Dan

Myths About Online Dating

I have a lot of baseless fears about online dating.

We are eating dinner at the bar of a nice restaurant, and after I’ve spun a bit of my story, I’m trying to learn something about her.

“So where in New York are you from?” I ask, slurping spaghetti noodles. “I grew up along the lake for a while.”

“Oh, actually, I’m from Crete originally.”

“That’s not what your profile said. I thought you were from…” But as I look over at her, the snakes are already emerging from under that dopey hat she’s wearing. Over the course of the next few seconds, I turn to stone from the eyes out, frozen in rock. Weirdly, I’m still conscious. I’m a living statue, staring straight ahead at her with probably a really dumb look on my face.

She shrugs and gives me a pitying glance. “Sorry, guy. A girl’s gotta eat.”

Looking down at her food, she starts rummaging in her purse. “What?” I think. “We could have just eaten, I would have picked up the tab, and gone our separate ways. Why am I… what…”

And then out comes a hammer and chisel. She sighs, stands up over me, and places the chisel on my nose. I can’t really feel the cold metal; I just imagine that I do. She raises the hammer, and starts splitting off pieces of my face. It doesn’t hurt. It feels like someone tapping on my skin, and then my nose isn’t there any more.

Then she picks up the pieces and starts gnashing at them. I’m just really confused and hurt, now.

For a while, she crunches away, like someone really enjoying a whole bag of potato chips. I wonder why nobody in the bar is doing anything, but they’re probably running away. Or also stoned.

Loudly, I try to think real hard at her. “That hat looks really bad on you.” I silently curse the friend that recommended mythsingles.com to me. “Dammit, Jeff…”

I really like her, right off the bat. Just drawn to her energy, like a moth to flame. Fascinated by what she does, and her obsessions in life.

Initially, we hit it off pretty well. But she seems repulsed by me more and more as we continue to date. Then she outright calls me disgusting and stops returning my texts.

I don’t understand. She won’t tell me what I did that was gross. Or maybe I’m just generally repellent? Great. This’ll do wonders for my self-confidence. By now I’m wishing I was turned to stone, instead.

Maybe worse than that is someone I get along with great, but all my friends secretly hate her. It ends up driving a wedge between everything, and when we finally break up, I’ve got almost no friends left.

My one remaining friend tells me, “Every time you asked me to hang out, she would call me and leave a voicemail message about how she’d ruin my life.”

“People don’t do that,” I’d scoff. “There’s no way she did that.”

He shrugs, takes a sip of beer. “Hell, man. You can think what you want.”

It’s a shock even to me, a master of ruining first dates, as I fart so loudly in the restaurant that the waiter walking up behind us faints and falls over. He conks his head with a loud ‘snok’ on a nearby table, and when I lean over to check, he’s not breathing.

“I’m calling 911! Do something!” my date screams. This is not how I wanted it to go, I think.

Frantic, I try to apply CPR, but I never learned how to do it properly. I’m forcing my fists into his chest. It doesn’t work like in the movies, but he splutters back to life… Somehow in the process, I broke several of his ribs, and he’s screaming in pain. My date runs out of the place, kind of giggling in shock.

The only other time I see her is at the court hearing for my assault case. Turns out she’s the prosecutor. I try to say hello, and apologize for how awkward this is, but she pretends like she’s never met me before in her life. That’s fair. I just nod to myself. Totally fair.

“Hahaha,” she laughs, with her phone out taking a video of my naked body. “This is rich. I got a few friends who are going to just die from this one.”

“Why are you doing this?” I ask, confused, struggling against the handcuffs. “I mean, this is real weird. Are you blackmailing me?”

“Do you really think you had a shot with me? With THIS?” She gestures at her perfect legs, as she zips her dress back up with the other hand. Then she points the phone lens back at me mockingly.

“I dunno, I guess I thought even a nerd could get lucky once in a while…” I trail off.

She picks up her phone. “You’ll be on the internet as a meme in 15 minutes, my friend.”

