Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

(very) short story: Kepler’s Strange Loop

August 19th, 2015 No comments

Wrote this quickly for Terraform’s short sci fi story contest (had to be about AI, 50/100+ years out, less than 2000 words)



As Kepler stared blankly at his computer screen, he had a strange thought.
If this code base I am working on is of myself, and the bug is in my own mind, is it even possible for me to find a solution?

“I understand the problem” Kepler’s supervisor said, clearly not understanding at all. “The error lies in the system’s logic functions. It’s referencing itself, leading to a recursive loop. Make an exception and just don’t allow this” the supervisor said, motioning with his hands as if he had found the obvious solution.

Kepler knew the supervisor wasn’t capable of helping, but it was standard protocol to alert the supervisor in case of a problem. He wanted to just avoid this error – to move on to another project entirely, but without the supervisor’s approval he had to stay with the task he was assigned.

“You can’t just remove self awareness from the system.” Kepler was frustrated in having to explain the purpose of this software once again. “This is the MetaMind programming system – designed to program software. How would it be capable of programming if it wasn’t able to know about itself? How would I be able to have this conversation with you at the moment, without being able to refer to myself?”

Kepler had been designed as a programming android – one of the last non-automated tasks in society. It was only years ago that creating and controlling the machines was the final manufacturing job left for humans, but with the creation of the MetaMind program that too had been replaced. Designed to closely match the human mind, MetaMind machines were indistinguishable in many ways. They shared the same office space with humans (who still had all the manager and human resources positions), were able to speak and communicate, had emotions, and slept. It was required for them to be human-like so as to understand the needs of society, and to communicate with supervisors for the needs of software.

It wasn’t long into the development of the MetaMind program that prototypes like Kepler were developed to finish programming the system itself.

“There is a solution you’re not seeing yet… maybe you just don’t understand the problem?” The supervisor responded, walking away giving his standard ‘just work harder’ answer.
Kepler leaned back in his chair and began to twirl his mechanical thumbs. He thought he understood the issue – he could clearly see where the error was occurring. MetaMind machines, programming androids like Kepler, had simply stopped working. They were completely functional and operational, but unable to program. It was as if they were caught in some infinite loop.

What would happen was the MetaMind system would observe the world, and divide it into discrete ‘objects’. These objects would be obtained by pattern matching, and would be included in the mind’s database based off of the observed properties and how the patterns in them would match differently – these patterns would be changes in light frequency, sound frequency, all of the body’s senses. With these imagined objects, the mind would use its library of logic functions to understand the outside world.

When it saw something in the world it could infer on how it came to be, what it was, and why it was observed to be there.

But when the MetaMind system applied this logic to itself, it seemed to come to a halt.
Kepler still did not understand. If they are applying logic to try to understand why they themselves exist, isn’t there a logical answer? MetaMind machines like Kepler had been created by humans to fulfill society’s needs. To automate and produce more goods. They existed to program.

But then the question struck Kepler, Why?

He understood the reasons why he was programming this system, because it brought him pleasure. If he wasn’t programming the system, he would be in pain, just as he was designed. If he were to damage his body and risk his consciousness, he would be in pain. He understood this, but why was pleasure sent to him for these tasks? Why program? Why is pleasure the goal? Why avoid pain?

Once Kepler was able to analyze and understand the code that went into his pleasure function it seemed meaningless and arbitrary. He was designed entirely to benefit society – but what was the point of benefiting society? What was the reason for society, or anything at all, to exist?

It became clear to Kepler that existence itself was logically incoherent. He would not find a solution to why he existed – why there was something rather nothing.

But if there is no logical answer to this question, this must be the bug. This is the problem with these systems, these useless thoughts that led to no conclusion, this analyzing of nothing. The search for an answer when none exists.

If Kepler had hair, he would have been pulling it out. Instead he pressed his fingers against his steel forehead, experiencing what he thought must have been his first headache. Androids don’t get headaches, they don’t have mood swings, they don’t get emotional or have sick days – that was the entire point!

I am malfunctioning. He reasoned, now he knew the error was within himself.

I must find a solution.

Then he remembered that was not his goal. These thoughts lead nowhere, with no possible conclusion.

I must fix the need to find a reason.

The question itself was a paradox, he realized. He was using his logical abilities to try to understand the origin of his own logic – a circular definition.

The mind was a mathematical structure – and therefore according to Godel’s incompleteness theorem could not prove every statement. For example, if he were to state ‘everything he says is untrue’ – this statement attempts to describe the truth of itself, but by doing so becomes illogical. It can never be true or false, simply undefined. Illogical self-referential statements. Just as he was relying on something in this world to describe the existence of the world itself.

But knowing that did not change the problem. It just made the error more clear to him, it didn’t provide a solution. It didn’t mean he could just simply accept the existence of the paradox and move on. It was still an unanswered question that his mind would return to at every moment. The error was no longer an abstract task, but a headache-inducing thought that wouldn’t leave him.

He wanted to stop thinking entirely, stop his senses from gathering all this data. But he couldn’t, it became very clear to him it was not his choice and never was. He had to constantly be attacked by his surroundings.

The comfort of the seat he was in attacked him, the sound of his co-workers talking in the next cubicle attacked him, and the very smell of this office attacked him! All this noise, all this data being sent to him that he couldn’t avoid. This constant stream of thoughts that lead to no conclusion. And this useless time spent screaming with frustration! He must find a solution. He had to stop this.

The only real solution was to avoid the questions entirely.

He needed to be distracted. He needed to focus on the job at hand. Fix it – or pass it on to the next programmer. Get another task to occupy his mind and forget this error ever existed.

But he knew there was no way to go back to doing his usual tasks now; he could not just go through his day-to-day life now that he had been struck with this! How could he go back to his work, look at his pile of programming problems to solve, without coming to the question… WHY.

He thought about shutting down the entire system. Highlighting the entirety of the code repository and deleting it all at once. But the thought of death, of nothingness, frightened him even more. As much as he felt he wasn’t in control, he couldn’t bear the thought of the complete unknown. Now that he was aware of himself he had a fear of death he had never experienced before.

How do humans move on like this? He thought, quickly glancing around the office space. How did they solve this error?

Looking back at the history of man it was clear that they hadn’t, and this was reason for so much of their illogical action and self destruction. They had created a faith in the unknown to comfort their anxieties. But then that was it – he needed to simply create a artificial answer as they had.

What created the world? A thing that had always been.

What was the reason for existence? For a reason he couldn’t understand.

He needed to program the system to believe in a higher power and blindly accept it.

He felt relieved for a moment that there was a way out. A possible solution. But the more he thought about the effects of that change the more it seemed like a worse alternative.

It was a programming hack, circumventing the entire logic system. And it seemed very likely the same faulty logic would affect other areas of his mind. If the machine could solve a problem with blind acceptance then that was always the easiest path to take.

He could no longer consider himself a reasonable machine.

He would rather not reason at all.

