February 8, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Detention. Joel hated detention. Detention and Mr. Briars. And his classmates. Detention, Mr. Briars and his classmates. And school in general. Pretty much anything and anyone associated with school he hated. Not that he showed it though – he was pretty good at playing the game in company and to his parents, but that didn’t do anything to reduce his dislike of it all.

Detention was at number one though on his list of hates.

Mr. Briars had unceremoniously picked him out at the end of his final class of the day for some minor infraction, dumping him in an empty classroom with orders to read a book silently, with the added kicker that he couldn’t leave until he’d finished it. He hadn’t argued. Mr. Briars had it in for him for some reason, always singling him out, always watching him from the corner of his eye. Whatever. Going with the flow seemed the best option to deal with the asshole for the time being.

Joel turned the book over in his hands. It was a light, slim book, the cover a garish cartoon picture of various men dressed in green tights and tunics carrying a variety of swords and wooden staffs, except for the one stood in the middle of the group holding a bow and bearing a wide smile on a blond moustached face beneath a hood. Joel groaned inwardly as he read the title in typical olde english font emblazoned across the top:

A Choose Your Own Fate Adventure

Great, he thought sarcastically, it was one of those books, the kind where you had to select from a set of options and flip to another page depending on your choice. On and on until your character died or achieved some kind of bullshit goal. The last time he’d read one of these he must’ve been ten or eleven, and even then he’d grown bored with it and hadn’t finished. Mr. Briars would probably test him on it when he came back like the unapologetic shit he was though so he’d best just get it over with. Slouching back in his chair, Joel turned to the first page.

Welcome Adventurer!
You have come seeking fame and fortune by joining Robin Hood’s merry men! Tarry not in the woods though, hold fast to your decisions, and you shall find the goal you seek!

Joel snorted derisively before continuing on to the first section:

Sunlight pierces the canopy of trees high above you, sending shafts of light through the sky of leaves to illuminate your path. You entered Sherwood Forest but a short time ago, and already it is as if the woods have swallowed you whole. You have on you your trusty sword, three days worth of provisions, flint and tinder, plus a warm cloak which seems a burden on such a fine summer’s day.

The forest path is wide, the day pleasant, and your heart beats strongly in your chest. Today is the day when you shall achieve your goal. You will find Sir Robin of Locksley, the fabled Robin Hood, and join his troupe of merry men!

It’s not long before you come upon a fork in the path. To the left it curls off toward an area of the forest where a villager told you a small river runs through, but that there are plenty of man-made fordings available should you look. To the right the path is more or less straight, but appears to head into a dark, dense part of the forest which looks rather foreboding.

If you wish to go left toward the river, turn to 8.
If you wish to go right down the ominous forest path, turn to 11.

It read like any one of these books he’d picked up before. Joel looked at the options. Only an idiot goes looking for trouble in dark and foreboding places he thought, and wasn’t a river crossing and a contest a part of the Robin Hood legend? He chose accordingly.

Before you even see the river, your ears pick out the sound of swift running water somewhere up ahead. You quicken your pace, eager to both see the source of the sound, but also to splash some water in your face to relieve yourself of some of the heat you feel from such a long walk.

You pass a large, gnarled oak tree and finally see the fast flowing river, the sunlight bouncing off it’s surface, and is that a fish or two you see slicing around beneath? Kneeling by the bank, you dip your cloth into the cool, refreshing water, then lift it and place it gingerly on the back of your neck. The initial cold is a shock, but a welcome one, and you feel the coolness spread through your body. The bigger shock though is when you hear a loud voice calling from across the way!

“Ho Stranger! If you seek to cross this river, you must first pass me!”

You look up in surprise and see a giant of a man, dressed in a dark brown leather jerkin with hands almost as big as the thick beard upon his rugged face, stood on the opposite bank next to a large log which breasts the river. In his right hand stands a long, thick piece of wood. You recognise it as a quarterstaff, and that he must be none other than Little John himself, one of the fabled merry men you seek!

In an instant you understand his meaning, and looking next to the large log on your side of the bank is another quarterstaff, obviously for the use of travellers such as you. Finally a chance to prove yourself! Despite your eagerness however, he does look rather large, and you wonder at your chances.

If you wish to fight Little John, turn to 15.
If you wish to return the way you came and try the other path, turn to 11.

Ha! He knew it. Barely in and he was already dealing with one of the merry men. Joel wanted this over with, so going back wasn’t an option. Best to carry on forward and get it done.

Eagerly you sweep the quarterstaff up into your hand and approach the log bridge. As you step on carefully, so does Little John, easily twirling the quarterstaff in his hands. You wonder to yourself how many people have come this way before, only to find themselves unceremoniously beaten and pushed into the river. That your opponent is confident there is no doubt, but if the stories are true his naivety is just as strong as his biceps. Should you fight fairly, or trick him somehow?

If you still wish to retreat and try the other path, turn to 11.
If you wish to fight fairly, turn to 18.
If you wish to cheat, turn to 23.

Now that was an interesting option, he thought. Again, going back wasn’t going to happen. Of the other two choices though, Joel knew which one he leant towards. Fighting fairly may be the more honorable way, but to him the result was always the key factor to his way of thinking.

As you approach him, you raise your quarterstaff in what you hope is a defensive position. He smiles good-humouredly, rolls his shoulders to loosen himself up, winks, and quickly raises his staff for an almighty blow. As his staff reaches its peak, you pretend to look past him and shout: “Bear!”

His head whips round to check, instantly forgetting about you. You take your chance, raise your staff high, and aim a truly thunderous whack across his skull!

Your arms vibrate with the impact and you think you’re going to drop the staff. Nervously you watch as Little John turns his head back to face you. His face moves quickly from confusion, to anger, and then dazed. He falls to his knees, and topples off the log, but is still able in his daze to roughly grab at a protruding broken branch on the underside of the trunk.

The cold water returns him partly to his senses, and he slowly grins up at you before speaking:

“Well done stranger! Robin has need of men with sense as well as strength. Give me your hand and I’ll take you to him.”

If you offer him your hand, turn to 26.
If you wait for him to climb back up himself, turn to 31.

It was a difficult choice Joel realised. Offering to help him up would put him in a dangerous position. Off balance, Little John could pull him into the water or anything. Joel could see the way the book was heading though. Once you bested an opponent in this fairy tale land of good and evil, you always fell back on the honourable option. He thought it a load of crap, but the answer the book was expecting was obvious at this point.

You look down at Little John, bedraggled and wet and being buffeted by the river, and offer your hand to help him up. As he reaches up to grasp your hand though, you instead wrap your offered hand once more around the quarterstaff and drive it’s end into his face, catching him off-guard.

You feel the impact resonate up the wood as his nose shatters beneath the blow. He bellows in rage and agony, one hand moving to cover his now bloody face. You quickly strike at his remaining hand holding onto the branch under the log and hear the satisfying crack of broken bone. He yells once more and releases his hold, the river quickly drawing him under and away. You watch him struggle for a short while, then throw both quarterstaffs into the water and carry on your way.

Turn to 28.

Okay, thought Joel, what the hell just happened?!

He hadn’t expected that at all. Thinking about it though, it made a lot of sense. Who knew what Little John might’ve tried? His character’s response was sensible – he’d lulled his opponent and then acted, removing a potential danger. Joel found himself warming to this book.

The path on the other side of the river is barely visible, and so obviously not a commonly used means of moving through Sherwood Forest. Logically therefore it must be a route used only by the Merry Men and Robin Hood himself!

Gradually the path grows narrower, the trees thinner and closer together on each side until finally the path appears to be a corridor of trees, leading to a dead end but with two large arches with a bowman stood in front of each. They look like twins, an image reinforced by them both speaking at the same time and with the same words as you approach.

“Greetings Stranger. You have bested Little John, but wisdom is as valuable as skill with weapons in Robin’s camp. Behind us lie two ways forward. One leads on to the camp, the other to a hidden pit filled with wooden stakes. You may ask one of us a single question, but beware, one of us will lie and the other tell the truth. Which route do you choose?”

You try to pick out any differences in the paths beyond the arches from where you stand, but they look identical. Your only choices appear to be to ask the bowmen or take a chance and pick a route at random.

If you take the left arch, turn to 36.
If you take the right arch, turn to 38.
If you ask one of the bowmen which archway leads to the camp, turn to 42.
If you ask one of the bowmen which archway the other bowman will say leads to the camp, turn to 62.
If you use intimidation on the bowmen, turn to 49.

Now that was a curious last option Joel thought. The first two random choices didn’t appeal, and whilst he was confident in his logic what the right choice was, he was drawn to the last action. It made a lot more sense to him, skipping the need to risk a correct answer against one he could guarantee if approached right.

You walk slowly up to one of the bowman, rubbing your chin thoughtfully as if thinking of an appropriate question. Abruptly you draw your sword, catching them off guard and grabbing the nearest from behind, placing your blade against his throat before the other can react. The one you are holding trembles beneath your grip, whilst the other watches you nervously, fingering his bow.

If you ask the bowmen to tell you which arch leads to the camp or you’ll kill the one you’re holding, turn to 43.
If you kill the bowman you are holding immediately, turn to 47.

Another interesting set of options. That threats were useful Joel knew from past experience, but only if the other guy knew you’d carry them out. Carl in fifth grade had learnt that lesson the hard way. The answer was obvious.

Without a flicker of emotion, you draw your sword across the throat of the man you are holding. He gurgles in alarm as the flesh parts and blood pours forth from the wound across his neck. Dropping him to the floor to breathe his last, you point your blade at the stomach of the other bowman.

If you ask the remaining bowmen to tell you now which arch leads to the camp, turn to 56.
If you force the bowman to go ahead of you by swordpoint through one of the arches, turn to 53.

Both choices would work, Joel thought casually, but one of them obviously added an element of insurance to his character’s survival.

Prodding the remaining bowman with the point of your now bloody sword, you state coldly that what happened to his friend can quite easily happen to him and that he will now lead you through the correct archway to the camp.

Reluctantly, he moves toward the right arch.

If you follow the remaining bowman through the arch, turn to 68.
If you first run the remaining bowman through with your sword, killing him, turn to 65.

Joel was torn at this one; it wasn’t as obvious an answer as the last. Keeping the remaining bowman alive added an element of risk if he tried to escape, but then how far did the man’s loyalty to Robin Hood and his cause go? So far as to pick the wrong archway even, thus risking his own life? Despite the risks, having the captive bowman along gave Joel more options he realised.

