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Search and destroy

Over the years, the squad had become increasingly proficient at its chosen task. What had begun as a simple joke, an offhand gesture, a token remark, had grown to become a whole reason for being. First it had been conventional spelling, then grammar, then – in a surprise move – avocadoes. Emboldened by these successes, they moved on to more abstract targets. The job market, the notion of living in the pieces of real estate you bought, the traditional family structure. Entire social and economic structures, once thought to be the very foundations of our society, had fallen by their hand.

With each kill, the Millennials grew more powerful and confident. And now, at the height of their conviction, they knew just what to do. They had the next target in their sights.

The scent of lavender had to die.

The visible hand

For every hobby, there is an equal and opposite counter-hobby. For some people, this is more true than others, and it is especially true for this one particular person. His main purpose in life was to enter into fandoms of the most various kinds, and then introduce subtle yet perceptible quirks which over time would come to define the communities in question. Small gestures, words and habits of contextual emphasis which make sense to those of the in-group, but increasingly little sense to those in the out-group.

Granted, this is a process that occurs naturally within any grouping with a sufficient density of communicative frequency. His specialty was to find the specific points where this process took place and ever so gently nudge it along. A word of encouragement here, a nod of acknowledgement there, a callback to previous occurrences after just enough time to jog everyone’s memory. It was subtle, discreet and – to a surprising extent – super effective.

What he did not know was that he had been found out, and ever so gradually accrued a fandom of his own. The fandom did not stalk him per se, but it did recognize his handiwork on sight, and were omnipresent enough to have eyes wherever he was likely to be. It watched, observed and – at times when he seemed less enthused than usual – nudged him along, ever so gently.

For every hobby, there is an equal and opposite counter-hobby.

Clinical immortality

“And this is the immortality vault”

“Sounds most impressive”

“Well, it’s more of a server hall than anything else, really. There are some sections dedicated to physical objects, but most of the space is occupied by computers. Over the multitudes of years, it would seem the only reliable way to become extremely long-lived is to shed your mortal coil in the most literal of senses”

“Does it work? Corporeal immortality, I mean”

“We don’t know. Those who manage something close to it are not interested in these archives. Those who bother to answer our questions say something about not being interested in the playthings of fleeting beings and different frames of reference. Then they go dark”

“Huh. Makes sense”

“Ah, here we are. You asked about the most extreme longevity measures we knew of, and here it is. The Boredom Continuity, we like to call it”

“That has some worrying connotations, if you don’t mind me saying”

“They figured that any upload-based immortality would be limited by the lifetime of the machines they uploaded themselves to, so they added another parameter: subjective time. Time is not merely a thing that happens, but something that is experienced – some things go past in an instant, while other things take forever. They thought that if they could find a way to harness the properties that make time go past slower, they’d maximize their immortality in terms of living, as it were”

“So the name… by the gods!”

“Yes. I do not envy them their particular brand of immortality one bit”

Machine upgrades

“I think I have a ghost in my machine”

“Let’s take a look and find out, shall we?”

[miscellaneous computer sounds]

“Aha! I found something! Though I don’t think it’s a ghost, truth to tell”

“How so?”

“Well, it made fun of the way I dress, and challenged me to a game of riddles”

“That… that could be a ghost, couldn’t it?”

“It could be. But ghosts mainly live in the past, trapped in their own memories. It’s what makes them ghosts. This also means they don’t pay attention to other things, such as this admittedly ridiculous T-shirt.”

“So it’s more aware of fashion than you. That is a low bar, to be sure. But if it is not a ghost, then what are we dealing with?”

“I think it’s a fairy, and that we under no circumstances whatsoever are to deal with it. I say this because I think I accidentally made a deal with it, and gave it free residence in exchange for a passable knowledge of fashion”

“Computer fairies, you say? Who would have thought?”

[miscellaneous ambient noises]

“Wanna go buy better clothes to go with that new and improved fashion sense of yours?”

“I was hoping you’d say that”

Future tense

The event is imminent, yet long in arriving. Anyone with even the slightest of foresight could have seen it coming and taken appropriate measures to prevent it.

Yet, here we are.

It is way too late too late to change anything now. The wheels have spun too long, the circular processes with accumulative effects have had too much time to pile up. We are stuck in this potentiality, and have to ride it out until the end.

