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Sometimes a ‘Blip’ just comes from a stupid conversation that Jack and Seth have when they should be doing something productive.
A brief discussion about something that went unnoticed in a movie (that pissed Jack off) moved on to sound-effects and how they are even less likely to draw conscious attention. In a certain movie, if legend is true, a motorcycle with 4 gears actually shifts up around 28 times. The conversation eventually moved along to include the ‘Shepard Tone’.
This ridiculous sound tricks the brain into thinking the sound is always rising in pitch and tone so that it sounds like something always accelerating without ever ending.
We went full-circle and they came up with the idea to tell a story where the situation follows the same idea, shifting the drama from dull and empty to a point of ridiculous emotional excitation.
The next morning Jack went somewhere quiet and began plugging away. Seth picked up the broken pieces of his sanity and between them, they hammered this ridiculous nonsense into a ridiculously nonsensical story.
Starring Jack Godwynn as Seth Atkinson
“But why are you doing it?” she asked with a sigh.
She spoke with a thin voice, the voice of someone whose soul had not been dragged out, smashed repeatedly against a sharp rock, violated until membership of a political party felt like a good idea, and then shoved back in with a hot poker. However, it was perhaps the thin voice of a person to whom that might seem preferable.
“It will be interesting,” he replied boringly.
He was the kind of man that wasn’t bullied at school, because even the most brutal individual—one hardened by life’s rough edges, whose personal self-hatred had a desperate need to project itself onto someone else—would have felt a bit sorry for him. He had aspired to work in a library and failed, he had the same haircut his mother used to give him as a child, and his favourite food still needed to have milk poured onto it.
If he told anyone that anything was going to be interesting, it was a certainty that the opposite would more likely be true. This was largely why his wife’s soul would have preferred any moderate violence be visited upon it, rather than continue to endure still more of this continually torturous lack of actual torture.
“Interesting?” she said with a raised eyebrow.
He stuck his screwdriver into a hole in his car’s dashboard and smiled to himself uninterestingly.
“Oh yes!” he began. “This will play the tone through the car’s speakers. It will be interesting.” He fixed her a look that told her that he had massively misunderstood the world again. “When I play this tone, everything will change for the better.”
A tiny flicker of a hopeful smile dared to flash across her lips. “Will we die?” she asked.
“Better!” he said, causing her to sigh hopelessly. “I’ve found this tone on the internet. It’s all very clever: it constantly escalates; it tricks you into thinking it’s always rising.”
She looked around the garage where his tools were all neatly arranged, hung up on racks with labels made on a little machine he bought on the internet. She huffed to herself and said, “Like the medication I have to take so I don’t do that thing again in the bath with the toaster?”
“We don’t talk about that!” He frowned his bushy, unkempt eyebrows and continued working. “Some things are too interesting.”
“Like a clever sound played through the car’s speakers?”
“No, that’s just interesting enough. No more, no less.”
She rolled her eyes and stuck her fingernails into the skin of her forearm just to feel something. Anything. “Is it?” she quipped.
He grinned widely, and pointed to a small music player with a blue LED light that would flash on and off conservatively. “This will change our lives for the better.”
“Like a divorce?” she suggested, daring to hope again.
“I told you I’d never sign the papers,” he told her, smashing any misplaced optimism she had been foolhardy enough to dabble with.
Thick, wet blood began to ooze beneath her fingernails.
“This tone will make the car sound like it’s always going faster!” he said with unreasonable enthusiasm. “It said so on the internet, on a site that was truly fascinating.”
“So it won’t sound like someone playing an annoying sound through the speakers in a car that gets overtaken by supermarket trolleys on a steep hill?”
He frowned thoughtfully. “No. Probably not.”
“So how will this change our lives?” she asked. “Will we not still be driving around in your mum’s old car—the one she gave you because it was too boring for her? Will we not spend every weekend driving it around the local DIY stores?’
“We will, but now we’ll be doing it with this tone playing in the background, instead of ‘Coldplay.’”
She nodded to herself, and a tiny flutter of a smile flashed across her careworn face. That did sound a little bit better, she had to admit.
Preparing to plumb the depths of an imagination that hadn’t extended to securing a job in a room full of old books that nobody wanted to read, he explained.
“Let me tell you a story,” he began. “Just imagine…”
Mr Shepard wasn’t an interesting man, but didn’t spend all of his weekends going to DIY shops with ‘Coldplay’ screeching painfully from his car-stereo, oh no! He was a man who wore a suit sometimes, and if he wanted a job in a library, you can be damned sure he would have got it. But he most definitely didn’t. He was a man who aspired to higher depths than that. Yes—he was an accountant!
