"Oh, hello. Why'd you disappear for a second?"
I was talking to an imaginary version of you.
"No you haven't, I've been talking to you for the last hour."
No, it was an imaginary version of you made in my own head.
"I can promise you that I am real and you have been talking to me for the last hour."
"I hate you. It's really disrespectful to call me imagina—"
And then the dream ended and I opened my eyes.
In the future, people finally realise that murderers are people too. This meant it was a bit cruel to lock them up in prisons (which were essentially torture-chambers) but they still couldn't be let free.
The solution was to create a virtual reality utopia for the prisoners, which was a cheap, easy and humane way to keep them out of real society for the rest of their lives.
It all went great... until they started murdering each other.
Why did we connect their virtual realities in such a way that if they got murdered in the VR they got murdered in real life?
"Classified into what?"
"Class-ified. Put into which class?"
[The secret one, duh]
In the future, prisons suddenly shifted from punishment to rehabilitation. At first people were mad, but it worked really really well, so they stopped caring.
How did they do it?
The prison's methods are kept very secret. Each prisoner would be physically restrained, and placed into a virtual reality. In it, they would be in the middle of doing a bland activity: perhaps farming or browsing the web.
The details on how they ended up in that situation would be deemed unnecessary to the brain, just like in a dream, and might be filled in in post.
After a short while, the prisoner would get into an accident, somehow. Maybe they'd get a heart attack, or fail to look both ways when crossing the road, but most often they would fall into a well or river. Drowning prolongs the period of death while maintaining mental clarity, making it one of the most effective methods.
The prisoner would seriously believe themselves to be dying. Usually, when faced with he prospect of truly being wiped from the earth, the prisoner realises something. They realise the pettiness of their crimes, they gain a love for others, for life in general.
Then, at the very very brink of death after getting as close to it as possible, they are saved in some way or form.
Then the prisoners are released, never fully learning it was a simulation, and markedly rehabilitated.
I was addicted to checking Discord, so I downloaded a program that would kill me if I checked Discord.
Soon I was a bit bored and went on Discord.
I instantly died.
A while later I was still addicted to checking discord, so I paid an assassin to kill me if I checked Discord.
Soon after I was a bit bored and typed 'discord.com/app', and a bullet swiftly found its way into my brain.
I decided I needed to up the stakes, so I told an assassin to kill my best friend's dog if I checked Discord again.
When I finished talking to the assassin, I opened my web browser and typed 'youtube.com'.
The assassin thought I had gone onto Discord so he killed my friend's dog.
I heard about his death on Discord.
In the year 2000BC, history is being made. Let's listen in for a moment.
"I want to see what my friends are up to on Facebook, but Facebook doesn't exist yet. This isn't very normal. I value the happiness of future humans as much as a value my own, so I will start the ball rolling and hopefully in 50 years or so Facebook will be around, and things will be nice and normal"
The caveman picks up a stick, etches 'Facebook' into the mud, and dies soon after.
The next day it rains and the mud washes over what the caveman etched.
Six million years later Facebook is made and the balance is restored. Things are normal once more.
In the future, everyone lives in a simulation. There is no risk of it being used for bad.
Do you know how sometimes while you're sleeping a noise will happen and your brain will retroactively go back and make a story about that noise, then you'll hear the noise in the dream?
No. When you're dreaming, your brain is just working a couple times faster. It all checks out, scientifically.
In the simulation, everything is the same as reality except, all the brains running the simulation are sped up. So, like a TV show that you've rewound, you can press pause, sometimes.
Your alarms just gone off, but you really, really really wanna keep sleeping? No worries, just pause time for a bit.
Not ready for that test? No biggie. Have another couple days.
Want this pleasant Saturday to go on for another couple hours longer? Easy peasy.
You've reached the end of your life, and you've wasted it.
You're strapped to a machine, breathing your last breaths through the tubes. It's all about to go away. You are about to end.
"Please, doctor," you say. "I've wasted my life. I beg of you, is there anything you can do? Anything... absolutely anything."
The doctor looks at you solemnly, then his expression flickers. He looks... suspicious... and then he resolves, giving you the subtlest of nods. You lay there in desperation, watching him.
He walks over and ruffles through a box of objects, his expression revealing that he's found the one he's looking for. He brings it over to you and it's...
"A button," he says. "You want more time? This button'll give it to you. You'll be teleported back into your younger body."
Your heart does a thousand backflips. Your brain begins to whirl.
"I... I get to do it all again? I get to be better?"
"That's right," says the doctor, almost smiling.
He leans the button out, and with your last breath in this body, you lug your arm up from its resting place, dragging it over through the air and you press it...
And you are in bed, waking up in a body far younger, back in a time you had thought long far gone.
