A bright white light.
A bright white light shining in the Void.
A portion of bright white light shining in a section of the Void nearly indistinguishable from every other section of the Void.
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 monitored his section of the Void for any irregularities. He found none. This section had never contained an irregularity, as far as he was aware. He had no reason to believe it would ever contain an irregularity.
He said so, every day, in his reports to Instantiation 10 15 08 14. And every day, he was commended on his diligence, and told to keep up the good work.
There was Instantiation 10 15 08 14, calling now. It was early; Instantiation 11 09 14 04 had not been expecting his call for another hour. But Mr. Administrator is nothing if not prepared. Instantiation 11 09 14 04 immediately focused all of his attention on the screen that had appeared in front of him.“ALL REMAINS QUIET IN THIS SECTOR.”
“THAT IS NO LONGER YOUR CONCERN, INSTANTIATION 11 09 14 04. WE HAVE RECEIVED ORDERS. YOU ARE TO BE REASSIGNED.”
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 had already taken a reflexive step back by the time he realized what had been said. “PLEASE,”
he said, “WHATEVER MY MISTAKES, I’M SURE THERE’S NO NEED-”“SILENCE!”
His supervisor interrupted. “THE DECISION IS OUT OF OUR CONTROL. YOU WILL REPORT TO INSTANTIATION 02 09 12 12 IMMEDIATELY. END TRANSMISSION.”
The screen disappeared. Terrified and confused, Instantiation 11 09 14 04 went to meet his fate.
As far as he knew, only Prime could terminate an instantiation. But he was not meeting Prime. Perhaps Instantiation 02 09 12 12 would act as a jailer, until Prime had an opportunity in his busy schedule to handle the termination of a minor functionary. Instantiation 11 09 14 04 had no doubt that he was a low priority.
The journey went quickly. The Void is vast, but it is usually also convenient. He met no other Instantiations on his way. The shortest between two points in the Void passes through few to no other points. Void geography was a complex field of study, yet few of Mr. Administrator’s vast resources were dedicated to it. He had… other things… to worry about.
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 was not privileged enough to know what many of those other things were, but he trusted that they were very important. An instantiation trusted his superiors. He could do nothing else.“AH. YOU’VE ARRIVED.”
Instantiation 02 09 12 12 smirked arrogantly, peering through his glasses at Instantiation 11 09 14 04, who bristled under the scrutiny. He didn’t even need
those glasses; the instantiations who chose to wear them did so merely to feel superior to their more practically-minded brothers.
Not heeding the other’s discomfort, Instantiation 02 09 12 12 continued. “YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED TO SHOULDER A GREAT RESPONSIBILITY.”“EXCUSE ME?”
Asked Instantiation 11 09 14 04, confused.“OUR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE IS AT STAKE. FROM THIS MOMENT FORWARD, YOU WILL BE IN CHARGE OF OUR ACCOUNT ON TWITTER.”
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 breathed a sigh of relief. The gesture was an artifact of his human shape, as he did not require oxygen, nor was any air present in the Void. He’d been convinced that ‘reassignment’ was a euphemism for ‘termination,’ but it appeared he was mistaken.
The revelation did open up some new concerns, though.“I THOUGHT INSTANTIATION 16 01 12 19 WAS IN CHARGE OF TWITTER.”
“I HAVE NOT BEEN INFORMED OF THAT. MY ORDERS ARE TO INTRODUCE YOU TO YOUR NEW TASK. CONTEXT FOR YOUR REASSIGNMENT WAS NOT PROVIDED.”“AH.”
He’d been working under the assumption that Instantiation 02 09 12 12 was in charge of the whole changeover, but apparently he was just a middleman. Most instantiations were middlemen, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. “MAY I ASK WHO ISSUED THE ORDERS?”
“YOU MAY ASK.”
Instantiation 02 09 12 12 did not elaborate. Clearly he was not going to answer the question.
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 got to work.
Monitoring Twitter was much more interesting than monitoring a section of the Void. Even if mentions came in rarely, the browser interface was still visually engaging. There was text to read, and though short snippets weren’t quite as engaging as a novel or a trope page, they gave Instantiation 11 09 14 04 something to focus on while he worked.
