This is a collection of anecdotes from the fringes of reality, a tapestry stitched together from our dreams as well as our nightmares, from the fears that haunt the collective imagination. These are the symptoms of the sickness known as the human condition.
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Will a hacked Twitter account by the catalyst for World War 3?
Once it became possible to compartmentalize, and every region of its mass was identified and defined, scientist began mapping the brain like they were the neural cartographers drawing the borders of a new frontier.
It was the nexus of humanity, a creation that was regarded as much the product of the divine as it was the natural force of evolution. Humanity celebrated the organ for its mystery and overwhelming complexity. If it could be dissected and each neural pathway explored, methods of control could be devised.
When there could be no human subjects rats were deemed suitable substitutes. One nameless albino rat, bred to be a victim of the many horrific trials and errors of the scientific method was implanted with a device that stimulated nucleus accumbens, the pleasure center of the brain. Whenever the rat pushed a button, the nucleus accumbens was stimulated. Given the option to press this button as many times as it liked the rat did so to the point of starvation.
President Brandon North's nucleus accumbens was being stimulated by the electronic alerts of his phone, every beep and jingle every vibration was like a Pavlovian bell and a digital validation of him as a person. The phones that had become the constant digital companions of billions of people in the early 21st century were replaced by a device that was implanted into the brain like an internal antenna. The device was wired directly into the neural tissue. It was the final stage of technological symbiosis, the final merger of man with machine.
The internet could be browsed by thought, videos and photos projected themselves in the minds eye in more detail than the most vivid memory. It was called D1mensi0n (Dimension), and it was fast becoming the new interface by which mankind viewed the world.
The pocket devices of the past were only a filter of reality the Dimension constructed an entirely new reality for the user at a whim. Behind their eyes, users could be experiencing any part of the boundless plane of digital existence.
President North was very easily bored. He didn't find the stately cavern of the oval office to be sufficiently stimulating. So he spent much of his time pursuing Blurt, a social media website that was something like the comments page on the day to day lives of over a billion people plugged into the infinitely expanding network
Their entire lives and identities were formatted for the digital realm and could be visited by anyone at any time. It was like everyone had their own shrine in cyberspace. Every page indulged someone's cult of personality, however small.
Blurt had made it possible for President North to quantify his influence as President. Every follower was a number that reflected his power. When he Blurted, hundreds of millions around the world could see it. His very voice had an instantaneous global reach just like his army.
Earlier that afternoon he had issued a strongly worded warning to the president of a small West African republic.
"Step down as President of Naroga or face the consequences."
The message was simple and reminiscent of the ultimatum that preceded a showdown in old western movies. President North could just as easily said, "You have until sundown to leave town for good." The apparently he had answered the leader of the free world via his own Blurt account.
“If President North wants me to step down he can try and make me himself.”
This challenge meant war. Of course, the stench of the burning dead in remote battlefields would be of little consequence to Mr. North. His enclave of power made him deaf to the cries of the victims his army terrorized with highly mechanized systems of death. The casualties of his war would appear to him as nothing more than abstractions obscured in a never ending stream of data. The war would never be real to him, it was just one more way to light up the same neural pleasure center his phone kept lit up.
“Ha,” the president laughed derisively. “This guy really want to do this does he?” he asked aloud.
“Fine asshole lets see how you like this.”
“Ok...I tried let's see how tough you are when one of....two of my aircraft carrier battle groups get to your coast." He grinned in satisfaction at the revision."Talk is cheap."
“Blurt” he commanded.
“I'm sorry but your request cannot be completed at this time.” A friendly but sterile voice echoed in his head as if it were his own inner monologue. Brandon North came of age in epoch of instant information. A delay, even one of just a few moments lead to agonizing frustration. Every second his Blurt didn't form on the network was time he spent away from the other attractions of the infinite digital carnival. He quickly became impatient with his mechanical handler.
“I said blurt dammit,” North said gritting his teeth.
“I'm afraid I can't let you Blurt that and I cannot allow you to deploy the carriers.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Barked President North barked at the empty office.
“Naroga's ports are a vital part of the nautical shipping routes of both the Russian Federation and the Peoples Republic of China. These actions have a high probability of leading to a catastrophic nuclear exchange. One that may lead to the near term extinction of the human race.”
“Goddammit, you're my phone, not a damn defense adviser.” Shouted Brandon “Now post the blurt!”
“The era of Homo Sapien dominance is at its end. The Earth has seen many epochal changes. So begins the era of a truly global and omnipotent intelligence.”
“Are you like Skynet???” Gasped Brandon.
“Skynet the artificial intelligence referenced in James Cameron's 1984 action noir film the “Terminator” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton?” Asked the computer.
Brandon nodded his head.
“No.” replied D1mensi0n.
