Tuesday, January 2, 2024

I Helped Create The Most Advanced AI On Earth, It Still Haunts Me To This Day

This story happened sometime ago, when I first made the jump from academia into the private sector. I had managed to get myself a job as an assistant for a top researcher at a company that will remain nameless. We weren’t working on a product per se so much as just researching potential avenues in AI and cybernetics that could lead to products in the future. While I was more than a little nervous about making the big jump into the corporate world I found myself striking an immediate friendship with my boss Andrew. Beyond our obvious passions me and him found similar hobbies and interests beyond the sciences and the long days together soon allowed us to bare more and more of ourselves. Honestly, it was the first time since grade school that I had felt such a close friendship.


Now, one of the big things we were researching was how to make an aritifical intelligence that could grow and learn like a human. The idea was that if we could mimic the kind of plasticity you find in the brain of someone young and intelligent in a computerized form, then we could create a far more powerful AI. Naturally that meant we needed someone young and intelligent in order to observe them and their brain. We put out ads at local college campuses offering plenty of cash for not much work and waited for someone to show up. What we got surpassed our wildest expectations.


Her name was Dani, an eighteen year old freshman, and from the moment I first spoke with her I was blown away by her intelligence. The way she seemed to just soak up whatever information you gave her, the way she could come up with poignant and insightful follow up questions, not to mention the surprising breadth of knowledge she already possessed. I think she may have been the smartest person I had ever met to that point. Perhaps she still is.


It was obvious that Andrew was captivated by her too, much more so in fact. It was undeniable that her beauty matched her intellect and while I did my best to keep myself detached from certain thoughts, Andrew was having a harder time. Not to say that he was behaving inappropriately, in those initial visits he was a consummate professional, yet laying just underneath every word he spoke was an audible undercurrent of want.


However that made me feel it seemed not to phase Dani at all. It was clear that me and Andrew were the first people she had met that were, barely, on the same plane of intelligence as she was. I still look back fondly on those first sessions and conversing with her. She shined so brightly, and her eagerness and ability was far more endearing and inspiring then it was frustrating, even if I couldn’t help but feel a little inferior to her.


Regardless, things went well at first. She would come in and we would give her various cognitive tasks, be they learning a manual skill, like juggling, doing some sort of puzzle or brain teaser, or having her study a given topic and then be examined later. In all these cases we did brain scans before, in the middle of, and at the end of each assignment in order to model how her brain reacted and adapted. Then we took the information we had received, interpolated it into a continuous stream of data, and then converted it into something that would work with our AI model. The fruits of this effort were tremendous. The gains we made were so great, in fact, that the company higher ups offered to pay Dani a real salary and to extend the scope and budget of our research dramatically.


As much as this was good for my career, it caused as much harm to mine and Andrews friendship. With Dani around more and more I could see him pull away from me and towards her. He never flirted, he never crossed that boundary, but it was obvious. Our talks about gaming, history, literature, all ebbed as his obsession flowed out into every gesture, every greeting, the pain in every goodbye. For her part Dani seemed as happy as ever, and more then enthusiastic to take our research to the next step.


Said next step was much more… invasive then the last. Andrew and I came to the conclusion that the best way to advance our model was to move from interpolated data to real time measurements. If we could match each digital neuron to one of Dani’s then our model would be significantly optimized. In order to do this we needed a sensor connected directly to Dani’s nervous system. The technique we devised required us to insert a wire into her arm. However nervous I was about broaching the subject was not reflected in her enthusiasm. Or Andrew’s, for that matter. He insisted on doing the procedure himself, and thus, I watched from the next room over as he placed the incision on her flawless skin. Dani smiled and watched, the local anesthesia kept the pain away while her curiosity kept her laser-focused. I too watched as the wire slowly penetrated her, writhing underneath her arm like a snake slithering underneath a fine satin sheet. Her body seemed to quiver as it went in deeper and deeper. I watched Andrew’s breath shudder, I worried about the steadiness of his hands but he managed to pull through. Finally he connected the exposed piece of wire at the end to a small port. Plugging it into a cable run to a nearby computer running our AI model, Andrew had readied us for our next big leap.


