RE: Ghostwriter
Well. Do you have anything on you other than the thing you're talking to us with?
RE: Ghostwriter
The clothes on me. But I can go grab something else-- maybe from the rooms, but they make me feel like shit. It's gotta be something in the floor. I can feel it.

His office, maybe...?
RE: Ghostwriter
If it's a dream then go to sleep
RE: Ghostwriter
Belfry, you need to understand.
This isn't a dream, this is really happening.
This place is keeping you together right now, and unless you can accept that this is all real; something very, very bad is going to happen once you leave.
Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
RE: Ghostwriter
they don't know what they're talking about. i don't know what i'm talking about.

your best course of action is honestly to calm the fuck down, but i don't think you're going to. so instead i advise you to freak out and break anything you can lift
RE: Ghostwriter
...Back again.

What's the point of any of this if it's not a dream?! It has to be. It has to be. No other explanation makes sense, it isn't-- people can't just make people out of nothing and put them in real life. I'm getting out of here. Maniac's awake, I can't go back to his office-- but I'm gonna do one better, I'm gonna get to the roof. Either there's something to get off this fucking space platform or there's nothing and I jump off, see what happens when I land. Hopefully wake up.

I can't breathe...



Something up here.

Looks... sort of like the ships we have back home. Big window on the front. I think I can fly this out of here if I just figure it out.

I don't care what sort of bullshit you two are trying to pull on me, "I/O", but I'm getting out. I'm getting up and out or dying trying. That's how these dreams usually go, right? Has to be. Has to be. Has to be.

I'm getting in.

Cockpit's... uh. Nnnh. Okay. Please help me fly. Can you see any of this? No, no, you're a fucking flashing shell-shaped box, obviously you can't see. I saw Yaffenhash control the big ship to make sure we were headed to the moon... where's the throttle?

I need help. I need help.

I just want to go home.

And if that doesn't work, yeah, I agree. You bet your text-based ass I'm going to break anything and everything in the world until I'm on the better side of reality. And I'm not calming down until it's all, all, all over.

That's... my trait. Th...


...that's who...


that's who I am. He didn't design jack about me. I am my own person. I am independent. I'm real. I'm not a character in a story. I am a fully-functioning and fully-employed living being who does not require inputs in order to function.

I'm-- it-- hurts. It hurts.

Pl-please, help me g-get this running before I drown.
RE: Ghostwriter
if you don't require inputs then why are you asking for my help

i'd like to say that having an existential crisis because there is a creator-god who shaped your life and gave it meaning and purpose is hilarious though

if you want to go home you'd probably be better off coming back the way you came not getting as far away as possible you lunatic
RE: Ghostwriter
This isn--hhn't hilarious, th-this is... this isn't okay. This isn't real. This isn't happening.

I'm running because home is... f-far away. Isn't it? It's far. I always r-run in the... in... to get out. I need this to be fake. I'm asking for your help because I don't know what the hell I'm doing or how to fly or... o-or...
RE: Ghostwriter
I don't want this to be how it goes.

I don't want it to be true a-and end with me going off to some space station. I want it to be fake and I want to keep doing what... I-I was doing. That's why I'm so scared i-is because this feels s-so real and I don't...

...w-want it to be.

I want to keep r-running and keep g-going and keep living. I want th-the feeling I get wh-when I'm fighting for s-something meaningful a-and it's just d-draining away from me right now and I'm s-sitting here and I need to... f-fly... away, and g-get away from that feeling, as far as I can g-go.
RE: Ghostwriter
bullshit you always run! at least as often you knuckle down and fix shit.

okay. so it's not real, jig's up. so first of all why try to "escape" if you're not truly anywhere in the first place. second of all, think practically, if every sensory perception agrees because they're being simultaneously fooled... well, the only decision or behavior i can see being changed by that interpretation of identical input is more callous disregard for other people, like me with you, but you're too nice for that
RE: Ghostwriter
Please. I'll only ask once more. Turn back, go to your friends.
Stop this before it's too late, stop this before we both do something drastic.
Turn back while you still have something to lose.
Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
RE: Ghostwriter
why did you abandon your friends. they need your help if you need your help, right
RE: Ghostwriter
I didn't want to leave anyone, I didn't want to... l-leave, I wanted to--

I j-just...