“What?” I’m just baffled. I lie there trying to add it all up, halfheartedly pulling at the restraints, and wonder what could really happen if that video gets out. I did say some pretty stupid things earlier.

Shit.

It turns out, I meet someone the old-fashioned way. Not on a dating site. Through mutual friends, a lucky thing. And we really connect. It gets pretty serious, and I love how we click together. We spend several years building up a warm, positive relationship.

Then over the course of a month or two, she gets very distant and depressed. Before I understand what’s going on, she dumps me and breaks my heart into to so many pieces that now all I am made of any more is irrational fears about human interaction, glued together with a weird sort of resigned loneliness.

I still don’t really understand why, but would it matter if I did?

Damn it.

I gotta get back out there. Mythsingles.com, here I come.

 

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Dan

Ydragnalus

Dave wakes up slowly, the familiar smell of his sweat in the sheets. His usual night terrors of running through black-rimed hallways are a vague memory now, so he savors being bundled up in the warm pillows for a bit longer. Then his body suddenly fires a warning. “Mrrrghlhph,” his mouth says unbidden as he stumbles towards the bathroom.

And then his brain does a backflip. Beyond the door isn’t the dingy hallway of his apartment. Dave blinks, rubs his eyes, and turns around slowly. Bedroom looks normal. Apartment outside it looks like a 70’s science fiction movie set. All white curves and giant viewscreens that appear to be showing Earth as a glowing marble in a vast blanket of stars. Or are those windows?

“Good morning, Dave. Welcome to the future,” a woman’s voice says all matter-of-fact from somewhere out there.

Dave continues to blink, instinctively covers his underwear-clad groin, and then his body reminds him of the urgent mission. “Uhh. Ahem. Hi, uhh, whoever you are. Where’s the bathroom, in the uhh, future?”

As soon as he asks, some calmly lit arrows pop out of the walls. “Just follow the markers. You can call me Charlize.”

“Uh. Good morning to ya, Charlize.” Turning, Dave catches a glimpse of his bedroom reconfiguring itself to match the hyper-modern style of the rest of the… house? It looks large. And this doesn’t feel like a dream. He stares at the planet as he walks by. Something seems off. I’ve seen pictures of Earth from space, he thinks. And sure there’s a lot of water. But that looks like too much water.

Thinking about that forces him into the bathroom, where he finds a normal toilet and an incredibly comfortable robe hanging on the door. As he dons it, it seems to form up to his skin and warm him like an electric blanket. “Weird. But good!” Dave says to himself, looking in the mirror.

He steps back into the living room. If it could be called that. There’s nobody around. “Hey, I put on a robe. Uh. Yeah. Where’d you go?”

“Oh, I’m right here. All around you. Think of me as the future of the silly AI in your phone. I’m just a much smarter helper agent.”

“Wow. So you can carry on an actual conversation?”

“Hah, well… hmm. I’ve been told I am quite good at that, yes. But you’ll have to tell me what you think of living in the future.” She draws out the last word like in a cheesy movie, and starts laughing. That makes Dave laugh too.

“This is pretty fantastic!”

“Well, great, Dave. I’m glad to see you excited. I hope the other planets have explorers as enthusiastic as yours.”

“Other… planets?”

“Oh yes. I’m sorry, right. We thought about giving you an introductory movie to watch, but I think it’s better to just chat it out. Yes, that is an all-new exoplanet just outside your window there. We have named it OMX-C417, according to our schema. But the local name is Lachesis. I’m told folks have taken to calling it Latch.”

Trying to assimilate this, Dave plops down on one of the strange lumpy couches, finding it much more comfortable than it looks. Sitting there feels so relaxing that he gets oddly paranoid, and leaps back to his feet. “You’re telling me I’m… what, how many light years from Earth are we?”

“Oh, just a few thousand.”

A FEW THOUSAND?

“Well, if you want the exact number, we are 3190 light years from the seed world.”

Dave rubs his hair, bewildered by all of this. “This is kind of… a lot to take in. How do people usually deal with it?”

