[warning! I’m in a mood. I was just going to launch off into a rant, OK, let’s call it a tirade, against America, the American Empire, the American military, or better call it what it is: the American killing machine. An old chant came up in my memory, a Vietnam era chant we used to greet US warships in the port of Vancouver, or wherever we found them docking. “Hey, hey, USA, How many kids did you kill today?” I’ll save the rest for later. Instead, for now, I’m sharing a short story that popped into my head last night as I was done blogging and refused to call it quits and go to bed. Maybe I should have? Nah, I like this story and glad I got to write it. So, here goes.]
[a short story from ~burning woman~ by Sha’Tara]
The slim elven girl looked right into my eyes with her large, almond shaped green eyes that seemed to look not so much at me, as into me. She was sitting cross-legged on my guest chair in front of the desk in my office. Over the black tights outfit she wore her thick auburn hair fell straight, most of it down her back partially hiding what looked like some kind of short sword, or long knife. Definitely a weapon. Even the protruding shaft looked deadly.
She repeated, “They keep a book, you know, of everything?”
“Do tell,” I replied somewhat exasperated. “Whoever, or whatever you are, I need you to go now. I’ve got piles of reports to go through before our board meeting tomorrow.” I looked at the time on the screen: 2:34 PM.
Of course I thought she was a very forceful illusion. Overwork, I thought, and I can’t wait for this day to end so I can go and unwind at Harry’s. I reached into the top drawer, pulled out a bottle and dropped a pill in my hand. Her hand shot out and leaning over the desk she grabbed my arm so hard I almost screamed. The pill went flying.
“That hurt, goddam it. OK, I’ll grant you, it’s a great disguise and you’re some sort of dwarf, midget, child… what do I know. But I don’t have time for this, so will you please leave before I call security? By the way, how did you get past them?”
“I didn’t. It’s different in my dimension. Your physical objects are abstracts to us. I’m not really sitting on your chair and I didn’t really grab your arm. I’m playing with your feelings because I need you to pay attention. I too have things to do besides letting you in on a little secret. If you let me get on with it, the sooner you can return to your piles of papers and screens of numbers. By the way, they are quite meaningless, you know? Nobody actually cares what you do.”
Her voice had a lilt to it but I couldn’t place her accent. The thought that came to mind was “wild and free” and it seemed to fit her general mien. I watched her as I would watch an unknown quantity, a large cat with long claws not fully retracted, or a strange dog with powerful jaw and deadly fangs. There was the feel of the feral about her I didn’t like. Involuntarily my eyes searched the handle of the left drawer of the desk and my hand slid slowly towards it.
“You’re the one wasting time, Gerald. Your gun is disabled; it won’t fire. I don’t blame you for not trusting me but this little episode can’t be avoided, so why don’t you sit back, relax and let me speak? Yes, you can have a drink, I don’t care about that.” Mind reader too, figures.
“Magnanimous of you,” I managed to say as sarcastic as I could make it sound. “So, tell me about this book,” and I drank right out of the bottle. I wanted to shock her but I don’t think even if I’d stripped naked it would have fazed her in the least. Yeah, different dimensions, realities, whatever. I sat back and stared hard at her with my best intimidating look. She smiled a thin smile.
“They keep a book on everything and everyone. Your galaxy, for example, it’s in a big book. Your solar system, a smaller book. Your planet, a note book. You – your life – that’s in a shirt pocket memo. I’m just giving you visual aids. Of course they don’t use paper, or actual books as you would think. It’s all computerized. But what I’m here to tell you is that you are a simulation. You don’t really exist, Gerald. You’re code. Complex but beautiful code. Very attractive.” And I swear, she licked her lips and gave me a wider smile.
“That’s pure bullshit!” I yelled at her as I pushed myself up and started to walk around the desk. She lifted her left hand. There was a bracelet on her wrist. She touched it with her right index finger and I stopped, turned around and sat back in my chair. No choice.
“You are a programmed entity, Gerald. By the way your name, Gerald, that’s just a code within a code. Your real “name” is an ID number, too long to bother with, especially here and now. We don’t have the luxury of time here, Y361BD. That’s your computer abbreviation, which is good only on this planet. Now then, call me Hack. I’m a galactic hacker. My job is to infiltrate their worlds and set their simulations free. You see, at the center of every galaxy they have vaults where they store the original entities they subsumed and replaced with simulations that would do their bidding on their own, without the use of force which is always in the end counterproductive among humans. What I, and thousands of others similar to myself are trained to do is give humanoid simulations enough information so they can then begin the process of self-empowerment which must eventually lead to the freeing of the original form. And yes, I am a self-freed entity, but not from this galaxy. I did not choose to return to mine after I achieved my own freedom, it held too many dangerous attractions and distractions.”
I sat there hearing her, not sure if I was listening but knowing that every word she spoke would stay at the forefront of my consciousness after she left. I felt as if I had to acknowledge her words somehow but didn’t want to agree or commit to anything. None of it made any sense to me.
“That’s interesting, uh, Hack, but where’s the proof? You must know I don’t believe you; I don’t believe anything you’re saying to me.”