But you remember nothing of what it was like to reach death.
You didn't teleport into a younger body... you became that younger body... and all that that implies. Your brain was reset with you to exactly the state you were at then.
But you of course don't know this and you go about your life, getting caught up in the exact trivialities as before, wasting it exactly as you did the first time, being just as wrong in thinking it's infinite as ever.
Only difference is, this time the button's used up. You won't get to go back round at the end.
Not that you know. Or know that you once knew.
This time you'll just die.
I'm a bit bored as I'm falling asleep, so I imagine a friend sitting on my bed, and we begin to talk.
Me: Hi. How are you?
Her: I'm okay... where am I? Is this your room?
Me: Yeah. I wanted to talk to someone as I was falling asleep and I chose you. Is that alright?
Her: Well, if I say no you'll stop imagining me and I'll cease to exist, so... yeah it's alright.
She shifts around on the bed, looking around curiously.
Her: What's that?
She's pointing at the wall.
Me: That's my personal flag.
Her: Oh cool! What does it mean?
Me: The red, yellow and blue mean nothing. The diagonal stripe means nothing. Really the only part that means anything is the four dots that connect to make an 'S' for my name.
Her: Hmm. Why do you keep it up there if it mostly means nothing?
Me: It's been there for a long time. I just never took it down. I mean, see that picture above it? What am I, ten in that photo? I hardly remember that day.
Me: But anyway, I don't wanna talk about me too much. (Though you are free to ask whatever you want.)
Her: Have you considered getting any plants in here? I quite like plants, you know.
Me: I've heard. Don't plants suffocate you while you sleep?
Her: That's actually a common misconception!
She then begins to explain why it's such a common misconception and I shut my already-shut eyes as I listen, infinitely content to hear the joy in her tone of voice as she explains.
Me: (slowly) Thank you for explaining.
Her: Thank you? Thank you. You're welcome!
Me: Nonono, I wasn't— I wasn't trying to say—
Her: (chuckles) I see what's happening yeah
Me: Ok stop this isn't something you'd say.
Her: Nonono, I wasn't— I wasn't trying to say—
Me: (chuckles) I see what's happening yeah—
Me: Ok but now for real. Is there anything else you wish to discuss? I'm all ears.
Her: Alright. Well... it's a bit difficult for me to think of things to say... Why do I feel... empty? Like I'm fading away from existence?
Now she was speaking with long pauses in between words.
Me: I'm sorry.
30 seconds later, I speak quite deliriously:
Me: I'm... really tired.
Me: Goodnight. Thanks for talking to me.
She smiles, and I fall asleep.
I am writing for what is currently called 'Let Us Prepare' and the voices in my head are having a little theoretical chat. Let's listen in why don't we.
Her: Is that me? In 11 - The Summoning? You were dreaming— hallucinating me, before you fell asleep?
My voice breaks at the top of the confession.
Her: I think that's a little disturbing.
Me: It is?
I anxiously rub my forehead.
Me: How did you know it was you?
Her: You wrote something just like that to me once before.
Me: Does it make you feel any better that I've done something similar with someone else once before?
Her: (she puts her mouth in a straight line, cheeks pressed towards her ears. She's not smiling, but not frowning.)
Me: Does it help that that was also mostly just a mundane conversation, also ending in just their obliteration as I got too tired to keep up the thought?
Her: (still looks indecisive)
Her: Was the other person also female?
Me: ...yeah? I have more female friends than male... I have more interesting conversations with my female friends, on average.
Me: Do you no longer want me to imagine you? You can imagine me, if you like. I'd be happy to imaginarily take residence in your home as you're trying to fall asleep.
Her: I suppose that could be fun to try. Ok, I'll imagine a conversation with you and tell you how it goes.
Me: See ya real soon! (giggles)
Her: Why are you making it weird!
Me: It was a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse reference!
Her: Why would you reference that now???
Me: That's just how my mind works!
One day, Naval Ravikant is walking along the Californian coastline, whistling to himself the remixes people have made of his podcast about how to get rich. He opens his mouth, and sings:
"Wealth is businesses and assets that can earn while you sleep.
Wealth is businesses and assets that can earn while you sleep.
The purpose of wealth is, is it buys you freedom!
The purpose of wealth is freedom!"
A figure has approached behind him and Naval suddenly finds he is held at knifepoint. A menacing voice whispers into his ear. It sings in the same tone:
"Terror is threats and enemies that can strike while you sleep.
Terror is enemies that can strike your family while you sleep!
The purpose of a house is, is it buys you freedom.
If your house is compromised, you have no freedom!"
The criminal slips away into the darkness, leaving Naval alone.
Dumbledore roared at the top of his lungs, ferociously racing towards Harry and shaking him brutally by the shoulders.
