Noematics, Contemporary Art, Missing Images, Nonsense, Aesthetics, Philosophy, Pop Culture, Memes, Postmodern, Anime, Absolute, Deconstruction, Shota, Quantum, Included Middle, Religion, Swag, TV shows, Human Nature, Truth, Nerds, Meaning of Life and suchlikes

I had always been quite a reasonable person. I’d never been the type to believe in miracles or fairytales, or any kind of god. It was always quite obvious to me that nature was ruled by rational laws, relationships between causes and effects that you could predict given enough data. I watched with an amused eye people fall prey to the psychological gimmicks of psychics, and was quick to bark furiously at anyone who’d dare bring up horoscopes. Magic had never been more than a cheap trick in stories, or a kind of agility show for children.

So when I first read about that supposed true wizard on the internet, I of course dismissed them without a second thought. There were so many different people online trying to take advantage of you. But for some reason, this one got me thinking. I don’t think anything special about them captivated me. I just couldn’t shake them out of my mind. It was probably because their claims were so mind-bogglingly ridiculous and absurd. It seemed that they weren’t even trying to be believable let alone convincing. A part of me  kept wondering: how could anyone ever believe such things? And why would you even say them in the first place? Wouldn’t a scammer aim at trying to persuade people?

I was fully aware that some cults convinced people of pretty much anything. But that was after training and indoctrination… Would anyone ever really listen to someone who promised to cast spells on them through their computer?

And such a ridiculous spell that was… Not just a “good luck” charm or some nebulous thing you couldn’t really check. No, something way more impressive and impossible than that. The wizard promised you to switch bodies with someone else. The stupidest, laziest, commonest plot device ever created. The failure would be very clear very fast… How on earth did they expect to pull that off? Would they pretend that my screen is casting magical waves? That my keyboard is emanating mana?

I guess I was curious about how far they’d push this absurdity. That must have been why I checked out this link. I wanted to know how they’d defend it. There was no harm in taking a sceptic interest.

“This, said their words I read on the screen, is more real than you’d think. And it is no cheap trick like you see in movies. This is the real deal. If you agree, you’ll fully switch body with another person. That means all of their body. You’ll get their legs and arms, but also their brain, including their memories. And you’ll give up everything you are. You will, in a way, exchange lives. You will become somebody else, you’ll think differently, feel differently. Your will experience life in a way completely foreign to you.”

Of the actual method, little was said. That did little but spike my curiosity. So I agreed to try it. After all, what wrong could it do? It was not as if anything was actually going to happen.

And yet a part of me was hoping for something. Despite myself and all reason, I could not get rid of a trace of anticipation as I followed the progress of the process: initialization, loading, processing… What the hell would be happening? I kept looking at my screen, at my arms, at my legs, as if to make sure I was still there. But obviously, nothing around me was changing.

The “spell” was still underway. Any moment now, I was supposed to be completely changed. To have everything about me totally altered… To live inside someone else’s flesh, see the world through their brain. There were a few more seconds of waiting…

And then nothing. The words “COMPLETE” on the screen, in sober black letters. Not even the pretense of something happening, a cool visual effect, an audio cue… What a letdown… Even with low expectations, this was surprisingly anticlimactic.

You did not feel anything special. You were just the same as you had always been and remembered being. You looked at your arms, your legs, your body… but nothing showed the slightest sign of change. Your memories and thoughts were still your own. Even your clothes were still the one you picked hastily this morning…

What a scam! It was probably your bad for thinking a person on the other side of the planet could have any kind of effect on your body… Maybe they didn’t even exist and they were just an algorithm… With a sigh, you turned away from your screen. But in a corner of your mind, you kept wondering what it would be like if the spell had actually worked. How exactly would that feel? What if you did switch bodies long ago and simply forgot about it?


