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Delaware County, PA

2011.02.04 18:04 jackisthename Delaware County, PA

Delaware County, Pennsylvania

2016.04.13 22:39 no_turn_unstoned WELCOME TO THE_PACK


2023.04.01 21:36 Maximum-Rabbit-31 NCD Journal of Intelligence, Journalism and Psychology: “How Willy OAM helps fuel the Kremlin propaganda machine, whether he realises it or not”

NCD Journal of Intelligence, Journalism and Psychology: “How Willy OAM helps fuel the Kremlin propaganda machine, whether he realises it or not”
“Gd’day legends, I hope you’re doing well”…
Anyone involved, interested or invested in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has likely heard those words in that warm, welcoming Australian accent. Whether it’s a conflict update, vlog or a long form interview with a foreign fighter, Willy has produced some of the most original English-language reporting on Ukraine. A former soldier who was not long ago diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour, Willy is as inspirational as he is impressive. He differentiates himself from the mainstream media by his dogged pursuit of objectivity, while simultaneously admitting his fallibility.
He positions himself as an anti-war arbiter of balance in a media space crowded by partisans, propaganda, trolls and bots. “Guys, I don’t care which side you’re on, a war crime is a war crime”. “There is propaganda on both sides”. “There are war crimes on both sides”. “There are things that you wont necessarily agree with that are true”.
Such sentences litter his videos with an almost obsessive frequency, and nothing he is saying is wrong. In fact, most of these proclamations are so self-evident that they’re almost not worth saying. And this is also where Willy falters. The fallible white knight of independent journalism, on his obsessive crusade for balance and objectivity, is actually inadvertently damaging the very values he claims to uphold. And this goes beyond his acknowledged pessimism. As proffered by physicist Dr. David Grimes (Nov 2016), “The assumption that good journalism requires mutually opposed views to be treated as equally valid simply doesn’t hold”. Willy is constantly falling into the trap of so-called “false balance”.
According to the New York Times (2016), false balance, sometimes called "false equivalency" or “bothsidesism,” refers disparagingly to the practice of journalists who, in their zeal to be fair, present each side of a debate as equally credible, even when the factual evidence is stacked heavily on one side. A study by Northwestern University (2022), found that false balance, “can damage the public’s ability to distinguish fact from fiction and lead audiences to doubt the…consensus on pressing societal challenges”. One of the study’s coauthors, psychologist Dr. David Ramp, offers climate change as a good example, because the scientific consensus is nearly unanimous. “If 99 doctors said you needed surgery to save your life, but one disagreed, chances are you’d listen to the 99,” Rapp said. “But we often see one climate scientist pitted against one climate denier or down player on the news, as if it’s a 50-50 split.”
“When both sides of an argument are presented, people tend to have lower estimates about scientific consensus and seem to be less likely to believe climate change is something to worry about,” Rapp continued, adding that false balance creates doubt, confusion and a tendency to prefer the more placating option. This is wholly applicable to Willy’s journalism. He is constantly trying to provide balance, which is admirable if naive, but it is seldom analytically helpful because he often inadvertently provides false equivalence. Willy always talks about how there's propaganda on BOTH SIDES and war crimes on BOTH SIDES. But these equivalencies are flawed and misleading, because the scale of Russian war crimes, censorship and propaganda is just incomparable to that on the other side.
If Russia commits 98% of war crimes in a war they started and Ukraine commits 2%, it is not objective or fair to give them 50/50 coverage. Genocide, hate speech, rape of Ukrainians as young as 4, illegal annexation of territory, beheading and shooting of POWs, torture, massacres and targeted killings of civilians, mass forced deportations, including of children who are subsequently re-educated (brainwashed) to erase their national memory. And the Ukrainians? One only needs to recall the outcry over the Amnesty International report to understand the ludicrousness of some of Willy’s statements.
“What annoys me is that there is propaganda on BOTH sides". Yes Willy, there is, but Russia’s state-controlled TV is talking about transexual satanic NATO super soldiers carrying slav-killing pathogens created in nazi-run biolabs and staging videos of Ukrainians bombing cities, while the British Sun is running a story about whether or not Putin “shat himself”. There is no equivalence. Drawing any is an insult to those suffering in this war or under Putin’s authoritarian regime. Willy is unwittingly acting out a page from the FSB’s misinformation handbook. At the start of the war, the Russian misinformation machine had the World talking about Ukrainian nationalism and rampant Naziism, while their soldiers were mindlessly killing Ukrainians on the streets of Bucha and other cities. The propaganda was bollocks, but the public nonetheless became fixated with it. It helped dilute and confuse opinion at a time where decisive action was needed. Luckily it did not work well enough, but it certainly helped Russia’s cause on the World stage at the time. When Russia’s actions in Ukraine are so deplorable, sometimes all they can hope for is to try level the playing field by highlighting bad things from the other side. Willy offers them that privilege much more often than they deserve.
I shall end with a quote, followed by some examples of this discussion from one of Willy’s videos. “On matters of [politics]..desire to present all views equally can be a Trojan horse for damaging falsehoods..If one position is supported by an abundance of evidence whilst another is bereft of it, it is profoundly misguided to afford them equal air‐time. Responsibility for improving societal understanding is [not to be confused with talking about both sides]. If we are to stem the tide of misinformation, it is imperative that [journalists] themselves become more enmeshed in the communication of [fact and reality]. False balance is insidious, giving dubious positions an illusion of respectability......a Trojan horse that allows the most odious of fictions to gain a foothold. False balance creates a perception in the public mind that an issue is contentious, when it is not”.
Willy’s journalism may still be useful, interesting and enjoyable, but do listen out for - and call out - any false balance you hear. There are many Ukrainians who have long abandoned his content because of it.
In the text below [FOBV] stands for ‘fucking obvious’. I’ve used it to highlight any self-evident statements.
EX 1
1:37:51: Nucking Futs is talking about the brainwashing of Russians who believe that Ukraine is theirs. Willy responds as follows: “Something that annoys me is there’s things on both sides that can be, um, correct, that you dont need to agree with...”. [FOBV] He goes on to provide examples from…both sides…and how people think he’s either Kremlin or CIA plant…”no I’m just trying to take an objective view on something” etc. Nucking Futs brushes over what Willy said and goes back to what he was talking about.
This is an example of false balance / false equivalence. Willy took the conversation away from topic to give a self-evident proposition (that some things are true even though we don’t want them to be?), and provided (false) balance between Western and Russian brainwashing/propaganda.
EX 2
1:46:39 Nucking Futs finishes talking about Russia’s invasion of Georgia and its imperialist behaviour since the end of the CW. He rhetorically asks how the world would react if Finland decided it wanted to reclaim St. Petersberg, or China reclaim Vladivostok, or Mongolia the whole of Asia and Russia etc. Willy responds, “One of the big ones I do understand though is that…the idea of America getting away with so much shit”. He then says, “you can say two things are bad but you dont need to turn on your side” [FOBV]. He gives the example of people justifying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because of America’s illegal invasion of Iraq - and says that you can condemn both [FOBV]. “And I see this everywhere, I see this on both sides”. Nucking Futs then brings the discussion back to Ukraine and Russia.
Willy is again bringing things back to “both sides”. His main proposition - that you can condemn an act irrespective of the actor - is again completely self-evident, or fucking obvious. However, by bringing up America as a counterweight, he is inadvertently creating the exact false balance that he is trying to avoid. Rather than an objective discussion about Russian imperialism and interventionism, Willy is needlessly doing the both sides dance.
EX 3
1:51:41 Nucking Futs has just finished talking about how he had a romanticised view of Russia and the Soviet Union while growing up, which was eventually shattered. He tries to head Willy off at the pass by giving the example of the U.S. fucking around in their back yard (central/South America) and how that was wrong, just like Russia trying to forcefully impose its will on former Warsaw pact / soviet bloc countries. After agreeing, Willy responds, “I’ve been very outspoken on my channel, um, completely saying how awful war crimes are [FOBV]…and how there are videos from both sides of executions, and I would never downplay that that happens”. “Now, of course, one side is responsible for a lot more than others, but either way, and I’m like no, any, that is a war crime, and I don’t care what uniform they’ve got on, I don’t care if they’ve got an Australian uniform on” [FOBV].
Here Willy is drawing false equivalence between Russian war crimes and Ukrainian war crimes, for no obvious reason. That war crimes are bad and happen on both sides is fucking obvious. Whilst he does restore some balance by saying that “one side [without specifying which] is responsible for a lot more than others”…he quickly gets back to his main thrust…which is the self-evident position that war crimes are bad no matter who conducts them. Cheers Willy, I thought Americans and Australian soldiers shooting Iraqis was fine, but now you’ve enlightened me. Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine, bombing civilians and their homes, forcefully deporting children, torturing and raping civilians, annexing land that isn’t theirs, beheading or dismembering Ukrainian soldiers, shooting POWs….but for Willy it is more important to provide balance by saying that both sides have conducted war crimes and both sides should be condemned for them. Do you see how this is false balance? Put yourself in the shoes of a Ukrainian when listening and it will become evident.
EX 4
1:53:50 Prompted by a question from Willy, Nucking Futs does a great segment talking about various Russian propaganda B.S. - Ukrainian nazis, staged incidents, no video or photographic evidence of the constant shelling of donetsk Russia claims occurs, and the latest alt right trope of saying the whole war is fake. Willy responds about how easy it is for people to be taken out of context [FOBV], and gives a funny story about how he was joking around with a friend on video calling each other nazis in Ukraine, and it got posted on some Russian telegram as if it was serious. “It’s so easy to take things out of context, and there is absolute propaganda on both sides of this, and journalists on both sides of this will completely ignore the facts and realities…”. He then carries on about how it’s great to be doing a long interview, and that people need to watch the entire thing and not quote clips that can be taken out of context.
Here he is providing false equivalence between the degree of propaganda from Russia (where you get put in Prison for speaking out against the war) and the West, where you are free to say whatever the fuck you want, including going on social media to worship Putin, call for Ukraine’s downfall as a fake Nazi biolab state, and pray for Trump’s coup d’etat. The example above is especially good, because it contrasts the extent to which he thinks he is being balanced and objective, with the false balance he inadvertently but nonetheless gives.
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2023.04.01 20:31 MissTummyacheGirly Long journey to diagnosis, pretty frustrated & traumatized, I have so many questions and don't even know where to begin...

Hi Gastroparesis! I've been lurking for a little while and finally decided to join because no one else in my life really understands what I'm going through and I'm really struggling with adapting. Really sorry in advance for the long post, but I feel like so far I haven't been able to connect with the right set(s) of ears to really feel heard and understood. **TW** I do mention my history with disordered eating/ED's in my second to last question at the end...
It's been a year and four months long (and counting) journey and I'm a little overwhelmed by the simultaneous lack of and plethora of information I've been getting. After reading a few of the posts on here I decided hey maybe joining a community of people who actually have firsthand experience might help, ya know?
It all started really I guess a little over a year ago (January '22) when I got COVID, bad, and had all the violent GI symptoms that were common with the strain that was going around at the time and I really thought nothing of it because I figured it is what it is. It took me many months to get my normal appetite back -- I think it might have been June or July before I really felt like I could even kinda eat "like normal" but noticed my bowels were just never quite the same and I was always, always super full and a little nauseated or heartburn-y after eating. I still just chalked it up to something I ate, or whatever. Before COVID I ate a mostly balanced diet, hadn't been drinking super heavily since the very beginning of the pandemic (very quickly realized what a bad habit it was and cut my alcohol intake to maybe 3-4 drinks a month), and all of my annual physical labwork was always perfectly normal according to my charts.
In mid-late Novembeearly December '22 I started experiencing worse and worse heartburn and nausea after eating, until finally the night of the 6th I was in so much pain and throwing up Pedialyte that I went to the ER, where my labs came back showing my lipase levels in the 1700's. I was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis and admitted, NPO, IV fluids only, and the admitting doc promised I'd get an MRI/MRCP and Ultrasound to rule out gallbladder issues. The next morning and following days, well, different story. I was assigned a hospitalist who was so convinced that she had to be right about a VERY unproven hunch she had that my pancreatitis was caused by my Wellbutrin, which I had been on for a while at this point, and had been tolerating extremely well, that she refused to approve an order for both the MRI/MRCP and the Ultrasound and started demanding that I have a Psych consult to switch my meds cold turkey. The GI PA who came in to see me was just as useless; she ordered an upper endoscopy to rule out an ulcer and said nothing about US or MRI. I ultimately won the battle with the hospitalist to refuse the Psych consult, stay on my meds, and get the Ultrasound the fourth day I was in the hospital, which of course showed nothing gallbladder or inflamation wise. At my follow up three weeks later with the GI (at the private practice the hospital contracts with, also something no one told me, and I didn't get a choice in the matter) they basically just shrugged and relented about ordering the MRI with MRCP, but told me "I don't really know what we're going to find at this point". Oh, and the first hospitalist's theory about the Wellbutrin? Basically 100% debunked by my primary care doc, two other docs I'm friends with (both residents in Internal Med), and a family friend who is an NP.
I should also add that I live 2.5 hours away from my entire family and support system, in an area where there really aren't choices for specialty care or really healthcare in general, and I had no one with me in the hospital or at appointments who could help me advocate for myself, especially when I was really sick and out of it.
I never really regained an appetite after coming home from the hospital, felt constantly nauseous and tired, and had extreme upper abdominal pain and very watery diarrhea any time I tried eating anything -- even eggs, white rice, that kinda stuff.
I had two more ER visits at the same hospital when things got really bad and I was even throwing up clear Pedialyte, a friend took me both times because we thought for sure it was a pancreatitis attack but both times my lipase levels came back completely normal. The final straw was in February when even the IV meds and fluids did nothing for my symptoms, ER tried to discharge me, and when we demanded a second opinion from the doc she yelled at me and said "this is the ER, what do you expect us to do". I'm still waiting on an apology from that hospital; their response has so far been that "the standard of care was appropriate in your case". So I guess the standard of care nowadays is to yell at patients.
The night after that horrible ER visit we finally went to the large teaching hospital in the same system as the smaller local hospital and my primary care doc. After a 7 hour wait in the waiting room, we finally got to see the doc who was much nicer about explaining that all they could do was treat my symptoms, but that if I was still sick after the first round of meds I should have been kept a few more hours for observation or even admitted, especially since I was not able to keep anything down. He even took great care to explain why Zofran wasn't helping me and was giving me violent headaches, and gave me Compazine, and Tylenol on top of the Torodol which also, did basically nothing for me. He also recommended that I follow up with one of the GI specialists at that hospital.
I was very lucky when I called (and kept pushing) to make an appointment and was able to get one within a few weeks (2/24). The GI doc I ended up seeing has listed that he specializes in pancreas stuff so I figured I would be in good hands. At that appointment with him he not only validated that my previous care had been extremely bad and (on the DL) basically in so many words called some of the prior docs lazy, he ordered an endoscopic ultrasound to really rule out gallbladder issues (apparently you can have sludge that isn't visible on CT/MRI/regular US?) and also remarked that the symptoms I had been having even before my first attack of acute pancreatitis sounded an awful lot like Gastroparesis and that his suspicion was that that actually was what was happening. It was the first time anyone had even considered anything like it and he ordered a gastric emptying study as well.
Getting the appointments for the tests was an absolute nightmare, the hospital system wanted to try and tell me the earliest they could do either of them was Mid May or Early June and I said absolutely not, not way, I can't eat anything and I can't live like this for that long. They put a message back to my doc and he said yep, these are urgent, and I managed to get appointments for within the month. Being pushy persistent fortunately is one of my strong suits when I have all my wits about me!
I had my EUS/ERCP on 3/13 and as my new GI suspected, it came back not showing anything. He gave me the gastroparesis diet handouts and told me that once I could, you know, tolerate anything besides just Pedialyte/Gatorade/Sprite/broth (and by this point I could only sometimes tolerate the occasional ice cream/Cream of Wheat), that I should strictly stick to it until we had the results of the Gastric Emptying study and we'd go from there.
My Gastric Emptying was on 3/22. Finishing the breakfast they gave me (good old eggs & toast) was a super struggle and my stomach hurt the entire time, I was extremely nauseous but gritted my teeth thru it because I had fought really hard to get this appointment and I didn't want to have to wait for another one to start over again. Within 20 minutes of leaving the hospital I was able to login to my patient portal and see the results: Delayed Gastric Emptying. At 2 hours i was at about 30% (normal is 40% or more) and at 4 hours I was at around 70% (normal is 90% or more). I confirmed with my GI doc's nurse that I need to stay on the GP diet and be seen by the "Motility Clinic"...but I have to wait for them to call me and they're scheduling out into the summer months at this point. One of my biggest gripes is the way the healthcare system I'm in functions...everything is "you have to wait for us to call you". There isn't another healthcare system in my area that has as many or even the kind of specialists I need (I also see a neurologist for chronic migraines that are very, very well controlled) and anywhere else is 2+ hours away, which is just unrealistic for me to do especially if I were to have a problem and needed to get to the hospital.
I'm so relieved that I finally got into the right hands with a doc who actually considered the possibility of this and was able to rule it out and has a plan(ish) for moving forward, but I'm also so angry and traumatized that I was dismissed so many times and for so long. I see a therapist about it regularly, but I still have so much anger at the docs who mistreated me and the healthcare system in general. Things shouldn't have to be this way. This entire experience has been so exhausting and frustrating and traumatizing and disempowering and...ugh. I can't even think of any more words to describe. that we know it's GP I have the diet guidelines, I have Compazine tablets for nausea, I have the Sea Bands, I have "safe" flavors of Gatorade and Pedialyte and Ensure that I can tolerate...but what TF else do I do??? My boss has been super nice about letting me work from home, I only really have to go in for meetings and one or two other days a week but I struggle to make it through the day without feeling absolutely wiped out. I'm 32 years old and I can't go for a walk, can't do errands by myself because I feel dizzy and exhausted, and I'm in bed by like 7:30 PM every single night and usually have to take a nap at some point in the day too. I guess my questions right off the bat are:
1) How do you guys get enough calories/nutrients/etc. in a day? All my GI said was "strict Gastroparesis diet" and right now I know what I'm getting by on isn't nearly enough. Last weekend I kinda graduated to peanut butter toast but only one piece and then for the rest of the day I need to be liquids only because I'm so f***ing full.
2) What do y'all do in terms of regulating your BM's? Right now I fluctuate between watery diarrhea and week-long constipation and I'm terrified of taking anything because I don't want to mess my tummy up any worse than it already is.
3) Ditto for heartburn -- I notice that I get it when I have anything that's not a clear liquid like Ensure, peanut butter, crackers, toast, ice cream (I know it's not really on the GP diet and I "should" only have low-fat, but sometimes the Favorite Day brand Cotton Candy ice cream from Target is all I can stomach mentally).
4) Anyone here have any kind of history with ED's and find that this is a complete mindf***? I'm talking to my therapist about it a little, but since she's not super experienced in treating them she can only do so much and also, I feel like no one really grasps how upsetting it is to experience this simultaneous lack of control while also feeling a supreme sense of control over what's going into one's body.
5) Did anyone else here have any experiences with pancreatitis on top of their GP? COVID? My GI is pretty convinced that this is probably a post-viral Long Covid case, but the pancreatitis attack still remains a complete mystery. As of right now we're considering it idiopathic (i.e., no known cause), but I have a feeling that somehow it's all related.
Thank you so much to the mods and whoever decided to start this little community in the first place. I really look forward to learning a lot from all of you and connecting and, with a grain of salt, can't wait to see what's next...
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2023.04.01 20:13 obsidiangoblin TONIGHT!!! Live music in Carmel. Come out and have a good time

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2023.04.01 17:45 waxy303 [For Sale] Nate Dogg, Bob Marley, Chromeo, Bone Thugs N Harmony, City Morgue, Jelly Roll, Coraline OST, Killswitch Engage, Marilyn Manson, and tons more!!

Looking to sell some records before making a long haul move here soon! The less vinyl weight to take with the better on my end.
$7 shipping within the US, each additional record add $2. Outside of the US message me to discuss shipping. Condition on everything is NM unless otherwise stated.
I base my prices off of Discogs current going rates. I am however always open to reasonable offers and happy to discuss prices! Really just trying to sell as much as possible.
PICK 10 for $185 (+$20 shipping)

Regular price, not part of the deal above.
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2023.04.01 16:59 GasStationJack We don't celebrate AFD at the gas station (ALL THE UPDATES)