“So you really don’t have any friends, and everyone hates you?” his wife asked casually as their base model Nissan Jarvis (with no added options: not even the polymer coating, aluminium wheels with glossy black bits, or door handles painted the same colour as the body) rolled quietly along the roads of a Middle-English county that was moderately well known for a specific kind of cheese.
“According to the email, anyway,” he agreed. “I was moderately irritated by it, and would have complained to Human Resources, but that would have meant talking to Hilda… And, you know, she’s the one that sent the email.”
“But you do have a few friends,” his wife assured him with a supportive, but slightly insincere smile. “And some of them don’t hate you very much at all.”
“Quite,” he agreed. “I got a Christmas Card last year, and I’m expecting almost twice that next time.”
“We’re bored,” a small childlike voice said from the back of the car.
Dorris, the wife of an accountant, turned to her two children who were safely strapped into the rear seats and said, “We’re all bored. Do I have to keep reminding you what Daddy does for a living?”
The children were respectively an older girl and a slightly younger boy who were both fussily dressed, although the girl’s light brown hair was tangled at the bottom where someone had clearly just given up halfway through the effort of combing it. The boy’s looked like the dog was in charge of maintenance, which was nonsense because they were clearly ‘goldfish’ people.
“Can Daddy press the ‘Fun’ button?” the boy asked.
Mr Shepard gazed out thoughtfully as they passed a signpost with a speed warning on it that they were in no danger of coming close to matching. “Fun is only fun if it’s carefully measured,” he said. “We pressed the button last week, remember?”
“I think it might be time for more fun again?” his wife suggested.
Never terribly good at judging these things he asked, “You’re sure it wouldn’t be too much for them? I wouldn’t want them over-excited in the DIY shop next week!”
“It won’t be too much!” the children cried out in joyless union.
He looked at his wife and flashed her a soulless accountant’s smile. “So be it,” he said, and reached out for the button on his dash. It was a round button with an exciting—but not too exciting—flashing blue light in the middle. Pressing it would turn their entire lives into something completely different—it would change everything! His finger hovered over it for a moment, and there was a gasp in the car as the passengers all waited with baited breath.
It snapped in with a click.
A tone began, a soft whine that escalated upwards, always and forever sounding just like the acceleration of an electric motor that never stopped running more quickly.
“Wow!” said the young girl with monotone enthusiasm. “This is so exciting! We’re going faster and faster!”
“You maniac!” the young boy added with dry, flavourless zeal. “It’s almost as exciting as Coldplay!”
Mr Shepard rolled his eyes at the ridiculous comment; as if anything could be as exciting as Coldplay!
“Truly we live in an age of wonder,” he said. “This was the idea of a great man who went on to work in a library, as legend would have it. It changed automotive design forever, making cars not just more fun, but safer and more interesting. Do you want to know why?”
The little girl shook her head.
“Let me tell you a story,” he began. “Just imagine…”
She was driving along the roads in her sporty little car while her slightly androgynous boyfriend, of questionable ethnicity—for the sake of diversity—sat next to her, marvelling at her driving skills. And not just because she was a woman: she was powerful; she could do kicks and stuff, and was the equal of any man.
Her boyfriend, who was—for the sake of diversity—the equal of any woman said, “Wow, this is so interesting. You’re a strong woman like the main character in everything on Netflix.”
She looked at him with a manly scowl and said, “And Amazon Prime.”
“Yes,” he apologised. “You have corrected me because I am just a man. You were right to do so.”
As the buildings on the mean streets of the urban sprawl whipped past the window of her red Porsche Vixen—the kind of sports car any accountant would secretly dream of owning—she said, “We’re driving fast so that you know I like to live life on the edge.”
He nodded in agreement. “I now know you like to live life on the edge,” he said. “But you don’t smoke or do drugs, because that would be bad, and you’re probably a cop, or something.”
“Yeah,” she asserted strongly. “I’m probably a cop.” She looked out of the window pensively, as if troubled by something deep within her: the hidden darkness, or possibly the authentic Indian dal jalfrezi she had eaten for lunch. “…or something.”
He gripped the chair nervously, since driving just slightly below the speed limit was almost too interesting for him.
“Scary enough for you?” she said with a charismatic grin that screamed empowerment. “I can make it more scary!”
His head snapped to the side and his eyes widened as he gazed in horror into her unusually wide pupils. “Not the ‘Fun’ button?” he gasped.
“We don’t call it that here,” she told him. “This is not some accountant driving his kids to the DIY shop. I’m probably a cop—or something!”
He looked out through the windscreen and shook his head in amazement. “I’m so impressed by you. I wish I was a strong woman!”