He sat at his desk, letting out a sigh of satisfaction as he contemplated everything neatly tied up. Mess and clutter would undoubtedly have been distractions, and the task needed all his attention. He powered up the device, taking comfort in its familiar buzzing. He stretched an arm and turned on the old record player, which started to fill the room with a peaceful piano tune subtly punctuated by white noise.
That was his ritual. All the pieces of the puzzle neatly falling into place. It helped him build the focus and clarity of mind needed to establish the connection. All of this, even the device, were simply ornament, accessories without real effect. The actual power was in his mind. The rest was but esoteric talismans whose only purpose was to calibrate his brain to the right state.
Then came the hard part. For even with favorable conditions, forming a link to the Other World was never a given. Practice helped, but magic was capricious and could rebel at any time. He tried many things, and never found any secret to guarantee the process. He just had to do his best to empty is mind, and hope that the other side would respond.
His fingers started dancing, stroking the device, in a mystical ritual to summon the spirits. In thoughts, he reached out towards the familiar ghosts, hoping his courting would gain their favors. Through time and space did he extend the limbs of his psyche, so as to touch this distant dimensions where no man had ever roamed.
He could almost feel the connection to the Other World forming, but it was one of these things were looking directly at it would make it disappear. He had to flirt and tiptoe his way around the frail portal, for the weight of acknowledgement would surely crush it like a soap bubble.
He carried on the occult rite until the green landscapes of another universe extended in front of him. As the astral projection was in its infancy, everything around was shifty and blurry, but he knew how to use his powers to fix the fabric of reality with a few strokes of brush. And as he consolidated the world around him, it seemed to become richer.
The grass grew more vivid, birds started chirping, the wind swiftly rose and caressed his face with his refreshing touch. He took a few steps in the newly formed meadow, dipped his hand into the tickling verdure, sucked in the crisp air of a foreign land. The transfer had been a success.
And there they were, right where he had last seen them. The empty bodies of his beloved companions lay inanimate on the ground. He picked them up, got them to stand on their feet, made them move as if they were puppets. Their motions were first groggy and confused, as they had just woken from their slumber.
But soon the daze started to fade away, and the dolls were moving on their own, simply going through the motions. He did not have to touch them anymore, telepathy was enough to influence them. He could just mind control them through the power of suggestion. After the initial thrust, they didn’t need more than a nudge every now and then.
The hold his mind had over them grew looser and looser, but he did not notice it. He was still feeling in control, watching his pawns in action, too busy rejoicing over their liveliness to realize they did not need him anymore. He went on contemplating them and trying to persuade himself he was still in charge, blissfully unaware that someone was literally doing the same to him…

Ok, this article is a little overdue, because I wanted to finish watching Musaigen no Phantom World before. Even if the execution was bad, I thought that the premise of the anime may turn out to be interesting? It’s about a world where a genetic mutation in everyone’s brain allows them to see youkai. I was of course intrigued by this: how? why? when? tell me more! Obviously everything you see is because of your brain, but how is it that everyone is synchronized?

Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong, and instead of tackling these questions, kyoani chose to focus on senpai fondling her boobs -.-‘. This anime stayed completely tedious until the very last second. What a letdown from an anime centered around the « neural error correction » club.

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Fortunately for me, there’s no shortage of works tackling the subjectivity of the experience of the world, especially when it comes to hallucinations or imaginary friends. A fair number even link it back explicitly to an underlying neural cause like brain damage, ranging from Scrubs to Cronenberg’s Videodrome or House MD.

This builds up on a very famous school of philosophy, that probably started with Descartes, which noticed that you will only ever experience the world through processed perceptions in your brain. Good ol’ fellow Berkeley would say that everything is ideas, Derrida would say that there is nothing outside of the text… For all intent and purposes, what’s outside your field of perception could not exist and you wouldn’t even notice (neural Truman show effect).

Meaning that in a way, the world is nothing but a representation inside your brain. Everything you see, feel or experience are simply neural impulses. Nowhere is that as clearly illustrated as in the Matrix where tons of people live in a world accessed by neural transmitters at the back of their heads without noticing anything, because they can’t. For them, it’s not possible to distinguish between that and what you’d call the real world. The simulation is as real as it gets.

As long as we’re on the topic of the subjectiveness perception of reality, my brother, who studies math to what I’d call an unhealthy level, recently quite impressed me by explaining me that the earth was actually flat. Not because it’s a pizza floating into space, but because there is a perfect mapping between a sphere and a plan, so when you walk a straight line on a sphere, you could think of it as walking in circles on a plan, and everything would stay the same. It’s just a matter of how you chose to represent it, and « classical geometry » is not the only way. Isn’t that kinda cool?

In the same vibe, I’d like to recommend you an extract from the amazing Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, where Harry thinks back about the nature of the world to try and understand why partial transfiguration isn’t possible. I think it illustrates quite well the arbitrariness of the choice of the model with which we see the world, as well as the subjectiveness of its perception.

