Category Archives: Story mode activate

Graduation day

“It says 25. It should say 20”

The thought loomed. All attempts at distraction failed, turning into unwarranted meditations on how to make the number go down. Eventually, he simply resigned himself to the obsession and set to work

And work he did. He threw everything he had at it – algorithms, libraries, undocumented backhacks, brute forcing it through third party software just to see what happens, triple-booting virtual machines, leaving the tap water running in the kitchen sink. Still, the number remained at a steady 25, utterly unphased by all this creative destruction and unrelenting tomfoolery

But then

One night, he awoke, bolted upright, and walked straight to the computer. Nary a word was uttered in his internal monologue, just a vague but strong intuition that this one particular thing might actually work. He booted up one program, then another, then another, then had them ping-pong each other until







In his excitement, he forgot everything about having severe phone phobia and called someone to tell about what had happened. Not being well versed in phone etiquette, he began the call thusly:

“It says 20”

“My friend” the voice on the other end said, “you get it now. Congratulations”

Elemental certainty

Someone knocked on the door. Our protagonist, not expecting anyone and not being in any kind of hurry, walked leisurely to the door. Upon opening, he noticed two things. First, the man who had knocked encompassed the entire range of comparatives when it comes to the word “big”. Any time an impression of just how big the man was settled, additional information arrived that upped everything to an even higher level of bigness. This man was a bigness elemental.

The second thing our protagonist noticed was that this man encompassed the entire range of comparatives when it comes to being angry. Something had ignited an emotional infernal ember and placed it in this corporeal vessel, resulting in a very angry soul in a very angry body. The totality of this combination was such that no time had passed before our protagonist knew, with a certainty that crossed the line well into the metaphysical and then relentlessly kept going, that someone, somewhere, was going to have a really bad day today.

The big angry man looked at our protagonist, and bellowed the words that would forevermore be synonymous with salvation:


To boldly watch

One day, a portal to another dimension was discovered. Unlike the shiny, glowy portals of Canadian science fiction television, this portal was slightly less obvious. In fact, it was open for years and years before anyone even noticed. It is, all things considered, a very specific portal.

The exact nature of this portal is still unknown, but its effects are well understood. If your wifi router is properly configured and placed in accordance with very strict feng shui principles, it can receive youtube videos from another dimension.

This fact contributed heavily towards the portal remaining undiscovered for such a long time. This other dimension is very similar to our own, and since it contains people we already know, seeing them again mostly only result in a mild reaction of “oh hey, I know that guy, I didn’t know he did youtubes now, huh”.

The discovery – if that is the word for it – was made one day when someone stumbled upon themselves in youtube format. Not being a youtube person himself, he first tried to figure out who this impostor was, and (more importantly) why the choice fell to imitate him rather than literally anyone else. Upon closer inspection, all evidence pointed towards it in fact being him – he knew things he could not have known otherwise, and his implicit fashion advice turned out to be stunningly accurate.

A more technical analysis revealed that there were no youtube account with the name provided under the video, and had never been. Not just for this person, but also for several others who suddenly found themselves. There was no explaining it. Yet there it was, in all its alternate glory, telling the world what it might have been, had things taken an ever so slightly different turn.

The aftermath of this discovery has been animate enthusiasm amongst theoretical physicists, science fiction authors and headline writers. An alternate dimension! Imagine the possibilities! Most people, however, only do a cursory search for their alternate selves, just to see if they’re out there.

Turns out, the alternate dimension has a killer fashion sense, and it is rubbing off.

The beat goes boom boom boom

The aliens could not have picked a worse week to invade. Ironically, everything went wrong because everything went exactly as planned. The giant warships appeared unannounced in the sky one day, doing nothing but gathering data for the upcoming assault. Humanity, being in shock, did not attack these warships, on the off-chance these utterly armed machines of war came in peace. Then, after enough information had been gathered, the invasion began. Humanity was defenseless against the psionic assaults, and most surrendered without firing a single shot. In the annals of planetary conquests, this was one of the neater ones.

Until the aliens stopped to think about it, and about what they had conquered. And, being psionic, about what those they had conquered had thought about.

The weeks prior to the attack, a new genre of music had swept the world off its feet, gathering massive amounts of people dancing in the streets. It was not known then, but this genre was the closest humanity could come to a psionic virus at its current technological level. As the aliens surveyed what they had conquered, so too did they listen to these beats. To say that it made their heads explode would be an overstatement, but they did suffer greatly before dying.

Needless to say, global art spending and investments increased manifold over the coming decades.

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.

The misinterpreted prophet

“And thus, I proclaim” the prophet ended his sermon, which had gone on at some length. The listenership had been entranced in rapt attention, for such were the gifts of the prophet. His gift of eloquence was not matched by an equal measure of clarity, however, and outside the immediate experience of receiving the word, opinions differed on what had actually been said.

Thus, a cottage industry of interpreters arose, who made the fancy words plain and the plain words fancy, as the situation and audience required. Most of these interpreters were true to their word, with only minor deviations from the core message (which, for some reason, seemed to resist every effort of being translated into French). Some interpreters, however, felt free to embellish a little here and a little there, until the prophet came out saying things surprising to those who were there and heard the word.

These surprising things mysteriously happened to portray this one particular interpreter in an especially good light. As if by accident.

For the most part, this mattered little in the grand scheme of things. Except in two regards: this particular interpreter seemed to be garnering more donations than the others, and the prophet noticed.

Thus, some time and many sermons later, the prophet decided to put his interpreters to the test. He made a series of very subtle and specific pronouncements that systematically contradicted the favored interpretations of the selective interpreter, just to see what would happen. The interpreter, not deterred, kept at it, not even mentioning the possibility of contradiction. Business were as usual.

Some time and many misinterpretations later, the prophet had had enough, and proclaimed in no uncertain terms (a rare occasion indeed) that he was pleased with the interpretive efforts of everyone so far, except our selective interpreter, which he named by name. This caused quite a stir, but given the clarity (and praise) of the proclamation, the work of interpretation went on as usual. For everyone, including our selective interpreter.

Determined, the prophet paid a visit. Our selective interpreter, surprised, greeted the prophet, became even more surprised upon hearing these words:

“You are the prophet now. Wear my robe; they will let you into my tent. I will be gone after this visit. Remember what I said”

The next day, the new prophet delivered a very familiar sermon, although perhaps slightly less ambiguous than usual –

Target audience

The situation looked dire. They needed to get out of the building, but they also needed to do it stealthily. Outside the enemy lay in waiting, sure to grab any opportunity to attack. Being seen meant being dead, and, both being bad, had to be avoided.

A plan was needed.

Looking around, the ragtag team of outlaw anthropologists noted the following about their surroundings. It seemed to be a typical gathering spot for the communal consumption of alcohol and outrageously bad food. But. On this night, the clientele was not at all typical. In fact, it seemed to be mainly consisting of attendees from a nearby conference on digital memetics and online discursive practices. Their discussions seemed to center on the topic of the day, which seemed to be the importance (or lack thereof) of coherent categorization of ongoing phenomena in relation to attaining a proper situational awareness.

A plan was hatched.

The boldest, most quick-witted and sure of foot of the group leapt atop a table and yelled “IS THIS PEANUT BUTTER TACO A SANDWICH?” The others looked on in confusion, but as the commotion and arguing rose to a fever pitch, they knew they had the distraction needed to make a covert escape.

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.

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?