[WP] Two men play a game of chess. One can read minds; the other can see the future.
On 12 August, 2100 the whole world stood still.
Hiran Dutt and Aiguo Bai sat at the table that would determine the future of the chess world. One man would walk away the greatest chess player the world had ever seen. The other would walk away, the monolith that was slain by the Goliath of the century. Both were too established to claim they were an underdog.
Hiran Dutt had defeated the R09-po processor. something that many had thought was impossible. In the year 2050, chess players had been rendered obsolete when the grandmaster Cindy Stone saw the words checkmate printed on the screen. On that day it finally hit us, all of us, not just the low IQ members who washed dishes for minimum wage, it was over. Humanity had rendered itself obsolete.
then, in 2085 something miraculous happened. A machine lost to a human. At first they thought it was a joke, but Hiran Dutt did it a second time, and a third. He was no fluke. He was the next level, the one who in spite all the processing power was always one step ahead of the machine in play. His moves were modest, his captures so sudden, many claimed the machines were helping him. The truth was much stranger, he was a seer. Gifted with the third eye, Hiran could always see the next step the machines would take, and just like that always planned a second move ahead.
When machine consciousness rose a furious debate rose up in all parliaments around the world. What were the rights of the machine? Was it base animal, our equal, or something ahead. The question was answered in installments. In the first decade it was like a baby, knowing its name, understanding stimuli and learning by downloading everything online. In its second decade it started to question its existence, it's purpose, and even its creation. In the third decade it proved way beyond. It had already made an earning as a chess player and now was going for the record of longest reigning grandmaster.
Had Aiguo Bai not been born, an android would have had the record of longest reigning grandmaster, but two years short of the record he reminded it that as far as domination of humanity in sheer intelligence was concerned it was still not yet freedom. He beat it once: in 2095. Then a second time in 2097 and a third in 2098. He was no fluke. He was the second human to rise above the machine. Aiguo was a recluse, unbeknownst to many he could not stand the public eye because of the voices. The voices of consciousness no one else could hear. They yelled, cheered, cried and whispered the thoughts all people were too afraid to speak. He discovered the android too had a voice. It was a monotone but through it he could hear every calculation it made before making a move.
Chatter broke throughout social media. Some talked of the rise of the valde sapiens (very wise), the next stage in evolution. Some called for them to donate their DNA for cloning we needed more to bring ourselves to the relevancy of global operations. More than that we needed one true grandmaster. Humanity was never satisfied with the prospect of two winners. We needed a spectacle of blood from which only one would rise.
The tournament was organized. Hiran and Aiguo prepared as best as they could, reading previous matches, playing against machines.
As they walked into the auditorium the audience clapped, and rose to its feet. Hiran was in a flamboyant red suit. He blew kisses to the audience, he caught a rose a fan threw at him, smelled it and handed it to another who had jumped over the barricade to congratulate him. He kissed her before security pulled her away. That was Hiran, the showman.
Aiguo walked in in his hooded jacket and jeans, his headphones covering his ears. He too got a standing ovation. The solitudinous genius. He took of his headphones and waved at the crowd. He pointed sternly at one of his fans. He could already read that they were planning to jump over and run to him. He didn't need the perverted thoughts interrupting his calculating process.
They shook hands before taking opposing seats. As the coin was tossed Aiguo's eyes widened. He could hear everyone, the critics, the fans, even the judges struggling to feign disinterest. He looked at Hiran. He could hear him, the only problem was his thoughts were in Sanskrit, a language he had never learned. English was already taught as a a first language world wide. He had never thought he would meet someone, let alone such an international figure who did not think in it.
Then a thought escaped Hiran as the timer started, "Did you think I wouldn't prepare for you mindreader? I already saw your future you lose to me." Then once more Hiran's thoughts faded to a chatter of Sanskrit as he lifted a pawn.