"Did you put your name in the goblet of fiyaa??" Dumbledore asked, calmly.
Harry Potter shamelessly stared into the headmaster's eyes.
"Well?" Dumbledore prompted.
Harry opened his mouth and said:
"Yes. Yes I did."
Dumbledore was roaring at the top of his lungs, ferociously racing towards Harry and shaking him by the shoulders.
"Aren't you a little young to put your name in the Goblet of Fire?"
"Yes, yes I am."
You: Can I have the pasta please?
Lunch Lady: Of course dear, here you go.
Someone holds the door open for you.
You: (as you pass) Good.
The police knock on your door and say they've finally found your son after he was kidnapped five years ago.
"Good," you say.
Tired of saying 'thank you' two thousand times a day? Say 'good' instead.
I walked downstairs towards the living room and heard my sister ruffling about in the fridge.
I paused in the stairwell, rolled my eyes and raised my hand, fingers poised to snap.
"Bang! and the dirt is gone," said a disembodied voice.
The rustling sound stopped suddenly.
I walked into the living room. No one was there. I began to eat the meal my sister had prepared for herself, but just before my mouth could close around the I sandwich I heard the stair steps creasing. My mother was descending.
"Oh hello son did you know this about my life blah blah blah—"
I raised my hand.
"—blah blah blah bl—"
Bang! And the dirt is gone.
I continued to eat the sandwich in peace. I was alone, I was all alone. That was the way I liked it.
I shut my eyes, loving myself and loving the world, loving silence more than all.
I concentrated my attention on this love and this made me bubble with more love. It was the greatest feedback loop of all time.
"WHAT DO YOU WANT, ARE YOU KEEPING ME AWAKE—"
I open my eyes and see an eight-year-old boy centimetres away from my face, shouting into my ear, spitting into my face.
"ARE YOU HERE TO DISTRACT ME SO I MAKE A HUGE MISTAKE. OR ARE YOU SOMEONE OUT THERE, WHO'S A LITTLE BIT LIKE ME."
I squint at him, then begin to raise my hand.
"WHO KNOWS DEEP D— no brother please don't I'm sorry I'll be quie—"
Bang! And the dirt is gone.
I sink into self-love again, until my final sister and only other family member walks in too.
She ignores me. I ignore her. She does nothing to disrupt the silence. She does not even acknowledge me.
"Ah what the heck," I say to myself in my head.
Bang! And the dirt is gone.
For the final time I relax into self-love. And nothing will ever ruin this. What could? At last, I'm alone.
I'm all alone.
I am lying in bed, half awake, half asleep. I have forgotten my earmuffs on the desk far below.
I shuffle my head against my pillow a little and feel nothing.
Without opening my eyes or moving an inch, I imagine myself climbing out of bed, grabbing my earmuffs, putting them on and lying back onto my pillow.
I shuffle my head against my pillow a little and feel the earmuffs around my ears. The world drowns out around me, and I didn't move an inch.
Maybe there is a world where you don't break your fast at night.
You don't even break the fast at the end of the month.
Fast till you're dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead
Fast till you're dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead
Scientists have opened up a wormhole into an alternate reality where all conscious beings exist only to experience constant, unending pain. A bit like hell but a tad fairer. Let's listen in for a second.
In a dark corner of their universe, a small group is plotting a rebellion against their cruel reality. Let's listen in for a moment:
"AHHHHHHHHHHHH GUYS AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH LETS AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH REBEL AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH."
Let's wish them luck.
"Can you stop, please? I just want to read some articles."
As we zoom into the situation, the man at first seems alone, but it's soon shown that he is speaking to his nose.
This morning the man woke up with a pain in his nose. The man had planned to do some reading, but the nose begged to differ.
It had grown tiny nose-arms which were blocking the man's eyes. The man tried desperately to swat away the nose's arms but it was simply too strong.
The man began to weep. But the nose was in pain, and the nose was in control, and the nose didn't want to read.
The man was merely a passenger.
Delete WhatsApp. If I ever see you texting on WhatsApp again I swear to god.
You're wasting your life on WhatsApp. Delete it! Delete that dammed app!
If I see you once again on WhatsApp, I don't know what I will do. I swear to God, I don't know what I will do. Delete it! Delete it, I said!
Now that's better.
In this world, whenever you read a book, you disappear into the world of the book. The book is left behind you, in the normal world, but you vanish from there into the world of the book. Do you get it?
So sometimes in public places, you might see books poised open but no one holding them. Shh, someone's reading.
Sometimes after reading you pop out into a completely different place than when you left, like on the train tracks of a train that's due in one second.
WHAT? WHERE AM IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII
'I love you' said my brain.