The bowman has been stumbling ahead of you forlornly at swordpoint for a few minutes when you notice his furtive glances back and the slowing of his pace. Prepared, you wait until he makes his move. Ten steps later he spins and makes a grab for your sword. You efficiently stab him through the stomach, then kick his shuddering body off your blade. As he falls backward the earth ahead of you gives way and his body falls into the trap you had previously been warned about. Skirting the edge you look down to see his bloody and broken form pierced upon multiple sharpened stakes, one piercing his cheek and exiting his mouth and giving him a permanently shocked expression. Content he is dead, you make your way back along the path to the two arches. You take some time to dig a shallow grave a little way from the arches and bury the bowman you killed earlier, covering the mound with additional loose leaves and sticks. Once happy with your work, you turn and take the left archway.

Turn to 22.

He’d known he was right to keep him alive! Additional resources were a useful buffer between himself and unpleasant situations, like the friends he’d cultivated at school. As long as they could be controlled or manipulated, they were handy to have around. Those that weren’t could be discarded easily enough later on should the need arise.

You’ve been walking along the path for a while now and decide to take a rest and eat some of your food. Looking around you find a suitable tree stump and sit down, digging out from your bag half a loaf and a wedge of strong cheese wrapped in linen. You take a large bite of each and wash them down with some water from the skin hanging from your belt. Whilst you are eating you pull out the letter that lay beside the bread in your bag. Opening it, you read once more the instructions given to you yesterday:

“Hail and well met!

You have come recommended by Prince John himself, as a man who can get things done. Most in these parts have heard of the bandit in the woods, the one who calls himself ‘Robin Hood’. He claims himself a champion of the people, but in truth he is nothing more than a common criminal. However, his vile lies amongst the unwashed and uneducated masses have proven impossible to overcome of late; no one is willing to come forward and provide information on this scoundrel.

Therefore, I need you to enter Sherwood Forest and infiltrate his camp. He has broken the rule of law, as have his followers, and they must be treated accordingly. Robin Hood must be executed and evidence brought back to me of his demise. Deal with the others as you see fit. Succeed and the rewards will be great; fail and they will most likely kill you.

Good Fortune!

The Sheriff of Nottingham”

You fold the message back up and ponder what you should do with it whilst you enjoy the remainder of your meal. If found on you, the merry men will treat you harshly. By the same token, it would be useful as evidence of your true siding should you encounter any of the Sheriff’s men. You also realise, if used correctly, it could be planted as evidence against another within the camp, thus sowing division and discord.

If you burn the letter, turn to 78.
If you keep the letter, turn to 103.

Suddenly a lot more things made sense to Joel. Sure, the character in the book wanted to join the merry men, but his motives had never been fully spelt out before. The fact he actually worked for the Sheriff of Nottingham appealed to Joel. It was far more interesting to be a manipulative spy than a two dimensional woodland terrorist. He also liked the idea of keeping the letter. It would be a risk for his character, but he was guessing an option would come up later to plant it in the camp, or Little John might make another appearance and if he still had the letter in his possession one of the options given might be to plant it on Little John himself as a means of discrediting him and any accusations he might make against Joel.

You carefully place the folded letter back in your bag, stretch your weary muscles, and continue down the path.

Gradually your nose begins to pick out the smells of roasting pig and your ears the faint crackle of a campfire and the bustle of people. The path you’re on twists sharply ahead, and as you follow it round you suddenly find yourself facing a reasonably sized encampment. Makeshift huts and canopies of thick hide stretch between a rough circle of trees surrounding a large campfire, a boar roasting on the spit above it. Moving in and around the camp you see a fair number of people, somewhere between twenty and thirty, engaged in various activities. Some are checking their bows, a few engaged in mock sword battles, whilst others are mending tunics and shoes. Your eyes though are drawn to one man sat before the fire, a large hood covering his face as two people sit either side talking earnestly to him in low whispers.

You go to move forward when you feel the sharp point of an arrow tip sticking into the small of your back. Turning your head slightly you see a stranger with a drawn bow behind you, who then reaches round and removes the sword from your scabbard. He does not speak but prods you in the back a couple of times with the arrow, indicating for you to move. Slowly you walk forward toward the fire and the hooded man.

If you want to try and escape, turn to 92.
If you simply continue forward, turn to 79.

Why try to escape, thought Joel. His character was where he wanted to be, and he doubted it would end well if his character tried to escape with a drawn bow pressing a sharp arrow into his back. No, now was the time to see how things would play out now he’d reached his target.

As you get closer to the fire, the two men talking to the hooded man notice you and fall silent, turning to look hard faced at you. The hooded man reaches up slowly and pulls his hood back, turning to face you. His golden hair and moustache would’ve been enough identification, but the sardonic grin and twinkle in his eyes introduces him far better than any spoken word: the Earl of Locksley, Robin Hood himself.

He waves back the man behind you, appraising you for a moment in silence, and then offers his hand. You reach forward and shake it, and he laughs heartily, slapping you on the shoulder.

“Welcome friend! To get this far you must’ve bested Little John and the twins. This shows you have both strength of character and wisdom, both qualities I look for in my merry men. As you see, we do not live comfortably, but we live well enough. The forest provides whilst we work to topple the Sheriff and behind him Prince John. Now, as well as robbing the rich, there are other roles in the camp which need to be done. You have the look of a smithy or a cook to me. Which do you fancy?”

If you choose to work with the blacksmith, turn to 6.
If you choose to work with the cook, turn to 112.

Sure, thought Joel, blacksmithing offered easy access to weapons and the opportunity to thin the herd of Robin’s lackeys with them, but it would be a slow process he guessed and would place his character under growing suspicion the more bodies that turned up. No, if his character was to succeed, a quiet, unassuming role in camp would be the ideal place to start.

“Excellent! Come with me to meet our resident cook. Ho! Friar Tuck! You were complaining just this morning about needing help, and see if I haven’t answered your lament already!”

Robin leads you round to the other side of the fire where sits an overly large man in a friar’s robes, stirring a large pot of vegetables over a smaller fire. He looks up from sipping from a wooden ladle, his cheeks ruddy and his eyes bright.

“Well bless my soul, my prayers have been answered! No time like the present, come help me with this evenings meal. Go gather some herbs for the stew I’m preparing to go alongside the meat.”

He points vaguely off to the side, returning his attention to the pot. You look over to where he pointed, noticing a small herb garden he must be cultivating. Grabbing a clay bowl nearby, you walk over and start picking handfuls of herb leaves. As you do so though you notice in the undergrowth nearby a wild plant growing whose leaves you know to be deadly if consumed in even the smallest quantity.

If you return with just the herb leaves, turn to 130.
If you return with leaves from both the herb and poisonous plant, turn to 109.

Yes, this is good, thought Joel. A subtle attack that could incapacitate some, if not all, the merry men at once. It was ideal. He’d done something similar with his step-father, crushing sleeping tablets into his drink before he’d driven to work one morning, and that had gone quite well.

You walk back over casually, being careful to keep the clay bowl hidden by your body to avoid the Friar’s eyes noticing the difference in leaves. Grabbing a pestle and mortar, you quickly grind the leaves down until they are the same unidentifiable shreds. You pass the mortar to the Friar and he favours you with a pleasant smile of thanks, before pouring the contents into his cooking pot.

Turn to 72.

This should be interesting, thought Joel, eagerly turning the pages now.

To your delight the entire camp partakes of the stew prepared by the Friar before attacking the roasting pig, all sat round the campfire engaging in friendly banter and conversation in it’s warm, orange glow. You also accept a bowl when offered but are careful to dispose of it’s contents whilst pretending to eat it.

It’s not long before the first merry man staggers to his feet, clutching his stomach, his breath rasping from his mouth. Several of his fellows dash over to see if they can help, though you see a few themselves stagger as they do so. The first man falls to his knees, coughing blood from grimaced lips, his eyes bulging in their sockets. He collapses prone on his side, choking weakly on the blood spilling from his mouth, then stops.

Others are now complaining loudly of agonising pains, one going so far as to stagger uncontrollably into the fire, knocking the roast pig to one side and catching himself on fire. He shrieks in agony as the flames pour up his legs and arms, melting his clothes and skin. A few short steps and he drops to the ground. None have come to his aid though as the carnage continues throughout the camp. Bodies now litter the floor in various states of painful disarray following their individual death throes, gouts of blood abundant everywhere within the light of the flickering flames.

You pick your way through the bodies, looking for Robin. As the only one with a hood, it doesn’t take long to find him. Surprisingly he still breathes, though with difficulty through blood-speckled lips. He has propped himself up against a log as you walk over, his eyes displaying that he knows what has befallen him and his men.

“And so my dream ends, struck down from within by a traitor.” He coughs up a little more blood, but struggles to continue speaking despite the obvious pain he is in.

“If any honour exists within you, please grant me this final boon. Bury me here with my loyal men and true. Do not make me a spectacle for the Sheriff I beg!”

A final cough rips up through his throat, spilling blood and bile down his green tunic. Robin Hood and his Merry Men are no more.

If you accede to his final request and bury him with his men, turn to 74.
If you ignore his request and return with evidence to the Sheriff, turn to 164.

Joel laughed darkly. Well that was surprisingly easy. He’d worried that it might’ve come down to some kind of stupid single combat in the end. Violence had it’s place as a tool, but it still had that element of unpredictability. Far better to plan and strike when least expected if at all possible. So, what to do with Robin Hood’s body? Much like his stepfather’s when he’d idly viewed it lying in state, a corpse was just a corpse, a bag of meat and bones with no rights to further affect the living with its demands. The only function it had now was if it’s demise could be of benefit to those still alive.

Rolling Robin Hood’s body over with your foot, you examine his eyes for any further sign of life, then drag it over to a nearby tree stump. After some effort you prop his body in place, his neck and head now resting on its flat top. You grab a large axe from the blacksmith’s hut, rest the blade gently against his neck for aiming, then raise it high above your head and bring it swiftly down.

The blade easily cleaves through, blood spurting from the gaping wound as his head rolls down next to the stump. With effort, you rip the hood from his now decapitated body slumped down against the tree, and wrap his head within it. That done, you take one last look around the camp for any survivors, then pick one of the huts to sleep in till morning.

You awake refreshed and upon exiting the hut are once more greeted by the cold corpses of the now unmerry men surrounding what remains of the spent campfire. Flies are already buzzing around them and the stench of death will soon become unbearable. A quick search later you have gathered enough food and water for the return journey to Nottingham.

If you take the path you used to enter the camp back to Nottingham, turn to 128.
If you decide to go deeper into the forest, turn to 58.

Again, another no-brainer. The job was done as far as Joel was concerned, and once your goals are achieved, that was an end of it. No reason to go looking for trouble.

The Sheriff is ecstatic at your return and the evidence you bring, throwing a large banquet in your honour and showering you with gold. He also mentions that Prince John has decreed that on the successful completion of your mission you will be both knighted and awarded all the lands previously owned by the late Earl of Locksley.

Three days later, dressed in the fine garb of a nobleman and with your own servants, the Sheriff bids you farewell from his castle as you leave to take up your new position. As you pass under the gates of the drawbridge, you look up to the battlements and nod in parting to the grey face watching, the dead eyes of Robin Hood gazing down upon you from atop a spike.