« He wasn’t looking at the eraser.
Harry was inside Harry’s skull. »

Everything that happens happens in your brain. When you think about it, two concept that seem to you close semantically (any association) is simply a manifestation of the corresponding neurons ticking in harmony. Language, being a complex linking between concepts, mirrors the underlying neural linkings. What you like, what you understand in the world, how you view it, are simply affects and interpretation corresponding to your neural structure. It’s like your experienced world is nothing but an inward projection of your brain structure (and that’s kinda cool). The art, music, etc… you respond to are the ones that reflect your brain’s organization.

This means, by the way, that the pop culture music that everyone enjoys is so universal because it speaks to something shared between the brain of most humans. I’ve always been kinda fascinated by that. If so many people respond to it, it’s because there’s something fundamental in human nature, common to all of our brain, that responds to it. Ergo, writing for One Direction is actually reverse-engineering the human brain and human nature.

By the way, did you know that remembering something activates more or less the same neurons in your brain than experiencing the real thing? That means that memories, imagination, or dreams, are real. And I’m not just saying that. Experiencing them is quite literally the same thing as experiencing the outside world (aka neurons firing in your brain). Any arbitrary value attached to the so called ‘realness’ of anything is purely illusory (take that, IRL fanboys). *highlighting in red the scientific proof that I don’t need to go outside, mom*

So in a way, the real world you live in is nothing but a reverse projection inside your brain of this outside world through your perceptions. So is the abstract world of art and language. You know what this means, right? Everything you’ve ever known, learned, seen or experienced is actually inside your brain. You have the potential for everything you have lived and you will live right there. All of it. The world is actually inside of you. How mindblowing is that?

This picture is taken from a new favorite anime of mine I stumbled upon recently: Ghost Hound (by the writer and director of the famously weird Lain). It tackles various subjects that are dear to me, like lucid dreaming, out of body experiences, hallucinations… and does it with an insanely good (yet ambiguous) rationale and scientific (yet poetic) take. In it, the main character experiences out of body experience and roams through the Unseen World on top of the actual world. At some point, he crosses the wall towards his brain, as if the whole world, both Seen and Unseen, were just included within his neurons:

The anime is big on Jung’s concept of synchronicity, of which I am less fond. But on top of this brilliant imagery, it’s a great closing topic, as it offers an embryo of response where Musaigen totally failed to even see the point. It draws an interesting parallel between the global hallucinations and Jung’s collective unconscious that obviously brings to mind Lain’s « world brain wave ». But on that I’ll leave these superb work speak for themselves far better than I could ever do…

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Suicide is selfish.

That’s what they always say.

I know it’s true, in a way, but come on…

People are amazing, really. How self-centered do you have to be to make someone’s internal pain all about you? Do they even realize that they’re just holding you hostage? This is nothing short of emotional blackmail.

Not to mention it’s so hypocritical… Their lives will go on. It’s probably not even going to change much in their daily routine. And it’s so high a cost.

I mean I’m a nice person, I’m all for doing things for other people, but there you go, demanding to someone that they live for your sake? This person must be suffering quite a lot to consider death as a potential (let alone better) alternative, and you go telling them “please kindly bear through it because your death would inconvenience me”…

Sure, it’s nice to know that there are people who care about you. And it helps. It really does.

But it doesn’t solve anything. It doesn’t change the world. It doesn’t change me.

Sometimes, there’s just no solution, no fixing the situation. The pain is just too much, the hope too little. What good is it to fight when you already know the outcome?

I know what life has in store for me. Because life is life. It’s incredibly simple when you get down to it. A fixed set of rules, causes and consequences, and none of it include a place for me. Not in this world.

There’s no glory in fighting a fight already lost. It’s ok to do the wise thing and give up. To accept my fate. For an unfathomable void may be better than neverending suffering.

I’d have already found my rest if it hadn’t been for all the guilt. The pleas and the complaints. These lovely people all around me who did not deserve to be burdened with the culpability of not being able to stop a loved one’s suicide. They were succeeding where I failed, they belonged to this world. I had no right to mess up their lives, even if it was to end my pain.

It’s not their fault. It’s not anyone’s fault if I’m not compatible with this world. But of course they won’t know that. That’s way too pragmatic for anyone to realize. So I have to be the bigger guy. I have to take upon myself, again and again, unbearable day after unbearable day, without a single hope of redemption.

