“Remember when you spawned Hitler?” Fodos asked.
“Remember?” Ghartek replied. “That was the highlight of my career! But it almost crashed the simulation.”
“What I loved about it is how you weaved Biblical themes into Hitler’s actions. It really scared the Jews.”
“Wait until we give Israel to Iran in the next update. The Persian empire must rise again!” Fodos laughed.
“Hey watch this,” Ghartek said, “I’m going to mess with this guy by vanishing his orange toothbrush.” Ghartek made a couple clicks on his display and then somewhere in Siberia, a man couldn’t find his toothbrush, no matter where he looked.
“He’s checking the door to see if someone came in to steal it.” Ghartek smirked, pleased at his work.
Both Fodos and Ghartek were senior programmers on Bethlabus, a planet where a race of hyper-intelligent species called Homo futurans lived. They shared human genetic ancestry with those living in a simulation that they controlled, though technically the connection was only virtual. Real Homo sapiens died out long ago, following in the footsteps of their Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis ancestors. Futurans created the simulation to better understand their roots and their future, with a goal to prevent their own extinction. The simulation itself was housed on a quantum computer the size of a city block.
While there were dozens of simulations in operation, Simulation Earth was the most interesting. Not only was it the longest, spanning over 5 billion years, but it seemed to mirror what Futurans knew about their own past of spurts and stops in evolution that seemed to be a microcosm of the rise and fall of human empires. Data from the simulation was continually analyzed with reports presented yearly to the public through academic papers and conferences. “If we understand our past, we will safeguard our future,” the motto went.
The most important fact they learned from the simulations is the universal difficulty of intelligent organisms to properly foresee and plan again long-term disasters. Once a species gets too technologically advanced, their over-confidence in problem solving and fixing the environment actually accelerates their demise instead of retarding it.
All previous simulations with more intelligent beings than humans invariably ended in self-annihilation. One notable method of extinction was when one species created a black hole on their own planet from a physics experiment gone terribly wrong. Once the black hole took hold of the coffee shop across the street from the laboratory, none of the planet’s 34 billion inhabitants had even a chance to bid farewell to each other.
One important innovation that allowed for these simulations was the ability to disconnect real time from simulated time, meaning that one million simulated years could take only a matter of months in Futuran time. The most recent advance allowed simulated time to be contracted or expanded in vivo instead of being locked in with a preset value. The simulation could be fast-forwarded through boring parts when nothing was really going on or put in slow motion during the exciting bits. World War 2, for example, was watched in real time by the Futuran programmers. They worked overtime to see what would happen when humans were taken to the brink of their destruction.
Ghartek arrived home from work and sat at the dinner table with his wife. “How was your day, honey?”
“It started off amusing,” Ghartek explained, “but then there was an Awareness Incident.”
“Another glitch?” she asked.
“Not quite. I was messing around with this guy by vanishing his toothbrush. I thought he’d go mentally insane or just blame rats, but instead he got really shook up and started reading materials about computer simulation theory.”
“Yeah, now he seems convinced that Earth is a simulation. And get this: he has a popular blog.”
“Yeah it’s like a feed screen. He gathered up papers on computer simulations and wrote about it to his audience.”
“I thought you were supposed to hide the fact to humans that they live in a simulation,” she wondered politely.
“And that’s why I was reprimanded today and have to work extra hours over the weekend.”
“A human got the better of you?” she smiled.
Ghartek furrowed his unibrow. “You can’t underestimate humans. Some are crafty. But let’s just say that I have some intense experiences in store for the orange toothbrush man so that he veers towards God as an explanation for existence instead of computer simulation. Whenever we identify someone who is about to blow the lid on things, we make miracles happen to them so they go religious. It works every time, but I still have to be careful who I troll. I think for laughs I’ll just go back to making men accidentally sleep with their wives’ sisters. It’s much safer.”
“You don’t think it’s a little mean to do that?”
“Mean to give humans extra sex? They’re slaves to it! All they think about is sex, especially the males, but we’ve been able to harness that drive into building a rudimentary civilization.”
“How about we go in the bedroom and build some civilization right now?” His wife kissed his horn and brushed her claw against his leathery face. Ghartek’s one-inch Futuran erection instantly formed and he rolled her into the bedroom for lovemaking.
The next day at work, Ghartek and Fodos attended the weekly project meeting of the Earth simulation. Ghartek began the briefing. “Russia continues to flex her muscles, but nothing noteworthy to report. Last week we spawned a potential genocidal maniac in Germany to be ready for use in thirty Earth years, just in case.”
“Germany, again?” his boss asked.
