet and palatable with just the modest hint of tannin and barnyard (so that the drinkers feel cultured). The only foods are filled with fat, salt and sugar yet, simultaneously, healthy and for living a trim, better life.
I swirled the odd tea mixture in my glass while looking at one such serving of said food. A turkey-chicken hybrid patty (spiced by our master chef to taste just like red meat! A treat of our parents!) on a (low-carb) bun with fresh (flash-frozen) lettuce and tomatoes, a stack of fries (made, of course, only from organic healthy farmed non-GMO non-modified unsalted unfried unbuttered unfattened low-calorie low-carb low-taste packing material-like potatoes) and served with a real (non-dairy, fat free) ice-cream shake.
To everyone else, though, it was the best meal they’ve ever had. They know it will be, they always know it will be. Thanks to Dynamic System’s POD (that’s Personal Observable Data) Controller, which changes how the brain interprets incoming data. They can directly run programs that tell their brains what to smell, what to taste, what to hear, what to feel, what to see. What to believe. The POD connects directly to the brain using a clamp on the brain stem, feeding false information to the brain about what our world is made of.
Now this, to me, has always reeked of danger. I’ve always been schizophrenic, my entire life. Now, with the POD, I have yet another way to tell my brain to experience things that aren’t real. This meal before me? I like to know it’s all crap, even if it is good for me. My grandparents used to tell me that, when they were kids, they had healthy food that tasted great. And they still had the option to have a steak and a beer, a cigar and whiskey, or even real milk. I can’t even choose to shorten my life anymore. I still turn it off, though, for the food. I have to keep it on so I can speak with the people around me (why strain your actual voice? Everyone’s a professional singer now, anyway) and I need to keep the visuals on. The only way to see information from ads to government warnings is through the POD’s visual display onto our understanding of our vision.
Amazing technology, really.
So I thought today was going to be just another boring day, filled with more boring stories and more ads designed specially for me. I pushed the fries around on my plate and listened to the conversations around me, watched the cars outside. The first thing that told me it was different today were the audio artifacts. To me, and to anyone who was part of the era of technology getting its legs under itself, artifacts are those small inconsistencies in picture or sound. When sound gets hollow, or the picture pixelates. I heard voices tearing around me, getting sketchy and spotty for a second before returning to normal.
I glanced around and looked for something to explain what was going on. My hallucinations don’t cause artifacting. I went back to my meal but it vanished for a second, turning translucent and hazy before returning to normal.
That was my first real indication something was wrong. Audio artifacts? Pretty normal. Food disappearing? Not even my insanity can explain that. Not even the POD and my normal hallucinations can cause physical matter to just up and leave like that.
Believe me, I’ve been practicing this whole being schizophrenic thing for thirty years.
Just as my food came back into being, I saw two cars outside collide with each other. There’s a kind of timelessness that comes with a disaster, even a small one. Pieces of plastic whizzed down the street in all directions, little malformed pellets of glass and steel tapped against the window I sat behind, all in time with little warbles and deformations from the collision playing out in all the plastic and glass walls around the collision. People dodging and ducking, most in mid-stride, as the cars came to a ruinous end. Then, as jarring as it started, the moments of blissful separation from time eroded and all of life, the confusion and turmoil and car alarms, came shuddering back into the senses.
I sat back, more bemused than surprised. Surely they had seen each other. The PODs that we all wear allow us…superhuman, in some fashion, awareness of the people on the road and the people around us. We’re not distracted drivers anymore because we can drive in a way that makes the car a part of us, rather than apart from us. And yet these two cars struck each other at full speed, as if they could not see the other.
If you are worried about the drivers, fret not. This infantile display of destruction only cost them the money for new vehicles. Government safety standards being what they are, you could be struck by a meteor in a modern vehicle and survive it well enough to tell the story at a cocktail mixer that evening.
I paid for my drab lunch and walked out into the street, carefully formatting my view so I could see as much of the real city as possible while still getting important government notices and ‘necessary’ advertising.
While I’m walking home I’ll take advantage of this time to explain it to you, the reader, why the advertising is necessary, why it’s surprising that these two collided, but why I’m not as surprised as you might imagine. Before you ask, as well, I’m well aware of the fact that from your perspective this has nothing to do with my time or yours and you may stop and restart as you wish. But I phrase this work in my own terms, so deal with my idiosyncrasies.
