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4 Fourth Page

One. 

Nothing ever goes according to plan. Remembering the forms of the ancient runes, the summoner, Sara, visualized and chanted their names to spell Satan's name. After the first rune, someone entered the room, distracting Sara for a split second. She continued the spell, hoping the distraction wouldn't stop the ritual. With the chant, she lit a final candle, and prayed. The circle joined her.

"We wish to win the presidency."

"We wish to win the presidency."

"We wish to win the presidency."

"Don't you know it's rigged?" In the middle of the circle, a man materialized under the mat. He pushed it off of him, and brushed his arms. "Why so surprised? You summoned me. Stan."

The men stood, and Sara's face turned into an expression of horror. She shrieked. The men tackled the newcomer at their center, demanding him to explain. In moments, Stan was punched five or six times, each strike landing a solid hit. He gave up the struggle and fell on the ground, unconscious. They wrapped his body in the mat and dragged him to restraints in the corner. He awoke.

"What? Where am I? Why is my head pounding?" The cultists determined they improperly spoke the name of the runes to summon Satan. They would kill this man, a witness to their secret practices. Unless a miracle happened, along the lines of spirit-intervention, he must die. "Are you going to kill me?" The cultists retreated to the shadows to await command from the spirits.

"Look, I'm just a regular guy, I don't mean any harm. I'm from the outer-world where the stars flicker. A barely real dimension that remains a secret to all humanity. But I'm just a regular guy," Stan said, pleading to released. "I'm from a sparkling world."

"We await the sign of the demon."

"We await the sign of the demon."

"We await the sign of the demon."

They extinguished all light, leaving the room empty except for Stan. That's how nothing ever goes according to plan.


Two.

Dear Diary,

I'm so sorry I abandoned you. For years, I shed into your pages the trials of the day, sometimes giving up myself completely. I wanted to preserve my questions and emotions, and I wanted, at least in the space of your pages, for some things to be right. I gave daily activities an opportunity to be reflected upon, and I filled pages and pages of you with my ideas.

I want you to know I loved writing words down by hand but didn't think of it as prayer. It was closer to thinking, and preserving thoughts. I never knew how much I treasured you. For example, today was a day I'll never forget. A day of reckoning, when all the lines I had memorized and all the things I was worrying about came to bear. I would have liked to have recorded those thoughts in an innocent brown notebook, to pause and consider. I wanted something real to stop. It was difficult for me to say anything. I could have easily come to you and wrote.

But I had no diary, and I hadn't been journaling. I justified stopping due to some important reason I forgot. I set the line of my own fish hook, by rationalizing and say, no, I'm not important. Or no, my thoughts are not worth anything. I thought, I'll start up some day, when I'm older, when I have more problems remembering. That's really what writing's for, I thought. A better way to remember. When my friends and family found out what I thought was important, say, when I die, they'll think I'm silly for it. So I stopped writing.

On the day of the reckoning, which in fact, was the day I remembered my diary existed, and in a flash moment of realization saw that every thought I ever sought to record in its pages were right, and valuable, I cringed. I cringed because I needed not an excuse to continue writing in my diary. I needed an excuse to stop.

On the second day of the war, I thought I should start back. I thought it might be a way to deal with the ravages of it. When I found my old diary, it was preserved in that same shelf I left it. But there were pages I hadn't written.

Pages and pages of science fiction ideas all smarter than anything I could come up with. Then, it hit me. Those were my son's words. He started where I left--


Three.

The man's Google account was famous since the beta launch of Gmail. He signed up with his first and last name, like everyone else, but something was different. His name was unremarkable, Harry Truman, but something was very wrong with his meta-data. Google began tracking user data from the very beginning of Gmail.

Data recorded included time spent in the Gmail inbox, Gmail account access by IP address, and Google searches. Harry Truman's account was a little odd in all areas. For example, he never logged out, ever. His time spent in inbox was almost exactly as long as Gmail had been in beta access. A little background: Gmail first rolled out via invitation during a program which was known as Gmail Beta. Harry Truman hadn't logged out since.

The next factor in Harry Truman's uniqueness was his IP address. It changed, often to adresses across the globe. While some IP addresses were spoofable, and it may be indicative of a proxy, Harry Truman always logged out for a few moments before IP address switches. It was almost as if he was traveling across the globe and logging in through different WIFI access points along the way.

HarryTruman@gmail.com was the greatest mystery of the Gmail beta program, not because he never logged out, and not even so much because of the IP address changes. He was in fact, the oddest and most frequent Google searcher of all time. It was as if he spoke a different language, or came from a different time. "How many socks are two gloves," "What begins when the moon rotates twice," "Can we solve the Moral Conspiracy," "How many bathtubs cost as much as a national budget," "What's the difference between gaussians?" Etc. . .

The theory that beset Google Engineers was of course proof of aliens. HarryTruman@gmail.com apparently had knowledge of an entire universe beyond us, and he requested an inhuman amount of information from Google servers, which, at that time, were programmed to cater only to Homo sapiens.

Then it all clicked with engineer Greg Haskins. Harry Truman was an astronaut. But why, and what, elicited this recent search from that account?

