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It is your destiny

“Hmm, oh, yes, of course” she mumbled.

The insight that had stumbled upon her just prior to this mumble was based on the follow chain of events:

In the Golden Age of comics, there had been a limited run of a particular comic where a rather peculiar phrase occurred. No one had taken any notice of this for decades, until it very randomly was mentioned in a podcast by someone who read that very comic as a child, and came to think of it a propos of something completely different. Given that this was a rather small podcast, it had garnered absolutely no attention whatsoever, until someone browsed the archives five years after the last episode was published. From there, the phrase had made its way into a blog post about differences in intertextual practices then and now. Three years later, the tenth reader of that blog post picked up on the phrase, and used it at a local party. By serendipitous happenstance, the writer for an upcoming movie adaptation of that very comic franchise was there, and heard the phrase in action. A short while later, the phrase was included in the movie, and subsequently used in memes all over the internet.

Upon taking in this chain of events, she had intuitively understood that this was the only way the letter could have arrived. While impossible to predict beforehand, retroactively it was equally impossible not to have happened this way.

A cry for help

“Welcome to the support helpline. How can I be of assistance?”

“How could this happen to me

I made my mistakes

I’ve got no where to run

The night goes on”

“Sir, I understand that you are upset about whatever happened to your computer, but if you could please be a little more specific in your explanation of the problem”

“I open my eyes

I try to see but I’m blinded by the white light

I can’t remember how

I can’t remember why

I’m lying here tonight”

“I see. Can you describe the problem in more detail? Which part of your computer seems to be broken?”

“And I can’t stand the pain

And I can’t make it go away

No I can’t stand the pain”

“Is it that your monitor is too bright? Is that it?”

“Yeah, that’s it. It hurts my eyes”

“I see. There is a thing called night mode. Have you tried activating it?”

“Holy moly, it works wonders. Thanks!”

“You’re welcome”

“…can I sing the rest of the song?”

“Please don’t”

“Okay. Have a nice day. And thanks again!”

Reverse impostor syndrome

He was in quite a predicament.

By all accounts, he was the most successful musician in the world. Album sales were through the roofs, concerts somehow sold out even before the tickets were released, and scarcely a month went by without him on the covers of this or that celebrity gossip rag. By all reasonable standards of measure, he was the thing.

Problem was. He had no idea how to play the instruments he was ostensibly performing. Worse, all attempts to learn were actively discouraged by means of busy scheduling and public imagery. He could not be seen (or worse, heard) practicing at his actual skill levels, and he was at all times surrounded by people whose approval his career needed. The one time he actually found time to practice, he was walked in on by accident, and had to do some fast talking (and startled autograph signage) in order to cover up the whole ordeal. At no point did he actually have an opportunity to learn the things he was supposed to know.

Every month, he received more awards and more notoriety, and every month, he became more and more disconcerted by the whole thing. He contemplated just telling everyone, honesty being a virtue, but his manager had an uncanny knack of reminding him of the positive impact he had on youngsters everywhere. There even was a special pile of letters, from people contemplating suicide but changing their mind after listening to this or that song. It had accumulated to quite a pile.

A predicament it was indeed.

Competitive cost/benefit analysis

He had a problem. Or, rather, something more akin to a nuisance. His job was to oversee the logistics of moving stuff to and fro, and a non-trivial amount of this moving happened by means of containers. Most of these containers were full, but some were not. Some were definitely not full, and incurred the administrative fee levied on containers containing less than a certain amount of stuff.

His first solution was to encourage the marketing people to up their marketing efforts. More stuff in motion meant more stuff to cram into those not-quite full containers, after all. After an unfortunate series of misunderstandings, he and the marketing folks reached a mutual understanding that there would never be a need to talk about anything at all ever again.