These devices I explained before, these PODs, are highly regulated. So highly regulated that the users can only change their choices within specific prescriptions at highly trained and highly watched adjustment offices, and only for a fee. Within those prescriptions are requirements on services one must pay for, like the government monitoring services, as well as certain sections that may not be deactivated. One of these sections is Monitor Advertising, a program that runs in the background to place ads on billboards and the sides of buildings but also watches incoming and outgoing data through the POD’s central computer.
I am one of the few people who regularly crack and rewrite the code that makes up these, and other, shells around the glory of the POD system. I rewrite programs to my own whim, and I ensure that I operate within monitoring constraints so that I’m not caught. This allows me to be aware that I’ve eaten the same meal twice a day for ten years. This allows me to adjust who I talk to and when. This allows me to be aware of the streets I walk down and to see the sunset in its natural glory. This allows me to know the utilitarian city I live in. However, my power to, in a common argot, hack the POD does not allow me to adjust these settings in others.
Whatever had caused that accident could be one of two things; a flaw in the software no one had seen before or someone who had adjusted the code wirelessly. Something that was supposed to be not only illegal, not only dangerous, but impossible. This would probably mean an exploit in the pre-release code, a program that was developed long before the POD itself was, and there existed only two of those now; Monitor Advertising, which I explained, and the Master Experience Index, which is a digital database of what things sound like, what things feel like, and what things smell like. Sight was added later, and taste is an amalgamation of scent and texture as far as the program’s interface is concerned. There are more accurate programs built on top of these, but the MA and MEI are over fifty years old, originally developed for a tablet computer that became the POD.
I hurried up the stairs to my apartment after reaching the building. I do not trust elevators. There are scanners in each car that ensure that your POD is up to date. Instead of modern biolocks I still use old fashioned keys; I tell my landlord that it’s because I have a soft spot for anachronism, a than the truth – I don’t like having my door monitored by the MA.
My apartment is sparse, spartan even. I have a comfortable bed to sleep in, just a little larger than I need. I have a small kitchen with a small refrigerator, which I use for foods I cannot find easily and that must be purchased at a Farmer’s Market. I have a table with two chairs, complete with two sets of eating dishes and utensils always prepared. Near my bed, I have a single desk with a computer array on it. This is the most expensive, expansive, and elaborate thing in my apartment, and it is used for editing the POD.
As I came in, my computer registered my presence and came to life. My editing software started, as did my internet browser and my tracking applications. I sat down in front of it, sank into the chair I did most of my work in, and connected my POD to the computer. The first thing I did was pull up my work-orders. I am a programmer, a code-monkey for one of the POD companies that works on high-end data structures. I create the feeling of windswept beaches in Maui, or beautiful sun-kissed waves on the coast of California, or even the deep warmth and sweat of the Congo. I spin data into life, into feeling, into adventure. I do this all from Los Angeles, the most drab, grey city on the planet, and I have never seen or felt any of these places that I engineer.
I have always enjoyed this irony.
Today I spun the code together for a hunting vacation in old Montana, when the forests were rich and green, when they were still full of life. Life that was easy to shoot. My job is not to create an accurate experience. It is to create an enjoyable experience. To fashion together a vacation destination that is complete, from end to end, and is internally consistent. I flitted through files on my computer through my POD, finding the right grain of wood, the right look, the right smells. I created a gentle flavor for the forest, crafted just the right amount of jostling for the truck that centered at the experience, ensured that there was never too much or too little light.
You see, I do not create memories to relive, I create interactive art. I cycle through thousands and thousands of textures, sounds, smells, feelings…I weave these together into one consistent experience that can be between two and ten hours long. These in turn sell for thousands of dollars to boutique clients who want only the best in mental stimulation. Only the greatest lies to tell their brains, to escape the grey, drab world that they spend their day to day lives in. To escape the monotony of making money and shuffling from one shopping plaza to the next.
I have always enjoyed this irony as well.
After finishing my base tree pattern and completing the selection of guns the hunter is given, I updated the status on that project and uploaded my base files. I added notes for any problems I had with existing resources and what I could use in new resources.
I hung up my metaphorical hat and sat back in my chair and let my vision controls become the computer screens and started browsing the POD adjuster blogs and forums, checking for news of what happened today. There was no data from any of the official sources, there was barely any news from underground sites, and it wasn’t until I was knee-deep in the highly technical motivation engineering forums that I found anything that helped illuminate it.