Ghartek replied, “Well we wanted him to be from a place that the world would least expect. If it turns out that we don’t need him, we can halt his reign of terror by just giving him an advanced video game system. He’ll lose interest in murderous domination within a few months.”
“Speaking of evil, how is our epic battle for the fate of human civilization going?”
“Pretty good,” Ghartek replied. “On the forces of evil our roster is Barack Obama, Angela Merckel, David Cameron, and Benjamin Netanyahu. They’re already itching for wars across the planet.”
“And on the forces of good?”
“Our lineup is Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong-un, and the Ayatollah.”
“Now you were telling us something about a plot twist?”
“We studied Hollywood and noticed that humans like being surprised about their heroes. Everyone will think that Obama, Cameron, Merckel, and Netanyahu are on the forces of good, but they’re actually worse than Hitler. The people they think are evil will—if our prediction models are correct—end up saving mankind in World War 3.”
“And what if our models are not correct, and our future genocidal maniac can’t right the ship?”
“Then we lose Europe. If we lose Europe, we lose humanity. The simulation ends.” Managers looked at each other nervously. Ghartek added, “There is some hope that the Indians and Chinese will step up to the plate and herald a civilization that becomes even greater than the West.” The room erupted in laughter. “Yeah, right, Ghartek,” someone snorted.
“Can we give Trump and Putin more power boosts?”
“We already gave them all known power boosts,” Ghartek replied. “If we give them any more, we’ll enter miracle territory.”
“Speaking of miracle, is our Hail Mary option loaded into the system?”
“Which one?” Ghartek asked.
“The only one that matters, goddamnit!”
“The Second Coming of Christ? Yes that is loaded, but sir you have to understand that the simulation is over once we put Jesus back. According to the New Testament…”
“Yes I know what’s in the New Testament—my father had a hand in writing it. Look, if we’re going to lose the simulation, we’re putting in Jesus. At least we’ll get rigorous data on what degenerate humans do in the presence of their Almighty Lord. It’s possible we can use such a figure to save ourselves in case we experience a cataclysmic decline.”
A man entered the room and approached Ghartek, speaking rapidly into his ear cone for nearly a minute. Ghartek remained seated with a troubled look on his face.
“What is it, Ghartek?”
“My associate just informed me that a human has discovered a recurring glitch.” Of all the things that could destroy the simulation, the most severe was a glitch that could be reproduced.
Ghartek continued, “A man in Savannah, Georgia named Jethro discovered that if he flushes his toilet in a specific way, the water twirls above it instead of in the bowl. News crews have already filmed the glitch and it’s becoming the most viral video known to man.” The room went silent.
“Can we pause the simulation until we figure out what to do?”
“The shut-it-down technology wasn’t yet implemented for this simulation, only for the ones that started after it. I told my assistant to time-constrict the simulation so that one Earth minute is the same as one minute on Bethlabus. That should give us some time to shape the outcome.”
Ghartek excused himself from the meeting to monitor the events unfolding on his workstation. He zoomed in to Jethro’s house and saw more than two dozen news vans crowding around. A long line of cameramen snaked through his house to his toilet bowl. There, Jethro was explaining how he discovered the recurring glitch.
“I went into the bathroom the other day to do my business. I sat down on the bowl and then started watching videos on my tablet. I’ve done this before and nothing weird happens. Then the other day, after I finished, I got up and flushed the toilet. Lo and behold, the toilet water raised to my eye level. It spun around as if it were still in the toilet, and then disappeared down through it. I tried to do it again but it didn’t work, until I found out that I had to watch a specific video on maximum sound. I watch the video for one minute, stand up, flush the toilet, and then it happens.”
Before Jethro demonstrated the glitch, a reporter asked him which video he had to watch. Without hesitation he replied, “Amy’s amazing anal adventures volume thirty four.” Jethro then sat on the toilet, pulled up the video of Amy, maximized the sound, got up after exactly one minute, flushed the toilet, and there it was, spinning water elevated above the toilet bowl. Three cameramen jostled for position to get the best footage of the glitch. Once the toilet emptied, Jethro escorted them out and invited additional news crews to see the glitch themselves.
Ghartek immediately recognized the glitch as a holdover bug from when the television program was released in the human 20th century. It had incompatibilities with the water physics program if used in close proximity. The programmers at the time didn’t give it priority because humans didn’t watch television in the bathroom, but the advent of tablets made the bathroom a multimedia entertainment center. One-time glitches were easy to discount, but a recurring glitch could spell the end of the simulation if humans no longer believed they were organic life forms.
As word of the glitch spread, other humans were able to recreate it using the same “Amy’s amazing anal adventures” video. Ghartek became furious that it had yet to be patched, causing his alien head to turn a bright purple. He released his anger on a junior level programmer: “Fix this glitch now, motherfucker!” The glitch was repaired on the second day, but not before videos of the bug spread throughout the world.