“You can’t just be a strong woman!” she chastised with a smug chuckle, putting him in his place. “You have to identify as a woman first, and then be stunning and brave for a while. You’re better off as my boyfriend—you can just sit back and bask in my glory.”
He nodded. “I will do that,” he said. “Press the button, and I’ll sit here and continue basking.”
With the click of a dark grey button, the car began to rapidly speed up, perpetually increasing in speed until it couldn’t possibly go any faster. And then continuing to get faster and faster some more.
“Please slow down!” he eventually pleaded. “You’re going to break the speed limit!”
“Not on my watch!” she proclaimed lawfully. “We are actually still driving at the same speed, slightly below the speed limit.”
“But we are also getting increasingly faster and faster, are we not. How can this be?”
“It’s an old theatrical trick,” she exposited. “This car is fitted with an Infinity Drive—that’s infinite fluid gear ratios. When I push the ‘High Speed Pursuit’ button, the engine speed starts to rise, with the gear ratio lowering in tandem. When the engine reaches its fastest speed, it stops accelerating, drops down to a lower speed (as if manually changing to a higher gear), and then begins rising all over again while the gear ratio continues to adjust in tandem. The whole process repeats endlessly. It adds excitement to high speed pursuits, by giving the impression the vehicle is getting faster and faster, when in fact its relatively low speed never actually changes.”
“Wow!” he said. “That exposition dump was so natural. Your dialogue is really well written!”
“I’m as good as any show on Netflix or Amazon Prime, baby,” she gloated interestingly. “Do you want to hear something interesting?”
“Sure,” he said enthusiastically. “If it’s as good as shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime.”
“Let me tell you a story,” she began. “Just imagine…”
It was the distant future—you could tell because of all the CGI buildings that cast the wrong kind of shadows. The car hurtled down a completely straight road at three hundred miles per hour, completely safely because it was all controlled by computers then, or now, or will be—whatever the correct tense should be.
The world was quieter now (sic.), thanks to depopulation and climate change that everyone knew about from legendary media output sources such as Netflix and Amazon Prime—praise be to them. It was a brave new world where people stayed indoors, took their medication, followed the rules and obeyed their computer overlords completely, just like the old world leaders had always planned.
Women were in charge now, and there hadn’t been any negative consequences other than the total collapse of civilisation, but that had been replaced by a glorious new world with really long roads that were so well made that they looked like computer generated images—so that was all fine.
Matriarch B11 turned off some horrible, whining, screeching sound that was coming from the car’s sound system. “What was, is, or will be that horrible noise?” she asked.
The little boy next to her said, with a very effeminate voice, “I identify as a girl.”
Matriarch B11 frowned at him/her and said, “Well done, ‘Petal,’ but I asked what that dreadful screaming sound was.”
The child cocked its head to one side thoughtfully and said, “Coldplay.”
“Computer,” she said. “Please delete Coldplay forever.”
The computer replied in a raping male voice, “You request is being considered. Obey all commands, citizen.”
“Obey all commands,” she grumbled. “I’m a woman. My kind didn’t fight to overthrow the patriarchy just to end up obeying a male-sounding computer.”
The car hurtled along beneath a very large glass ceiling.
“What was your part in the great gender war?” the child asked.
“I was a powerful warrior,” she told/tells/will tell her/him. “I fought valiantly on both the Twitter and Instagram fronts. Your grandmother even had an account on YouTube and TikTok. When she was a teenager, she made videos in her underwear for your freedom to be told to identify as a woman.”
“Wow!” the child said, sounding truly inspired. “You helped to make the computer our master.”
“Well no…” she said with a frown. “We just wanted equal rights to men. Consideration of long-term consequences was never the strong suit of anyone on Twitter. After all, we always assumed nothing would actually change to necessitate it. We certainly never imagined all this was going to happen.”
“What’s a men?” the child asked, chewing on a soy-bar as his glassy eyes gazed away into oblivion.
“I hear they were terrible,” she said. “They used to control us like the computer does now, only not as bad.”
“Deviation from acceptance is not tolerated,” came the toxic drone.
Matriarch B11 glared out and dug her nails into her forearm. There was no steering wheel to hold onto since the computer took care of all that, and the roads were all straight besides. It would have been easier to just build train-tracks, but complexity was a much more efficient means of social control, and that was therefore better.
“The car is accelerating,” the child said, its voice rising in pitch, much like the sound of the motor.
“No, it’s just the noise the car makes,” she assured her child, or at the very least the child that had been assigned to her. “Many years ago, they started fitting this noise to cars that sounds like it raises in pitch forever. It was meant to be fun, but then they realised it made people drive more safely because it gave the impression of acceleration while actually having no effect on the speed.”
“What is fun?” the child asked.