Motivation engineering is accessing the POD to create systems within the experience programming to create a compelling feeling in the recipient. In a discussion about how to use the sex drive to stimulate work production, I found a piece of code used in a recent underground application, at least from what the poster was saying, that created a feedback loop using the physical, or lower order, sex drive elements. Smells, textures, tastes create the want or need that drives us toward finding ways to accomplish a simple goal – sexual release. By tapping into that, by creating a loop where all of these things feed into a drive to maintain a goal, a goal implanted by the experience engineer.
In short, this code was used to, once the cars were on a collision course with each other, induce both drivers into a loop where the closer they got to impact the more they needed. The more they helped it along. The faster they drove their cars, the tighter their turns and movements got. They struck each other head on in exactly the right way at as fast a speed as possible. The accident, the chaos, that was the release. That broke the spell, released all the tension spun up by the sex drive modification.
Destruction became orgasm. Whoever created this is playing a very, very dangerous game.
I collected the code and added it to my editor and sat back, looking at the screen. This would explain why the cars struck each other. It does not explain how their modules got updated, though. All the code that goes into the updated modules is checked on-site by a dedicated UI structured to check for any violations of POD controller law. There was no way that the data put onto their controllers could have pushed them into the collision due to the data controls. The home devices can only change a single local device and anyone who has access to the devices like the one I use has to be educated on their dangers. We’re all experience engineers, POD programmers, or recorders that know what the PODs can do and only edit our own. There’s no way two of us would create a situation where we drive into each other, with the same ferocity, at the same time. No one I know has the money to throw away on a car like that if they’re caught.
And it doesn’t explain the odd video artifacting. It doesn’t explain the audio tearing or the fact that everyone seemed to notice it. Which, perhaps, I should have reversed given I’ve already told you that I’m used to audio tearing. It’s not as common to see people also noticing my audio tearing. The little shakes of their head, the squinting of their eyes as if in inquisition as to what they were hearing, the momentary pause that everyone had.
These little behaviors I have always loved. Especially those of everyone in a room hearing an unexpected sound and pausing, looking for it, trying to confirm that they are not, themselves, insane. It’s the one collective fear of those who live in cities; the possibility of finally snapping and proving their mothers right about needing to see a therapist, and then the crushing fear of the cost of said therapist before reality crashes into their minds again and they realize the sound was gone and was no cause for alarm. Especially since everyone heard it, so it couldn’t possibly be you. Right?
I’m rambling again.
I dug around in the news articles about the accident. The PODs of both drivers did not record the accident, and neither have any memory of anything leading up to it, including where they were going or why they were even driving. v Smaller blog posts were popping up around the web saying that everyone from Experience Engineers to the DMV caused the accident through faulty programming, false leads leading to accidents at traffic intersections, or the cars themselves being tampered with.
I set aside my browser and sank into my chair, queuing some Bach, and sank into a cacophonous examination of the new material I was sent for experience building. Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, feelings, intuitions, thoughts…I poured through simple, single segments of someone’s life as if I were selecting paint for a storefront window display.
Several hours later I woke up again, my head aching from being connected for so long and processing so much data. All my new experiences had be sorted properly, so I disconnected from the computer and rose to get myself something to eat. Standing in the kitchen and dishing myself out some kind of health-food slurry composed of sawdust and milk, I flipped on the information streams on my POD to watch the news. Both of the people involved in the local accident had been arrested, and reports were streaming in from all over the country about other accidents. City cameras, from security cameras to right light cameras, were missing three seconds of recording, all turned to snow, at each location. This ‘white-out’ extended by a block in every direction from each accident and no one from the area has any memory of those few seconds. Most people dismiss it as just not having paid attention during the commotion but, given our species love of the macabre, it is odd that no one remembered anything.
I poured myself a cup of coffee. I know it’s coffee, but I could never turn off the flavor enhancer for it. Cold coffee just tastes too disgusting, and the coffee is always cold. If it was hot you might burn yourself and we could never have that.