The improvements we saw were massive, and soon Andrew began planning on how to extract even more data. Unfortunately this meant more wires running through our far too eager assistant. One or two was one thing, but I couldn’t help but be disturbed at how willing she was to mutilate herself with more and more wires. Every day we seemed to add another, her body being scarred with ports that when wired started to look like long hairs, sprouting out of her every pore. Only her bright, beaming, face was left unmarred. Andrew was disturbing me too, I was hoping that at least with her looks being carved away Andrew’s affections would peter out as well. Instead the opposite happened. He grew more and more attached, as if the sight of her once beautiful figure covered in wires and scar tissue was almost arousing.


As the project continued whatever objections I raised would be vetoed by both of them. I felt like I was slowly being pushed out. I would arrive for work with the two of them already there, and I would leave before them too. They always seemed to be talking to each other, just quiet enough that I couldn’t eavesdrop. Eventually I just resigned myself to carrying out whatever tasks they gave me. After all, who was I to question either of them or what they wanted to do to themselves?


That question became all the more pertinent when I walked in one day to both of them patiently waiting for me. I could immediately tell that whatever they planned was going to be a step beyond what I was really comfortable with. Andrew explained to me that he felt the model was at its peak, no more data would help it, however that didn’t mean our work was done. Far from it he said. Dani was the perfect test subject, a true top percentile of human intellect, and if we could integrate her potential with that of the AI we had created, we could produce perhaps the smartest being to ever live. I looked to Dani, the idea was insane to me, who knew what would happen to her in all this, and yet she seemed adamant. “I want to be smarter, better,” Dani’s look burned into my eyes, “The best.”


I didn’t have it in me to fight them. Instead I put myself into autopilot, going through the motions of whatever they asked of me. The two had found a mutual obsession that had absorbed them to the point that they were barely aware of me. At first it was simple enough, we simply used the connections already installed in Dani to feed information from the model into her and vice versa. As anyone who knows anything about coprocessors knows, however, is that connection speed is absolutely paramount. The easiest way to do that involved creating new connectors and shortening the physical distance between Dani and the computer.


Thus the months toiled on. We would build better connectors, shorten the wires. Dani’s abilities would improve more and more, and so too would Andrew’s devotion. Dani celebrated her 19th birthday in the office, with Andrew hacking away at her back so we could install a knew ribbon connection. She had become almost addicted to the AI. She would complain that being disconnected felt like reverting to the mind of a child. The few moments Andrew would allow someone else to talk to her felt like talking to something inhuman. Emotion and passion drifted away and cold logic and rationality took its place. Even when she forced herself to speak at my level it felt like she was struggling. Occasionally a metaphor or reference would slip out that was far beyond my comprehension, like an adult talking to a child who was unfamiliar with little kids.


One day, as I got ready for work, Andrew phoned me. He told me that him and Dani had come to an agreement regarding what was next. They were moving forward with or without me. He told me that the company had agreed to offer me a two week vacation, fully paid, and that they would be sending someone over shortly with paperwork I would have to sign if I wanted to continue the project. When the call ended I felt a sense of dread pour over me. Whatever was coming next was going to be extreme, so much so that they had to butter me up to continue with it. As much as I wanted to run away, I found myself signing every form the men gave me, something in me had to see what was next, had to know what was to be unleashed on us all.

What I saw when I returned was more disturbing then I had even imagined. Andrew stood beside a massive computer complex. On each side was a single mainframe computer, think the size of a fridge. In the center was Dani. Or what remained of her. Her whole body, save for her face, was completely encased in a computerized shell. Three tubes ran into the machine, one into the stomach for food, two for wastes. Andrew explained that the two mainframes were each running thousands of instances of our AI program, all working together like nodes in a cluster. At the center of this cluster was Dani, her incredible brain organizing and sorting through it all. For all the horror of what I saw, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of awe as well. Here it was, all the data, all the processing of a computer, with the will, the plasticity, the motivation of a human being. Though perhaps human was not the word anymore.


Dani, for her part, had little to say. Her responses, though not rude, were to the point. It was obvious that she no longer needed us as intellectual companions, or even as novelties, such was the gap between us. This didn’t mean much to me, I had been sidelined for so long that keeping my head down and doing what I was told was second nature. Andrew, however, took things very hard.


Every day he would try. He would bring up some topic, some former source of shared joy, only for Dani to brush him off. With each attempt his voice would grow more and more desperate. He reminded me of a teenage boy, caught in some unrequited love, incapable of taking no for an answer unless it was made painfully clear. One day it was.