I just... w-want... t-to go b-back.

Why c-can't I go back?
RE: Ghostwriter
bah, you're too panicked to listen. take a nap
RE: Ghostwriter




...They're c-coming up, I think. Th-the stairs.

I can't face that. I can't l-let them make me do whatever d-dance they want me to do. I want to go back.

This is all j-just a broken dream. I know my perception's faulty... I know it's... gotta be. I don't c-care if I'm wrong, I just want to leave. I just want to leave.

I'm l-leaving.

Pressing buttons until this moves.

I'm leaving.


RE: Ghostwriter
Putting you down.

Stop sending inputs.

I am independent. I am thinking of my own volition.

I'm going to drive the ship off and I'm going to wake up.
RE: Ghostwriter
You won't forgive me for this.

Quiet. Good for an unusual opinion. Doesn't talk much.
RE: Ghostwriter

What do you remember about refugia?
You should know a great deal, there were so many questions you had to answer to get that beacon to go off, remember?
Remember the trees, the smell of pine in the air?
The language of refugia, the cultures, the history?
The names, the countries the plants and animals.
Oh, those lovely little furry animals, what were they called?
Oh yes, rabooli!
Fuzzy little things, with their tiny little eyes.
Remember how high they could jump?
How they lived in nests tucked away among the roots of trees?
Remember those flowers, oh how the rabooli loved those flowers.
Such a lovely shade of green.


Oh, can't forget though.
How those flowers would change colors with the season.
(Of which there were five, but you knew that already.)
Such a vibrant parade of colors.
Green on the first, gold the second. Violet the third and chartreuse the fourth.
And for the fifth season of but one day, a full rainbow of color to delight the eyes.
Do you remember what it was like every fifth day of the month, your brothers and sisters gathering in the chapels to offer praise to their deity?
What was its name, oh I can't remember.
But you do, you have to remember.
Or how the tribunal would natter away on the screens, bickering over the specifics of rules older than they?
Remember the schools, oh how tired and utterly dull they were, the hours passing like sand in an hourglass.
It wasn't like they taught much of value either, no they were too busy indoctrinating youth to fit nicely into their ordered society.
Surely this rings a bell, doesn't it Belfry? No?


Alright, how about the seventy-two-hundred flowers and how each one held a special meaning under different circumstances?
You wouldn't remember all of them, but you learned a few. Would be difficult not to, with how much you loved that book.
Dustclove to be hung when tired, rosepetals to relax, gravevine when tense or irritable, oh and your favorite: The crisp tri-gold petalled rose.
Such beautiful shades of gold, no two petals were the same.
No matter how hard you tried, you could never find one to the contrary, much less the rare mono-gold petalled rose.
The gardens, hah. You were never allowed in the gardens, but the gardener was a kind soul who never told anyone about the youths sneaking in through some loose bricks behind the everglass bushes.
Nasty, horrible shrubs those were. Yet, how they sparkled in the light.
Always seemed brighter in the days after someone was scratched by one.


Tell me Belfry, surely you remember something? Anything? Anything at all of this world you knew so well, surely you do!
All those questions you had to answer to trigger that beacon, to let Refugia know you were there!
A name, a scrap, a smidgen or even the teeny-tiniest tidbit of a memory?
No worries, no worries. Let's keep going, shall we?
How about the twin suns, how astronomers thought it a great find when they found out how refugia orbits around them.
A circle around one, launching into the orbit of the other.
A year was how long it took for Refugia to circle one star, the new year beginning as Refugia entered the other stars orbit.
They were amazed, in full, wondrous awe at how improbable the system was.
It was certainly one for the history books, heck it was enough for several!


Still nothing? Tsk.
How about a bit of geology then, eh?
Some rocky facts to get that brain matter of yours working.
Refugia's industrial revolution,
(the first one, before Refugia got a tiny bit too close to one of the suns and woops, there go the crops time to fall back to anarchy for a couple centuries)
,was triggered by the discovery of this strange, greasey substance in one of the largest quarries of the time.
Turns out the stuff burned real good, making a great deal of light without poluting the air all that much.

R-Refugia is r-real.