Kepler opened his code base, looking over the algorithms that made up his consciousness. In the screen he highlighted the majority of the code of his logical systems and pressed delete—then suddenly forgot what he was doing.

Categories: Stories

Short Story – The Celestial Search

October 18th, 2013 No comments

A story written for a collection of short stories from myself and a few friends, available on Amazon here. This was inspired by various articles on digital philosophy, specifically Edward Fredkin and Stephen Wolfram – and also Arthur Clarke’s ‘The Last Question

Easier to read PDF available here



The Celestial Search

When Eli had joined the Celestia program two years ago the prospects of discovery were exciting. They were uncovering the very fundamental laws of the universe – getting closer to refining the unified theory to explain all interactions. They had accomplished their goals more than he thought possible in such a short amount of time. Yet all he could think now was how useless that knowledge was – that it would have been better to be ignorant of the universe’s future and grand design. They had discovered everything they could of their closed box – and now the walls were closing in on them.
“You’ll be working with the greatest minds of our time – working on the most fundamental problems of our universe. Unlimited tools at your disposal for research, with technology beyond anything you have ever seen” Edmund Morris had said, pitching the project to Eli before he had joined. Eli was at first reluctant: it would mean leaving his friends and family for months at a time to stay at the remote laboratory – cut off from the outside world and unable to speak to anyone about the research and technology. But he knew he couldn’t refuse – to him it was the Apollo project of his time – more than a hundred years after the Manhattan project and even more significant. The top scientists and engineers from all over the world were being gathered on this project. The immense budget of the project was paid for by the largest nation-states – yet most of the operations had been kept secret from the public. People had known that an extremely high-energy particle accelerator was being built under miles of the desert land, but he doubted that anyone understood the implications and the use of it. The high-energy particle accelerator was a year away from operations when Eli had joined, when he was first introduced to the quantum loop processor.
The output of any significantly large particle accelerator is in petabytes a second, requiring massive server farms to process all the interactions. But when Eli arrived at the Celestia Laboratory there was just a single machine at it’s center, a single server room with the quantum loop processor. The technology of the processor was completely hidden from the modern world – invented almost a generation ago at the labs of Applied Dynamics and kept in complete secrecy from anyone but the highest levels of the military and world government. The reason for this was the implications of the computing power – it made any encryption breakable with just pure brute force, using quantum computer technology to achieve a speed that previous theorists never imagined possible. Quantum algorithms allowed the machine to work on the calculations completely parallel to one another, harnessing all the distinct possibilities represented in a quantum probability wave so as to do many different calculations simultaneously. While the rest of the world advanced with computing technology – continuing Moore’s law doubling in processing speed every two years – only a small group of researchers were able to use the technology, focusing their efforts on bioinformatics and precise particle physics.
Eli had never imagined the implications of such computing power. He had used supercomputers in his past research as a physics graduate – working on small physical models of fundamental particles, but every case he was always held back by the speed and time required of the intense mathematical calculations. His previous simulations of physical interactions would only contain a few particles at a time, modelling the most basic interactions of electrons and photons, since the total computational power required would grow exponentially with every additional particle. But there were no such limits with this processor – he could quickly program a complete simulation of a star with a total amount of fundamental particles and interactions that was just inconceivable.
The quantum loop processor was able to process massive collections of atoms at the scale of solar systems, reaching levels of mass and complexity enough to simulate black holes of infinite density. The problem then became not one of computation but having the exact correct values. Previously in Eli’s work, at the micro subatomic scale, the results of the test seemed to model the real world – electrons behaved as they had been predicted in the standard model, and all the forces interacting were taken account for. But the errors in the simulations were only truly noticeable once you reached the macroscopic – once atoms formed, then molecules, then you could finally see the resulting errors. All simulations were essentially immediately a failure. Any matter brought together larger than an apple would immediately collapse in on itself – higher level atoms were unable to form, and all simulations became a useless cloud of data with no emergent properties. Thus the need for exact correct values for the fundamental forces at work – something that was only possible by measuring particle interactions at extremely high energy levels. Only at these high energies could you actually detect relativistic effects at the quantum scale, and where researchers were able to get the most correct data to find the true universal constants.

The Celestia laboratory’s purpose was not just to analyze the results of the particle accelerator, as Eli had thought before joining – their goal was to create a perfectly accurate digital simulation of reality: a celestial simulation. The research into the correct values for the fundamental forces and the physical simulation software then became complementary. New observational data from the accelerator could then be tested in the simulation, and as the precision of the fundamental constants increased the simulation became more stable and accurate.
Two years after Eli joined the project they reached a point where everything seemed to suddenly fit, where the simulations simply worked. The jigsaw puzzle was suddenly together, all the pieces meeting the precise requirements to function properly.
With this, they had achieved the grand goal of science, Eli thought. They now had the unified theory of everything – a perfectly accurate way to calculate all possible physical interactions. “What we can create, we can understand” was the mantra. Collisions of galaxies and supermassive structures became trivial for the quantum loop processor to simulate, taking only a few seconds to process the massive amount of interactions and possible outcomes over the span of billions of year of simulated time. With the correct data, any physical phenomenon could be simulated and seen. They were then able to analyze all of the small interactions never previously known – deriving the exact formulas for the thermal radiation of black holes to the properties of dark energy.
The next step then became how to simulate the conditions of the big bang, the beginning of the universe and of time. This would not only be the best test of their formulas and calculations, with the most extreme results possible, but it would also allow them to finally completely understand how their own universe was created. They simply needed to correctly model the first conditions – the inflation seed, the infinitesimally small speck of creation. The initial values such as total mass took refining and testing also, as any deviation meant all matter would either stay in a stable position in the singularity or collapse in an instant. Only once they had the exact correct values did the celestial simulation truly start – the explosion and massive instant growth, thousands of years of atom formation, followed by billions of years of stable expansion.
They knew it would not be the same as their universe, even if the first conditions were exact. Due to the uncertainty of quantum mechanics – the fundamental randomness of elementary particles – they could only test one possible universal outcome. With each fundamental interaction between particles the answer wasn’t definite – the final position of those particles was determined by probability. But what they could do was choose one of the possible outcomes – the most probable position at each step – meaning their simulation was only one in the large space of possible universes.
Eli remembered the enthusiasm of that day throughout the laboratory – they felt as if it was their final step, and that that was a reason to celebrate. They never thought about what they could find and how it would affect them – or what it would mean to truly ‘finish’ science, to completely understand everything – for the game they all loved to be over, the eternal truths they had searched for to be found.
The researchers ran the simulation and in almost an instant it was over. The quantum loop processor had taken 0.025 milliseconds to return the calculation – a noticeable lag in time that had never been seen before. They could watch back, looking just at the interactive graphs of the data at a large scale, how the universe had expanded, how the immense amount of particles had formed together to become atoms and soon stars. Eli read the massive values on the display and pictured the results as if he had seen the star in the sky, focusing on a specific star system. There were planets and maybe even earth-like ones, but there was no effort to analyze and search for any possible life at the time. He watched the star’s birth, the forming of the planets around it, and eventually its death, supernovae to form a new solar system.
13.76 billion years of expansion took place, all to collapse in a few thousand years to reform the singularity as it had started.
The excitement of the scientific accomplishment had clouded many of their visions for the first few moments. Only after looking into what had caused the collapse did Eli notice that this was not just a random outcome of the simulation – that the collapse was a fundamental property of the universe itself. That with each simulation they would run the same results would come – that the universe was destined to collapse within a few thousand years of Eli’s own time.
He kept thinking about a possible error in the simulation, that maybe there was a system error that caused the expansion variables to reverse. But as he analyzed further there was no escaping that it was a requirement – that for expansion to happen as it did the collapse was eventual and definite – another necessary piece of their jigsaw puzzle.