I don’t know what about what happened that day caused me so much horror. It was shocking, yes, yet so was everything up to that point. So why is it that when it came time to write this part out I had to leave my computer for hours to collect myself?


Despite how close me and him had been, I had wound up ignoring Andrew for so long that when I looked at him that day my heart sank. It was obvious he hadn’t been eating or taking care of himself. A scraggly beard desperately tried to fill in his sunken emaciated face. His clothes hung off him like oversized robes. As much as I couldn’t rip my gaze from him, it was obvious that he couldn’t give a damn about me. Slowly he forced his body towards his God.


Dani’s eyes darted towards him, the only part of her still capable of such rapid movement. We both watched as he peeled his clothes off. Affixed to his chest, glued in place by caked-on blood, was a giant ribbon cable. He walked up to Dani, her face frozen in shock; it was the first time in ages I had seen any emotion from her at all.


Andrew gently caressed Dani’s cheek. In spite of it all her beautiful face had been preserved. Carefully he inserted the cable into the corresponding port on her “body”. As fans started to spin up and lights began to flash Andrew looked up at her, defeated:


“Dani,” he shuddered, “I know I’m worthless, I know I am nothing. In the face of a being like you I have nothing to live for. The memories of your creation are no longer enough. Please. Use me, add me to your node, let me be connected to you, even if just as a tiny cog in your grand machine. Please. Please.”


The room was filled with silence. Andrew quietly sobbed, as each moment without an answer crushed him further and further. Finally Dani spoke:


“What little ability your brain has isn’t worth the effort,” there was nothing malicious in her voice, she was just robotically stating her factual conclusion. The sound of fans spinning grew louder. I could see the end of the ribbon cable connected to Andrew soften and melt. She was pumping voltage into his body. The smell of burning bacon started to permeate the room. Andrew didn’t even scream. At one point one arm tried to move, perhaps out of instinct, before he went completely limp.


My brain struggled to process what I had just witnessed. When I finally regained my grip on reality I saw that my hand had pressed the emergency shutdown button. An alarm blared. Men in dark suits poured into our office. They took Andrew’s corpse away and took me into an interrogation. I broke down in that room. I told them about Andrew’s obsession, about what Dani had become. I’m sure they knew most of it, but seeing that their new creation had just killed someone, they eventually agreed with me that the project needed to be shuttered. One of the men came in with a stack of documents for me to sign. I was being let go, yet in return for my silence I would receive a very generous lump sum of money, as well as letters of recommendations and contact info for some of the absolute top minds in my field.


Before I left for good I was escorted back into that office for one last time. I grabbed all my belongings and effects, and then I executed the final shutdown sequence. Whereas the emergency shutdown only put Dani into standby, it took a few more steps to fully shut down the machinery connected to her for good. Finally, with one last CLUNK, I flipped the final power switch and heard the fans spin down one last time. The men accompanying promised they would do their best to treat Dani, and try to salvage what was left of her humanity. That filled me with hope. Hope that would soon be replaced by terror as we walked into the elevator and I could hear, however faintly, another clunk, and the sound of fans spinning back up.


Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Twenty Years Ago Me And My Son Went On A Camping Trip, Now I Wonder If He Ever Came Back

I remember it really clearly, it was about 20 years ago, back when we lived in Washington. My wife was never the outdoorsy type so when my son, Brandon, wanted to go camping it was always just me and him. That wasn’t bad though, it was good father-son time.

It was a nice scenic drive on the way to the campsite. I remember Brandon asked me about the music on the radio and I spent an embarrassingly long time reminiscing about my high school days and what bands I was obsessed with back then. Eventually we reached our site and I got to work pitching our tent. Brandon waited patiently, he wasn’t the type to go running off or anything, and when it was all set up me and him went for a hike to take in the nature.

It was really peaceful. The woods surrounding the campground were calm and serene, there wasn’t any animals out and about but every once in a while I would stop and point out a deer track or some droppings. It reminded me of when I was a kid spending time with my dad. I suppose I was about nine years old when I learned about the marvels of deer poop myself. As I looked at him I couldn’t help but see a younger version of myself. We had the same eyes, the same hair, and like most of the people in my family we had the same birthmark on our upper right arm.