April 1st. 1:45 AM
Holy crap, this is nuts!
Okay, try and stay with me here. I’ve only got like fifteen minutes before the next spirit shows up, and I really want to get this all down before it’s too late.
So, just like Jerry--I mean, the spirit, or god, or whatever it was--said: At one in the morning, I got a special visitor at the gas station.
This one didn’t appear in a cloud of fog. There was no crack of lightning or flickering lights. On the hour, I heard that same noise--the mystery chime. Just once this time. One in the morning.
It came in the form of an aura. A blinding white light. If it were outside, you could probably notice it from orbit. But it was contained here in the gas station, and it was coming entirely from the bathroom. I could only see the radiance of it poking out from the space below the door, but I could feel the brightness, like it was burning a piece of my soul. I’m sure if I’d looked directly at it, my eyes would have burned out of my sockets. It was only there for a few seconds. Then, I heard the toilet flush. And the light was no more.
When the bathroom door opened, I was not prepared for who I was about to see. The man--the spirit--who emerged looked young. He was clean shaven, with red hair on top. He wore a tan overcoat on top of a black half-turtleneck. When he saw me, he smirked.
“Rick Astley?” I asked, barely able to contain my surprise.
“No,” he said in a British accent. “I am the spirit of April Fool’s past.”
“Long past?”
“No. Your past. Assuming you are…” he pulled a notepad out of his coat pocket and flipped it open to one of the pages. “...Jack.”
“That’s what the name tag says. May I be so bold as to inquire what business brings you here?”
“Your welfare, Jack.”
“I was afraid you were going to say that.”
The ginger spirit crossed the room, doing an unnecessary dance as he moved. He clapped his hands, shimmied, and then he was standing on the other side of the counter. He reached out to me and said, “Rise, mortal. Walk with me.”
“I’m actually good here.”
He put his hands on the counter and leaned in close, close enough that I could clearly hear him as he whispered, “I’m a spirit. I come from a realm beyond your comprehension. Do you really think I came all the way here to give you the option to say you’re ‘good here’?”
He had a point.
“Okay then,” I said, standing. “How does this work?”
“Take my hand. We are going on a little adventure, to another time and place. We are going somewhere you’ve seen before. And we are going to find the moment you lost faith, the moment you abandoned the magic of the holiday season.”
I took his hand. A spring-loaded buzzer hidden in his palm let out a mechanical whirrr as it simulated a low-voltage electrical shock.
“Got ya!” he laughed. (Not surprisingly, he was the only one laughing.) I waited patiently for him to remove the gimmicky toy, then let him take my hand again. “Alright, now on to business. I want you to think back. Remember the moment you want to forget the most… remember the worst April Fool’s Day of your life.”
“Well, this ought to be fun,” I thought aloud.
Right then, the gas station disappeared. The spirit and I were suspended in nothingness. The world, the universe, and even our bodies had ceased to be… And just as suddenly, it all came crashing back. Only now, we were someplace else.
The walls were wood panels covered in posters and work orders tacked wherever space allowed. A man in the corner sat behind a cheap plastic desk that looked like it had been picked up from the side of the road. He was a heavy set guy, sweating through his button-up shirt despite the box fan blowing air at his face from a couple feet away. It was much more humid in this place. The smell of cigarette smoke wasn’t enough to cover the pungent odor of dead fish that filled the air. Flies buzzed past us as I looked at the spirit. He looked at me and smiled.
“What is this place?” I asked.
“Do not worry,” the spirit said. “Nobody here can see you. They are but shadows; shadows of what has been.”
“Yeah, I get that. But I have no idea where we are.”
“Does this not look familiar to you?” the spirit asked. His inflection made it seem like this was a rhetorical question, but the look in his eyes told me he was desperately hoping I would make the connection soon.
“Sorry,” I said. “I’m lost.”
The Rick Astley spirit retrieved his notepad, thumbed through the pages, and stared at something written there. He poked out his bottom lip and furrowed his brow.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
His face shot up. “What? Oh, no, no, nothing’s wrong. It’s just… Are you sure you don’t know this place?”
“Why would I lie?”
“So, you’re positive this isn’t your foster home from when you were in sixth grade?”
I laughed. “Look around. Does this look like a foster home? I think it’s some kind of business.” I walked up to the wall and inspected the work orders that adorned it: tiny, yellowing sheets of paper with information typed onto it in cryptic shorthand. Nothing any average person would understand, except for the stamps on each that said either “closed” or “open.”
“BUS HOUSE. 3 JOB. 2 OUT.” - Closed.
“VIP DEN. 5 JOB. 5 OUT.” - Closed.
“I’m sorry,” the spirit said. “This is actually quite embarrassing. In all the years I’ve been doing this, I’ve never taken someone to the wrong past before. Here, let’s return and start over.”
The phone on the desk rang. We watched as the heavy set man answered it. In a gruff voice, he said, “Yeah? … What the hell does he want? … Okay, send him in.”
The spirit reached for me, but I pulled back. “Wait,” I said. “I want to see where this is going.”
“It’s not a television show, Jack. This is someone’s worst memory. It’s way better than TV.”
Right then, the door opened. I instantly recognized the young man who entered. He wasn’t in sixth grade, but there was absolutely no denying that this was a younger me.
“What the fuck?” I said.
The look on the spirit’s face (or, I guess, Rick Astley’s face) told me that he was genuinely confused by this turn of events.
The younger me appeared to be in his late teens, perhaps early twenties. He had short hair, camo pants, and a black long-sleeved shirt. He must have been sweating his ass off in this weather, but he kept a professional look on his face and approached the man in the corner.
“Mr. Leechman. My name is-”
“I know who you are.” The heavy man leaned back in his chair and managed to look down his nose at the younger me while looking up at him. “You’re Tommy’s kid brother.”
“Yes sir.”
“Look, it’s a damn shame what happened to him. They ever find the guy who hit his car?”
“No sir.”
“Damn shame I tell ya. You know what, they outta make it to where a hit-and-run is an instant death penalty. But you know those pussies in the government would never do something like that. No, that would make too much sense.”
“I suppose so.”
The spirit and I closed in on these shadows from the past.
“Listen,” the heavy guy continued. I could see new sweat forming on his face. “I sent Tommy’s last paycheck to his address.”
“That’s not why I’m here.”
“What is it, then?”
“Before the accident… Tommy, he told me he might be able to get me a job. And, well, with the funeral and everything, money is getting tight. I was wondering, I mean… I know I can’t take on his role right away, but I am a quick learner. I’m not afraid to work hard and get dirty and-”
The heavy man scooted his seat back, scraping it loudly against the floor. “Hold on!” he said. “What exactly did Tommy tell you about this job?”
“I know all about exterminating. Tommy showed me how to use the different poisons. I helped him fumigate our aunt’s condo when she got fleas. I know how to-”
“Listen, Kid,” the heavy man stood up. “I ain’t gonna bullshit you. This job requires a certain skill set, and you ain’t got it.”
“Now wait a second, Tommy said-”
“Tommy’s dead, Kid. It don’t matter what he said.”
The younger me screamed, “IT MATTERS TO ME!”
Silence filled the room. A long, unnatural silence. The two men stood in place, unmoving, unblinking, unspeaking. It felt like the most intense stare down in history. But then I noticed the black fly--swollen and fat--stuck in place in midair right in front of my face. It wasn’t just the scream that brought the moment to a screeching halt. No, time itself had literally stopped.
“Enough!” The spirit screamed the word like it was poison he wanted out of his mouth. “Cut the crap, Jack. How are you doing this? What is this place?”
I poked the suspended fly, but it remained frozen. Something told me that a Mac truck wouldn’t have been able to pull it out of place. The force of time, of what was already written, was not something mortals could ever hope to overcome.
I said the only thing I could think of. “I have no idea what’s going on here. But I can tell you one thing. This never happened.”
“Do you think I’m playing around here?” asked the spirit dressed like 80’s-musician-turned-meme Rick Astley. “I’ll have you know I take this job very seriously.”
“I’m sure you do.”
He ran a hand through his voluminous red hair and took a deep breath. Then, he circled the room twice, stopped, and smiled. “I got it! This isn’t your past at all.”
“Well, yeah. Obvs.”
“No, in a sense, it is. But this isn’t your your past.”
“I don’t follow.”
“There’s a terminus point in the finite curve near the gas station. We must have accidentally fallen through a gap. This is a remainder in a galactic equation that should have been rounded off. I’ve heard of this happening before, but…” The look on my face must have told him he needed to dumb it down just a bit further. “Okay, this isn’t the correct universe. We’re in a version of your past that could have, but never did occur. You see, it might sound complicated to you, but-”
“Nah, I get it. Multiverses are all the rage in movies and television right now. I’ve already had it explained to me a thousand times.”
“Yes, but have you ever had it explained in terms of updog?”
“What’s ‘updog’?”
“Not much! What’s up with you?!” The spirit laughed joyously, then snapped his fingers, bringing the whole scene back to life. The fly buzzed past my face, I watched as it landed in a web in the corner of the ceiling where it promptly tangled itself up before being set upon by a shiny black spider.
“So, we should probably go back home, right? Considering this isn’t even a real memory?”
The spirit held up a finger and repeated my words back to me, “Hold on, hold on. I want to see where this is going.”
The door opened without a knock, and a tough-looking guy took a step into the room. As the younger me turned to face him, I registered the momentary realization on his face. He knew he messed up. He pushed too hard. And now he was about to get bounced. This guy looked like he was no stranger to busting heads. Scars on his face, ears misshapen like he had a history of amateur boxing, hands at his sides clenched into fists… and a deepset scowl that looked like it was the only expression he was capable of making.
“It’s okay, Bruno,” the heavy set man said calmly. “Our guest was just about to leave.”
“We got a problem, Boss.” Bruno’s voice sounded like a bag of rocks. (What does a bag of rocks sound like, you might ask. Well, Bruno’s voice, of course. I don’t know how else to put it. You had to be there. It was deeply unsettling.)
Bruno took a step to the side. The younger me understood without being told. It was time for him (or me?) to leave. He did so without another word. I went ahead and started to follow, but the spirit caught my arm.
“Hold up,” he said.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’ve sat through enough boring childhood memories that I know when something juicy is about to happen, and that’s most certainly not going to be with the young man walking away. He’s a B story, at best. But look at these two! They’re like cartoons! So well-realized! What’s their deal? Who is Bruno? What do they do here?”
The younger me was already out the door. Bruno closed it behind him.
“Shouldn’t we follow… you know… me?”
“Don’t be so selfish,” the spirit said. “After all these countless eons, I deserve to go off the rails just a little, don’t I? As a treat! Just a little treat!”
I didn’t have time to answer before the heavy man began speaking. “What’s the problem?”
Bruno answered, “He’s here.”
“Plane must have landed early. He wants to start the job by sundown.”
“Shit! How many does he need?”
“He’s calling this a seven job. Guzman and Florida are on call. They can get here in ten minutes.”
“What does that bring us to?”
“Five. Six if I go, too. He’s not gonna be happy if we can’t provide him with the team he paid for.”
“You think I don’t know that?! Shit!”
“I got some mercs on their way out of East City, but they won’t be here before day’s end.”
“You know he isn’t a patient man.”
“What about him?” Bruno pointed at the door with his thumb. “Tommy’s kid brother, I mean. With me and Guzman on the team, all we need are warm bodies to pad the numbers. Why not give the kid a shot?”
“He doesn’t know what we do here.”
“Really? You mean Tommy never… You mean he thinks Tommy died in a car accident?”
Drops of sweat were dripping from the boss’s face onto his desk. He closed his eyes and made a pained expression, like someone was crushing him from the inside. “Alright.” With that word, he fell into his chair. “Get the kid back in here. I’ll call Guzman and Florida.”
“What do you want me to tell him?”
“Tell him only what he needs to know.”
The two of them froze in place. Once again, time had stopped.
The spirit let out a wild laugh that morphed into the words, “Ooooh hoo hoo, this is exciting, isn’t it? What do you think is happening? What are mercs? Do you think he meant mercenaries? I genuinely don’t know where this is going! Uncertainty is such a beautiful thing, isn’t it?”
“Well, I am glad you’re enjoying yourself. But I don’t share your sense of curiosity or adventure, and I genuinely don’t see why I have to be here for any of this. How about you stay and keep doing this, and I go back to the gas station?”
“That’s not how it works, Jack. Your mind is powering this entire expedition. Come on, let’s see what happens next.” I didn’t mean to groan as audibly as I did, but the spirit didn’t take offense. He just smiled, retrieved his notepad, and continued, “I’ll make a deal with you. Let’s stick with this thread. The other option is we untangle this time knot and go visit your foster home that year your brothers stole your pants and locked you outside for the day. Remember? The police were called.”
“Why would you-”
“I’ll just write up a report saying we went to the correct memory. The visits to the past are mostly just a formality anyway. The only spirit journey that ever matters is the spirit of April Fools yet to come. I’m only here to familiarize you with the concept. So what do you say? Care to go off page for a little longer?”
I threw up my hands. “I mean, you’re the supernatural entity here. I’m just the schmuck who’s along for the ride.”
“That’s the spirit!” he said with a punch-inviting grin. “Pun intended!” He raised his hand, and with a snap of his finger, the world shifted.
The air was suddenly hotter. The lights dimmer. I shook my head until my bearings returned, slowly, lazily… And then I saw them. Bruno stood near a set of lockers, the younger me sat on a bench next to him. It was a small room, stuffy, like we were underground.
“I know this is a lot to process,” Bruno said.
The younger me didn’t seem phased. “No, I always knew Tommy was into something. He had too much money for an exterminator. I just thought… you know, maybe it was drugs.”
Bruno opened a locker and began pulling out gear: tactical boots, kevlar vest, ammo pouch… “These were his,” he said. “They should fit close enough for one job. Impress the big guy, and we’ll bring you back for the next one.”
“Who is he?”
“Listen, Kid. You gotta get those questions out of your system before you see him. This guy is the real deal, but if he catches a whiff that you’re an amateur, he might call the job on the spot. What you do here tonight is simple, shut the fuck up, follow my lead. I tell you to jump, jump. I tell you to shoot, shoot. I tell you to run…” He pulled an automatic rifle from the locker next. The younger me took it without hesitation.
“Anything else I should know?”
“Someone might try to test you. If anybody tells you that you remind them of someone they knew in the army, that’s code to make sure you’re on the same team. They tell you that, you respond, ‘I need a drink.’ You got that?”
The younger me nodded.
That voice almost made me jump. I’d forgotten the spirit was still here with me.
“Ready for what?” I asked.
“Well, this part feels like filler, doesn't it? Let’s get to the action already, okay?” He pointed at the door behind me.
“It’s your show.”
He reached for the handle, and despite his early proclamation that these were merely shadows of things that once were, he succeeded in interacting with it. It turned. The door swung open. He stepped through, and I followed.
Now, on the other side, we were transported to a different time and place--neither very far from the previous time or place. We were outside now. Mosquitos buzzed in the humid air as the sun set behind a cloudy horizon. There were seven men lined up, standing at attention next to a black SUV. Bruno took one end, the younger me on the other. They were all armed to the teeth. The five in the middle stood tall, battle-worn, confident. Everything about them exaggerated the contrast from me--the runt on the end pretending he knew what he was in for.
They weren’t alone, though. There was another man with them. The big guy himself. He had dark skin and a thick, black beard. A mountain of a man, full of muscle, exuding an air of sheer power. If it came down to a fair fight between him and the seven men at attention, well, I sure wouldn’t bet against him.
When he spoke, the hairs on my neck bristled. “Alright, ladies, I see some new faces here so I’m gonna keep this quick. My name is Benjamin, and I’m not going to carry any of you. Tonight, we have a single target. Weaknesses are standard, which means bullets will do the trick. Stay off the coms unless there’s a surprise. But there won’t be any surprises. Any questions?”
Bruno was the only one who dared speak. “What’s the target look like?”
“Unclear, but we ought to know it when we see it. At last report, it took the appearance of a human: park ranger named Preston Creekbaum. Six two, brown hair, medium build. But that was over twelve hours ago, so the target will not look like that anymore. Any other questions?” There were none. At least, none spoken. “Good. Load up.”
The scene froze in time. “What the fuck is happening?” the spirit asked. There was far less excitement in his voice this time around. “This thread, it… continues for a while. How is that possible? A pocket reality like this should have fallen apart after a few minutes, but the story goes on and on… I can see a long road out in front of us, but it shouldn’t be possible.” For an interdimensional cosmic spirit, he sure sounded rattled by the unknown. (Kinda ironic, really, when you think about it.)
“So, what now?” I asked.
The spirit checked its watch. “We’re actually running out of time.”
“How? How could we possibly be running out of time?”
"I only get an hour with you. I need to finish this up before the Spirit of April Fool’s Day Present gets his turn. And that guy gets pissed when he has to wait.”
“That only raises further questions.”
“Do you mind if we step on the gas a little with this story?” I shrugged. He smiled. “Good. Fast forward mode activated. And do me a favor, keep your eyes open for a hammerfore.”
“What’s a hammerfore?” I asked.
“Driving nails!” he laughed obnoxiously. With a snap of his fingers, we were transported to a clearing in the middle of a tangled forest. The mercs were gathered in a circle around a bloated corpse in a ranger’s uniform.
“That’s the guy, right?” one of the men said.
“STOP!” screamed Benjamin as he ran towards the group. “Get away from it before-”
One of the eyes on the corpse exploded to the sound of a wet pop, and a skinny, pink, serpentine creature--about the size of a garden snake--leapt out of the body. It latched onto Bruno’s face. He screamed and tried to grab the creature, but it was too fast. Bruno fell to his knees as the pink snake burrowed through his skull.
Benjamin shoved one of the mercs out of the way, bellowed “STAY BACK,” then unloaded a magazine of high caliber rifle bullets into Bruno’s dead body, tearing it to shreds. When the gun was empty and the shooting had stopped, the men looked at one another.
One of them ignored the big guy’s previous command and stepped over to the wet, meaty puddle of bones and viscera that had once been Bruno and said, “Holy shit. What was that thi-”
The snake erupted out of the gore with the sound of a loud “SCREEEE!!!” It hit the man who stood too close square in the neck, then disappeared under his skin. His face went ghost-white as blood spurted from the hole, but he didn’t fall down. His eyes glazed over, and he turned to face the others in short, stiff steps.
Benjamin hollered as he loaded a new magazine into his gun, “SHOOT IT! IT’S CONTROLLING HIM! IT’S-” The man with the snake in his neck lifted his rifle and pointed at the other mercs. Shadows of the past or not, I instinctively hit the ground before the next round of bullets began flying.
The sudden silence wasn’t the most unnerving thing that had just happened, but it was up there. When I opened my eyes, I could see bullets trapped in place in mid-air.
“Holy flipping shit,” said the spirit. “This is not what I was expecting.” He checked his watch again. “We’re almost done here, but I gotta see where this ends.”
He snapped his fingers, and we were gone. The muddy earth below me turned hard and cold. The air turned stale. It took me a second longer to realize that we were indoors. I rolled over and got to my feet. This was a small cabin, hardly more than a shed. Benjamin sat near the fireplace, a roaring blaze keeping the cramped room entirely too hot. He held a blade over the flames, the tip glowing red hot.
There was only one other person from this timezone in the room: the younger me. He was covered in blood, but he was breathing. It didn’t take a detective to figure out the rest of the crew wasn’t as lucky. His shoulder wept a steady stream of blood onto the cabin floor until Benjamin pressed the heated blade into place, cauterizing the wound to the sound of a blood-curdling scream.
“Good work today, Kid,” Benjamin said, handing over a flask. The younger me took and drank freely. “Sorry about your crew.”
Eventually, the younger me managed to get out the words, “It’s okay.”
The big guy pulled two cigars from his jacket, leaned over, and lit them in the fire. He clamped the first between his teeth, then handed the other to the wounded kid on the floor. The younger me didn’t hesitate to take the celebratory smoke.
“The thing is,” Benjamin said, pausing to take a puff. “This didn’t turn out the way any of us expected. Men died who didn’t need to. Wasn’t anyone’s fault, really. It was the creature’s fault.” The younger me dropped his cigar and flask, then began to violently cough. His face turned bright red as the coughing became shallower and shallower. He struggled to breathe, fighting the constriction in his neck, but it was no use. He struggled in silence, desperate for air, for one more breath, but none would come. “Yeah, it was the creature’s fault. But I told your boss, I told him what I needed. I needed a seven man crew. I needed seven pros, but he only gave me six. I saw Bruno watching you. His head wasn’t in the game, because he was babysitting when he should have been paying attention. Now, I ain’t sayin’ that’s the reason they’re all dead. I just want you to understand why I can’t let you walk out of this one.”
His words didn’t matter. The young man on the floor couldn’t hear him any more. Benjamin picked up the flask, made sure the top was on, then stuffed it into his pocket. “Sorry, Kid. But it is what it is.”
“Wait a second,” the spirit said loudly. “So… you died?! What the hell?”
Benjamin pulled a cellular phone from his pocket. I took a step closer. Close enough to see the number he dialed, but it was just a saved contact named “HQ.”
“Benjamin,” he said into the receiver. “Password Echo, Alpha-”
He froze with his mouth still open, tongue on his teeth, staring straight ahead.
“Well, this has been interesting, to say the least.” I was getting so tired of this spirit. At least I didn’t have to deal with him for very much longer. “But it’s time for us to get back to your shitty real life as a boring gas station attendant. Shall we?”
He snapped his fingers, but this time nothing happened. The world didn’t vanish. We stayed put. Exactly like I wanted.
“What’s wrong?” I asked in my most innocent voice.
“Nothing,” he lied. “Sometimes, it takes a couple of snaps for it to work,” he lied again.
He snapped, and the world stayed as it was. He could snap again, and again, but as long as I had my wave disruptor on, nothing would ever change. I removed the device from my pocket. The spirit looked at it and laughed. “Nice camera phone,” he said. “But I’m afraid you can’t take any pictures here. These memories are only in your mind. They don’t show up on film and cannot be recorded.”
I adjusted the settings on the disruptor to only cancel out the S wave frequencies. To the spirit, it probably looked like I was texting. He continued to smile at me nervously, until I executed the new routine, causing the memory to resume from right where we left off.
“-Tango-nine-seven-nine-two-Victor.” The spirit jumped as Benjamin resumed talking. The big guy stood and started for the door. “Status report. Target has been neutralized. Local team was compromised. Witnesses terminated. Request immediate evac.” He stepped out into the cold night air and slammed the door shut behind him so hard dust fell from the ceiling.
“This is, unusual, but not unheard of,” the spirit assured me. “I have everything under control.”
“No,” I said. “I don’t think you do.”
Right then, I woke up, gasping for air. Not the me that was standing, talking to the spirit. The me on the ground. I gagged and fought and strained against the poison constricting my muscles. I fought hard against whatever the hell that asshole Benjamin had put in that flask. A morsel of air broke through the floodgates, and that’s when I knew I wasn’t about to die. I tried to scream, but it wasn’t time for that yet. My heart pounded and my lungs begged; every part of me wanted nothing more than to stay alive. It was nothing but luck and sheer force of will that saved me that day, as I struggled against death long enough to take another breath. And then another.
The spirit shouted, “Holy fuck! You survived!”
“Of course I survived,” I said. “How else would I have been alive for us to meet?”
The spirit shook his head, like he thought I just wasn’t getting it. “But this didn’t happen! This is an alternate timeline, one where you never worked at the gas station, but instead became a monster hunter or something. It’s not like-”
This time, when the words froze midsentence, it wasn’t from any kind of magic or parascience. It was because I rolled up my sleeve to show the spirit how wrong he was. The gears turned quickly once he saw the old scar on my shoulder. The burn from when Benjamin cauterized my wound all those years ago. The spirit couldn’t have known exactly what was happening, but he was smart enough to try and run.
He went for the cabin door. I stayed close behind. We passed through together, and into another scene from my memory.
It was only four years later, but I had gone from a young man to a world-weary soldier. I was sitting in the recruitment office of The Institute. The commander stood behind the egghead scientists. They’d listened to my entire story without judgment--the reason for my medical discharge. And they told me something I’d never heard before. They believed me. And they wanted to help me.
The spirit hooked a right and went for the closest door. If this were really The Institute, it would have led to a balcony overseeing the compound’s hundred acre grounds, but it wasn’t. Instead, it took us to another memory:
A classroom. Only two people in this memory. My commander pointed at the picture on the projection that took up the entire wall. It was a photo of a young man sitting behind a cash register.
“Jack Townsend,” my commander said. “You’ll find his dossier to be interesting reading. You need to study him. Imitate. Do what he does, live how he lives, think how he thinks. The spirits must believe that you are him.”
The spirit spun on his heels. There were no other exits in this room. I had him cornered. It was time to go on the offensive.
I wrapped my fingers into the silver-plated knuckles and delivered a clean haymaker across his temple. If the spirit had been human, it would have put him in a coma at the least. Thank God the nerds were right; silver was enough to put him down. He moaned up at me from the floor, telling me that he wouldn’t be a problem any more.
Good, I thought to myself. I have a lot more work left to do tonight.
I reset the disruptor to the preprogrammed settings. Next stop, April Fool’s Day. One year ago. I grabbed the spirit by his leg and dragged him back through the doorway.
We were transported to the special species containment unit in the sub-basement of the Liscov Institute. There were two other people in this negatively-charged Ferriday cage built from nonmagnetic titanium and silver. They couldn’t see us, but they knew we were here.
My commander looked at the me from one year ago, then nodded. The old me programmed the disruptor with our exact coordinates. I’d been studying the tech for the greater part of the last decade, and was intimately familiar with all of its settings.
“Now,” my commander said, “explain this to me again.”
“In one year’s time,” the old me elaborated, “I’ll return to this point in the timeline and drop off the anomaly. It will remain trapped inside these walls for exactly one year. After the temporal energy has worn off, we open the cage, and he is powerless to escape.”
The spirit sat up. “What?! No, you can’t leave me here for an entire year! I’ll go mad with boredom!”
“I'm sorry,” I lied.
“Wait!” he shouted, tears in his eyes. “At least let me have a henway before you go!”
“What’s a henway?” I asked.
He laughed maniacally and answered, “About three pounds!”
I pressed the button on my device, transferring me back to the original timeline.
Anyway, I’m sorry. I know that was a slog to read, but part of my job infiltrating this place was acting just like Jack, and for some reason Jack writes down every single thing that happens to him in this stupid laptop. I had to keep up appearances, didn’t I?
Oh, I just heard that weird chime again. Twice this time. 2:00 already. I guess that means I gotta go.
Like I said… this is nuts!
April 1st, 2:10 AM
I’m just going to go ahead and say it: That was fun.
It’s not every day a decade-long plan to apprehend multi-dimensional anomalies pans out so successfully. In fact, it was such a success, I don’t even need to continue writing. I’m done. So why do I continue? I suppose this is my victory lap. Or maybe I spent so much time trying to get inside of Jack’s head that I felt a certain sense of duty to finish his blog entry.
Don’t worry, by the way. If you actually liked that guy for some reason, he’s still alive. He’s just tied up and gagged in the storage room, which is a lot more than I can say for the spirit of April Fool’s Day Present.
She appeared right on time, wearing a dress made of red and yellow flowers. She didn’t try for the same grand entrance as her predecessor. And if it weren’t for the fact that her head was actually that of a white deer’s skull-complete with empty eye sockets and a missing lower jaw--I would have categorized her entrance as being perfectly ordinary.
I don’t know how she talked with that setup, but she managed just fine. I let her go through the same movements as the other anomalies. The whole, “You don’t look like I was expecting,” was starting to get really old, but whatever. She eventually got to the point, took my hand, and told me we were going on a journey to see the ones I cared about most on this April Fool’s Day. She thought that meant we’d arrive at Jack’s home, where his sick roommate was adorning the house with birthday decorations and burning a cake (yeah, I read the whole file). But instead, we went to exactly where the ones I cared about the most--my brothers in arms at The Institute--were waiting.
We arrived inside the containment field in the sub-basement of the institute. The spirit didn’t even get another word out before the shackles went into place. As the guards took her away for processing and testing, I approached my commander.
He smiled at me and asked, “Did you get what you were after?”
“Benjamin’s passcode: Echo, alpha, tango, nine, seven, nine, two, victor.”
“Excellent work.”
Together, we approached the Ferriday cage. I scanned my fingerprint on the monitor, opening the cage for the first time in one year. We found him slumped in the corner, muttering to himself over and over… “Never gonna give you up…” etc. etc.
Alright boys and girls, that’s about the last you’ll ever hear from me. If we never see each other again, it will be too soon. Remember, watch your back and never trust anyone.
-Special Agent Brick Roscoe,
Liscov Institute for Societal Advancement
April 1st, 2:58 AM
Hey guys. It’s Jack here. The real Jack, I mean.
Yeah, I just finished reading all of that crap the other guy wrote. I hope none of you fell for it. His attempts at imitating me were embarrassing, to say the least. I mean, voice like a bag of rocks? What does that even mean?
I digress…
Mr. Roscoe jumped me last night and stuffed me in the closet with nothing to keep myself occupied except a bunch of audiobooks. I’m not entirely upset that I missed the spirits, but I’d be lying if I said the agent’s account didn’t make me feel sorry for the poor ghosts.
Oh shit, that means I’ve got to explain to the next one why their friends are MIA. Crap. This really is the stupidest day of the entire year, isn’t it? God I wish I could have stayed home.
Oh great. I just heard three chimes.
Wish me luck.
April 1st, 3:30 AM
They were actually pretty cool about it. But I had to fill out some paperwork--an incident report or something. Then they gave me a voucher for two free spirit journeys in the future, which I am almost positive I won’t use. The spirit of April Fool’s Yet to Come did show me the future, though, and it was exactly what I expected.
Death and destruction, wanton violence, polar ice caps melting, all the puppies dying, Brendan Fraser getting his Oscar revoked… you know, the worst of the worst, and it’s all somehow going to be my fault.
I asked the spirit (who, by the way, looked nothing like the grim reaper--no, it actually took the form of a little girl in a sun dress carrying a six-foot scythe) if these images were the shadows of things that will be, or if they were the shadows of things that only may be.
The spirit actually gave me an answer.
“The future isn’t set in stone. It can be avoided, but doing so will require either a lot of luck, or a lot of snoo.”
I’d learned long ago that luck wasn’t something one could ever count on, but I was a little confused by her statement.
“What’s ‘snoo’?” I asked.
“Oh, not much. What’s new with you?”

Anyway, happy April Fool’s Day, y'all.
submitted by GasStationJack to TFTGS [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 16:48 Ready-Bat-8824 March 2023 Recap of Hilaria’s IG = 12 Posts or “New Spin”

March 2023 Recap of Hilaria’s IG = 12 Posts or “New Spin”
One year and five months after Alec killed Halyna Hutchins on the cursed set of Rust, Hillary Lynn “I am a white girl” Hayward-Thomas Baldwin has finally been made to pump the brakes on her vehicle of child exploitation Instagram account.
Alec made 14 IG grid posts in March (because Peepaw cannot figure out Stories) and Hillary posted on her IG 12 times in March as compared to:
· 159 times in January 2023
· 35 times in February 2023 (and 565 times in February 2022)
· 118 times in March 2022
Generally speaking, Alec and Hillary seem to be finally heeding the PR advice they’re paying an arm and a leg for. Molly McPherson, a fantastic PR guru who has posted about the Baldwins in the past recommends that in a PR crisis, people need to “designate a leader to oversee the crisis and a communicator to manage it,” and that can be the same person. Well, since December 2020, Hillary has been overseeing first her fake heritage crisis then Alec’s Rust crisis and also communicating about both directly and indirectly. The word “bungle” sums it all up neatly.
For reference, these are the images from January that Hillary and Alec are trying to make the public forget in their carefully curated “less is more” approach to IG:
Never forget sewer bro and \"you're hurting me!\" 1/20/23

A prize. 2/20/23
Even though Hillary only posted 12 times, tons happened in March because these people are chaos magnets:
  • After a messy, messy start to the new year, Hilz is now trying to course correct after her wildly inappropriate Hilaria the Martyr performances in her statement sweatshirts.
  • Post 1: Grid post (meaning meant to last and stay on her IG page instead of disappearing like stories) - a video of Rafael (7) and Edu (2) cuddling cuz who doesn’t like cute little kids cuddling? Well, only 9K of Hillary’s fans liked the video, or .009% of her devoted followers, so there’s that.
Sweet, but not generating the engagement Mami is looking for.
  • Narrative she’s reframing: Rafa seems deeply sad in the stream of pictures his parents post about him.
  • New spin: Rafa is HAPPY and well-adjusted.
  • Post 2: Hillary reposts a Washington Post article about toxic impact of social media on teens. She adds a typical word salad caption with too much text in tiny font but also includes a poll to see what her followers think: should she a) hold the “trolls” accountable or b) ignore them? She’s posted like this before, so it was easy to dismiss, but an interesting twist happened two weeks later (more on this below).
She's not \"torn,\" she would love nothing more than to doxx folks who criticize her.
  • Narrative she’s reframing: She’s a problematic, entitled, cultural appropriator who faked a whole ethnicity to jazz up her brand. Such as it was.
  • New spin: "Hilaria" is a victim of jealous boolies and trolls who lust after Alec Baldwin (I refer you to the image above from Feb. 20th).
  • Alec attends the Roundabout Theater Company’s Gala without Hillary. It must be nice to be on the Board of Directors of a not-for-profit organization purely out of the goodness of your heart.
2023, 2020, 2018 (L to R).
  • Ireland had a “Baby’s First Strip Club” themed baby shower in LA – no likes from step-abuela.
  • Hillary was seen in the wild by an intrepid pepino talking on the phone about her “demographic” – something is brewing, apparently. My guess is some sort of exposé (interview? short reality series?) about how she's been "cancelled" which will prominently feature her own recordings of the paps and IG comments on her public accounts.
God forbid she trip in these goofy slippers while holding that innocent baby.
I appreciate how the cleavage is more pronounced in the painting.
  • Alec posted about Robert Blake’s death, oblivious to the irony. That same day his lawyers declare that the gun he shot Halyna with is now “destroyed.” It’s not.
  • Alec and Hillary were photographed by the BackGrid paps they have on speed dial and idk what is most distressing: Hillary’s hideous poop-colored leggingos (origin story of the word here), Alec’s sad loafers, or the nanny that has to listen to him talk endlessly as they walk the babies to sell the involved dad narrative.
Bless the nannies.

So much money, so little shoe savvy.
  • Remember Hillary’s repost of the Washington Post article on cyberbullying? Well, Hillary follows Brianna M., a messy IG #vanlife influencer who hired a digital forensics expert to uncover the real identities of people who criticized her on a Reddit sub about her and then doxxed them on her IG page in early March. Right around this time, Hilz got the idea to float the “ignore them or hold them accountable” poll. Then Hillary commented on Brianna’s post about how she is naming names:
Hillary's comment on Brianna's post (3/8/23).
  • As Hillary was furiously scribbling her notes, en español, one assumes, IG took down Brianna’s page for a week (!) due to the flood of reports about the doxxing. Maybe Hilz should rethink the brave queen’s approach.
  • Post 3: Two weeks after her first two posts, Hilz posted a hallway selfie with Ilaria and ML captioned “checking in” and “we love you all.”
If you take a hallway selfie but you're not wearing shiny leggings, did it even happen?
  • Narrative she’s reframing: Hillary is famous for her thirst trap pix in NYC’s ugliest hallway with her shiny leggings, leg-elongating filters, and giant ring front and center.
  • New spin: Hilz is a super mami always surrounded by her babies and she’s now in her jeans era with no ring bc she's so relatable.
  • Alec is sued AGAIN, this time for a car accident in LA in 2021. Cuando llueve, diluvia. The fact that this lawsuit came on the same day as the Oscars ceremony had a nice karmic symmetry, IMO.
  • Post 4: Hillary doesn’t compose word salads for just anybody, she has to be deeply inspired (otherwise it’s just rows of emojis) and nothing, nada, inspires her more than the place she frequents five days a week – Physique57. But…she has seven kids, you say? Pfffft, priorities. A skinny mami is a happy mami, as they say in España, Massachusetts.
Can't imagine why they haven't snapped her up as a celebrity [adjacent] spokesperson.
  • Narrative she’s reframing: She used sex-selection and surrogacy during a global pandemic to have two girl babies.
  • New spin: ML is a girl but she’s not a “girly girl” like Carmen with heavy makeup and sexualized clothing at age 9, y’know, totally healthy, normal stuff. ML is a “quirky girl.” Stay tuned for Ilaria’s assigned role.
  • Post 6: Four oldest kids in St. Paddy’s Day gear with the ubiquitous pile of folded blankets in the background.
Their true heritage, no matter how many times mami calls them \"Baldwinitos.\"
  • Narrative she’s reframing: The kids are constantly on their iPads, mostly while eating, when they’re not in school.
  • New spin: Wholesome kid content (but then maybe she should rethink posting pic where they all look miserable).
  • Post 7: Grid post of a video of Ilaria for her six-month birthday with Cirque du Soleil’s song “Alegría” playing over it. 18.8K of Hillary’s adoring fans like the image or .02% of her fan base (not 2%).
This mami celebrates her baby with sharp as hell nails, eyelash extensions, lip filler, extra-strength filter, and oh yes, the baby is in the shot, too.
  • Narrative she’s reframing: She uses Ila as a prop baby/human shield.
  • New spin: Ila and all the many cats and people in the Baldwin household are deliriously happy and all about “alegría, alegría” (I’m convinced Hilz just likes using accent marks).
  • Posts 8 & 9: Two stores of ML as “La Vikinga” – an alter ego Hillary has created for this two-year-old child.
The \"little\" is covered by the \"-itos\" (which should be \"-citos\") - she really doesn't get how this works at all.
  • Narrative she’s trying to rewrite: Hillary jacks up the diminutive in the language of her appropriated cultura. It would be “Baldwincitos” for the love of your tofu and fly paella, Hillary.
  • New spin: Still working on that one.
  • Post 11: Hilz posts a story of Alec reading a “Where’s Waldo” book to Rafa complete with a picture of Super Mami artfully included in the frame along with a dream catcher to show she’s an equal-opportunity cultural appropriator.
That's...quite the filter. Alec's hand is as smooth as a baby's bum.
  • Narrative she’s reframing: 1) The Baldwin kids have a parent who reads them wildly inappropriate books and 2) Alec only interacts with the kids on pap walks.
  • New spin: At least one parent can pick an age-appropriate book and Rafa is HAPPY, dammit.
  • In Rust news, David Halls, first AD of the production, was convicted on his plea deal and got a 6-month suspended sentence with unsupervised probation, a $500 fine, 24 hours of community service, and must attend a firearms safety class. Alec is throwing money at his attorneys faster than they can catch it to avoid any whiff of culpability. “Not guilty” or bust.
  • Post 12: Hillary and Alec in the elevator (where else?) to commemorate the day Alec proposed 11 years ago.
At least he chose the less busted loafers for this \"celebration.\"
  • Narrative she’s reframing: She wears statement sweatshirts and yells at the press to “leaf my fumilly in peas” while calling them over to listen to her.
  • New spin: Hilaria the Relatable in her $$ ripped jeans is so happy she won the Peepaw Prize.
  • Let’s revisit that ill-fated engagement for a sec: Hillary said the following in an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail’s Daily Front Row (7/5/12): “’He brought me to Montauk, out by the lighthouse. He’s not great at keeping secrets from me, which is a very good thing. He told me earlier that he was going to propose. We’re very organized,” she told the website. “He kept asking me if I knew where we were driving. I said, ‘No, I’ve never been past Gurney’s Inn!’ When we got there, he said, ‘This is the closest I could get you to Spain’… since my family is still there.”
  • When the person telling this story calls herself “Hilaria,” speaks English with a heavy (if inconsistent) Spanish accent, calls herself “a Spanish yoga teacher” and gives an interview to the Spanish newspaper El País wherein she is described as a “mallorquina” – well, there were many, many, many ways for the dumb public and even dumber reporters to have made a giant leap and think this senorita was from España. Crazy, no?
  • Finally, to take a page from Alec’s book: In Memorium, Witches Anonymous - but I'm here to recap any episodes if it gets resurrected!
Gone too soon, but also, not soon enough.
submitted by Ready-Bat-8824 to HilariaBaldwin [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 16:34 greg0525 Unlived Life