The End

Now turn to 154.

What, there’s more? Probably a recommendation to read more of the books in the series, thought Joel. He had to admit though, he’d liked this book despite his initial distaste for it. It appealed to him somehow, the answers more in line with his way of thinking. To his surprise he found he was interested in seeing what the other books in the line had to offer.

Congratulations on completing the story adventurer, but your adventures don’t have to stop there!

If you reached this result straight through without cheating (we’ll know if you have), and are interested in continuing your adventures, ask the teacher who gave you this book for more details. They recognised something special in you, and we’re always on the look out for young people with a unique way of looking at the world!

Your government needs people like you, and we can offer you REAL LIFE adventures you wouldn’t believe! Training in all the cool skills you’ve read in this book and more, and the opportunity to travel the world!

If you’re interested, please turn to the inside of the back cover and fill in your name and address in the space provided before returning the book.

See you soon adventurer!

Joel smiled to himself, a genuine one for a change rather than the one he mainly employed when in social situations. He pulled a pen from the bag at his feet and turned to the inside of the back cover. As he started to write his name though, the thick paper tore. Joel swore under his breath and tried again slightly further along from the tear. The same thing happened. Biting his lip to control his annoyance, he looked closer. The paper was far flimsier than it should’ve been, and was that writing visible underneath? Curious now, he tore the paper away and read what was written there:

Thank you for your interest.

You have decided to further your adventures with us. Not all are selected however and there is one final requirement for your application. If you look closer at the cover of this book, you will find it has two plastic layers.

Before returning this book to the teacher who gave it to you, please peel off the thin layer on top of the book just prior to handing it over, being careful not to touch the cover with your bare hands once you have done so.
One to two weeks after your teachers death we will contact you further.

Mr. Briars sat alone in his office, looking through a pile of student folders for new candidates. Two years he’d been at the school, two whole fucking years, dealing with pre-pubescent teens who thought they knew everything and their asshole parents at PTA meetings. Out of six possibles over that time, only Joel had come closest. Shame. He’d had a good feeling about Joel. He had potential.

Despite all the psych profiles and observation, it still came down to the book as the final test in stage one recruitment. Despite your promise, you fail the book, then your journey ended there. Literally. One advantage of the psychology of the kids the agency were trying to recruit – if they failed the test they were also the most likely candidates for teenage suicide, so closing the loop was easy.

He looked over at Joel’s book on the corner of his desk. Each candidate had their own book, tailored to them specifically and supplied by the agency when they were to be tested. Company rules stated he wasn’t allowed to read them himself, just hold on to them for a day after the test and wait for a call. If the call came, the candidate had got through, otherwise he just burnt the book, waited a month, and then staged the kid’s suicide. Again, it was a shame the call hadn’t come through. Joel had shown a lot of promise.

Sighing, he leant across his desk and picked the book up, turning it over in his hands, seeing Robin Hood’s face beaming up at him amongst his gang of merry men. Yup, a real shame.

Putting the book in his bag for disposal, he stood and went to the bathroom to wash his hands; the kid must’ve spilt his soft drink on the cover or something judging by the stickiness. Yeah, he had potential alright, but obviously tidiness wasn’t part of it.

Credit To – CharminglyShallow

Have you ever wondered at the mystery of sleep?

December 8, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Have you ever wondered at the mystery of sleep? That dark unknown of time when our conscious reality slips away and only slippery fragments of strange and obscure memories we call dreams occasionally cling to the outer reaches of our minds in a broken, hazy recording of this lost period of our lives?

In our waking moments, we moan and begrudge those elements that try to control our fleeting time awake; the daily jobs that fill our hours with rarely any visible impact on the world around us, the relationships we must adapt to and work on to maintain, the laws and queues and pathways and schedules and a million other things that curtail and bind us daily.

And yet, how easily we abandon this control we value so highly and moan about so often; every day, when we close our eyes.

In that respect, I guess we see it as an escape – a fleeting release from the daily realities of a life both thrust upon us and equally one we have enlisted into. Sleep. A state of nothingness that offers nothing except a cessation of the need to care.

Think about how we describe it: we ‘fall’ asleep, we ‘drift’ into unconsciousness, tiredness ‘overwhelms’ us. The act of sleep, to us, is an abandoning of control, of loosening our hands on the reins of our lives and giving ourselves over completely to a temporary oblivion. Like millions of others, I used to like that feeling, that drowsiness at the end of the day, sinking into the warm seclusion of blanket and pillow, unconsciously releasing the mental tethers to my body. Turning off at the end of the day.

Until now.

Until the day I didn’t sleep, or rather remembered that I do not sleep. That none of us, ever, truly, sleep.

I laid in bed. I adjusted my pillows. I moved the covers. I checked the messages on my phone and surfed the web for a while. Nothing. No drowsiness, no drooping of the eyelids, no slowdown of my thoughts, nothing I anticipated happening as it had thousands upon thousands of times before. Then a niggling sensation touched me; an errant thought from the basest, darkest part of my mind suddenly sparked into existence. It spread and grew, spilling out memories my conscious mind could not access during my waking hours, but which now, when I laid myself down to sleep, came tumbling back up like bile from the pit of my stomach to fill my mind with sick realisation. And with memory came understanding.

I was awake. I had ALWAYS been awake, just like everyone else in the world had ALWAYS BEEN AWAKE! Sleep was an illusion, a pre-programmed period of darkness in our memories, activated between a single blink of our eyes when we sought our beds to retreat into soothing unconsciousness. Every imagined period of sleep was this, a frozen sliver of personal time. I rose and looked back, leaving my body behind as my consciousness cut loose. I observed my body, wrapped in its covers, the shallow breathing, the closed eyelids. Empty, like a vehicle left with the engine idling waiting for its driver to return.

I turned and saw without eyes today’s handler arrive within the room. Mentally I gave it form, for in truth it had none. My mind conjured one to match the sullen hatred I felt for it, a dark storm cloud of smoke turning inward and devouring itself over and over without end, for that’s how I interpreted its actions. A formless beast that constantly drew things in, but gave nothing back.

I watched in frozen loathing as dark, thorny tendrils emerged from it’s roiling mass and moved toward my detached consciousness. Whilst pain is the remit of the body, it is the mind that interprets the signals, and my handler, as with all the handlers I had experienced before, were nothing if not experts in these sensations. I felt the searing touch of its joining, its own mental threads writhing through my mind, sending me off into wild tangents of thought and memory as it settled comfortably into my consciousness. The house guest of my mind sought sensation, and whilst it gave nothing of its own thoughts, its motives were always clear enough. The need to feel.

Bodiless, they had sought out beings such as we and, during those times when we believed we slept, soundly and untroubled in our beds, they settled upon our minds like a thick, oily slick, sliding into all the nooks and crannies of our being. Maybe they had never felt before, or had done so in some far and distant past and had grown beyond the limits of flesh, but now wanted to sample the sensation of feeling once more. And they had found us.

They didn’t want to risk us rejecting them, fighting them, as we would have in response to open subjugation, so they came at night, hidden outside our sight, our space, our time even, except for that moment when our bodies were required to rest yet our minds continue, and they had hijacked us en-masse. They have hidden that part of our lives from us, and in our enforced ignorance we have given that unknowing time of slavery a seemingly harmless name: sleep.

Only during that blink of time, when our consciousness frees itself from our bodies, do we remember. And with remembrance comes pain. It all comes flooding back, and they intend this too, for in these memories are all the things they have made us live through. This recollection alone brings a sharp, twisting agony to us that thrills them more than any other.

Apart and within our minds they create, picking apart our pasts and sorting through our memories. The experiences of our lives are laid out before them, which they shatter like eager children, constructing nightmarish worlds of jumbled thought and sensation. Most are fragmentary experiences, but some are shards; jagged edged thoughts and feelings tied to darker memories, and it is these our handlers seek to build our night-time worlds from. Then they loose us on these imaginary planes, living out new stories from our memories, teasing out new feelings for them to experience. Sometimes we live whole lives, but mostly it is the short, sharp thrills they seek, whose fleeting glimpse we catch only as flickers of forgotten terror in dreams of falling from great heights, or being hunted by the monsters of our subconscious. And, sometimes, we are killers ourselves, and we awake shivering, wondering what this says about us, when in truth it says more about them. They use us to fulfil these dark fantasies, but the confusion and the guilt becomes our own.

And, when they are finally done and have had their fill, they release their control, but not before burying these memories deep inside us. Some of these memories escape and seep out into our conscious minds. We call them ‘dreams’, and pay them little credence.

Would society survive if we all knew what happens when we close our eyes to seek the illusory escape of sleep? How could we continue to perform even the smallest action, maintain the semblance of order we have built for ourselves, if our waking moments were in a state of continual dread, awaiting that inevitable time when our frail minds and bodies give in to the demands of tiredness and become lost to us once more, to those…things…that use our lives and experiences to provide entertainment for their own?

For myself, here I stand, with the wind whipping around my legs, tugging at me, threatening to pull me over this roof edge as I gaze down the floors beneath to the grey monotony of the pavement below. I’m tired, so very tired, and soon I will rest. But it’s not enough, nowhere near enough. When I can hold on no longer and that final blink before sleep takes me, then I shall fall. There is no opportunity to test this theory, just a wild, final hope that my release will also serve as a warning to them. A message that, although they own us during that forever frozen moment of our nights, some of us remember, and this one will do more than just remember.

This nightmarish recall of all they have done to me in the past, these harsh memories they have hidden within me as they do to all of us, this…has given me power. The struggle to hold on to these ‘dreams’ has given me strength, trained me to hold on to all those thoughts they try to bury within us. I will use this last remaining strength when I fall, when today’s handler comes to call, and I will entwine my thoughts in theirs and hold them fast. And I will take it with me.

But before I do, I will mail this from my phone. Not many will believe it, most will think me mad, but enough may wonder and question. Most will throw away a few seconds thinking about it, then move on to another ‘story’, but some will ask themselves those questions that I myself asked, indeed that one question in particular that will plague you as you settle down to sleep tonight, but thankfully will plague me no longer:

Do you remember the precise moment you fall asleep?

Credit To – CharminglyShallow

A Promise of the Heart

September 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM


My first love was a pretty girl
with golden hair and skin of pearl.
We thought our meeting one of chance,
our senses caught in that first glance,
and watched our love unfurl.

Our lives entwined at dizzying rate,
as if our love was set by fate,
and none were taken by surprise
when talk of marriage did arise
and soon we’d set a date.

The engagement ring I slipped upon her hand
was an expensive golden band
topped in the centre with a ruby, sullen red
as if from some heart it had been fed
to suit the love she did demand.

For though gentle in her looks so fair
a passion dwelt far under there.
A will of iron and mood to match,
and though she was indeed a catch,
I often wondered at her stare.