"Which race is prepared to be made into food for the ancient Giants"

And why did Google answer Man?


Four.

But, well, I don't want to ever leave. I mean, you see, it's just too well-developed to ever say anything bad about it. So realistic. There is artistry in the smallest things, like the buildings and gates and even the people. They are real, too, like you and me, and you never get that normally. Take for instance this old woman who I spoke to every morning for years. I believed her life story and everything she told me was wise.

The highways all seemed reasonably connected to other towns, and they all seemed safe. You know, I never thought I'd experience an accidental death on one of them, for instance. I mean, what a waste of time to die accidentally for no other reason that for exceeding the speed limit, or taking an exceedingly long journey to the some far-off town.

Oh yes, there were far off towns. But somehow we never questioned the line of the prime meridian. We never wondered why it repeated the world to us.

I guess that's why we all think the world is round. And Pluto, heaven, the last reflection of our greatest dreams. Our thoughts tickled out of our sky and finally landed on the surface of that far-off planet, Pluto. We flew round and round this "globe," wondering what else there could be out there. It was never far away, my friends. You see, the world is flat. We're trapped in-between the Prime Meridian and itself.


Five.

This will be the decision of a lifetime.

"Oh yeah? Is that what you think?"

There was no question that was what I thought.

"Then I guess I'll just have to do this," he said, swiping his finger along his neckline. I believe it was the most threatening gesture he knew at the time. We were both in second grade, and my intelligence activated the bully inside of him. I was in my tell-tale spot at the top of the geo-dome monkey bar installation, hanging upside down. I thought it zen.

A second-grade bully, no matter how brave, must be in a crowd of adequate size to ever charge a student. Running and chasing relies on mob psychology. I knew I was safe.

"And if you think you're getting away with this, you're not," the bully said. "I'm not going to let you be my friend."

My eternal gaze made him swallow.

"I control one thing," he said. "That's our friendship. If I don't want to be your friend, I don't have to be."

For a second grader, he made a good point. I crossed my elbows, letting myself hang only by my knee-joints. I considered his point for as long as his attention-span could stand my silence. As soon as he wanted to return to the idle violence of recess, I replied. "If you're not my friend, can I still be yours? Even if I'm more likely to be bullied, doesn't my friendship count for something?"

"I will never be your friend, Jason!"

"And I vow to always be yours."


Six.

Love Letter

These flamethrowers were earned through the hard adherence to American law. Full of gasoline, bought legally as well, the weapons are meant to be used as a last resort. Firing flamethrowers in our forest encampment might put us in danger if the entire forest catches fire. We usually need mention our flamethrowers once. The precious value of this protected land means nothing to us compared to freedom.

We resort to these giant disasters to avoid gunfighting. Yet we will not shrink from a fight. Matthew, quickly identifying a new threat in the West encampment, fired a few pock-shots through the trees, partially to alert us, and partially to scare the enemy. A great cry came out after the second burst of assault rifle ammo, and Matthew dropped straight from his tree and ran towards the sound, shouting, "Ho, ho."

It was not the first case of friendly fire, and it wouldn't be the last. Being in a wilderness survival setting increases all the senses, and makes you paranoid. With that combination, friendly fire is inevitable.

Vernon, shot once in the shoulder, was completely incapacitated for a few days. We gave him medicine, and snacks, and said he would be remembered if he passed. He became our creative consultant. He requested we leave the forest to recruit. We couldn't leave, but we could call out, so we began asking former neighbors if they would bring us snacks to show support for our downed hero.

It took us many days to earn our first snack, 4-cracker pouches of peanut-butter sandwich crackers. The note said the donation was meant to show support for us, yet the donation was not a request to join us. There was no contact information included for us to respond with, so we considered memorializing the snacks as our first show of support. But Vernon opened them anyway.

The snacks gone, we set out for hunting again, and met our first real enemy. A SWAT team.

"You must leave the area!" The loudspeaker sounded from all directions. "Put your weapons away and come as quickly as you can."

All of us knew there was no going against a SWAT, so we sought to escape. Leaping through the sticks, we conjoined at the fire tower, climbed on top, and used binoculars to spot the SWAT.

The SWAT never found us. They disappeared before we could fight them.

They took our flamethrowers. Only God will judge them. Then flames rained from the sky, as we knew they would soon, and the flamethrowers were no good. Like giant bears, the volcanic beasts had fallen.


Seven.

I had been through months and months of the same day without knowing, trying to make sense of the world around me. I noticed a curious phenomenon when I overheard the exact same conversation. The seed was planted then.

Somehow, I couldn't convince myself it was the same day over and over again, even though I knew it had to be. All evidence was in favor that I was seeing the same people doing the same things each and every day. My brain wasn't capable of forming the concept that it was the exact same day. I tricked myself into thinking the Medieval age was simply highly routine.

Finally, after so, so long, I was living like they did, in a routine I felt was appropriate. I examined the furs, and metal goblets. I pick pocketed some money from random strangers. I bought things from shopkeeps around town. The stock was always the same, but my selections were different. I bought different things and purchased them at different times with stolen money from different people. I was never caught. Everyone always seemed surprised to see me. Why would they never find out my crimes? They didn't recognize me at all.