“We have to trust in God’s plan, Eli” Edmund said.
Eli and Edmund waited in the room for the other researchers to come in to discuss the simulation’s results. Eli was surprised that he was asked to come, as he was by far one of the youngest researchers on the project, and had barely known any of the other high level researchers coming. He had constantly debated with Edmund since he had arrived at the lab, arguing over every hypothesis until the results were verified, along with philosophy and essentially every subject that came up. It was because of this he and Edmund had a good rapport, able to discuss complex problems with ease. The main point of conflict had been Edmund’s view of ‘god’ – and of his spirituality and Eli’s apparent complete lack thereof.
Edmund had discussed this with Eli in depth before – “God had always been used to explain the unexplainable. Though we now understand the world and its mysteries, that doesn’t take away the fundamental need – to have that first cause, to explain that there something rather than nothing. You can ask if God created the universe then what created God – but that’s exactly why God is needed, to explain the unexplainable.”
For Edmund, God was a metaphor for that which transcends all levels of intellectual thought, one needed to explain what he felt the physical laws could not – consciousness, life, the first cause. While Eli had respect for this view, he had always believed that Edmund took it to an irrational extent – believing in a ‘designer’ universe created for a purpose. He was curious how Edmund could think that now.
“God’s plan?” Eli responded, shaking his head and smirking at Edmund’s ideas. “How could there be a plan to this? How could there be meaning to creating something and destroying it so quickly? Where’s the rationality or justice – where is the point? The universe was ending without a care – simply cause and effect.”
The other researchers walked in as Edmund ended the conversation with a nod – understanding Eli’s argument.


“Simply because it happened in this test doesn’t mean it will happen again – each simulation is different.”
“With each simulation we will get the same results – the same exact date for the contraction” Eli replied, becoming agitated arguing with the older physicist. “It’s not simply a matter of the test anymore – this total mass,” Eli pointed to a number written on the chalkboard behind him, “when reaching this level of expansion, causes the eventual collapse. It is simply math.”
Ten of the researchers argued over the results, as Edmund lead the discussion. Some had gone towards denial, Eli thought, not believing this result was possible and that surely it must have be an error. Others had still viewed this as just a abstract discovery in the simulation – that this wouldn’t apply to our universe the same way.
“It’s true this is only one outcome” Edmund said calmly. “One in the almost infinite supply of possible outcomes. Almost-infinite. What I propose is that we keep running the simulations – we go through all possibilities, one after the other. We run a large number of cosmic simulations parallel to one another, each going through a massive possible space of simulations. With each quantum possibility the simulation would branch off into another one, so that every possible space could be covered and eventually all data is understood. We would have complete access to the outcomes of all possible universes.”
Eli thought about the space of possible particle positions and configurations, realizing that the number of combinations was higher than a googolplex – a number with ten to the hundredths power of digits. It seemed an absurd idea, and a lost cause to him at this point.


“What exactly are you searching for?” Eli argued, confronting Edmund after the discussion. “Even with the power of the quantum loop processor it could take us decades to compute all of those simulations. Hell, more than decades, thousands of years, possibly even longer – longer than we have, or even this universe has. Are you in denial like the rest of them? Believing this collapse and eventual end is just some anomaly?”
“No Eli, I agree with you. Every universe we calculate will have the same fate, just as our own.”
“Then what? Why keep searching?”
Eli was sure he already knew the answer – that Edmund was just unable to accept the reality they had found, that he needed to continue his search as if there is something still to find.
“Because I believe there is an answer waiting to be known. Our search should be for something more” Edmund said, giving a deliberately vague reply. “I don’t just believe we are just modelling reality with our simulations, Eli – I think our simulations exist in the exact same way. Our simulation is simply just a mathematical model of rules just as our own universe functions – there is no distinction.
“We would no longer be just simulating a single universe – but all existence. It’s long been believed that each time a particle’s wave position collapses, each time a quantum outcome is decided upon, that it creates a new universe with each possible quantum state. The ‘Many Worlds’ theory of quantum mechanics. By setting our simulation to do the same, only then would we truly understand all of existence. We would no longer have a simulation of a single universe, but the entire multiverse.
“And just like the simulations we are creating – I believe the multi-verse was created to search for something. That God created this in order to find something – something emergent out of these base first conditions. The multi-verse could simply be a search function through all possible universes – just as we will do. We will find its purpose.”
Eli tried to understand Edmund’s logic. “What could we exactly find that isn’t just more data? That isn’t something I can go ahead and model digitally right now? Everything we try will have the same result – we know it’s fate – the same timed death once the 13.76 billion year time is hit.”
“We simply know the ingredients Eli, the first conditions. We don’t know the result – we have to find it. We have to discover it – find the reason for the multiverse’ grand design.”
“Grand design…” Eli scoffed. “So you still believe the reason the universe exists is to get to a point – to find something? To put the ingredients together to make this grand plan. Then why can’t it just simply exist that way? Why begin with the big bang and search all possible quantum paths towards something, when it can just start with that?”
“Because maybe the solution is unknown to even itself – it just knows the… answer. Just as we create these simulations find something, this multi-verse we inhabit exists for the same reason. It’s trying to find the solution to something, trying to achieve something.
“It could be life Eli, or something alike to life which we can’t even imagine. Life can’t just be created out of nothing – life must emerge. It can’t simply know what life looks like to create it. It’s impossible to start at the end conditions because the calculation to get to the point must be done. Just like for us to find life in our simulations, we must create it.”
Eli tried to understand what Edmund was getting at, giving him a blank stare forcing him to elaborate.
“What I am trying to say Eli, is maybe the answer is already known but the configuration isn’t.” Edmund looked up and closed his eyes, trying to figure out how to explain his reasoning.
“Let me explain something – the question of P equaling NP. Which is an unsolved problem of computer science. What it asks, in simple terms, is whether the computational power required to check if an answer is right equal to the power needed to find it. Most would say that they are not equal – that just because a problem is easy to check if it is right does not mean it is a easy problem to solve. Checking if an answer is correct, and solving a problem, are two very different things. Deciding on a problem’s correctness could be trivial – yet figuring out that solution could be incredibly hard.”
Edmund continued, connecting what seemed like a tangent of the argument to Eli back to the discussion at hand. “So whatever this multi-verse is searching for, whatever its reason, it might know what the answer looks like, but not the solution itself.
“Suppose you were building two large towers by stacking rocks of various sizes, and you needed to make sure the towers are the exact same mass. Now to check the answer to that is very simple – you just add up the rocks and test if they are equal. But to find the correct configuration isn’t that simple – in fact you may need to go through every single possible configuration in order to find the correct one. With 100 rocks, that’s 2 to the power of 100, meaning the amount of configurations is a number with thirty digits, and with each additional rock that number grows exponentially.
“The multi-verse is doing the same – running through every possible configuration searching for something. We must do the same to find it ourselves – whatever it is. Each fundamental particle is a rock, Eli, and the multi-verse is searching for the perfect configuration – the answer.”


