Category Archives: Dialogues without protagonists

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”

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.”

Interpretive bomb squads

“See that graffiti? That one other there, those words?”

“I see them”

“Okay, good. I’m going to give you a moment to let it sink in”

“Not seeing it”

“Wait for it”




“We have a consensus”

“Fucking shit”

“The process of understanding is complete”


“We have to be very careful in how we handle this. Under no circumstances can these words be allowed to spread beyond the two of us. You yourself felt their effect – it’d be a disaster”

“You go get the style guide, I’ll get the spray paint. Hurry up – clock’s ticking”

Content mining

“Another one?”

“Sure looks like it. Just look at him. I’d be surprised if there’s even a trace of content left anywhere within his body.”

“What a shame”

“How many is it this month now? Five? Six?”

“Eight. Two more husks were found tonight”

“Jeez. What do you even do with that much content?”

“The sages and gurus say the appetite for content is insatiable these days, and that you can sell it faster than you can buy it. Not sure how that works, but, then again, look at this guy”

“Remember the old days, when people would just create things? Before it was possible to stripmine a person and exhaust all possible content they could ever theoretically conceive?”

“Good times. Being creative was a positive thing. You could be as slow as you wanted, as long as you just produced that one piece of content that kicked ass. Now…”

“Now people are content. And thugs nab them right off the street, hook them up and empty them. Of everything. To sell for pennies”

“What a shame”

“C’mon. Let’s get him out of here. The least we can do is to carry him someplace warm”

The right to keep and bear arms

“The parasite looks quite like an onion, once removed from the bodies of those inflicted. Somewhat roundish, with small white tendrils on one side.”

“I know what a benevolent symbiote looks like.”

“These white tendrils are quite vital to their extraction. There is an enzyme that paralyzes the parasite and renders the tendrils hard as spidersilk steel. With just the correct dosage, it is possible to pull it out by the hairs, as it were.”


“Naturally, you do not want to do this by hand. The parasite is slightly telepathic and very -cidal.”

“-cidal? Seems you’re missing some letters there.”

“Oh no, just underlining the very generic nature of the lethality. To say it’s directed at anything in particular would miss all manner of points.”

“Heretics deserve to die.”

“Fortunately, we built an extraction device. No touching required. It even cauterizes the severed pieces of biology that fed the parasite.”

“Sounds painful. And heretic.”

“Quite. But not if administered while the subject is unconscious. The shock of it all keeps them from waking up. Very handy, if you pardon the pun.”

“I do not want to hear any more of this.”

“As it turns out, the extraction process leaves quite a hole once completed. Thanks to stem cells, however, the missing pieces can be rebuilt, albeit slowly.”

“Not listening.”

“Unfortunately, the process we use to speed up recovery is quite a feat of biology. As such, most people can’t stomach the sight of it, much less the thought of it happening inside of their own bodies. We’ve had to build metal armbands to keep frightened eyes and hands away until the healing is complete.”

“Such as the one on my arm?”

“I think you are starting to come to terms to your post-parasite life.”

“Would trying to rip it off accomplish anything?”

“The parasite is gone, and the armband is there to protect you from yourself, in more ways than one. In the early days, we had a patient who burned his arm to ash, and died of emotion after peeling off the charred remains that used to contain the parasite and finding it now contained a literal nothing, a void, a lacunae. Please do not do that.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because the parasites can only be removed from one person at a time. Telepathy, you see. And lethality.”

“No, but, more generally?”

“Very much the telepathy and lethality. But now, I will leave you alone. I suspect you will need to readjust yourself to having your own thoughts again.”

Political logistics

“We need to bury it. As far away as possible. No one must be allowed to possess such evil.”




“Seems we’re all in agreement. But where to bury it?”

“The moon, on the far side”

“Antarctica, underneath the shoggoths”

“Rural Sussex”

“All good suggestions, worthy of consideration. However, the logistics -”

“And the expenses”

“And diplomatic backchanneling”

“And the British”

“…we could just burn it, you know”




A job befitting the benefits

“Okay, so I’m gonna give you the rundown on what you’re expected to do around here. It’s very straightforward, but you need to grasp the nature of it completely.”

“I’m ready. Hit me.”

“Here it is. You’re gonna be around after hours, keeping the lights on, and watch out for anyone trying to break in.”

“Seems simple enough.”

“It is. Now, when you see someone trying to break in, you’re gonna let them in and give them what they want.”

“A good beating and a solid account of their wrongdoings to the proper authorities?”

“No no. Whatever it is they’re trying to steal. Make sure you give it to them. Promptly and without fuss. Anything at all. Just hand it over.”

“…are you being sarcastic?”

“Not at all. We’ve had so many break-ins, burglaries and associated acts of flyby vandalism, that our insurance company finally gave up the pretense, and forced us to take measures to reduce property damage. And, frankly, we’ve grown tired of having to replace the furnishings every other week or so. It’s more expedient and less expensive this way.”


“Really. We’ll have to pay quadruple premiums if we don’t keep someone like you around. Do you understand what it is you’re supposed to do?”

“Keep an eye out for burglars, let them in, give them what they want, and let them go without a fuss?”

“Your grasp of the situation is complete. Welcome aboard!”

Rationalists and rational persuasion

“Let’s go back to basics. Some basic principles. Just to make absolutely sure we are on the same page. Are you okay with that?”

“Yeah, sure, whatevs.”

“It is rational to do what works. Are we agreed on this?”


“From this follows that to act rational to do what works, instead of things that do not work. Right?”

“This much is obvious.”

“Therefore, it is not rational to use approaches that do not work, and it is even more not rational to channel vast amounts of time, energy and work into them. It would, by definition, by wasted on something that does not work, which is irrational.”

“This is just a longer way of saying what you just said.”

“Therefore, in trying to convince others of something, the rational thing to do would be to take an approach that works, rather than one that does not work. Are you with me?”


“Thus we can finally return to the reason we’re having this dialogue. Your comment ‘astrology is a bunch of unscientific bullshit and you are a dumb butch whore for even thinking about it’ -”


Library of unread books

“And over here, we have a section of love letters”

“That’s unexpected. Why do you have them, and where do you get them?”

“Why is a difficult question, one which will eat your heart and your soul should you let it. How is easier. We get one of everything that isn’t written.”

“One of everything?”

“And only one, so be careful whilst perusing.”

“I meant-”

“Oh, I know, I know. When something for whatever reason is not written, it ends up here. Seems we’re some kind of transdimensional repository of possibilities. Things that could happen but didn’t need to happen somewhere, and this is that place. At least when it comes to written things; I assume that there are other places where… other possibilities play out.”

“How would that work?”

“The less you think about it, the happier the rest of your life will be. Ah, here’s my favorite section. Unwritten tax forms.”

“How could that be in any way… oh, I see. Those that were not written. The honest ones.”


“How are these organized? I don’t see anyone moving either to or fro carrying anything.”

“The morphogenetic field.”

“I should’ve known.”


“One last question. Why is it called the library of unread books, rather than unwritten ones?”

“Ah. Now there is a gateway question if there ever was one. What is the difference between unwritten and unread?”