Too many humans saw firsthand that that the laws of physics could be broken in a consistent way. Computer simulation theorists had their day in the sun, making appearances on all media channels to confirm that humans indeed lived in an artificial world. Even Amy became famous, and was soon offered a trip to Dubai to celebrate with wealthy princes and sheikhs. She eagerly accepted.
“I don’t believe we got this far in the simulation without having a pause or rollback feature,” Ghartek lamented to his colleagues. “We were doing so well. We were about to serve the ultimate test to humanity in a wonderful narrative that would have given them hope for centuries had they survived it, but now it’s all ruined thanks to Jethro’s toilet bowl. I’m going home early. When I come back tomorrow, I expect it all to be over.”
Ghartek reminisced about his work on humans. He was there when Newton uncovered the physical laws. He was there when controversial power boosts were first tested on Alexander the Great, the first time Futurans played God in the simulation. And he was there when twerking took America by storm, the result of a catastrophic glitch in the dancing algorithm. The simulation felt like his own baby, one that he was guiding into a purposeful end where the human species would recognize their own flaws and dedicate themselves to anything but their own self-satisfactions and wants, but now a programming error was bringing his life’s work to an end.
Ghartek slumped into work the next day, ready to bring back Jesus. Fodos greeted him. “Hey Ghartek, my man! Our simulation is safe!”
“What do you mean?”
“Kanye West, Jay Z, Beyonce, and Kim Kardashian just died in a plane crash. The whole world is stricken with equal amounts of grief and joy.”
“But don’t they know that Kim Kardashian’s butt was a simulation? Why do they care?”
“Come on Ghartek, don’t tell me that you already forgot the basic principles of human psychology. Even though they know it’s a simulation, they can’t help but feel consciousness and states that seem real to them. In the past two days they’re still eating, shitting, talking, fucking, working, crying. Sure, many believe the Earth is a simulation, but they don’t want it to end because they are still confined by a programmed desire to keep existing.”
“But the toilet water was so convincing.”
“The conspiracy theorists are taking care of it. They are spreading memes that it was special effects and that the media is on board with the globalists to scare humanity into accepting a one-world government. They’re actually convincing people that our programming glitch is a way for the elite to control the world through Freemasonry and Kabbalah.”
Ghartek replied, “I guess the ones who believe they are simulated are really no different from the atheists. They know the world is meaningless and random but want to continue living in it anyway.”
“Exactly. The toilet glitch will be forgotten by most humans in a week. Actually, an interesting development is that the glitch is being harnessed by the religious. They’re stating that it’s a sign by their God, and so we predict church attendance to skyrocket. It looks like people are committing more to the simulation than ever.”
“And what is the status of the Islamic migrants to Europe?”
“They’re still invading in massive numbers. War is coming! Whoooooo!”
Ghartek was relieved. For all the years he has been working on the Earth simulation, he was still unable to put himself in the shoes of a far more inferior being than himself. He severely overestimated the capacity of humans to think clearly about their own nature. In a way, he pitied them and their seemingly insatiable need for ignorance and falsehoods.
Humans were certainly a technologically advanced species, but in spite of that they still avoided the truth of their own reality, even when they witnessed it firsthand. Yet other earthly animals with more acute vision and hearing like owls, lions, and dogs were dominated and subjugated by these myth-seekers. It almost seemed to Ghartek that a prerequisite of an advanced species is that of submission, not to a superior power, but to comforting lies and illusions.
One Earth year later, the simulation was smoothly chugging along. Civil war erupted in Italy between the local nationalists and ruling establishment. Both Russia and the United States prepared for war through their proxies in the Middle East that would undoubtedly involve tactical nuclear weapons. While the possible destruction of the Earth by humans was not entirely a favorable outcome to simulation managers, it removed all awareness in the humans that they were nothing but inconsequential bits and bytes in a massive computer mainframe.
In the middle of the raging Italian Civil War, Fodos was in the office watching a human orgy take place in Brazil when Ghartek caught up on events in the United States. He began laughing.
“What’s so funny?” Fodos asked.
“Time magazine just named Amy as their Person Of The Year for being the most sexually objectified woman of the world. Her courage to face a ‘lightning storm of terrorist misogyny’ was called ‘the bravest act of the century.’”
“Bombs are about to rain down on their cities and they glorify a porn actress? I just don’t get humans.”
“It’s a paradox, really. They are the stupidest and smartest beings at the same time. Hey look there in the Middle East, Fodos.” Ghartek pointed at the right side of his screen. “They’re warming up the nukes.”
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