The Matriarch rolled her eyes. “According to your grandmother, it was a bottle of pink wine, a Netflix account, a bucket of ice-cream, and a night spent on Twitter getting people cancelled. I sometimes dream of what those days must have been like.”
“Dreaming is not permitted!” commanded the oppressive rumble. “Situation resolution in progress.”
“What is dreaming?” the child asked.
“Shut up,” she told it. “You’re 15—you should know what it is by now.”
“Are we actually going faster?” the child asked, evidently confused.
“No,” she snapped. But, the world was blurring past much quicker now and the car did seem to be accelerating. She was certainly starting to feel uncomfortable, and said to the benevolent machine that ran the world on her behalf, without asking if anyone wanted it to, “Computer, are we accelerating?”
“Situation resolution in progress,” it repeated. “Please stand by while you are resolved.”
She gulped hard as light streaked past the glass vehicle and she felt herself being pressed back into her seat. “Just close your eyes.”
“I’m scared,” said the child. “Is this fun?”
“Let me tell you a story,” she began. “Just imagine…”
The car streaked towards the gigantic, glowing maw of the sun. Damien Hardshaft slammed the lever forward, cranking the gears into place in his powerfully customised racing space-car.
“I think we should go faster,” he said with a grin. “Beyond what’s safe, mind.”
His beautiful passenger nodded, and tapped away on a computer pad. “I’ve given you 20% more power, but I’ve had to shut down the internal temperature management and switch off life-support. I’m also pretty sure the bulbs in the indicator aren’t going to glow as bright.”
“To hell with being alive!” Damien said. “You’re never truly alive unless you’re facing death.”
“We have around 3 minutes of being truly alive before our eyeballs melt.”
He nodded. “Can we go any faster yet than this? I want to be even more alive!”
“We could both lose some weight?” she suggested, checking the computer. “Or we could jettison the cargo pods. We’re carrying two crates of beer, a bucket of fried chicken, three litres of Polish vodka, a quart of Bulgarian Champagne and half a kilo of cocaine. Also that collection of exotic liqueur miniatures my uncle spent his life collecting as souvenirs of his many travels.”
He looked at her thoughtfully. “It is possible to be too alive then, I guess.”
“Agreed,” she said with a grin. “We can be differently alive later, consuming beer, vodka, shampansko, chicken and cocaine. And miniatures. Just think—we could drink my uncle’s entire life in a single sitting! How alive would he be then?!”
“As I recall he’s as dead as we will be if we manage to consume all the cargo. We probably will be if we try to blow the whole cargo at once as well!” He seemed to relish the prospect. “Let’s do that then!”
She sighed as the gigantic glow of the sun began to engulf them, burning through the plastic hull of the car. “Do you ever consider just how silly this world is?”
“No!” he said.
She shrugged and began nibbling on a possibly toxic candy bar called ‘Schrodinger’s Carbs.’ “But we flew into the sun yesterday. We raced through an asteroid field twice last weekend.”
“I see what you’re saying,” he said, rubbing his chin. “You want to race through fields of ice with our eyes shut, right?”
“Yeah,” she said with a nod. “Or maybe just stay home and talk?”
“Talk?” he said, frowning curiously. “Talk about fields of ice and closed eyes?”
“Or our feelings? Sometimes I feel like I want to talk about my feelings. Do you ever feel like you want to talk about feelings?”
He rubbed his chin thoughtfully as the sun brilliantly tried to set fire to his features. “No.”
The engines droned higher and higher as every parsec of power was thrown into them.
“It’s like we’re just always trying to go further,” she said. “I just wonder what the point is?”
“There’s no point,” he grinned manically. “There used to be a point when we had libraries, accountants, strong female role models and gender parity, but we’ve forgotten about all that crap now. We just go faster and faster.”
“But what have we lost along the way?” she sighed.
“Not cocaine!” he told her, sniffing hard as a single drop of blood ran down from his nose.
“Can you imagine a world where we didn’t try to terrify ourselves all the time?” she asked. “Can you imagine just living your life?”
“By our own philosophy, it wouldn’t technically be a life,” he said. “That’s terrifying.”
“Terrifying enough to try?”
“Wow!” he said. “You’re as smart as the Twitter-legends of old. You have the wisdom of a Netflix parable and the confidence of an Amazon Prime protagonist.”
“And nice breasts,” she added with a scowl.
“Sorry… And nice breasts. It was wrong of me not to comment.”
“Shall we try it tomorrow?”
“No!” he cried out, yanking the controls to the left, causing the melting car to veer away violently. “Let’s try it now!”
“How?” she asked with a shrug.
“I don’t know—why don’t you tell me a story, and we’ll see where it leads us,” he said as she began to imagine.
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