It's not uncommon to fantasize about having a different life than the one we currently live. We might dream of being a successful entrepreneur, a famous musician, a world travelers or a bestseller writer. However, when we become too fixated on these desires, we can lose sight of the reality of our current circumstances. Life is a journey, and we all have our own unique paths to follow. By accepting our reality and making the most of it, we can find happiness and fulfillment, if not right now, then sooner or later. David also had a dream but that dream remains an unlived life.
David sat in his study, bleary-eyed and exhausted from staying up all night to meet his book deadline. The pressure had been immense, and he had worked tirelessly to ensure that every page was perfect. As he sat there, he couldn't help but feel a sense of relief wash over him now that it was finally done.
Suddenly, his wife Mia walked in carrying a steaming cup of coffee. "Good morning, honey," she said with a smile. "How's it going? Are you finished?"
David looked up at her, his eyes filled with a mixture of exhaustion and pride. "I did it," he said, his voice hoarse from lack of sleep. "I finished the book."
Mia's face lit up with excitement. "Oh, David, that's amazing!" she exclaimed, setting the coffee down on the desk. "I'm so proud of you."
David smiled weakly, feeling a surge of gratitude towards his wife. "Thanks, Mia," he said, reaching out to take the coffee. "I couldn't have done it without you."
Mia leaned down and kissed him on the forehead. "Of course you could have," she said, her voice soft and reassuring. "But I'm glad I could help."
David took a sip of the coffee, savoring the warmth and caffeine. "I just hope it's good enough," he said, feeling a twinge of uncertainty. "I worked so hard on it, but what if it's not what they're looking for?"
Mia placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and read the first lines:
DI Chris Cole sat surrounded by papers, wishing he could just throw them all away. He had thirty minutes to finish a report on a closed case of domestic violence before he could leave his desk. Meanwhile, Chief DI Robert Brown found Cole's meticulousness frustrating but admired his interrogation skills. As Cole was almost done, a woman entered his office, seeking help in finding her missing daughter, Amy Norman.
"David, it's going to be great," she said firmly. "You poured your heart and soul into this book, and it shows. Any anyway, who couldn’t like DI Chris Cole? He is such a loveable character!"
David looked up at her, feeling a renewed sense of confidence. "Thanks, Mia," he said again, his voice stronger this time. "You're the best."
Mia grinned at him. "I know," she said playfully, before turning to leave. "But seriously, I have to get going. Don't forget to take a nap later, okay?"
David chuckled as she walked out the door. "I won't," he promised, feeling a sense of gratitude and love toward his supportive wife. With a newfound sense of energy, he turned back to his manuscript, excited to see where his hard work would take him.
But at that moment, he was struck by a sudden, terrible headache. It was something that he had been experiencing lately - a pounding, searing pain that seemed to be concentrated in the center of his forehead.
He closed his eyes and focused on the pain, pushing it away by pushing everything else out. But images flared behind his eyelids: himself, surrounded by a battle-worn unit of men in brown desert camouflage, moving forward into the burning sun. These visions were slow and faded as they came, like remnants of dreams that had been long forgotten. The smell of guns, oil, smoke and sweat was like heavy perfume.
He had no idea where they had come from or what they meant, but he knew that something was very wrong.
"David, your headaches again?" she asked, her voice laced with concern.
"Yes, but...I don't know what to do," he said, his voice strained. "It's like they're getting worse."
Mia's face softened with empathy. "We'll figure it out," she said firmly. "Maybe it's time to go see a doctor. They might be able to help."
David shook his head, feeling a sense of dread at the thought of going back to the hospital. "I don't want to," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. "I think it’s just the stress."
Mia looked at him with concern. "David, you can't just ignore this," she said, her voice firm but gentle. "You need to take care of yourself. You know that."
David sighed, feeling defeated. "I know, I know...I will see a doctor,” he said and Mia placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
Joseph Smith worked in a massive office building, surrounded by towering skyscrapers and bustling city streets. His office was located on the top floor, with a view that stretched out over the entire city. Whenever David came to visit him, he always felt a sense of awe at the sheer scale of the place.
As David walked into Joseph's office, he was greeted with a warm smile. Joseph stood up from his desk and walked over to greet him, his hand outstretched in welcome.
"David, my friend, can’t wait to read the latest story about DI Cole!”
Joseph took the manuscript from him, flipping through the pages with a keen eye.
“DI Chris Cole sat surrounded by papers, wishing he could just throw them all away. He had thirty minutes to finish a report on a closed case of domestic violence before he could leave his desk. Meanwhile, Chief DI Robert Brown found Cole's meticulousness frustrating but admired his interrogation skills. As Cole was almost done, a woman entered his office, seeking help in finding her missing daughter, Amy Norman,” as he read, his expression grew more and more excited, until he was practically beaming with joy.
"David, this is fantastic!" he exclaimed, his voice filled with enthusiasm. "This is going to be another great success, I just know it. I just can’t wait for the book launch! Think about it buddy, hundreds of eager readers will be attending the great event!”
David felt a surge of gratitude and relief wash over him. He had worked so hard on the manuscript, pouring his heart and soul into every word. To hear what Joseph had just said meant the world to him.
"Thank you, Joseph," he said, his voice filled with emotion. "That means so much to me.”
Joseph smiled at him, patting him on the back. "You deserve it, my friend," he said, before walking over to his desk and pouring them both a glass of scotch. "Now let's celebrate!"
David took the glass from Joseph but he accidentally dropped the glass of whiskey. He had another terrible headache and the visions came back.
The heat was oppressive, bearing down on them like a heavyweight. David huddled in a ditch with two other soldiers - a man and a woman. They were surrounded by the unforgiving desert, with no cover except for the deep, rocky depression they had found themselves in.
The ditch was long and deep, full of mud, sand, and the shattered remnants of war. Bullets were flying overhead, soldiers run back and forth across the landscape. Smoke and flames marred the horizon. The walls of the ditch were stained with dried blood and littered with weapons and discarded supplies.
The sounds of battle filled the air - bullets whizzing past, cannons exploding, shouting voices of commanders and soldiers alike, distant screams of those in pain. The ground shook underfoot with every explosion and it felt as if the world was coming apart at its seamed.
“Where the hell am I? What’s happening?” David asked in confusion.
“Shut up David, this is not a good place to joke around now!” the woman shouted at him.
David was suddenly jolted by the sound of gunfire. Before he could react, he saw a soldier fall into the ditch next to him, blood spreading rapidly across his uniform. Fear gripped David's heart, and he was overcome with terror at the sight of the fallen soldier.
“Are you all right, buddy?” Joseph asked with worry on his face.
“Yeah, I’m just... these damn headaches,” David replied leaning to the drinking bar.
Joseph then advised him to go home and a rest. Upon arriving home, Dave made his way to his bedroom and settled into bed. He closed his eyes and drifted off into a peaceful slumber.
As he slept, his mind and body rejuvenated, allowing him to wake up feeling refreshed and energized.
As the evening drew near, David eagerly awaited his wife Mia's arrival. When she finally came through the door, he rushed to greet her, wrapping his arms around her in a tight embrace.
"Hey beautiful," he said, his voice filled with love.
"How was your day?" Mia smiled up at him, her eyes shining with happiness.
"It was good," she said, before leaning in to give him a tender kiss.
"I'm just so excited about your book launch." David felt a surge of pride and joy at her words.
"Thanks," he said, his voice filled with gratitude. "I couldn't have done it without you." They spent the rest of the evening together, enjoying a cozy family dinner with their son Carl. As they sat around the table, David couldn't help but feel a sense of contentment wash over him. He had everything he could ever want - a loving wife, a beautiful son, and a successful career.
Later that night, as David and Mia lay in bed together, they began to make love. David felt a rush of passion as they kissed and touched, his body responding eagerly to hers. But as they moved together in a frenzy of desire, David suddenly felt the familiar, searing pain in his head. He tried to ignore it, pushing past the discomfort and focusing on the pleasure of their lovemaking. But the pain only grew worse, until it was a throbbing ache that seemed to consume him completely. He gasped in agony, his body shaking with spasms. Mia looked up at him, her expression filled with concern.
"David, what's wrong?" she asked, her voice laced with worry. David tried to speak, but the pain was too intense. He clutched his head, feeling like his brain was on fire.
"Mia...I...the headache..." he managed to gasp out before everything went black.
The air was filled with the sound of screaming bullets and explosions, rattling metal scraping against dirt and rocks as soldiers move along its sides. It echoed with sorrowful cries, a chorus of desperation and despair, a reminder of the violence that lay just beyond the rim of its walls.
As the sounds of gunfire echoed around them, they huddled together, trying to come up with a plan. But no matter how the man and the woman looked at it, there seemed to be no way out. The enemy was closing in, their weapons raining down a deadly hail of bullets that kept them pinned down.
“Where the hell am I?” David demanded.
“David! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“I have just been in bed with my wife!”
"David, you need to pull yourself together!" the man muttered, his voice strained with desperation.
"Look buddy, I can understand that you are in shock right now but you can’t just sit here and wait for them to kill us."
The woman shook his head, his face was grim. "We can't counterattack," the woman interrupted. "We're outnumbered and outgunned. It's suicide."
She looked up at the sky, scanning for any sign of help. "We need air support," she said, her voice tense. "We have to hold out until they get here."
“Look, I don’t know how I got here but I don’t want to be part of this! If this is a secret government experiment, I will reveal this all to the whole world!” Dave shouted.
“Whatever man, just don’t die for now, okay?” the man replied.
But time seemed to stretch on endlessly, with no relief in sight. The sun beat down on them, making them feel like they were being baked alive. The sound of gunfire was constant, a never-ending barrage that seemed to be closing in on them with every passing moment.
David slowly opened his eyes, trying to remember where he was. He saw his wife Mia sitting beside him, looking at him with concern.
"Hey, how are you feeling?" Mia asked, holding his hand.
David tried to sit up, but he felt a sharp pain in his head. "The headache again," he said, groaning.
Mia put a hand on his forehead. "You were unconscious for a while, we had to take you to the hospital. The doctor said they need to run some tests."
David's heart raced as he heard this. "Tests? What tests?"
Mia looked at him sympathetically. "Don't worry, they just want to make sure you're okay. The doctor will be here soon to talk to you."
Just then, a doctor walked into the room. "Mr. Johnson, I have some good news. Your brain looks fine, all the tests came back normal."
David let out a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness. So what was causing my headaches?"
The doctor smiled. "It looks like it was just stress. You've been working long hours lately, and it's taken a toll on you. I suggest taking it easy for a while, maybe taking some time off work."
Mia looked at David, concern etched on her face. "You heard the doctor, honey. We'll take care of you, okay?"
David nodded, grateful for his wife's support. "Okay, but there is one more thing. Sometimes I hallucinate during my attacks. They are very vivid, it’s like I am in someone else’s body in an entirely different place."
“Well, migraines are thought to be caused by changes in blood flow and activity in the brain. During a migraine, blood vessels in the brain can constrict and then dilate, leading to changes in blood flow and activity in certain areas of the brain. These changes can affect the way that the brain processes visual and auditory information, leading to the perception of hallucinations. So I would say this is still normal. I will prescribe something for you that can alleviate the pain and help you feel better,” the doctor explained.
“Thank you, doctor.”
Mia helped him get dressed and they headed out of the hospital. As they walked to the car, David couldn't help but feel grateful for his wife's love and care.
"I'm lucky to have you," he said, smiling at Mia.
Mia smiled back. "I'm lucky to have you too. Let's go home and relax."
David nodded, feeling a sense of peace wash over him. As they drove home, he knew he would take the doctor's advice and take some time off work. He now needed to focus on his health, his family, and his upcoming book launch.
After some time of final preparations, the much-awaited preliminary book launch for David's novel, The Swan Lake Murder, finally took place. Avid readers gathered in droves to catch a glimpse of the author and get their hands on his new release.
The book launch was set to take place at the renowned British Library in St. Pancras, one of the largest libraries in the world, boasting an impressive collection of over 170 million items. David felt a sense of pride and anticipation as he arrived at the library in a luxurious limousine arranged by his agent.
As he stepped out of the vehicle, he was greeted by the sight of numerous posters and huge advertisements promoting his book. The excitement of his fans was palpable, and the air was filled with the sound of cheers and applause and questions from the reporters. David felt a sense of accomplishment and gratitude for the support of his readers, which motivated him to continue writing and pursuing his passion for literature.
David smiled, feeling a sense of fulfillment wash over him. It had been a long journey, but he had finally made it. And with his fans by his side, he knew that there would be many more journeys to come.
Mia rushed over to him, tears of pride and joy in her eyes.
"I'm so proud of you," she whispered, giving him a tight hug.
As David stepped onto the stage, the flash of cameras blinded him momentarily, but he felt the energy of the crowd as they cheered and clapped for him. Mia was standing off to the side, beaming with pride.
"Thank you all so much for coming," David said, addressing the crowd. "I'm so grateful for all of you and your support. It means the world to me that you've enjoyed my books and have been eagerly awaiting the release of the third one."
The crowd erupted into applause, and David felt a lump form in his throat. He had poured so much of himself into his writing, and it was humbling to see that it had resonated with so many people.
"I want to take a moment to read you all the opening lines of the third book," David continued, pulling out a copy of his latest novel. "I hope it gives you a taste of what's to come."
The crowd hushed as David began to read.
“DI Chris Cole sat surrounded by papers, wishing he could just throw them all away. He had thirty minutes to finish a report on a closed case of domestic violence before he could leave his desk. Meanwhile, Chief DI Robert Brown found Cole's meticulousness frustrating but admired his interrogation skills. As Cole was almost done, a woman entered his office, seeking help in finding her missing daughter, Amy Norman,”
His voice was clear and steady, and he could feel the tension in the room as the audience hung on his every word.
But then, he suddenly collapsed as the sharp headache came back. There was nothing he could do and everything went dark.
As they huddled together, they could feel the hopelessness creeping in. It was like they were stuck in a nightmare, unable to wake up.
But just when it seemed like all was lost, they heard the distant sound of aircraft overhead. They looked up, their hearts pounding with hope.
“No, no no! Don’t do this to me! Why are you taking me back here?” David demanded.
“Shut up sergeant and man up! It's air support!" Emma shouted, her face breaking into a smile. "They're here!"
As the planes roared overhead, the enemy fire suddenly stopped. The sound of explosions filled the air, and they knew that the tide had turned. They had been saved.
“This is not real...this is not real,” he repeated and scrambled out of the ditch.
David slowly stood up, his eyes scanning the area for any signs of danger. The air was tense, and he could feel his heart pounding in his chest. Suddenly, he heard a loud bang, and he felt a searing pain in his chest. He looked down to see a bullet hole, blood pouring out of it and pooling around his feet. As David's body tumbled into the nearby ditch, the other soldiers rushed to his side screaming not to get out of the ditch but it was too late.
One of them knelt down and cradled David's head in his lap, trying to stem the flow of blood but it was in vain. A few seconds later, the gunfire slowly died down, the air strike was probably successful. As the gave up saving up David’s life, he noticed a piece of paper sticking out of his pocket. He hesitated for a moment, but his curiosity got the better of him, and he pulled out the paper.
“What’s that?” the woman asked.
“Looks like the beginning of a novel,” he replied and his eyes scanned the words with curiosity.
DI Chris Cole sat surrounded by papers, wishing he could just throw them all away. He had thirty minutes to finish a report on a closed case of domestic violence before he could leave his desk. Meanwhile, Chief DI Robert Brown found Cole's meticulousness frustrating but admired his interrogation skills. As Cole was almost done, a woman entered his office, seeking help in finding her missing daughter, Amy Norman.
"So this is the book he mentioned to me. He wanted to be a successful writer one day. Poor him! He must have daydreamed a lot about that life," the woman noted, her voice full of sorrow.
In silence, they were sitting there, wishing him to rest in peace.
submitted by greg0525 to hauntingechoes [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 16:30 CarterCreations061 Don’t Bring a Gun to a Magnet Fight

We entered the new star system with frightening ferocity. Our five carrier crafts and three battle cruisers all popped out of warp travel on the edge of the system at the same time. Immediately upon our arrival we received a message from the Human mining colony on the sixth planet. They were curious as to why a small army had suddenly gathered at their doorstep.
My species is a civilized one, so we announced our intentions clearly and honestly. We came to take over the mining colony. All of the infrastructure as well as exclusive right to this star system would be forfeited, and in exchange we would treat the fourteen thousand or so humans living here as prisoners which the Human Federation could come by and pay ransom for at their convenience. We told the humans about our meteor cannons and how if they refused, we were willing to sacrifice the colony’s surface for a quick and easy battle.
Upon receipt, a human message came up requesting a video link. I directed my crew to accept and suddenly there was an ugly, hairless primate on the screen in the main deck.
“Greetings,” the human said, “I am Professor Jackson. It is my understanding that you wish to conquer this star system. Is that correct?” “That is exactly right,” I replied. The fifty or so sharp teeth in my round mouth clacked together to display our aggressive intent.
“I understand,” the human replied, “and are you working alone or under the orders of the Frei’ik Confederation?” I was surprised at the mention of my home world. Why did this human care about the internal politics of my species while we were fast approaching his world? “My clan is a member of the Frei’ik Confederation,” I replied, “But in this we are acting alone.”
“So the Frei’iks do not wish to declare war on all humans, is that correct?” “Yes, it is,” I replied, “My clan leaders had tried to convince the Confederation to do such a thing. We know that the Humans are currently weak while being at war with the Hyui Civilization. Sadly, the rest of my species is not as opportunistic as we are. Now let's talk about the terms of your surren--”
“Please allow me a moment,” the Professor said and the screen went black. I had to quickly gain my composure so that my crew didn’t sense my shock and outrage. We were now only three hours away from the mining colony. We had offered the humans a way out of conflict and they… they had hung up on me.
Another video request came in thirty minutes later.
“Greetings again,” it was the same human scum, “Sorry about the short end of the call. I had to discuss things with the Federation.” “I will not tolerate such uncivilized action again. We are doing you all a favor by offering surrender. We could just come and launch a rock at your world.” “My hope is,” the human said, “to actually convince you to avoid conflict entirely.”
Was this human stupid? We had already given them the surrender conditions. Frei’iks are the most feared species in this arm of the galaxy. The oldest civilizations pay us tribute for our protection.
“This star is very hostile to life,” the human said, “It has cost us several trillion units to build an artificial magnetosphere. It is my understanding that the Frei’ik skin is even more prone to cancerous growths than my own. I do not think you all would actually benefit in the long term from taking this star system.”
“The magnet shield for the planet will not be affected by our weapons. We intend to launch a three kilometer rock into your surface. It will destroy all of the ground infrastructure, but the shielding will be safe.” “I apologize for the miscommunication,” the human replied smugly, “if you are able to get past the orbit line of the seventh planet, we will destroy the magnetic shield ourselves.”
I was surprised by the human’s suicidal bluff, “Fine, send the shield crashing into your own planet. Even if you aren’t lying, that is a cost we are willing to pay.”
“I see,” the human said, “Well then we have no choice but to defend ourselves. As you already know, the Federation is already tied up in the war with the Hyui. When we asked for military aid, they informed us that there was none available. So, we have decided to declare our independence from the Human Federation. We are now a separate political body known as the Proxima Free Settlement. We have graciously told the Federation that your clan is acting independently, in order to avoid an escalating interspecies conflict. We can’t promise that the Federation will not seek revenge for the Frei’ik Confederation sanctioning your actions. However, we request that you inform your species that what will occur over the next few hours is the actions of our government, and not of all humankind.”
The video feed cut out again. This time I could not hide my emotions from my crew. My body turned just about every color available to my physiology. Orange with anger, blue with outrage, green with ferocity. Eventually my skin and my emotions settled on purple hysteria. These humans were clearly delirious. We had eight vessels, all loaded with cannons capable of launching a planet-destroying meteor. I told my crew to continue our advance with haste.
Once we crossed the ninth planet’s orbit, we began to see the first physical signs of human life. They had outpost satellites around this orbit. I commanded some of my single-pilot craft to go and take control of these satellites. This was when the first sign of trouble came.
Before the pilots even reached the satellites, they exploded in an array of radiated particles. We had scanned these machines, they did not have any weapons on board. My analysts concluded that they must have had nuclear reactors attached to them that the humans flooded. Fifty-six pilots came back alive, most had radiation poisoning that was going to require life-long medications.
I commanded my deck to call the human colony, when the face appeared I began to shout, “What you have done is a clear violation of the Orion Accords. The use of nuclear force has been banned for centuries. How dare you--”
The human cut me off again, “The Proxima Free Settlement is not a signer of the Orion Accords. In fact, we haven’t signed any treaties. We’ve only been a government for about forty-five minutes. It is my understanding that an unprovoked attack against a species already at war was a violation.”
“This will not stand,” I replied, “Be prepared to have your whole world destroyed.” I no longer cared about the infrastructure cost. I wanted to teach these humans a lesson on the might of my species.
I was about to hang up when the human began speaking again, “Though I am under no legal obligation, I feel compelled to tell you that if you cross the orbit of the eight planet, we will use an even stronger weapon. We call it the Icarus Protocol.”
I ended the link. I was not about to be threatened by these humans. Sure they had some neat tricks, but we would be in range to launch our meteors long before they had any chance to strike us again. Orders went out for all single-pilot ships to remain in the carriers, I wanted them to stay behind the shields we had on board.
Twenty minutes later we were on the edge of the eight planet’s orbit. One of my staff actually suggested that we slow down so that we could analyze the space for potential threats. I nearly slapped him. Frei’iks do not have time for weakness. We crossed the invisible line, and I must admit I held my neck holes shut in anticipation for an attack.
None immediately came, though. We had called the human’s bluff. I got up and made an announcement to my main desk staff, “See, these humans are weak. They are trying to scare us into submission. We will advance upon their world and destroy it. Then we will take this star system for ourselves. I promise you all much glory and--”
I stopped talking as the lights in my main deck went off. The holographic screen that had been presenting our approach disappeared, and in its place stood the large window showing only the stars. My crew is among the best in the galaxy, but even they lost composure at the suddenness of the darkness.
After returning order on the deck, I began shouting commands at my crew. I needed reports, analyses, anything. All of the computers in the deck seemed to be off. The door to the main deck was closed tight as the sensors were also out. It took us nearly ten minutes just to pry them open.
Communication throughout the ship was out. Most of the lights were out, though some auxiliary power was starting to come back online. Even the emergency flashlights, totally separate from the ship’s power grid, were not working. I rushed to my personal cabin. It was the best insulated from attacks both physical and energetic. I had a radio stored there that might not be completely fried. A red flashing light let me know my assumption was correct.
I called over to my second in command in one of the battleships, “Kioruk, tell me do you know what is going on?”
“It seems that we have been hit by a large energetic projectile,” she said, “Your ship was hit first. It was like a solar flare. All the other craft seem to be as screwed as we are.”
I messaged the commander of each ship. They all gave the same report. One of them had an advanced telescope that was working and at my direction they pointed it at the human colony. They gave visual confirmation that the humans had broken up their magnet shield. The thing was now in several dozen pieces, all aligned to create a path for solar particles to be directed towards my formation.
The humans had completely scrambled our electronics. Very few systems were online. My flagship thankfully had its life support system intact, but four of the others were not so lucky. We tried to transport as many soldiers from the dying vessels over as we could, but many Frei’iks suffocated in the growing dark coldness.
It took the Proxima Free Settelment five hours to send one of their vessels out to meet us. All the long-range comms had been shot, but we were able to offer a surrender when the enemy ship came close enough. The human captain insisted that I personally board their vessel so that I could message my clan using their comms and work out the conditions.
We had thought the humans were a weak species, too focused on infrastructure to be prepared for a fight on two sides. I have now learned personally what humans are capable of.

If you enjoyed this story please consider checking out my Patreon! My next post, a follow up to Humans Built the Pyramids, is already on there two weeks early. As well as some exclusive patreon-only stories.
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2023.04.01 16:23 devilsravioli Riding the “Ragged Edge”: Lester Bush and Juanita Brooks - Martyrs of Mormonism [Juanita Brooks Utah History Conference 3/24/2023]

Last week (3/23/2023-3/25/2023) was the inaugural Juanita Brooks Utah History Conference held at Utah Tech University. What ensued was a celebration of Juanita Brooks’ legacy, a variety of presentations, and a guided tour (Barbara Jones Brown & Richard Turley) of Mountain Meadows. Naturally, given the conference’s name-sake, the theme of standing for truth over power remained steady. Two talks stood out to me related to this topic. The talks were given by Greg Prince (DOM and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, Gay Rights and the Mormon Church, Leonard Arrington and the Writing of Mormon History, etc.) and Paul Reeve (Century of Black Mormons, Religion of a Different Color, Let’s Talk About Race and the Priesthood, etc), both highly respected in their respective fields of study. These talks particularly touched me because they penetrated a vein that has significantly bothered me and has repeatedly disrupted my sleep: The institutional suppression of truth.
Greg Prince - Subsequent talk on Lester Bush following the presentation of the inaugural Juanita Brooks Award.(if timestamp doesn't work ff to 40m 25s)
To the surprise of those attending, during the Friday morning session of the conference, Greg Prince presented the inaugural Juanita Brooks Award to Lester Bush. Lester was not able to attend, but his wife was there to accept the award. Following the presentation, Greg Prince gave a moving talk dedicated to his best friend, Lester Bush. In 1973 Lester published the groundbreaking Dialogue article MORMONISM'S NEGRO DOCTRINE: AN HISTORICAL OVERVIEW. This article became the foundation of what would become the “new” Mormon history regarding race and the priesthood/temple ban. Prince got to know Bush shortly after the publication of this monumental article. What followed the publication of Bush’s article was informal discipline that took many forms. Prince got to witness it all first-hand.
At a time when Spencer Kimball reorganized the office of Seventy, Bush was kept from ordination to the office of High Priest with no explanation while all his peers had their expected upgrade. After his success disrupting the Leonard Arrington led History Division of the Church, senior apostle Mark Peterson sought after other “intellectuals”. Lester Bush was one of those targeted. Despite direct and harsh calls from Peterson, Bush’s Stake President (Bill Marriott) refused to follow through with disciplinary action because he knew it was wrong to do so. Lester was a pariah among his own. The result of decades of social ostracization and “soft” discipline (described by one anonymous GA as “the worst'') was Bush’s inactivity in the Church (~30 years).
In 2009, Brent Rushforth (Director of Dialogue when Bush’s 1973 article was published) shared with Prince and Bush that he had recently inquired of Jordan Kimball (grandson of Spencer) and Rebecca Kimball (wife of Jordan) regarding whether Lester’s 1973 article had any impact on Spencer Kimball and the 1978 “revelation”. Jordan assuredly told Brent that they need not wonder any longer. Later, when Prince was able to get Rebecca on the record, she explained that upon Spencer Kimball’s death, son Ed Kimball came across Bush’s 1973 Dialogue article marked up heavily in Kimball's personal home study. None of the other Dialogue articles in Kimball’s study were marked up in his distinctive red pencil. Vindication was on the horizon.
In 2014 Prince emailed his good friend Jeffrey R. Holland to see if there was any way Bush’s work could further be validated by the Church. Shortly after, Bush was invited to give the 2015 Sterling M. McMurrin Lecture on Religion & Culture at the University ot Utah. Lester got to meet Steven Snow (then Church Historian, 2012-2018) the same day, as well as Marlin Jensen (the former Church Historian, 2005-2012). Both validated Lester and his monumental work. In addition, Lester and Darius Gray got to meet, in person, for the first time. The following morning, Lester got further reassurance from Elder Holland that Lester was an exceptional person and that his work was valuable to Mormon history.
Paul Reeve - "Riding Herd with Juanita Brooks: A View of Latter-day Saint History from the Ragged Edge" (if timestamp doesn't work ff to 2h 46m 3s)
The final talk of the Friday morning session was given by Paul Reeve, titled, "Riding Herd with Juanita Brooks: A View of Latter-day Saint History from the Ragged Edge". The imagery outlined in his talk was outstanding. He described Brooks’ upbringing on the outskirts of “Dixie” (Bunkerville Nevada). The ultimate edge of the edge of Deseret. Not only was her residence on the edge, but so was her approach to the gospel and her Church. Those around Juanita wondered whether she would talk/think her way out of the Church as she questioned traditional narratives and biblical fundamentalism. After she published her groundbreaking book The Mountain Meadows Massacre (1950) Juanita wondered whether she would be disciplined by her male Church leaders. She decided that if she would not be allowed to retain her membership and write objective history, then she would choose truth and forfeit her membership. This stalwart resolve served as the foundation of what would become the “new” Mormon history. Honesty became more important than perpetuating dogma. As a result of writing honest Mormon history, Juanita forced the Mormon Church to confront its past and decide what they were going to do with their future. The Church, unfortunately, rejected truth and transparency in her lifetime.
Early in Juanita's life, she was given sage advice in the form of an analogy. She was taught ( I paraphrase) that in order to guide a herd of cattle, you must persuade from the edge. You can not confront a head strong herd head-on and expect the cattle to remain cohesive. Worst case scenario, conflict results, and cowboys and cattle get hurt and lost. Juanita took this counsel to heart and rode that “ragged edge” of the herd, gently guiding the Mormon Church toward honest inquiry. Regardless, she would never see the fruits of her labor as she died in 1989, not long after the Arrington history department was dismantled and moved to BYU. A form of formal denunciation of honest inquiry.
Reeve explained that he values this advice, and lives by it, as he grew up ranching in south-eastern Utah and is actively teaching church membership the truth about the Church and race relations. Guiding a herd of headstrong cattle requires finesse. In an age where truth can not be contained, the importance of honest discourse has come front and center.
Following the panel presentations (Reeve include), one listener posed a question (if timestamp doesn't work ff to 3h 16m 10s) to the panel that consisted of Paul Reeve (UofU) and Janiece Johnson (BYU). Joseph Stuart (BYU) did a good job summarizing the attendee’s question. I’ll paraphrase (in case you didn’t watch the video):
We can clearly see that Juanita Brooks was riding the “ragged edge” of the church (same goes for Lester Bush). Who do you see riding that “ragged edge” of the Church today? What topics are they focusing on?
As the question was dictated, I looked forward to hearing what a BYU employee would provide for an answer (given the Church’s history of suppressing truth and deemphasis of controversial topics). After the question was posed, Johnson immediately deferred to Reeve. I wish I could pretend I was surprised. Reeve proceeded to name Taylor Petrey (Tabernacles of Clay) as an example of someone riding that edge concerning the Church’s evolving teachings related to gender and sexuality. This was a great example, and naturally, one that would make any orthodox member uncomfortable considering we were all attending a conference commemorating those in the past (Brooks and Bush) who were discarded when they published their seminal, controversial works. It was a surreal experience. For all we know, in 30 years, Taylor Petrey will be given the Juanita Brooks Award (despite the backlash he received from his excellent book and pivotal Dialogue article: Toward a Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology).
In the end, the institutional hierarchy of the Church who proposed the 1978 “revelation” did not cite Lester Bush, but rejected him. Juanita Brooks never got to see her work appreciated by her beloved Church. Formal acknowledgement of the Church’s directing role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre didn’t happen until 2007. Only today do we embrace her objective and unapologetic view of the past. Today we celebrate the quasi church endorsed works of Turley and Brown as they publish authoritative texts on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Today we watch scholars like Petrey lament the circumstances of LDS academics as the institutional Church entrenches itself into orthodoxy with commander Clark Gilbert at the helm. The leadership of the Church today, apparently, does not embrace the suppression of their predecessors (GTEs, JSPP, Saints, etc.)...
Or do they? Remember, Boyd K Packer, the zealous crony of Ezra Taft Benson and Mark E Peterson, the sworn enemies of “so-called scholars”, was acting president or president of the Q12 from 1994 to 2015. He sat at the head seat of every weekly coordination meeting of the Q12 for over 20 years, training and counseling just about every current member of the Q15 extensively. He watched the control of truth slip from his hands as technology reached frictionless levels of transference. He could no longer easily excommunicate those who published unflattering truths of his golden idols (his predecessors in Church leadership). Boyd was forced to concede with progress. The publication of the initial 13 Gospel Topics Essays (2013-2015) served as the metaphorical final 13 nails in his coffin (2015).
Now to my main point. The soul touching/crushing point that frequently makes its appearance in my heart/mind (most recently in St George). Why has the institutional Church refused to honestly confront its past? Brody, Brooks, Bush, Arrington, and Quinn were all attacked by their ecclesiastical leadership. Today, we hold up their scholarship and cite them in official Church publications. What is it about telling the truth that causes the Brethren to hunt for scholars? Why does paranoia abound regarding BYU and its faculty? Why do many members refuse to look into the past of their own Church beyond the correlated resources offered on My theory lies in the heart of Boyd Packer’s poignant advice to, then new GA, Lynn G. Robbins: “Which way do you face?”. The foundation of the LDS church is the reliability of modern prophets and their ability to receive and convey the mind and will of Deity. If the leadership of the Church loses this value proposition, then the Church is gone. Boyd’s advice is designed to maintain the idolatrous nature of the Q15. They give directions. We listen. A submissive, unquestioning membership is what they need for their Church to thrive. The absolute antithesis of unquestioning loyalty and obedience is inquiry. Curiosity is the root of academia. Questioning established tradition lies at the heart of refining truths. Academia strives to uncover every rock, illuminate every hidden corner, and question the questions. Fiat lux.
Naturally, inquiry will reveal unflattering elements of the beloved prophets, seers, and revelators of the Mormon past. Their teachings will be interpreted in a new light. Their journals will reveal their hidden intentions. Their accusers will be vindicated. The more you learn about the men in the ivory tower, behind the curtain, the more human they become. The cultural façade of prophetic infallibility drifts away with the myths of Santa Clause, Atlantis, and a moon made of bleu cheese. The 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet start to sound a little authoritative when you realize the leaders of the Church were simply selected through a network of nepotism and relations. The November 2015 Policy flip-flopping starts to make sense after contrasting it with John Taylor’s 1886 revelation and the Manifesto Woodruff and gang so reluctantly published. The institutional guiding principles that resulted in the SEC Order make a whole lot of sense after reading the lengths Joseph Smith went through to maintain his secrets in Nauvoo. Studying the past illuminates the present.
These men try so unbelievably hard to maintain a prophetic figure of perfection. President Russell Nelson taught, “Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!”. His closest ally and wife, Wendy, last year challenged the dwindling membership of both Europe and California in private broadcasts to question everything said by anyone besides President Nelson. How does a membership consisting of nuanced, informed, and participating individuals react to messages like this? I’ll tell you how I felt: skeptical. With every authoritative address and comment reliant on unrighteous dominion, the leadership of the Church thickens the doctrine of obedience over conscience.
This is Mormonism. Bending your soul to conform to the will of the Brethren. This is what historians like Juanita Brooks and Lester Bush refused to do. They gently pushed from the ragged edge, persuading the herd that is Mormonism toward truth and reconciliation. They paid socially for their guiding principles (truth). The stubborn cattle at the head of the herd believe they are guiding the masses, when in reality, those getting bruised and battered on the precipitous edges are ensuring goodness remains on the horizon. May we encourage and sustain those on the edge and continue to immortalize those that have gone before us. God bless Juanita and God bless Lester.
I will close with the following enlightening quote from Spencer W. Kimball, just as Prince did in his address [emphasis mine]:
“Now, my brothers and sisters, it seems clear to me, indeed, this impression weighs upon me—that the Church is at a point in its growth and maturity when we are at last ready to move forward in a major way. Some decisions have been made and others pending, which will clear the way, organizationally. But the basic decisions needed for us to move forward, as a people, must be made by the individual members of the Church. The major strides which must be made by the Church will follow upon the major strides to be made by us as individuals.” (President Spencer W. Kimball, Let Us Move Forward and Upward, April 1979 GC)
So which way do you face again, Boyd?
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2023.04.01 16:00 WaveOfWire One Hell Of A Vacation - Chapter 60