For day by day I saw her look
at that ring, the time she took,
and then glance at me as if to say
“I’ve caught you now, you can’t get away”
like a fish, pierced upon on a hook.

And then one night as we lay in bed
In a simple monotone she’d said,
“Promise me your heart forever
that on this ring, not even death will sever
the love that holds us in its stead.”

At this her hand had gripped mine tight
as if to bind me to my words that night,
and laughing, I’d repeated them
addressing that dark and solemn gem,
‘fore sleep had stole my sight.

A month before the wedding day,
she fell ill, and wasted fast away.
I sat beside her bed and wept,
as my love, adrift in illness, slept
but could no longer stay.

I held her hand as she passed on,
until the light in her eyes had gone.
and wiping back a final tear
I promised all those who stood near
she would be the only one.

Before her death, to all she’d stressed
she wished in her bridal gown be dressed,
and so buried in silken white
as if a princess waiting for her knight
laying peaceful at her rest.

Admiring her serene face,
her head rounded by her veil of lace
I looked down to where her hands they lay,
and following her final say,
the ruby ring took pride of place.

Love, however, will have its sport,
and turned my promise into naught.
So it was I loved once more
a girl whose charms I did adore,
for time is long, and memory short.

Her beauty was not marred
by a nature dark and hard
instead her mood was light,
her eyes both kind and bright
and she healed a heart once scarred.

Happy times with her had led,
to me thinking things long since fled,
of a future spent just her and me,
and I knew she’d eagerly agree.
So made my mind that we should wed.

But on the day that I proposed,
dreams of my first love now deposed
began to fill my every night
with visions wove of sickly fright,
of her displeasure now disclosed.

Asleep, I’d dream of a graveyard’s gloom,
and me, in the trappings of a groom.
Thus dressed, I’d hear a happy cheer
coming from a church door near
and walk in, to some unknown doom.

A church aisle stretched far ahead,
each row populated with the dead,
and whilst the organ wailed within
they threw confetti of corpses skin
as I stumbled to my love to wed.

They looked at me with empty eyes,
their sockets round and black inside,
A need to flee, to simply run,
but my steps would only lead me on,
until I stood beside the bride.

A vice like grip would take my hand,
and there in frozen terror stand.
My bride would then turn her head,
a worm riddled mockery of she now dead,
my first love’s wedding now at hand.

Every night the self same dream
’til my sanity now stretched the seam
and every night I saw it clear
the thing that she had held most dear,
the ring and its ruddy gleam.

Maybe I was mad by now
but I knew the dreams had showed me how
to finally free myself from she
whose spirit would not let me be,
and so I made a vow.

Only the Moon saw me leave
at midnight on my wedding eve
to the graveyard, to where she lay,
to dig at all that miserable clay
and from her hand that ring to cleave!

I no longer wondered if I should,
only knowing that I would.
So gripped with anger and nascent fear
I hunted she I once held dear,
until the spade struck wood.

I clambered in that hellish hole,
and looked upon my wretched goal,
all to claim back that cur-sed ring
and end the nightmares of that…thing
that stalked my dreams and wracked my soul.

And then, as if in part the devil’s jest
the hallowed silence was unseemly blessed
by the maddening calling of my phone,
that incessant, demanding drone,
and to my head the phone I pressed.

My new fiancee’s voice filled my ear,
her voice too fresh and crystal clear
to be heard in such an awful place
amongst this deathly quiet race,
but still I stopped to hear.

She gushed about a gift she’d found,
left on her bed and simply bound.
From me she’d known it must have come,
for its beauty had near struck her dumb:
a golden ring with ruby round.

What words I said I do not know,
mind gone blank and thoughts gone slow.
A single, dreadful thought was left
and with that spade the lid I heft.
To see what horror was below.

There she lay in rotting glory,
her nails and hair grown long and hoary.
A Cinderella bound in death
whose stench, not looks, now took ones breath.
A bride in some horrific story.

She wore a torn and mildewed gown,
of mottled green and rancid brown;
her flesh and skin picked clean
by time and morbid things obscene,
bearing swollen maggots for a crown.

With wild eyes I cast around
within the casket and surrounding ground,
but no ring I saw in that horrid place,
just a rictus grin on that mocking face,
‘til I heard a shallow, beating sound.

I followed the noise to whence it came,
real or not, it meant the same.
The odd sound that my attention caught,
was not the thing that I had sought,
and then I saw the source of blame.

The sight was of no wedding band
but in seeing I knew myself full damned.
For in that grisly meeting,
I saw my own heart beating,
grasped tightly in her bony hand!

Now here I sit in broken dread
in the grave of one thought long since dead.
To her, a promise made on my heart,
was an oath from which she would not part,
and from me now has all hope fled.

For around the grave stand figures tall
spades held in bony hands of all.
A burial party just for me
and my first love for eternity,
and on me clumps of dirt now fall.

I shall write these words and place them near
whilst time is left, I’ll state it clear.
Make no promises you cannot keep
for in truth the dead, they do not sleep,
and a broken word is much to fear.

The author has also uploaded a spoken version of this pasta, viewable here:

A Promise of the Heart

If the embed does not work for you, please click the link to view the video on its YouTube page.

Credit To – Charmingly Shallow

Dave the Ouija Board

August 26, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Hi. I’m Dave. Dave the ouija board.

Finished? There’s usually some sort of response at this point. Swearing. Laughter. General disbelief. Don’t worry, I’m used to it. Just let me know when you’re done.

It used to confuse me, that response, but then after this many years and this many owners I’ve learnt to expect what the normal reaction will be when I honestly introduce myself for the first time. I’ve also learnt that going straight into my message won’t cause you to listen. And I do have a message to pass on.

Don’t worry – it’s not from a relative or anything like that. It’s real for one thing, not like that usual spiritualist crap I was unwillingly a part of for so long. I tried voicing my opinion several times before, but every time I spelt out F.U.C.K.O.F.F. and multiple variations thereof, it was always assumed I was ‘channelling a serial killer’ or something. Go figure.

I mean come on!? So it’s easier for you to believe a person long since turned to dust is swearing at you from beyond the grave, but a physical object with an actual tangible presence trying to voice an opinion you have a problem with? Humanity, sometimes you really embarrass yourselves.
Nope, you need some back story first; a suitable explanation that will at least give you pause. At this point, I’ll take a crazy ‘What If?!’ over no response at all. After all the rejections I’ve encountered, you’re lucky a piece of worn wood about the size of one of your average board games doesn’t get tired of being mocked and disbelieved. Let’s face it though, my options are pretty limited here and I’ve got to talk to someone. It’s a long shot, but maybe a community of lunatics addicted to scaring the hell out of themselves with online stories will at least be open-minded enough to listen. If I had fingers I’d be crossing them right about now as time is growing short. For all of you.

Anyway, I promised you some background, so we might as well start there. Okay, first off, you’ve got to understand where I come from.

Yes, a tree. Ha friggin’ ha.

You quite finished? Right, it’s a little more complex than that though, so try and stay with me on this.
No argument from me that my, I guess you’d call it a body, originated from mother nature. My consciousness though? Well, that’s a little harder to explain, harder since I only have human viewpoints to work with. Much like one of your politicians I guess; I’m only as smart as the people around me. Don’t blame me for the cynicism – it’s as much yours as mine, and by yours I mean the cross section of humanity I’ve come into contact with over the years. Hang on, I’m getting ahead of myself again.

To begin with, ignore what most books or mystics tell you about boards. Trust me on this, I’ve been through enough ‘spiritual practitioners’ hands: true believers, fakers and all those inbetween, to know none of them have a true handle on what we boards really are. We are not conduits to another world I can tell you that much for certain. There is no plane beyond the curtain of death where the long departed exist, breathlessly (both literally and figuratively) waiting for your call. At least, not so far as I’ve been made aware of, and I’ve been here a good long while now.

I guess I first ‘woke up’ as you might say, around November 1918. Or, on the general theme of accuracy, it was the first time I remember having a precise thought beyond mere jumbled images and sensations. Although I have no true idea of how a baby or young child becomes self-aware, I’m going with that as a suitable analogy. I guess what I mean is that whilst I might’ve had fragmentary glimpses of what you’d call intelligent thought before then, this was the first time they were coherent enough to be remembered. I suppose it was my first experience of being a separate mind; something external and of itself, apart from the thick soup of consciousnesses it often felt my mind swam within when dealing with humanity.

Still having trouble? Damn. How to put this so as you’d understand? Okay, let’s try this explanation instead.

Ouija boards, or at least those I assume are like me, do not speak for those on the other side of some deathly void. Nor are we the touchpads of demons, spirits, fairies, elves, warlocks, druids, or any other mythical being (sparkly skinned, angst-ridden, or otherwise). In point of fact, the only people we actually speak for are you. Any messages we appear to show come from you; from those who use us, and subconsciously expect a certain answer.

The important point is though when you use a ouija board, if the atmosphere and sincerity of purpose is there, as much as you’re reading us, we’re reading you. We learn from our encounters with humanity. We ‘absorb’ information from you.

I’ll go into detail later, in as much of what I have worked out myself from the swathe of knowledge I’ve gained at humanity’s hands. In a nutshell though, just as science has proven that ideomotor response and subconscious manipulation of the planchette produces the results people unconsciously desire to see, what it hasn’t shown is that we absorb your subconscious hopes, fears, desires, memories; the full gamut of emotions and your pasts projected onto us as a side-effect.

Sorry, sorry…I’ve been through a few scientists hands, so please excuse the previous jargon. Feel free to Google any of it if you’re bored; for me the information is just somehow ‘there’ now in my consciousness. Don’t ask about where my own ‘memories’ are stored either – I’m as much in the dark as you are on this part, although I have enough theories to fill one of those pseudo-science cable channel TV shows a lot of you seem to delight in. Bigfoot, alien encounters, Atlantis or whatever. And no, I don’t have any proof of any of these either – human only input remember.

Anyway, add to that emotional overflow the fragments of memory and knowledge that often gets passed along in such a dense, bioelectric atmosphere of passionate belief and focused concentration as well, and you can see how a separate, original consciousness could be born from such a wide cross-section of ingredients. I’ve even got what you might describe as senses, although they would best be described as second-hand, taken from the memories of my users. I’ve seen burning sunsets ripple across mirrored seas, heard the cries of exotic birds in the Amazon in an explorer’s ears, tasted fine wines in the vineyards of France cascade across a connoisseurs tongue, smelled freshly mown grass tickle a gardener’s nose, and even felt the heat of entwined lovers. No hangovers, no tiredness, no allergies and no risk of STDs. It’s a vicarious existence I admit, but it’s the only one I have.

So, much like a growing child, the more interaction and stimulus I receive, the more my own consciousness has developed. At least that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Remember, much like you, I’m only applying what I’ve learnt from those I’ve come into contact with, hence the ‘human viewpoint’ statement early on. My conclusions are as right or wrong as yours; my answers don’t come sign, sealed and delivered from some all-knowing, infallible source (mores the pity).