I half ate- half pushed around the mess in the bowl in front of me, sipped the coffee and reveled in the hilarity of the coffee changing texture if I gulped it, going from hot to warm instead of scalding my tongue. The experience may not be real in the materialistic sense but it is quite entertaining. I kept watching the news feeds while I ate. As the night wore on, more incidents of similar problems kept popping up. It was always two people, they were never injured, but there was always a kind of blanking out of everyone in the area. It had started with traffic accidents but had rapidly moved into other forms of confusion, from spontaneous food fights in a cafeteria between two people at different tables to people walking out into the street together and dancing for several minutes before walking off again. In every case, neither of the victims remembered why they did what they did nor was there any record of it on their PODs. Each was inspected soon after by an update technician and no traces of any changes or any outside influence was found in any case.
At midnight, though, something changed. A man had walked to the center of Time’s Square, broadcast himself to the advertising systems in everyone’s vision regardless of the ad system they were using at the time, and said, “We know how to find you now. We know how to change you now. We know who you are now. Do not think we will not finish this. Do not think we will allow you to hide any longer. We have been and always will be watching.” Then he shot himself in the temple.
The real crux of this, though, is that no one knows who the message was intended for.
I went to bed that night frustrated but my curiosity piqued. I resolved that I’d look more into this tomorrow after I put the final touches on my latest Experience, which should pay for a few months of minor detective work. Such are my hobbies.
The next morning was a surreal one. I powered on everything and enjoyed another rousing meal of cold coffee and cream of cardstock, sat down at my computer, and was confronted with a message displayed right on the front of my primary screen; “Hello, Mr. Daniels, or Michael if I will. I am not sure how you were missed in my net yesterday, but I pride myself as a fishermen and I shall not yet let you escape my hooks. I hope you do not have much work today for I have crafted a rather ingenious puzzle for you, if I do say so myself. It is, in my estimation, what both an angler and an editor would call ‘the hook’. And, it seems, you have just taken my bait. Au revoir”
I wish I could, adequately, explain what happened next but I do not imagine (and hope to not imagine) that many of you know what it is like to have your internal organs stream out of your mouth then stream back in, but suffice to say that is the closest description I can manage. I awoke in a simple room with a white house panted on one wall and a mailbox, old and made of tin, sitting next to a singular door directly ahead of me. The mailbox was open, inside was a leaflet and a cup of coffee.
I know what you’re doing right now, dear reader, and indeed I rolled my eyes as well.
My POD was on, I could tell because my resource management applications were still accessible. I knew I was in some kind of Experience, some scripted system of feelings and data streams meant to mask my surroundings. It was a clever one as well, carefully layered by an experienced developer, one on the same skill level as myself. Every detail was accounted for, from the slight lines on the wall to mark fresh paint to the soft smell of paint and dust with a hint of drywall. Even though this program perhaps took months to build, maybe longer given that it was a puzzle, they (whoever they are) had carefully built it to feel new. Personal. For me.
I hadn’t gotten a gift, one specifically designed for me, in quite some time. Finding myself trapped here and considering all of these things I was particularly delighted.
I hastily snapped up the pamphlet and read through it, passed the expected diatribe that pantomimes a popular text adventure from before my childhood, directly to the letter at the end.
This is a game, my dear sir. One that should, hopefully, prevent you from discovering me in time. While I at first thought that no one could find me through the traps I had laid within my programs but I was not aware of your particular skill in thought fabrication nor your particular advantage by way of your miswired mind. So I hastily rebuilt a prison that I had fashioned long ago for another purpose, redesigning it from the ground up just for you. Notes here and there to what you do, what work of yours I have enjoyed in the past. It was not until I was going through the error logs for my execution that I noticed that you had both evaded the time-gap and who you were. I’ve been a fan and a customer since your career started oh so long ago. Such perfect understanding of form and environment, speaking in feelings and emotions through the very texture of one’s own hands. Your carpenter Experience, for instance, is sublime. The feeling of callouses on one’s flesh.
However, this is either here nor there. Good luck and godspeed. In another lifetime I may have called you friend.
Sadly, I did not know him as well as he apparently knew me. I pocketed the letter and stepped through the door.
On the other side was something I was already familiar with – the events of the accident that started this whole quest. If one could call it that. I was looking at myself through a window eating a bland combination of burger and fries and casually examining the people around me. I knew that, behind me, there were cars barreling down the road toward each other. This particular reconstruction was halted. Perhaps so that I might explore what I knew but was not aware of? Or perhaps so that the designer of these pranks could show off his handiwork. His letter had intoned it might be the former, though, as he is arrogant, if not stupid, but aware of my capabilities. Even if I were not.