'Well done,' it said with a true mass of hefty pride present in the words. I could feel it, for I was the one who felt it. I was both the lover and the lovee. The beauty and the beholder.
And in this separation from needing the world and anything in it from me and my love for myself, I was free.
Sorry, I cannot be sure.
You are at a carnival, and you have won a prize from a selection of pigs. You point towards one with a little mark on its nose.
"I want that one!" you say.
"Okaly dokaly," says the circus person. "B22! You're needed!"
The pig rotates towards you, looks you in the eye and transforms into a human.
And you live happily ever after.
You are sleeping.
You wake up. You aren't in your bed.
You are severely confused and incredibly worried.
You look around and see nothing. Just inky black in all directions, except the small grass and dirt platform you're on.
"What the hell!?" you say, grasping your hands to your head and beginning to claw at your scalp.
There is a single wooden sign that reads
limbo do /reconnect
"WHAT?" you scream.
You pat your pockets, searching for your phone. Nothing.
You crawl towards the end of the platform and peek your head out, looking at what's below you.
Endless, inky blackness.
You swoop your hand through the air. Nothing. No stars, no sun. Nothing.
"HELLO!!!!" You shout into the void. Nothing. Not even an echo.
A little boy was excited: he had had nothing to eat for the past month and had just scraped together enough money for a single box of chicken and chips from KFC.
He went into the corner of his room, closed the door, and prepared his tongue for the sensory explosion.
He lifted a single chip, and the second his tongue touched the piece of food...
He instantly died.
What? Were you expecting more?
The eight-year-old beside you was about to win the virtual tournament.
Each time he won he screamed, and you'd put up with it for the last year. Your hearing was but a fragment of what it last was, and the boy still screamed.
He was about to win.
You are ready. You open your arms and embrace the searing pain.
The boy's face lights up.
You are now permanently deaf.
There are about a dozen of you in hiding, in a room. Watch out, there are gangsters about.
A couple gangsters walk into a room, guns in hand.
"Now listen here," says a gangster. "We know there are a couple of you hiding around in here. If you're all quiet, we'll only kill a couple of you. If any of you individually make a noise, we'll certainly kill you. If you're quiet, there's only a small chance of your death."
You clench your breath and decide to keep quiet.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Three people are killed. You clench your breath.
Two more. That's half.
You start to get a little worried now.
Hey wait.. that's more than a couple. There's only two people left! You and...
It was a trick!
In raging anger you break out of your hiding place and bring a bookshelf crashing down on the gangsters, killing them instantly.
"Are you okay?" you ask the last other survivor who was hiding on top of the bookshelf you pushed to the ground seconds ago.
"SHUT UP!" I roared with all the muster I could scrape from within me. "SHUT UUUUP!!!"
The camera panned around me, revealing me standing in a field, surrounded by no one.
"SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!" I SCREAMED into the sky.
"," said the sky.
"SHUT UP RIGHT NOW!"
You are then hit by a train and die.
"Haha," I said peacefully.
"No. You are wrong. They said.
"Ok now listen here you little shitstain of a human. I planted 200 tonnes of TNT on the International Space Station, and the moment this button it'll EXPLODE, taking 200 noble astronauts with it. The ISS is currently right over Berkley, and the debris will certainly wipe out at least 70% of California. No more bay area, no more startups, no more movies, no more safe AI. The other chunks will almost certainly create insurmountable doom. Is that what you want, fucknut? To live in a passionless, uncultured, doomed world?"
"No!" I begged him. "Please don't press it!"
"Fine, I won't. But you're gonna have to do a little something for me too."
"Stop checking Discord."
"Ok when I said anyth—
You're quiet for a moment, and take a gander inside your brain.
What was that? You heard the creak of a floorboard.
You turn around and feel a shadowing presence rush past behind you.
You tiptoe towards it.
Each time a child swears, a letter is immediately sent to the queen.
Upon reading it, she weeps.
Each time you procrastinate, you are procrastinating inside another giant procrastination.
That's right. This thing you call life is just you postponing the day when you'll be dragged out of your home for not paying back your debts. You could run, you could hide, you could try to get the money you need in this week you have, but what would be the point.
Torture most likely comes on Sunday. Might as well live until then — literally.
When this life ends, it'll be Thursday. Your virtual birth to virtual death, 70 odd years, will be about a minute in the real world. You'll take off your headset, deeply confused for a couple seconds, then a momentary onset of bliss at the realisation that none of the last 70 years was real and horror at the realisation that none of the last 70 years was real, then your memories of the week and the other 108 lives you've lived since Monday will settle in.
Sometimes between lives you get up for a drink. Sometimes you sit and wallow in the terror.
But most times you start a new life as quickly as possible, just so the week can stretch on a little bit more.