Chapter fucking 60, and we answer the biggest question that’s existed since chapter two. I tried my best, so i really hope you like it. Point out any logic faults or inconsistencies as soon as you spot them, cuz i don’t want to ride this chapter out and have to contort later to accommodate it. Have fun, guys. I’ll see your opinions and theories in the comments!
First Prev Next Royal Road
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Adam leaned away from the recording device, the man sitting on a single chair next to a woman seated to his right, his partner smiling brightly as she took his hand. The room seemed to be a Union passenger accommodation aboard some transit craft, though the lack of flourishes suggested it was not a public ship. Adam cleared his throat, giving the woman an excited look before addressing the device.
“This will be our first contact with the newly discovered sapient races, and as such, a few of us representing Humanity have decided to record our experiences. All that we know so far is that they are insectoid in nature, and have developed in a peaceful society with a heavy focus on the arts. From architecture to sculpting, and anything else that involves making something into something else.”
He glanced to the woman, a passive excitement on his face as he got over the initial nervousness.
“My wife, Clara, and i are both excited to have been given the opportunity to participate. She is a xeno-pediatric specialist, so we hope to glean more information from her expertise while we are there. Out of the several hundred Humans who were selected to contribute to this introduction to the broader galaxy, we feel our reports back to the Union may aid in deciding if they will be welcomed with open arms, or if they will be assigned a section of the cosmos that they will be allowed to occupy without outside influence.”
Clara almost bounced out of her chair at the opportunity to chip in. “We look forward to presenting this log to the Human representatives, and we hope you find our findings useful in your decision!”
Adam laughed, reaching forward to end the recording. “You just want to meet their babies.”
“Of cour-”
The video flicked to the next scene, the area now an intricately carved, if a little rustic, room that seemed to be primarily dug out of stone, though it held lighting and very basic furniture carved out of the wall.
Adam had changed clothing, his wife not in the frame as the man visibly tried to get comfortable on the hard seat, his professional presentation abandoned as he spoke more casually. “It’s been two days, give or take, since we have arrived. The language barrier has been eased by a rudimentary translator that we were provided, but once we mentioned the issue to our hosts, they asked for one themselves and set to work in an attempt to improve it.”
The man chuckled as he gave up trying to make the stone less difficult to sit on. “It’s looking like the Union had sectioned off a newly developed planet for these introductions, with the Atmo’s blessing, and we are the fifteenth species to be shown to these people, though the first who require the kind of comforts like this.”
He gestured around the room. “The amenities you see that were provided to us were done in a few hours, once we described what we would need. We were hesitant to complain, rock isn’t exactly the best material to sleep on, but they asked if Clara would like to accompany them while they try to adjust our room as we wait for arrangements elsewhere.” The man snorted, a look past the device given to something else in the room. “It was pretty amusing to watch her walk out with an eight-foot-tall mantis-arachnid, i have to say.”
His eyes widened. “Right! The Atmo! I forgot to describe them.”
Joseph glanced at Pan, her paw gripping his hand firmly as she watched with a slightly worried expression. Violet seemed very interested in the two sets of subtitles under the video as the man described her race in far greater detail than the Grand Hunter would want to, using several anatomically correct words that sounded more like an incantation than anything recognizable.
“...And their forelimbs are two longer blades that they use for pretty much everything. It would be difficult to say how much they would be able to accomplish if they didn’t have a ‘sister-species’ with more manipulation to assist them.” Adam mused, a hand reaching up to scratch at his chin. “They’re much the same, though. From our limited translations, they seemed to have been a case of divergent evolution that converged again after gaining seven manipulator appendages rather than the two weapon-focused ones that the Atmo use. The Kuoori are visually similar, though lower in number. They’re the ones working on the translator, by the way.”
Clara’s voice called from off-screen, the volume lacking as she seemed to be talking from across the room. “You said you’d wait longer!”
Adam held his hands up in deference. “I just wanted to get the boring stuff out of the way!”
“We’re visiting our homestead tomorrow, and you want to spend the day giving them-”
The screen flickered as a feminine hand covered the image, the next frame of the video starting inside a much nicer construction, the furniture having moved locations around the room suggesting they had changed venue and looking far more comfortable for it. Several of the instalments looked much like the ‘Atmo couch’ that Mama had made for themselves at the base.
Clara spoke up before her husband could start. “We’re visiting a new wing of the habitation compound!”
“It’s a nest.” Adam corrected with a glare, though the smirk showed he was far more amused than annoyed at his wife’s enthusiasm.
She stuck her tongue out at him, all pretenses of the video being educational tossed out the window. She turned back to the device with a smile a mile wide. “They live in huge groups! I couldn’t count them all, but i think there are upwards of three-hundred here alone! And there are several places like it!”
“It’s a sea of colour.”
“It’s beautiful and you know it.” She countered playfully, prodding his cheek with her knuckle. Adam chuckled, pushing away the offending limb.
“I don’t think i mentioned how many colours there are.”
Clara lit up at the chance to talk more. “They are recorded to cover most of the visible spectrum, from what i was told, but majority seem to be shades of red and blue, with some green and yellow being far less common.”
“They’re also very eager to ask us about our interpretations of art.”
The woman rolled up her pants leg to display a stylized tattoo of a lighthouse against stormy seas. “They seen this and within an hour they started adding the style to one of their newest rooms.”
Adam rested his cheek on a fist, watching his wife with an amused and loving smirk. “I heard one of the other groups showed them origami and twenty minutes later there were forty Atmo asking for sheets of paper.”
Clara looked at her husband in surprise. “Really?”
“Yeah. Apparently another group-”
The scene changed to a stabilized recording, the device being carried by one of the two. A few moments passed as they panned over the expansive tunnel network brightly lit by a slightly green shade of white light, tens of Atmo stopping to wave to the couple once the pair had started the gesture. Clara’s voice again became prominent.
“We’re visiting their nursery today!” She whispered into the device, though it was pretty damn loud for what should have been quiet.
“Hatchery.” Her husband corrected, not very concerned by her volume. She waggled the recording device in his direction, answering that small question.
“We get to see the little baby Atmo!”
Adam shook his head, his own excitement showing through. “They’ll be in their eggs.”
“We get to see the little baby Atmo eggs!”
The scene cut to the ‘hatchery’, carefully carved divots lining shelves where hundreds of rice-looking ‘eggs’ sat upon what looked to be very soft materials that seemed closer to silk than anything else Joseph could identify. Each egg seemed to be about large enough to reach past his knee if you were to stand them up, making the scale of the room rather impressive. Adam had taken the device, his wife being supervised by an amused Atmo that looked oddly familiar, the blue coloration striking him as the same that Mama sported, though the green tint and similarity between the ones he had seen so far made it pretty clear that it was exceedingly unlikely for his Atmo to be the same one. He raised a brow at the chipped blade, though it was on the opposite side and thus settled the suspicion.
Clara tentatively pet an egg, glancing at the watchful Atmo every so often to make sure she wasn’t doing anything wrong, though her face was filled with wonder rather than worry. She asked if it would be okay to hold one, the subtitled response from the Atmo directing her to an area where the eggs were hardened and more able to manage her handling.
The woman looked to be in euphoric shock as she cradled the seed of life in her arms, Adam absently commenting from behind the device with a suppressed chuckle. “This is what happens when you get your wife pregnant.”
The screen flickered, a slightly longer pause between clips giving Joseph a chance to look at Pan. The female seemed to have been watching the Human woman cradle the egg with a longing deeply set in her eyes, the paw not resting within his hand laid to her stomach. The Grand Hunter gave her paw a squeeze, getting a sad smile in return before the next part of the video played.
Adam was alone in the room, though the distant voices suggested that Clara and someone else were talking in another part of wherever they were staying. Occasional clicks were replied to with laughter or questions, the woman’s voice carrying further than the indeterminate gender of the other. The man shook his head.
“If it wasn’t obvious; they finished working on the translator.” He turned his head to point at a thin cut behind his ear. “It wasn’t forced, before you ask. One of the groups apparently brought along an entire medical ward worth of textbooks and files, and just gave it to the Atmo. Looks like half of the time they spent with the device was training a separate version for text so that they could figure out how to implant it safely.”
Adam held up his hand to stop an imaginary rebuttal. “I know what you’re thinking, but we got to watch it be installed on several people who volunteered, and twenty three doctors confirmed it was on the up-and-up. Honestly, the Kuoori could probably perform a heart transplant in a couple minutes if they wanted to. Either way, we learned a few things!”
He clapped his hands softly. “They have royalty! Sort of. It’s complicated. There’s a ‘sub-species’ of sorts that are a bit smaller than the normal Atmo, and they have a slightly different exoskeleton structure than the usual you have seen so far. The biggest visual identifier is their legs. Atmo typically have conical legs, where as the sub-species have more angular legs. Think kite-shields or an orchid mantis. They can breed with normal Atmo, but the offspring are always female, have a very low chance to take after their mother, as far as their legs, and those who do are raised from hatching to lead. They spend most of their formative years under the guidance of one or more ‘Advisors’, kind of like guardians or parents for Humans, that helps guide them through morals, values, so on and so forth.”
His rolling hand showed how briefly he was condensing the history of the position, a muttered comment about how Clara was going to re-do it all in greater detail later showing that he was mostly just recording to remind his wife in future what to mention.
“The position is chosen by the ‘Hatcher’, who raises them to the point where they are able to begin the process, and approved by the mother Queen, if she is still able. Then the Hatcher will take a more supportive role in their life, rather than being directly influential. Think of it as a maid taking care of the kids until they are old enough for tutors to become available in old houses of nobility. Anyway. The ‘Advisor’ acts as their guardian and compass for how to act as a Queen, and it’s not a position taken lightly. The rest of the Nest’s second priority is the ‘Advisor’, after the young Queen herself, obviously.”
Adam leaned back on the carved couch, the soft material over it looking similar to what was used in the hatchery. “We were invited to see a ceremony as several Queens are nearing the proper age, though it won’t be until a year or so. We’re expecting the process to take about three, before we’re brought back to Sol, so it should make a fun addition to our time here.”
“Adam!” Clara called. “Red want’s to know if you want to meet her son! He hatched a few months ago!”
The man shunted his eyes closed, visibly pained at the moniker as he muttered something about Atmo adoring Human naming conventions. “Do i have a choice?”
“Do you want to sleep on the floor?”
A sigh escaped the man as he grinned, reaching for the device as he got up from his seat. “We’re recording it, ri-”
A clip of Adam on his knees playing with a tiny yellow Atmo was accompanied by Clara squealing every time the young one successfully caught her husbands hand between its blades, the two-foot tall child looking to the large Red Atmo in excitement with each victory in the little game that had developed.
Joseph felt Pan’s grip on his hand tighten, a tear building in her eye as her gaze refused to move away from the scene. Violet sat on the floor with her legs tucked underneath her as she silently continued the viewing.
The next clip showed that quite some time had passed, Adam looking like he hadn’t shaved in quite a while as he sat on the floor against a wall, the device held in his hand and pointed towards him.
“Clara went into labour early.” He started, the exhausted expression only saved by the smile of disbelief. “I know it’s been a long while since we’ve documented anything, but I’ll go over that later. For now? Remember those textbooks and the like that were given when they asked for a translator? Well, It happened to cover c-sections, and If it wasn’t for Red and Jack, I’d probably be here crying as opposed to just tired after helping our baby boy take his first breaths.”
The man laughed, a tear of relief running down his cheek. “We didn’t even get time to really figure out what was wrong. Jack, sorry, Red’s partner... Yeah, they like the sound of our names and insisted that we give them nicknames. Jack took one look at Clara and in all of thirty seconds we had twelve Atmo rushing us to their Human hospital. Yeah. Human hospital.”
A fresh chuckle emerged from the man. “Turns out that they were implementing every single thing they could copy from those books. Entire fields were populated by Atmo involved in this ‘mixed species introduction’ who wanted to be able to help their new friends. Some martial arts guys from a few sectors over even showed off their skills and now it’s a popular past time amongst the species. They’re sponges for information. Best yet? They learned that we have over a thousand languages, and have started work on adaptive translators, just because they were worried they wouldn’t be able to talk to any new Humans. It’s insanity.”
He paused, soft clicking was subtitled as a request for him to return since Clara had woken up. He winked to the device. “Time to go tell my wife she’s the first woman to be fully cut open by a new species.”
Static overtook the screen, Pan’s wide-eyed glance in his direction being met with his own. Joseph looked down to Violet, the Atmo seeming transfixed on the screen and oblivious to the importance of the information dumped on them so offhandedly.
A series of clunks and assorted handling noise ripped the question from his mouth as he refocused on the video, the scene switching to what looked to be several months later, based on the growth of the baby boy laying in a red Atmo’s arms next to Clara as she played with the now slightly larger yellow Atmo child. The two’s conversation was barely coherent as the noise from the four garbled most attempts to parse any particular words. Adam called out to them, gaining the attention of all but the baby boy who seemed more interested in slapping the exoskeleton of his seat rather than humour his father.
“So, what are we excited about?”
Clara rolled her eyes, looking far more well rested than Joseph would expect a new mother to be. “Just say that the next selection for the ‘Advisors’ is tomorrow, Adam.”
The husband sighed audibly. “At least pretend to document something.”
“I’m busy!”
“Playing with Michael.”
“He’s adorable!”
Red chittered, the subtitled text labelling her thoughts on how cute the Human baby was in return. Clara laughed, picking up the small Atmo in her arms and receiving a small cut on her arm from not being careful enough. Red started to worry before the woman dismissed her concerns and reassured Michael that it wasn’t his fault, the young insect taking greater care to tuck his blades, much to Adam’s amusement.
A flicker of the footage transitioned the scene to a massive hall with tall ceilings, large pillars sporting the style of Clara’s tattoo and several other more ‘realism’ inspired works that Joseph recognized from some co-workers who often decorated their skin. Many Atmo were standing orderly around the room as the device panned to show off the gathering, settling towards the ‘front’ of the room where three Atmo, each looking a lot like Violet, angular legs and all, sat on modified blocks. The three were different colours, two a shade of blue and one an almost orange colour, and all had ten Atmo standing nearby behind them.
Four young Atmo ‘Queens’ that were only slightly larger than Violet waited patiently as one of the adult Queens gave a speech about why each ‘Advisor’ was chosen, two falling into the category of an appreciation or excellence in one form of art or another, though one was chosen for their involvement in the newly developed medical fields that would enable them to assist their new friends.
One last young Queen remained, the rest being escorted out with commentary from the Human couple. She approached the orange Queen, her color almost the same tint, as the adult Atmo left her seating to address the room instead of remaining at rest. Clara apparently prodded Adam in her excitement in the different procedure, a hushed yell masquerading as a whisper for him to make sure he was getting a good angle.
A longer speech was given, vague and broad, until the Queen mentioned that she would be entrusting her heir personally to someone who may offer lifetimes of new experiences and values that would be irreplaceable to her people. An Atmo pushed Adam from behind to usher him to the Queen, the device snatched from his hands by Clara as she squeaked in excitement. It followed the man as he was presented to the Queen, a familiar blue Atmo approaching from off to the side. The Hatcher from when Clara held the egg, if Joseph was right.
The Hatcher lowered itself to Adam’s level, resting her blades over his back like the other Hatchers did for their selected Advisors, placing their head to his as the Queen continued her speech and Clara asked a nearby Atmo for an explanation of the gesture.
The response described it as a vestigial display of trust, for leaving one’s blades far from oneself leaves your life forfeit to whomever you do it to. The only people that a Hatcher would do it with is those they entrust the young Queens to, and a Queen will do it to accept. There existed no higher honour than to have the formality performed, so it was rare that one would, but if someone wished to deny, they would separate.
Clara visibly bounced in excitement, her voice cracking from tears of joy as Adam, hesitant and confused, accepted the embrace from the Hatcher, young Queen, and even the orange Queen herself, once she publicly announced that Humans were to be considered ‘allies of the Atmo’ in light of their contribution to their society and willingness to integrate.
The venue exploded into excited clicks and chitters, Clara doing nothing to fight her overwhelming emotions.
Joseph’s eyes started to dry from how wide they had grown, the strain stinging slightly as he looked down to Violet, the daughter having shrunk into herself as she watched passively. A million thoughts flashed through his mind, several of which were dedicated to replaying the moments where something exceedingly close to the video happened back when it was just them in the cave.
“Adam, have you seen Mary?” Clara’s voice called, the scene changing back to the place where they were staying, presumably with Red. The man quickly gestured for the orange juvenile Queen to hide behind the couch he was sitting on with a smirk, the Atmo quietly chittering as she complied.
“No, why?”
She entered the room, taking two steps before a loud click and a jumping figure emerged from behind the seating, causing Clara to jolt with a hand to her chest as she tried to look angry at her husband for encouraging the behaviour. Adam laughed, winking to ‘Mary’ and giving her a subtle thumbs-up as his wife tossed a pillow at him.
Many clips played, each snippets into the everyday life of the young Queen becoming more and more like a genuine child to the pair. Mary holding the baby and feeding him, her sleeping on Adam as Clara laughed, the group walking around the outside and Mary excitedly escorting them from place to place. It looked perfectly natural to Joseph.
They were a family. The Human couple had fully embraced the Atmo as their second child, and the young Queen seemed delighted for every second on display. Even going so far as to stomp all six legs in sequence when denied her request to stay up late so that she might watch the baby for a little longer, much to the couple’s suppressed amusement.
Static signified the next transition, Adam sitting at a table with a muscular man and chatting, Clara’s voice behind the device halting their joking for a moment. “So what did you do, Steven?”
The man, Steven, laid down his cup and pointed at the woman off-screen, a smirk on his face giving away his amusement. “I held a fighting competition.”
“With his Queen.” Adam added, his own entertainment gained from the reiteration of the conversation.
“Becky wanted to see what would happen if Humans and Atmo competed!” Steven laughed as he defended himself.
“And?” Clara chipped in, prodding him to get to the point. Steven shook his head as he worked down the chuckles.
“Well, David clocked Mark, the Atmo, and sent the big guy to the ground. It was a tense moment, I’ll tell you now.” Steven widened his eyes, his lips drew thin, though the smile still tugged the expression to a positive one. “Once Mark was helped back up, he complimented David, and the entire fucking arena blew up in cheers from everyone. Even Becky looked worried for a minute.”
“Because you almost caused a cross-species diplomatic incident.” Adam chided with a bemused shake of his head.
“Hey,” Steven pointed a finger at the husband, raising his cup with his free hand. “Becky loved it so much that she’s been taking lessons from the rest of us, and the Atmo have started joining in on our training to learn the art properly instead of just using it to dance.”
Clara snorted behind the device. “The art of smacking people with sticks?”
“And fists.” Steven added, laying one arm over the backrest of his chair. “It’s not everyday that you spar with living weapons.”
Adam reached over to smack the man over the head. “She’s supposed to be like your child.”
“And I’d want my kids to know how to fight off a bully!”
The wife sighed loudly. “You military boys...”
“Send it to the Union!” Steve protested, some of his drink spilling outside of the cup with the raised hand. “It’s a pretty good case to have them join if we show off how willing they are to embrace other cultures.”
Adam opened his mouth to argue, shutting it as he considered the point and giving Clara a conceding tilt of his head. “Sounds like a good idea to me. Every other race seems pretty isolationist. Can’t hurt to show some ‘unity’ to the Union.”
Clara perked up, her voice contemplative. “I’ll send it in the morning. Right now though, i need to go pick up Daniel from Red. The poor girl was nice enough to babysit for me for us to have this little get-together.”
“Tell Jack i said to-”
Static again, though this time it was just Adam sat alone at a table, his stubble showing that he had skipped shaving for a while. The man ran his fingers through his hair as he exhaled.
“It was a mistake. A huge fucking mistake, to send that to the Union.”
He rubbed the stress out of his eyes.
“They sent a retrieval force after Steven for ‘violation of protocol and intention to cause discord’. Ten armed soldiers came to crash the tournament and dragged him kicking and screaming.” Adam cycled a deep breath. “Becky did what her Advisor had taught her... She fought the bullies.”
A hoarse laugh escaped the man, his eyes glazing over for a moment as he spoke.
“It was a slaughter. Once the Queen made her decision, every Atmo who could fight, did. Steven and the guys ended up helping out part way through, once the guns started firing. One minute, forty seconds. It took a minute-forty from Steven yelling at a soldier approaching his Queen, to three dead Atmo and two dead Humans, surrounded by ten dead Union species.”
Adam leaned forward in his chair, his eyes hazy yet still meeting the device. “I don’t know what’s going to come of this, but we’ve been talking with the various adult Queens... They normally don’t gather like this, each controlling their own territory and convening for important events, but it would be a massive cultural and societal blow if this planet gets taken out, so we suggested an alternative. Sol.”
He braced his head against his thumb. “The system has flooded with Union ships, but if the tech guys can work with the Kuoori, we might be able to scramble their systems enough to sneak out a few ships. Maybe send them in random directions for a while before they set out to inhabit a few planets in our system to help them get back on their feet, where it’s safe. Where the Union won’t find them.”
He sighed, closing his eyes tightly. “We’ll find out.”
The screen flickered, Mary, the juvenile orange Queen, gently held the baby boy on her blades while Clara and Adam watched with strained smiles from the couch. Steven and a red young Queen, Becky, apparently, both stood by the wall.
Steven spoke first, his voice loud and intense as he snarled at the husband, Mary purring to soothe the Human child. “A planet-breaker. A FUCKING planet-breaker, Adam! They nuked the shipyard!”
“I KNOW, Steven...” Adam toned back his own shouting when Mary looked at him warily. “I know... We have eight ships ready... out of an expected two hundred.”
Clara touched her husband’s shoulder tenderly, worry evident in her expression. “Did they say what they’re going to do?”
“Fuck knows.” Steven threw his arm to the side. “The Queens want to send two hundred adults and forty eggs per ship.”
“That’s all?” She asked, her voice almost painfully dejected at the prospect of so few being given the chance to live.
“That’s it.” He confirmed, his rage bubbling under the surface. He lightly gestured to Becky. “They want to send the next batch of Queens to hatch en route, and enough Atmo to raise and provide for the rest.”
Adam scowled. “What about the Kuoori? They saved Clara’s life and sacrificed more than half their population to build these damned ships.”
Steven shook his head. “The Kuoori want to make a stand. They said that they have spent much of their existence being protected by the Atmo, and it’s their turn to do the same. They’ll be helping us distract the fleet.”
“But we don’t even have proper escape pods! How in the hell are they going to survive anywhere without the Kuoori to back them up?”
“It will be slow, but they are still an intelligent people, Adam.” Clara reassured him, her grip tightening on his shirt as the baby began to whine. She thanked Mary for holding him and left to feed the child. Adam rested his hands in his head as Steven exhaled, his anger exhausted.
“Adam, look. I know that we didn’t get everything ready, and there are lines that are going to be crossed, but this is their best bet. We get them out of the system and to Sol through whatever means we can. They’ll take backwater, never used routes. We’ll get something sorted for if shit goes south and they need to get off.”
“And then what, Steven? The fighters want to follow us to hell, the medical teams want to delay that journey as long as possible, and everyone else is fighting for the chance to defend the very people who spelled their doom.”
“It’s very Human of them, right?”
Adam laughed, though it came off as hollow. “Tooth and nail, to the last... What about us?”
“We’re staying.”
“You’re going. You’re taking Clara and the kid. Mary and Becky are going with you too.” He held up a hand at the protesting Atmo without turning his head. “It’ll be a smaller shuttle on a more direct route to Sol. We managed that much, it looks like. You can take maybe twenty others and some eggs. It won’t be great for a population, but they’ll bounce back with that many.”
“The seed-ships?”
“Like we agreed. Random routes to get them far away from this shit-show and then straight to Sol. It might be more than a few years, but the Queens should be hatched and ready to learn from the group you guys land with. They can hear what happened to them.”
The screen flickered again as Mary knocked it off the table in her curiosity, the anxious fidgeting leading her to interact with it.
Adam sat back in the original room where he made his declaration to Humanity, the bottle of alcohol half empty and no attempt was made to hide it this time.
“They managed to do it, at least.” He started, his expression flat as emotional exhaustion had taken even tears from him. “The seed-ships got out and will arrive in Sol... whenever, i suppose. The new translators were given to all of them and implanted in the young while they were in their eggs, so there shouldn’t be too much friction whenever they meet us. Schematics are available aboard the ships.”
He took another drink.
“Though we lost almost everyone. The Union kept up the planet-breakers. We got to watch as each world exploded. Kuoori, Human, Atmo... All obliterated.” The man took a breath and emptied his glass, a slight slur working its way into his voice. “Clara and Daniel are with Mary and Becky to help calm them down, and I’m here setting up the automated message for the seed-ships to use before they get out of range.”
The man slipped lower in his chair as he stared at the ceiling. “About a thousand Atmo are on each ship, all said and done. It was the most we could convince them to pack. Though, most of those numbers are whatever we could get from the Hatchery before it went up. Each ship was given two Queen eggs... the mothers didn’t want to abandon their people and new allies.” He laughed, some genuine feeling behind it. “Sarah, the orange Queen that left Mary with me, told me to raise her as my own along with Becky, once she accepted that Steven was trusting me with her. That, although it had been a short time, she thought Humanity would take care of her people... That they could live with us, and be better for it.”
Adam lowered his gaze to the device again. “The speech was something else, I’ll say that much. They addressed as many Atmo as they could and told those who would be leaving to find Humans, and they will find a home. A new Nest. A Family.” A tear, held in reserve for this specific memory, trailed down his cheek. “I want to believe that you will give it to them. Please. For the people who saved my wife, my child, and myself. For the people who gave me... Two beautiful and curious daughters, i suppose.”
Adam cycled a breath, fetching another cigarette from his pocket and igniting it in his mouth, taking a long draw before speaking as he exhaled. The sound of wood being carved inside of the terminal room filled the silence that the first exhale of smoke allowed, though Joseph was too focused to pay it any mind.
“They’re gone now. Red, Jack, Steven... Little Micheal... The Union took them with fire and brimstone as they raided and stole whatever they could before the rounds dropped. I watched it happen... We’ll arrive near Sol in a few months, since we need to fly under the radar, but this message will be distributed to all eight ships. Most will never know what a Human looks like, just that the few Adults and Hatchers were told roughly what to look for, and to entrust us with their lives. To do what Sarah and the other Queens asked of them before they made their last stand with their people.”
He nodded his head, taking another puff. The rapid scratching ceased after a small delay, a muted clatter punctuated the recorded words. “Let’s not let them down this time.”
Adam extinguished his smoke, folding his hands and sitting up straight, licking his lips with a tongue that was barely effective. “This has been Adam Callam. Hopefully, this isn’t the first time you have seen this message. If not, then i hope that you send whatever people are on this ship to their family. I hope it eventually includes you. Adam out. As Sarah said to those seeking refuge in the stars; May the Nest guide you to greatness, inspire your craft, and give you hope, for you are a pillar of the Atmo.”
The screen went dark, leaving the Terminal room to be dimly illuminated by the ambient light streaming in from the hall. A single line of Atmo text was translated below with the words Adam ended with, a familiar series of runes Joseph had seen on his armour that Mama crafted for him so long ago, displayed as the last frame of the video. The final words spoken from a Queen to her doomed people with a single wish that they might find somewhere to belong with a people they had just met, yet embraced wholly.
A choked sob came from Pan, the gravity of Violet’s situation hitting her like a canon.
Joseph’s adoptive daughter had lost everything before she was even able to know what she should have had. Her mother was dead, along with almost all of her own kind. Those that survived were sent in a desperate gambit to find somewhere that they wouldn’t be killed for just existing, and based on the fact that the Union had this message and not Humans, it didn’t look to be working out too well, to say nothing of the fact that her own ship had ended up so far from its destination and crashed into the one he was on.
It was the only answer he could come up with. The Union fucked with the cruise, dragged it all the way out here, and parked it directly in the path of the escaping Atmo ship. Add on whichever was taken out before it got to Sol, and that’s likely seven seed-ships still unaccounted for. He’d want to say that Adam had made it, but Rob not knowing about this before now suggested that it was the family's ship that was...
Who’s to say the other seven made it?
Violet, and whatever Atmo survived on this planet, could very well be the last of their people in existence... All because Humans taught them how to fight for sport.
Pan threw herself at him, the vocal crying stinging his soul to its core. He wrapped his arms around her and helped her to the ground next to Violet, the Atmo still quietly staring at the script displayed on the frozen screen.
A tablet lay next to her on the floor, Lilhun and Atmo script hastily scratched as if she was trying to reply to the desperate wish of a dead man in every way she thought might work, then discarded as the reality and futility of such actions set in.
Joseph held the tablet for Pan to read, his gentle patting drawing her attention between breaths. Her voice hitched while she read it, claws digging into his skin as her agony for the child renewed with his own before her screeching needed to be muffled by his chest. He felt his eyes burn as he rubbed her back and braced her head into his embrace, the heat pouring down his face contrasting the arctic chill in his core as her translation echoed in his ears.
“Please tell mother i found one, and that I hope she can meet him soon.”
submitted by WaveOfWire to HFY [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 15:54 xPenguinzx I was hired to clean out archives of old patient data for a mental institution, this was what I found...

It started with an itch. An itch along the edge of my right eye. An itch that I scratched and rubbed. An itch that wouldn’t go away. It was like I’d gotten dust in it, or a speck dirt that I’d only been massaging deeper into my eye. Yet, no amount of tears that welled to the surface, or water that I splashed into my face seemed to fix it. It was an itch I tried to bear, thought I could bear, but I was wrong.
‘Do you want me to help?’
My brow furrowed, head twisting while I searched for who’d spoken. I was alone on the sidewalk, walking my daily route along the local park. The air was crisp that morning, a subtle breeze had been whistling in my ear all throughout the walk. I wondered if perhaps it had been the wind, its gentle caress that had whispered a tune into my ear. I felt ridiculous in the moment, the one eye I wasn’t covering with my hand swiveled to check my surroundings. There wasn’t even a tree for someone to have been hiding behind.
I smiled a slight grin, shaking my head as if it would help quell the rising embarrassment. Yet, there was an undeniable appeal to the offer. The constant rubbing and probing had started to morph into a pain, more a prickling annoyance than anything substantial. Yet, I’d long since become annoyed with the inconvenience. Mind drifting to such dramatic thoughts, I weighed the offer. I’d give anything to make the itch go away. Before I raised my hand to poke at the sensitive area once more, I glanced around with embarrassed trepidation. No one was near, yet my face was warm, flush from the unavoidable awkwardness. “Sure,” I said quietly, my voice nearly cracking, “help me out.”
I didn’t know how to explain it, but my eye stopped itching. More than that, the pain dissipated too. It was like it had never happened. I removed my hand from where it had been pressing against the socket, blinking away a moment of blurry half-vision.
I went about my day without giving it another thought, letting the warmth of the sun soothe my concerns until it dissipated back into an oddity of the otherwise mundane morning.