I walked slowly around the scene, looking at the people’s faces, looking at the colors and the quality of the materials. There were tiny discrepancies in small places, places that most people wouldn’t notice but someone like me, someone who was paid handsomely to notice these things, they stood out like a blazing torch. It was similar to a portrait or landscape stitched together by other, disparate pictures spread out in time by seconds but with enough differences in time to change lighting, the fall of shadows, the rise or fall of the subject’s breathing, or even where the motes of dust hung in the air when the photo was snapped.
I stepped back and examined all of this, carefully studying the discrepancies, looking at the breaks and shifts in light and shadow. I reached out with my mind to test the program that hung this in my mind and found controls to play through the event. With some trigger to unlock everything, somewhere. A door out hidden among the minute details of the scene itself.
I reached into my pocket out of habit as I began to dwell on these details and was pleasantly surprised to find a small package of cigarettes there. Red, with no text, and a simple lighter. I did not want to dwell too deeply on how my gaoler knew that my digital avatar carried cigarettes, so instead I lit one of them, letting the feeling of tobacco fill my lungs and my mind and I set to work. False smoke, false tobacco, false prison. All ingenious if disturbing but, frankly, these are my favorite problems.
Clouds of blue smoke rose from my lips as I walked around the street, watching it slowly flow, moment by moment, through the half-minute prior to the accident and the half-minute after the accident. I slowly traced the lines of everyone’s vision and found that only forty people or so were used to build this memory of the event. I watched as signs changed at their corners and colors from views changing and other views being the source. There was only one, odd, consistent fact beyond the obvious; I was not in any of the moments recorded save the first and and last.
“So to your puppets I vanished when your game started.” I was talking to myself, but it was irrelevant at the time. I reproduce it now for your information, that and I feel like a story without a line of dialogue is, perhaps, a speech instead. Even if the dialogue is between one character and the same.
One hand holding my cigarette, the other gently running along the lines of the cars as I watched them implode. The looks on the faces of the drivers was fanatical at the time of the accident. Eyes wide, spittle collecting at the corners of their mouths, their necks full of strain shown in muscle and sinew stretched as far as it might. As soon as the cars struck, however, when the pieces started flying off in disparate directions, both drivers regained their faculties and were instantly filled with fear. It was a fascinating transformation, watching their faces suddenly alight with realization and understanding of the situation they found themselves in. The situation they found their cars in. Perhaps they might bond over coffee about it later.
I stepped back and looked at the scene again. It played out slowly and I saw no secret message here. I saw no hidden compartment of thought or action. I saw no purpose. So I turned and walked though one of the doors.
“It is without cause that you create disturbance. You call me out because I am the only one you cannot ensnare, but why?” I looked up and I found myself in an unmarked hallway. Signs were posted on the wall, in quickly scrambled script like a child trying to write for the first time. I glanced at the signs and hung my cigarette in my mouth. AXIDENT 1, then AXIDENT 2. TIEMS SKWARE SOOISIDE. One door, however, was unmarked and locked. As one cannot pick locks in dreamscapes, normally, I went to the second accident and looked around.
Much like the one I had experienced this one was dramatic and surprising to the drivers, but unlike the scene I was just examining this was stuck at the moment of impact as the people in the cars became aware of their destruction. I sat down in a chair across from a frightened woman with a piece of plastic whizzing by her face and I took the liberty of enjoying what was left of her coffee while I thought. Reaching into the code for this…room, I guess it was, I found discrepancies hidden amongst the actors frozen in time. No controls here, but in the space where I found the controls last time were small bits of information. Small pieces of something hidden amongst the parts and particles of the scene.
I traced one through the thread-stream of the operation to a single piece of plastic suspended in the air. Behind it was a small piece of gold, a chunk no larger than my pinky nail, and I plucked it out of the air. It was too pure, too yellow to be part of the real scene before me. It was added by the designer, and it looks like it was added by accident. The form was actually something of mine, a program I used in some of my more basic Experiences designed for children.
I quickly gathered up the small gold pits in the scene and had a gold rod, maybe a quarter inch in circumference and perhaps four inches long. I looked at the curious thing and turned it over in my hands. “You cannot be serious.”