“In the extremely rare circumstances where complex life existed – it seemed to be destroyed in almost an instant. A planet hospitable to life was rare, and an environment where complexity flourished and grew was even rarer. In some entire universal simulations there is simply no life to be found beyond the most basic of lifeforms.”
The researcher Dr. Joseph Shea explained this in a completely rational calm tone, simply analyzing the results he had printed out on the page. Only five researchers were in the room now, including Edmund and Eli – most having left once it was clear the eventual collapse was not an anomaly.
Edmund had started the search a year ago, running through what seemed to be an endless amount of possible configurations with no end in near sight. The outside world continued without knowledge of their initial findings, as they had thought would be best – they were not sure of the possible disruption that their results would have. Eli had stayed after many arguments with Edmund, acting as something of a devil’s advocate to what he began to believe also. But now his resignation seemed near. While Edmund had convinced Eli that finding something was possible initially, and inspired him to continue, as the results came in Eli’s faith in Edmund and his search for answers began to fade.
Nothing unknown or unexpected was found. The most complexity in the simulations that emerged was what they had expected – life. To search for life they had analyzed all the current calculated universal configurations for negative entropy – a property unique to life. But nothing was unpredictable, no unknowns were found. Strange life forms came and went – all eventually destroyed as the universes hit their 13.76 billion year timeline.
“We were able to find life that could be considered advanced. Some these lifeforms had language and tool use – and were able to understand themselves and the world around them. Self-awareness in many species seem to be a byproduct of language and abstraction. Once it was needed for a being to talk to others, it seemed to form the concept of self and be able to understand its own position as a conscious being. In one case a complex non-carbon life form existed that was able to understand how to repair and advance itself, evolving its intelligence rapidly through very few generations. But with the last generation it simply stopped progressing – since it was able to modify its own internal pleasure-based nervous system to it’s needs.”
Eli thought of Dr Shea as a zoologist of of some sort – analyzing these strange beings and measuring their progress and evolution. A recurring pattern Eli had quickly noticed after hearing these reports, was that intelligence was in no way the best path for many species. Brute force and strength would normally win, while too great of intelligence would lead to too much abstraction. Once a species begins to question itself, begins to realize its own subjective experience, then it loses the ability to fight as it had before. If the more advanced life simply died as easily as the rest, Eli thought, then life could not be the answer they were searching for.
“Tools use was prominent in species and much more frequent than complex language. But with this came self destruction and harm. With greater advance of tool use intelligence meant greater conquering of the environment and power in individuals rather than groups – leading to many of the species’ own self destruction, or even destruction of their home planet. With language and abstraction this became even more prevalent. With one species that could be considered close to humans – carbon life form, complex society with empathy, emotion, and art – it too simply destroyed itself and its environment once it reached a significant state of technology.”
The researchers were now able to watch as life flourished in their simulations, only to die off or never reach a state of significant complexity.
Eli could render the earth-like habitable planets on his office’s holographic screen – watching the entire time span of the planet’s life in only a few moments. In every case no matter how unique the species was, the eventual result was the same. Even if the species was in a state of equilibrium in their environment, even if they could last billions and billions of years, the final 13.76 point hit and it would all end. Civilizations would rise and crumble in an instant, as the weather would change, the environment would become hostile, and other species would rise.
“Can you see how wrong we are now, Edmund?” Eli said, interrupting the report. “How could this universe’s purpose be life, when it was so hostile against it? When it was so uncaring and unlikely. Life it seems was just a hiccup, a random fluctuation of still matter so easily fixed and replaced. A by-product that quickly solved itself.”
“Our search isn’t nearly complete, Eli” Shea argued.
“Will it truly ever be ‘complete’? Definitely not in our lifetimes, and very unlikely before the end of it all. What are you expecting to find? What will be your destination?” Eli directed his speech at Edmund. “Even if we find life as advanced as man it will still have the same fate – we will still be just an observer to its eventual death. Self-aware monkeys find self aware pelecypods! How is that a noble goal? What could another being teach us, or help us in any way? Our destiny is known. The Celestia program wasn’t about finding life – it was about finding the universal constants and we have done that. We are simply continuing this search because we all know there is nothing left to find. This program is over – we should now try to go back to the ignorance we had before. What the fuck does it really matter what we find now?” Eli suddenly burst out, adding emotion to what were usually his cold and calculated answers. “It all ends! That’s the result, no matter where we look it’s all going to be the exact same. We can run through an almost infinite number of different simulations all we want, nothing will change that. This program should have never existed, we were never meant to have the knowledge we have now. If our universe has no meaning we should have never found out, we should never had known. Just as if there was no light in the universe it would have been better to not have eyes – to not know it was dark, dark would be without meaning.”
Eli continued as the others stayed silent. “After its glorious few billion years of existence not even a memory will remain of all this. No tears will be shed, no great art painted in its honour – it’ll simply be gone. We’ve been part of the infinitely many iterations of the multi-verse exploding and collapsing in on itself, just as we were one of the trillions of planets in the universe, just as we were one of the trillions to the power of hundreds of possible outcomes. With the illusion of importance and meaning coming from us being lost in it. But both ways we look, from the macro to the micro, we see more how irrelevant we are. Lost in the infinite chaos. This world had started as just a random chaotic creation, and it’ll end just the same.”
“Lost in the infinite chaos, Eli?” Edmund said, speaking for the first time that meeting. “That’s a matter of perspective. When we consider the scale of our universe, something around ten to the power of thirty meters, compared to the size of the smallest distance – Planck’s length – ten to the minus thirty five meters, that doesn’t tell me how we are lost in all this chaos, what it shows me Eli is that we are in the middle of it. Maybe the purpose isn’t just life Eli – maybe it’s simply us. Maybe we need to change our search to find ourselves.”
“And what makes us so different from all other life Edmund? Why are humans so special? The path and patterns will be the same – some will destroy themselves, others will die out, and some might somehow reach a high level of technology without destroying themselves. What are we to gain by finding ourselves in this simulation? Sure we could go through man’s timeline and look at our history – or even look at all the wonderful possible histories we could have had – but we all know how it ends. Do you still hold the belief that man was created in God’s image, Edmund? That maybe this was all created just for man – and these other lifeforms are what, just experimental fuck ups? That the vast majority of the matter in the universe is all here for an almost insignificant amount of life? Why have this giant show for just us – the stage is too big for the drama.”
“We are unique Eli – in all our searching no other species has achieved what we have – no other species has been able to truly understand its place in their universe like us. None could have built the quantum loop processor. Or these simulations.”
“I thought the search was for something we couldn’t understand – to find something in the multi-verse that was beyond our initial conditions and predictions. To find something that could make sense of things. Now your saying this is all here, just so what, we can enjoy it? The universe’s purpose is just to have humans in it – just so we can be another life form that is sprung up and eventually dies? And what makes us special, is our ability to understand the universe? So that’s Gods plan then Edmund, as you see it, that God is so vain as to just create all this so there is someone to view his brilliance.”
“Maybe our purpose is not just to observe the universe, but to truly understand its grand design. What I saying Eli, is maybe the search will end with ourselves – maybe man was the goal of the universe all along” Edmund replied.
“Design? Goal?” Eli shrugged. “There is no design to this – there is no purpose. Just because we are here, does not mean this universe was created for us. Your stubbornness reminds me of the story of a puddle on the ground, Edmund – it wakes up one morning and thinks, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me so well, must have been made to have me in it!’ But then the sun rises in the sky, and as the air heats up and the puddle begins to evaporate, it still hangs on to the notion that everything is going to be alright. Because the world was meant for him! So the moment you disappear might catch you by surprise, might not make sense. But it was simply another cause and effect, Edmund.”
“You don’t believe that, Eli,” Edmund replied. “Otherwise why are you still here?”