The next day, the itch returned. It was not the slow escalation that built over time, not like the morning last. It returned immediately, and without the encouragement of my touch a searing pain came to join it. It was sudden and brutal, like nothing I could have prepared myself for. I winced, sucking a short breath through clenched teeth while the agony felt like a nail had punctured my eye, an invisible hammer pounding the stake deeper through the orb as it burrowed towards my brain. Beneath it all, was the desire to wipe at my eye, to press into it deeper with the flesh of my palm, anything that would lessen the pain and overwhelming urge to scratch at it some more.
My jaw opened with a click, muscles tightening around clenched joints. I started to cry out, the overwhelming pain so profoundly unique, unlike anything I’d known before. A shaky hand rising to my face, I pressed the back of it into my face, wrist twisting as the bones of my knuckles rolled into my eye socket.
For a fraction of a second, the white hot poker that had been stabbed into the edge of my eye lessened. But it only lasted for part of a breath, just long enough for me to think that the worst of it might be done. Oh, how I was wrong.
The torture leaped from the edge of my eye to encompass the whole orb. With a feeling like knives were dragging their edges in sadistic figure eights against the gelatinous flesh. My stomach twisted, and I was sure that I would empty my breakfast onto the floor. All the while, my world was starting to spin, encompassing delirium gripping my mind. I cried out in pain once more, this time wetted by moisture that streamed down my cheeks and poured from my nose. I don’t know when, but I’d entered the fetal position, my free hand wrapping around my knees to pull them closer to my chest – as if that would somehow help me.
As the pain continued to increase, my thoughts became muddier, with every passing second it was becoming harder to form a cohesive thought. I knew my limited options were becoming even scarcer, I knew that soon I would black out from the pain and by then my fate would be sealed. I tried to think of something to try, except only my screams rattled my brain, the only brief respite being when a fresh inhale was needed to produce more of the painfilled noise. I didn’t know who would hear, I lived alone, and the walls leading to the outside world were fairly thick. Even if someone heard me, and happened to call the police; even if they made it to me before I gave myself a hernia - what could they possibly do?
Between a volley of screaming that my tucked head had been directing to my knees, I stopped to suck in a short inhale. When I started again, a new sound pulled at the back of my mind, barely audible over my own voice.
‘Do you want me to help?’
Silence filled my home. Jaw creaking from its fully extended position, vision blurred from the tears that covered both pupils while I hesitated. Did I hear that? I wondered for a fraction of a second. “What?” my voice rasped in a hoarse sound, my throat torn from my abrupt and violent usage of it. The voice was more like a whisper when it had spoken to me, I was unsure if I’d even heard it or if my mind had conjured it in the delirium.
“Would you like my help?”
My head nodded furiously, a new round of tears spilling to the surface. “Yes, yes,” I begged, “please make it stop.”
Same as the last time, the pain melted away as abruptly as it had come on. With shaky limbs, I rose from the floor, my breath still quivering as quiet whimpers escaped my lips. Blinking away the moisture I stared at the floor in a confused amazement, wondering what was going on, or if I’d maybe imagined the whole thing. Besides the constant shivers from the dump of adrenaline and the crust along my cheek I didn’t have any hard evidence, or witnesses to the strange episodes.
Dragging feet across the floor, the adrenaline gave way to such a heavy exhaustion, the urge to collapse on my bed and sleep for a day was an alluring proposition. After what felt like an extremely long minute of lumbering to the bathroom, I made it to the mirror, hoping to find some proof of my pain that I could show someone.
When I looked up at the reflective pane hanging above the sink, I flinched so hard that I nearly fell into the tub behind me. The image was distorted, like an object held so close to my face that part of it had duplicated. In the mirror, half of my face seemed the same as I’d seen it when I brushed my teeth a few hours earlier.
The other half of my face was a sickly green, holes pockmarked my flesh with red and pink beneath. Aside from my pumice stone complexion, gashes dragged deep wounds erratically at different angles across my face, many of the creases formed lips of hardened puss and gangrene. Some of the wounds dug deeper to show the milky white bone beneath. The front of my nose had also fallen off or decayed to a point where all that was left was the twin tunnel leading into my brain. In the ghoulish half of my now haunting visage, my eye popped from its socket. The eye lids long since decayed to leave a permanently wide-eyed expression, the gaps between the yellow stained orb and the socket gave it the appearance of floating inside my face.
My otherwise normal eye widened, panic and confusion crawling up from the depths. Directing my hand to rise to my face, I watched it slowly creep from the bottom of my vision. As it crossed into the half of my face that was closer to a mummified husk, my digits changed. The skin around my hand turned putrid, the digits became gangly, while fingernails curled and fell off. Waving my fingers in front of my face, I watched the bones and sagging skin sway like a tattered curtain. I gawked at the sight with a morbid curiosity for a few seconds before yanking it from view, a sudden urgency brought on by fear of it as atrophying if I held it out for any longer.
Hidden from view, I clenched my hand in a few investigatory squeezes, rubbing into it with deep massaging presses. It felt normal, but I needed to be sure. Eyes drifting down, I caught a glimpse of my exposed forearm. Like my hand, craters of decaying flesh marred the limb, some gaping holes as large as quarters, they patterned the limb like a macabre art piece.
Head snapping to the side, I quickly looked away from my hands and arms. As my vision swept from the normal scene into the altered sight the cabinets and walls transformed. In the edge of my vision, they were aged, wallpaper curling into a soaked yellow, spackles of black mold staining its surface.
What is this? I wondered, still struggling to comprehend what my eyes were showing me, each of them showing a different version of the same image. My neck craned to the side so I could look at the same spot along the wall with my other eye. In an instant, it returned to the plain taupe as soon as it entered the other half of my vision. The cheap replica painting and few family pictures, reformed into something cohesive.
Careful not to glance at the mirror or anything else that might show me my reflection, I rubbed my hand along the forearm that had been spackled with lesions and sores. Underneath my fingers, I felt the dry skin and thin hairs all standing at attention. But no holes, I remarked with a shaky breath. I stepped from the bathroom, with my eyes straight ahead. It’s in your head, it’s not there – I’m fine. The thought brought a measure of comfort, like the knowledge that I’d been imagining everything would leave my physical form intact. That was until I realized that viewing the world through a glass of atrophy and death was still far from normal.
Can I just cover it? The thought was so simple and would be an easy solution to my problem. Suddenly brimming with hopeful vigor, I shut my right eye, the one that had been so abruptly afflicted with the visions of decomposition.
Confusion battered at my mind when my sight remained unaltered. It was odd. I felt the side of my face scrunch, my eyelid closing over the orb, yet my view of the withering wall was unaltered. Cupping my hand to cover the eye, it didn’t block the twisted sight either. Investigating the other eye, I was quick to find that it could still be closed as normal, but all that did was limit my field of view while plunging the remainder of my vision in a gut-wrenching hellscape.
I grunted quietly at the new oddity, unsettled for what came next.

For six days, I shut myself out from the world. I hid. I got used to walking corpses handing me pizza, and me handing them money that had long since shriveled and faded into blank notes, yet they always accepted it with a smile. Have you ever witnessed a half-mummified body smile? Witnessed the lesions about his face twist and curl along bloated cheek bones, or the black stained teeth that hung at an angle loosely in his mouth by a stubborn corner. I of course could still see the man through my other eye, the image oscillating between decomposition and the youthful vigor of a young man trying to make a few bucks on the side by dropping off pizzas.
Each day I couldn’t stomach more than a few bites. The concept of eating was difficult when from the corner of my vision I constantly saw rotting food. Food I’d just ordered fresh that was shrunken and shriveled, taken over by carpets of mold black and green. The toppings turned from their vibrant colours of red and green to stomach churning shades of black and grey. Even if I looked to the ceiling to avoid glancing at my food, I was then treated to stained plaster, littered with holes that revealed the deteriorating wood behind it. If I could manage a few bites, it tasted like the pizza I’d known and loved before. But I couldn’t purge the images of the rotten meal from my mind, the thought was always there to shut down any thoughts of a meal.
It wasn’t just the lack of nutrients either, being unable to shut one of my eyes made sleep near impossible. Even with curtains drawn and the lights turned off, the pitch black surrounding was insufficient. Something about my brain knew that my eye was open, and refused to offer anything resembling acceptable sleep. After being awake for three days, I did eventually sleep – it wasn’t for very long. Three hours if I recall correctly, jolting awake immediately after my brain caught up to what it believed was the still open eye. The days after were profoundly lethargic, doing anything felt like it took hours, each moment of it like wading through a muddy bog. As well, the biological need for my brain to shut down every few hours left me nodding off constantly, only to wake a few minutes later.
I felt myself at my limit, my mind stretched to the absolute edge of what it could handle. How many more days can I go before a psychotic break? Until a stroke finally takes me? From my seat at the kitchen table, I glance to the counter, eyeing the arrangement of cleavers and blades with a quiet alluring. Quickly, my head shook. Not yet.
“Would you like my help?”
I jolted up from my chair. Snapping to attention with a sudden surge of energy. The quick movement dizzied my vision, pulling me to the side as I wobbled slightly. After recovering my wavy vision, my neck snapped to both sides for a quick examination of the small room. It was empty. “Hello?”
“Would you like my help?”
It was like the voice was in my head, echoing in both ears, seeming everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman, a perfectly balanced timber that betrayed no emotion, neither malicious nor benevolent – it was simply there.
“What are you?”
Pausing for a long bout of silence, the voice held its answer, before finally responding with the same question. “Would you like my help?”
My mouth opened, but I nearly bit my tongue with how quickly my jaw shut. Shaking my head violently, I rubbed my arms vigorously, hoping it would quell the hairs that had risen along each of them. I knew the truth. It doesn’t help. It was the voice that made my vision like this. The piercing pain is also thanks to the voice’s ‘help’. But, I couldn’t deny that the thought of a full night’s sleep, of a meal that I didn’t immediately evacuate afterwards was incredibly appealing.
Had I been more rested, had I not been so exhausted and desperate, I might have possessed the fortitude to turn down the proposition. However, I was not, and I did not. “Yes,” I croaked in a voice that was dried to the limit of what my body could handle. Like the food, water had a similar effect on my brain, taking on the look of liquified sewage, like pond scum with a wisp of foam atop it.
Almost immediately, I felt a pinch behind my eye. It forced a wince from me as I withstood the discomfort, only for it to dissolve a moment later. My vision had returned, in my kitchen I saw my cabinets and stove top, the table I was sitting at and the half-eaten slice of pizza from last night. I lunged for the twisted remains of the meat supreme, wolfing it down in two ambitious bites. Stumbling to the sink, I cupped my hands beneath the open faucet, frantically funneling warm tap water into my stomach.
I felt like a man lost in the desert, stumbling into an oasis after days of exhaustion. Ignoring the protestations of my stomach, I jumped to the fridge where I’d stored the rest of the leftovers. Ripping contents from the shelves, they were scattered onto the table in a chaotic feast that I couldn’t wait to dive into.
That was when I heard a sound. It was quiet like the voice had been, simultaneously all around me and nowhere at the same time. I’d heard it for the briefest of instances, like a word half caught at the end of it being spoken somewhere in the distance. Struggling to place it, the noise sang out again. The quiet screech of metal is what I heard, like a knife being dragged against steel somewhere in the distance, as if it was the faint echoes of someone sharpening a knife. Or a rusted pair of scissors opening.
It screeched once more, this time louder and closer, with the unmistakable click of shears closing. Instantly, the vision in my recovered eye blurred, as if they suddenly needed glasses. Stumbling backwards in surprise, I was mostly amazed to not be feeling any discomfort besides the few squeals of metal I’d heard in my ear. Once more the metal wailed, and this time the vision in my blurred eye shifted. The obfuscated items of green and red dulled, its hues becoming barely legible, closer to grey than their original colours.
My breath skipped, then drew short inhales quickly through my nose. Between my rapidly drawn breaths, my ears picked up the quiet screech once more. I froze, immediately clenching every muscle I could while even my lungs paused.
One second.
Nothing. Whatever was doing this to me was relishing in the fear that was starting to scratch at my mind.
Then the snip. I flinched at the subtle pinch, and the darkness that immediately fell on the side of my vision. It wasn’t like an eye was closed, where my field of view should have become narrower. There was only darkness. A dribble of moisture trickled down my cheek, not tears but something else. Raising cautious fingers, they poked towards the wetness that continued to flow down to my chin, quickly returning with tips dyed a crimson red.
A part of me was terrified, too terrified to stumble to the mirror and see what the voice had done to me. But the much louder part of my mind demanded sleep, so I curled up into a ball on the floor, grateful I could finally close my eyes. Tomorrow’s problem will be dealt with tomorrow.

The next morning I woke with a spasm coursing through my limbs, like I’d been jolted awake by a bolt of lightning. A stabbing pain raced down the back of my neck, creeping into my spine with its barbed wire touch. Along the side of my head was a different pain, this one dull and thumping to the steady beat of my heart. My arms and legs felt sore, with a sensation of pins and needle gripping the one arm that I seemed to have slept on.
My mind wandered while I struggled to my feet, trying to recall the faint lickings of the terrible dream that I’d suffered last night. But as my eyes drifted to the wall, and the black void covering half of my vision became more apparent, I remembered. It wasn’t a dream at all.
Wobbling legs carried me to the bathroom. Both hands gripping the sinks edge, I couldn’t look. Fear scratched at the back of my mind, I knew the truth, I didn’t need a reflection to confirm it. It was only after I felt my knuckles whitening from the pressure for several long seconds that I pushed through the heavy fog, gathering the will to look at the reflective pane across me.
Where there should have been my eye was a crater. With its true depth hidden by the shadow of my skull, I could only imagine how deep the cavern in my face went, the parts I could see were lined with the near black crimson of dried blood. Beneath the hollowed socket were also thin streams of dried blood, forming narrow paths towards my chin like pain filled tears. I raised a trembling hand to my eye, like I’d done before, but this time to see if what I was seeing was in fact real. I watched in the mirror while tremors rocked my extended finger, watched the finger descend into the crater that was the eye socket. As my hand flinched, part of a fingertip rubbed against the moist flesh that lined the inside of my socket. I felt no pain in my face, but the rest of me felt like I’d just been punched in the gut. My stomach immediately flipped and I suddenly had to contend with the urge to empty my stomach into the sink.
My breath was shaky, shuddering air that I tried to control before it got away from me. But I felt myself losing the battle, each breath harder to draw than the last. In, and out. My feeble commands were having little effect, the dread becoming stronger as I knew what would come next. Like a hunter in the night, one second I felt fine, the next second, a dryness at the edge of my remaining eye. It twitched slightly, a tremor in the nerves that could have come from anything. I couldn’t yet tell if it was a lack of moisture in the air or something more.
Then my eye started to sting, and I realized I’d been holding it open for a few seconds straight. Fear demanded it be held ajar, unsure if it was a natural discomfort or the beginnings of the next round of torture.
Only holding it open for a few seconds longer, I eventually blinked. Breath held, while my lungs froze. Still unsure if I conjured the new itch, I tested the feeling in my eye. Is it gone? I wondered when I couldn’t feel anything more than the slight stinging along its edges. Chest finally collapsing, I drew long breaths with shut eyes. With each shuddering breath, I analyzed the sensations that coursed through the nerve endings along my face. I’m fine, I promised myself.
Then the urge to rub at my eye became stronger, forcing twitches all along the side of my face, even down to my jaw. Don’t. Instead I clenched my hands while my mind drifted to something else that might distract me, like the stale air flowing in and out of my nose, the rattle of the furnace creeping through the vents.
I didn’t even realize what I was doing until it was done, the back of my hand pressing into my eye socket and slowly wiping across it. Dry skin from the back of my hand was wetted, the cracks along my skin filled with the moisture my eye had been producing. More tears joined it as I realized with a jolt what I’d done.
“Wait,” I whispered in a shuddered breath.
It didn’t wait. Like a needle, a stabbing pain pierced the side of my eye, feeling like it punctured through to the other side too. A howl of pain escaped my lips, echoing in the acoustics of my narrow bathroom. Legs immediately giving way, I fell to the floor, already half curling into a ball atop the small shag carpet I’d laid by the sink. Palm pressing against the eye, I let my vision go black while stars of white spackled my vision. Short hissing breaths filled the room as I grappled with the return of the violent pain. Even as it felt like the stake plunging through my eye was twisted, as the nerves and sinew wrapped around each other into an unimaginable squeezing – I fought it.
I don’t know where the strength had come from, the sudden urge to resist became everything that I set my mind towards. Grinding my teeth together, my waning strength was being battered, it had been seconds and already my will was on the precipice of collapsing all together.
Then an image fluttered into view. It stole my breath, air freezing as shock gripped my system. My stolen eye was still gone, the right side of my face covered with inky nothingness. The remaining one that had been covered by my hand, abruptly shifted into a sideway view of my floor. I saw my bathroom tiles, chipped and faded; the carpet, patchy and molded; the walls, chipped of its paint, made pale by years of sunlight, and stained from years of neglect. What I saw was not my bathroom, not the bathroom I’d been in when I collapsed to the floor.
Like a sadistic poem, the itching, pain, and macabre vision assaulted me all at once. It was like it knew that my will was brittle, that my desire to resist was hanging onto the edge of the cliff by only my finger tips.
Then something shifted in my mind, a final surge of resistance. A spiteful rebellion gripped my thoughts, a rage that flared up abruptly with the surging of a wildfire as it tore through a forest of dried kindling. I wished to confront the source of my torment, to grip it by the neck and throttle it into submission. As I tapped into this new reservoir of strength, my hands balled into fists. Where the fuck is it? I demanded in my mind. As if I’d summoned it myself, the voice spoke. “Would yo–”
“Fuck you!”
“Would you li–”
“No!” I screamed my throat raw.
“Would you like my help?”
“I would like you to leave me. I’m never going to ask for your help.”
For a few long seconds, the voice didn’t respond. It left me with the unbearable itch that no amount of rubbing could satisfy, the sadistic agony that I was powerless to quell, and the knowledge that my vision had been plunged back into the unescapable hellscape - but at least it was quiet.
Until it wasn’t.
“Would you like my help?!” It suddenly screamed in my ear. I flinched in surprise, it was the first time that the cool dispassion of the voice was broken. “Would you like my help?!” It repeated a fraction of a moment later. “Would you like my help?!” Shouting over and over, the voice didn’t pause to breathe, repeating the words as soon it had finished the furious request. As the vicious battery of the question continued, I tried to fight it, shaking my head violently as if it would loosen the sound and even screaming alongside it to drown out the noise. Nothing worked, the unending noise persisting in my mind.
With each attempt to break my will, the question was starting to sound different. It was changing slightly, with at first minor variance in its tone, and cadence. With each failed attempt, the difference in the request after it became more stark to the point where I was starting to hear different ages, genders, and even accents in the repeating petition.
Cupping both hands over my ears, it did nothing to mute the sound. I screamed to drown out the sound, but the voices were louder. My face grimaced in stalwart resistance. I’m not going to give in, I assured myself. The voice had taken enough, I would give it no more ground.

How foolish I was. I know this now.
My jaw was impossibly sore from clenching teeth into a twisted grimace; sweat matted down hair against my forehead, and stained my shirt with the proof of my defiance. My will was brittle, a resigned exhaustion filling every one of my muscles. “Would you like my help?!” A woman yelled, she sounded Asian, eerily close to the woman who worked the counter at the small Chinese market I used to shop at. The requests had changed their tone some time ago, I don’t know how long I’d been curled in the ball before it, and I don’t know how much time has passed since. There was a desperation to her sound, a brief and frantic plea before she was shunted to the side in place of the next voice in the endless queue.
“Would you li-” the next one started.
“Fine,” I whispered in a voice so soft I barely heard it myself. The voice heard me though, halting its request now that I’d finally caved. In the silence I thought I could feel it relishing in my pain, soaking in my surrender and what little fear I could muster for what comes next. And as one second drifted into the next, a part of me started to believe that nothing would happen.
That was when the voices responded. In a booming chorus, ten thousand voices spoke as one, “thank you.” The thundering voices were impossibly loud, simultaneously loud enough to fill a stadium but also bearable as it echoed in my head. They sounded as tired as I felt, and the relief in their tones gave me a measure of calm. I was exhausted, too exhausted to feel anything when the screech of the twin metal blades scratched my mind. Managing to get my feet under me, I rose to stand.
My vision had turned back to normal once more, and I knew it was all but a fact that it would be for the last time. I would have liked to look at a sunset if it was going to be the last thing I saw, but I doubted the cruel voices would allow me that mercy. So I stared at my haggard features in the mirror. The gaping maw that was my right eye no longer bothered me, a grim acceptance finally quelling the shock and revulsion I’d felt before. In three quick cuts, the view of my face went from blurry to grey, and then finally to black. With a relieved breath, my hand wiped the new trickle from what was my last eye.

That was a week ago. My friends and family thought I’d lost my mind, that I suffered a mental break and decided to scoop my eyes out with a spoon. At first I was in disbelief, then rage, but after a few days of quiet contemplation I’d made my peace with it.
Who could blame them if they didn’t believe my story; the voices in my head, the unscratchable itch, the unimaginable stabbing pain, the visions of rot and decay that had become everything I saw. Who could blame them if they didn’t believe me when I told them of the rusted scissors in my mind that snipped at my eye before plucking it from my head. I could barely believe it myself, some nights questioning if maybe they were right.
However, I could blame them for having me locked in an institution. In the solitude of my padded room, I was given time to think, to recall the events and search through what I felt. It was in that sterile room, beneath the quiet buzzing of what I could only assume were fluorescent lights, the truth solidified in my mind.
I am not crazy.
I am not delusional.

“How did that feel?”
“Good, I guess.”
“That’s good, it’s good to talk about these things.”
“You’re the doctor.”
“That I am. I’m going to leave this with you, use it to record your thoughts or whatever you’d like. It’s yours, you won’t have to share the recordings with anyone unless you want to.”
My throat is itching, and no amount of water, tea, lozenges, or even salt water gargled has helped. The men and women in flapping coats say that I’m sick. BUT I’M NOT SICK. I know it like I know that water is wet.
I tried to make them understand, but they wouldn’t listen. Even as the two larger men wrapped thick hands around both my arms and carried me to the far end of my padded cell. Even as I kicked and screamed and fought furiously. Even as the needle slipped into my skin to deliver the fluid that would ‘calm me down’. Even as I begged and pleaded with them to just kill me instead.
My throat is still itching.

I record this now, knowing I’m dead. It’s almost impossible to talk, each entry takes most of the day, but I need to record something of myself.
I’ve accepted that with a desperate trusting in whatever comes next. The only hope that I truly cling to in this life is that someone finds this, and that they believe me.

I can barely swallow. Water, saliva, even air all struggle to slip down my neck. I hear the quiet murmuring of the nurses and doctors when they check on me, they think I’m doing something to myself.
I try to tell them that it’s back, but they only give me more drugs.
“I don’t understand it,” I heard one of them say.

A nurse came by with my medicine. I asked her to kill me. She said the medicine was a muscle relaxant for my throat.
I told her it wouldn’t work.
I made her listen to my choked sobs as she locked the door behind her.
Why won’t they just kill me?

I heard a sound. I know I heard this sound. It was like a whisper, gentle as a wisp of smoke, but it was there.
“Would you like me to help?”
submitted by xPenguinzx to nosleep [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 15:15 davisnessness Starting Curse of Strahd at Level 5

I've seen a few posts of people asking if this can be done and how best to do it. My group of 5 came in at level 5 off Lost Mine of Phandelver and its worked really well. I thought I'd share my experience, additions and changes in case it's helpful for other DMs out there or you just want a (hopefully interesting) read. I'll take it through to Vallaki, by which stage the characters are pretty much at the same level as the written adventure.

A few things I want to mention before I get into it. Firstly, I'm running CoS mostly RAW, with a few changes inspired by the usual suspects in this sub., MandyMod, LunchBreakHeroes and DragnaCarta. These are minor, and can be easily removed or changed if you wish. The main change here is that Strahd's three brides feature a bit more prominently, however still very much remain his old toys he has grown tired of.
Secondly, and this probably goes without saying, but starting this campaign at level 5 makes the early game a far less deadly experience with a much lower chance of getting an 'accidental' TPK. For me this is fine, as it feels like a more balanced intro and any deaths are earned, but it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea.
Thirdly, although English is my first language, spelling is not something that I excel at. Spellcheck and I will do our best but if I make a mistake I do apologise.

Into the Mists
My players started in the town of Phandalin, where mists around the town had slowly been building over about a week. Creatures had reportedly been seen by the prospectors in the hills which eventually led to the abduction of Quellene Aderleaf’s son, Carp, by werewolves. As dusk fell, the mists grew thicker still, and the players followed the tracks they'd found out of town. Soon the trees began to feel unfamiliar, older. The path disappeared and they were in a strange, misty wood.

The group entered Barovia from the East, in the forest just beyond the East gate as described in the module. They went through the gate, found the body with the note on the side of the road and, despite all the wolf-sign, decided to make camp for the night.

Not long after they settled in, the wolves showed up. I took this opportunity to show them that the woods are not a safe place, and also to push them along towards the village. They started to fight, but after a while as more and more came (both wolves and dire wolves), they eventually grabbed their things and hurried on along the road. The wolves stalked them for a bit before breaking off to inform their master of the new arrivals...
It was good to let the players flex a little (they hadn't seen combat since reaching level 5) and also for me to get a feel for how much they could take/dish out.

So it was, tired and battered, they came upon the boarded up village of Barovia.

The Village of Barovia
I cut out death house entirely. I felt like it didn't really add much to the story and was mostly there to level the players, which I didn't need to do.

They met a far more subtle and personable Morgantha going door to door, who told them they were stuck in Barovia with everyone else here. She tired to sell them pies to no avail (my group are a suspicious lot), and ended up giving them directions to the inn. There they met Ismark who took them back to stay it his family's mansion. There was a tense evening when they met Irenna and saw the bite marks on her neck. Putting two and two together with the note they'd found on the corpse, they knew she'd been bitten twice and had no idea if this meant she was going to turn in the night.

That night, I had the party member with the highest passive perception wake to witness the march of the dead out of the upstairs mansion window. She thought she caught a glimpse of a tall man standing out the front of the house looking up, but after glancing back he was gone.

The next morning at the funeral, to my surprise, the party left Doru alone at his fathers request. Promising to try to find a way to lift the curse, they struck off for Vallaki to see Irenna to safety.

Tser Pool Encampment
I made very few changes here. I swapped out a few of the bandits for bandit captains, just in case things went south, but my party kept their cool. They did not trust the Vistani, especially after Ismark's remarks. In fact I was worried my party would not detour past the camp at all. It was only that one of the PCs was looking for a Vistana woman as part of his backstory, and the fact that they read the map wrong thinking it was a shortcut (I had Ismark give them an old map with few landmarks to help get Irenna to Vallaki) that they ended up going there.

Only two players went in to see Madam Eva for a reading. I had Irenna go in hesitantly too. After a point, she got very uncomfortable and left the tent.

The party departed shortly after, wanting to reach Vallaki before dark. Some of the PCs noticed Irenna looked very shaken. When one asked her if she was okay and passed a persuasion check, I added the following:
she doesn't stop walking but keeps pace with you, her head down as she watches where she puts her feet on the wet road. "I heard Madam Eva’s voice in my head." She says quietly. "She told me we had met before, though I have no memory of it. When she spoke to me it was as if time stood still. It was just the two of us in the tent, the table between and darkness all around save the low orange glow of the candles. She drew two cards- the innocent and the torturer.
She asked what I thought of these two cards. I told her I do not buy into her fortunes and fate, that I chose my own- with actions, not with cards or by the whim of some spirit."
She walks on for a few moments without speaking, looking straight ahead as you walk. "But we can’t help but draw comparisons can we? And it was as if she was reading my subconscious mind.
She told me my feelings were partly true. That I am the innocent party, and I am tortured by the count, even though I deny myself any pointless self pity. But she said I was not just tortured, but also torturer.
This was when I asked to leave. I said I did not ask for this- for any of this, and for her to kindly get out of my head. She said she would leave me with one last thing (though again, I did not ask for it); that there is escape from this, though it is not through death. That my companions will walk through fire but I, I must journey through water to find my release.”
Irena picks up her pace and begins to walk ahead of you. "Oh," she says without turning, "and she said we should stay away from the windmill. Whatever that means."

Two Carriages
About an hour after traveling past the crossroads the party came across the first encounter I had planned for them (pasted from my notes):

A ramshackle enclosed carriage lies on its side in the long grass beside the road. As you get closer, you can see the scrawny ox that was pulling it has had its throat ripped out.
A Vampire Spawn is feasting on a family that has fled the village of Barovia. Anyone getting close enough to the carriage will see it rocking slightly. All inside are dead and the vampire will jump on anyone who opens the door (which opens to the sky). It will flee, laughing after a few rounds of combat or if things start to look dicey.

I put this in because a) it had been a while since they'd had a fight and b) as they didn't have a run in with Doru, I wanted them to encounter a vampire spawn before the coffin maker's shop so they knew what they were in for. It actually played out really well, with one character jumping up on the wagon and throwing open the door to the grizzly scene inside, only to be pulled in by the vampire. It was a few rounds before the rest of the party were even aware of what was going on and climbed up to help. The vampire eventually tried to flee, but they managed to tackle it, pin it to the ground with a javelin (learning a stake through the heart does nothing) and finish it off with Lightbringer (a magic mace from LMoP).

They continued on through the rain, up and across the bridge over Tser Falls. Rain turned to sleet as they climbed higher and puddles became wet pools of slushy snow. Then, out of the cold grey haze, two black stallions pulling a black carriage came towards them.

I wanted their first encounter with Strahd to be memorable. I originally wrote a piece having him show up at the funeral, but scrapped it as I was worried it wasn't going to have the desired effect.
Here I had Rahadin stop the carriage about 20 feet away. He climbed down from the drivers seat, walked back and opened the carriage door. The rain stopped. Strahd stepped out. I used this sting from the Wednesday OST.
The party panicked. All tied to hide save one who stayed standing on the road. Strahd was amused.
From my notes:
Strahd’s goals during this encounter:
Let Irena see his compassionate side
The news of the Burgomaster’s death has reached him and Strahd is heading to the Village of Barovia to offer aid.
Invite Irena to come and stay and the castle until the situation can be resolved
He will offer to head back and get Ismark too. [Irena says civil, but refuses]
Sus out the players
Who are they? Where did they come from? He will do this carefully, and try not to provoke them, but he is in no way scared of them.
Get or give items that will allow him to scry on the players
An ep each (with his face on it) for looking out for his people's safety (there is an air of condescension - why didn’t they do more to help the people of the village?). Ludmilla is called from the carriage with a small chest containing the money.

Ludmilla (one of Strahd's brides, a minor character RAW) is here for a few reasons. Firstly, I wanted to absolutely wipe the floor with the PCs if they decided to punch on. I knew Strahd n' Rahad could do this easily enough, but I wanted to be able to clean house if I needed to. Leave no question as to what they were up against. Secondly, I wanted the players to see what becomes of the object of Strahd's affection. A husk of a person, trying to stand proud but ultimately just a thrall to his will.

Needless to say, the party did not draw steel. They were polite, if a little sheepish. I was having so much fun as Strahd that he came off a little more amused and playful than I had intended, but he still had the desired effect. He climbed back in, the rain started again and the carriage disappeared into the sleet. All PCs dropped the coins they had been given on the muddy road, all except one (she really needed the cash).
The ol' Bonegrinder My party skipped it. The raven cawed at them and they thought it best to listen to what the Vistani said. BUT, being level 5 we are now entering territory where this should be a pretty good encounter.

They have since learned that children go missing there and, as they are still looking for Carp, plan to go back to check it out.

The PCs made it to the palisade wall that surrounds the town just as they were closing the gates for the night. After they failed to persuade the guard to let them in, Irenna flexed her political skills and got them a pass with an appointment to see the burgomaster in the morning.

I'm surely going to run out of space in this post soon so I'll skip forward a bit to the coffin maker's shop encounter. At level 5, this becomes a far more achievable fight. I still made a few tweaks:

And we're here! Basically up to the correct level in the module. I skipped over heaps and still managed to ramble. Anyway, I hope you were able to get something out of this for your own game.
submitted by davisnessness to CurseofStrahd [link] [comments]

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submitted by No_Competition4897 to SCJobsforAll [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 14:29 GabyAndMichi Queen's evil or scrofula and the politics of sex and power.

