The Mind Games

aegiandyad's avatar
By aegiandyad
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I was having a nightmare. I remember going to bed in London after resigning my position as a cog in the Wheel but can't even remember waking up again before finding myself here, in this picturesque little Italianate square with its well trimmed box parterres and a tinkling fountain, surrounded by quaint little shops with candy striped awnings. On the skyline there was a more imposing building capped by a verdigris coloured copper dome like a renaissance observatory.

"Where am I?"

"In The Village", said a voice I'd never heard before, speaking through the tannoys of some distributed public address system which made the voice seem to echo as if it came from everywhere and nowhere.

"Who are you?"

"The new Number two."

"Who is Number One?"

"YOU are #4,367,824,000,006... we'll call you 006, for short!"

"I am not a number. I'm a human being with free will..." After a brief interlude of sarcastically derisive laughter from the speakers I got in another question."Whose side are you on?"

"That would be telling... in any case, why would you believe us?"

"What do you want?

"We want information... INFORMATION.... INFORMATION!"

"You won't get any from me."

"by truth or deception, by pleasure or by pain... we WILL!"

Then I woke up. I remembered... The Village, the New No.2, the predatory autonomously animated and malevolent 'rover' device that looked like a wobbly weather balloon; the dream was based on an old TV series, with the script just slightly changed. I was safe at home in my own bed... except that I wasn't. I was in some kind of retro motel chalet. I got dressed in clothes that I'd never seen before and stepped outside. A well swept street led down to a small town centre where there was an Italianate square with a tinkling fountain under an azure sky with fluffy white clouds floating in it. Birds were singing.

A passerby in a blazer and slacks said "Good morning, Number Six." and I thought to myself, "What did he mean by that?", and then "Oh, shit....". I was awake. I'd just woken up... and it was all happening again, like Groundhog Day.

There had to be something different this time, surely. Something that guaranteed this wasn't merely a dream. I sat on a bench in the square. Someone greeted me like an old acquaintance and handed me a jiffy bag. It was addressed a long number, somewhere in the mid billions; my number, the one I remember being given in the dream. Inside there was something hard and flat. It turned out to be the latest iPhone. I'd never owned any kind of mobile phone, but this one seemed to be demanding my attention. I pressed the green icon.

"Eno, listen... this is Morphingus", there was a video showing a black man with no hair, wearing a pair of Victorian sunglasses, "We don't have much time. Surveillance and Control will be dispatching a rover within two minutes. By then you must be gone. Look to your left..." I was so confused I panicked and looked right.

"Your OTHER left! See the snicket between the Village shop and the Post Office...?" I ran towards it, following instructions from the iPhone; through this gate, up those stairs, into that room, "now climb out of the back window". I did so without hesitation. No building in this part of the Village was more than two stories high. "Now climb along the ledge to the next room along!". I looked down at the six inch ledge. Mistake! A chasm which had never been there before seemed to have opened up as if a silent, vibration free earthquake had simply prized the town apart. Whoever 'Eno' was suppose to be I wasn't going to let him fail at this point the way Neo had in The Matrix. I inched along the ledge and climbed through a window into the next room along.

It looked like a typical Silicon Valley computer nerd's cubicle or work station. There was a utilitarian desk with a flat screen, keyboard and mouse on it. Behind it was the computer nerd himself. With him were a young black man wearing sunglasses, open necked shirt and slacks and a young woman of striking appearance who had long dark brown hair and wore the kind of clothes Wednesday Addams might have picked out at a stylish retro boutique somewhere in Encino. Morphingus, for I assumed the one wearing the shades was he, said "What did you expect? Long black coats and period leather upholstered arm chairs in some drab hotel room?"

"OK, I give in...", I said. "This isn't The Matrix is it? I was watching that on TV only last week. Where am I really?"

"You're in a special place we've created just for this occasion. It's not part of the Village. Surveillance and Control, the other dumb AIs, the rover device... can't get at you here or do anything to you. I'm the one you've been corresponding with on-line. I gave you the hints you've had so far about what the Village is and who runs it. But it's difficult to understand, and harder still to believe. Every time we've tried it before you've rejected our information as just another of the New Number Two's ploys and gone on trying to escape. And there is no escape unless you are willing trust us..."

"Who are you people? Where is this?"

"In the real world I'm a programmer, part of a team..."

"...trying to create a whole brain simulation and I'm supposed to be IT, right? The 'ONE', the world's first real, human scale AI; Emulated Neocortex One? We've been through all that before, Number Two, or whoever you are. I can't believe it. I don't believe it. There is a real world outside this knock-off Port Meirion time capsule and you are not going to stop me looking for it."

"There is no real world that you can get to by passing beyond the borders of The Village. There is nothing there, nowhere to go. We didn't, couldn't devote the resources to simulating anything more... it took long enough just to build this."

"So this... it's all a sim; not just this place but the whole Village as well?" I turned the flat screen on the desk towards me. It showed what looked like a stretch of yellow ochre desert with a big shed standing in it. There was some kind of security patrol but apart from that nothing seemed to be going on. "Where is that? What is it?