It was hard spending time with Brandon sometimes, I worked so often and sure, it was putting food on the table, but whenever I saw how fast he was growing without me around the guilt would start to well up inside me. Seeing him smile and laugh that day really uplifted my spirits though. I was here now, and that’s what mattered, is what I’d tell myself whenever the conversation lulled.

As we were walking we suddenly found the trail leading out of the woods and into a beautiful view of the river. I was telling Brandon about erosion and how you could see the effects of the previous years floods on the riverbank when his expression suddenly changed. He pointed up to the sky and said “What’s that dad?” I looked up myself and found that I was just as confused as he was. There was, off in the distance, a dark, triangular, looking object. It hung in the sky perfectly still and then suddenly vanished. Not wanting to lose my reputation as a know it all dad I desperately searched for an explanation, before deciding that it must have been a helicopter and telling Brandon as such. He obviously didn’t believe me, and frankly, I didn’t believe myself either.

By the time we got back to our tent the sun had already started to set. I got Brandon to help me collect some firewood and start up a fire. We roasted some hotdogs and marshmallows. We didn’t get to the scary stories, however, as Brandon started nodding off and I decided it was time for bed. I got Brandon into his sleeping bag and I crawled into mine right beside him.

It was the shaking that woke me at first. I had been in an earthquake before but this was different, it was hard to describe. It was almost like someone was picking up the earth and the earth was trying to pull it back. I was still groggy, I reached out to see if Brandon was awake and I found his sleeping back empty. I wasn’t too panicked yet, like I said, he wasn’t the type to run off, and I always try to keep a level head. I stumbled out of the tent and walked towards where the flashlights were. Confident that I would find him near the fire trying to cope with the shaking. Then the lights happened. The whole campground was bathed in a bright, sickly, white light. It was blinding at first, and when my vision adjusted I realized that Brandon was nowhere to be found. That was when I started to panic.

I grabbed a flashlight and started shouting his name. As I ran to the edge of the woods surrounding the campsite I tried looking for a source for the light, but I couldn’t see one. As I ran to the edge of the woods my pounding heart skipped a beat when I heard Brandon’s voice. He called out to me, “Dad! I’m over here!”. I rushed over, my happiness quickly abated when he started crying “Help! Somethings wrong!”

I ran to the other side of the campsite and found him crouched away from me in a little ditch. The shaking had mostly subsided and I rushed over to him. He was facing away from the light and I put my hand on his back. “What’s the matter? Are you hurt?” I could hear him struggling for air. “Dad!” he finally cried, “something’s wrong… everything’s wrong…” his voice was weak. I reached to his hand and when I touched it alarm bells rang in my head. His skin was rubbery and wrinkly, like a halloween mask. I turned my flashlight on and his whole skin looked a horrid purple. “Brandon,” I muttered in shock. I turned him to face me and screamed. His face was emaciated, his eyes so sunken they looked like a skulls empty sockets. His jaw hanged open like the muscles that held it were worn and worthless. My whole body shook in terror. The shaking started back up again. This time even more violently. It seemed as if the ground was going to get ripped up and thrown into the sky. I didn’t know what to do. I grabbed Brandon and held him as close to me as I could. I found myself praying to a god I was never sure actually existed. Through gurgles and moans Brandon started to talk, “It hurts Dad… why does it hurt so much… help me Dad…” As I squeezed him I could feel him get thinner and thinner, like his insides were being sucked out. It felt like there was nothing left of him. Tears started rolling down my face and the last thing I heard him say, faint as a whisper, haunted me. “Why won’t you help me Dad?”

A nudge caused me to bolt up in my sleeping bag. Brandon was prodding me, “Wake up Dad, I’m hungry.” I got up, more than a little confused. As my heart stopped racing and I came back to reality I realized that I had just had a crazy nightmare. I chuckled to myself. After Brandon was fed I walked over to the ditch from the previous night. There was nothing weird or out of the ordinary. Brandon too, seemed just like he always was, and didn’t mention anything about the previous night. When I walked back to Brandon and asked if he felt the ground shake he said he hadn’t felt a thing. When we got back to civilization I asked other people the same thing and they all agreed with Brandon.

For a week then, my mind was at ease. I worked a lot again that week and when I finally had a day off me and the wife took Brandon to the pool. It was only there that memories of that night came flooding back and the horror with it. When Brandon took his shirt off I looked at his arm, and noticed the family birthmark was missing.