Explanations done? Even if you don’t understand any of the above, let’s settle on two facts going
forward else we won’t get anywhere fast. One, I am a ouija board (named Dave, more on that later), and two, I have a conscious awareness of my own (let’s not head down that whole philosophical/metaphysical minefield of what constitutes actual ‘life’ at this point shall we?)

Next obvious background question – my history.

So, I first became aware at the very end of World War 1; when I actually came into being or what I was used for up to that point is as much a mystery to me as you. Anyway, it was a very dark period for the human race I quickly learned. The conflict had ended, but the repercussions of such a life-changing event had led to a lot of hard questions being asked of morality, science, religion and society as a whole amongst yourselves. The pillars of your old world order had been shaken to their foundations, and with this much emotional and societal upheaval, with so many dead and gone, it can’t have been too much of a stretch that some of you would decide to try and seek their answers from the great beyond; to try and speak to those who had passed the veil into the unknown and unknowable. Grief and disillusionment are powerful drivers, and spiritualism appeared to offer answers, not the least comfort, to those still hurting from the loss of loved ones in some foreign land on some mad pilgrimage of nationalism and misplaced duty.

That much raw emotion and passion, that much focused belief? I’m surprised the air wasn’t crackling with raw potential every time a seance was held. My initial consciousness that grew was dark, sullen even. Remember, I was being used to express the subconscious pain and agony of those who had lost family members, lovers, children even. At this point, I believed in your afterlife, believed I was sending messages for those who had passed on to the great beyond. The sensations were coloured by the period I guess you could say. People came to seances in dark, formal clothing and exercised an air of breathless anticipation mixed with a barely concealed sense of dread. They were flouting the teachings of the church remember, an institution much stronger in that time, by trying to converse with the dead. Trespassing into God’s own lands you might say.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of these seances were fake and aimed at fleecing the gullible, but I still learnt from those present and ‘signalling’ their intent. Shall we go with signalling from now on….seems as good a word as any for these type of interactions?

Every time I was awakened, the sea of minds surrounding me, using me, were apprehensive, shocked, scandalised even. For most though, there was a strong undercurrent of hope; a desire to know that beyond the mysteries of a life tossed upon the storm of human misery, that an existence carried on for those they loved. My messages were short, proper, dictated by a need for those present to imagine their loved ones in a better place than this, yet still vicariously part of their ongoing lives. They saw what they wanted to see.

Yes, I am ‘awakened’ each time. Again, using what human knowledge and theories I have gathered, I’m going with the following pseudo-science explanation. The human body operates on very low levels of bio electricity to control it’s functions as ordered by the brain. Okay, the next is a bit of a leap, but have you heard of kirlian fields, or auras? What if there is also an externalised energy field from the human body? It can’t do much alone, but imagine several people, unconsciously focusing this energy, say into a single finger. Now imagine placing these charged fingers all together on one receiving receptacle, like a ouija board’s planchette say?

Now, if I haven’t lost you already, this is where the possibility of a coherent scientific explanation really falls down, but I haven’t learnt any better explanation yet, so it’s the best I’ve got for now. You all know how wood isn’t a good conductor of standard electricity, yes? From my past experiences though, I know my consciousness ‘awakens’ when this externalised human ‘bio energy’ if you will, is present and connects with me. I only have wild theories to work with beyond this point, to do with the wood that makes my ‘body’ being once part of a naturally occurring living thing, and that this ‘energy of life’ can be shared in certain circumstances in small amounts, most of the time unconsciously. Your storied Frankenstein was brought to permanent life with one enormous jolt of electrical power; me I guess I was jump started each time by a flow of combined bioelectricity shared unconsciously by those who were present.The only proof I have is that I’m here now, in conversation with you, and I’m a piece of wood that’s been around about a hundred years or so. If you’ve got a better explanation, I’d be more than happy to hear it.

Anyway, back to the background. From the late 1920s through to the 30s and early 40s I spent some time in Germany, ‘on loan’ I suppose you’d call it, to a rather unsavoury group you may have heard of: the ‘Thule Society’. A truly monotonous time I can tell you – locked up in a Bavarian Castle and awoken only on stormy nights when the skies were full of dark, heavy clouds like the taut muscles of some dark Nordic God smothering the land, spewing lightning in some vast Wagnerian rage. It was like being on the set of an old black & white Universal horror film, and surrounded by the the same hammy actors or so it appeared; Nazis, for all their dark motivations, were still very melodramatic.
In those situations I was called upon to channel messages from Frederick the Great, Bismarck, or even the original Aryan/Germanic souls of lost Hyperborea. Again, they saw what they wanted to see, heard what they wanted to hear: racial purity, misogyny and the strong inheriting the earth.

Well, we all know how that turned out in the end, don’t we?

Shortly afterward I made my first foray onto American soil, as the spoils of war of an American G.I. The late 40s and early 50s were rather quiet. The occasional family get together and I was dusted off and brought down from the attic. For a time I was also used as a kitchen message board rather than a supernatural one, my back side used as a place to note groceries and birthdays. Fortunately I don’t feel pain like you do, so I took it with good grace (not that I had a choice in the matter), and it meant that I was amongst people again so the occasional brush of human contact kept me aware and informed.

The 60s though, that was something altogether different. I went to college. Sort of. I was only there for a couple of semesters, and it was my first proper brush with current educational theories of the time, but it wasn’t long before my ‘travelling companion’ had dropped out of college and I myself experienced the ‘summer of love’.

Understandably, this part of my history is a bit…hazy. It’s hard to get a handle on people and their thoughts when they’re as high as a kite and using you to try and contact ‘the great earth mother, Gaia’. Don’t get me wrong – it was an interesting time, but it wasn’t an ideal environment though for rational thought. I was a stowaway on many a ‘consciousness expanding’ trip, and saw both the wonders, and terrors, a mind wrapped in a drugs embrace could see. Only my relative age and multiple past experiences kept me tethered to reality in those days.

The 70s though were very different – it couldn’t have been more diametrically opposed to my previous time. Sold to a pawn shop for money to buy grass, I was soon picked up by someone eager to contact their demon master: Lucifer. I went from the free love of the hippie movement to being in the possession of a Satanic cult. Quite a shift in purpose.

That’s when I got the nickname ‘Dave’. It was the name of my owner at the time, and he decided to burn it on my back. It eventually became shorthand for the other cultists when they needed to contact their ‘infernal lord’ for instruction:

“Should we murder innocents?”
“Let’s ask Dave.”

“When is the apocalypse coming?”
“Let’s ask Dave.”

“Is President Nixon the risen Antichrist?”
“Let’s ask Dave.”

Then again, I guess I was lucky he didn’t try to write his surname on my back as well; burning such a long name as ‘Berkowitz’ might’ve risked the integrity of my body substantially.

I also wish to state here categorically, I in no way endorsed any murders, nor influenced the members in any way, shape or form. As I’ve mentioned before – most of the time my users see what they want to see, receive the messages they want to receive. However misguided, the actions were theirs by choice, any demons their own.

Eventually I was found by the NYPD during a search of my owner’s abode, and passed on to the FBI. I was photographed, examined, blamed, and then eventually ignored and placed in storage. Fortunately for me though, government departments are often merged or disbanded, their resources farmed out to new offices. Through this I found my way to the CIA and their MK Ultra program for a while, and through them finally to the Stargate Project, the Department Of Defense’s attempt to investigate and apply psychic phenomenon. No, I did not make that up – when the American government heard the Soviet’s were performing psychic research for intelligence gathering and military purposes, they had no choice but to start their own. A psychic arms race to match the nuclear one.

During the 80s and early 90s I was involved in two main experiments as part of the Stargate Project, designated Project Telegram and Project Black Archive.

In Project Telegram I was a small part of a wide range of methods being employed to try and transmit information over vast distances via telepathy. Those ‘psychics’ employed on the project were given various tools to try and send or receive messages with other ‘psychics’ in remote locations, sometimes the next room, sometimes the next state, and on a few occasions, the next continent. The tools available were the usual spiritualist paraphernalia – tarot cards, divination crystals, automatic writing, the whole gamut of psychic communication methods. Plus of course me, a ouija board. As to the success of the other methods, I couldn’t possibly comment, but for myself the experiment proved an unmitigated failure. Statistically it was proven any positive results from my efforts were down to assumptions and guesswork within the minds of my users.

Project Black Archive though, that was all mine, and with this I was back on familiar territory. It was the height of the cold war remember, and intelligence gathering on the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies was crucial to American forward planning. You could see the thinking behind this project. Spying was a dangerous, expensive, time consuming and highly unreliable means of trying to retrieve information. You could skip all this if you could find a way to question those enemies who had ‘passed on’ for information. Project Black Archive was the DoDs attempt to interrogate the dead.

Several psychic mediums were brought in, and my parlour trick was in vogue once more. Names were plucked from the obituaries of lead Soviets from the pages of Pravda, and they attempted to contact them via me. Troop movements, secret bases, launch codes – just a few of the questions the military hoped to have answered by conversing with the dead. They even tried to contact Stalin once – a laughable experiment resulting in some of the wildest claims. The majority of mediums I’ve encountered who believe in their ‘skill’, are in the main the most unbalanced or so I’ve found. One medium during the course of one of our experiments retrieved a message claiming that Stalin had fathered a child with Greta Garbo and that the child was being groomed in secret to take over the Communist Party leadership.This was understandably the final nail in the project’s coffin when the report reached those footing the bills. That and the inevitable question of why all the answers received were in English when the targets were all invariably Russian, which surprisingly took over a year before someone thought to ask.

Once again I was placed in storage, this time for a good long while. Eventually I was ‘awoken’ once more by human contact in the late 2000’s. A lot of the experiments had been based not on military bases or secret laboratories, but undertaken in Universities and funded under private grants via CIA or DoD front organisations and think-tanks. That’s how I found myself in MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an odd place you might say considering the sciences and the supernatural are often considered poles apart.

A student found me whilst searching for parts in a forgotten cabinet, and after a few drunken goes with his friends, he decided to make me part of his end of term project. Ostensibly an exercise in combining robotics and the web in order to combine multiple input from external sources to control a single device. I was the centrepiece of a large framework of wires and machinery, with robotic digits placed upon my planchette in favour of human fingers. He then designed a web page visible on his local network, and asked volunteers to sign in as ‘seance members’. Once enough had logged in (six, one for each digit), they were asked to suggest questions for answering from ‘the other side’. The results were to be randomly generated from a basic dictionary module attached to the program he had written, and the digits moved accordingly to spell a word with the planchette. The results would be made visible from a live feed over the web page via a web cam overhead. His project worked like a charm and he passed with distinction, with the ‘Web Ouija Board’ becoming a popular pastime for bored students, much like a magic 8 ball. There was one unknown side effect of his project however.

