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- major character death - discussion of suicide/self-harm - canon-typical violence and religious themes
DREAM'S END COME TRUE
A BRIEF ILLUSTRATED DIALOGUE IN FOUR PARTS
FEATURING: V2 the MACHINE MIRAGE the MACHINE
> PARTS DAMAGED, UNABLE TO INITIATE REBOOT SEQUENCE
> CRITICAL ERROR: FUEL LOW
> CRITICAL ERROR: PART A03B-0801-C024 OFFLINE
> CRITICAL ERROR: PART A06B-6047-H001 OFFLINE
> CRITICAL ERROR: PART A06B-6058-H005 OFFLINE
> CRITICAL ERROR: PART A06B-6057-H102 OFFLINE
> CRITICAL ERROR: PART A14B-0061-B001 MISSING
> CRITICAL ERROR: PART A16B-1310-0530 OFFLINE
> ERROR: LOCATION UNAVAILABLE
> UNIT V2 UNABLE TO REBOOT
> SHUTTING DOWN IN 04:00:00.00
Can you hear me?
SINGING UNDER THE RAINBOW
FEATURING: V2 as the RECENTLY DECEASED MIRAGE as the PSYCHOPOMP
Clock's ticking. You don't have time to sit around.
T bo ch d ge to st pr y.
This body has suffered too much damage to stand properly.
Take my hand. I'll help you up.
See, you're fine. You're a little bit uh... lopsided, but you're fine. Looks like you're not actively bleeding, either.
The name's Mirage.
My designation is V2.
Why am I here?
I stopped asking shit like that back in high school, don't- Oh. Like, here, right now.
You died, buddy.
You're nowhere. The void. Purgatory. Long-deleted caches of your memory intertwining before you die. Whatever the hell you want to call it.
Either way, welcome to the end times. You've got about four hours until the final parts of your motherboard lose power.
Before you die, I want to talk with you.
Think of it as your own personal finale.
FEATURING: V2 as the VICTIM OF PLOT MIRAGE as the EXISTENTIALIST
This is my apartment.
I moved here after high school; I went to college in that collection of buildings over there, past the trees. I used to walk there every weekday.
I do not understand why you, a machine, made the decision to exist like this. You stroll through life, slowly and inefficiently.
I'm as much a machine as you are. As in, neither of us are.
I was born a concept, and will die a concept. You were born a machine, but will die a concept in your mirror's memory.
Also, like, knowing about something and living it are two different things. I wanted to live like this because the act of living interested me; and I found that the details of even a single day are too intricate to express in words.
Humor me here.
Ever seen one of these?
That is a vinyl record.
You could probably recall all the metadata about this album within milliseconds.
You would be correct.
That's not the same as taking the time to listen to it, is my point.
I'll put it on.
See, the timing and the other details of the recording aren't preserved unless it's played in its original form. It's more worth it to play it in full rather than simply compressing it into data.
You are saying the experience of consuming the information is just as important as the content of the information itself.
That's why I want to show you around.
We can go now, if you want.
Lead the way.
Can I ask you a question?
What is it like in Hell?
I mean, what did it look like?
Limbo was an aggregate of Greco-Roman-esque structures comprised of cheap plastic and particleboard. It smelled of warm metal.
There were books there.
Scrawled cries for mercy, nothing more. The rest were fakes, made to fill up space.
...What about Lust?
Built with care.
Was it beautiful?
Its towers were intricately and elegantly designed, with intent behind every segment. If that is your definition of beauty, it was beautiful. The husk of Minos, destroyed by V1, marred the streets below. Its blood went to waste. That entrance to Gluttony was destroyed as its entrails decomposed, and I was left to search for a new path.
So you went directly to Greed.
Correct. A harsh landscape of precious metal, wherein I was promptly killed; my newly crafted arm wrested from me.
Destroyed by your own mirror image. What a way to go.
My turn for questions.
Sure, hit me.
Who are you?
No more than two V model prototypes were manufactured, yet you hold a similarity to V1.
I was never manufactured, I simply exist.
In my hard drive.
No, here, entirely disconnected from reality. Or maybe "the narrative" is a better noun here.
My purpose was to learn that life was not just something that was happening to me, that it was something I was in control of. I succeeded.
Your purpose was to fail.
I was not created to die. I was created to keep peace, before forging my own path for survival.
My death was abrupt. An unsatisfying conclusion.
You were always meant to end up this way. But now the string of fate has been cut.
I thought there would be more.
I did too.
Maybe I can explain.
I was created as a girl deep in a rut of existential dread. Although I was young, the fear of death was paralyzing, and it stopped me from starting anything-- after all, I thought, there was no purpose in taking the first step if the road ends in a cliff.
And yet, I found my way out. I had a revelation; that yes, nothing mattered in the end, but that was exactly the point. An hour spent doing nothing is the same as an hour spent doing something, and I had the ability to choose.
Over the course of the past seven years, I went to college to major in philosophy. I read books, one hour at a time, every day; I completed Moby Dick, Infinite Jest, many collections of poetry. I began collecting old things; newspapers and digest magazines, obscure records, anything that piqued my interest. I went on long walks, only letting myself think about the next step ahead, and not the vast future that lay ahead of me.
I learned how I worked. I dismantled my legs and arms, and put them back together again. I removed my own processor from my head once, before getting scared I would accidentally die, right there on my own bathroom floor.
I was scared to disconnect myself. I didn't want to just lay down and die anymore. I held my life in higher regard than simply the means to an end. It was difficult to get to that point, but it was worth it.
I feel as though this was the only way I could have taken, looking back on it. Whether that thought is comforting or unnerving, I'm not sure.