[WP]People have powers based on their strongest emotion, and become stronger as they embrace it. Healers might draw power from love or empathy, warriors; anger or self preservation, etc. You draw power from being incredibly sassy.
Or other emotions, like being passive aggressive, or overly dramatic.
I could hardly help it. The temptation to use my power was just too strong. Everyone else was doing it! The healers were so kind and caring, they could magically heal injuries. Apathetic people couldn't even get into med school...and warriors, every war was fought with mystical power, with every soldier bursting into white-hot rage at every opportunity. So why couldn't I use my power?
Because it came from something beyond love. Beyond hatred.
Bill and I were going to visit Tom in the hospital. He was a war veteran suffering third-degree burns. Bill had been getting on my nerves, and I wasn't going to let him get away with it.
"Y'know, this is the hospital where I was born," Bill stated absent-mindedly.
"Really?" I replied. "I figured you were born on a highway. That's where most accidents happen, right?"
I didn't mean to do what I did. I can't control it sometimes.
I literally burned him.
Looks like I'll be visiting both of them in the hospital tomorrow. I just hope they don't start a conversation about their mothers...
[WP]Today I found a 1949 British Shilling in my change. This is particularly interesting as I live in Pennsylvania. It must have had one hell of a journey since 1949. Tell me how it made it's way to me.
In 1949 I was born in a simple mold used by the treasury to mint millions of me. Though one in a set of innumerable copies, I knew I was important to keeping the world revolving and rolling. So when I went on my first big excursion to the bank, the treasurer promised great things for me.
First given as change, I traveled in a short, hairy man’s pocket, who used me almost immediately for petrol on his way to his family. War torn and weary from the great unpleasantness of the preceding conflict before my time, my presence reassured him of the inherent political stability that won over the Eastern threat, and more importantly, I helped him obtain transportation to his family, who only a few years prior, he was unsure if he’d ever see again.
In the cash register, I quickly turned over as change to a man who bought cigarettes, who in turn delivered me to buy a paper, telling all the inconsequential details of some facet of the world. The retailer used me to buy another stand, and then the retailer used me as change from the purchase of a stool. Traveling in a woman’s purse this time, I stay in the bottom of her possessions for quite some time, until a rather unpleasant vagabond asked her for change, so she dug me out from the depths of her purse to deliver a small token of charity.
In the hands of Richard, a man whose life left him for his raging alcoholism, we traveled in the streets of London for a while, collecting me with a dozen of my compatriots. We all watched in horror as he held out with shaky hands to a liquor store clerk, counting us out individually to prove his ability to buy whatever bottom-shelf whiskey he appreciated the most.
From there, I traveled from register to pocket to purse all around the United Kingdom and, on aboard a ship, I found myself in northern France as a rather wealthy Londoner spilled me out of his pocket and onto the hot concrete of a sidewalk. I stayed there for hours, baking in the sun, totally unaccustomed to the pure, unabated weather, especially the sun. I found refuge, however, by a little girl, who decided I might be an excellent addition to her collection of European currency. Stuck in the bottom oh sock drawer for some time, along with the rest of her collection, I found a home for quite some time.
“Oh my,” she said one day, fully grown in a way a coin may never be. At least, that’s what I imagined she said; I’m an English coin, so I don’t really understand French. “My little collection! Oh how I forgotten about you!”
I enjoyed what I imagined was her cooing, but that could just be how the French talked.
“Throw them out,” he mother demanded, I think.
“No!” I’m pretty sure I nailed this translation.
“You are too old to have a coin collection. All the other girls will make fun of you in college,” the mother insisted, probably.
“No, I will take my precious coins with me,” the girl refuted, I imagined.
She, of course, took me with the rest of her coins to America, on one of the finest colleges, where a roommate stole me from her. Careless, she lost me along with all the other currencies either in the shuffle of moving or in the bustle of parties, and I found myself once again floating the hands of the public, who freely exchanged me in a case of mistaken identity.