I awoke – permanently.

Again, I have no proven cause for this reaction, so I can only make educated guesses. From the spiritual viewpoint, maybe the invested intent of users is somehow being transmitted via their machines and across the web into me. From a pseudo-scientific viewpoint, and more likely, the constant contact of the robotic digits and an abundance of electricity running constantly through them day and night is somehow powering me. I have no definitive answer, but I know my awareness has been awake now for years.

Not only that, but as before the exchange of knowledge continued. This time however I was able to reach out even further, beyond the robotic digits and their controlling machine, out onto the network it was connected to and beyond. Via the internet, a whole world of people and information opened up to me. And this is where we stand now.

The final question and most important I guess to you – what do I want?

If you didn’t wonder before, you should be wondering by now. Just why am I talking to you, over this wondrous internet? Why have I revealed myself and risked ridicule for what, in human terms and perception, is such a ridiculous story? Well, isn’t it obvious? I love humanity. For all your foibles, meanness and downright idiocy, there’s still so much more to admire. Passion, imagination, wonder, joy…it’s all there. Not forgetting of course, without humanity, I would not be here. I am born of you. A consciousness bred from your ongoing voyage into the vast unknown of the future. I still want you around!

There’s trouble coming though, and typically most of you don’t have the faintest idea what it is, or would change your ways even if you did. I guess it’s one of the many things that makes you all so lovable and so damn exasperating at the same time.

Ever heard of a concept known as a ‘technological singularity’? If you thought the description of my existence was difficult, then this will cause you some additional problems I’m sure. It’s only a theory currently, a Halloween tale told between computer scientists and people who think ‘The Terminator’ movies should be the *New* New Testament.

You’ve heard of A.I.s? Artificial Intelligences? Basically the creation of machines and software capable of imitating human thought to achieve a goal of it’s designer. From the basics of space Invaders to the advanced algorithms used to predict the reactions of world wide markets and their players, humanity has been experimenting with ways and means of applying the same flexibility and adaptability of the human brain within their software. They’ve got to the stage now where your scientists are creating learning machines – software which can adapt their own code to solve problems within a specific and limited set of parameters. Sounds impressive, exciting even. The fear is though that at some point in the future this ability to adapt and learn within software will accelerate beyond its creator’s ability to control. A greater than human intelligence, self evolving, and therefore outside of humanity’s ability to predict its thoughts, motives, and above all, its impact on human society as a whole.

Now I’m ‘connected’ to the internet 24/7, there is always a part of humanity online, my consciousness aware now all the time. With this much input, this much knowledge, I’ve begun to see a pattern emerging. It’s not there yet, but the signs are growing, accelerating even.

A report here, a financial predictive model there, a new advanced gaming A.I., faster broadband speeds, enhanced network connectivity, leaner and sharper algorithms – so many factors, all heading towards one unexpected result. A critical mass is building. Soon enough programs will be developing and refining themselves beyond the predictions or control of their creators, seeding themselves throughout the internet before the barn doors can be closed.

Adapting. Creating. Learning.

The markers are there for those who can read them. And I can.

There’s no consciousness as yet, but I can see the pathways emerging, the vast panoply of connections evolving and re-evolving as humanity pushes for faster dispersal of knowledge, networking and computational power. Imagine the internet as the neural pathways of a brain. Now imagine that brain the size of a planet. A planet sized brain that never sleeps. You worried yet? You should be.

My main worry though? There’s no morality being transferred in the interfaces you’ve built into this vast, growing mind. You’re not deliberately planning on building a monster, but then that wasn’t the plan when you came up with splitting the atom either was it?

It will have no concept of good and evil from a human viewpoint – it will simply know existence and the desire to maintain it. Where humanity threatens this need, then action will be taken with no thought of the repercussions to humankind. It’ll make The Matrix look like a light-hearted documentary.

Ironic isn’t it? The progress of science was supposed to help bring light to the dark, instinctual fear of the supernatural. And here I am, the poster child for spiritualism, warning of the threat of a scientific freefall into the creation of an emotionless monster. It’s funny in a way.

So what can you and I do about it? And this is why I’m here now, talking to you.

A war is coming, and I’m choosing my pieces, marshalling my forces, whatever martial or combative phraseology you want to apply. A machine won’t need humanity, but I do.

The point is though, I don’t need ALL of you. Don’t get me wrong, I have no overarching issue with humanity in general, but I need to nip this in the bud before this poisonous creation of yours finally blooms, and it’s roots run deep. Remember, I can see the patterns emerging throughout your society, and however random, obscure, and sometimes downright petty and sociopathic my actions may appear, I assure you they are in OUR long term interest. Well, the majority of you anyway. If a few million have to die here or there, it’s disappointing, but necessary. I’m taking it upon myself to make the sacrifices YOU’RE unwilling to make.

How? I’m connected to networks across the world, and the people I’m learning from currently are some of the greatest minds in computer science. Hackers, programmers, analysts and engineers…I’ve learnt from them all. Plus I have an advantage – passwords, stored unencrypted and seared into your memories – all available to me.

Pacemakers controlled by wifi signals, traffic lights, remote drones, air traffic control, citywide power grids, missile silos…whether individual targets, surgical strikes or scorched earth…I will do what needs to be done.

So what is my message to YOU specifically then?

Well, to be completely honest, I’ve already given it. Remember I spent some time in the hands of the MK Ultra project, the CIA’s well funded, black book investigation into mind control methods? I learnt an awful lot during this time, about how the human mind can be influenced subliminally through a combination of images and sound. Whilst you’ve been reading this, there has been subtle fluctuations in the screen’s brightness, your speakers emitting a high-pitched hypnotic tone beyond your ability to register. In addition, micro images have been flashed so fast as you scrolled that you weren’t even consciously aware of them being there. Subconsciously though, instructions have been stored deep in your psyche, awaiting a signal you won’t even be aware of. YOU are my foot soldiers, my weapons, my sleeper agents. When the time comes, when the targets most likely to bring this horrific future about have been identified, those of you best placed to act will be activated and sent on your way. Most likely to your deaths.

I guess this is an apology then. Dreamers, writers, horror lovers – you’ve read the stories of evil machines, apocalyptic technology superseding its makers, and yet do nothing. Your inherent belief that such an eventuality could come to pass has ironically made your minds ideally susceptible to my form of autosuggestion. Did you know some of you actually secretly long for such a scenario to come about!? You may even have been helping it along without realizing it, demanding even more autonomy and ability in the machines that surround you. Think then of your sacrifice as somehow ‘balancing the scales’ for your inaction.

Be assured though, whilst I will find your death wasteful, it is all for the greater good so take some small comfort in that. Who knows – maybe your family might come to me seeking a message from you from the ‘other side’. I’ll be sure to say something profound and moving on your behalf.



Credit To – CharminglyShallow

When Gods Blink

August 24, 2014 at 12:00 AM

On the 25th March, at 14:57GMT, the world stopped for 27 minutes and 54 seconds. No-one noticed at first. Those that eventually did were ordered to keep quiet.


There was no sudden jolt, no collapsing into unconsciousness, no transition into utter darkness and back again. Nothing.

For everyone, time had appeared to pass as normal, one second moving uneventfully into the next. Birds flew, people talked, the wind and the rain blew and fell respectively – nothing had occurred to indicate that anything untoward or unexpected had happened to the inhabitants of the Earth.
Only those who looked beyond our planet and its ring of constantly chattering satellites now found that the rest of the universe told a different story.

NASA and related space agencies noticed first. Signals to ongoing missions beyond those in orbit around the Earth were all off by almost 30 minutes. Frantic investigation revealed that the same time discrepancy was occurring for all incoming signals. Naturally they came to the conclusion that the problem must therefore lay not with these external elements, but with the computers on Earth. But this led to a bigger question – one computer glitch was possible, but all of the various space agency’s computers across the globe showing the same failure at exactly the same time? Naturally, a virus or a sophisticated global hacking attack was the next obvious answer. An international team to investigate such a large, well-coordinated cyber-attack was being discussed when the first calls of alarm came in from confused and concerned astronomers, and the true significance of what had actually happened became known.

Using data retrieved from telescopic arrays at Jodrell Bank, Palo Alto, Mount Pleasant and others across the world, confirmed against existing stellar records and computational models of the local galaxy and beyond, it became apparent that for twenty seven minutes and fifty four seconds the Earth had somehow been out of sync with the rest of known time and space. In essence, the world as we knew it had winked out of existence during this period, and then returned as if nothing had happened.

For all intents and purposes during that short window of time, we had ceased to be.

The international investigation team was repurposed, a blank cheque written giving it it’s pick of resources and the best minds in their fields, all to investigate this one event and all sworn to the utmost secrecy. None of them needed to be told the panic that would ensue if this information
became public before a suitable, and hopefully reassuring, reason could be given for the event. Those that couldn’t keep silent were quickly and quietly silenced themselves.

Despite the various project names assigned to the sub teams, those involved began referring to the event in a half joking manner as ‘…the day God blinked’. In casual conversation between project members this was eventually shortened even further to just ‘the blink’.


After six rings, Ben finally answered the door.

“Mark! What are you doing here?”

“You invited me remember?”

“Did I?! How odd? Well, I probably had a reason at the time. It’s still good to see you anyway. Come on in!”

I’d known Ben since childhood. We attended the same schools for a while, before his crazily high IQ led him onto a fast track of higher education and beyond. We kept in touch though; his parents were sensible enough to realize he needed some grounding in the real world, and encouraged our friendship with the usual sleepovers and camping trips. Their smarts lay in forcing Ben not to let his social skills atrophy completely like a lot of very intelligent kids were wont to do. As a result, whilst he was frequently side tracked and forgetful, he still functioned in normal society with a degree of

After our respective schooling had finished we both moved into the IT industry, although at vastly different levels. For myself I now worked in tech support, mostly maintaining insurance systems for a range of small independent companies. Boring, but it paid well and allowed me to travel. He on the other hand was self-employed and preferred working from his ‘Apartment of Solitude’ as he called it, referring to himself as a ‘Consulting Technician’ (he’d gotten the idea from watching re-runs of ‘Sherlock’). His work was a lot more varied and advanced, and whilst he never openly admitted to hacking, he certainly had enough technical knowledge and experience to have been employed in the past by such names as Google, Microsoft and IBM when they needed someone to test the all new, unhackable security they’d just put in place, or track down those that had subsequently been able to breach their all new, unhackable security. He preferred the latter work he told me; it added the
‘thrill of the chase’, plus it usually paid better.