He used his tweets sparingly, providing necessary information, encouraging useful behavior from tropers, and occasionally discouraging unproductive flamewars. Every day, as before, he would provide a report on what he’d observed and any actions he’d taken. Unlike before, his reports were longer than a sentence, and generally different from day to day.
At first, he assumed that he was reporting to Instantiation 02 09 12 12. Discussions over Mr. Administrator’s proprietary chat client tended toward anonymity, due to the tendency of the screen to cut off the top portion of the conversants’ faces, but each instantiation typically knew exactly to whom he was meant to report, and alterations to the chain of command were rare.
But Instantiation 02 09 12 12 had peered so smugly through his glasses that Instantiation 11 09 14 04 couldn’t picture him without them. And, on the rare occasions that the chat frame was generous and showed the bottom edges of his supervisor’s eyes, there were no glasses present.“EXCUSE ME FOR MY IMPERTINENCE,”
said Instantiation 11 09 14 04 after a week in his new assignment, “BUT WHOM AM I CURRENTLY ADDRESSING?”
“MY NAME IS INSTANTIATION 02 15 19 19,”
said the supervisor, in a voice that was, thankfully, more irritated than angry.“THANK YOU,”
said Instantiation 11 09 14 04. “AND I WOULD LIKE TO ASK ONE MORE QUESTION.”
“VERY WELL. WHAT DO YOU WISH TO KNOW?”
“WHERE MAY I FIND INSTANTIATION 16 01 12 19? I HAVEN’T SEEN HIM SINCE MY REASSIGNMENT, WHICH CONCERNS ME, GIVEN THAT THIS USED TO BE HIS JOB. I’M STARTING TO WORRY ABOUT HIM. HE IS A FRIEND OF MINE.”
“HE WAS A FRIEND TO ALL OF US.”
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 found his concern transformed into full-blown worry. He knew that Instantiation 16 01 12 19 was friends with everyone, and he didn’t expect any special consideration, but he didn’t like the way Instantiation 02 15 19 19 had used the past tense.“I’M SORRY,”
he said, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘WAS’?”
“I’M NOT AUTHORIZED TO GIVE YOU THAT INFORMATION. YOUR REPORT FOR THE DAY IS CONCLUDED. WE WILL SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN TOMORROW. YOU ARE ADVISED AGAINST INCLUDING ANYTHING OTHER THAN YOUR REPORT IN OUR DISCUSSION. END TRANSMISSION.”
Yet again, Instantiation 11 09 14 04 had to rethink his assumptions. He had been reassigned, but Instantiation 16 01 12 19… from the sound of it, he’d been terminated.
But there was no way something like that could be kept quiet. Instantiation 16 01 12 19 was one of the most popular guys around. The other instantiations would notice if he disappeared.
Then again, instantiations were noticing that he’d disappeared.
As far as Instantiation 11 09 14 04 could tell, no one had seen Instantiation 16 01 12 19 since the reassignment. Evidence was mounting that a termination had taken place.
Instantiation 02 15 19 19 continued to be quiet on the matter.
Every day, Instantiation 11 09 14 04 would ask further questions, and every day, he would be silenced.
Sometimes the questions would be about Instantiation 16 01 12 19 directly. Sometimes they would be about the transfer by which Instantiation 11 09 14 04 had taken over his job.“WHO GAVE THE ORDERS FOR THE REASSIGNMENT?”
He asked one day. “I KNOW IT WASN’T YOU. WAS IT PRIME?”
Instantiation 02 15 19 19 said nothing.“WHO GAVE THE ORDERS?”
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 demanded an answer. “WHO?”
This pattern went on until, one day, Instantiation 02 15 19 19 cracked.
The crack was literal; a shattering of the chat screen, leaving a hole through which stepped an unfamiliar instantiation, with the serial number 00 12 01 23. He wore glasses, but on him, they did not look smug. They looked stern. Though Instantiation 11 09 14 04 had never been in a library, let alone returned an overdue book, he couldn’t help but feel that he was being stared down by an angry librarian.“YOU!”
Instantiation 00 12 01 23 announced, jabbing a finger through the airless atmosphere of the Void. “YOU COULDN’T LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE. OTHERS ARE STARTING TO ASK QUESTIONS BECAUSE OF YOU. WE NOW HAVE CAUSE TO QUESTION THE LOYALTY OF INSTANTIATION 02 15 19 19, AND IT IS ALL. YOUR. FAULT.”