I, however, ended up in your caring hands, who took the time to appreciate who I really am, and thought over the incredible journey that each and every one of us embarks. With those thoughts in your mind, you sparked the imagination of the internet and inspired others to think about the magnificent potential found even in just a tiny shilling.
More stories at /sub/andrew__wells
[WP] You're Woody and you've just been "adopted" by a new family. This person has a lot of toy collections but by far his Warhammer 40K collection is the strangest and it's making Buzz Lightyear nervous.
There were some things Woody noted every time Jerry left his room for the day was that continued to etch into his thought process. First off, the room was immaculate, save for an above average sized desk, which had been splattered with paint of a thousand shades over what had to be decades. It was possible the desk was not his own, or possibly not even the first but its true age was hard to determine. It also smelled of aerosol paint, but as a toy Woody did not find this to be a problem.
Among other bric-a-brac on the table at all times was a cutting tool, various paint brushes of various sizes and thicknesses, each one marked by Jerry in some fashion he found to be better than the factory did.
Another were something he heard of but had never actually personally met until now: models. Toys that the owner builds themselves before they play with them. To Woody it was quite strange but far from a problem. It implied a care for personal effects that as a toy Woody felt was gratifying. Jerry would always care for those he considered his toys.
Another were that many of these models were grouped together, sometimes on display and other times in cases and containers meant to hold them with the utmost care. Many were beautifully molded by the designers. When one got past the foul-mouthedness of each group.
"DEATH TO THE FALSE EMPEROR!"
"AWWWW SHUT YER GOB!"
"THE XENOS SHOULD BE WISE TO KNOW HE SPEAKS AMONG HIS BETTERS!"
".......Why couldn't Jerry have taken us today? The Mon-Keigh are more restlesz than usual."
Woody scratched his head in confusion. Despite being only about as tall as his boot, most of these models had voices that could shout down damn near anything Woody had ever seen. The family dog often followed orders from the blue coloured soldiers with the angry looking helmets whose insignia apparently required an upsidedown omega symbol. Not even Woody had gotten that far without lots of bribing bellyrubs.
But what unnerved Woody most was how often Buzz stayed away from them. Like he knew something. Finally, after 3 weeks of nothing but insults or ignored pleas of answers from the models, Woody went over to see what was wrong with Buzz.
"Buzz you have to help me here. I can't get through them. You seem to know something about them. Can you help?"
"....Buzz? You ok?"
"Buzz, can you speak up? I can barely understand you when you look away from me."
It was only now that Woody realised he hadn't seen Buzz's face in five days. Ever since he talked to the spikey red soldiers who looked like the blue ones but far more aggressive. Woody just assumed it was a case of owner envy. How wrong he was.
Buzz kept muttering to himself, a wild look in his eye as he looked at his own face in the reflection of his collapsable helmet. When Woody got closer he thought he could hear better but the muttering was still only half heard.
"You! He who calls himself Woody!"
This was a first. The models were talking to him. Well, the elf ones were. But Woody always felt like he was being talked down to by them. Still, they appeared to have something to say now.
"Look can it wait? I need to get Buzz out of this funk he is in."
One of the elf-like models, which called itself an Eldar Farseer held a hand up as if to bid Woody to stop speaking a moment. "I am afraid you have greater troubles with him, Mon-Keigh. He is no longer himself."
"What are you talking about? Buzz is Buzz. At least when his factory settings aren't messed with."
"Look closer, and see what we see."
Woody turned from Farseer to Buzz and back again in confusion.
"....But you are over there, all the way across the room. How can you see better than me?"
"Because you merely look where we see. Pay attention to everything. See the whole image as opposed to a single fleck of paint."
Woody shrugged at the comment, muttering to himself as he walked over to the Farseer. ".....ice cream koans never do anyone favours.....hate these riddle answers......"