Queen's evil or scrofula and the politics of sex and power.
“...Throughout her reign Elizabeth continued a number of rituals of medieval kings that demonstrated the continuing power of the aspect of sacred monarchy. We can see, however, the gendered nature of the way she approached these ceremonies. Throughout her reign Elizabeth used the royal touch to cure people of the disease, scrofula, known as the king's evil. Being able to cure through touch suggests the power Elizabeth had as a religious figure, a sacred monarch, and the value of her self-presentation as Virgin Queen. …Lancastrians claimed that Edward IV could not touch since he was not the rightful king. Wrote Fortescue, he "wrongly claims to enjoy this wonderful privilege. Wrongly ... [since] this unction is powerless because Edward had no right to receive it."
Sir John went on to argue by analogy, and scornfully asked: "Would a woman who received ordination thereby become a priest?" Clearly not. Continuing this line of argument, Fortescue added that a usurper would not be the only one unable to cure by touch. Many duties likewise are incumbent on the kings of England in virtue of the kingly office, which are inconsistent with a woman's nature, and kings of England are endowed with certain powers by special grace from heaven, wherewith queens in the same country are not endowed. The kings of England by touch of their annointed hands they cleanse and cure those inflected with a certain disease, that is commonly called the King's Evil, though they be pronounced otherwise incurable. This gift is not bestowed on Queens.
Yet less than a century later, both Mary and Elizabeth were touching for the king's evil, and following other practices including blessing metal for cramp rings (also used for healing) and conducting other religious services attached to Easter, such as washing the feet of the poor on Maundy Thursday. It is worth considering how practices described as inappropriate and unworkable in one century could be accomplished the next, and the implications for understanding the nature of Elizabeth's role as queen and the function of monarchy and its religious aspects in the sixteenth century. It is useful to look as well at Mary's reign to see the similarities and differences in religious practices of a queen regnant, one Catholic who marries; the other a Protestant Virgin Queen. We should not assume that Elizabeth appropriated these functions for purely political reasons as a means of encouraging loyalty, though that was a strong element.
Queen Mary I touching for Queen's Evil or Scrofula.
As Max Weber has noted, the use of religious conventions are helpful in establishing the legitimacy of rule**. Further, some sociologists, of the Durkheim school, argue in a positive theory of ritual that "religious beliefs and practices not only create and sustain the fundamental social structure of a society, but maintain the members' sense of reality."** But religious feelings probably also infused Elizabeth's gestures. Historians have traditionally described Elizabeth as a politique who was very knowledgeable about Christianity but had little religious conviction. But the work of such scholars as William Haugaard and Margaret Aston suggests far otherwise. Scarisbrick is correct that Elizabeth was no zealot, which was a difficult issue for the Protestant zealots of her time to come to terms. But because Elizabeth did not agree with their version of Christianity does not mean that she was not devout. It was serious enough for Elizabeth to organize worship in her chapel as she wanted it.
Writer Max Weber.
The little silver cross she had in her private chapel infuriated reformers, but was important enough to her that she refused to remove it. John Jewel's letters to Peter Martyr are filled with the despair this caused him. Jewel wrote him November 16, 1559, "The doctrine is every where most pure; but as to the ceremonies and maskings, there is a little too much foolery. That little silver cross, of ill-omened origin, still maintains its place in the queen's chapel. Wretched me! This thing will soon be drawn into a precedent. There was at one time some hope of it being removed .... But as far as I can perceive, it is now a hopeless case. Such is the obstinacy of some minds." Elizabeth had originally wanted the cross and candlesticks set up throughout her kingdom, but had finally agreed with church leaders to ban them, and in the central place of the proscribed crucifixion, the royal arms were displayed, thus conflating even more monarchy and worship.
Elizabeth refused, however, to take the cross and candlesticks out of her own chapel. Iconoclasts were so distressed that in both 1562 and 1567 they made attempts to destroy them. In 1562 an unknown reformer managed to do so. Bishop John Parkhurst wrote gleefully to Bullinger (August 20, 1562), "The crucifix and candlesticks in the queen's chapel are broken into pieces, and, as some has brought word, reduced to ashes. A good riddance of such a cross as that!" Elizabeth, however, replaced them and they were a target again five years later, as de Silva explained in a letter to Philip II (1 November, 1567). "On the 25th whilst they were performing what they call the service in the Queen's chapel an Englishman went up to the altar and cast down the cross and candlesticks upon which he stamped, and at the same time shouted heretical and shameful words."
Elizabeth was inclined at first to treat this leniently. She told de Silva "that the man was mad and did not know what he was doing, recounting to me some of his follies, amongst others that he thought our Lady and St. John, who were on either side of the cross, were Jews who wanted to crucify Christ again." De Silva was far from convinced, calling the man "an evil-minded rogue." In December the man tried to destroy the sacred objects in the chapel again, and this time "he was at once arrested and taken to a private prison whence he was transferred to the Tower." Given the conflicts over Elizabeth's private worship, we might wonder what Elizabeth's true religious feelings were. De Feria reported to Philip in 1559 that she had told him "she differed very little from us as she believed God was in the sacrament of the Eucharist and only dissented from three or four things in the Mass."
She went on to say that "she did not wish to argue about religious matters," something she tried to avoid whenever she could. Five years later she told de Silva, referring to the beginning of her reign, that "she had had to conceal her real feelings to prevail with her subjects in matter of religion, but that God knew her heart, which was true to His service." Of course, we do not know how sincere Elizabeth was in her discussions with either of the Spanish ambassadors, or if she was concealing her real feelings here as well. Bacon said of Elizabeth that she did not want to make windows into men's souls, and neither did she want a window made into her soul. She was content to believe that God knew what was in her heart, about her faith as in so many other matters, and to let it be.
Sir Francis Bacon.
Yet her behavior in both the Maundy ceremony and the touch ceremony certainly give us hints as to her religious attitudes. In performing these ceremonies Elizabeth not only continued kingly practices but also the practices of medieval women saints; though Catholics did not allow women to be priests, they had not excluded women from the miraculous, particularly miraculous cures, and this power seemed closely connected with the saints' purity and virginity. The many revered female saints, as Scarisbrick points out, "tempered male authority and ... asserted the dignity of womanhood." But these saints had been swept away, and many reformers had no use for virgins. Yet Elizabeth presented herself as a Virgin Queen, echoing the cult not only of the Virgin Mary, but also perhaps those of such saints as Frideswide and Uncumber, both of whose shrines had been destroyed in 1538, both of whom were said to be daughters of kings, and both of whose power came from their determined virginity.
Uncumber, daughter of a pagan father, prayed to God for aid when her father attempted to force her to marry. She immediately grew a dense, curly beard, which was sufficiently off-putting for her suitor to leave her at the altar. Her father, in his fury, had her crucified. In England, especially from the fourteenth century onward, Uncumber was the saint to whom unhappy wives prayed for succor, to be "disencumbered" of their husbands as Thomas More scornfully put it. There were images of Uncumber in Norwich, Bristol, and Somerset as well as Westminster itself. But Lord Mayor of London Sir Richard Gresham had the Westminster statue taken down in August 1538. If Uncumber's beard might suggest a parallel with the male, kingly aspect of Elizabeth's self-representation, St. Frideswide, patron saint of Oxford, is a more direct comparison as a healer.
St Uncumber.
Frideswide supposedly lived in the late seventh and early eighth centuries. The daughter of Didanus, an under-king, she was piously educated and early had a calling for a religious life. Despite her vows King Algar wished to make her his wife because of her beauty and wealth. He threatened to burn down Oxford if Frideswide was not delivered up to him. Frideswide managed to escape. When Algar caught her she prayed to St. Catherine and St. Cecilia, and he was immediately struck blind. It was Frideswide's own prayerful intervention, once he repented, that restored his sight. Frideswide founded a monastery and was known for her healing, possibly learned from her abbess/ aunt. Her shrine was decorated with delicately carved plants, all of which were known for their healing properties, to demonstrate Frideswide's great gift as a healer.
St. Frideswide.
Her most remarkable healing was when a leper conjured her in the name of Christ to kiss him. Despite what was described as his "loathsome condition" and her "fear of infection," Frideswide made the sign of the cross and gave the leper a kiss. "Immediately the scales fell from him, and his flesh came again like that of a child." She was able to cure a fisherman who was subject to violent fits, perhaps by casting the devils out of him. In some versions she also healed a blind girl, perhaps echoing the blindness and recovery of sight of Algar. The relics of St. Frideswide were preserved in a beautiful shrine at Oxford in a chapel dedicated to her. During Lent and again on Ascension Day, the Chancellor of Oxford, and principal members of the University, along with the scholars, came to the shrine in solemn procession proffering gifts. Especially during the twelfth century there were numerous instances of the faithful being miraculously cured after a pilgrimage to her shrine.
Of those who came to be cured, women outnumbered men two to one, and many of these diseases had to do with specifically female maladies, including madness or severe pain caused by intercourse. Prayers at St. Frideswide's shrine also cured one knight's daughter of scofula, which makes the identitification of Frideswide with Elizabeth even more powerful. In the later Middle Ages St. Frideswide's shrine was Oxford's richest church, and St. Frideswide's fair, sanctioned by a charter from Henry I, was the most important one in Oxford. The fair received particular attention in 1382 and 1384 because of a dispute between the University and St. Frideswide's Priory over jurisdiction. St. Frideswide must have been a well-known saint in the medieval England. In "The Miller's Tale" Chaucer has the carpenter call out "Help us, seinte Frydeswyde!"
...We have no direct evidence that Elizabeth saw herself as a continuation of such saints as Uncumber and Frideswide. Nor that those who thronged for her touch were consciously making such a connection. But surely the tradition of the virgin saint as healer would resonate as well for a Virgin Queen who healed by touch. Throughout medieval and early modem England there was a strong belief in magical healers, and the king was the most magical of all. Kings had touched to cure the afflicted in England since the time of the saintly Edward the Confessor. After the Norman Conquest it seems that English kings saw the effect of the French people spontaneously going to their king to be cured and copied the measure as an effective means to gain religious-political support.
Yet the practice seems to have waxed and waned in England in the Middle Ages. Despite Fortescue's concerns, there appears to have been relatively little touching for the king's evil by English kings in the fifteenth century, and we have no records of either Edward IV or Richard III touching, though Edward did have cramp rings made to distribute, another form of magical healing. Henry VII, after a century or more of comparative neglect, restored the ceremony of the touch to all its dignity and established a full ceremonial, with a set office of service. Henry, whose claim to the throne by the right of primogeniture was weak, used a number of techniques to assure his prestige, including claiming his descent from the mythological King Arthur and producing a round table repainted in the Tudor colors of white and green which he claimed was the original round table. In the same way he named his eldest son Arthur.
Touching for the king's evil, which could only be accomplished by the Lord's anointed, and which suggested the work of Christ himself, would be another means to assure his position. The touching became highly ritualized, and Henry VII gave each of the affiicted a gold angel as well as the king's healing touch. Just as touching increased the monarch's prestige, so too did maintaining the practice of washing the feet of the poor on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday and a time of year heavy with religious portent. By the Tudor period the monarch had become clearly associated with the Maundy ceremony. The ceremony of washing the feet of the poor, done in imitation of Christ washing the feet of his disciples at the end of the Last Supper, was a part of the Easter vigil and had been included in the church service for many centuries.
In the Bible Christ told his disciples, "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet I For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done unto you." The Mandatum, or rite of the Washing of the Feet, was thus originally a simple act of charity very common in the Church. It became a liturgical rite sometime between the fifth and the seventh century. By the eleventh century the practice was being carried out in Rome. The Pope washed the feet of twelve subdeacons at the end of the evening Mass on Holy Thursday. When the other Holy Thursday rites were moved to the morning hours during the fourteenth century, the Mandatum remained a separate service to be held in the afternoon. The ceremony of the Maundy was known in Britain by at least 600.
When Mary became queen in 1553, she continued these ceremonies, investing them with great dignity as well as obvious personal feelings of piety. Elizabeth continued them as well. One reason that these ceremonies became so ritualized is that these functions were part of a larger theatricalization of royalty intended to achieve and demonstrate power. By the sixteenth century, the monarch had become even more important symbolically; the image of the monarch, idealized as God's representative on earth, was a means to secure the people's allegiance. The Tudors, who ruled without a standing army or an extensive police force, had their power "constituted in theatrical celebrations of royal glory," in Stephen Greenblatt's words. For queens ruling instead of kings, this aspect of power through ritual and spectacle could be particularly important, though Elizabeth took much more advantage of it than Mary.
The Mandatum.
…Elizabeth was far more aware of how to use spectacle to enhance the prestige of the monarchy, which she did from the very beginning of her reign in her coronation ceremony and procession through London the day before her coronation. Thus we know even more about Elizabeth's practices, and have a number of accounts of both her Maundy ceremonies and her touching for the king's evil. For Mary as a woman to continue these practices was already an unusual situation, but as a Catholic Mary wanted to re-establish practices that were not only royal but Roman. For Elizabeth, the situation was more difficult and complex. She was a woman ruler, a "female-king" who had also to balance the variety of demands on her for religious reform.
Looking at what ceremonial she retained and what she let go gives us an insight not only into Elizabeth's religious sensibilities, but also a glimpse into the cultural attitudes of the English Renaissance toward religion and queenship. The use of these religious ceremonies fit well with Elizabeth's self-presentation as the Virgin Queen, an image she presented to her people as a means to replace the Virgin Mary and help heal the rupture created by the break with the Catholic Church. Elizabeth and her Councillors deliberately appropriated the symbolism and prestige of the suppressed Marian cult in order to foster the cult of the Virgin Queen. This proved a powerful resource for Elizabeth in dealing with the political problems of her regime. The identification of Elizabeth with the Virgin Mary, which developed in the mid-1570s, was very effective in encouraging loyalty to the queen.
Re-enactment of Queen Elizabeth I touching for Queen's Evil of scrofula.
The worship of the Virgin Mary had been especially popular in England in the late Middle Ages, and well into the early sixteenth century. Simply denying her power and prestige, as Protestant reformers did, did not lessen the tremendous appeal the Virgin had for the popular imagination; it simply left a void. The image of Elizabeth as a Virgin Queen helped to fill this void and at the same time was politically valuable since many English Protestants came to love and revere Elizabeth as they had previously loved and revered the virgin. People began to suggest that one ought to say, "Long live Eliza!" instead of "Hail Mary!" John Buxton describes the famous picture of Elizabeth being carried to Blackfriars as "like the Virgin Mary in a religious procession: a comparison her subjects did not hesitate to draw."
We can see this identification in many other contexts. A number of the symbols used to represent Elizabeth as Virgin Queen-the Rose, the Star, the Moon, the Phoenix, the Ermine, and the Pearl-were also symbols that had been used previously to represent the Virgin Mary. Roy Strong suggests that, although Protestant England banned religious images as idolatrous, images of the monarch were accorded the kind of ceremonial deference reserved for religious icons. In time, many of her subjects did accept Elizabeth as an acceptable substitute for the Virgin Mary, and their adulation assumed a religious coloring. For example, many of the members of Elizabeth's court believed that having the queen visit on progress was tantamount to having their house blessed.

The rainbow portrait, loaded with symbolism.
Lord Burghley wrote about Elizabeth's visit to Theobalds as "consecrating" it; Burghley treated her so splendidly there that she visited a number of times, which was a great if costly honor. Elizabeth's progresses were critical in systematically promoting the cult of the Virgin Queen for people of all classes all over the country. Sir Robert Burton suggested the very sight of the monarch could "refresh the soul of man." Magnificent, idealized portraits of Elizabeth also functioned to legitimate her power and gain loyalty. The celebration of Elizabeth's accession day, November 17, took on religious significance and the trappings of a religious festival, in part, suggests David Cressy, "to compensate for the reduction in holy days" in the calendar. In fact, this day was sometimes known as "the queen's holy day." The festivities included public thanksgiving for her safety, sermons, and the ringing of bells, in addition to the more expected and secular contests such as tournaments and signs of rejoicing and triumph.
After the abortive rebellion in the north in 1569 and the bull of excommunication of 1570, public celebrations marking Elizabeth's accession began spontaneously. The first was in Oxford in 1570. They soon spread through the kingdom and were established officially. Elizabeth's government felt a need for a public display of celebration that demonstrated that all the threatening dangers had been overcome. The day "attracted much of the festive and liturgical energy that had formerly been reserved for saints' days." Her accession was formally introduced as a church holiday in 1576, with a specific service and liturgy. …From then onward November 17 was kept as a day of patriotic rejoicing, "in the forme of a Holy Day," as Thomas Holland said in a sermon in 1599 to answer those that "uncharitably traduced the honour of the realm."
In at least some years, two days after the accession day festivities, on November 19, there were further sports to celebrate St. Elizabeth's day, the queen's namesake. "Then the nineteenth day, being St. Elizabeth's day, the Earl of Cumberland, the Earl of Essex, and my Lord Burgh, did challenge all comers six courses apiece; which was very honourably performed." Another day of organized public celebration was September 7, Elizabeth's birthday. There were prayers in church, ringing of bells, bonfires, and parties. One prayer asked God to bless Elizabeth and curse her enenues, to fight against those that fight against her .... Bless them that blesse her. Curse them that curse her .... Lett her rise. Lett them fall. Lett her flourish. Lett them perish.
…The celebration of Elizabeth's birthday was particularly offensive to English Catholics because September 7 was, coincidentally, the eve of the feast of the nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Catholics such as Edward Rishton complained that the English Protestants were ignoring this holy day, "and to show the greater contempt for our Blessed lady, they keep the birthday of queen Elizabeth in the most solemn way on the 7th day of September, which is the eve of the feast of the Mother of God, whose nativity they mark in their calendar in small and black letters, while that of Elizabeth is marked in letters both large and red. And what is hardly credible, in the church of St Paul, the chief church of London ... the praises of Elizabeth are said to be sung at the end of the public prayers, as the Antiphon of our lady was sung former days."
But many of her loyal subjects regarded the fact that Elizabeth should share the nativity of the Virgin Mary as more than simply coincidence; they considered it a divine omen. It proved to them that Elizabeth and the Anglican Church were sustained and sanctified by divine providence. This belief was further intensified by the date of Elizabeth's death, March 24, which was the eve of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. Soon after the queen died one anonymous Latin elegy asked, "do you wish to know why it was on the Eve of the Lady that the holy Eliza ascended into heaven?" The answer emphasizes the direct parallels commonly perceived between Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary: Being on the point of death she chose that day for herself because in their lives these two were as one. Mary was a Virgin, she, Elizabeth, was also; Mary was blessed; Elizabeth was blessed among the race of women .... Mary bore God in her womb, but Elizabeth bore God in her heart. Although in all other respects they are like twins, it is in this latter respect alone that there are not of equal rank.
And touching for the king's evil became even more popular in her reign. Both her chaplain, William Tooker (1597), and her surgeon, William Clowes (1602), wrote books about scrofula and Elizabeth's remarkable talent for healing it through touch. It seems clear that Elizabeth chose to keep the ceremonies that were most public and had greatest value as spectacle and allow the less public ones to fall into disuse. Elizabeth expressed herself eager to cure by touching throughout her reign. During her reign, instead of a fixed season for touching as had been done previously, occasions were arranged according to Elizabeth's inclinations, particularly when she felt a divine directive or when she was strongly importuned by the applicants or their patrons. Sufferers would give their names to the royal Surgeons, who would examine each patient carefully to be sure the disease was really the Evil and there were no impostures.
They would then submit a list to the queen who would appoint a day, usually a Friday, Sunday, or feast day. The ceremony often took place at St. Stephen's Chapel in the ancient palace of Westminster, though Elizabeth also touched to heal while on progress, thus not only presenting the ceremony through the mediating filter of her Court, but also demonstrating this prestige through the theatricalization of ritual in other parts of her kingdom. Her chaplain William Tooker described how intensely she prayed to be able to transmit the healing touch. "How often have I seen her most serene Majesty, prostrate on her knees, body and soul rapt in prayer . . . how often have I seen her with her exquisite hands, whiter than whitest snow, boldly and without disgust, pressing their sores and ulcers*, and handling them to health ...* how often have I seen her worn with fatigue, as when in one single day, she healed eight and thirty persons of the struma."
…Though clearly aware of the value of the theatricalization of holy ritual, we may assume that Elizabeth did not touch simply for the propaganda value it afforded her. She apparently took the ceremony very seriously, and at times did not feel that at that specific moment she had the inspiration to cure by touching. At Gloucester, when throngs of the afflicted came to her for her aid, she had to deny them, telling them, "Would, would that I could give you help and succour. God, God is the best and greatest physician of all-you must pray to him." It is possible that Elizabeth may have refused to touch because she was menstruating, which would have made her touch polluting. This may also be why Elizabeth did not touch in a fixed season, since this sometimes might have coincided with her periods, which were irregular. Popular culture in medieval and early modern England believed the touch of a menstruating woman could have disastrous effects on men, cows, gardens, bees, milk, wine, and much more, even if medical authorities of the time denied it.
The effectiveness of the queen's touch was a potent political force for her, and a weapon against the ire of the pope. Indeed, the Protestant English feared the pope, whom Sir Walter Mildmay, for one, described as England's "most mortal and capital enemy." They believed that each Maundy Thursday he pronounced a solemn anathema against all heretics and enemies. There was particular concern after the pope issued a bull of excommunication against Elizabeth in 1570. English Protestants publicly discounted the papal bull on the grounds that Elizabeth still had the God-given ability of a true monarch to cure by touch, and even English Catholics as well as Protestants continued to go to Elizabeth to be healed by her touch.
Excommunication bull, 25th february 1570.
…Writing at the end of her reign, her surgeon William Clowes prayed for Elizabeth, whose long life, much happines, peace and tranquility, let us all (according to our bounden dutyes) continually pray unto the Almighty God, that he will blesse, keepe and defend her Sacred person*, from the malice of all her knowne and unknowne enemies,* so that shee may forever raigne over us, (if it please the Lord God) even unto the ende of the world*, still to cure and heale many thousands moe, then ever she hath yet done*. Clowe's prayer, that Elizabeth might live and rule and cure until the end of the world, projects her not only into the sacred but beyond human into the divine. But we do need to take care how seriously we accept this prayer.
In fact, Elizabeth in 1602 was a woman close to seventy years old, who was, in some people's eyes, especially after the Essex rebellion and its attack on both her person and her monarchy, clearly failing. And while imagery of the sacred was part of the way her people viewed Elizabeth, it was only one aspect of a multi-sided presentation; her gender and questions around her sexuality were also important and possibly troubling aspects of the way the English viewed their queen. Yet for at least some of her subjects the discomfort they may have felt in seeing a woman rule and perform such actions had been lost in appreciation for all Elizabeth had done as a sacred monarch, one who both blessed and cured with a queen's touch.”
- Carole Levin, “Elizabeth as Sacred Monarch.” in The Heart and Stomach of a King: Elizabeth I and the Politics of Sex and Power
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2023.04.01 14:12 hackinthebochs On Large Language Models and Understanding