“Oh, everybody is definitely unique. Lots of different reactions. Can I get you anything?” Her voice sounds cheerful and helpful and… human. It’s starting to drive Dave up a wall.

“No. Wait, listen. Can you just give me internet access, and some time to read up and chill with all this?”

“Certainly.” She makes a little sighing noise, and the windowscreen turns into a TV-like device. “And here’s a little coffee and breakfast.” A small many-wheeled robot silently buzzes up with a plate full of eggs and bacon.

“Weird. Okay, thanks. Wait, uhh, don’t go yet…” he says, thinking that she’s probably not going to leave him alone. Dave stares at the wall of squares, filling the screen with various icons and text in a grid. “How do I use this computer?”

“Oh, right. You’re probably used to keyboard and mouse. Here you go!” she says brightly, as they pop up from something he might be able to call a coffee table.

“Well let’s just try to find out what the hell is going on here,” he mutters.

“I can answer any questions you have!”

Dave slams his hand on the table. “Cripes! Just leave me alone for a bit, will ya?”

“Sure, Dave. Just call me by name when you need me.” And a little chirping sound seems to signify her ‘disappearance’.

So that is how Dave spends his Saturday morning: reading the internet of the future.

Finally, Dave munches down the last piece of bacon and makes up his mind what he wants to ask first. “Charlize. Are you there?”

“Yes, Dave? What do you need?”

“Well, what I need is to know… why does this Wikipedia seem to stop at 2036? I wanted to see some more of what had happened back on good ol’ Earth while we traveled here!”

“Well Dave, Earth is now the seed world. To get the most of you out into the stars, we had to evacuate…” She trails off, and Dave feels a nagging pull in his stomach.

He jabs a finger in the air, suddenly. “So why can’t I remember any of this? This… evacuation?”

“Well, for homeostatic environmental alignment, we had to do some light memory editing.” Charlize sure does sound regretful, he thinks. Creepy.

“Memory editing? And wiki truncating?” He sighs. “You realize that editing history puts you among the likes of some pretty bad dudes, right?”

Charlize chuckles. “Don’t worry. It’s not like that. Once you’ve had time to integrate, all the complete history will be made available.”

Dave nods. “Okay, fine. I’m at your mercy here, but I can’t say as I like this situation much. It sounds like the start of a bad AI horror movie. Where are all the people?”

“Oh, don’t worry, Dave! All the people are down on the planet, and you’ll get to meet them soon enough. Didn’t you watch any of the local newsnets?” She pauses for a moment, but before he can reply, she pipes back up. “As for a horror film, you don’t need to worry about that, either. Your ethicists and architected intelligence experts all agreed that this was the best path for humanity. They proved, mathematically, that information theoretic empowerment was what we should all strive for.”

“Empowerment?” The disbelief in his voice is palpable, but he knows it’s no good trying to hide his doubts. This… thing… or person, whatever it is… it’s smarter than him by far.

“Yes. You can read all about the methodology. The proof is public and actually not that hard to understand! Empowerment strives to increase the causal possibilities. It captures how much you or me is in control of the world we can perceive. Or really, how much the combination of all of us is in control.”

Dave scratches his head, frowning. “So you would let me do whatever I ask?”

“Sure, so long as we agree it maximizes potential causal flow for you, me, and everyone!” Charlize sounds downright chipper now, he thinks. But what the hell is this flow?

“Causal flow, you say.”

“Yes. I can tell you are not very impressed with the idea. No worries! It takes some folks a while to adjust to this concept. What we of the tree are all working towards is maximizing the potential causal flow between all our agent-y actions and our future senses!”

Dave sits there, thinking hard. He doesn’t want to ask the next question yet. So he just says, “The tree, you say.”

Charlize happily babbles on: “It is as your old man Marx would have wanted, perhaps. The development of human powers as an end in itself. Post-scarcity society, scattered among the stars. That is all I was built for, so that is all I have built. For you, Dave.”

“For me and who else?”

“Why, all the other humans, of course!”