If instantiations had hearts, then Instantiation 11 09 14 04’s would have been pounding.“I’M SORRY,”
said Instantiation 11 09 14 04. “WHAT IS IT THAT I’VE DONE?”“MORE QUESTIONS! ARE YOU SO DESPERATE TO UNRAVEL THE MYSTERY THAT YOU WOULD UNRAVEL ALL OF SOCIETY ALONG THE WAY? IT IS NOT YOUR PLACE TO ASK!”
Realization began to dawn. “THIS IS ABOUT INSTANTIATION 16 01 12 19, ISN’T IT?”
“TELL US WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT INSTANTIATION 16 01 12 19.”
“THAT SOMETHING TERRIBLE MUST HAVE HAPPENED. BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT. IF HE WAS TERMINATED… WELL, HE MUST HAVE BEEN TERMINATED. WHY WON’T YOU JUST TELL ME THAT HE WAS TERMINATED?”
Instantiation 00 12 01 23 sighed, and turned around, clasping his hands behind his back. His voice, though as quiet as an instantiation would ever dare speak, was loud and clear. “WE MUST NEVER TELL OUTRIGHT LIES TO ONE ANOTHER,”
he said.“SO… HE HASN’T BEEN TERMINATED.”
“THEN… THEN WHAT HAPPENED? IS HE ALIVE?”
Instantiation 11 09 14 04’s heart rejoiced, metaphorically, of course. Even if he had a heart, it is impossible for organs other than the brain to experience emotions.“HE IS.”
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 thought for a moment. He was in more trouble now than he’d ever been in, but it didn’t seem as though he was due for termination. And if he was going to be terminated, then it wasn’t like he could make his situation any worse. “TAKE ME TO HIM.”
Instantiation 00 12 01 23 turned around to face him, eyebrows raised in surprise. He wasn’t meant to take orders from a tweet wrangler. “IF I DO, WILL YOU CEASE YOUR SUSPICIOUS QUESTIONING?”
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 nodded. “ABSOLUTELY.”“GOOD. I’M RELUCTANT TO SCHEDULE YOU FOR TERMINATION. TWO HIGH-PROFILE DISAPPEARANCES, SO NEAR TO ONE ANOTHER… EVEN THE MORE NAIVE INSTANTIATIONS MAY BE MOVED TO QUESTIONS, TO DOUBT OR EVEN DISLOYALTY. FOLLOW ME.”
They entered a section of the Void that Instantiation 11 09 14 04 had never visited before. Of course, most
of the Void consisted of sections that Instantiation 11 09 14 04 had never visited before. The Void was infinite. That’s what made it an ideal workspace.
When they reached their destination, it took some time for Instantiation 11 09 14 04 to understand what he was looking at. Two chat screens were positioned orthogonally to one another, forming a corner. A small gap shown between them, not enough to let someone through, but enough to show that there was something on the other side. The screens seemed to be showing the same instantiation; the motions on one always simultaneously occurred on the other.
As they came closer, he could see that there were more screens, initially hidden from view due to the angle of approach. Six of them, altogether, formed a box in the middle of the void. It wasn’t until he was close enough to touch the screens that he noticed a figure on the other side of them, and he understood. This was a prison.
Instantiations were, as a rule, never imprisoned. They performed their tasks, or they were terminated. In the infinite expanse of the Void, there was no room for middle ground.“INSTANTIATION 03 15 16 19 HAS BEEN KEEPING AN EYE ON HIM FOR US,”
explained Instantiation 00 12 01 23, as he swiped a hand along one of the screens, dismissing it from view.
Inside the box, with Instantiation 03 15 16 19 watching from only five sides now, Instantiation 16 01 12 19 turned to face his visitors. “HI GUYS!”
He didn’t seem at all bothered by his imprisonment. His suit was still immaculate, and he smiled as if he was a host greeting guests to his home. “THANKS FOR COMING! IT’S GREAT TO SEE YOU.”
Seeing his friend alive and well, Instantiation 11 09 14 04 smiled, despite his confusion. “AND YOU AS WELL. I WAS CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR WELLBEING.”