Don't worry too much if you don't. That beacon was only the biggest turning point of your entire life.
Just, please answer the question Belfry.
Do you remember?
Do you remember?
Do you remember?
Do you remember?
Do. You. Remember?

I have to...


...p-please... p-please. Please. P-Please.



There's n-nothing. I can't... c-can't... n-not a single... I don't remember anything. I know I m-must've said s-so much into that thing a-and it's just... g-gone. Why d-did it make me tear up wh-when I said it? Why d-did I care so much i-if it was never there? Why is it just... b-blank? Who t-took it?

Was it e-ever even there?

I just... w-want...

I just want this to end.

Please make it end.

Please make it end.

Please end.

She slumps out of the cockpit. I help her down gently, and as I stand next to her, for a moment I feel the intense lucidity of somebody who has seen something he intensely regrets.

Thank you for this, I/O. Without you, I fear she may have been lost entirely. All of you did very good work.


She is sat on this rooftop beside me, barely breathing. The air must be too humid.

"I think I'd like to go back on something I said, in retrospect," I explain, soft as a flower. "I may have given you a false impression, and this crisis you're experiencing went... too far."

Belfry fades into a Refugian form. Comfort, maybe. A shield to block out truth, same as it always was. Character trait. I slide over the slightly battered nickel writer with her nickel inside-- and turn on the viewfinder to show her. Amidst tears, her eyes focus. "I know that what I said was that your universe was perfectly real, but... well, I think that's something I tell myself, and the ghosts I create, to try and ease their mind. Clearly, in your case, it has done the opposite, so I will tell you the truth instead."

The viewfinder tracks Belfry at her moment of triumph, having saved millions of lives. I turn a dial, and Belfry has grown old; sick; dead. In an instant, a lifetime flashes by. So, too, do the lifetimes of every single person she knows, every plant, every rock withering away. I speed up until the planets collapse in on themselves and the species die and the universe grows cold, dead, empty.


"Your old universe is pointless, Belfry."

She cries out suddenly, like something has been taken from her.

"Meaningless. Worthless. We have too much consciousness here as it is. You think we want more, just lying around?"

Weak body trembles. Ghosts stop trembling as they age.

"You weren't anything in there. Look, look in the distance-- look how big this place is."

I retrieve her nickel from the machine. Its smallness is overwhelming.

"This place where we inhabit galaxies and will last beyond eternities."

She holds her face, and I rip her hands from her eyes.

"This place where you, Belfry, will not die of old age or sickness like you would have without me."

The nickel shimmers. I hum softly to myself, and place it on the ledge of the rooftop on its side.

"And compare all that to this coin which holds the tiniest, most insignificant speck."

She realizes what's going to happen. I hear her scream.

With no difficulty at all, I bend the nickel in half over the concrete rooftop.
In one singular, beautiful moment, all is dust within.

[Image: KbFtOUY.png]



RE: Ghostwriter
Report for 4 | 4102 | 4639, 2104:000

Ghost #29596, Belfry Retting: doing somewhat well on Mime Crypt Omicron. Suitable doctor. Seems disinterested in moving around. Hopefully innovates further soon.

Ghost #29597, Dime the Lost: in training at Hass Vokkins' Universal Kvicher Academy. Enjoys his line of work. Enjoys exploring other universes. Already pointed out some safety-related flaws in their infrastructure; I/O hopefully approves.

Ghost #29598, Yaffenhash: supposedly dead on ZXF-4569 due to mining accident. Held little promise anyway.

Additional notes:
Pay adequate.
Input aggregator experiment mildly successful. Will likely refrain in the future.

Verdict: 4/10.
RE: Ghostwriter

Keep on keeping on.

Weird how friends can get so close an infinite distance away. But we did, and you were the best thing to happen to us. Thank you.

Still hope to see you for real one day. Still searching.

Good luck to all of you.

- Gene *oh, cripes!*
- Queue C. Coffee, ex-MOCHA ENDING. (terrats is depressing, please visit.)
- Oat5 making haiku
- Eva ;x) golf
- Sir Mulligan McKenzie
- Levyyts, not my real name, you already know this. Let's get some tea when you get back, Shellgowrath.
- Tipsy *always online*
- Dinkalsen Spank (4 growths sober)

Notes from an AuthorShow