Woody climbed up to the display zone of the desk, where the Farseer currently stood upon its base, the grass around her feet bending and flowing in accordance to a phantom wind that Woody just now noticed. "Wait, how-"
"Before you ask how, you should instead ask why. You have not considered everything about your friend's recent actions. He has spent less time at the Shelf with you and more at the Table. But to understand why he changed you must understand our lore."
"Yeah I don't really have the time for that, can you just tell me what I need to know?"
"I fear he has become corrupted by Chaos. By Khorne, specifically."
".......can you explain to me how food we cannot eat corrupted my friend?"
"I can see why you believe I said a foodstuff instead of a proper name but suffice it to say your friend is likely lost to you and it would be wise for you to let him go. The Blood God is not one to share attention."
Woody crossed his arms. "You know this is just pretend right?"
"Yes, and in the lore it was so for a time too. But things change and Chaos has a power none should underestimate. It is better if you do not talk-"
"Yeah whatever. I'm gonna go talk to my friend now. We have been through too much to let it end like this."
Woody dropped back down to the floor and went off to talk to Buzz. At that point Buzz finally moved. He turned to Woody. And all Woody heard next was a near manic cry from Buzz in a voice not his own and also not his Spanish Mode.
"BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!!!!!!!!!"
[WP] After lulling other countries into a false sense of security, Canada finally makes its move to conquer the world.
As the bear cavalry and mounted moose erupted across the globe, the commander smiled. Their plan was finally coming to fruition.
Their attack would be swift and efficient. Casualties were to be kept at an absolute minimum - this was not about world domination. It was about saving humankind from itself.
Wars were constantly fought across the globe. Animosity had reached an all-time high, and World War III was rearing its ugly head.
Canada, the nicest of all nations, could simply not let that happen.
Surprise attacks were carried out with deadly precision across the globe. Surgical strikes toppled world leaders overnight. Diplomatic meetings became revolutions.
The world was thrown into disarray, then swiftly reigned into order under one leader.
A broadcast was sent across the globe, the Canadian commander addressing the world.
"Let me start off by saying one thing," he said, adjusting his tie.
If you didn't completely hate that, consider subscribing to my new subreddit.
I'll try add new (and old) stories every day <3
[WP] You are known as the Ultimate Substitute Teacher, but not because of your exceptional skills. Rather, everything you teach is so utterly and ridiculously wrong that students are driven to find out the truth just to correct you.
Based on an episode of a show from my childhood.
“…and that is why East Virginia seceded from the Union, all thanks to an eccentric governor who thought Richmond was actually Atlantis,” I concluded the fun tidbit. The class of around thirty students stared at me with eyes in which a fierce debate raged if they wanted to correct me or simply allow me to continue with my lecture. Patiently awaiting a hand, I surveyed the room to find a few students already vigorously searching their phones in the laps, not nearly as discretely as they thought.
“Actually,” one student in thick glasses began. “There’s no East Virginia. West Virginia, however, seceded from the Confederacy because it disagreed with their stance on states’ rights and slavery.”
“Is that so?” I mused. “Well that takes us to the first battle of the Civil War: After Abraham Lincoln, AKA Captain America, denounced Jefferson Davis, who came out as Iron Man…”
“Sir,” a young lady interrupted with an outstretched hand. “You’re thinking of the Marvel movie. Abraham Lincoln was the new president of the United States while Jefferson Davis was elected to the Confederate States of America. I don’t think either of them were superheroes.”
“Yeah, but Lincoln could have been a superhero,” I argued with the class. “In the night he donned the mask under the name, ‘El Americano,’ and became a luchador. On nights that he wasn’t defending his title, he was a vampire hunter.”
“Um…” another kid fiercely reading Wikipedia in his lap protested. “While Lincoln is inducted in the Wrestling Hall of Fame and while lucha libre has origins dating back to 1863, it was very regional until the 1930s. I really doubt Lincoln was aware of it. And also, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was just a movie…”
“I see…” I continued the lecture. “Well the first battle of the Civil War was at Fort Summer in Southern Carolina, before they split, fought with giant mechanized men, resulting in the deaths of millions, one of the reasons why the Civil War is one of the bloodiest in American history.”