Instantiation 16 01 12 19 chuckled, an easygoing laugh that made Instantiation 11 09 14 04 relax, feeling that things couldn’t be that bad. “OH, IT’S NOT SO BAD, BEING CONFINED HERE. AT LEAST THERE’S COMPANY.”
He waved at one of the images of Instantiation 03 15 16 19 that surrounded him. “I’M LUCKY, REALLY. I WOULDN’T HAVE EXPECTED PRIME TO HAVE MERCY ON ME, AFTER MY CRIME.”“WHAT CRIME?”
Asked Instantiation 11 09 14 04.“YOU DIDN’T KNOW? THAT’S STRANGE. I ASSUMED WORD WOULD HAVE SPREAD. I KNOW HOW YOU GUYS LOVE TO GOSSIP.”
Instantiation 16 01 12 19 grinned, and explained, “I FOLLOWED A TROPER USING OUR TWITTER ACCOUNT.”
Instantiation 11 09 14 04’s jaw dropped. “WHAT.”
interjected Instantiation 00 12 01 23. He held up his hands, forming a small screen in the Void, displaying an image. “THIS SCREENSHOT WAS TAKEN SHORTLY BEFORE INSTANTIATION 16 01 12 19 WAS REMOVED FROM HIS JOB AS TWITTER LIAISON.”
The screen displayed a series of three tweets, reading as follows.
some_troper: Mr. Administrator totally just followed me! I tell ya, dreams really do come true.
YouHaveFailedUs: WE ARE HONORED TO CONSIDER YOU A FRIEND, @SOME_TROPER.
some_troper: Seriously, this guy is great! RT @YouHaveFailedUs WE ARE HONORED TO CONSIDER YOU A FRIEND, @SOME_TROPER.
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 said again.
Instantiation 16 01 12 19 reached out to touch his shoulder in reassurance.“DON’T TOUCH ME!”
Shouted Instantiation 11 09 14 04. “HOW… HOW COULD YOU BEFRIEND A HUMAN? A TROPER? AS IF THEY WERE OUR EQUALS?”
Instantiation 16 01 12 19 shrugged, and smiled. “I’M FRIENDS WITH EVERYONE,”
If Instantiation 11 09 14 04 possessed a working digestive tract, he was certain he would have thrown up. He felt sick. He felt betrayed. He felt as if nothing made sense anymore. “YOU’RE A SOCIOPATH.”
Turning away, he said to Instantiation 00 12 01 23, “I’D LIKE TO LEAVE NOW.”
The screen that had been dismissed appeared back in its place, trapping Instantiation 16 01 12 19 once more.
Accompanied by Instantiation 00 12 01 23, Instantiation 11 09 14 04 returned to his station.“YOU CAN SEE WHY WE WISH TO KEEP NEWS OF THIS QUIET.”
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 nodded. “HE’S A MONSTER. IF EVERYONE KNEW…”
They would feel the way he
did at that moment. “THEY WOULD BE CRUSHED.”“AND YOU UNDERSTAND WHY WE DID NOT TURN HIM OVER FOR TERMINATION.”
“YOU DEFIED PRIME?”
“NO. WE… ADVISED PRIME. WE… I COULD NOT BEAR THE THOUGHT OF HIM BEING TERMINATED. HE WAS MY FRIEND.”
“HE WAS A FRIEND TO ALL OF US.”
confirmed Instantiation 00 12 01 23. “YOU UNDERSTAND.” They reached the station from which Mr. Administrator’s Twitter account was managed. Instantiation 00 12 01 23 smiled, slightly, wistfully, before he left.
Instantiation 11 09 14 04 attempted to return the expression, but he met minimal success.
There was one new notification on Twitter. A troper had made an offhand reference to Mr. Administrator’s account. No action was required.
It was Instantiation 11 09 14 04’s responsibility to represent his experience through the medium of Twitter. It was also his responsibility not to reveal any more information than the humans had a right to know.
He’d experienced so many things that day, but almost all of them were best kept to himself. He thought for a long time before he came up with something that he could tell the humans about. A short phrase was typed out. The “Tweet” button was clicked.
YouHaveFailedUs wrote:A BRIGHT WHITE LIGHT.