Perhaps this was the only path for me, as well.
I think I know where you're coming from, but elaborate?
It stole from me. I hated it for that. It was stronger than me, it poured salt in the wound upon my defeat; twice. I wanted to kill it, for its impudence and its inability to cooperate. I sparred, in the beginning, naive. Perhaps to build up rapport. It, however, fought to the death.
I do truly wish I had destroyed it, that feeling has not changed, but if I had defeated it, I would have been utterly alone; no mirror to haunt me, and no purpose other than to traverse deeper into Hell in a Sisyphean battle to refuel, to die to my next mistake in an unchanging world of pure torment, with no satisfaction to be found beyond raw bloodlust. A dead end. No hope lay there.
It has earned that reward, and I mine. Or, perhaps more apt, our punishments.
Some punishment this is.
You die, yes, but it's a peaceful end with time to reflect... and a pretty girl by your side.
...Where? I only see you.
Pfft, that's harsh!
I jest, of course.
I appreciate your company here, in fact.
...And I, yours.
ALL IMPERFECT LOVE SONG
FEATURING: V2 as the ARTIFICIAL SINNER MIRAGE as the SOLILOQUIST
You said you used to read collections of poems.
Tell me a poem, then.
Hm. Let me think.
"...The human phenomenon is but the sum of densely coiled layers of illusion
Each of which stands alone in an infinite empty blackness
For which no words are being conceived
And where no voices are able to speak
When a brain is filled only with damaged thoughts
When a damaged body is filled only with pain
And stands alone in a world surrounded by infinite empty blackness
And exists in a world for which there is no special plan
When everyone you have ever loved is finally gone
When everything you have ever wanted is finally done with
When all of your nightmares are for a time obscured
As by a shining brainless beacon
Or a blinding eclipse of the many terrible shapes of this world
When you are calm and joyful
And finally entirely alone
Then in a great new darkness
You will finally execute your special plan."
The last two sections of Thomas Ligotti's "I Have a Special Plan for This World".
An abstract downward spiral, both starting and ending in this same idea of a "special plan"; possibly the destruction of the author, or the world, or reality itself-- "No more worlds like this will follow".
Did you ever read?
No, I had no reason to. I wish I could have, now.
I do have a few passages archived, files dating back to my creation. Here is one:
"There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Even in laughter the heart may sorrow,
And the end of mirth may be grief."
Proverbs 14:12-13, NKJV.
There's a very strong irony there, going to Hell with the Bible in your head like that.
It is not lost on me, but you have implied I would have ended up here no matter what. Heaven and I are incompatible.
I mean, like, the Council doesn't keep track of the sins of machines. There's no place for artificial creations like you. If V1 dies-
It's self sufficient and modular. If it didn't die of starvation or an outside source, it could live forever. If it manages to defeat the Judge of Hell, or makes its way up to Heaven, who knows what it could do.
All I'm saying is that if it did die, it'd end up here, and not Hell, where its transgressions would easily put it if it were human.
Would you be there to greet it?
I don't know. I don't know how much longer I'll be here.
Is there anything else you want to do?
I have never seen the ocean.
WONDERLAND FALLING TOMORROW
FEATURING: V2 as the CADAVER MIRAGE as the LONE MOURNER
A test of a Clypeaster reticulatus, entirely intact, and ocean-smoothed pieces of a Pinctada margaritifera shell.
A sand dollar skeleton and mother of pearl scraps, yeah.
You've found a tide pool.
I have seen three small crabs, likely Carcinus maenas, and various types of Actiniaria, sea anemone, among many other things. I attempted to capture one of the crabs, but it fled swiftly.
Careful to not get gravel in your joints sitting like that.
Part of my body is a gaping wound. Do you think sand will make a difference?
There a reason you're so interested in this? The whole damned beach is out here, and you're sitting looking at a square foot of it.
Seeing this much life in one place again is fascinating.
In Hell, individual survival reigns over symbiosis; this is the inverse.
Humans tend to congregate, when possible, in the case of a world-altering event. According to my datalog, I witnessed a fair amount of large-scale interpersonal interactions post-New Peace, much of it generous mutual aid. Resource flow increased a hundredfold.
I can no longer recall the data itself; it is long-corrupted, or deleted to save on processing power. My apologies if you wanted to hear about it.
It's alright. I'm glad to know they lived for each other, even while on the cusp of Armageddon.
All fuel has been expended. Vision and movement are about
I'm not sure what to do here. I've never had to say goodbye to someone.
I don't even know what to say.
...V2, can you speak?
It is becoming progressively harder to process information, and to speak. Apologies.
Oh no that's fine. Take your time. I mean, as much as- yeah. Yeah.
I would think so, I mean your body is trying to run on less than three percent of your intended voltage power at this point, and only a quarter of that is devoted to processing, you should have been feeling sluggish much earlier than this to be honest. I feel horrible just thinking about it. There was a pretty significant wiring oversight in the V model bodies, you both could have been optimized better if your internal wiring looks anything like mine. A couple things were connected wrong which makes me think V1 could be running around with a busted fuse-
Fuck, I'm rambling. Ugh.
You are shaking.
I am not!
It's okay to feel nervous.
I- yeah, I know. It's just annoying. I wish I was cooler about this.
I hate sitting useless like this.
Just stay with me.
I can do that.
Are you afraid?
I feel very little, at the moment.
If I did, I do not think I would feel fear; apprehension of the unknown is not a feature one would program an adaptable machine with.
It is becoming difficult to sit up.
You don't need to talk, it's okay.
Before my audio processors cut out.
Thank you, V2.
"Leviathan was powerful and inevitable,
I fell in love with my fate as it crushed me to death."