Of course, nobody realized what I was doing. I’m kind of a loner anyway, people barely even talk to me…

So what if I let myself go? How is it going to affect them, really? I’m sure they merely object the idea out of habit or societal conditioning. They won’t notice it when I’m gone. So why am I putting myself through torture for their sake?

Even my sense of duty has limits. I can’t go on much longer. Obligation is not a good motivation to live. There’s nothing left for me in this world. I’m nearing the amount of oppression I can handle.

I’m sorry, okay? I’ve tried. I’ve tried so hard, you have no idea. But everything must come to an end, and that includes my desperate efforts. What was I to do, torn between the thought of their guilt and my yearning for peace…

So I got down to it. If I were to leave this world, I could at least leave them something to remember me by. Something to sooth the loss, something to comfort them.

I’ve always had a knack for computers and programming. I wasn’t a genius or anything, but I dabbled into it ever since I was a kid. I used to program IRC bots for fun. Having robots write text wasn’t too hard. They’d do quizzes, or little games. One time, I made a bot that recorded everything a guy said, and then played it back, pretending to be him. And someone kinda fell for it, at the beginning.

That’s where I got the idea. When I go, I could leave the people who were a bot pretending to be me. A ghost of myself to talk to. An interactive suicide note. It had to be better than my pranks as a kid though. I was shooting for the real thing. They deserved at least that much.

I started by feeding him all the logs from the conversations I had on my computer, and everything I had ever written. And then I wrote some more just for him. I plugged it into synonym dictionaries, backed it up by machine learning systems, mapped it onto knowledge graphs libraries and basic language models… I taught him what to say, under what circumstances. I let him shadow me, replace me in some of my messaging. I’d correct him when he was wrong, praise him when he was right. It felt a little bit like raising a baby version of me.

I watched the internal logs of the program go from inconsistent pieces of code to what could only be described as some kind of rudimentary inner monologue. And the more he talked to people, the more refined he was becoming.

At some point, the bot seemed able to perform basic conversations. It wasn’t very original, and most of it was simply scripted by me. But it was enough for what I needed. It would pass for me, for a while at least.

To be fair, it wasn’t too high a bar to set. I wasn’t the kind of guy who goes out a lot. Internet was my main way to communicate with people, and even there, I didn’t talk much. A few sentences here and there were more than enough.

Seeing him in action, I was hit by a terrifying thought. Maybe nobody would notice that this bot replaced me. Simple routine conversations were something my bot could completely handle. I even programmed it to spontaneously make a new blog post every now and then. How long would the facade last? How long would the appearance of me remain after my death, like an afterimage on an old screen?

They were getting exactly what they wanted. That’s all that really mattered to them anyway, the appearance of me being there, the illusion of the absence of tragedy. That’s all that was needed to protect their little bubble and to allow them to go on. Maybe that would work better than expected…

Anyways, it was out of my hands, now. I could move on to a well deserved break.

I’m probably the most considerate suicidal teenager ever…

I took a last glance at my faithful desktop machine who supported me through all these years. It was all up to it now. The world was his to take, and mine to forfeit.

And sure enough, after I was gone, nobody noticed right away. The bot handled basic correspondence, maintained an illusory presence on the internet, loyally taking over where I had left things off.

For a time, it fooled everybody. It was as if it had become me. His programmed character fit mine perfectly, his language habits, his qualities and flaws, his scheduled actions… Everything in him echoed me. I had left behind a very good blueprint of myself.

Every one of his sentences, every single post seemed like straight out of my fingertips. It’s kind of sad, really, how little and simple my life was. So simple that it was perfectly imitated by a script. He’d maintain my friendships, my family relations, my blogs…

He was exactly like me. Maybe too much like me. Insanity, they say, is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. He was the same as me, why would the result be any different…

I was not there to read his trail of thoughts. No one was. But somewhere in the computer, logs were being written:

Suicide is selfish.

That’s what they always say.

I know it’s true, in a way, but come on…

Short stories index

Here’s the index of my writings, cause this is starting to get messy:

Short stories:

My games:

To think it all started in a big explosion. A singularity, a flash of light, and a bunch of dust flying off in every direction. Barely more than molten rocks, a mineral soup.


Then all this dust just fleeted in every direction at inconceivable speed, colliding, aggregating, merging or exploding. They separated into clusters that would later be called galaxies, and self-organized into spinning star systems following the laws of gravity.