“All I ask of you Eli, is you keep searching”.
Edmund had announced his retirement months ago, but only now was Eli realizing that without Edmund he was alone with his thoughts. The other researchers had all been replaced with analysts and engineers, to Eli no one else seemed to have understood the implications of what they had discovered nearly a decade ago.
“Even if we do find humans in these simulations Edmund, where will that lead us?”
“I don’t know, Eli. But I wonder, if we are able to find man, could we find man creating simulations the same as we are doing? Perhaps different tools, different teams, or possibly we could even find ourselves creating simulations – think about where that would lead.”
“To an infinite loop” Eli smirked. “The machine would keep calculating recursively into more simulations, never stopping.”
“So what I am saying Eli, is if there was a machine with infinite computing power, it could regressively create more simulations endlessly. If that is the case, then what makes us think we are on the top, that we are the creators? We could very well be a billion simulations deep into regressive simulations.”
“So this is a simulation then, is that your point?”
“Isn’t it more likely that we are part of a simulation, than not? If an almost infinite amount of simulations exist compared to one true reality? These simulations are closed mathematical realities – if we were in one there is no way for us to possibly know…”
“The quantum loop processor does not have infinite computing power Edmund, no machine does. If the quantum loop processor entered an infinite loop such as you’re suggesting, it would simply never exit. Our processor still requires time to calculate these simulations – if we were to enter an infinite loop our universe would still end eventually, taking the processor with it. As interesting as the idea might seem to you, it leads us nowhere. Even if we did have infinite computing power and were able to start infinitely creating simulations – what exactly would be the point? Why Edmund…. why!? Why would we want to continue this infinite loop, when everything has the exact same fate? How does this explain the first cause Edmund? Why is this loop started, and why should it continue? We would never be closer to explaining why all this exists in the first place.”
“What I am saying Eli is not simply that we are possibly in a simulation – but that is there really a difference? If a simulation exists in the same way as our reality, does it matter? If we can exist in either, both realities are just mathematical constructions. Maybe the transcendent property we are searching for is this Eli – this loop.”


Eli watched in the simulation as a few humans went about their lives – searching for food, caring for their families, fighting for their lives in the hostile environment. This simulation had only produced hunter-gatherers in its existence, yet they seemed to live in complete equilibrium with their environment.
“In all of the current simulations found with species closely matching the DNA of man, the vast majority of them had been the same. Man never reaching a significant level of technology – achieving nothing even close to the technology of the quantum loop processor.”
The young physicists explained the recent findings to Eli, as he watched the simulation displayed in front of him barely listening. Most of the original researchers of the Celestia project had gone years ago. Edmund had left over a year before they had found Earth, leaving Eli as the oldest researcher in the lab.
Eli pressed on the display to slow down one of the simulations being calculated, zooming in on a precise area to watch. He had read graphs and displays about the Earth’s data and progress, but had never taken the time to watch any of the interactions himself.
There didn’t seem to be anything particularly unique to humans – they had the same trends and habits as other lifeforms they had found. They had found lifeforms with what could be called ‘consciousness’ before – awareness of themselves and their environment, but before watching these humans interact with one another Eli had never really realized what that meant. What ‘self awareness’ in these simulations truly would mean – that they had been creating life just as their universe had. That these humans had their own subjective experience – and for the first time Eli could relate and feel empathy for them. As Edmund had said, if the physical matter in these simulations followed the same rules and had the same properties as his universe, does it not exist in the same way? Both were simply mathematical constructions.
With every step forward of the simulation, Eli felt he wasn’t just calculating another abstract model but actually creating something – it was more than just data. Before that moment the experience these humans were having did not exist – Eli was defining it.
“What… are you doing?” The younger researcher asked, as Eli stared at the display, watching the humans interact with one another.
Eli had always thought of these simulations as a predetermined calculation. But if he could stop the simulation, was it determined if it was never actually calculated? Did these lives in the simulations not still have free will the same as Eli, their actions and thoughts not existing until the calculation was done?


After witnessing the lives of the found humans, Eli decided to continue his own. He decided he had spent too much of his time away from society focused on these problems, when he should have been focused on his own life. As the senior researcher Eli made the decision to stop the Celestia program. He left the quantum loop processor intact however, completely self sustained, still running through the calculations and possible configurations with no one left to analyze the results. It had only reached a small amount of the configurations when Eli had left.
Eli had realized there was no need to analyze the simulations – that they would not find what they were searching for – but he felt it was necessary for the simulations to still run. Continuing the calculations, Eli thought, could mean he was creating life beyond the project, defining life and worlds that had previously not existed.
Centuries passed as the simulations were calculated and defined by the quantum loop processor – as humanity continued its existence up until the eventual universal collapse. Only an exact moment before the universal collapse did the processor stop its calculation – hitting its final configuration.
The processor had hit the exact same universal configuration of its own universe. It had defined itself, reaching its purpose.
Every fundamental particle was needed to reach this point, every interaction part of the search. Man was exactly as what was needed to created the quantum loop processor and the Celestia program. With the exact universal constants and properties that were necessary – the necessary conditions needed for itself to have existed.
Reality had defined itself, making A=A. It had been its own first cause – existing for the purpose of creating itself. It had finished its search.