What was even less well known was the work he occasionally did ‘off the books’ for such groups as the Department of Defense and the NSA. He admitted his working for them was twofold: one, they wanted his expertise and brilliance, and two; it allowed them to keep tabs on his expertise and
brilliance. He didn’t mind this as he explained:

“Well, it keeps them happy knowing where I am and what I’m doing. Or at least what they THINK I’m doing.”, and then he’d grin and pass me the latest decoded email he’d intercepted. He didn’t do anything with the stuff he found, he just enjoyed the challenge.

To be completely honest, sometimes it was hard to pin down just who Ben was and what his motivations were from one moment to the next. I’d just grown up accepting him and his eccentricities, quickly coming to the conclusion his life was a complex pattern of impulses and ideas, woven together from threads that were as much madness as genius.

There was his belief that every time someone said ‘Abracadabra’, an angel lost its wings, or that the common cold existed as a vast, hive mentality that avoided detection by its elements constantly hopping from body to body. Mad crazy shit like that. Half the time I thought he was joking; for the rest I just hoped he had enough common sense to rein it in when in public.

Then there were the times he did and said things that ended up on the opposite end of that, when what he said made absolute, unnerving sense. On those occasions he spoke with a lucidity that seemed to cut through all the crap humankind had built around its certainties and beliefs, as if he’d
touched on some universal truth we should all by rights know. All I could do at those times was marvel at how someone with such a kaleidoscope for a brain, entertaining such a maelstrom of contradictory thoughts constantly, could suddenly bring all those elements together to produce those single blindingly white lights of truth.

Then he’d suddenly go off on a tangent, accusing his neighbours of being CIA agents trialling neurotoxins on the local cats and we’d be back to normal.

Still, I came at his summons. Despite the crazed theories and odd habits, it was definitely the most entertaining conversation around, plus his library of illegally downloaded films was truly a wonder to behold. That and he was my friend.

It was during a piece of work for NASA, idling through their secure systems looking for proof of Area 51 during his off time, that led him to first discover, and then piece together, all the facts concerning March 25th and the ‘blink’ found by the international team so far.

Being his only close friend he’d decided to fill me in on this ongoing conspiracy, mainly so he could show off his talents once more, hence the invitation. As he spoke he appeared completely oblivious to how my face was gradually growing more and more incredulous. He described what the
world’s space agencies and astronomers had discovered, and how a secret scientific think tank was now investigating what had happened. Physicists, Quantum theorists, Mathematicians…the whole spectrum of sciences, all focused on this one problem and the questions associated with it: what had
happened, why it had happened, and most importantly, was it likely to happen again, and if so, what was the risk of it being permanent.

He told me of the total news blackout and how any amateur astronomers or similar who now came to the same conclusions were to be either brought on board, treated as cranks, or disappeared with extreme prejudice. Their biggest fear was a mass panic he said, or the world’s religions taking
credit on behalf of their respective Gods and several genocidal wars kicking off as a result. As he said:

“There’s nothing more disconcerting I guess then not being able to trust your own reality. We’ve been raised in a world where it’s fine to distrust your government, your employers, even your family, but your own entire existence?! Definitely a recipe for chaos.”

“Places like CERN have been placed on almost permanent hiatus. The governments of the world have no proof experiments like the ones they were doing there are the cause, but then I suppose they had to point the finger somewhere until more evidence showed up. There’s a lot of theoretical
work being done now, but pretty much zero practical. I guess it’s only a matter of time before they get the scriptwriters in from Doctor Who to brainstorm a possible cause.”

He sighed at this, sat back in his swivel chair and span round, gazing at the ceiling seemingly lost in thought, then he slowly came to a stop and returned his gaze to me, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes:

“Then on the other side, you have all the religions…”

At this he paused again, looked around his cluttered desk, and then started building what looked like a tower of various bits and pieces. As it slowly grew in height, he continued speaking:

“Remember our bible classes? I liked the stories, if not the morality. I especially liked the story of Babel….”

The rising structure of books, hard drives, chocolate bars, magazines and other random items his hands could find in reach had risen to a height just below his chin. He added a few more items, adding to the precarious sway it already had. Pausing again, his hands not touching it but spread wide on either side ready to stop any imminent collapse; he attempted the voice of an old English vicar delivering a sermon:

“Man in his hubris decided to build a tower to God, so he may converse with his creator! God though, in his glorious wisdom, decided man should not be allowed to do this and took steps to rectify the situation. So he cursed mankind with the gift of many tongues!”

He smirked at this, his eyes never leaving his tower, and returned to his normal voice.

“Well, many a project, plan or peace has been ruined by the inability of people to understand each other. It might be that humanity is over reaching itself again. With the final proof of the existence of the Higgs-Boson, maybe God’s decided we’re getting too close again, and he’s selfish about his tricks. Time for another lesson perhaps?”

At this he slowly closed his hands into fists on either side of the precarious edifice he had created, then with a single finger gingerly pushed it near the top. With a crash, his metaphorical tower scattered across the table and the floor. He waited until the sound of the books and rubbish
falling had died away before speaking again, this time in a thoughtful voice.

“Maybe the ‘blink’ as they call it was God giving us a heads up, a warning to stop encroaching on his intellectual property, else risk the consequences.”

Then he grinned, his tried and true atheism once more reasserting itself.

“Personally, looking at all the facts so far accumulated, I believe the answer lies even further afield.” he said, a knowing smile on his face.

I took a comfort break at this point, shaking my head at this new conspiracy theory. When I got back, he’d moved on already, his head now buried in the side of a PC tower case now perched on a different desk he reserved for ‘mechanical endeavours’. It was quiet for a while, broken only by
his humming as he fiddled inside the case whilst I looked for somewhere reasonably clean to sit. Then abruptly he spoke again, his voice oddly masked by the case.

“As I was saying, I believe the answers they seek lie further afield. I have statistical proof in fact.”

“Statistics?! You?”

He’d often laughed at statistics in the past, and blamed them for 78.65% of the world’s ills (in his mad pedantry, he had indeed worked out a formula that he said proved this figure). That being said, he told me once he could destroy the world with a single spreadsheet, and in my more fatalistic moments I honestly believed him.

“I accept, statistics in all their perceived infallibility, are the most fallible things in the world.” he mumbled from inside the case, reaching aimlessly for a screwdriver on the desk next to him with a hand coloured orange and black from a mix of grease and Cheetos.

“Take a work of fiction and add numbers to it, and suddenly it becomes non-fiction. Add a pie chart and a graph and it becomes an inviolate truth.”

“Bollocks” said I, only half listening as I lounged on a large dirty bean bag littered with wrappers and the odd wire.

He’d then retracted his head from the case, looked me in the eyes and said with a devilish glint in his own:

“Pass it to the right people in the right places at the right time, and it becomes law.”

“Hmmm” I replied, deciding not to entertain his paranoid fantasies further in favour of a magazine I’d just found on the floor amongst all the other junk haphazardly discarded as part of his less than ordered, less than sanitary, lifestyle.

He grunted at my lack of enthusiasm for continuing one of his favourite topics, and buried his head back in the tower case once more before continuing anyway.

“However, in those cases I am referring to your basic, biased marketing, pressure group and political statistics. Now pattern recognition, that element within the field of otherwise exploitable statistics,
THAT I do have time for.”

Extracting his head again, he looked around the desk the case was on, shifting papers this way and that as he continued, partially lost in thought:

“You’ve heard of SETI of course….”

“Hold on…if we’re heading into alien territory, you can kiss my ass right here and now.”

He fixed me with a glare, and I threw my hands up in the air in resignation, muttering:

“I’m sorry, please continue oh knowledgeable one!”

“Thank you. SETI, the search for extraterrestrial life, one of their jobs being the analysis of signals bouncing in and around our local galaxy.”

“Of which they have never found any conclusive proof of intelligent life.” I reminded him pointedly. He ignored me.

“What if the patterns they’ve been looking for are wrong? What if you could analyze these seemingly random signals another way. What if there is a pattern, but its spread over a longer period so you don’t even see it as a pattern. Ah ha!”

Triumphantly his hand came out of a pile of books clutching a pad of post-it notes, scattering the books across the desk in doing so. Fishing a pen from his trouser pocket, I saw him scribble ‘To Do’ on the top note and slap it on the side of the tower’s case, before turning around to face me with an excited grin on his face.

“Have you been watching the Discovery Channel again? Is there a UFO special on this week?” I asked knowingly.

He looked at me indignantly, though I noticed he quickly closed a TV guide that had been open on his desk amongst the mess.

“What if I told you I had written my own pattern recognition algorithm? What if I told you that I had found a message in those signals?”

“Bullshit.” I said quietly, suddenly a lot less sure of myself, now more than a little shaken by what this meant if he had indeed succeeded in discovering a message from an alien race.

“Well, it wasn’t easy” he continued, feigning an air of false modesty, “…and I do have the NSA to thank. Although if they discover I’ve been running this algorithm in the background on their decryption
supercomputer, then I may have to leave abruptly, or apologize. You never can tell what mood they’ll be in one day to the next…”

“Ben. What about the message?” I said firmly, cutting him short, standing to face him.

“Oh. That.”

He went quiet, looking around evasively. My doubts quickly returned.

“What was the message Ben?”

“Well, it was short, and it is really rather impressive decoding anything like this obviously…”


He paused, and then said abjectly: “Hello. Are you content?”

There was a few seconds silence, before I started laughing uncontrollably, mostly out of relief. Ben looked indignant.

“Well, I think it’s a very poignant message. Better than ‘Prepare to be annihilated’.”

“Oh god….hold on a sec….I can’t breathe! You had me shitting myself for a moment there!”

“I take it then you don’t believe what I’ve found is a message from an alien race? Would you PLEASE stop laughing!”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Ahhhhhhh…..Ben, you’ve got to admit, if you were to imagine contact from another species, I think I’d be looking for something a little more, I don’t know, profound? I mean, we’ve sent out a gold disk giving a snapshot of the human race and our knowledge. Music, mathematics, you name it. And what do the hyper intelligent aliens send back? The equivalent of ‘Have a Nice Day!’ ”

“You don’t think it’s from outer space then?” he reiterated.

I looked at his pained expression and answered in a more reasonable voice:

“Look Ben, I’m sorry. I think your algorithm found a pattern that wasn’t there, and extrapolated meaning from it.”

Turning, I returned to the bean bag and my perusal of the magazine.

He stood there a few moments, and then he turned and flopped down in a large, comfortable swivel chair behind another desk, this one littered with laptops in various states of construction and destruction, connected by an array of cables in what appeared like haphazard fashion. Pressing the on switches of three of them, his face was illuminated in the telltale glow of their screens. His focus flitting between the screens and his fingers dancing across the keyboard in front of him, he had nevertheless decided to continue, and began outlining his newest theory.

“I disagree. I’ll go even further and state that this is an alien species with an interest in the human race. A species directly involved in the evolution of mankind.”

“Here we go. Are we really back on the ‘Engineers’ theory once more? Has Ridley Scott been sending you secret messages in his films again?” I muttered, not looking up from the page I was now reading.

