Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Cell and the Chain

It was dark, so dark. And then I realized why it was dark: my eyes were tightly shut.

I opened my eyes and let the light hit them.

I was inside a jail cell. It looked like, well, a regular jail cell. Bed, sink, toilet.

Wait. Bed, sink, toilet. Words written on the wall. This was the cell. This was the cell my dad took me to, the one my dad locked me in for a whole hour.

This was where I learned the words that ended the world.

How did I end up back here? This couldn't be the Singularity Cell. It couldn't be. I had been here before.

There was no one else in the cell. There should have been a chain and an anvil. And "Ferratus," whoever that was. And I was supposed to break the chain with...a metaphor?

But that was not happening here. Something must have gone wrong. I needed to find Jack again.

"Jack-in-Irons," a voice said. "Jack-in-Irons brought you here." I turned and there was a man sitting on the floor. He had a long, ragged beard and his face was pock-marked with scars. His hands were manacled to the wall.

"Yes," I said. "Jack led me here. But I was supposed to be in-"

"The prison," the man said. "The prison at the beginning and end of all things. Welcome, Jacob. Welcome to hell." The man began to laugh and I could see that there were lit matches in his beard and smoke rose from them.

I blinked and suddenly he wasn't an old man anymore - he was tall and terrible and covered in iron. And before him there was an anvil as big as I was tall. And his manacles had chains that were wrapped around his body and around the anvil.

His laughter echoed in my skull.

"Break the chain, Jacob," Ferratus said. "Break the chain and set me free. Break the chain and save the world, set me free and doom it. Break the chain, Jacob."

I could see what happened now. Jack had tricked me. He had led me here, he had told me to break the chain, but if I did, Ferratus would escape. And whatever Ferratus did might be worse than what I had done. Wouldn't it?

But I had to do something. I couldn't leave the world empty. I could save the world and break the chain.

Ferratus laughed at me again and raised up his chain to me and I suddenly remembered what Jack had said. How metaphors become that which they symbolized.

"Compassion can cut like a knife," I said. And there was a knife in my hand and I could see how sharp the blade was. "It can cut through the hardest iron."

And I swept the knife forward and cut the chain the bound Ferratus to the anvil.

He laughed again and looked at me. "I thank you for freeing me," he said, his voice a raging storm inside my head. "The fetters are now broken, the words no longer connect. The world has returned to its normal state of being. Ripe for the plucking."

"My father was a cop," I said. "And every Christmas, he read to us his favorite story. I remember him reading one part so vividly. It went like this: 'You are fettered,' said Scrooge, trembling. 'Tell me why?' 'I wear the chain I forged in life,' replied the Ghost. 'I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?'"

Chains materialized around me and I quickly wrapped them around Ferratus's manacled hands and then the anvil.

I had cut his chain and replaced it with my own.

I blinked again and the tall, iron-clad Ferratus was again the old man, with smoking matches in his beard. "You are a fool," the old man said, "for you are now chained with me. You will stay here until you die."

"I know," I said. The chains were heavy, but I could bear them.

I'm writing this message on the wall in the hope that someone - perhaps Jack - will find it and put it up. If you do, tell my family that I'm okay. Or maybe just tell them I'm dead. It doesn't matter.

I used to hate my dad for what he did to me. Even the name he gave me, for which I was tormented mercilessly at school. I blamed him when the bullies picked on me and when I got into that fight. But it was my burden.

My father told me that prisons were only for bad people, liars and killers and so on. That if you were bad, you belonged there. I don't believe that. I don't think I'm a bad person.

But I belong here.

Jacob Marley

The City

Jack led me through the city to a door. "Does that lead to the prison?" I asked.

"No," he said. "This door leads to a city. A wonderful, terrible city. A city that never ends. And at the end of that city, at the very bottom, that is where you will find the prison."

I looked at him, saw his smiling face, and then looked away. "How can there be an end to an endless city?" I asked.

"Everything has an end," Jack said, "even something that is infinite."


"Come on," Jack interrupted and opened the door. He gestured and I walked through it.

The other city looked much the same as the one we had come from, at first. Then, as we walked through it, it began to change, slowly and subtly. The buildings grew taller, the streets grew wider, everything became more...grand. When we stopped, I looked up and noticed that the buildings seemed to stretch higher and higher and there didn't seem an end to them.

"How far do they go?" I asked.

"All the way," Jack said. "Come on."

He led me through alleyways and down side streets that I swore changed directions. We passed shops and stores and theaters, all with signs written in incomprehensible letters. They hurt my eyes to just look at, so I looked down at my feet and followed Jack.

Finally, we reached a dock on a lake. There was a ferry. We both got on and Jack pushed us off.

"Where does this lead?" I asked. I had so many questions, but I knew he wouldn't answer them.

"The ferry leads down," Jack said. "Today, I play the part of ferryman and you the part of the dead. But we go farther than the underworld, my friend. In the middle of the lake is a hole, made from a piece of nothing at all. And this hole leads to the bottom of everything. The Singularity Cell."