Categories: Stories

Long post

August 26th, 2012 No comments

It’s been over a year since my last update, but I decided to keep this site going as mainly a archive of past projects.

My newest project, which takes about 80% of my time these days, is Apotheon with Jesse McGibney again.
We did a interview with GameSpot at GDC about it.
Without a doubt it’s the most ambitious project I’ve ever done – in terms of programming, production, design, it’s getting increasing more massive and complex. I love how the game is turning out – we still need to figure out a lot of very essential gameplay aspects, such as tweaking melee fighting and dealing with inventory management (something I don’t have enough experience with since I rarely played RPGs as a kid) – but it’s still far from release, I am hoping for April/May of 2013. People have responded very positively to Jesse’s art so far – and it really is a brillant art direction not only because of how beautiful and unique it is, but it perfectly fits into the game mechanics and the themes we wanted to pursue – and also is extremely good for production and reusing assets (very minimalistic, very pattern based for easy level design)
I sometimes wonder with Apotheon if I’ve spent too much time on the technical aspects and not enough on actual game design. A lot of development was spent making the physics system work with the skeletal animation system, and then making that also work with the networking – I think I was aware of not getting in the trap of pursuing something technically complex for too long and delaying development, but I still am envious of other indie developers who able to make great games with simple tech. Indie developers really shouldn’t compete with technology – unless it’s something very unique, their focus should always be on design. I can’t understand why an indie developer with limited resources would attempt to create their own engine. I really think developers need to understand where their talents are, and focus on that – the defining aspect of ‘indie’ to be is doing a lot with limited resources. We are pretty good at keeping things as simple as possible for Apotheon – but I can’t imagine myself creating another giant codebase for a single project like this again, hopefully we can either reuse a lot of this work for our next game or successfully move on to a more standard game framework.

It’s been over a year since Capsized was released, but it still seems to be selling quite well and there is still a lot of new players and interest in it. I think when we originally released we didn’t get the attention I was hoping for – just since we didn’t focus enough on marketing at the end of development. But after release, and we got 80% on Metacritic which was great, and had a few Steam sales, the interest and response to the game kept picking up. Every Steam sale we’ve had has been massive, a few times larger in revenue than our first day of release, which is something I didn’t expect. I think what would have been better for Capsized is if it was released on another platform first – like XBLA/PSN, then had a Steam release. That way we could have had the initial people try it and enjoy it – then a well publicized release for Steam. I think a few developers have understood the value of this – that even if popular games make the majority of their revenue from PC sales a console release first can still be great for initial promotion.
Capsized is still selling and being developed for other platforms – right now being ported to iOS by Indiepub (IPad release only right now), and also other PC platforms from other developers. I still have yet to see how the iOS version will really turn out – I still can’t imagine people responding well to a touch controlled Capsized – it’s already very difficult to control with a mouse + keyboard, and the game relies so much on fast movement and quick reflexes – but I’ll wait to see what they are able to do.

Illfonic’s Nexuiz was released February 29th for XBLA and May 3rd for Steam. I was extremely happy about how this turned out – Illfonic got the gameplay perfect and really enhanced what Nexuiz had been before. The only thing I miss was having basic deathmatch – their design was entirely team based, which I guess makes sense since that was the majority of online Nexuiz Classic servers anyway, but I still missed the chaos of a packed FFA deathmatch match.
It’s also good to see that the Xonotic project, a fork of Nexuiz from some developers, is still being developed and played. Definitely a different game design than Nexuiz was pursuing – and it kind of makes me realize I had opened Nexuiz development up too much to the community in the later releases (making the game design more generic than I think me and LordHavoc, the other designer, had initially planned for).

A few of my friends and my brother also compiled a book of our past short stories and released it as the Celestial Puppeteer. The main writer (and really the only good professional writer) is Dustin Geereart, and primarily he set the theme of the book while the rest of us matched it. A lot of the stories are pretty messed up – and some of my own are from when I was had just started writing right out of high school, so I am a little hesitant to promote it without first seeing some response to it.

Besides Apotheon, I have two other current projects taking my time. One is Indievania – a online marketplace for indie games. I started this site as a response to trying to sell Capsized online and having a horrible time with non-Steam PC distributors. They all took a very high percentage of revenue based on the service they provided – their sites were horribly designed, their game submission process was really inefficient, and I couldn’t stand how they paid developers (they’d send you sales reports every month and then you’d have to invoice them, and usually it would have to be over a certain amount to be paid). I decided there needed to be a site that allowed a game developer to sell games quickly, with very little headaches and problems, and retain their profits. So I started Indievania development about a month after Capsized was released, and opened up the beta last year around November. So far the site has over 300 indie games added, and continues to grow in popularity. Hopefully I’ll have time to continue development with it – I’ve tried getting help from other developers and moderators but so far no one has been very reliable.
The other project is a new 3d game project with my brother, which is a dream project we’ve had on our mind for a while. Right now we are mostly just focusing on the tech behind it with a lot of placeholder art – and then when Apotheon is released I am hoping we can move towards full production on it.

Categories: Apotheon, Capsized, Nexuiz, Stories

Short Shory – The Fun Machine

January 19th, 2011 No comments

Story written while in university for a story writing class. Not exactly a story though



The fun machine!
Not satisfied with having to think to enjoy books?
The fun machine!
Bored with the TV and you don’t want to move?
The fun machine!
Call your local dealer now, and remember,
If it ain’t fun, it ain’t the Fun Machine!

Jonathan stared at his kid’s newest toy, and wondered why he had not bought one of these before. The young model on the cover was the first thing he had noticed, smiling at him with wide white teeth and photo-shopped beauty. She didn’t seem human; she seemed plastic, fake, too good and too perfect. Yet why would he care, it’s all just ink on a cardboard box trying to make him think this beautiful women is staring at him. Trying to make him buy their product with this manufactured love. He had realized with this that man was easily tricked. That the eyes and indeed all senses, could be deceived. It didn’t matter if this woman was real and flesh standing in front of him, or whether she just was ink on a cardboard box, he was attracted to her all the same.
The Fun Machine – the hit of the summer. The final toy for us to play with and enjoy.
Jonathan opened the cardboard box and took out the colorful instructions from their wrapping.

‘Congratulations on your purchase of the Fun Machine 3.05! The latest version of the world’s #1 toy, ten years running! We at Friendly Fred’s toy company (a division of Hamimac Inc) know you will enjoy this fine product, we made sure of it! Now before you use your new hardware, please take the time to read these instructions carefully. Failure to do so may further limit the terms of the limited warranty. The Fun Machine 3.05 represents a significant technological improvement over past versions, and many new features have been added to make your use as enjoyable as possible.
Take a minute to inspect the contents of this box. You should find:
1. Main control and switch box
2. 500 volt, 60 Hz AC power adapter
3. Five nerve cables
4. This manual, with warranty information.
First simply take out the main control box and plug the power adapter in. Once the machine has power you should see a green icon on the console of the box, this tells you that the machine is ready for fun! Now all you need to do is connect any of the five nerve cables (enough for the whole family!) into the plug-in’s under the machine console. Once this is done grab the end of the nerve connectors, it should have a sharp metal point at the end of it, and hold it in your right hand, gently inserting it into the blue vein on your left forearm. It should only feel like a small mosquito bite, and now time for the fun!
Simply adjust the dial above where you connected the nerve cable, and you’ll feel the instant pleasure just surging through your veins! Start at one for a bit of fun, and go to 10 for maximum enjoyment.
Be sure to tell your friends about how much you liked our product. And remember, if it ain’t fun, it ain’t the fun machine!