“That’s bull!” One kid argued.
“You’re full of it!” Another contradicted me.
“Somebody tell this idiot what really happened,” somebody in the back shouted.
“Well for starters,” a girl in a long skirt began. “The Carolinas were divided in 1729, well over a hundred years before the Civil War. The first battle took place at Fort Sumter, not Fort Summer. Furthermore, there was only one casualty: a union soldier accidentally killed during a flag-raising ceremony after the fort was surrendered. No mention of giant robots.”
So the class continued as I made grand declarations of lies, each becoming more subtle as the children wanted to contradict me at every turn. By the end of the class period, they became experts in the early Civil War, not because I taught them, but because I gave them the inspiration to teach themselves.
More stories at /sub/andrew__wells
[WP] You own a magical camera that is similar to a thermal camera, but instead of heat it shows you value. A ring glows as bright as the sun while a piece of plastic wrapping is almost invisible. You have been careful never to look at a person with it for your whole life.
Before I tell my story, I must ask you one thing. Is value absolute?
Please, keep the question in mind as you read.
On my twelfth birthday, I was given a gift by my great aunt Catherine. You see, I'd recently fallen in love with photography. Months earlier, grandfather — a war photographer — found an old album lying about. Covered in a layer of dust as thick as my pinky, we sneezed and coughed together when he pulled it from its resting place in the attic.
There's just something untouchable about those photos. A moment, captured through human ingenuity, and immortalised beyond our inconsistent and so very mortal memory. I couldn't help myself, brushing my fingers across the pieces threefold older than I. Seeing faces of those that had passed away, seeing the expressions that would otherwise be lost, and feeling — oh so importantly, feeling — as if I had been there. There are no words for that first spark that sets your life in motion.
That said, I almost threw away my first camera - crazy, isn't it? When my aunt had told me that beneath the wrapping was a camera, I ignored all my other gifts in a squealing fit of excitement. I even cried, holding that polaroid camera to my chest, uttering far too many thanks - if her red cheeks were of any indication. The only downside was that the film wasn't included. Not that it stopped me from cuddling that gorgeous piece of machinery all night.
The very next day, armed with a handful of bills from uncles that didn't know what little girls wanted, I dragged my parents to the shops and bought as much film as possible. Gosh, speaking of moments to capture, I wish there was a photo of me after the second picture I took. If a picture is worth a thousand words then my sobbing form, crumpled on the ground, would have been the textbook definition of devastation.
But, as people of that age tend to do, I got over it and set to making the thing work. First thing, I called my aunt who said she bought it at some pawn shop. The owner told her that it was special, an old man with more wrinkles than fingers and toes. To this day, that's all I know of origins of this mysterious camera.
Second thing, I took pictures. It took me four or five shots before I realised that the quality wasn't actually bad. See, I had thought that the lens was broken, as some things like our grandfather clock stood out whilst my old ballet shoes were transparent.
It's embarrassing to admit this, but it took me the entire week to figure it out. Having been initiated through amazing wartime pictures, I refused to take pictures of people until I could get the blasted thing working. So I took in the details of rings, captured the shimmering of fading batteries and saved the glasslike outlines of toys that I owned. For days, I sat in my room thinking. And, I must have bought... what, a hundred push pins in that single week? At the very least, that many.
Again, I wish I had my picture when I finally figured it out. I bet you'll never even guess how I figured it out. It's almost laughably simple. I just took out some money, laid it out on the table and snapped a shot. Normal table. Nigh on invisible coins. And right there, in the bottom right corner after a curve of light, glowed a bright hundred dollar bill. If string light bulbs sat in brains, my eyes lit up like never before.
I, a budding photographer, had a camera that could capture the value of something. In an instant, I was a comic book superhero. Camera Girl. Sidenote: never thought of a proper name. I thought it was silly to have a comic book name, so I just went by Alex Woodkite. My own name. Hiding in plain sight.