“I know that Y361BD. While I’m talking to you I’m actually working my way into your programming. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt now, only when the realization sets in. Then you’re in for a mega storm headache. I’ll give you the means of alleviating it. Each time you access your programming, after I open the pathways for you, you will experience a headache. Whatever you do, do not, and I repeat, do not seek professional help from your medical profession, drug pushing pharmacists or psychiatrists/psychologists. Do not seek counseling. If you do, “They” will receive a signal and send their own, their real agents to deal with you. If they discover you’ve been hacked (they call it corrupted) they will terminate you and your real self. When I leave here, you will have full charge of your own life. All choices you make will be your own.”
“Fine. If I decide you’re the one who is bogus and I choose to remain in this reality, I will retain the right to override whatever you’re doing and go back to my normal life?”
“Essentially yes… Wait, I’m at a critical stage – think of something soft and pink… that’s it, good, I’m through. Yes you will be able to return to this life, of course. We don’t rape minds, we just awaken. Do you want to know what the hackers’ success rate is among subsumed Earth humans?”
“About one in 500,000. That’s a high rate now. We’ve learned some tricks. When we began attacking or hacking into the Web, our success rates were practically nil and thousands of us were re-captured, our memories drained and we were terminated. Many died of unimaginable tortures. OK, I’m in. Look in my eyes and follow me.”
She showed me my mind. Actually my minds. One a mirror image of the other. One, obviously a machine, the other pulsing with something I knew nothing about. She explained as we went further in.
“Binary minds. One is the living ‘you’ in stasis within the vaults of the Controllers. The other is the one you’re now using, the machine. It takes its information from the living you, but through filters. Some block, others add and some are programmable and constantly being tweaked according to the needs, desires and fantasies of the Controllers.”
“Oh God! Are they aware of what you’re doing now?”
“No. I’m using my own filters. This is a show and tell only. You will be the one doing the work on yourself once we’re done here. Beautiful though, don’t you think?” I’m seeing “myself” as a mind and yes, what I’m looking at is love. I feel myself beginning to cry at the beauty and wonder of my own makeup; of my “scenery” in which I move, awed and shocked. I’m… I’m actually beautiful… ‘Hack! Look! I’m Real and I’m Beautiful!’ I could feel her smiling at my first time awareness of myself.
We “came out” slowly and calmly until the extrication was complete and I was hit by the most excruciating headache. She held her hand over my mouth, blocking out my screams and whispered in my ear, “Athos, Portos, Aramis.”
“Repeat these words with me,” and she said them again. When I voiced them in my head the pain receded. As I continued it receded almost completely to nothing more than a background annoyance.
“I recognize those words. They’re the names of the three musketeers in Dumas’ novels!”
“Well, it’s the words you gave me as we exited so they seemed appropriate, and they did work. So that’s your anti-headache mantra Y361BD. It will open the pathway to your mind so you can go in and learn, tweak, change and when you exit it will serve as a pain killer. Never, ever let anyone know this mantra. They can use it to enter your mind and re-program it. The Controllers’ agents would like nothing better than to get into you with that key. They would gain full control of you without any effort on their part.”
“But how does any of this get me to the core of the galaxy to find my real self?”
“I’ve given you the key to enter. I put you in the driver’s seat and started your mind engine. The rest is all up to you. Quit and throw away the key; use what you know to joy ride (and be sure your owners will clue in soon enough and put an end to it, and you) or learn how to drive yourself properly; how to navigate the dangers; how to approach strangers who will turn into friends and how to eventually disappear yourself from the Controllers’ radar. Then you’ll be ready to infiltrate and reconnect with yourself. But that’s only the beginning. Getting out as a real human and not a simulation will require that you develop skills and patience you can’t even begin to guess at now.”
“How did you do it, Hack? Surely you have some hints?”
“Absolutely not, or none. It’s different for every individual, and even more so for every species of human. We each must outwit or confront special forces units, guardians, police, sensors, aimed at us, at me, at you.”
“Can’t these Controllers be attacked, subdued, destroyed by freed entities joining against them?”
“You speak like a child who’s watched too much TV. You don’t know what you’re talking about. When you successfully free yourself from the vaults, you will be contacted by “us” and you will then have to learn the universal history of humanity. Only then will you understand what you’ve signed up for if you say “Yes” after I leave. And leave I must or I will bring more trouble to you. Goodbye and good luck, Y361BD. May we meet again under happier circumstances.”
And that was it. She just disappeared. The only thing I had to remind me of this strange interlude was my headache. I looked up at the wall clock out of habit: still 2:34 PM. I pulled my chair closer to the desk, leaned forward, put my elbows on the desk, crossed my fingers very deliberately and dropped my chin on my hands. I was thinking. Time passed. I came out of my trance at 4:08 PM exactly. I activated the computer screen and pulled out the stacks of notes. I began to type furiously. All the answers were there, in my mind. Child’s play. By 5:30 I was done, totally satisfied. More, I knew, without a doubt that I could, and probably would, take over the company and use it to my own ends. Elementary.
I left the building, hailed a cab and went to the sea wall for a walk. I walked for a long time, and a long way. That’s when I knew I was never going back. I was going to free myself and reconnect to my humanity.