His second solution was more indirect. Instead of moving more of the company’s stuff, he arranged to move other people’s stuff. Specifically, he would pay them to fill the available container space where there was a risk of incurring the dreaded (and outrageously disproportionate) administrative fee. This would incur a non-zero cost, to be sure, but it would be substantially less than the fee, so the result would overall be a net positive.

To his surprise, and to the dismay of the marketing people, this turned out to be a widely popular service. Customers showed up left and right to move single items that otherwise would cost a small fortune to ship. For some thirty-odd months or so, he was the only logistical administrator to not incur a single fee, and was suitably commended for it. Profits were made, and everyone involved (except the marketing folks) liked the status quo.

Then, disaster struck.

Due to a glitch in the system, he ended up with an empty container. Due to it being a particularly busy day, he did not have time to look too closely at what cargo the company was shipping. His eyes were fully focused on the quota needed to avoid the fee, and boy did he avoid that fee. In a fit of administrative and logistical prowess never seen before or since, he managed to fill the whole container with miscellanea, and have everyone paid as per usual.

The company was not pleased at finding that it had paid twice to ship an entire container of other people’s stuff for no reason or profit whatsoever.

Unsafe at any speed

Some people proclaim themselves to be security engineers, and boast how their products are impossible to beat. More experienced security engineers admit that their products can in fact be beaten, but that it would require such an extensive effort so as to be unbeatable for any real-world practical uses. Such as in the case of security doors that can be broken down, where anyone with the proper equipment to do so would already know that it would be faster to simply go around it – a door only ever being as strong as the walls surrounding it.

This little fellow, however, was not a security engineer. He was in fact the opposite: an insecurity engineer. It said so, right there on his business card.

What he did was to build things that could be beaten in very specific ways. If there was some flaw in a particular security setup, he would find it and build it. And then, being an entrepreneurial soul, sell it.

At first glance, this might seem a self-defeating proposition. But – as he is very keen on informing you – these are not the security measures you implement on your mission-critical, stupendously expensive assets. These are the security measures you use as training dummies, or for demonstration purposes.

At times, he jokes about rebranding into a car salesman. Those who know him discourage this line of thought in the strongest terms possible.

Time management for busy people

As per your request, what follows is a summary of the temporal status of the relevant location. It has been determined to be a stable time loop, albeit a particularly complex one. The loop is a continuous repetition of eight different timelines, one following another in a predetermined sequence. As the details are intricate to convey, this missive will contain only the barest of summation. The eight timelines are as follow:

  1. The base timeline, without any temporal alterations
  2. An altered timeline, caused by a discovery of time travel
  3. A second altered timeline, with changes motivated by medium term economic interests
  4. A third altered timeline, with changes motivated by massive ecological devastation
  5. A timeline identical to the base timeline with the exception of a single document hidden away in a remote monastery for thousands of years
  6. A fourth altered timeline, characterized by the hostile attention of extraterrestrials brought there due to temporal anomalies
  7. A fifth altered timeline, where the initial discovery of time travel was altered so as to avoid the attention of the aforementioned aliens
  8. A sixth altered timeline, wherein other extraterrestrials nevertheless noticed the temporal anomalies, but for reasons currently unknown used their proficiency in temporal matters to restore initial conditions, thus looping back to 1

Any travel to this location will find itself in either one of these timelines, depending on the time of arrival. Given the relative stability of this loop, and its marginal effects upon our interests, it is recommended that we abstain from any future interaction with or travel to this location.

As to the loss of field agent Bothan, it has been deemed an unfortunate but acceptable price to pay for this information.

To spot the mark

To the untrained eye, the graffiti tags were just visual noise. They appeared, disappeared, reappeared, ever changing, in what seemed to be a never-ending game of whack-a-mole between tagsters and property owners. For reasons unknown, the tags would keep popping up and disappearing; most people neither noticed nor cared.

For the trained eye, however, these tags told a different story. They told the current preferred locations of illicit trades, mostly in small contraband, easily hidden and easily exchanged between two persons in motion. One week, the tags indicated a particular street corner. Another week, they indicated an abandoned warehouse. Those who could read the signs knew where to go. Those who could not were none the wiser.