I went over the people I had encountered and conversations I had overheard. Wailing, I left the shop. I was reliving the same day over and over again.


Eight.

I was looking for an out for hours. Thank you for posting this.

My imaginary friends, known as tulpas, were visible creatures that took over my mind. I created them intentionally, yet was so successful I lost control of their thinking. It was particularly bad today, since I failed to hide my plans to kill them. I unintentionally whispered my plans in the presence of one tulpa, hiding in the patterns of my blanket.

"Proud of yourself, James?" it purred, emerging from its camouflage. It was a cat-light creation with shape-shifting abilities. Leader of the pack. "I should tell the others how you plan to imagine our deaths, and how you hope that because we are imaginary, we might really die. But James, you're delusional."

I shuddered, turning away from the tulpa. A second one appeared on the wall, and smiled devilishly. It spoke directly to my brain.

"We'll never die, James. Not for as long as you live."

That's why this prompt was so needed. Someone must take on the tulpas with me. You know my secret: imaginary friends are fighting for control of my brain. Now fight with me! They know.


Nine.

Traveling on the superhighway made him feel small, but interconnected to part of something giant. A red blood cell tumbling down a vein leading back to the heart, pushed through the super body. Or a white blood cell, part of the immune system, able to shoot out pseudopods and destroy a bacteria's cell wall, its insides gushing out, absorbing into the blood's plasma. He imagined this so intensely that the redness of blood invaded his vision until he let the fantasy completely take over for a split second. The sky was like a giant muscle, and the sun, humanity's brain.

He nearly missed his exit, quickly coming back to reality and switching on his turn signal. His brain stopped ignoring the sounds of traffic, and the pressure of the real world made him feel claustrophobic. His anxiety was overwhelming. He needed to get it checked out by a doctor.

Most of the time, his imagination did not completely overwhelm his senses, turning the world into overblown science fiction cinema and threatening to shut him out of reality completely. Only when he was on the superhighway, commuting to work, slipping into auto-pilot, relaxing his vigilant watch over his sanity did he totally lose it. And only for a split second.

"In the news, a man saved the lives of three teenagers who inadvertently put themselves in danger on Saturday. The teenagers were at a convenience store when a gas pump exploded at the handle." Jim turned the radio up a bit as he rounded the exit to work. "The shocked teens were looking for the source of the first explosion when Jim Branson heroically pushed them out of danger. The second explosion, larger than the first, ignited the underground reserves of gasoline and destroyed the entire parking lot. . ."

Jim Branson. The office would find it funny that Jim, the clerk from the second floor, shared the name of a real hero. He considered pranking everyone in the Umbridge building and pretending it really was him.

"It's not the first time Jim Branson has been in the right place at the right time. Last week, he saved hundreds of people when the Umbridge building collapsed. It was impossible to predict the sink hole would open up that day, but Jim followed his gut and evacuated the entire office, somehow knowing there was danger."

Wait, the Umbridge building collapsed? He glanced at the radio knobs. What?

"His sixth sense allows him to react in those situations before anybody else knows what's happening. A real superhero. . ."

He couldn't even hear the radio anymore. At thirty miles per hour, there is little sense of speed to one who is used to driving. Jim felt like he had completely stopped moving. In front of him, a bright fissure opened in the air, from which a winged angel descended. It pointed a huge sword directly at Jim and spoke its message:

"You, Jim Branson, will receive a gift from heaven. God has chosen you to be the savior of the planet. You will be granted superpowers in order to fulfill a great mission."

He unblinkingly stared at the digital clock, waiting for reality to return.

The sound of the radio slowly faded in. It finally seemed real to him again. But how would he get everyone out of the Umbridge building? Wait, was the sink hole opening today? How was he supposed to know? What was he supposed to do?


Ten.

"If you see it," she said, holding the sample, "you can feel it looking back at you. Some say they feel it staring into their soul." She gripped the black vial containing the red dot algae and gazed forward.

Her classroom was set to night mode to protect the sample from damaging bright lights. Students were trying to sneak in a nap in the relaxing atmosphere. One man propped his backpack behind him like a pillow. The professor snapped the name out loud. "Briggs!"

"Huh, wha--," he muttered, coming out of a shallow sleep. He was in the very back, disinterested in the professor's lecture. The students in front were staring at the vial held in the professor's hand, trying to glimpse the magical life form trapped within juices.

Dr. Jaeke sighed and let it slide. One look at the red dot algae and Mr. Briggs' fight-or-flight response would be stimulated, releasing endorphins making it impossible to sleep. But the algae lurked in the fluid, unwilling to reveal itself. One girl became bent on catching its sight.

"Red dot algae has the world in both awe and fear. Scientists theorize all kinds of horrible things. It's opening another dimension. Even," she smiled at the listeners in front, "that its conserving its energy to steal the soul of the president. What do you think, class? Is red dot algae trying to destroy humanity?"

The lights were painfully brought back by Dr. Jaeke. "Or have we collectively lost our minds?"

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