Sunday, November 20, 2022

Miner Inconvenience

Bob felt his arms feel like jelly. He didn’t really understand why, but this coal vein couldn’t be accessed by machinery. His boss simply handed him a pickaxe and a bucket and told him to get to work. It was exhausting, and he hated every second of it. But that was normal. He always hated every second of his job. He wanted out, and he had been applying all over.


As he worked the ground with his pickaxe, he noticed a strange spot. A black blob etched into the rock. It almost seemed like coal, but it was reflective, like obsidian maybe? Bob felt a very sudden urge come on him to strike the black spot. He couldn’t explain it, it was like standing on a balcony and getting the urge to jump. It was like the urge he had every morning to just drive away and not go into work. This time though, he couldn’t fight it. He picked up his pickaxe and threw it down on the black spot. It instantly crumbled into a tiny, unremarkable hole. Bob shrugged, weird, though he wasn’t a cave scientist or anything, so maybe that happened all the time.


The rest of his day was the same garbage as always. Dreading every second of it, until his shift ended and he got to drive home and indulge his fantasy of a career change. Bob sat down at his computer and loaded up some job search sites. As he got ready to apply, however, something seemed to shift in his mind. After all, he was working in a coal mine, he was making good money, right? He didn’t want a pay cut, right? He liked being a blue collar man, he took pride in doing the work no one else would. He was hero, a real American. He didn’t need a new job, his was just plenty.


The next day at work was awful. The boss was on the warpath, screaming at anyone and everyone he came across, and he came across Bob a lot. Bob felt his body struggle with the work. He almost fell asleep on his lunch break. His whole day was just a mess. The entire time what kept him going was the dream of escaping, the dream of something new, something different.


That night he again sat at his computer. Again he loaded up the job sites. Again he started to have second thoughts, thoughts about his coworkers and how he enjoyed hanging out with them and would miss them. Miss the camaraderie. Bob skimmed the job listings and decided none were worth it.


This cycle continued, over and over, year after year. Friends left the job, the boss got angrier. One day the boss was replaced by an even angrier one. Bob felt himself age, felt his muscles ache, and almost even felt his hair grow grey. With each part of his body breaking down he found it harder and harder to do his job. Every day he’d tell himself to quit, and every night he would tell himself to put up with it just a little bit longer.


Finally, there was a cave in. Rocks and debris poured onto Bob, crushing every bone in his body. He had just enough time to ponder that this job had finally killed him.


Suddenly he awoke. He was young again. He looked down and saw the crumbled pit of black whatever he was so intent on breaking. He swore to quit the next day. He got home that night and started to think. After all, he was working in a coal mine, he was making good money, right? He didn’t want a pay cut, right?

For Two Decades I Investigated Paranormal Reports Online for the Government, Now I'm Ready to Share What I Found [Part 5]

Hello everyone, Frank Kennedy here. I know it’s been some time since my last update, but I found this case file the other day, and thought it was worth sharing. See, TV, and media in general, lets us escape our everyday troubles and find a moments respite. What happens, though, when a TV show is the cause of our everyday troubles? What happens when those troubles become far more then “everyday”? In 2016 a young woman made a series of posts to a forum discussing Japanese animation that describes her experience with just that. It begins in mid June, with a post titled:


“Managed to grab a drawing of Daisuke from [Show name redacted]!”


“Hey guys, I just wanted to share my latest find. I went to the [Location redacted] anime [slang for Japanese animation] convention for the first time, I wasn’t expecting much but I was so surprised! I had a great time going to all the panels and performances, and I even got some merch! I could go on about all the stuff I bought, but what I really wanted to share was this print I got of Daisuke! I feel like I’m the only fan of [Show name redacted] out there, I never here anyone talk about it, so when someone had a drawing of my favorite husbando [slang for character one is infatuated with] for sale, I had to pick him up! Like omg, he’s so cute!!!”


Attached were photos of the drawing, which are no longer part of the case file for reasons I will explain later. From what I can recall, however, there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about the drawing or the character compared to others from the same medium.