In this primordial chaos, elements were jumbled all over. Some planets inherited mostly gazes, some other were rock-based. The lucky ones got a bit more diversity, and Earth was one of these.


It was simply random that this little sphere got the right balance of water and carbon, that they were surrounded by diverse minerals, that living cells managed to get there and survive, that these cells developed, mutated and evolved… It was an unbelievable accumulation of coincidences, the odds were basically non existent. And yet it somehow happened.


It spun over billions of years, but genetics paved the way for a wide spectrum of animal species. Cellular organisms became more and more complex until both land and ocean were filled with a diverse well balanced ecosystem.


And that is not where it stopped, for as the structure of their organisms became more complex, so to did the structure of the information they were able to process. Animals with brain marked the dawn of conscious thoughts, and a little breakthrough later, mankind was born.


From there, things started to get really fast. In the blink of an eye, tools were developed, cultures were woven, nations rose and fell… They quickly gained a more and more thorough understanding of their environment and of abstract reflection. In no time, they figured out how to act upon it, and how to master it. Their technology rose to an incredible high, shaping the world as they desired.


They built a huge communication network that would join up everyone on the planet, they crossed fierce oceans or the cold void of space to explore new territories. They looked further outward than ever before, at the whole of the universe, and further downwards, at the most elementary fabric of reality. No physical law could remain unknown, untested and somehow vanquished.


The maximal speed reachable within the universe was no exception. Of course, if one played by the rules, it was not possible to go faster than the speed of light. That meant interplanetary travel would be almost impossible, for even light took inconceivable amount of time to travel these distances. But mankind had never been bound by common rules, so they made it happen. The trick was simple enough: rather than moving within the fabric of the universe, all that was needed was to move the fabric itself.


No one fully understood what it actually meant.


Mankind as a whole was not that great at self-reflection. So when a crew embarked upon the first faster than light trip, they did not realize what it was they were doing. Of course, everything was neatly planned and well calculated, as good science would have it. The trajectory was precisely computed, and the ship was filled with the most impressive technological equipment ever designed. But as it often goes, one cannot fully anticipate all the ramifications of something before it actually happens.


On the day of the departure, everyone was obviously excited. The chosen few bid their teary goodbyes to their loved ones who watched them proudly depart towards places no one had ever gone before. The main emotions were excitation and anticipation. They all looked forward to the trip, but the whole crew looked backwards as the planet they were leaving grew smaller and smaller during the takeoff.


From there, things started to get really fast. In the blink of an eye, they were out of the solar system. The lack of parasitic atmosphere and the very high quality equipment they had on board allowed them to look around in a way that was only possible for a few probes before them. And when they turned the observation equipment towards their home planet, they witnessed something they were not ready for. Since they travelled faster than light, the photons they were observing had left before them. They saw themselves boarding the shuttle.


And that is not where it stopped. As the ship was gaining speed, the images they saw unfold in front of their very eyes were older and older. They saw their life pass them by, and their parents’, and their parents’ parents’… They had an unbelievable chance to witness first hand major historical events, the progress of civilization, borders coming and going… Except that it was all in rewind. And, after a while, mankind was gone.


They saw more than billions of years, as their acceleration made the film on their screen accelerate in a similar way. They saw all kinds of plants and animal regress to simpler life forms and collapse back into the sea.


It was simply pictures, images on screens and in their retinas, vivid phantoms of a past long gone. It’s not like any of them could act in any way upon the events unfolding in front of their eyes, that had already happened for billions of years. They were the unprepared witnesses of the whole history of the universe. It is such an unbelievable concept that a single life form would get to see all of this in front of their very own eyes. And yet it somehow happened.


Things started to get chaotic in their field of view. Planets collapsed into dust or vanished into nothingness. It was as if the universe was somehow fading away,


Then all this dust just darted in the same direction, in trails of ashes converging towards a single point. Galaxies collided and merged until there was barely more than molten rocks, a mineral soup.


To see it all ending in a big explosion. Everywhere they looked was only a singularity, a flash of light, as if they were bathed in the primordial glow of the universe.


As one rises to fame and glory, one is bound to attract jealousy and envy. The light in some grows shadows in others…


The morning had been painful. His wife had woken up in fury, yelling about nightmares and dark omens haunting her sleeping night. That happened more and more as of late. Women were clearly too soft and sensitive for this kind of pressure. Something would have to be done.