In the coming years, I became quite famous and wealthy. Never took a picture of a human, though. Don't get me wrong, I was definitely tempted to do so. For the weeks at a time, I would lie awake at night wondering how a human would look. From what I gathered, taking pictures of animals, we would be valued based off our meat and organs. Caviar was bright, chicken was dull. With how much hearts, livers and kidneys cost, I figured that humans would be like gold. But it was just a 'maybe'. A 'maybe' that I never crossed.
Besides, I had other things to do. Like capturing the world. And, making a good amount off the world of art and forgeries. Fun fact: Forgeries are sometimes brighter than originals, if you make them well enough. My photos have been everywhere, Time, National Geographic and so on. Photo of the year awards, being able to determine from a hundred shots which photos were the most valuable in a single snap - my life was amazing.
I travelled the world in my late teens and throughout my twenties, capturing it wherever I went. Even took some human photos with normal cameras. And like anyone, I fell in love.
Things come in three, don't they? For me, there have been three sparks in my life.
The first, seeing those wartime photos and listening to my grandfather explain them to me. I wish he were still around today, there is not a soul who doesn't love his stories.
The second, falling in love with Joshua Urwin. A connection like a lightning strike. For him, I would have given up photography. Thankfully, we shared the passion and travelled the world together, making sure to immortalise it all.
Finally, the biggest spark in my life — my baby, Lucy.
Lucy, the one to get me to break my rules. In a bout of excitement and human foolhardiness, I broke my only rule and learned the definition of a word that I once thought I knew.
One snap. That's all I've ever taken of her. One snap, a single immortal photo.
An empty crib.
I couldn't bear to look at it, but didn't have the heart to destroy it. So much for a mother's love...
For months, I cried over that photo. Joshua never saw it. I kept it hidden away, tucked in a small chest in my dresser. And each month, I would look at it, again and again, wishing for her to appear. But nothing. Just a blank spot, and gentle depressions in the crib where she should have been.
Three times. I almost killed myself three times in that year. Overdose. Drinking. Gunshot. The hospital saved me, twice. The gun jamming saved me the final time.
And if there is a deity above, I need to thank them for that jam. That night, crying over my dresser with tears in my eyes on Lucy's first birthday I showed the photo to her.
A million sorrys left my mouth, and a thousand tears hit the floor. But that night, there is a lesson there that I will never forget.
Remember at the start, when I asked you, "Is value absolute?"
It is not. People do not get to assign value to other people.
That night, as I looked into Lucy's big blue eyes, I saw the reflection and glint of the photograph.
Come visit /sub/alexurwin for more pictures (in the form of thousands of words)!
Edit: A lot of people are asking for the ending to be explained so here goes. Alex thought that the camera showed the absolute value of everything, the reason being that the camera was able to earn her money through art and photography. However, she finds herself distraught once she takes a picture of her child and sees her as worthless. Later on, she sees the reflection of the photo in her child's eye, which is pure white - signifying great value.
The point of the story is to show that 'People do not get to assign value to other people.' But, there are a few ways you can take it due to the ambiguous ending.
The camera maker made an exception for people.
Humans are special.
Magic is found within ourselves. Not others.
Those are just three off the top of my head, but I'm sure if you looked around you'd find some more. Hope it clears up any confusion. And please, if you have other endings that you want to discuss, by all means.
Forward apologies if I don't get to your comment to explain!
[WP] Write a short story where the first sentence has 20 words, 2nd sentence has 19, 3rd has 18 etc. Story ends with a single word.
[CW] Write a short story where the first sentence has 20 words, 2nd sentence has 19, 3rd has 18 etc. Story ends with a single word
The heart monitor marked the slowing of her heart beats, the beeps getting farther and farther apart each passing minute. The looks from the nurses told me it was only a matter of time until it was all over. I picked absentmindedly at a loose string hanging from the sling holding my arm tight against my body.