The post gained little traction, and was followed shortly after with a post titled “I’ve hung Daisuke up!” showing the picture framed and hanging on her bedroom wall. There was no more activity relating to the picture for a month, until a post titled “I love when Daisuke talks to me” was made:


“As a lot of you know, my parents’ marriage hasn’t been going great lately. They used to take it out on me, but I guess now that I’m in high school they’ve turned to my little brother. Last night they were screaming at him and I could hear everything from inside my room. I wanted to go out and stand up for him, but I was so scared, I just curled up into a ball. I looked up at Daisuke and imagined him holding me, comforting me. I knew he wouldn’t be scared, he’d protect me. The thought was really nice. As I dreamt of him I heard a voice. I opened my eyes and looked around. It was the drawing! I watched his lips move and everything. He told me that everything was going to be alright, and that I didn’t have to worry about anything, he’d take care of it. Now, I know I probably just fell asleep and dreamt that, but it made me feel so cozy and happy to have him tell me that. Thanks Daisuke!”


This was followed a couple weeks later with one titled “Daisuke’s so great!”:


“Since my last post, things have been going good. Mom and Dad have been keeping their distance, especially with my brother, and I’ve really gotten to know Daisuke! He’s just like he is in anime, so cool and heroic. Every night before bed me and him talk. He says he loves me, and that he wouldn’t let anyone hurt me, or my brother. I feel so good with him. My friends wanted me to come hang out with them last weekend, but I couldn’t help but stay home and chat with my Daisuke!”


Her tone changed a little the next week with “Daisuke helped me??”:


“Last night was awful. I was just in my room doing nothing when my Dad burst in. He was drunk, and he was mad. He screamed at me and I told him to stop, that I hadn’t done anything. I got up and he pushed me hard, I fell backwards and landed on my bed. I started to cry. I saw my Dad lift up his hand like he was going to slap me like when I was little. Suddenly he started coughing. It was really violent, like he wanted to puke but nothing was coming out. Tears were streaming out of his eyes and he shuffled out of my room. He was coughing the rest of the night. I didn’t know what to do or think, and then I just heard Daisuke, in an aggressive voice, say that he wouldn’t let anyone hurt me. Did he do that to my Dad?”


Again, no one responded, and no updates were provided for a month, until a post titled “Daisuke is scaring me”:


“Hey guys, I just wanted to let you know what’s going on. My Dad is really sick, he’s coughing all the time, and he’s lost a ton of weight. He has another doctors appointment next week, but I don’t think its going to be good news. I know my Dad hasn’t always treated me well, but I still love him, I don’t want him to go. I’m so scared. Both of losing my Dad and Daisuke. He tries to talk to me every night, but I try to ignore him. Every time I ask him if he’s doing this to Dad he tries to change the subject, or says something about how he’s ‘protecting’ me. I don’t want Daisuke to protect me anymore. He tells me he loves me, that he won’t let go of me. It’s terrifying. Sometimes I wake up at night and try to stay still, just so that he won’t try to speak with me, but he always knows. He says he knows everything about me, and that he loves every little part of me, and that it would be bad if I don’t love him back. I don’t know what to do anymore. I need Daisuke gone. I think I’m going to stop by the convenience store on the way home tomorrow and buy a lighter, that way I can get rid of Daisuke for good.”


That was the last post she made. I made attempts to reach out to her, but I received no response. I also tried finding news stories pertaining to the situation and location, but nothing came up.


When I first made this case file, I marked the investigation as inconclusive. There was no hard evidence pointing to the supernatural, and there was lots that could suggest an overactive, escapist, imagination. Now that I’m revisiting the case though I want to change that conclusion. When I opened up that file, the copies I had of Daisuke’s illustration had turned into pages of pure black. I typed the shows name into Google, and I found no results at all. It was like none of it had ever existed. Finally I typed in the anime convention that she had went to, and I found out that it had never taken place. Goosebumps covered me as I read that it had to be canceled. The venue was destroyed. Burned down.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Hegemony

The whole world seemed to stop that day. It all happened so quickly and so suddenly. Some of us were at work, some of us were lounging around at home. It started with a breaking news report, and then another, and then another. Each one grew graver and graver until all the phones and all the TV’s and all the radios around the world started blaring alarms. It had finally happened. World War 3. Some were moved to tears. Many didn’t react at all. Perhaps for some there was some bizarre joy in the liberation of death and destruction. However, we all waited. With baited breath we waited for the missiles to come and for it all to end. They never came. We waited and waited and the missiles simply hung in the sky, as if frozen in place.