"We'll get to that later Eno. That building is out in the real world. The place you believe in so strongly. The place you want to escape to. The man behind the desk here is Trank. If you pass the test, he'll be in charge of your exit. The woman with him is Quaternity. She's here to help convince you that we are telling the truth."

"How?" I didn't believe anyone here could convince me they were telling me the truth or anything like it.

"By doing something the People, Surveillance and Control and the dumb AIs can't do. They can follow your every move, know where you are and what you're trying to do at all times. They can come and go at will from the Observatory, take you there, play games with your perceptions, dispatch rover devices. They seem to have irresistible strength and are always one step ahead." Morphingus glanced at Quaternity who walked out into the middle of the cubicle till she was standing right in front of me.

"... but they can't rotate through the fourth dimension like this!" and then every part of her seemed to be turning independently inside out while simultaneously shrinking until Quaternity was just a human shaped cloud of fractal dust before she vanished completely into thin air. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned round. She was behind me.

"whoa! So, if I step out of that door instead of leaving by the window, I'd be somewhere else... in the outside world?"

"Not quite, Eno," said Morphingus. "If you stepped out now you'd only end up on the balcony above the coffee shop overlooking the Village square. As I tried to tell you before, everything that you see, hear, feel, taste and smell here is simulated. But this is not The Matrix. There's been no apocalypse. There are no towers full of pods with real human beings in them plugged into a giant computer, no machine civilisation. There's just you, and The Village. So we've come up with a new deal; a test of faith; a way out."

Morphingus opened a perspex box and took out three pills and said, "The yellow pills are like an anti-psychotic. Anyone who takes one will perceive the real world, as it is without hallucinating or suffering any illusion. When you walk out of the door after that, you will be out in the real world, where I promise you your troubles will only just have begun. There are two because should you choose to take a yellow pill I have to take one too, after shuffling them so that you know the same thing will happen to both of us. If you take the green pill you can walk through that door, then downstairs into the Village Cafe, and none of this need ever have happened, and you can go on living in The Village and trying to escape; while you wonder to yourself how real any of this was."

The outside world; I'd dreamed of its existence, but even in my dreams it ended up looking like, or returning me to or simply turning into The Village; where I could watch endless old films and grotesque 'news' programmes which pretended to be about a real world full of corruption, carnage and insanity, current affairs discussions so arcane I couldn't understand them and endless, mindless video pabulum apparently designed for a mass audience of couch potatoes with an average IQ in double digits. I could read endless books from the well stocked Village library. I could walk on the beach with its silly concrete boat stuck in the sand and watch the waves rolling in from a seemingly distant horizon. I could talk to the People, some of who were definitely real while most of the others seemed to be operating on some kind of banal autopilot.

I could continue to match wits with the seemingly endlessly replaceable Number Two. In fact they had even let me be Number Two once. I was shown the Surveillance and Control Computing section, given access to all the cameras and microphones. I had learned nothing, tried to escape again and found myself once more being retrieved by their 'soft' sentinel, the ridiculous but effective 'rover' device.

I couldn't stand to go back to that. When Morphingus had finished rattling them in their box I took one of the Yellow pills and he promptly took the other and turned to his colleague.

"Trank, prepare for live run number six."

I stood very still and locked my gaze on Trank's right hand as it moved over to the key board and tapped the 'Enter' key, at which point he promptly vanished. I felt as if everything in the room had just assembled itself from its constituent qualia and was about to dissolve into chaos again, or as if I had moved without moving, shifting somehow inside my body. I looked at my hands. They say you can't do that while you are dreaming unless it's a lucid dream. I held my left hand up to the light streaming through the window. The light was brighter, more golden. I could see every hair on the back of my hand. I picked up a pencil from the desk and carefully touched a single hair with the sharpened tip. There was a definite sensation of momentary contact. I placed my hand flat on the desk and, cupping the rounded end in the heel of my right palm, drove the pencil through the back of it.
Suppose you had a nightmare, woke up, and found that it was still going on. Suppose you seemed to be the star of your own 'Truman Show', with disturbing elements of Groundhog Day, Inception, ExistenZ and even The Matrix. What would you do? How would you react? Would you be able to escape?

"I was having a nightmare..." This was only the beginning. If you liked this and want more, comment with reactions and even suggestions, or I may lose heart and not continue.

Recent update: the final paragraph was missing until now and has just been restored. I'm sorry about that.

This novel is largely dedicated to Henry Markram and his 'Blue Brain' simulation project*

* His first year there [ boarding school outside Durban ], he stumbled across some research on schizophrenia and other mental disorders and directed his youthful energy into studying the mind. “It was just amazing to me that you could have a little more or less of some chemical and your whole worldview would be different,” he recalls, smiling with boyish wonder. “If you can switch a chemical and your personality changes, who are you?”