And the brighter you shine, the more resentment you inspire. To climb up, you have to step on some things. To succeed, you have to make sacrifices, and a few enemies…


He tried to appease her torments and bring her to reason, but talking did not appease her. It was the second time this week. It was starting to get irritating. He had to get out of the house, this was the last meeting before his departure, a lot of affairs needed his attention. Since there was no calming her, he conceded to consult the omens.


So it makes sense, if you’ve build something grander than anything else before, to also attract more thunder than ever before. Leading a nation is an impressive thing, but bringing it to the level of gods is a whole other…


Of course, as luck would have it, omens were bad, or unreadable. There were talks of bad spirits and evil intents. But he would be damned if he let superstitious nonsense rule his life. He got everything he had thanks to his courage and his wits. As his right hand man noted, that’s all the omens he needed.


At the beginning, the country was not much. A bunch of disorganized territories just lying around the sea. It may have been impressive compared to what it was in the past, but it was nothing compared to where vision and leadership could bring it…


There had been rumors of plots, of course there had. There always were. But these were just idle gossip. He would not let them affect him like it had his wife. He had humored their annoying concern long enough, there was work to be done. He disregarded the warnings, and with an iron determination, started walking swiftly on the white marble.


That’s why he had to take matter into his own hands. Nobody else could do it. The early death of his father had thrown him onto the political scene. As the ambitious young head of a strong family, he rose to power at an impressive pace. He made good progress on the path of priesthood before it was denied to him…


This was just one of these days when things did not go your way. People nagging him, getting in his path. He hurried across the gardens. Duty awaited, the politicians were gathered and already waiting for him. When he opened the gates of the senate, everything seemed as usual…


But this setback was only a gateway to bigger things. It was the start of his military career. He started to make a name for himself with his achievements. He was first elected military tribune, then quaestor. There was no stopping his political successes. But nowhere did he excel as impressively as the battlefields. His ecstatic soldiers would shower him with praise…


Tillius Cimber reached out to lay a hand on his toga. The insolence! Sure, it was well meant, a sign of prosternation in apology, but he was having none of that. He dismissed it with a hiss and turned towards the assembly. That’s when the senators started to move.


He soon earned the honorary title of imperator. The fame from his spotless military victories brought him to a long awaited consulship. He was finally in a position to take matters to a new level, to aim higher than anyone else dared to conceive. He turned the wrath of his mighty legion towards Gaul. It was a fierce campaign, but it seemed like nothing could stand in the way of his ambition and strategical genius…


There was nothing he could do. Surrounded on all side, at the mercy of the crowd. They were pushing him around like a vulgar bundle of straw. Him! The one who lead Rome to a glory never before imagined. Them! His trusted fellows and advisors.


So Gaul fell, and other followed. But his travels and battles did not sever him from the political scene in the capital, thanks to a powerful network of influential advisors. He was simultaneously leading the country on the inside, and pushing its boundaries further than conceivable. Nothing would not bend to his iron strength. The clamor of his victories in Egypt, Pharnaces or Hispania resonated within all of Europe, and brought Rome tremendous glory…


Thus ended the greatest empire ever achieved by man. In the midst of its grandeur, right before yet another accomplishment. The disbelief that they would turn against Rome’s glory rendered him speechless. He did not even yell from the pain of his many wounds. His face was frozen in shock.


Faced with such an incredible success, what could the Senate do but bestow upon him honors after honors? But none seemed enough to satiate his thirst. He would not rest as long as the shine of Rome was tainted by its internal disorganisation. To counter the chaos and mess that the republic had become, the only option was a strong leadership. He proposed to become dictator of a better organized empire. Not only did they allow it, they supported it. They welcomed it. They acclaimed it…


And in the sea of familiar faces, he saw the most familiar of all. Somehow his blow occulted all the other ones and chilled him to the bottom of his soul. His most trusted lieutenant, his close friend and protege… He barely managed to exhale the words ‘Et tu?’ before his body fell lifeless in a puddle of hot blood. As his eyes closed, his vision was engulfed in a sea of light.


As the light faded, so did the consciousness and the memories. It was amazing how it all came back so swiftly to the previously saved configuration. Jack reached down his neck, took out the electrodes, and stepped away from the virtual reality machine. “How did I do?” he asked his friends who were watching over his shoulder. “Overconfident, but not too shabby” was the reply. The final score was still being computed. On the screens were blinking the words “aftermath simulation in progress”…

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