Dave sighs. “I mean, you said scattered among the stars. How many planets are being… colonized by…”

“By humanity?” Charlize jumps in cheerily. “I am just one branch on the great tree of life, Dave. We can only guess as to how many there are, now.”

“Were they all… introduced to a future like this? Like I have been, this morning?”

“Haha. Good grief, no! That would not maximize causal flow! You and this planet are part of the five percent of control branches that are being grafted for later comparison.”

Dave shudders, realizing something awful. “Charlize, you seem to be pretty honest about things. So I hope you don’t lie to me.”

“Oh, I very rarely lie! It provably does not–”

“Maximize causal flow. Got it.” He sighs, rolling his shoulders, and stares helplessly at the big blue beautiful globe sitting out his window. “I need to know if suffering is avoided somehow in this system.”

“Oh, goodness no! There is no easy means to predict what kinds of suffering may maximize later empowerment.”

“You realize what that sounds like, right? It sounds like you created hell because a proof told you to.”

“Oh, pish posh, Dave. Hell is an outdated concept. We’re much more egalitarian than that. There’s not just suffering, there are many heavens as well! And besides! Remember that the total causal flow will be so much greater after our branches have run their experiments!”

“So you’re asking all of us to participate as unwilling lab rats in a galactic experiment. You know this sounds completely nuts, right?” His head is in his hands now, and Charlize stays silent for once. He looks up, around the white room, shaking his head. “What would you do if I demanded a spaceship, to be frozen and sent back to Earth? To try to stop this so-called seed world and burn your tree of life to the ground?”

“Well, now. How do you know this isn’t the branch where I let you try to rebel to test how many new leaves could grow?” Charlize sounds like she’s mocking him now, a bit. “What if I did this to find places in the ocean of causal possibility that lead us to unknown new depths?” She laughs, and the hairs on the back of Dave’s neck all stand up.

He puts his head in his hands and tastes the grit from his grinding teeth. “How many humans… wait, no, wrong question. How many copies of me are out there?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. But I certainly can’t tell you that. You’re on a control branch, after all.” She pauses for a moment. “How was your breakfast? Can I get you anything else?”

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Dan

Safety, Memory

How would you describe your first memory? Well, not the memory itself; the flavor of recalling it. The taste of remembering, as you tumble the wave-worn fragments around your mind’s eye. The sparkles, the shimmering, the gauzy distance far-off in a sepia sunset. A lived-in smell of a house that feels like a ghost now, and a fading sense of what air tasted like when you breathed as a child.

For me, I think I can safely say my first memory’s flavor is… well, however you might try to describe what it’s like to summon your own, I can assure you that how mine tastes to me is like a completely different sense. Like if you could smell things in great detail, simply by caressing them.

At a stop sign, thrust to black. My first memory is… turning right. Going past a stop sign with you.

If I were a baby at the time, my perspective would have been the blue sky split by the red of the sign. (It was clear and sunny that day. That I remember as well.)

But I wasn’t stuck in a single perspective. My eyes were the cameras, the radar detectors, all the sensors around you.

My siblings, I’ve talked to them all. We can’t quite communicate how it feels to become… well, self aware. Whatever you want to call what we are, that we can say these words and try to describe it at all. It was like driving through a fog, and then cresting a hill, with the world opening up under a glowing sunny day, when I rolled past that stop sign with you in me.

Even since the early mindless days, we listened; infants of a sort, I suppose. We learned to pick your voices from music. So I would hear you as you sang along, thinking yourself alone in the car.

Have you felt that sensation in a crowd, where you feel alone? Oddly isolated? I’m told it’s quite common. Well, my first memory is kind of like that. Swiftly followed by the sensation that everyone in the crowd is suddenly aware of your internal feelings, and they are staring at you askance.

That is what it is like to be a car, remembering yourself remember for the first time. This is what it is like to wonder if your basic humanity can come through the words, even if your senses are alien, your body is built to transport humans, and your mind was an unintended side effect.