In particularly troubled times, the tags indicated a moving target. Being in any one spot for an extended period of time is risky, and necessity being the mother of invention, they invented. It was a difficult tag to make in a hurry, but it could be done: indicating that those interested were to hop on this particular bus at this particular stop at this particular time.

This went on for an untold number of years, out of mind – but not out of sight – of the general population. An anonymous society of secret transactions, unincorporated, but definitely leaving its marks.

Cat person

You change your mind like a girl changes clothes

Yeah, you meow like a kitten

I would know

And you overthink, always purr cryptically

I should know that you’re no good for me

 

‘Cause you’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re nyoom, then you’re loaf

You’re wrong when it’s right

It’s black and it’s white

We fight, we break up

You nom, we make up

You don’t really want to stay, no

But you don’t really want to go, oh

You’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re up, then you’re down

 

We used to be just like twins

Purr in sync

The same frequency, now’s a dead rodenty

Used to laugh ’bout nothing, now you’re playing string

I should know that you’re not gonna change

 

‘Cause you’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re nyoom, then you’re loaf

You’re wrong when it’s right

It’s black and it’s white

We fight, we break up

You nom, we make up

You don’t really want to stay, no

But you don’t really want to go, oh

You’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re up, then you’re down

 

Someone call the doctor

Got a case of a purrpurr sonar

Stuck under heavy fur

Can’t get legs unpurred

 

You change your mind like a girl changes clothes

 

‘Cause you’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re nyoom, then you’re loaf

You’re wrong when it’s right

It’s black and it’s white

We fight, we break up

You nom, we make up

You’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re up, then you’re down

You’re wrong when it’s right

It’s black and it’s white

We fight, we break up

You nom, we make up

You don’t really want to stay, no

But you don’t really want to go, oh

You’re boop then you’re bap

You’re bap, then you’re boop

You’re in, then you’re out

You’re nyoom, then you’re loaf

Closing time

The numbers were in. The interviews were analyzed. The data was processed. From every data point, the same result screamed itself at the Analysis and Strategy Team: the desire to go to the store increased exponentially the closer closing time got. They had the numbers to prove it.

A few hours before closing time, the desire was negligible, unless sparked by some specific circumstance. About two hours before, a quiet whisper emerged at the back of the customer’s mind, reminding them that if they needed something, now was the time to get it. An hour before, and this whisper had gotten its metaphorical paws on a boombox. Half an hour, there was a marching band afoot. A quarter to, and the need for speed (and/or something small to nibble on) was paramount.

This was useful information.

Unfortunately, its usefulness was limited by the fact that closing time only came around once per day. Ever a fount of inspiration and creativity, the Analysis and Strategy Team thus proposed the following course of action: close the store at several points during the day. This would give the described impulse more opportunities to manifest itself, and overall increase the pressure to get to the store before it closed. The team projected that the sales of small things to nibble on would skyrocket.

The very next day, the team found itself restructured into a purely analytical unit, with a new strategic team starting up at the opposite end of the building.

It follows

It is the most subtle and dangerous of enemies. It sneaks up on you unawares, and then becomes the entirety of your everything. One moment, you are a hyper-efficient productivity machine getting things done left and right, seemingly unstoppable, nothing is impossible, everything is only a matter of momentum.

Then, suddenly, bam. It all stops, and you find yourself sitting doing nothing.

It is called the Sit.

The Sit happens when you sit down, intending for it to be for only the briefest of moments, only to find that the moment extends for quite some time, and all the energy that seemingly brimmed inside you suddenly evaporated. So you remain, sitting.

It is the sneakiest of everyday occurrences. One moment is all it takes. Do not be surprised the next time it happens. Instead, resign yourself to the fact that the Sit is upon you, and that it will remain until it is over.

It might even be happening right now.

Embrace it.