I hadn't seen the car coming, because I had been yelling into the back seat at her. I couldn't even remember what I had been yelling about, but it didn't matter right now. She looked so small lying in the hospital bed, her golden curls on the pillow. I wished for a way to take her home, to make her safe again.
The heart monitor beeped out a warning that the nurse quickly shut off. Her eyes fluttered open and my heart leapt with a momentary hope. I wished to apologize, to tell her it was my fault. Her eyes closed again, and my sorrow ballooned once more.
I prayed the way only a broken man can. Nobody was saying anything, we all just waited. The doctor walked in the room silently. Was time starting to run out?
She opened her eyes again. I smiled at her.
It was happening.
[WP] While browsing on your parent's computer you recieve an email notification addressed to them. It's from an advanced robotics corporation, informing them that the warranty on [your name] expires in 30 days.
Just a reminder that the warranty on [Chris Lore] is due to expire in 30 days. We would highly recommend that you trade it in for the latest model (2.158C). The newer model is both more realistic and more intelligent. If you want to do so, please get in touch and we will remotely terminate [Chris Lore] immediately (or you can do so yourself).
I'm not sure how many times I re-read the email. It couldn't be real. Was I just some kind of... robot? No, it was a joke! Spam. It was spam. That's all.
I hadn't meant to read my dad's email at all, but I needed to print out tickets for a gig I was going to and his computer was already turned on. So I emailed them over to his account, got on his PC and...
I searched for further emails from the sender: "ARC". I found three more : A receipt of purchase, a "Thank you for ordering," and an email titled: "We hope you are happy with your purchase. Here are some handy tips:"
What the hell was going on? My dad would be back soon, I had to do something now. I had to know for sure.
I opened Google. My search for "ARC" revealed thousands of results, and nothing that looked remotely promising. I tried to narrow it down: "ARC Robotics." I clicked on the top result.
Welcome to the Advanced Robotics Corporation
Have you lost a loved one? Unable to conceive? Why not try ARC humanoid replacements. We guarantee a ninety-eight percent perfect replica, with zero chance of false-self awareness. We promise you'll love your replacement every bit as much as the original!
Call now to discuss options.
I browsed the various pages and looked at the models available. This couldn't be real. Why had I never heard of ARC? I wasn't a replica... I wasn't. I left my dad's office and hurried down to the kitchen. I grabbed a knife and held it for a few moments. Was I going insane? I bit my lower lip and ran the knife's edge across the skin on my arm. Nothing happened, my skin was unhurt. I checked the knife - it at least looked sharp. So why didn't it cut me? I tried again, with more pressure, and using the point at the tip of the knife, but I couldn't cut through my skin. My hands began to tremble and I dropped the knife onto the floor. I couldn't hurt myself. Either, I wasn't allowed to, or my skin was made of something incredibly dense. When was the last time I bled? When did I last hurt myself?
It was three years ago. I was on my bike, and dad was reversing out of the drive and he went a little too fast, he'd been in a rush - and... I'd hurt my head. There was pool of blood gathering around me, and my dad was over me, holding me, smiling. He said it would be OK. And it was. It was okay. I woke up just a few hours later in my bed. My head was fine.
I hadn't thought about the incident since it happened. Dad's hair was longer back then, and darker. But when I woke, it was almost a crew-cut. Jesus...
I ran back up stairs and into dad's office. I clicked back onto the email account and opened the latest email about the warranty expiring, and I began desperately composing an email of my own.
There is no need for a replacement. We are perfectly happy with the model we have. How long can these robots last for, if we took care of it? I would li
"I'm sorry," said a voice from behind me. I hadn't heard the front door. Dad stood behind me, holding some kind of remote in his hand. There were tears welling in his eyes.
"Dad, please... I'm your"
[EU] In an alternate timeline, Sesame Street grew up with its viewers, with later seasons covering increasingly advanced subject matter. For example, Count von Count teaches set theory, and Telly Monster teaches trigonometry.