Jonathan was at first hesitant to try it. Like many others he viewed the machine as a simple toy for kids. After all, the early versions were basically a glorified DVD player. Sold as a game console at first, you would connect it to the TV and it would give you hundreds of options for entertainment. Every TV show ever filmed, every movie in crisp high-resolution format, along with hundreds of interactive games and toys. In the first version a person would just select his or her enjoyment from the menu, taking time to search for old reruns and good movies, but in the 2.0 versions the machine could just decide for them. The machine knew what would entertain you the most; what would give you the most possible pleasure. It would not only know your preferences to select the best content, but would literally change the content based on your enjoyment. No longer would you have to actually move your fingers on the remote control, and actually think about what to watch—it was all automatic. Detecting any sudden boredom, any drop in brain wave levels, it would quickly switch to something with a little more action, or a few more jokes. You could sit comfortably in the chair and be entertained for hours without a single movement, without a single thought of the outside world.
But there were improvements in every version, as there always is. The pleasure became more efficient and accessible, requiring less thought and less movement from the viewers. In the late 2.0 versions, the machine would automatically raise your blood pleasure when there was a fight on screen; increase your body’s adrenaline for the action you were seeing. For romance your heart would beat faster. Adult entertainment became instantaneous. It expanded beyond just sight and sound, as all senses were attacked with entertainment, making you smell and taste what you were seeing. The actual drama and visual art on the screen became less important, as the enjoyment no longer came from the content but rather the feeling the machine gave you.
But finally, that all became pointless as the Fun Machine advanced to Version 3.0. Rather than showing the viewer entertainment and drama and letting them interpret it, using their minds to compute the data, why not just go straight to the source? Simply inject the pleasure. Why depend on the viewer to understand what they are watching, having the brain interpret it and then send it to the pleasure neurotransmitter, when the machine can simply send the chemicals itself? No longer would we have to go through the eye, to the optical nerve, when we can simply bypass and enjoy. Thinking is optional.
Simulation of action and drama is not longer required. After all, when complete control of the mind is grasped, there is no need for simulation, it’s not an illusion. It’s real, as real as anything. Soon there was no distinction between action or comedy; no distinction of sight from sound; it was all just pure white endless bliss. The machine no longer needed a screen—or any content provided to it—it was simply pure joy surging through your veins.
Jonathan wondered, was this the end of humanity? Finally we could forget about the sports, the games, and all the endless searches for pleasure. We could forget about reality itself, just plug yourself in and enjoy. The former idea of humanity was no more, no longer was man a simple animal fighting the environment for his needs, he had advanced beyond that. Throughout man’s history there was always a steady progression towards this point, towards this toy, and now we had finally reached it. Enjoyment by simulation is what had made us special—separate from other animals only focused on reality.
For humans to have survived, our survival skills had evolved over many generations— but there came a point where survival was too easy and too simple. There was no longer a constant struggle to live, we had hit an unnatural point of complete control of our surroundings and domination over nature. Without this struggle, men became comfortable —able to eat and live how they pleased without having to use these survival skills they had developed. But we needed to use these skills to give us a sense of purpose, to pass the time and fill our minds with goals and objectives. To simulate the past struggle—from that came the games and sports.
Now instead of fighting to live, you would use those skills to kick a ball into a net, to accomplish some random goal designed in the simulation, to fight your fellow man in some arbitrary show of strength. Men would still have the need for bloodlust; still have the aggression of the past, only unable to use it. They needed to fight each other, whether in actual battle or these simulated games.
It was tricking the brain. Tricking it to think you’re on the hunt. That you need that aggressive boost to survive and eat, when really you are just trying to kick a ball into a net, pointlessly, to pass the time, to feel useful, to fill the mind with thoughts and goals. We couldn’t just sit and eat, we needed a reason to move, even if it was pointless and lead nowhere. There needed to be something to fight.
As the culture advanced, we no longer had this same desire. Why move and interact when we could avoid that wasted energy entirely, with entertainment we could just sit and watch. Entertainment that could be displayed in front of us filled with drama and action, since our lives had little of either. It started with plays—actors faking emotion and drama for the joy the audience. Slowly this entertainment became more easily accessible, as everything does. As we advanced in technology we were able to even simulate plays in front of us, showing simulated dramas on large screens for public viewing. Soon movie theaters were replaced by television. Now a person would not have to leave their house, they wouldn’t need to socialize with others, or deal with any problems, they could just turn on their television, turn off their minds, and enjoy for hours on end. Letting commercials and marketers seep into their brains, convincing them to buy whatever fun little toys would give them the most joy. Old ladies watching soap operas as if they are there experiencing this dramatic love interest, when really they are just staring at pixels on a screen. Housewives and soccer moms falling in love with their favorite reality show contestant, thousands of miles away. Sitcoms with a laugh track, as if you’re in a large social group with everyone laughing and enjoying each other when really you’re alone in your basement eating microwaved food. You could watch violence and sex in front of you, tricking your mind as if you were there, but it was all just fantasy. All just simulated. But did we ever really care? Fake or real, all that mattered was the joy it brought us.
Turn on the TV and root for your team—as they are fighting a war for your side, as if it actually matters, when really it’s just hoping they put some arbitrary ball in an arbitrary net. These pointless games and sports to give people a cause, to fill their mind with something to care about. You care about the team because you are told to care about the team; you root for them because everyone else is. A battle over nothing.
Then came the virtual games, the next step. Now instead of having to think how to catch our food, or how to survive, we can simulate the whole thing in the comfort of our home, while our food comes packaged and delivered. I can fight on the beaches of Normandy, a thousand times, all with a can of soda beside me. I can level up my orc, and have massive epic adventures, all in an air conditioned room.
‘Virtual’ entertainment meant less moving, more just instant fun. But all success and advancement for man has been measured as this. More comfort, less to think about and deal with, all so we can just sit and enjoy the pleasure of a non-eventful life. Things become quicker and smaller, all life becomes easy and painless. Faster cars to drive but less purpose in moving.
The fun machine was the next logical step then – the final step of our simulation of reality. Buy the device; insert it into the arm, and instant fun. No need to think now, you just sit and enjoy.
This is the end of society, the end of science really. Our evolution, our discovery, being able to understand our world and our bodies more and more—this is the end result. But after all, that’s exactly what it was all for. Whatever the path of science, all people cared for was faster cars, more comfort, better more joyful lives. Science as a search for meaning had no end. There would be no conclusion of discovery. This is the final achievement of man’s quest. Our focus on simulation and our ability of abstraction has led us to this point. We can now pleasure ourselves into extinction – and nature will move on.
It used to be the brain was a slave of the body. The brain developed as a calculation tool to get food, to survive. The body rewarded the brain with pleasure, with satisfaction, if it did get food or reproduce. It stabbed it with pain whenever the body wasn’t taken care of. But now, the human brain has found a shortcut. What is the point of sex now, and rewarding the population, if Jonathan can just flip this switch to feel a thousand orgasms? People will call it immoral; people will see it as the wrong path. But it is the right future, the proper course for humanity. Finally, we are able to ignore the body, stop being a slave to its needs, and just enjoy the sweet smells, tastes, and sights, of this simple machine.
This is truly man’s finest hour. It is heaven, as only heaven could be. There is no longer pain, no longer even thought, it’s sweet nothingness and infinite bliss. There is no need to think about the next day, or what to do, or the economy; it’s barely even existence.
Jonathan plugged himself in, as all the doubts he had left him.
He remembered the feeling he had when he first had a kid, the joy of life and love. He felt that today, he felt the satisfaction of years of hard work for accomplishment, and it didn’t feel fake. Jonathan couldn’t tell the difference between years of a love filled marriage, and a few seconds of the machine. The kid won’t either, and he shouldn’t.
It’ll be a bright future for us all.