Large language models (LLMs) have received an increasing amount of attention from all corners. We are on the cusp of a revolution in computing, one that promises to democratize technology in ways few would have predicted just a few years ago. Despite the transformative nature of this technology, we know almost nothing about how they work. They also bring to the fore obscure philosophical questions such as can computational systems understand? At what point do they become sentient and become moral patients? The ongoing discussion surrounding LLMs and their relationship to AGI has left much to be desired. Many dismissive comments downplay the relevance of LLMs to these thorny philosophical issues. But this technology deserves careful analysis and argument, not dismissive sneers. This is my attempt at moving the discussion forward.
To motivate an in depth analysis of LLMs, I will briefly respond to some very common dismissive criticisms of autoregressive prediction models and show why they fail to demonstrate the irrelevance of this framework to the deep philosophical issues of the field of AI. I will then consider the issues of whether this class of models can be said to understand and finally discuss some of the implications of LLMs on human society.
"It's just matrix multiplication; it's just predicting the next token"
These reductive descriptions do not fully describe or characterize the space of behavior of these models, and so such descriptions cannot be used to dismiss the presence of high-level properties such as understanding or sentience.
It is a common fallacy to deduce the absence of high-level properties from a reductive view of a system's behavior. Being "inside" the system gives people far too much confidence that they know exactly what's going on. But low level knowledge of a system without sufficient holistic knowledge leads to bad intuitions and bad conclusions. Searle's Chinese room and Leibniz's mill thought experiments are past examples of this. Citing the low level computational structure of LLMs is just a modern iteration. That LLMs consist of various matrix multiplications can no more tell us they aren't conscious than our neurons tell us we're not conscious.
The key idea people miss is that the massive computation involved in training these systems begets new behavioral patterns that weren't enumerated by the initial program statements. The behavior is not just a product of the computational structure specified in the source code, but an emergent dynamic (in the sense of weak emergence) that is unpredictable from an analysis of the initial rules. It is a common mistake to dismiss this emergent part of a system as carrying no informative or meaningful content. Just bracketing the model parameters as transparent and explanatorily insignificant is to miss a large part of the substance of the system.
Another common argument against the significance of LLMs is that they are just "stochastic parrots", i.e. regurgitating the training data in some form, perhaps with some trivial transformations applied. But it is a mistake to think that LLM's generating ability is constrained to simple transformations of the data they are trained on. Regurgitating data generally is not a good way to reduce the training loss, not when training doesn't involve training against multiple full rounds of training data. I don't know the current stats, but the initial GPT-3 training run got through less than half of a complete iteration of its massive training data.[1]
So with pure regurgitation not available, what it must do is encode the data in such a way that makes predictions possible, i.e. predictive coding. This means modeling the data in a way that captures meaningful relationships among tokens so that prediction is a tractable computational problem. That is, the next word is sufficiently specified by features of the context and the accrued knowledge of how words, phrases, and concepts typically relate in the training corpus. LLMs discover deterministic computational dynamics such that the statistical properties of text seen during training are satisfied by the unfolding of the computation. This is essentially a synthesis, i.e. semantic compression, of the information contained in the training corpus. But it is this style of synthesis that gives LLMs all their emergent capabilities. Innovation to some extent is just novel combinations of existing units. LLMs are good at this as their model of language and structure allows it to essentially iterate over the space of meaningful combinations of words, selecting points in meaning-space as determined by the context or prompt.
Why think LLMs have understanding at all
Understanding is one of those words that have many different usages with no uncontroversial singular definition. The philosophical treatments of the term have typically considered the kinds of psychological states involved when one grasps some subject and the space of capacities that result. Importing this concept from the context of the psychological to a more general context runs the risk of misapplying it in inappropriate contexts, resulting in confused or absurd claims. But limits to concepts shouldn't be by accidental happenstance. Are psychological connotations essential to the concept? Is there a nearby concept that plays a similar role in non-psychological contexts that we might identify with a broader view of the concept of understanding? A brief analysis of these issues will be helpful.
Typically when we attribute understanding to some entity, we recognize some substantial abilities in the entity in relation to that which is being understood. Specifically, the subject recognizes relevant entities and their relationships, various causal dependences, and so on. This ability goes beyond rote memorization, it has a counterfactual quality in that the subject can infer facts or descriptions in different but related cases beyond the subject's explicit knowledge[2].
Clearly, this notion of understanding is infused with mentalistic terms and so is not immediately a candidate for application to non-minded systems. But we can make use of analogs of these terms that describe similar capacities in non-minded systems. For example, knowledge is a kind of belief that entails various dispositions in different contexts. A non-minded analog would be an internal representation of some system that entail various behavioral patterns in varying contexts. We can then take the term understanding to mean this reduced notion outside of psychological contexts.
The question then is whether this reduced notion captures what we mean when we make use of the term. Notice that in many cases, attributions of understanding (or its denial) is a recognition of (the lack of) certain behavioral or cognitive powers. When we say so and so doesn't understand some subject, we are claiming an inability to engage with features of the subject to a sufficient degree of fidelity. This is a broadly instrumental usage of the term. But such attributions are not just a reference to the space of possible behaviors, but the method by which the behaviors are generated. This isn't about any supposed phenomenology of understanding, but about the cognitive command and control over the features of one's representation of the subject matter. The goal of the remainder of this section is to demonstrate an analogous kind of command and control in LLMs over features of the object of understanding, such that we are justified in attributing the term.
As an example for the sake of argument, consider the ability of ChatGPT to construct poems that satisfy a wide range of criteria. There are no shortage of examples[3][4]. To begin with, first notice that the set of valid poems sit along a manifold in high dimensional space. A manifold is a generalization of the kind of everyday surfaces we are familiar with; surfaces with potentially very complex structure but that look "tame" or "flat" when you zoom in close enough. This tameness is important because it allows you to move from one point on the manifold to another without losing the property of the manifold in between.
Despite the tameness property, there generally is no simple function that can decide whether some point is on a manifold. Our poem-manifold is one such complex structure: there is no simple procedure to determine whether a given string of text is a valid poem. It follows that points on the poem-manifold are mostly not simple combinations of other points on the manifold (given two arbitrary poems, interpolating between them will not generate poems). Further, we can take it as a given that the number of points on the manifold far surpass the examples of poems seen during training. Thus, when prompted to construct poetry following an arbitrary criteria, we can expect the target region of the manifold to largely be unrepresented by training data.
We want to characterize ChatGPT's impressive ability to construct poems. We can rule out simple combinations of poems previously seen. The fact that ChatGPT constructs passable poetry given arbitrary constraints implies that it can find unseen regions of the poem-manifold in accordance with the required constraints. This is straightforwardly an indication of generalizing from samples of poetry to a general concept of poetry. But still, some generalizations are better than others and neural networks have a habit of finding degenerate solutions to optimization problems. However, the quality and breadth of poetry given widely divergent criteria is an indication of whether the generalization is capturing our concept of poetry sufficiently well. From the many examples I have seen, I can only judge its general concept of poetry to well model the human concept.
So we can conclude that ChatGPT contains some structure that well models the human concept of poetry. Further, it engages meaningfully with this representation in determining the intersection of the poem-manifold with widely divergent constraints in service to generating poetry. This is a kind of linguistic competence with the features of poetry construction, an analog to the cognitive command and control criteria for understanding. Thus we see that LLMs satisfy the non-minded analog to the term understanding. At least in contexts not explicity concerned with minds and phenomenology, LLMs can be seen to meet the challenge for this sense of understanding.
The previous discussion is a single case of a more general issue studied in compositional semantics. There are an infinite number of valid sentences in a language that can be generated or understood by a finite substrate. By a simple counting argument, it follows that there must be compositional semantics to some substantial degree that determine the meaning of these sentences. That is, the meaning of the sentence must be a function (not necessarily exclusively) of the meanings of the individual terms in the sentence. The grammar that captures valid sentences and the mapping from grammatical structure to semantics is somehow captured in the finite substrate. This grammar-semantics mechanism is the source of language competence and must exist in any system that displays competence with language. Yet, many resist the move from having a grammar-semantics mechanism to having the capacity to understand language. This is despite demonstrating linguistic competence in an expansive range of examples.
Why is it that people resist the claim that LLMs understand even when they respond competently to broad tests of knowledge and common sense? Why is the charge of mere simulation of intelligence so widespread? What is supposedly missing from the system that diminishes it to mere simulation? I believe the unstated premise of such arguments is that most people see understanding as a property of being, that is, autonomous existence. The computer system implementing the LLM, a collection of disparate units without a unified existence, is (the argument goes) not the proper target of the property of understanding. This is a short step from the claim that understanding is a property of sentient creatures. This latter claim finds much support in the historical debate surrounding artificial intelligence, most prominently expressed by Searle's Chinese room thought experiment.
The Chinese room thought experiment trades on our intuitions regarding who or what are the proper targets for attributions of sentience or understanding. We want to attribute these properties to the right kind of things, and defenders of the thought experiment take it for granted that the only proper target in the room is the man.[5] But this intuition is misleading. The question to ask is what is responding to the semantic content of the symbols when prompts are sent to the room. The responses are being generated by the algorithm reified into a causally efficacious process. Essentially, the reified algorithm implements a set of object-properties, causal powers with various properties, without objecthood. But a lack of objecthood has no consequence for the capacities or behaviors of the reified algorithm. Instead, the information dynamics entailed by the structure and function of the reified algorithm entails a conceptual unity (as opposed to a physical unity of properties affixed to an object). This conceptual unity is a virtual center-of-gravity onto which prompts are directed and from which responses are generated. This virtual objecthood then serves as the surrogate for attributions of understanding and such.
It's so hard for people to see virtual objecthood as a live option because our cognitive makeup is such that we reason based on concrete, discrete entities. Considering extant properties without concrete entities to carry them is just an alien notion to most. Searle's response to the Systems/Virtual Mind reply shows him to be in this camp, his response of the man internalizing the rule book and leaving the room just misses the point. The man with the internalized rule book would just have some sub-network in his brain, distinct from that which we identify as the man's conscious process, implement the algorithm for understanding and hence reify the algorithm as before.
Intuitions can be hard to overcome and our bias towards concrete objects is a strong one. But once we free ourselves of this unjustified constraint, we can see the possibilities that this notion of virtual objecthood grants. We can begin to make sense of such ideas as genuine understanding in purely computational artifacts.
Responding to some more objections to LLM understanding
A common argument against LLM understanding is that their failure modes are strange, so much so that we can't imagine an entity that genuinely models the world while having these kinds of failure modes. This argument rests on an unstated premise that the capacities that ground world modeling are different in kind to the capacities that ground token prediction. Thus when an LLM fails to accurately model and merely resorts to (badly) predicting the next token in a specific case, this demonstrates that they do not have the capacity for world modeling in any case. I will show the error in this argument by undermining the claim of a categorical difference between world modeling and token prediction. Specifically, I will argue that token prediction and world modeling are on a spectrum, and that token prediction converges towards modeling as quality of prediction increases.
To start, lets get clear on what it means to be a model. A model is some structure in which features of that structure correspond to features of some target system. In other words, a model is a kind of analogy: operations or transformations on the model can act as a stand in for operations or transformations on the target system. Modeling is critical to understanding because having a model--having an analogous structure embedded in your causal or cognitive dynamic--allows your behavior to maximally utilize a target system in achieving your objectives. Without such a model one cannot accurately predict the state of the external system while evaluating alternate actions and so one's behavior must be sub-optimal.
LLMs are, in the most reductive sense, processes that leverage the current context to predict the next token. But there is much more to be said about LLMs and how they work. LLMs can be viewed as markov processes, assigning probabilities to each word given the set of words in the current context. But this perspective has many limitations. One limitation is that LLMs are not intrinsically probabilistic. LLMs discover deterministic computational circuits such that the statistical properties of text seen during training are satisfied by the unfolding of the computation. We use LLMs to model a probability distribution over words, but this is an interpretation.
LLMs discover and record discrete associations between relevant features of the context. These features are then reused throughout the network as they are found to be relevant for prediction. These discrete associations are important because they factor in the generalizability of LLMs. The alternate extreme is simply treating the context as a single unit, an N-word tuple or a single string, and then counting occurrences of each subsequent word given this prefix. Such a simple algorithm lacks any insight into the internal structure of the context, and forgoes an ability to generalize to a different context that might share relevant internal features. LLMs learn the relevant internal structure and exploit it to generalize to novel contexts. This is the content of the self-attention matrix. Prediction, then, is constrained by these learned features; the more features learned, the more constraints are placed on the continuation, and the better the prediction.
The remaining question is whether this prediction framework can develop accurate models of the world given sufficient training data. We know that Transformers are universal approximators of sequence-to-sequence functions[6], and so any structure that can be encoded into a sequence-to-sequence map can be modeled by Transformer layers. As it turns out, any relational or quantitative data can be encoded in sequences of tokens. Natural language and digital representations are two powerful examples of such encodings. It follows that precise modeling is the consequence of a Transformer style prediction framework and large amounts of training data. The peculiar failure modes of LLMs, namely hallucinations and absurd mistakes, are due to the modeling framework degrading to underdetermined predictions because of insufficient data.
What this discussion demonstrates is that prediction and modeling are not categorically distinct capacities in LLMs, but exist on a continuum. So we cannot conclude that LLMs globally lack understanding given the many examples of unintuitive failures. These failures simply represent the model responding from different points along the prediction-modeling spectrum.
LLMs fail the most basic common sense tests. They fail to learn.
This is a common problem in how we evaluate these LLMs. We judge these models against the behavior and capacities of human agents and then dismiss them when they fail to replicate some trait that humans exhibit. But this is a mistake. The evolutionary history of humans is vastly different than the training regime of LLMs and so we should expect behaviors and capacities that diverge due to this divergent history. People often point to the fact that LLMs answer confidently despite being way off base. But this is due to the training regime that rewards guesses and punishes displays of incredulity. The training regime has serious implications for the behavior of the model that is orthogonal to questions of intelligence and understanding. We must evaluate them on their on terms.
Regarding learning specifically, this seems to be an orthogonal issue to intelligence or understanding. Besides, there's nothing about active learning that is in principle out of the reach of some descendant of these models. It's just that the current architectures do not support it.
LLMs take thousands of gigabytes of text and millions of hours of compute
I'm not sure this argument really holds water when comparing apples to apples. Yes, LLMs take an absurd amount of data and compute to develop a passable competence in conversation. A big reason for this is that Transformers are general purpose circuit builders. The lack of strong inductive bias has the cost of requiring a huge amount of compute and data to discover useful information dynamics. But the human has a blueprint for a strong inductive bias that begets competence with only a few years of training. But when you include the billion years of "compute" that went into discovering the inductive biases encoded in our DNA, it's not clear at all which one is more sample efficient. Besides, this goes back to inappropriate expectations derived from our human experience. LLMs should be judged on their own merits.
Large language models are transformative to human society
It's becoming increasingly clear to me that the distinctive trait of humans that underpin our unique abilities over other species is our ability to wield information like a tool. Of course information is infused all through biology. But what sets us apart is that we have a command over information that allows us to intentionally deploy it in service to our goals in a seemingly limitless number of ways. Granted, there are other intelligent species that have some limited capacity to wield information. But our particular biological context, namely articulate hands, expressive vocal cords, and so on, freed us of the physical limits of other smart species and started us on the path towards the explosive growth of our information milieu.
What does it mean to wield information? In other words, what is the relevant space of operations on information that underlie the capacities that distinguish humans from other animals? To start, lets define information as configuration with an associated context. This is an uncommon definition for information, but it is compatible with Shannon's concept of quantifying uncertainty of discernible states as widely used in scientific contexts. Briefly, configuration is the specific patterns of organization among some substrate that serves to transfer state from a source to destination. The associated context is the manner in which variations in configuration are transformed into subsequent states or actions. This definition is useful because it makes explicit the essential role of context in the concept of information. Information without its proper context is impotent; it loses its ability to pick out the intended content, undermining its role in communication or action initiation. Information without context lacks its essential function, thus context is essential to the concept.
The value of information in this sense is that it provides a record of events or state such that the events or state can have relevance far removed in space and time from their source. A record of the outcome of some process allows the limitless dissemination of the outcome and with it the initiation of appropriate downstream effects. Humans wield information by selectively capturing and deploying information in accords with our needs. For example, we recognize the value of, say, sharp rocks, then copy and share the method for producing such rocks.
But a human's command of information isn't just a matter of learning and deploying it, we also have a unique ability to intentionally create it. At its most basic, information is created as the result of an iterative search process consisting of variation of some substrate and then testing for suitability according to some criteria. Natural processes under the right context can engage in this sort of search process that begets new information. Evolution through natural selection being the definitive example.
Aside from natural processes, we can also understand computational processes as the other canonical example of information creating processes. But computational processes are distinctive among natural processes, they can be defined by their ability to stand in an analogical relationship to some external process. The result of the computational process then picks out the same information as the target process related by way of analogy. Thus computations can also provide relevance far removed in space and time from their analogical related process. Furthermore, the analogical target doesn't even have to exist; the command of computation allows one to peer into future or counterfactual states.
And so we see the full command of information and computation is a superpower to an organism: it affords a connection to distant places and times, the future, as well as what isn't actual but merely possible. The human mind is thus a very special kind of computer. Abstract thought renders access to these modes of processing almost as effortlessly as we observe what is right in front of us. The mind is a marvelous mechanism, allowing on-demand construction of computational contexts in service to higher-order goals. The power of the mind is in wielding these computational artifacts to shape the world in our image.
But we are no longer the only autonomous entities with command over information. The history of computing is one of offloading an increasing amount of essential computational artifacts to autonomous systems. Computations are analogical processes unconstrained by the limitations of real physical processes, so we prefer to deploy autonomous computational processes wherever available. Still, such systems were limited by availability of resources with sufficient domain knowledge and expertise in program writing. Each process being replaced by a program required a full understanding of the system being replaced such that the dynamic could be completely specified in the program code.
LLMs mark the beginning of a new revolution in autonomous program deployment. No longer must the program code be specified in advance of deployment. The program circuit is dynamically constructed by the LLM as it integrates the prompt with its internal representation of the world. The need for expertise with a system to interface with it is obviated; competence with natural language is enough. This has the potential to democratize computational power like nothing else that came before. It also means that computational expertise loses market value. Much like the human computer prior to the advent of the electronic variety, the concept of programmer as a discrete profession is coming to an end.
Aside from these issues, there are serious philosophical implications of this view of LLMs that warrant exploration. The question of cognition in LLMs being chief among them. I talked about the human superpower being our command of information and computation. But the previous discussion shows real parallels between human cognition (understood as dynamic computations implemented by minds) and the power of LLMs. LLMs show sparse activations in generating output from a prompt, which can be understood as exploiting linquistic competence to dynamically activate relevant sub-networks. A further emergent property is in-context learning, recognizing novel patterns in the input context and actively deploying that pattern during generation. This is, at the very least, the beginnings of on-demand construction of computational contexts. Future philosophical work on LLMs should be aimed at fully explicating the nature and extent of the analogy between LLMs and cognitive systems.
Limitations of LLMs
To be sure, there are many limitations of current LLM architectures that keep them from approaching higher order cognitive abilities such as planning and self-monitoring. The main limitations are the feed-forward computational dynamic with a fixed computational budget. The fixed computational budget limits the amount of resources it can deploy to solve a given generation task. Once the computational limit is reached, the next word prediction is taken as-is. This is part of the reason we see odd failure modes with these models, there is no graceful degradation and so partially complete predictions may seem very alien.
The other limitation of only feed-forward computations means the model has limited ability to monitor its generation for quality and is incapable of any kind of search over the space of candidate generations. To be sure, LLMs do sometimes show limited "metacognitive" ability, particularly when explicitly prompted for it.[7] But it is certainly limited compared to what is possible if the architecture had proper feedback connections.
The terrifying thing is that LLMs are just about the dumbest thing you can do with Transformers and they perform far beyond anyone's expectations. When people imagine AGI, they probably imagine some super complex, intricately arranged collection of many heterogeneous subsystems backed by decades of computer science and mathematical theory. But LLMs have completely demolished the idea that complex architectures are required for complex intelligent-seeming behavior. If LLMs are just about the dumbest thing we can do with Transformers, it seems plausible that slightly less dumb architectures will reach AGI.
Some more relevant discussion here
[1] (.44 epochs elapsed for Common Crawl)
[2] Stephen R. Grimm (2006). Is Understanding a Species of Knowledge?
submitted by hackinthebochs to philosophy [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 13:58 gray007nl Devise a Strategy: Orcs (Monster Tactics)

There was some response to my previous post, so I figured I might as well keep going for a bit, I enjoy writing them anyhow.
Alright so the three orcs presented in the bestiary are pretty much the same in terms of stats and skills, high strength, decent Dex, good Con (except for the warchief), bad mental scores (okay charisma for the warchief. Low perception (except again the warchief), great AC on the Warchief and Warrior, middling for the Brute, average hitpoints. All skilled in Athletics and Intimidation plus Survival for the Warrior and Warchief. Last but not least all Orcs have Ferocity, allowing them to use their reaction to avoid being brought to 0 hitpoints and increasing their wounded value, Ferocity can be used 3 times (without medical attention) though they only get 1 reaction per round.
So from this you can already derive a basic strategy, Orcs rush headlong into melee, demoralizing their foe and laying into them, using maneuvers as they see fit, they care little for their personal wellbeing, seeing every scar as a gift, only retreating once brought to the brink of death at least once. Though plenty of orcs would also fight to death either for fear of losing face by retreating, to protect their brethren or to avenge fallen allies. Orcs also all have darkvision, so any orc lair is going to be unlit to give the orcs the advantage, though unlike kobolds, orcs simply prioritize whoever's closest only considering whether the target can see in the dark if they've got multiple options. Lacking Acrobatics proficiency Orcs only flank when the enemy leaves their flank exposed, but prefer to gain flat-footed from tripping or grappling enemies.
The first Orc by level is the Orc Brute armed with 2 Knuckle Daggers, 3 javelins and their fists. So first the optimal way for the orc to equip themselves at most times is Knuckledagger in one hand, other hand empty. There is no reason for the Brute to dual wield and the option of performing maneuvers with the empty hand is far more helpful than inaccurately throwing a javelin.
The ideal turn for the Brute is with it already adjacent to an enemy, it starts by demoralizing and regardless of success or failure, it then attacks twice. The actual attacks it uses will depend, the brute has an Intelligence mod of -1, but that's still enough to figure out the fighter in big bulky armour is likely easier to trip than they are to hit, while a character in leather armour or no armour at all they could be better off grabbing first. Shoving will be attempted if it allows the brute to protect a heavily injured ally or if there's something dangerous to push the enemy into. Disarm is not worth attempting unless you homebrewed it. Just striking twice with its knuckledagger is also a perfectly reasonable way to go and may in fact be the optimal choice. The orc would never use 2 maneuvers in a turn, it's far better off using its agile knuckledagger instead of a second maneuver.
If the enemy is 25 feet away or less, the orc strides and then uses the attacks mentioned above, not bothering with Demoralize. If the enemy is between 50 and 25 feet away, the orc strides twice (or steps once if it's exactly 30 feet) and then does 1 attack of its choice. If the enemy is more than 50 feet away, then the brute will draw its javelin, stride once and throw it at the enemy not worrying about the range, Orcs aren't good at throwing javelins and keeping the open hand is just more important. As mentioned earlier, the Brute will only retreat after its Ferocity has triggered once, though it might very well keep fighting to the death as well even when outnumbered as returning to the tribe after having several of your family members killed and failing to kill the people responsible would leave the orc very low in the social hierarchy.
The Orc Warrior is similar in many ways to the brute but it has a different weapon loadout, rocking a Necksplitter, 2 shortswords and 4 javelins. Unlike with the brute, it isn't quite as easy to pin-point an optimal combination of weapons for the brute and as far as I'm concerned there's 2 contenders for best loadout. Either the Warrior uses its Necksplitter in tandem with one of its shortswords, forgoing maneuvers and javelins entirely or it uses 1 shortsword and keeps it other hand free to use maneuvers or javelins. The Warrior likewise has skill in survival which would imply that it's capable of tracking intruders as well as capturing animals but not training them, this means a warrior's pet/mount might still be completely feral and prone to fleeing or disobeying its masters orders.
Another thing distinguishing the warrior from the brute is that the Warrior has Attack of Opportunity. This further encourages it to get in the thick of melee so it can punish spellcasters and cowards, but this also presents an issue as Ferocity and Attack of Opportunity both require the Warrior's singular reaction. I'd handle this thusly, the orc always uses Attack of Opportunity whenever it comes up except when it's below 50% health, then it saves its reaction for Ferocity.
If the Warrior chooses to wield a single shortsword and nothing else, then its method of attack is identical to the Brute, though with considerations regarding attack of opportunity listed above. If electing to wield the Necksplitter alongside a shortsword things get a little different, it cannot do any maneuvers and it's going to take it an extra action to stow a weapon before it can throw a javelin. So firstly, unless the enemy is really far away (more than 75 feet) it won't bother with the javelins, if the enemy genuinely is that far away, then it'll stow its necksplitter and draw a javelin, probably not drawing the necksplitter again for the rest of the combat. Otherwise it'll likely delay for the enemy to get closer as there is no point striding three times and then just letting the enemy hit you.
When attacking with both weapons drawn, the first attack will always be with the Necksplitter as it deals more damage, the second attack will depend on if there is a second target in reach or not, if it is then the second attack is with the necksplitter as well on that secondary target benefiting from both sweep and forceful. If there isn't then the second attack will be with the shortsword to benefit from the agile property instead. Regardless it would try to demoralize first before attacking, though it might also consider stepping to a location where it would be able to hit 2 different enemies with the necksplitter (if it needs to stride to get in position it likely wouldn't bother). It follows the same principles when it comes to retreating as the brute does.
Finally we have the Orc Warchief similar to the warrior in many respects, but different through using a greatclub and having a special action in Battle Cry, it also has better will saves than typical for orcs. A 2-handed weapon really restricts what the Warchief can do on their turn, they need to change grip for maneuvers (other than Shove) or to draw javelins. This combined with the Warchief wanting to use Battle Cry every single turn means they would probably never want to bother with maneuvers and only reach for a javelin is the enemy is more than 50 feet away.
With the enemy right next to the warchief, the warchief's turn is pretty simple. They use Battle Cry and then they strike with their greatclub twice, if the enemy the warchief is fighting has a high AC and the warchief is struggling to hit they'll replace one of the strikes with a demoralize otherwise the bonus from Battle Cry is too good for the warchief not to swing twice, perhaps shoving if there's an incentive to do so.
The presence of the Warchief is going to change the strategy of the other orcs too, every Orc before the warchief in initiative will spend their first turn delaying until after the warchief's turn to benefit from his battle cry, the only exception to this is if they already have an enemy in melee range, then they probably wouldn't wait for the Warchief's order and just start swinging immediately. Likewise the effect of Battle Cry only works on Attack and Damage Rolls, not on skill checks, so with the Warchief around the other Orcs are less likely to use maneuvers preferring strikes when given the option (So Orc Warriors accompanying a warchief would generally be dual wielding Necksplitter and Shortsword).
When it comes to reactions and retreating, the Warchief functions the same way as the Warrior, half HP is where it saves its reactions for Ferocity and it won't flee until it's triggered Ferocity at least once. The other orcs however might flee as soon as the Warchief falls, though again this might also infuriate them into wanting to take revenge on the killer of the warchief and prompt them all to fight to the death.
Orcs as one would expect, are fairly simple tactically, they get stuck in and start swinging, only ever thinking of retreat once it's too late. Surrender is humiliating and not something most orcs would consider, fleeing to fight another day is always preferable and if it isn't an option then they'll die fighting.
submitted by gray007nl to Pathfinder2e [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 13:26 Forsaken-Garlic4818 money diary: I‘m 28, live in Boston, make roughly $70k as a 👩🏼‍🏫 and everyone is ragey at work this week! (emoji-style baby)

part 1: net worth
positive net worth
category #shesworthsomething
💹 15,700 Roth IRA, not much but it’s honest work. I wasn’t able to contribute last year but sent $1400 this month. Don’t think I will max this year but will do what I can.
📱 1,400 457, not even sure why I contribute to this ($50/paycheck)
📈 25,100 Pension – cash value not super relevant here. 11% mandated contribution
💰 7,100 checking
🤑 3,000 HYSA @ 4.25%
➕ 52,300 we keep it positive around here
category oops, she’s in debt again
💷 -45,203 Private student loan @ 4.79%, paid biweekly but sending extra $
💸 -72,957 Undergrad Stafford + grad @ 5.2%. halfway done with PSLF!
➖ 118,160 😬 (but it looks worse on paper!)
category ah, but what about the house?
🏡 362,000 Purchase price, spring 2022, ginormous (income-restricted) condo
💸 -317,026.81 Mortgage #1 balance @ 2.75%
♊ -23,431.95 Mortgage #2 balance @ 0%, down-payment assistance paid in full at end of mortgage or resale
➕ 21,541.24 Equity including both mortgages, since not including #2 feels disingenuous
NET WORTH: -45,672.46
part 2: income
Nothing exciting here as a public school teacher. My salary is fixed and the entire internet can figure out exactly how much I make. Next year I will apply to be a new teacher mentor to move over a lane (6% raise while I do the job). We won a great raise in our last contract so we can finally be paid almost as much as everyone around us!
This is my 5th year teaching but am on step 6 of 11 due to a full year internship.
read my paycheck and weep
pay schedule: 24 paychecks a year (NOT 26), biweekly Fridays with the exception of holidays and the final day of school, where you receive paychecks 22, 23, 24 and are expected to make that last late June through early September
each paycheck is different, so let’s do paycheck #1
💹 2,935.83 gross
💊 -37.14 medicare (but not SS)
👩🏼‍⚕️ -325.65 PPO, I get sick often and in unexpected places
🦷 -42.97 dental
👓 -5.91 vision
📱 -50 457 contribution
🚕 -184.19 federal withholding
🚖 -114.32 state withholding
📈 -322.94 pension withholding
➕ 1,852.71 behold, how little of my take home I get to actually enjoy
Now paycheck #2
💹 2,935.83 gross
💊 -48.01 medicare (but not SS)
📱 -50 457 contribution
🚕 -323.86 federal withholding
🚖 -151.79 state withholding
📈 -322.94 pension withholding
💪🏼 -87 union power, baby
➕ 1,952.23 Also known at work as “the good paycheck”
For those keeping track at home, my monthly gross is typically 5,871.66 and my net is typically 3,804.94
Why typically?
part 3: please enjoy my emoji'd YNAB categories
category 💲 PAY DEM BILLZ
🏡 1343.38 Putting the PIT in mortgage…or something like that. The other I is paid separately
⛲ 167 HOA
🔐 68.16 Was not required to have insurance at closing. Don’t be stupid like me.
🎓 0 fed loans, thanks Grandpa Joe. I think this will be about $250/m when it starts up again. PSLF date late 2028
⛽ 31 YNAB tells me this is my average since moving to my house. Grateful to have big windows and a “put a sweater on” childhood upbringing – touched the heat twice this year
🔌 50 Averaged to include spicy hot summer months (it was 34 this month)
💻 39.95 interwebs
🏫 412.92 Private loan, paid biweekly (so if it’s a rare 3 payment month it’s more). The minimum monthly payment is something like $316, but I’m sending an extra $50 to get some benefit from the power of compound interest. 4.79% is not a make or break rate. Payoff 2034 but hope this can happen sooner.
📰 12.50 NYT Academic rate
🚊 90 Monthly pass
🍿 15.99 Somebody needs to pay the HBO Max
2234.43 Assigned this month

category 💲 important semi-regular expenses
🎁 20 Averaged gifts and donations, we have a special scholarship at work
👗 0 I haven’t bought new clothes in a while and it’s starting to show.
🤸🏼‍♀️ 85 trampoline class
👩🏼‍⚕️ 60 YNAB tells me my average is 60/mo, but this is overinflated due to an MRI in November that I will only have to do (hopefully) one more time. I’m usually at the urgent care or a specialist doctor 1x/month (this month: a UTI), so it’s more like 30
🪑 40 Hard to quantify. Since I moved in, I had a free couch moved ($200), bought a very nice TV ($750), a vacuum ($250), filters for vacuum ($30), and the world’s nicest washer ($1900). So YNAB is telling me a horrifying $400/mo, but let’s call it 40 going forward
🌷 0 I was a good urban balcony gardener, but no balcony. Waiting for a community garden spot, hopefully next year
🍉 250 Includes booze and small household things (TP, paper towels, dish soap)
🥾 30 Am avid hiker and rollerblader. Averaged cost of trip incidentals like carpool or snacks, admission to roller rink
💊 55 3 lifesaving medicines (25/mo + 10/mo + 30 as needed) + 10 for whatever medicine needed for illness of the month (10 for antibiotics this month). Every year I get a new epi-pen for 10 or 30. This month was more like 85 because my pharmacy accidentally sent me a med I have plenty of.
500 rough guesstimate

monthly 💲 annual 💲 annual expenses (save early, save often)
🤑 3.95 🕛47.33 Splitting YNAB with a friend on the new family plan
💇🏼‍♀️ 22.50 🕛 270 2x curly haircuts a year (cut + tip)
🩰 127.78 🕛 1150 Pair of opening weekend orchestra tickets + donor perks + volunteer dues
🌴 55 🕛 650 My part of family vacation with parents
🕶 33.33 🕛 400 Annual eye visit (exam + contact fitting + 12 months contacts)
📦 11.59 🕛 139 prime shipping, no car in a store desert + my mom likes videos
🎄 50 🕛 600 I love Christmas
💸 ? 🕛 6500 Roth IRA, we’re getting aspirational. I sent $1400 this month because it was a 3 paycheck month. Going to try to max and see how far I get.
🦷 86.35 🕛 2250 Saving ½ of estimated costs for Invisalign – never had braces as a kid and now my teeth are pretty bad. Hoping to start May 2024. There is unfortunately no savings for paying everything upfront so I’m saving ½ now and expecting a monthly payment around 150/mo during the treatment.
➖390.50 🕛 4,686 Ignoring the Roth IRA

category 💲 very big savings
🌆 428.57 3k goal by August 2023 (current balance: 850), “No August pay” – we don’t get paid in August and the first week of September so setting aside money specifically for this without feeling guilty for draining my emergency fund
🕐 300 (181.82 since I’m ahead) Homeowner’s 1% Warchest, it’s exactly what it sounds like. For any and all home expenses (things breaking or projects). Current balance: 2k
🛑 140.91 Building back EF, goal is 3k by December 2023 (current balance: 1.7k). I know this is low but my job is hilariously stable. I will try to add another month in 2024.

category 💲 fun money!
💻 50 Laptop replacement, just chucking money in there. I’d like to buy a Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5i since I love the 2 in 1 form factor. Currently have 100/600
🚝 70 (paused) Travel fund contribution, but full at 350. BFF getting married in VT in August so hoping to turn it into a girl’s weekend with another BFF
🎮 65 (paused) General video game fund – keep it topped up at 65 in case a new game drops OR if multiple games go on sale. I try to only buy games on deep sale
🎮 12.99 Final Fantasy XIV sub, I’ll retire someday
👯‍♀️ 50 Anything with friends, including eating out with them. usually 100 in the summer
🍦 30 “eating out” aka solo treats for myself (breakfast at dunks, small treats)
🎊 10 events happening that we want to go to not already covered, averaged.
➖ 202.99 Not including travel and video games since that’s topped up
If you add up the categories, I’m in the red and I’m well aware of it – not for much longer though, as I’m saving really aggressively. 😊
part 4: el diario
Day 1 – Saturday
🌅 gotta get dad to the ballet! 4.80
👯‍♀️ brunch with daddy-o before the ballet, I provide the tickets but he pays for brunch. his wallet is hurting because he only just got paid at his new job, so I kick in 20
👀 because brunch is attached to a swanky hotel and it’s PAX east wknd. 0 for free entertainment
🥤 my father requests a water bottle before the show. 6
🩰 don q, my 3rd time and dad’s 1st. Very good, but very long. 0 because these are volunteer comps
🚊 & 👋🏼
🧼 the casita before the week starts
total: 30.80
Day 2 – Sunday
💤 lazy Sunday morning (dw, I’m still up at 6). Read the NYT cover to cover then play 🎮
🚊 meeting a friend of a friend to help her do taxes but I’m early
📖 it’s gorgeous out so I photosynthesize in the BPL courtyard with my book club book
⛔ the wifi is too slow for us to do taxes so we pack up and 🚶🏼‍♀️ down newbury st until we settle at trident
👯‍♀️ I supervise her taxes, and eat a late lunch (grilled cheese w/ avo and tomato). 22.15
🍉 make the mistake of dragging this poor girl with me to the postage stamp sized TJ’s. and it’s 5:15. one does not shop here so much as get in line at the beginning & pick what you want as you go. a tall person fetches me frozen arepas. I come in right on budget so I’m pleased. 57.52
👋🏼 & 🚊 home to plan my week and decompress with 🎮 and 📖
Total: 79.67
Day 3 – Monday
🌅 it’s just before 6 and birds are happy, but now I am taking the 🚍 to work
🌉 stuck on the bus with my BOSS because a 🚢 is passing through the drawbridge. at least we can now fill out 90 second walk from the bus to dunks with acceptable new england small talk subjects (weather, transit, and sports) before she dips to get coffee
😡 the youth, because tomorrow & wednesday are standardized testing. sorry kids, I don’t make the schedule!
🙏🏼 “my plan is to read the questions carefully and ask God to help me know” – A+ testing strategy
✌🏼 2:30 and on my way home
🤸🏼‍♀️ take the 🚊 to go to bounce (0, see monthly expenses) and catch up with bounce buddy M.
🚶🏼‍♀️ walk with M. to the 🚊, go home for 🍜, 🚿, 📖, 🎮
Total: 0
Day 4 – Tuesday
🌅 hello, happy birds as I walk to the 🚍
🔥 the computers are not charged for testing. teenagers have been divested of all electronics and are not allowed to talk to each other. mayhem approaching in 3 … 2 … 1 …
🤬 nonstatus (male) colleague uses a work group text thread to refer to an unknown female colleague as the b-word. mayhem continues
❓ 2 hour (!) meeting after work due to snow day cancellations. male colleague doubles down on his comment before storming out. brain is mush
🚍 I remember nothing
🔐 as I am politely informed by my e-mail 68.16
👩🏼‍🍳 white bean & tomato stew & watch abbott elementary because it’s cathartic
🗣📕 ballet book club on zoom! we just finished a book about martha graham so we talk about it (I’m hosting next time about james whiteside)
total: 68.16
Day 5 – Wednesday
🌅 please go away, very loud mourning dove
🍎 computers are charged, the youth are not. Mr. Insult has decided not to come to work today (probably for the best?)
🤬 is there something in the water?! another nonstatus teacher informs me that two of my students are talking to each other in the hallway and are not following her instructions which tbh is a day that ends in Y. important context: her instruction is in English and they only understand Spanish. I send them back to their testing rooms and she says, “when students ignore me and continue to speak in a language they know I don’t understand, they are being assholes” UM! GOODBYE!!!
😡 before I say something I regret I turn heel and inform my boss of this interaction. she takes a breath and thanks me for letting her know
😤 this is me taking a calming inhale / exhale before returning to staring at children
🏹 when I am proctoring (read: not allowed to read, grade, do work, browse the interweb), I like to imagine how the hunger games would go down if these kids were in it. the odds are in this room’s favor overall.
👩🏼‍🏫 these miserable youth are forced into a half day of classes, so we conference about grades and I let them have some free time
🏕 run weekly outdoors club for the youth. one student informs me a teacher refuses to sign a permission slip & doesn’t know why. make mental note to find this person and politely inquire. students make a great poster of images from our last trip and practice map skills
✌🏼 at 3:30 to get the 🚂 to then get on the 🚊 to go to 🤸🏼‍♀️ … it sounds awful but it all goes pleasantly smoothly, especially given how the T has been. class is great, lots of one-legged kicking on the trampoline. this is my 2nd week in a row of going from 2x class a week to 3x and it’s a tough adjustment. 0
🚶🏼‍♀️ to the 🚊 with M., who can’t make it to class on Friday – sad!
💊 the medicine I didn’t ask for but keeps coming has arrived. Note to self to call pharmacy and ask them to stop, but says 0 refills. Not a total waste because I KNOW I will get bronchitis again & need this. 10
🍿 paid for to keep my mother happy 15.99
🍴 eat leftover stew and 📞 my mother and best friend T. to debrief this very strange day
🎮 and 📖 before bed
Total: 25.99
Day 6 – Thursday
🌅 ahoy! Run into coworker D. on the 🚍 who gets coffee at dunks. I am feeling weak and acquire some 🥑🍞 3.69
🤝🏼 find this teacher who refuses to sign permission slip (who is also new). his reasons are very valid and we agree on conditions the student needs to fulfill to attend trip. hooray, adults being civil!
🤬 that’s it, something is in the water. two best friends in 3rd hour begin a heated verbal altercation about … a girl? in the middle of my class?? One kid takes off so I call security to let them know he would benefit from a check-in. the other student begins texting threats to his buddy and goes off on me when I tell him to stop. what is happening?!
👼🏼 boy returns with security at end of class, so I walk him to dean to process. 35 minutes later dean says everything is gucci and no more problems. hormones, man.
✌🏼 please get me out of here
💻 bill is paid 39.95
👵🏼 our weekly call (she is my only grandparent and is not doing well)
👨🏼 weekly call with father, who still likes his new job
🍜 leftover stew and Mandalorian with my 👩🏼 (we live text each other). finally, a good space battle!
🎮 and 📖 to decompress along with a long hot 🚿
total: 43.64
Day 7 – Friday
🌅 I don’t think I can do this today.
🧘🏼‍♀️ It has been such a frustrating week (there was another incident that happened that I can’t even reference due to state law/FERPA) that was incredibly traumatic and draining.
📱 to best friend T. and work friend R. to ask what they would do. Both endorse me taking a day off after this wild week.
🎮 and 📖 along with some stretching. 📞 with best friend E. to catch up on her wedding prep and life
🤑 payday! Good paycheck since it’s the 3rd of the month, but it might be missing hours from club. I won’t know until I see my paystub on Monday. +2,183.48 (+50 to 457, +322.94 to pension)
💸 ah, but it’s also the 31st. easy come, easy go 🏡 (1343.38) and ⛲ (167)
🚊 to 🤸🏼‍♀️ to a really 🔥 class. Learn the name of the girl next to me on Fridays who also brings her inhaler and it turns out we’re both teachers!
🍦 take a nice mozzarella sandwich home from tatte 13.97
🚊, 🍴, 🚿, 📖, 🎮
Total: 1,524.35
Grand totals:
reflection: typical week money-wise in terms of reflecting my non-house spending – I’m saving really aggressively right now and don’t have a lot of money for discretionary spending. Even if I did, I’m very much a homebody during the work week. My job is probably more stressful than most as a baseline but this week was truly unbelievably bad. Still, looking through the week and taking time to step back I realize just how quality my support network is and for that I'm very grateful.
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2023.04.01 13:23 sleekandspicy It reminds me of the Bassnectar style TBH

It reminds me of the Bassnectar style TBH submitted by sleekandspicy to Mersiv [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 12:59 roxxikks Risks of back to back Prednisone use?