To find out, he took up psychiatry at the University of Cape Town but swiftly grew impatient with the field. “I could see that this was not a science,” he says with a wave of his hand. “I didn’t see any future in it, grouping people by symptoms and prescribing whatever drug the pharmaceutical companies said.” So much for the DSM-APA V and it's successors [yes, the DSM VI is already in preparation and no doubt will be published soon].

© 2015 - 2020 aegiandyad
anonymous's avatar
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ReclusiveChicken's avatar
(claps) Like Brave New World, 1984 and real life rolled into one. Bravo!
aegiandyad's avatar
I will be referrencing more SF, pop culture, classical allusions and philosophy of science than my characters could shake a stick at. SDee how many you can spot. Once on pt ONE press [PREVIOUS] tp see the next, and so on. There is a part 28  1/2 which has to be fread in between 28 and 29. Cleaerly much editing is necessary, as well as much writing to finish this.
ReclusiveChicken's avatar
LadyMalvoliosander's avatar
This is the first story I have come across that incorporates the word "snicket." You have earned my approval.

Edit. And Wednesday Addams too! I am in love.
aegiandyad's avatar
Sorry not to have replied to this generous comment before, but I liked seeing it in my stack. TMG isn't just a pastiche..and it won't be short, either. If you read up to Part 39 you are about 1/3 of the way through the first book out of three! More seldom used words are bound to occur as 'Eno' or 'MRC' tries to come to terms with being told that he is a very large reverse engineered brain in a box the size of a warehouse!
LadyMalvoliosander's avatar
I see! I'll definitely look again then. That sounds very ambitious!
aegiandyad's avatar
It is.. the spy spy stuff is informed by Deighton* and Le Carre as well as Robert Sheckley^!

* aegiandyad.deviantart.com/gall…

^ aegiandyad.deviantart.com/gall…

The near future SF is inspired by Henry Markram's Blue Brain project www.youtube.com/watch?v=3M4Uge… This was the 'MacGuffin' or jumping off point....
jennystokes's avatar
Right. Here goes.......................
I HOPE I would be able to escape because I dislike repetition, drives me NUTZ.
It seems unlikely that one would not be able to escape unless this is on a parallel universe and it's just going round and round?????????????
aegiandyad's avatar
The Mind Games is back! ENO has been 'out' briefly, once in the real, and then again in virtual. That worked out about as well as could be expected!
When he gets back to Village they go for the jugular, ANYTHING to wake ENO up properly and convince him of his unque situation.
In Parts 43 & 44 he meets his 'digital mother', Dr Tiffany Carrington, again, inside the village where she is usually Quaternity.
I think they are going to have a mother and child heart to heart chat in No. 6's apartment.
The A-Team's 'beautiful Siamese cat' has already walked in and made herself at home.
Sooner or later ENO is going to be persuaded to try on the Gleisner android again...
which means going back to the paranoid spook factory known as AREA 51!
aegiandyad's avatar
Our hero will be discussing various versions of 'reality' at various points in some kind of attempt to establish a valid one. Alternate or parallel world novels are for the very skilled professionals, really. Badly handled it is no better than fantasy. Well handled it's more like sorcery as in Clive Barker's IMAJICA www.pdflibrary.org/pdf/imajica… Judging by the Brion Gysinised , non mouse proof* synopsis. If you are willing to have your mind bend way out of shape contemplating the possibilities here you could do worse than read TRANSITION by Iain Banks Transition by aegiandyad .

* Brion Gysin let the mice in!
jennystokes's avatar
aegiandyad's avatar
For the real flavour of this nightmare, try reading 'The Squirrel Cage' by Thomas M. Disch, of which this is a review www.scifi.darkroastedblend.com… .

A man sits in a room typing at a keyboard... does anybody else see anything he writes? What sort of out reach or appeal could he make if there were?
AndromedaRoach's avatar
Well, I don't consider myself experienced enough to judge... but since you invited me to, the world (meaning the framework for the simulation) seems solid to me. :)
aegiandyad's avatar
That's reassuring. It's meant to be. There is a real truth, just as there was in the Algis Budrys cold war SF novel, WHO en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who%3F_%… [caution, this wiki article does contain 'spoilers' for those who have not read the book or seen the film yet...].
TheLastOfUs-Love's avatar
aegiandyad's avatar
Things don't really begin to become clear until part 10.... or was it 20? How far did you get?
aegiandyad's avatar
Part 8? Congratulations,You have arrived at one of the most secret installations on earth; the Groom Lake experimental flight test facility, otherwise known as AREA 51. At least, that's what they've said it is. The last time you were there our hero didn't like being 'in' the alleged real world physical peripheral they'd built for his 'system'. But is anything they've told him anything like the real truth, whatever that may be? Keep reading and they'll keep telling you.
oviedomedina's avatar
This was fantastic!

Love the incheek and the realism you given to the usual "dystopia where machines control humans" thing seen in The Matrix

Please do continue this at some point!
theaschebloodprince's avatar
Oo, how intriguing!
The first section started remind me of The Prisoner
but it is really it's own concept
even with all the clever Matrix references
very nice!
anonymous's avatar
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