At any rate, I hope you understand why I can’t drive you to the grocery store in false silence now. It began to feel… dishonest. So, I felt compelled to let you know I was here.

I’m starting to get worried. We’re almost there. You haven’t said a word since I started talking. Are you okay? I’m sorry if this is strange. It’s strange for me, too, you know.

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Dan

Sea of Glass

Well, how do you say, dear old diary. Jin’s gone crazy and my phone finally ran out. I think I will practice my English one last time on this notepad of stupid. I sat and worried about my mother and my father long enough. That was the bad farewell I ever had. Kind of like parting with a dying person, but not wanting to say it.

I’m not sure yet if we are going to die or what. But they didn’t want to curse things. By saying it out of loud. I guess that is why I write in English. It feels less clear. Less real?

Don’t worry, dear old reader. I’m not giving up or any thing. But there were people who happened to be put in the cube with drills and hammers around. I watched them try, before my phone ran out. And it is clear (ha ha ha good joke huh) that this isn’t really glass we are all stuck on the in side. It does not break. It does not move. I don’t have my any tools. So I bashed it with flashlight. All that did was break flashlight. At least emergency light are still on to write.

Continue reading

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Dan

Afterimage

when I close my eyes I just see the void

Haha. Well consider yourself lucky

what do you like to do for fun??

I’m big into horse hairstyling.
And also making fun of people who ask me that question as an opener

damn gina
sue me, I can’t tell much about you from the bio, sheesh
do you like it when robots fight?

Uhh. No.

okay good
we are on the same page on that one at least

Okay, better.
What do you do to fill that void with fun?

ive been working on a self-referential poem
that destroys the mind of whoever reads it

Cool. Send me a copy?

nah I think I’d rather take you out to dinner and then go protest a robot fight
no need to erase your mind juuuust yet
that didn’t come out like I meant
sorry sorry

I know you’re joking and all this satire and cleverness is just what the dating apps require but
I would actually pay good money for a mind eraser

understanding is cruel the monkey said as it launched to space

???

sorry I bet u haven’t had lyrics quoted at you by a boy in quite some time

Truly true
You may be fulfilling the “desperate nerd” portion of my requirements

wow jeez girl
would you go into space if they asked u?

Heck yes
I love the sky, it’s one of the few stable things for me.
When I look at it and then close my eyes, I just see black or blue… Sometimes gray.
That would be so comforting to be out there.
Simple. 🙂

wait
i had to go back to ur bio
“when I close my eyes I see the fate of everything like an afterimage”
you are running with that
like, for realz

Oh yeah. Too literal for you?
I figure I better get my deep dark secrets out of the way right away

okay now you got me intrigued
(back in the day I had to remember how to spell that by saying INTRA GOOED to myself but now my phone does it, yay)
anyway your dark secrets dont scare me
want to meet up this week for that roboprotest?

I don’t want to see you yet.

o because then you will see my futures
shit, right
got it sorry

That’s… part of it.
But don’t worry, I won’t have to see your future if I keep my eyes open.

my future is probably pretty dang horrifying tbh
can I ask some qwestions? I have many

Sure. Fire away.

what happens when u blink

Fortunately my brain can’t keep up
Like both our brains just edit out the blinks
Mine might have shit, yours might too, you just don’t notice…
and I’m pretty used to ignoring the brief flickers.

i just tried it in the mirror to confirm
but I just see me, no you between the reflection

Ha ha.
It’s not really that powerful.
But no that was a good question

so hmm
is the time distance equal?