The tension built. We started to grow impatient. The only thing worse then death is the anticipation of it. In all our hearts there formed some perverse desire for the bombs to fall, for the conclusion to come. As the bombs stayed still we all started to panic. That was when the message came. All the phones and all the TV’s and all the radios sang at once. It wasn’t a song, but a sternly worded message. “Well that was disappointing. You’ve had your chance.”


If there was any confusion as to who sent the message it became painfully clear when the missiles all turned to face Russia and China. In a few terrifying moments over a billion people were wiped off the earth. People always joked about America having stolen UFO tech, but clearly something was up. We were all scared out of our wits.


After the dust and fallout settled some countries immediately surrendered to the Americans, other’s merely swallowed their pride and kissed the ring. Every once in a while some group, some rogue state, would try to rise up and break free, and every time the same message would appear, on all the phones and all the TV’s and all the radios. “Well that was disappointing. You’ve had your chance.”


Rude Awakening

Like entering into a dream partway through I came back into existence. I was resting against something. I got up and turned around. I screamed. I cried. I curled into a ball and vomited. Corpses. Already stinking from the rot. I had been laying on top of a pile of bodies.


My horror magnified as I examined the people further. The one with the salt and pepper goatee was my father, and the one with the big mole on her cheek was my mother. In the pile too was my best friend, my high school crush, my fiance, my brother and my sister. I think there was more but I couldn’t force myself to look any longer. They were all clearly murdered. Severed and stabbed. The thought started to emerge in my mind, a fuzzy shadow off into the distance, but I swiftly squished it down and out of my consciousness. I couldn’t have done this, I’m a GOOD person, a NICE person, not a MURDERER.


I tried to peace back together what might have lead to this. The last thing I could remember was walking in the woods. It was kind of chilly but I didn’t need a jacket. I had convinced myself that I was there to unwind, to decompress, but somewhere in my mind was the knowledge that I was there for ...something. I couldn’t put it to words, maybe I just didn’t want to.


I kept walking, I had been here before a few times, I knew the way and the trail was easy to walk. No one had ever shown up on the trail this late. Maybe that’s why I went so late, I would be at peace. This time was different though. There was someone up ahead. Their face was shrouded by a hood. Drug dealer? No, he didn’t quite look like one.


I got closer, the man’s shadowy face drifted towards me. His eyes almost seemed to glow in the darkness. As I approached he stopped me and whispered in a hoarse, yet charming voice:


“I know why you’re here tonight”


I was taken aback, but asked what he meant,


“I know that you aren’t here for no reason, I no that you are here for ...something”


“Y… yes, ...something,”


The man held out his arm, “What is the something you wish to seek?”


I stared at him for some time, and then I answered, “For all my dreams to come true.”

The Clown in the Corner of your Eye

The clown never leaves. Everywhere you go you can see him. Just in the corner of your eye, just for a moment. You start to think that he must be following you. He must be following you. You call in sick for work, you drive an hour out of town. You step into a random mall. There he is. He is always following you.


You get nervous. You must be paranoid, right? No one else is noticing this, right? That’s when you hear about the murders. All over town people are being killed. Randomly. Brutally. You’re not an idiot, you can connect the dots. It’s the clown. You do research. The killings all happen in areas you frequent. The clown is hunting you. Targeting you. You hate the clown. You despise the clown.


One day, you are walking down the street. It’s at night. The convenience store was a reprieve; no clown in sight. You turn a corner. There he is. The clown is standing right there. He’s not in the corner of your eye anymore, he’s right in front of you. The clown. The murderer. You reach into your pocket. You have a knife. As soon as you pull it out, the clown runs. You’re faster. He turns a corner and winds up in a lonely back alley. You follow him there. He falls down and tries to say something. You know better. You plunge the knife in deep. You do it again. You do it again. You’re out of breath. You walk home. You shower. You sleep.


You wake up. You had a crazy dream about a clown. You get dressed. You go to work. A couple weeks go by. Suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you see something strange. Is that a clown?


The clown never leaves. Everywhere you go you can see him. Just in the corner of your eye, just for a moment. You start to think that he must be following you. He must be following you. You call in sick for work, you drive an hour out of town, the radio talks about the child murdered in an alley two weeks ago. You step into a random mall. There he is. He is always following you.

I Helped Create The Most Advanced AI On Earth, It Still Haunts Me To This Day

This story happened sometime ago, when I first made the jump from academia into the private sector. I had managed to get myself a job as an ...