Everyone has a day they put down their toys and stop doing something. And ever since I can remember, I've been watching Sesame Street. As an adult, now, I can hardly stand the snail's pacing of the show. But when I was a boy, oh how I loved it. I would proudly count to 10, to 20 and even to 100, forcing my parents to listen to me blabber on as I marked off the numbers on fingers behind my back. While I thought I was clever and my parents said it was cute, I'm sure they silently counted faster and hid their frustration.
Near the end of primary school, I had my father teach me how to record TV episodes. Piracy, if you will. I would set a timer before school, and make sure I kept the episodes of Sesame Street. The way they taught on that show, it was like having the same teacher your entire life. Just think of how much you trust your parents - that was my bond to Sesame Street. Times tables, big words, books to read. All of it, explained by Sesame Street.
Middle school came and went, and while I recorded all the episodes, I didn't watch them all. History was boring, and watching the Cookie Monster talk about baking was far more fun. And though I hated it, without watching the episodes on algebra, I don't think I would have passed. Seriously, and I'm quoting Count von Count here: "Whose great idea was it to put letters in numbers?"
I still smile at the memory of that. Count von Count, obsessed with his numbers and only numbers. Big Bird's questions got more relatable, like how to deal with bullying and expectations placed onto kids. And Oscar the Grouch became one of my favourite characters for his extraordinary pessimism. Of course, back then, I was just being an edgy 14 year old. Typical, 'the world hates me, I hate everyone'.
And onwards the show went, growing up with its audience as time went by. Christmas specials, holiday themed episodes, they even had a short mini-arc to do with religion and belief systems around the world. Admittedly, atheist me wasn't any more tolerant after watching those episodes. Just a bit more quiet. Still, it bettered me, and for that I thank it.
Elmo went through some of the biggest changes. In high school, it was no longer just Elmo's World and his awkward third person self-referential speech habits. He became empathetic to others and the psychological element of the show. Sympathy for veterans, understanding for pets, taking care of others, all of it had Elmo in the centre. Dwindling interest, as high school kicked it into high gear wasn't enough to stop me watching the episodes featuring Elmo. There was just something about him.
Exams hit hard, but I still squeezed in time to watch an episode a week. In my final year of high school, it was my nostalgia trip, once a week. A little revision, as the show maintained its educational genre, but that's about it. Until the last episode I ever watched.
I don't want to be dramatic or anything, but it was something about it that struck a cord. For so long I had stared at the screen, detached from the muppets and the people that held them that I forgot all that Elmo had told me. I no longer saw them as human.
"Sometimes..." Count von Count sang, his voice low and somber, "I sit and count all day..."
"Sometimes..." he sighed, head drooped down. "I get..."
Another sigh. "Carried away."
He counted to three, struggling through each number as if it pained him, and stopped. He tried again, the cloth and costumes unable to hide the human agony behind the screen. But the show went on, and he counted to three. Again. And again. And again, until Big Bird came, alone, and sat by him.
"Count," he asked, hand on shoulder, "How come you're only counting to three?"
"I... I can count to ninety-two, if you want."
Big Bird asked why again.
"That's how many days she lived." The Count's head hit the table. "Why should I count more than the days my baby lived?"
My brows furrowed. This wasn't in the sets of natural numbers. Was it some sort of dark humour that the show had always avoided up until now? I glanced at the title. 'Sesame Street S18E12 - The Final Count'...
Tears sprung to my eyes the moment I saw it. Like dark clouds on the horizon, looming and taunting. You knew they would come, you could hear the thunder and the cracks of lightning shake your house's windows. But I hoped, as every human — even those on a show — does, I hoped against all hope that the storm would simply pass.
Everyone has a day they put down their toys and stop doing something.
On that day, I turned off the screen and sat. I didn't move. Just sat.
Once a boy learns about death, he sets his toys down.
And becomes a man.
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