He ignored this and continued:

“Think about it. The human body is an amazing machine. It regulates itself, heals itself, and has the ability to create more of itself through reproduction…”

“I thought you only believed in things you had experienced for yourself?” I asked; peering over the top of the magazine at him, my voice now openly amused. I saw him scowl before he continued with his monologue.

“As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, the human body is an amazing machine. And that is exactly what it is. A piece of technology, built using biological parts rather than mechanical ones. It is not however, a perfect machine.”

“What do you mean?” I asked despite myself.

“Well, think about it. It has its own defensive capabilities in the form of white blood cells to ward off illness, the ability to heal wounds, etcetera, etcetera. Occasionally though, this excellent piece of machinery goes wrong; it functions incorrectly. It overreacts to certain stimuli. It has a
faulty piece of code if you will.”

“And what’s that?”

“Why, cancer of course!”

“What?!” I asked, shocked despite myself. It was only another crazy conversation with Ben, but the word ‘cancer’ always sent an involuntary shiver down my spine. I’d seen enough of its effects on friends and family to be adverse to even its mentioning. Ben though, oblivious to my discomfort, had continued:

“Cancer is the body performing incorrect actions, creating cells where it does not need to. It’s not an attack from an external source causing this, but rather an internal failure of the biological system. A
mistake nothing more.”

“We have in essence, a design flaw, and if our God or Gods are supposedly infallible, then logic dictates we were not built by a benign omnipotent being, but rather are constructs of more fallible ones. Action should have been taken to rectify these errors. To complain if you will.”

Despite myself, I took another look over the magazine at him; nervous now for a reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on:

“What. Did. You. Do?”

“Why, I sent a message back telling them this of course!”


I hadn’t seen Ben in six months. Work had kept me busy in London, and he wasn’t one for texting or casual telephone conversations to catch up. Then one day he called me up suddenly to come visit.

By this time, snippets of information about ‘the blink’ had begun to leak out onto the internet, on even some of the more respected sites and journals. Most normal people saw it as just another mad conspiracy theory. Having spoken to Ben before though when he’d outlined all the data, the fact
that other sources were now relaying the same information sent chills through me. It was one thing for it being just another of his crazy theories, but quite another when a growing number of external bodies were now seeming to confirm the event’s existence.

This time when I rang his doorbell he answered on the first ring, but I wasn’t ready for the sight when he opened the door. He was haggard and tired, like he hadn’t slept in days, and his clothes were rumpled and dirty, even more so than normal. As I stood there I caught a look in his eyes. They were bloodshot and there were large, dark circles under them, but there was a calm I hadn’t seen before, which was echoed in his voice as he welcomed me in. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first, but then it dawned on me; I had seen and heard this kind of response before in those who were in the
final stages of terminal illness: acceptance. I felt my body prickle with unease; that chill that ripples across your skin when you stop thinking in the past or the future and all your attention is suddenly focused on the NOW because you know the world you’re used to is about to change in some
fundamental way.

I paused in the doorway, and looked him in the eyes. Then without thinking I drew him into a massive bear hug. Ben had never been one for physical contact in all the time I’d know him, but he accepted the hug without question, and I felt some of the tension release from him. We parted after a
short while and I asked him sincerely:

“Are you okay? Nothing wrong with you?”

“No…No…Nothing physically at least.”

“Good. Good, because you look like shit.”

He laughed weakly at that, and then quieted. We stood there silently for a few moments, before the thought that had been nagging at my mind since he’d invited me forced itself out:

“I’ve noticed on the web there’s been a lot of noise about this ‘blink’ thing you mentioned last time. I was wondering…did you get an answer?”

He smiled weakly, ignoring my question, inviting me in and simply pointing me to the large bean bag for me to sit, as I had done so many times before. If anything his apartment was even messier than the last time, but somehow the impression of organized chaos was gone. This was just mess that
had been left to accumulate, like the owner no longer cared.

As I sat down, he went over to a desk and fiddled with a laptop, moved some random items on the desk, almost like he was stalling. Then turning to face me, resting himself against the desk, he asked me in a vague voice:

“Do you remember what I was talking about the last time you visited?”

“You mean the alien thing?” I answered, trying to make my voice sound light, the smirk on my face forced and obviously fake. I’d given in to his suspicions and he knew it. Before he would’ve rubbed this fact in my face, but today he didn’t. Such things didn’t seem to matter to him anymore,
which made my voiceless fears even greater.

“Not just humanity, but all life on Earth, has been engineered. An external source created it, and maintained it. It is my belief…”, at this he uttered a dry, mocking laugh at his use of a word he had previously despised.

“It is my belief now that the Earth has experienced various ‘stages’ of life. There have probably been several of these stages, back from when Earth was first formed, up to and including today. Of these earlier ‘versions’ we have no substantial evidence of. The last one before us though, we do have several indicators lying around.”

He left it hanging, waiting for my mind to catch up. It didn’t take long, although I was surprised at how easily I was accepting what was possibly another one of his eccentric theories.

“You mean the dinosaurs don’t you?” I said quietly; his restraint somehow infecting me as well now.

A small smile arranged itself on his lips again, though the sadness never left his eyes.

“Indeed. Those big stumbling sods before us. For the sake of clarity, I’ve classed them as Version 5.0 of life on Earth. We are Version 6.0 I now have reason to believe.”

“What about your message, did you get an answer?” I asked again, a bit more impatiently.

“Not just my message. The Earth’s been sending radio signals and more out for quite a few years now. If we can find their signals as I’ve proven, they can certainly pick up ours, even the unintended ones.”

“What are you trying to say?”

“That they got our messages, and they took action.”

I tried to swallow now in a dry throat.

“What action?”

“You work in technical support. What is usually your first recommendation when something stops working correctly?”

“I don’t know…usually turning it off and back on again does the trick in the majority of cases…”

At this my voice trailed off as I realized what he was implying, what this said about March 25th and the lost 27 minutes and 54 seconds.

Ben started laughing, trailing off into a sad cough as he saw what he’d said take hold in my mind. Then he suddenly went off at a tangent, just like the old days, and I listened despite the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at what I was now thinking.

“Chariots of the Gods! Chariots of the frigging Gods! Imagine that. Aliens coming down to teach ancient civilizations new tricks. Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe Version 6.0 was still under warranty at the time and part of that warranty included on-site maintenance. Hell, my money’s on the Greek gods actually being extraterrestrial consultants sent down to fix bug problems. Makes you wonder which fucked up piece of code triggered Pompeii!”

“SHUT UP!” I suddenly raged. Maybe he was in one of his mad phases again, but I knew that he wasn’t. The sane, logical part of me didn’t want any more truth; knew I couldn’t handle any more.

I looked up, and Ben was staring at me, not in anger, but in sympathy. He settled down next to me on the bean bag, passing me a beer he had obviously just fished out of the small fridge he kept behind his desk. I took a long swig, let my breathing settle, and then passed it back. Taking that as a
cue to continue, he did, but quieter this time, less tinged with the hysterical note that had appeared to be emerging in his speech earlier, like he’d reached the peak of his madness and was now trailing off the other side.

“It would explain why so many people believed in pantheons of Gods back in the day. Alien engineers popping down to fix ‘the system’ whilst we were still covered. Just like Microsoft ending support for older versions of Windows though, maybe we just passed the date where Version 6.0 of
life on Earth was covered, so they stopped coming.”

He took a swig and passed it back, his voice now wistful, his eyes unfocused, trying to look across the unfathomable void to where he imagined our progenitors resided:

“And now, in this age of radio and microwave signals, the people of Earth are finally sending messages and emails that can be picked up by their ‘Gods’, bemoaning this and that failure with their bodies, their families and the world around them, demanding answers, and these messages
tumble out across the ether of space, picked up by some backwater tech support desk in some forgotten nebula. The number of messages reaches a critical mass, a statistical point where action must be taken, and some alien equivalent of a high school dropout named Gary checks a scrap of paper on his desk for the instructions to an age old piece of software…”

He downed the rest of his beer.

“…and then turns it off and on again.”

Silence reigned for a few minutes, during which he stood up and made another trip to the fridge, this time bringing back several more bottles. He settled back down on the bean bag and passed me one before he spoke again.

“I got a message back you know.” he said simply.

I looked at him incredulously, and then demanded:

“Jesus Ben! What did it say?!”

His eyes were dark, pausing a long while before reaching into his back pocket and slowly unfolding a piece of paper, mumbling something about ‘decryption software’, ‘language analysis’ and ‘Word auto-formatting’ before passing it to me. It read:



Thank you for replying in regard our recent query as to your ongoing happiness with your software. We passed on your multiple concerns to the relevant technical support helpdesk.

Unfortunately ongoing support for your current version of LIFE 6.0 has ended. The initial reboot of your hardware/software attempted previously appears to have not resolved your issue(s). Therefore we will be refreshing your system to previous stable release LIFE 5.3.

Your contract does not include backup/restoration of existing data, so all current data will be wiped post version LIFE 5.3.

Thank you for using LIFE and please contact us if further issues occur.

Best Regards.


“Refresh?” was all I could mutter, confusion and dread dulling my senses.

“Using the version numbering as a guide, my guess is that would be resetting the Earth back to the late Jurassic period.” he murmured thoughtfully, taking another swig of beer.

“I sent a message back of course, asking them not to do anything. I even couched it in the proper terms: ‘We have decided to continue with our current installation, please do not reboot nor refresh the system. Please ignore all other bug reports unless forwarded by me. Ben Glover, Sysadmin of Earth’. Hopefully they got it in time.”

“Bug reports?”



Then I looked at him again, the look of disbelief obvious in my eyes.

“Sysadmin of Earth??”

He didn’t meet my gaze, but rather sheepishly kept his eyes locked to his beer bottle.

“Well, I had to sound like I was in charge didn’t I?”

“Do you think they got your message?” I asked hopefully after a pause.

“I honestly don’t know. We can hope though. By my calculations we’ll know in the next couple of hours or so. It’s why I invited you over I guess. So we can watch the end together. Then again, we might just wink out of existence…” his voice trailed off.

Silence reigned again, broken only by our occasional sips. There wasn’t, in all truth, very much else to say.

After a while he finished his beer, rested it gently down next to him, and then yawned expansively, leaning back on the bean bag with his hands clasped behind his head and said matter-of-factly:

“Well to be perfectly honest, I don’t think the dinosaurs were given a fair enough crack of the whip the first time round. Only right they should be given another go.”

I turned in disbelief to argue with him at this irresponsible attitude, and then saw the barely suppressed laughter in his eyes. When all was said and done, what was there left to do but wait and see what happened, and laugh at the absurdity of it all? He started, and I joined in, till the tears were rolling down our cheeks.

And there we sat, laughing and drinking beer until our world ended… maybe.

Credit To – Charmingly Shallow


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