I sauntered to the other room and dug behind the code that created the control software, the software that let me play the scene over and over again, and found several golden teeth hidden amongst the code. Artifacts of mistakes made by the designer.
Finally, in the suicide room, I found a golden ring on the hand of the man who shot himself. It was gruesome to extract it form his hand, his brain and skull hanging in the air before me, anguish on his face. For the first time in twenty years I cried, and I stood there to cry for him for several minutes. Before I left I sat down and worked my way into the code for this room and I silently deleted all the other people, I gently put his brain back into his body and reattached his nerves, I took away the gun, fixed his head, and closed his eyes. Then I copied the scene for myself.
If, perhaps, he must sacrificed for this prank, I’ll keep him in the mausoleum of my mind and ensure that he is remembered as a noble martyr rather than a deranged pawn.
My eyes still teared, I attached the ring to the key and went back to the featureless hallway. I could see the grand puzzle in this, the large and complex puzzles hidden in the rooms after this. The work put in to the edges but he forgot a hole in his code and with a click of the key in the locked door, I walked passed all the traps and tribulations he had lain for me and found myself in the center of his program, in the center of his creation, and it seems, in the center of his thoughts.
It was a hospital. More accurately, a room in a hospital. Quiet and dark, with a twisted, bloated form in the bed in front of me. Machines helped it breath, machines fed it what was necessary, and machines that seemed to attach the brain of the decrepit form so it would not know what it was.
Here, though, its existence proved that it knew what it was. There was a sudden gasping and wheezing as the door behind me closed and the room became the only thing I saw. The form gestured to me gently and I went over to it, my sense of pity wrestling with my anger at what he had done to the man in Times Square. I sat in the cheap, plastic and maroon-padded hospital chair next to the only window in his room, with the blinds down and the diffused sunlight giving the room just enough illumination to not be dark.
“I fear I have left a hole in my maze, then.” The form whispered, wheezing. “You can escape from here quite easily, I imagine. Why stay here?”
I looked at my fingernails, distracting myself from the form. “Not quite yet. I need to know who you are, what you are. Here, I can find that out. Robert McCallister was the name you gave me, but that’s your brother, isn’t it? The one you wanted to be as a boy. The older one, who died when a malfunctioning POD directed a driver over the poor boy’s body. It sapped your strength and will, left your mind shattered. You were already a weak child and that set you to fits. And so your parents placed you here, in Innsmouth Medical Center, in their Medicinal Psychosis wing. You’re kept in your mind all day, watching Experiences like mine. Somewhere, somehow, you broke out of one and carved out a space to experiment in. I bet you used to have someone in here with you, but you killed them inside of their own minds. Slaughtered their sense of Self. I bet you got the idea from one of my Experiences, since I’m the only Engineer that’s figured out how to kill someone in their mind without breaking them. But you didn’t protect the sense of Self. You killed them. Just like you engineered a situation for the rivers to cause mayhem for you. Just like you created a situation where a man would kill himself in Times Square to say something just to me.”
I leaned back in the chair and looked at his wretched form. It wasn’t who he was, but who he saw himself as. A monstrous, bloated body kept alive by machines. “Now that I’m here, though, I can see the threads at the edge of your consciousness. I’ve been looking at them as I move through here. Seeing where your code is intelligent. Seeing where you have left holes and problems in your design. Through these holes I’ve threaded a small string. A string ending here at your door.”
I stood then, and placed my hand on his shoulder. “Good night, sweet prince. I’m sad that there is so much pain you have caused in this hole you have carved out for yourself, but at least now the asylum doors can be closed and the world safe from you with only I holding the key. Your key.”
I picked up the golden key from the table by his bed, a key that had previously been in my pocket, and I left again. I locked the door behind me and I unwound the fantasy I was in.
I found myself sweating, sitting my computer chair, and a doctor crouched beside me. Standing at the door was Lucious, the only man I interacted with regularly. He processed my programs for sale, last time I had seen him was when we had discussed my pay. He stood at the door with my landlord. I was told I had been missing for several days. The doctor assured them I was fine, then asked what had happened.
I sighed and gathered my thoughts. I poured myself coffee and, for the first time in a long time, took it cold. “I wish I had a cigarette. Well, as to what happened, let me first say that society has changed much over time. We used to say society was fake because it was made of plastic, but at least it was still made of something…”