The only thing that can save us is a message back in time, to prevent the chain of events that led us here. Fortunately, the chains is boring, repetitive and based upon making the same bad choice over and over again. As we’ve discovered during the course of our investigations, it only takes one single break of this chain to break it, so we should be able to prevent things with a single intervention. A single, well-crafted message, arriving at the right moment.

With this in mind, I set out to write a message to myself. I ought to know, right?

* * *

Huh. Strange. There is a message here that I do not remember writing. It is definitely from me – I can recognize myself all over it. But it is also to me. And it references things that make no sense, and urges me to make life changes for no real good reason.

I must have been more tired than I thought during that last writing all-nighter. Especially that part about the shoes. I like my shoes.

Probably nothing. Discard draft and move on.

Cold takes

The skeletons had moved.

Not only had they moved. They had also made it very plain why they had left the cemetery. It was the new corpses, they wrote on a lifeless note hanging on the outer gates. The outer gates swing hither and dither, as ancient gates are wont to do, but the chilly winds did not seem to affect note. Some of the cold indifference of death was at work here.

Yet. Something had made the skeletons stir. The locals, who rarely visited the cemetery, busy as they were with their modern lives, were at a loss to explain what had happened, or how. After discussing at length, they decided to bring in outside help.

Outside help arrived, en masse. Journalists, those of supernatural inclination, academics, and utterly natural tourists all offered their opinions as to what had happened. It was aliens, werewolves, bad qi, crop circles on the other side of the ocean (somehow), sunspots, bone-eating bacteria – any number of speculations were tossed around in the hopes of finding an audience.

At length, the enthusiasm died off, to the punny satisfaction of news editors everywhere. When most of the tourists, supernaturally inclined and journalists had left, the academics dared to make educated guesses. A particular academic, a professor of cultural geography and human ecology, suggested that it was due to gentrification. The skeletons were of old stock, and had a very particular set of customs. They were dead set on these customs, too, and would rather resurrect and move to another place than adapt to the strange fancy ways of the newcomers.

As the professor expounded his theory, the locals nodded. That did indeed sound like the old folks they remembered from back in the days. They had been stubborn even in life, so why would they be anything else in the afterlife?

The littlest things

“See those spiderwebs in the corner?”

“Yeah, they’re cozy. Makes me feel like home, you know.”

“Indeed. You can take a room and fill it with furniture, and it’s just a room. The same with a house. It only becomes a home once the little things are in place. The favorite cups. The earmarked books. The debris of everyday life.”

“Like spiderwebs.”

“Exactly like spiderwebs.”

“So why do you want me to remove them?”

“Do you remember where we are?”

“…on an interplanetary space station. Roger. Spiderweb removal is ago.”

Short shrift

It began on his thirteenth birthday. Every once in a while, he would get glimpses of alternate versions of himself dying. When he lost his footing but managed to keep outright, he’d for the shortest of moments sense a timeline where he didn’t. When he stopped for a red light on a busy street, he’d sense his other self who didn’t. Every time he might have died but didn’t, he sensed it.

Sometimes, it manifested itself as a brief sense of surprise that things continued. As if these other versions looked back, just this once.

Picking your battles

The flame war was brutal. Millions participated, on every social network and publishing platform. It spilled over to what in the beforetimes was considered separate, non-virtual spaces – schools, streets, subways. Everywhere people gathered, they fought, with all the weapons they could muster. Memes, emails, molotov cocktails – everything was permitted so long as it was directed at the other side. The one, all-encompassing goal was to make the other side burn – the sicker the burn, the better. Even as the world burned, literally and figuratively, the flame war raged on.

In the end, there was a winner. It was decided that the official spelling of that sound cats make right before making a jump would be, henceforth, “prrrp”.

As it should be.

Working relationships

Mr. Andersen

We have gone through your recent text message history, and we have found a number of troublesome tendencies. It would seem you do not sext with your wife nearly as much as you once did, and the nature of the other texts indicate that your relationship is in something of a rough spot. We worry that this might eventually become a source of distraction from your work, and want to ameliorate the situation before any unfortunate incidents occur. Prevention is always better than cure.

Tomorrow morning, you will report to HR for a debrief on your marriage situation, and a crash course in effective sexting. A happy employee is a productive employee, and we are always proactive in ensuring the productive capabilities of those under our supervision.

Best regards
Janice
Senior HR manager