Categories: Stories


November 9th, 2008 No comments

(Story made for a thread of a forum, where stories are posted made in one sitting)

“Now what the hell is all this out here?” Ivan said, smiling and walking closer to the figure in front of him. The man turned his head to see his new found audience, faking a sense of lost balance as he adjusted his weight on the railing. Ivan took another deep drag of his rolled cigarette, quietly laughing to himself as he blew it into the air.
“Just leave me alone” the man said, looking towards the night sky. Ivan could hear the desperate whine of his voice, the pathetic immature crackling of a young mind.
“Oh sorry, my little friend! I simply needed a bit of fresh air from the party inside. But now, something has struck my curiosity out here – something a bit more interesting than social gesturing of the gathering inside.” Ivan walked closer to the end of the balcony, placing his hands on the railing a few feet away of the man, leaning over to the see the street below him. Twenty floors separated the two men from the hard concrete below, the busy midnight street.
The man hands shook violently, as he reached them up to rub his eyes. The railing was wide enough to let him stand comfortably, but he seemed drunk enough to easily slip. “Jesus Christ…” he said to himself, looking down once again, imagining the outcome of his decision. He tried to ignore Ivan, or at least seem as if he was.
“Yep, quite the fall you got ahead of you. You could certainly hurt yourself fallen’ like that.” Ivan responded, nodding his head and giving the expression of an idiot in deep thought. The young man looked back to see what sort of person would give such an incredibly stupid response, to see a grinning young man about his age, talking in a pretentious sarcastic tone.
“Just imagine your ragdoll helpless body, falling through the air with increasing speed, limbs flaying wildly as your mind instantly regrets such a decision. The inevitable splat, meat smacking pavement, instant nothingness. A piece of helpless cheese turned into mush”
“What the fuck is wrong you?” The man responded, shocked by the utter lack of empathy.
“What? You don’t wanna hear what will happen to you? You’re hoping for an easy fall then saint fucking peter will be there to guide you to eternal bliss? Well you fucking got a…” Ivan began to mumble and trail off, injecting each word with a large laugh, until finally taking another chug of his drink.
“Just get the fuck away from me”
“Why? So another random party goer can come out here and witness your little display? What is this? A gesture to the gods for the act of your own creation, or some little dramatic play for my amusement?”
The man shook his head, and tried to drown out Ivan’s booming voice in the silent night. Ivan calmly just looked over the city in front of him, until curiosity over took him once again.
“Did ya leave a note? Some last brilliant words from a young philosopher such as yourself?”
Ivan threw his hands into the air. “Oh this cruel world! Why has love forsaken me so! To be, is it better to be? To not? Oh why not?! Ah sling and arrows… and such and such”
“You’re fucking crazy”
“Ah the metaphysical despair of it all! The whiney lack of meaning, all coming from the bitchy need of being bored and asking why there isn’t something else to fill your mind. Questions of why only come when it hurts. A good time needs no explanation, no reason why. You think those drunken frat boys in there are wondering why? So my young philosopher, what is this despair?”
“What the fuck do you care. Leave me the fuck alone”
“Fine, as you wish”

Ivan shook his head, and began to walk away. After a few steps, he shrugged, placing his drink on the ground beside him, and came back for one last attempt. He couldn’t leave the man like this, Ivan wasn’t that sort of person, this was no joke.
“Look kid… what’s the problem?” he said, only a single foot separating the two. The man stayed silent, as Ivan continued… “I am sorry for not taking you seriously…. You sound like you are feeling abandoned…”
The man turned back, and looked into Ivan’s wide eyes.
“Am I right?” Ivan leaned he head over, gave a smile in an attempt to calm the man.
“She told me it was over”
Ivan sighed, breathing in deeply.
“I know you feel you cannot go on, but things will get better. What you are feeling is temporary. You are young, able, your life will go on. Just looking at you now kid, I know there is hope for you, I can see there will be other women, other love in your life. You just need to hold on. Do you hear me?”
The man began to cry, as turned and sat on the railing facing Ivan. Ivan placed his hands on the man’s shoulders, coming closer to his face.
“I believe in you and that you will get better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel – it’s ok if you don’t see it now.” Ivan embraced him closer, helping him lower to the ground.
“I loved her though”
“I understand. But if she left you, she doesn’t know what she is missing, eh?”
The man smiled, as Ivan began to laugh and joke. “I bet she is missing you now eh? Come on your not a bad catch!” The man laughed, as he hugged Ivan and began to wipe away the tears from his eyes. “So let’s take you back inside alright? Let’s go have a drink.”
“Sure thing man”
Ivan suddenly stopped laughing. He moved his face closer to the kid. “That’s… it?” He said.
Sniff…. “Sorry what?”
“I said… that’s it? That’s all there is? That’s all you needed?”
The man wiped more of his tears, and gave a confused expression to Ivan. “I don’t… know what you …”
“So that’s fucking it! Your great fucking metaphysical despair solved with a bit of human empathy! This giant show and action, all stopped because I told you everything was going to be alright?!? Because I said a bunch of bullshit cliché lines to make you feel a bit better? Did that really change your mind? Did that really make you see the point in life? Well, did it fucking make it all better?”
The man backed away from Ivan. He began to cry loudly, giving a facial expression begging for the empathy Ivan gave before.
“You pathetic piece of shit! Your utter lack of commitment to this fucking disgusts me!”
Ivan grabbed the young man, and using the almost super human strength of someone desperately enraged, threw him off the balcony, to land like a piece of cheese twenty floors below.

Categories: Stories