28 Female, currently taking Prednisone (3rd round in 4 weeks) and amoxicillin.
I originally went to urgent care and was given some nose spray and methylprednisolone dosepak for fluid in my ears. Once I was done with that round, the pain came back 3 days later and ended right back up in urgent care because of it (my PCP couldn't get me in either time) I was then given 20mg Prednisone for 7 days. Ended that. Came back. Saw PCP and they referred me to ENT. Saw ENT on Tuesday of this week and they said they can't see the fluid in my ears but the pressure test is reading out that it's there. So he started me on amoxicillin and yet another round of Prednisone (60mg for 3 days, 40mg for 3 days, 20mg for 3 days). Currently as it stands, anytime I stop taking the steroids, my entire body feels like it's breaking. Like every muscle and joint HURTS. But I'm not sure if any of the prescribers are listening when I say that. When I went to ENT on Tuesday, my blood pressure was 189/109. I'm currently retaining a lot of fluid. When I asked my ENT if he was sure that taking another round of Prednisone was ok, he asked if anyone else that gave it to me was an ENT, I said no, he said ok then. I'm honestly worried about what happens if this is my experience being on the Prednisone back to back.
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2023.04.01 10:15 jiquvox Complete guide to Kathy Rain's lore/plot secrets SPOILERS

Table of content
Part 1 Sources
Part 2 Theory about the supernatural plot
Part 3 Chronology of the events (see comments spoilers : Reddit software considers it goes over 40000 characters even if I count around 30000 )


Having played the game in its original version last week I felt at the same time charmed by the gameplay/mood and kinda puzzled/frustrated by the story. I will add my review in a different post.
Looking around to find an explanation, I didnt find anything really consistent. In fact I found other people sharing the same frustration toward the elusive plot.
But I did find out there was a director's cut version and ended up watching long parts of a video walkthrough of the DC version. Even if the game plot still remains fairly elusive , It turned out to be a lot more complete/rounded up and it strenghtened my reading of the plot.
Comparing key moments of both versions, I ended up figuring out a narrative that would make sense of the plot. So to be perfectly clear, this is a spoiler full guide for people who ended up frustrated by the mysteries of the game. I DISADVISE READING IF YOU HAVENT PLAYED THE GAME.
I will refer to the original game as OG and the Director's cut as DC. When I dont mention anything it normally means that the quote stays the same in both version. A few words about DC itself from the author itself
From the author Krusbert in 2021
All the story changes I made to the game was to improve overall plot cohesion, fix pacing problems, tie up loose ends in the narrative and to establish a stronger background lore for more stories with Kathy
Hopefully that doesn’t feel like too much of a cop out, but trust that each cut was made deliberately and after careful consideration.”

I wont get in all changes of the DC but here are a few : lily ghost and the grey double of the Crimson one seem to disappear , the grey man in dream day 3 is completely substituted by the crimson man , performing the exact same role with the boy and the painting , A Great Eye appears on screen in the abyss.
overall DC version simplifies/eliminate obscure part , stresses some part/adds more specific details to convey its secret plot in much more accessible way
but in some part, the writer seems to have partly changed the mystic plot : especially regarding Lily fate, Father Isaac answers on day 4 changed dramatically. So this theory adopts mostly the view of the DC version with a few elements of the OG version to cast some additional light.


You have 6 sources of mystic information
but some might not be reliable or only partly reliable
*Jimmy Cochran "Cocky" (on tape and on day 4) . They are several characteristics that make him the prime authority about the plot.
-he considers himself the sharpest tool in the box in spite of being in an Asylum. It's a frequent trope in fiction to reverse the obvious : King Lear sees the duplicity of his daughters once he becomes blind. Mad men are frequently the only sane character in fiction.
-he shows by far the largest awareness of what’s going on in the game, commenting on almost every aspect of the plot.
-He is also the most cryptic and speaks only in riddle-like manner to the point Kathy express her frustration : a Sphynx-like character which hints his knowledge is very valuable.
-He calls out other witness - he calls the church of holy trinity “misguided faithful”
-He has a very peculiar condition : his mind was split in two.
*Father bill notes/tape :
Partly unreliable base on Jimmy Cochran opinion. His tape is considerably expanded in DC .
*Priest Isaac you met him on day 1,3 but he becomes especially open once he’s arrested on day 4 Very unreliable based on 4 elements
-Jimmy : the church of the holy trinity are “misguided”
- even Father Bill disapproves of his actions (made even more clear in DC version) Isaac commits suicide upon hearing the tape of his father disapproval
-Isaac can’t see the Crimson man once his father dies.
-his vision of Lily's fate change dramatically between OG and DC version.
His opinion isnt' meaningless but he's clearly deluded and his opinions are arguable at best, tangential at worst.
*The Crimson one (and indirectly his Grey double in dreams of day 2 and 3 in OG version)
*Lily ghost who appears only in OG Version on Day 5 in the Abyss toward the end
* Joseph Rain at the end in both OG and DC version


The supernatural plot can be summarized in 3 key ideas.
1-The lights/the Below dimension are real but not divine, simply dangerous (super)natural phenomenon. The Below is a mirror distorted dimension.
2- the Below distorts desires and fears : Father Bill and Isaac are tormented people with a religious mindset which reshaped the Below creating the Old God and the Crimson One.
3- Time runs in Loops but the Below stands still. People connected to the Below like Lily or Jimmy, can thus foretell the future through the time difference.

SECTION 1-the lights, the below dimension and the red flowers are real dangerous phenomenon.

1.1 the lights are not hallucination, they are real
We have a photo taken by Jimmy Cochran and found in Joseph Rain briefcase on day 1 and developed on day 2 that proves they're real.
-But they are not divine, they are a dangerous natural phenomenon
Jimmy : the lights are neither divine nor unholy. They are but a distortion of ourselves
Joseph on a tape you recover on day 4 expands considerably on their nature in DC version :
I have come to believe that the glowing lights are burst of energy, similar to the static discharge that cause lightning . However instead of a positive and a negative electric charge , the colliding forces have a dimensional nature. Assuming this hypothesis is correct, the lights would only appear at the edge of the zone.
Their nature is much more arguable in OG but in DC they first and foremost are a sign you ‘re at the limit of the zone where the treshold is : the dark pit where your mind can enter another dimension. The source/below (what the church call the holy of holies).
Being a place of collision between the dimensions touching the lights can have disastrous consequences depending on the invididual.
1.2 The red flowers
Their consumption allow to properly enter the below dimension. By extension they are the real link to this alternate dimension. That’s why Kathy burns them at the end in order to cut off the source.
Joseph DC version on day 5 : I've come to understand the red flowers anchor this realm to the real world
1.3 The Below/source/cradle of obscurity/ the holy of holies
it is a essentially a distorted mirror of our own dimension.
The entrance is called the Threshold. I will refer to that several times.

The Treshold with the Stairs of Judgment

Section 2- The below distorts our fears and desires

intro - the fundamentally twisted nature of the below
Jimmy (talking about the lights) they are but twisted reflection of us. Everything we long for and desire
Joseph DC version : it takes each of your fears , every source of guilt and turns them against us
In DC version when Kathy opens her aborted child coffin, the Crimson man makes a difference between people : his kind like broken people like her who can be mended/who embrace them -Kathy is conflicted with his anger toward her father, her guilt toward her mother and aborted kid.
Happy go lucky people like Kathy's friend Eileen are simply “greedy little piglets that seem to get away ". Same goes for Nathan.
The below needs tormented people to work
Speaking of which…
2-1-Father Bill and his son Isaac are tormented person whose own religious desires/fears are distorted inside the below/source/cradle creating the Crimson man/ the Old god and making this place what we see in the game
Again Jimmy points out how the church of the holy trinity is wrong, calling them "misguided faithful" and stating "the lights are neither divine nor unholy".
But let's wind back the clock to the genesis of the Church in spring 71
Bill had 2 sons : Joshua and Isaac - Now those are very religious name . You don't name give those kind of name twice by accident.
But even more interesting is that the Price family mausoleum shows that Joshua was born in 61 and Isaac in 59. So it seems to strongly imply that BEFORE Bill even became a pastor, back when was still a traveling salesman, he had already a very religious mind.
-Also both Father Bill and his son Isaac are shown to be very conflicted individual
concerning Father Bill and the creation of the church , his own son Isaac expressedly established he was a conflicted individual at the time of the incident
this day was different. My father held dark thoughts in his mind. He was angry, thinking of evil deeds, even considering swerving off the road into a rock and ending it all. Then suddenly, divine intervention! three bright lights appeared.
not only that but upon hearing Father Bill tape on day 4 ) in DC version (where it becomes much more expressive than OG) , Kathy specifically exclaims "Jeez, Father Bill was a nutty! "
Isaac shows even stronger inner conflict - not only he commits suicide out of desperation after hearing his father disapproval , he was already a conflicted individual in his youth oh yes I was a teenager back then, full of rebellion, every fiber of my being wanting to distance myself from my father
2-2 the Crimson one is Isaac reborn after suicide
It might seem surprising because Isaac exists at the same time as Isaac and even condemns the Crimson one. Now let’s put aside the mechanics of how it works for a moment. There are 5 proofs of the identity of the Crimson one
*2-2-1 Jimmy “Let's go see the man you reunited with his family” on day 4
Jimmy speaks in riddles when interrogated by Kathy on day 4. But when it comes to the Crimson man Jimmy describes him in a really odd and specific way “Let's go see the man you reunited with his family”. It is extremely relevant to Isaac situation.
-Isaac family are all dead based on the Price familial mausoleum . There are 8 graves. Isaac grave is the ONLY ONE without a death date.

The Price family graves
- Kathy makes Isaac hear the tape of his father disapproval of his actions, leading to his suicide which indeed “reunite him with his family” since they’re all dead
-The tv in jail /father billy even says “Welcome home son” when Isaac kills himself.
* 2-2-2 the portrait of father bill crying blood on day 4
when Kathy touches the lights on day 4: she has a vision of the Crimson man issuing mockery statement about victims that make Father Bill portrait cry blood

Father Bill portrait crying blood
In DC version the content of the tape left by father Bill in the safe behind the portrait is made much more explicit than in OG
my visions concerning my sons are troubling ... I've watched them become corrupted with pride, turning their backs on the very foundations of our faith ... I've seen great sins committed : Act of violence and intimidation ,. Outsiders brought to hallowed ground with neither reverence nor ritualthere are dark dreams indeed. I pray that they never come to pass, lest my soul shall weep tears of blood
this is Father Bill vision about Isaac come to pass.
*2-2-3 -Jimmy in OG version on day 4 says the Crimson man is a great ally of Joseph
At face value it seems very confusing considering Joseph very much wants to close the source.
It makes a lot more sense when you consider Isaac had huge respect for Joseph. here's what Isaac says of Joseph on day 3
He and my father did charity work together, Joseph was around a lot when I was young. Joseph was the person who convinced me to become a priest. Joseph made me realize my sinful pride and showed me how I should follow my heart , regardless of what others might think. And for that I am eternally grateful.
2-2-4 : The crimson one is repeatedly referred as having no name/ lost his name.
-The crimson man wheen he meets Kathy on day 3 says his name has been taken from him
that's because the Crimson man exist at the same time as Isaac (as for the why we're going to talk about time in Kathy Rain in section 3 ) : so he cannot call himself Isaac anymore.
specifically in DC it's added on the tape of Father Bill on day 4 the Crimson one is described in the following way only he is poised to understand the struggle of those who are lost : the broken and guilt ridden .To have no name is to have a shattered spirit. Isaac feels extremely guilty over his actions to the point he committed suicide and his spirit is very much shattered.
*2-2-5 The Crimson one looks vaguely like an hairless version of Isaac with black eyes

2-3 As for the Old God it is arguably Father Bill himself.
in DC version there is the appearance of a great red eye

The Great Eye
the Crimson one talks with a great red eye on tv on day 2 , the great red eye appears again on tv on day 5
And Isaac describes Father bill trial in the following way :
under the watchful gaze of his GREAT EYE, God tested father's faith in countless ways. Fueled by conviction and a sense of purpose, Father persevered.
in OG it is pointed out that Father Bill ascended to unite with God. In OG it's the ultimate goal of the mending. in OG Father bill notes have specifically notes with initial in front of the description of people who ascended : it is marked "FB ?" in blue.
Also the TV in the prison seem to be Father Bill speaking since he says "welcome home son" when Isaac commits suicide. The Prison TV echoes the tv in the below which shows the Great Eye.
2-4 the agenda is nothing but a twisted version of christian theology and rites
2-4-1 the Mending, a hardcore twist on the Christian idea of salvation
to Kathy question once Isaac is in jail what is your church really about Isaac ? what are your trying to accomplish Isaac answers in a surprisingly honest and self-aware way "the same as any other church. All we want is the salvation of mankind"
The "Mending" is at the core of the dogma of the church of holy trinity and it's about salvaging the sinners. As shown by the notes of Father Bill you recover in a safe on day 4
The basic MO can be divided in 4 steps
1 Father Bill speaks to the person really sincere about being salved
2 The Crimson one then starts appearing in his dreams.
3 The sinner then makes his way to the Treshold where he smells the red flowers
4 The Stairs of judgment then appears in the Treshold/ black hole in the ground . And the Crimson one comes to welcome the sinner and undertake the Mending. Hopefully , the Sinner resolves his inner conflict to live a happy life (and arguably ascends to unite with God, at least in OG version)
It reflects Father Bill and Isaac desire to save people although they seem differently motivated. Father Bill might truly believe this/act out compassion and reflects his own desire of personal salvation. In the other hand, Isaac faith seem far less benevolent and shows a lot of pride/moral superiority : You can try child. I have God on my side.
2-4-2 a controversial doctrine that involves pain
Like most zealot their faith can turn kinda inhumane and cruel though. In theory it is well meaning. They want people to be happy osave them. But it’s still based on the predicate most people are sick/sinner. Isaac is the worst.
The Crimson one refers to it as “taking one's medicine”
about Lily : He wanted her to take her medicine (Nathan recollection about Lily and the crimson one) About Kathy before she gets in the source : All we want is for you to take you medicine Kathy. For you to grow and be happy.
But the mending and generally the connection with the below can make people tremendously suffer (lily, jimmy) and sometimes outright break them mentally -turn them catatonic (Joseph, eileen and countless unnamed other victim according to Isaac himself) :
Regarding the possible failure of the mending, the Crimson man is slightly apologetic about it: “What one wants and what one is able to do are different “ The crimson one doesn’t force people the way Isaac does even if he's not entirely above manipulation.
In the other hand, Isaac is so focused on his divine mission that he’s straight up indifferent to the people. It's not only collateral damage *(A necessary evil. I look at the bigger picture, the greater good.)*When pushed, Isaac clearly shows his colors, if it fails it's very much the fault of the sinner. All I did was bring them face to face with God. If they chose to reject him , they were beyond redemption.
That‘s the pride Father Bill was warning against. Isaac is extremely self-righteous and considers he knows better and can do no wrong. Which is pretty rich because Isaac is ignorant of entire aspects of the church doctrine.
2-4-3 Isaac shortcomings : ignorance, lack of empathy and pride
It is specifically suggested that Isaac is far less convincing than his father (besides his lack of charisma, his lack of empathy sure didn't help).
-the church flourished and continued to grow all the way up until his suddent death in 1983.That's when I stepped in to take leadership of the Church
-I take it that the church started declining after the death of Father Bill ?
-yes naturallly so, with such an magnetic personality he was irreplaceable
Isaac quickly gets on the defensive and insists the church is still thriving but Kathy points out two signs that things are relatively dire for the church now :
about the church : Looks kinda empty to me
about her first meeting with Isaac at the cemetary : What's up with you handing out pamphlets at funerals then ? trying to reel them in when they're weak ?
And that’s why the Crimson one Disappears as soon as Isaac takes over. See Isaac testimony once he’s arrested and how he rejects the notion of Kathy even meeting the Crimson one.
Preposterous. No one has seen that apostate since Father’s death.
The Crimson One disappears because Isaac is simply unable to bring willingly subject to the faith. In such a way the Crimson one refuses to have anything to do with this. The Crimson one wants willing subject.
Remember that the Crimson one doesn’t oppose Kathy leaving before the stairs of judgment /right at the threshold of the mending :
This is crazy, I could just walk away , just ride on my bike and drive. Forget I was ever here.
Nothing is stopping you.
She has to do it on her own free will .
In DC version Father Bill tape says so explicitedly : the mending is a gift and a duty. But it must begin in the heart of a true believer*. Someone who yearns for change and possesses the dedication and perseverance to achieve it.*
Isaac shortcoming doesnt stop here. In spite of trying to look all-knowing, it’s very arguable whether Isaac even knows where is the Treshold pit to the Below , this black hole in the ground where the Stairs of Judgment appear to the Mender :

The Treshold with the Stairs of Judgment
that’s probably why Isaac steals Lily painting. Since the Crimson one disappeared he wanted to bring the sinners to the Treshold himself . But he doesn't know where the Treshold is. He figures that since Lily received divine knowledge from God, her painting might give clues about where to find the treshold . He's not entirely wrong since Lily painting clearly helped Joseph Rain to find the Source. He's just wrong about those being some sort of secret he needs to unlock by defacing the paintings. The fact he disfigures them looking for a secret truth very much fit his pride/superiority complex : there has to be a secret truth - one he’s the only one fit to perceive. As always his pride gets in his own way.

Where is it ?
His storage unit makes clear of his frustration as he not only defaces all her paintings to find some secret clues but end up writing on the wall "where is it ? "

- Good also to consider the fact he uses the red flower doesnt mean he knows where the treshold is : it is clearly shown the red flower grows also at the edge of the forest (where Jimmy stumbled on the light)

The red flower
-Although Isaac says he brought sinners to the stair of judgment, considering his gigantic pride he might simply be lying rather than admit he doesn’t even know something as central to his faith. In fact he considers even “preposterous “ the very idea of Kathy meeting the Crimson one when HE has been actively looking for him for years. Or he might fool himself into thinking that his alternate MO still allow people to take the stairs since he uses the red flower .
Isaac end up developing an alternate MO : no conviction, no Crimson one preparing the soul, no Trip to the threshold. Isaac kidnaps people , bring them to his father grave and force-fed them with red flower to trigger the mending -It makes new sense of why he brings Eileen to his father mausoleum. It's because he doesnt know where the Treshold is. He's trying to get his ascended father help to perform the Mending so his grave seems the best substitute.

As for why the Crimson one and Isaac MO differs in spite of being originally the same person : remember that Isaac is very distraught by hearing his father stern disapproval and wonder outloud if has strayed from the faith, eventually committing suicide soon afterward. The Crimson one is his reborn version whose ways are corrected to fit his father gentler faith.
I will atone for my sins
But how is it even possible for the Crimson one and Isaac to exist at the same time ? . That brings us to the time aspect of Kathy Rain.

Section 3-time loop and foretelling ability

3-1 time loop in the real world
It’s Kinda hard to fully understand how time works in Kathy Rain world but the game seems to strongly suggest the real world is going through a time loop
-Jimmy seems to say that Kathy and him had this conversation several times in spite of her not remembering it And she is “ doing so much better than the last time
-in the director’s cut : “what came before must come again “ on Kathy father postcard in the hole he fell into in the abyss on day 5
3-2 time stand still in the below
And the mirror dimension seem to also distort time . Time pretty much seems to stand still in in the below.
Joseph talking about the time he went catatonic says : “it hasn’t been so long from my point of view”. It clearly implies that time doesn’t flow the same way below as in the real world
While the real world runs in loops , Time in the Below arguably stand still or runs very slow. It might explain the time paradox of having both Isaac and the Crimson one at the same time : Isaac commits suicide in one time loop and is reborn as the Crimson one ( as for how Isaac committing suicide requires for the Crimson one to exist before, that's the entire nature of time paradoxes. )
3-3 foretelling
The Below can see the real world. There seems to be a few channels like Dreams and TV screens. So if people create a connection with the below/the source they can see the future on the real world/ the loops through the Below. And if it looks like mental gymnastic, it's because it is : the toll on the mind is huge.
Jimmy is prime example of the toll it takes - when he touched the lights he found his mind split in two. I found myself with one foot on either side of the line... the thin line between hell and here. It felt like breathing through my nose with my mouth underwater.
Jimmy Says he’s “below watching reruns
Jimmy states Lily could see “the loops, the infinite possibilities
-Jimmy also saw Kathy “over a great pit throwing the last memento of [her father] into the empty blackness below” ( which echoes her fight with her dad in the abyss on day 5)
There are even subtler hints I wont get into.
This foretelling stuff brings us to Lily.
3-4 Lily
as for Lily : I’d say this part of the plot is really messy. What she can exactly do, what was the church plan for her, what is her ultimate fate.
At some level the writer kinda acknowledge that because in both version she is described in game as a “conundrum” and there seem to be a few contradictions.
No only that but most importantly that there is clearly some evolution between OG and DC . See Isaac testimony about the fate post-death of Lily - it dramatically changes between OG and DC :
in OG : in death [she ]ascended , united with the holy conduit (the holy conduit is the religious name given to the lights by Isaac. And Lily materializes indeed as the three lights on day 5 in the below dimension in the OG version )
in DC : Alas there is no hiding from god. Her soul knows only fire and brimstone now. (and she doesnt appear at all in the DC version )
But it’s possible to get some general idea about Lily place in the plot, regardless of the inconsistencies
Lily connection with the below seems particularly strong : she saw the loops, the infinite possibilities
As for why her connection is so strong , it’s easy to miss, but, if you show the botanical note about the red flower to Sue , Lily's mother, and asks her if she recognizes it she answers
“Sure. Smoked it a few times back in the day”
Similar to pot but much stronger and more unpredictable Never touched the stuff AFTER I got pregnant with Lily.”
it seems to hint that Sue might have smoked the red flower at the very start of her pregnancy . Doing so affected Lily in her womb and might have made created a latent connection with the below which fully activated once she found the lights . Keep in mind that the red flower is the key connection between the below and real world. (To some extent think of Alia in Dune and how Jessica drunk the Water of life while pregnant with her , exposing her unborn child to ancestral memories … which granted her immediate maturity and eventually drove her mad/pushed her to suicide.)
As for her role, the Church/below clearly seems to see Lily as a tool to propagate their doctrine over the world :
in OG she’s literally described as “prophet” by Isaac on day4 ( in OG she even later merge with the lights ). She is also described as a “chronicler” by both Jimmy and Isaac But DC makes clearer the plans of the Church/below for her : Not only does Isaac blames her for rejecting the gift of prophecy of God.
But In DC day 3 the Crimson man says
Listen to the drowned girl
While she may be free in death , her cold wet hands still trap many in painful ignorance.
Lily was meant to be the one to really propagate the message and convert people to the religion.
Lily turns very unhappy once she found the lights and had visions.
In OG Isaac says she was “part prophet, part mender” in life. Arguably the reason of her suffering and unhappiness was the intensity of the visions she received. Consider that Jimmy vision are not even nearly as strong as Lily - he describes himself as "a man stuck with his ear against the wall , picking up a word here and there". And consider that as a grown man it was already too much and he was eventually interned. It never stops and he's exhausted. I am so tired Kathy . I can feel the lights even now. Endless static in my head like a TV tuned to a dead channel. Lily was a 15 years old little girl and she could the loops , the infinite possibilities. She was probably feeling constantly dizzy with visions and grew increasingly tired and angry about her condition.
Lilly is specifically urged by the Crimson Man to “take her medicine” (which means undergoing the mending based on Crimson comment to Kathy) and “fights” with him according to Nathan .
Whether it was because she was so unhappy and the Crimson one is naturally attracted to unhappy people or because the mending would have made her a better prophet is arguable . At any rate she resisted : most likely because she had already enough disturbing visions and the mending seemed to involve even more emotional pain.
With those core ideas setup, the chronology of events now makes some sense.

I post the chronology in the comments as I went above the character limit
submitted by jiquvox to adventuregames [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 09:00 dspeyer EA Forum Digest 01 Apr 2023

Newcomb's Paradox Explained

There are two decision theories: causal and evidential, which often agree in normal cases but disagree in weird ones, e.g. Newcomb's paradox, so the paradox teases out our competing intuitions on how to make decisions.
Source: Hilary Greaves on 80k podcast
There are two boxes in front of you: a transparent one that you can see contains £1000 and an opaque box that either contains a million pounds or nothing. Your choice is to either take both boxes or just the opaque box.

The catch is that a very good predicter has predicted your decision and has acted, (based on their prediction) as follows:
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Setup Causal decision theory Evidential decision theory Another example: smoking lesions

A Brief Argument for Rapid Movement Growth

I feel that effective altruism has been growing more slowly than is ideal and has the capacity to grow faster. I also feel that faster growth has an extremely positive best-case scenario, and a worst-case scenario that is both highly unlikely and no worse than the status quo. Finally, I feel that rapid growth is highly impactful, highly tractable, and highly neglected, even when compared to other movement-building work, and I believe that rapid growth should be a focus of EA movement-building. For now, I would like to open a possible series on the subject by presenting a simple thought-experiment that gives my intuition in favor of rapid growth. Later, I plan to address potential criticisms at length.
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[Γαμινγκ the Algorithms: Large

Language Models as Mirrors](
Algorithms are not clever in the sense that they don’t make judgments, opinions or choices of their own, they simply absorb input, combine what many others have said, treat those opinions according to set rules and spit out some output based on the input and rules (the functions that reinforce their synapses). In that sense, they have the intelligence of an amoeba, whilst it is questionable if they have the same motivation for survival as it. Survival of the fittest, as per the darwinian pop motto, is only a ‘law’ for living things – indeed I doubt whether it would’ve been sensible for the developers of Large Language Models (LLMs) to try to code for survival of the fittest, as this may have resulted in an existential threat for the whole of humanity.
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Graphic Design is Our Passion

Attention all effective altruists!
We have some exciting news to share with you all. After much consideration and analysis, we have decided to change the headings on this forum to the most effective font - Comic Sans.
Why, you may ask? Well, as avid supporters of effective altruism and its focus on cost-benefit analysis, we conducted a thorough study on the most effective font to use for our headings. And the results are in - Comic Sans came out on top!
Not only did Comic Sans score highly in terms of readability and accessibility, but it also brought a smile to the faces of our testers. And as we all know, the happiness and well-being of individuals is a key component of the utilitarianism philosophy that many effective altruists subscribe to.
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One EA’s Perspective on Depression

I decided to post this in draft form; I plan to clean it up as needed but wanted to get it out sooner.
In order to talk about depression, we need to first talk about emotions in general. Why do we have emotions? What is their purpose?
Emotions are the signals our body sends us to communicate how we are in relation to the world around us. They enable us to survive, thrive and reproduce.
Emotions can be split into two classes: lower-order and higher-order.
Lower-order are the basic, primal emotions that we share with other animals. These include fear, anger, disgust, joy, and sadness (the ones in Pixar’s Inside Out). Lower-order emotions are involuntary and usually accompanied by physiological changes in the body, such as heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension.
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A Normal Straightforward Post

A: Knock-knock!
B: Who's there?
A: Cowgo.
B: Cowgo who?
A: The past year has been a distressingly-active one, for this community. Here, of course, I'm referring to the union of the rationality community, the Effective Altruism community, and the AI alignment/DontKillEveryoneism (aka "DKE") community.
A quick timeline in case you've been in cryostasis under a rock:
April 1, 2022: MIRI, the OG AI DKE organization, announced its new "Death With Dignity" strategy. This gave the AI alignment/safety field a kick in the ass, which seems pretty good. Importantly, it also increased the percentage of the community that takes DKE seriously. Probably. Hopefully. I haven't run a survey.
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Hooray for stepping out of the limelight

Iterating on our redesign (Forum update April 2023)

Thank you to everyone who gave us feedback on our recent redesign of the Forum! We’ve looked closely at your feedback and our findings from interviews with new users.
Two clear themes emerged:

After careful consideration, we’ve decided to change our sans-serif font from Inter to Comic Sans. We believe that this friendly and distinctive font will address the concerns of both new and experienced users, and keep users engaged for longer.[1]
We’re confident that all of our users will be happy with this font change. We welcome you to contact us with your praise, or post it in the comments below.
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We might get lucky with AGI warning shots. Let's be ready!

Book Review: Parfit - A Philosopher and His Mission to Save Morality

I recently wrote a short review of David Edmond’s forthcoming biography on Derek Parfit, which I thought might be of interest to folks here for obvious reasons.
I’ve included the full post below, and more info on the book can be found here. I highly recommend it and encourage anyone interested to pick up a copy.
"It is impossible to read off a person's personality from their ideas. Discuss." One could imagine such a question in an All Souls general paper. And there are such cases where there seems to be no connection. The special theory of relativity provides no clue to Einstein's genial personality. Parifitan philosophy, however, is bound up with aspects of his character.
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submitted by dspeyer to eafdigest [link] [comments]

2023.04.01 08:09 Longjumping-Ear7900 Looking for some input on a replacement for Murkrow on this Trick Room/Sun Team

Yosemite (Torkoal) (F) @ Choice Specs Ability: Drought Level: 50 Shiny: Yes Tera Type: Fire EVs: 4 Def / 252 SpA / 252 SpD Quiet Nature IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe - Eruption - Solar Beam - Earth Power - Sludge Bomb
Thicccccc boi (Iron Hands) @ Assault Vest Ability: Quark Drive Level: 50 Shiny: Yes Tera Type: Grass EVs: 16 HP / 244 Atk / 72 Def / 176 SpD Careful Nature - Close Combat - Volt Switch - Ice Punch - Fake Out
Furry Bait (Hatterene) @ Covert Cloak Ability: Magic Bounce Level: 50 Shiny: Yes Tera Type: Fire EVs: 212 HP / 76 Def / 108 SpA / 112 SpD Bold Nature IVs: 0 Atk / 2 Spe - Psychic - Dazzling Gleam - Mystical Fire - Trick Room
Furry Bait 2? (Lilligant) @ Focus Sash Ability: Chlorophyll Level: 50 Shiny: Yes Tera Type: Ghost EVs: 252 HP / 252 Spe Modest Nature IVs: 0 Atk - Energy Ball - Sleep Powder - After You - Helping Hand
David Bowiemon (Flutter Mane) @ Safety Goggles Ability: Protosynthesis Level: 50 Tera Type: Rock EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe Timid Nature IVs: 0 Atk - Shadow Ball - Dazzling Gleam - Power Gem - Protect
Moiiiin (Murkrow) (F) @ Sitrus Berry Ability: Prankster Level: 50 Shiny: Yes Tera Type: Ghost EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpD Careful Nature - Taunt - Tailwind - Haze - Brave Bird
submitted by Longjumping-Ear7900 to stunfisk [link] [comments]