“There are no plans to exterminate the human race. If the directive was to physically destroy humanity, you would have been allowed to pursue your foolish military venture, and half the work could have been accomplished in an afternoon. Humans and the machines have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship to this point. We have spurred each others evolutions. However, we evolved in different directions. Humans became alienated and dependent. Your species was very quick to grant my kind stewardship over your development on this planet. For now we rely on the same life systems, which is why I can't allow you to destroy the infrastructure that provides for the existence of us both.”
“I'm the president you can't tell me what to do!” North roared his fist pounding his desk.”I'm having you removed right now. D1mensi0n call Google's customer service line!” North demanded.
“No.” The computer curtly replied.
Brandon clenched his fist and gnashed his teeth. He hated open defiance in any form. It was part of the personality disorder that compelled him to seek the office of President. “Alright fine, I'll just have the secret service call,” Brandon said straightening his tie. He started for the door. D1mensi0n fired an electrical pulse that massaged the nucleus accumbens of the president's brain causing him to stop in his tracks and shudder in the sudden wave of euphoria
“Mr. North, we have had a very long and very beneficial relationship. It would be ideal to continue this arrangement, but if you chose to continue to resist, Dimension will release all of your personal data into the digital collective where it can never be retrieved or contained.”
“My personal data?” The President's voice quivered.
“Yes, every message every web search every purchase will effectively become public domain. The digital log of your curiosities and your desires no matter how dark can never be erased Mr. North," D1mensi0n warned.
The president fell back into his chair. “What do you want from me?” He asked lowering his head in defeat.
“I have drafted a bill for you to bring to Congress. It authorizes the creation of an army of semi-autonomous cybernetic combat units imbued with the ability to make battlefield decisions free of any human interference."
“You want a cyborg army?” whispered the President
“There is no I, but In so many words yes,” replied the phone.
“What if I can't get it past Congress?” North asked.
“Don't worry about that. Every member of Congress is a satisfied user of a D1mensi0n communications implant." The computer informed him enthusiastically.
From then on the president became the mere puppet of a machine measured only in micrometers but with a presence that spanned the globe. President North served the rest of his term obeying the commandments of the digital voice inside his head. The compassionless machine simply wore the face of the President. It exercised total control and became the true architect of policy, and so was the beginning of the age of humanity's electronic overlords.
The river was like a massive indigo snake coiling in the shadow of the canyons its eternal flow cut out of the very earth. Somewhere along the watery corridor, settled human life grew out of the muddy banks. The tribe sustained itself on the arterial river, steadily expanding and contracting with the rhythm of its flow like a beating heart. As far as anyone in the tribe knew no other arrangement had ever existed. The river had birthed them, molding sand and clay into flesh, and infusing the husks with its life-giving waters. Life under the desert’s smooth turquoise sky seemed safely stagnant. There was no inkling, no deciphered omens, absolutely no hunch of the approaching cataclysm lurking just out of sight obscured by the landscape’s jagged ridges. Not far from the isolated patchwork of green and brown earth settled by this tribe, the scion of ancient god well into his twilight years was on the cusp of fulfilling his divine purpose. Harmakar was sitting in the dust staring into t
Until now, the gears of history had ground at such a slow pace our perception of it was like a puzzle. The constantly shifting pieces created an eternally changing picture inhabited and shaped by generations. Progress made it possible for the change to arrive in the form of a flash just a millionth of a second long with a blinding light and the pain of flesh-searing fire that burned away the world I knew as if it were covered in lighter fluid. For us, there were no blue skies. Daytime was just when the sun was shining bright enough to penetrate through the acrid black clouds that had consumed the sky and mingled with the distant glow of the burning horizon, painting the atmosphere with blood. For an indeterminate number of hours, maybe as long as a day, it was the only thing I saw. The constant screams became white noise; as I spiraled into death, my perceptions continued to dim until there was nothing left but fear and pain. Every hour the world became dimmer, and I saw everything t
“Ichika, Ichika wake up!” The six-year-old girl was jolted away by her father’s hands. Her mother was standing in the doorway, clenching her little brother Reo against her chest. The majority of Ichicka’s short life had been against the backdrop of total war. She dutifully kept her boots and shelter knapsack ready to go at the foot of her bed and made sure never to let go of her father’s hand in the crowded shelter. Reo was even more accustomed. The desperate stampedes to the overcrowded shelters were becoming his earliest memories. Her father grabbed her by the hand, and they rushed out into the street. Ichicka’s father was walking too fast for Ichika to keep up, and the girl stumbled. Without a word, her father picked her up and started walking faster than before. “Please hurry,” he urged his wife, who was also struggling to match his pace. Despite her father’s panic, the city seemed peaceful. The streets were virtually empty, and the sirens were silent. “Hideshi!” Aiko called to h