Record number fifteen
She was terrifying, a gross parody of a web crawler. Her legs were like long thin iron spikes, her eyes hollow holes in her metal face. Tendrils, plated with iron and rivets, extended along her back.
This was terrifying, but knowing what she truly was, that was worse.
The creature spoke. No mouth moved, but it could only have been Mariana.
The voice had no intentions of pretending to be human. It was grating and emotionless, but powerful.
“Welcome to the Internet, BlueAdept.”
“Let us play a game. You have three wishes. Make one selfless wish, and you can go. If you cannot, you’ll just have to wait here forever, until your body died of natural causes, but your mind will be stuck here forever, with me, endlessly.”
She turned and vanished.
It’s like a genie. You have three wishes, and you have to use them properly or you’ll find yourself in worse trouble than before you even had the chance of being granted the wishes.
You can wish for anything you want, and then you’re free? Most people would leap at the chance.
But when you’re stuck between freedom and lifelong imprisonment, the choice becomes a lot more difficult.
Especially when the wish you make has to be completely selfless. No selfish wishes allowed here, folks!
So I wish.
I wish that none of this had ever happened.
I wish I was still back at home, still grieving over my uncle’s death.
I wish I hadn’t learned all this.
I wish I hadn’t come this far.
Surely wishing pain on myself is not selfish? For pain is what I’d feel, grieving.
A voice speaks to me. She is in front of me. I did not see her arrive.
“Do not fool yourself. You would grieve, yes. You would feel pain, yes. But the reason you make this wish is to escape this world I have constructed for myself. It helps no other.”
What about my parents? They must be so worried about me.
“That is not relevant. You have two more wishes. Make them count.”
So I get off free for making the wrong wish?
“Not exactly. You wished to be back, and back you shall be.”
The tendrils zoomed out, stretching, connecting to something far out of view.
The world around me vanished. There was nothing but white.
I blinked and I was somewhere else.
I was staring out into a hospital. Below me, a woman tapped at a keyboard. I guessed I was viewing this somehow from a computer connected to the internet. Mariana truly was omnipotent with regards to the internet.
There was a buzz, and a light on the desk underneath me lit up. The woman groaned but stood up. Drawing back a curtain, she stepped out into what looked very similar to a hospital ward. There were rows of beds, with people lying in them. None of them seemed to be conscious, yet looking out of a window at the blazing sun and warm sunlight it didn’t look like it was night or evening.
Two people, a man and a woman, stood around one bed. They were both crying softly, the woman into a tissue. The man stood with tears slowly rolling down his face. I could tell that he was trying to stay in control but was failing miserably.
I recognised these people. I began to wonder. Could I be where I thought I was?
The nurse checked a piece of equipment, and then spoke gently to the couple.
“There’s been no change, I’m afraid. Would you like to sit down?”
My suspicions were confirmed when she stepped aside, leading my mother and father to a small couch.
It was my body lying on the bed.
It was me.
Me, lying there with countless tubes in my body at odd angles, who was only alive through nutrients fed to me through them, me whose body would not respond, me who was being forced to stay here against my will.
I tried to call out to my parents.
No voice came from my mouth. For all I knew, in this world of code I might not even have a mouth.
A voice murmured into my ear.
“Now you have seen, now you must return.”
“No!” I tried to speak, but no sound came out. I mouthed wordless screams and insults as the room faded and the room I had, alarmingly, grown to know so well by now reappeared.
Mariana appeared, scuttling from a small hole in the wall that hadn’t been there a moment ago. It closed up as soon as she left it.
“Your first wish.” She shrugged her metallic insect-like shoulders. “Choose wisely before you make the second.”
This time she didn’t use the wall, she simply vanished. She was a goddess in her domain, and she knew it.
The most dangerous gods are the ones with most to lose.
It was ironic that even though she could control the entire internet, she could not even bring one person here alone. I had had to come most of the way before she could pluck me from cyberspace to this small rom.
Time is a strange thing when you’re on your own. With no way to keep the time, who knows how many seconds, minutes, hours, days passed before I could decide anything? For most of the time, I was crying. Yes, I admit it. There’s no point in denying it.
Eventually though, I did come to a decision. My wish was simple.
I could now only wait for Mariana to return.
As it turned out, I did not have to wait too long. Whether she knew or not, I don’t know. All I know is that after what seemed like only a few minutes she was there. There was no fancy entrance this time; getting this wish right was vital to me and she knew it. She was playing no games now, it was do or die.
“What do you wish for, BlueAdept?”
I took what passed here for a deep breath. I ran over the wish in my head, quickly making sure as I had countless times before that there were no loopholes in it.
“I wish… I wish that my parents, and all the people that are upset by me… me being in the state I am, would know I am alive, so they would not suffer as much.”
You may be a now-eldritch internet controlling AI that has evolved into the Fear of technology (which is pretty justified, in my opinion. Look how my experience has turned out so far), but I challenge you to find a loophole in that!
Believe me, thinking I’d won was the happiest I’d felt in days. It was getting to the point where I’d almost sunk nose deep into bleak depression, so just this made me feel on top of the world.
The keyword here: Thinking I’d won.
“Ah. You believe that, because it does not benefit you, and because it benefits others, it is a selfless act?”
“Incorrect. One, your parents would know you are still alive and well, so they would not ‘pull the plug’ on you, as it were. Secondly, you are genetically made up of your parents’ DNA. You are, technically, half of each of them. Therefore any wish you make regarding them is a wish regarding yourself.”
Her logic was twistedly logical.
I was angry of course, but more than anything I was scared.
Because I only had one wish left.