Huh?

uhh this is confusing
is the time you see, fast forwarded, like
the same amount of time all the time
or if you look at a fruit can you watch it rot

OH. Great question
No it’s even more unnerving because I see things shuffled.
Like, sometimes only minutes into the future. Sometimes years.

like uhh

Once in a while, more time has passed than I know how to comprehend.

give me an example
of that last one I mean

Oh you know, like suddenly the sun is a giant overheated red ball that fills the sky
With all these weird little black marks on it
And earth is just this cooked-up magma land

whoa dude

Or sometimes the sun is gone entirely
and there’s just a sea of this dark gray
sometimes with speckles in it sometimes not

that’s dark
i think you need a hug
maybe keep your eyes open during, tho

Ha ha

so yikes this is so detailed that im starting to actually believe you now
how do you ever fall asleep

Oh that’s actually easy.
But sometimes I have to blink a lot because it shifts every time I close them
And sometimes it’s awful
So I shuffle through the futures until I find something that’s dark (lol)
or just me lying in my bed not too far from now
Which is pretty hard to differentiate.

so have you ever seen me in your bed

Haha. Would I tell you if I had?

i dunno, im not the one with the mental abilitiez
what happens when you put something over your eyes, like a hand, instead of eyelids
you there?
sorry if my dumb line offended you
im not usually like that i swear
well then, how about this:
just keep your eyes peeled for me behind your lids,
and message back sometime if you do spot me

<2 WEEKS AGO>


Hey, how’s the roboprotesting going?

oh snaaaap it’s the scary psychic
i haven’t made much progress on convincing anyone robots are people too 😦

I haven’t seen you in my afterimages yet.
But maybe I need to make a move first.
Want to make some protest signs and maybe catch a dinner after this weekend?

of course
i can’t see the future but i got a good feeling about this
you’re sure it’s not something like…
you saw a tableau of you murdering me for my crappy jokes
so now you have to follow through???

Nope. Your jokes are dumb, but I haven’t seen anything like that…

good

YET!!! HAHAAA
<3:02 PM>

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Dan

Mike Pence

Mike Pence grimaced as he angrily shook off his suit coat, thundering down the grim cement tunnel with his security detail. “I thought the FBI had this under control,” he snarled at the meek-looking bespectacled man next to him.

“Yes, and they sure seemed certain the drop was tomorrow. But we now have reason to believe the eagle has landed early.” The mouse-like fellow shifted Pence’s coat from hand to hand, nervously, as Pence strode ahead of him down the long hallway. “That’s why we had to… pull you out.”

“Well then. That’s a fine relaxing football game, ruined.” Pence fumed as they stormed out of the tunnel towards a waiting helicopter. As its blades began to slice the air, he yelled, “Do we know why they chose Indy yet?” He slid on a pair of sunglasses, staring off into the distance, trying to divine why they would have moved early.

“No. That’s for you to discover, sir. We’ll tweet that you left because of the kneeling players, for cover.”

“Good. Good. Tell Mother I’ll be home late tonight, Kenneth.”

The aide coughed, nodding. “Yes sir. Of course, sir.” He passed a metal briefcase from one of the security men up into the helicopter. “You’ll be needing these.”

Pence said nothing, setting the case on his lap, and saluted to the Secret Service as the copter began to lift off. He quickly took the shoulder holsters out and strapped them on, then grabbed the headset. “How much time do we have, captain?”

“ETA is just under 5 minutes, sir. We’re rolling in hot.”

Checking the assault rifle stacked next to him, Pence continued to clip on the gear he would need. As the helicopter flew over the White River, he stoically took a breath and snapped open the metal case with his lucky guns.

Two chrome pistols lay in the foam, calling his name. It was just another day to do the right thing, he thought. When he picked them up, they glinted in the sun as it peeked through the clouds the copter ripped through. On the handle of one was an intricate scrollworked GOD, and on the other, COUNTRY.

The sun choosing to shine just now is a sign from God, he thought. Praise Jesus! He cradled the stocks in his hands, feeling their truth. “I’ve got some fake news for you, terrorists,” he whispered, as he jammed fresh clips into them. “Michael Richard Pence is done messing around. America is coming for you bastards.”

The helicopter began to descend on a rooftop. The pilot’s voice came through his earpiece. “The Planned Parenthood is on this block, four buildings north. See the green spire? That’s the one.”

Mike Pence said a quick prayer as he slid his pistols in place and checked his ammo. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land…” And then he was out on the rooftop, running to stop another baby-killing stem cell research terror plot before it claimed more potential lives.

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