"A hole?" I asked. "If it's in the lake, wouldn't it create-"

And then I saw it. The water swirling around, turning us in circles. The whirlpool.

We were caught in Charybdis.

"This is where I leave you," Jack said. "Good luck."

"Wait!" I shouted. "How do I break the chain?"

"Remember what I said," Jack smiled. "Metaphors tend to become the thing they represent. It's a real chain, Jacob." Then he snapped his finger and faded away like a ghost.

The whirlpool pulled the ferry faster and faster until it tipped over and I fell




Friday, June 8, 2012

Breaking the Chain

I sat down on the front steps of my apartment and Jack stepped closer, as if to comfort me.

"There there," he said, "it could have been anyone, really. Well, no, actually, it couldn't. It had to have been someone in the cell who read those words with the mind of a child. It was quite a coincidence that it happened to you, really. Cheer up!"

"Cheer up?" I said. "I caused the end of the fucking world, how am I supposed to cheer up?"

"It's not the end of the world," Jack said. "The world will keep turning. Man will be quite extinct, but the world will keep going. For a little while at least."

"How do I stop it?" I asked. "Can I...break the chain or something?"

"You can't," Jack said. "The chain is self-repairing. Freshly forged, you might say. The only way is to, I don't know, find the place where the idea came from and break it there."

"That'll work?" I asked.

"Oh yes," Jack said. "If you break the chain where it meets the anvil, well, no more meme. Everyone goes back to normal. It'll be like none of this ever happened."

"How do I break it though?" I asked. "You said it was a metaphorical chain. A chain of thought. So...what, do I just disrupt the thought? Upload a virus to the mothership or something?"

"Ha!" Jack laughed. "Someone's been watching too many movies. No, I said the chain was metaphorical here. Over there, well, metaphors tend to become the thing they represent. Thoughts become things. The chain is an actual chain, is what I'm saying."

"Over...where?" I asked.

His smile seemed to grow wider. "His prison," he said. "The prison. The prison at the bottom of the universe. Some call it the Planck Level. I call it the Singularity Cell." He extended his hand and said, "I can take you there."

"Getting back, however, that's your concern."


I met another man today. This man was, thankfully, not foaming at the mouth and could form coherent sentences. He said his name was Jack. He wore a three-piece suit with one red glove. He was standing outside my apartment when I ventured outside.

"I can explain everything that's happened," Jack said.

"Thank God," I said.

"Just Jack, if you don't mind," Jack said. "You see, it's a chain."

"What?" I stepped back.

Jack smiled. "Not a real chain. No, this is more of a metaphorical chain. A chain of thought. Do you know what a meme is?"

The sudden question startled me. "Um, yes," I said. "It's like an internet joke that goes viral-"

"No, no," Jack said. "It's an idea. It's an idea that spreads like a virus. An image, a song, a phrase." He emphasized the last word. "A phrase like, say, 'Ferratus, his fetters freshly forged.'"

I looked at him confused. "That's a meme?" I asked. "It doesn't even make sense."

"Ideas rarely have to make sense," Jack said. "But it is an idea. One that digs into your mind, burrows into your thoughts, and spreads its little maggot ideas outwards from there. One that implants an urge in your head, an urge to fight, to kill." Jack smiled again and I felt sick. "And like a virus, it spread from person to person, creating a chain."

"Where did it come from?" I asked.

"It was written on the wall of a cell," Jack said. "And a little boy read it one day and it become etched in his mind, locked away until one day it surfaced. Don't you remember, Jacob?"

"What?" I said. "How do you know my name?"

"Didn't you wonder how you keep getting all those emails when nobody knew your email address?" Jack said. "Didn't you check where they were all coming from? Go on then. Look."

I went back to my apartment and got my laptop, then opened up my email. I had tons of new "Ferratus" - I stopped deleting them when I stopped checking my email. I looked at the sender on one. And then the next one. And the next. I looked at the sender for all of them.

They were all me. I sent them to myself.

I rushed back outside. Jack was still there, still smiling.

"You caused it," Jack said. "You spread it. That's why you're still here, still unaffected. You're an asymptomatic carrier of the idea. Like Typhoid Mary."

"Why?" I asked, almost unable to form words. "Why me?"

Jack said two words, just two words and I held my hand over my mouth, for fear that I might scream.

"Why not?"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I saw someone today. A man.

I've been taking walks around the city. Just looking for anyone, anything, any sign of human beings, or where people went. A goddamn note that said Croatoan would work. It would at least be a sign of something.

And then today I saw a man.

He was standing, facing the brick wall of a building. He had his hands on the wall like it was holding him up or something.

I called out to him. I called out hello.

He started shaking, like he had the jitters. Then he turned to look at me.

He had a tattoo on his face. A double fork, like that man from KFC. He was...foaming at the mouth. His eyes were bloodshot. "Ferratus," he said, "his fetters freshly forged."

I ran. I ran so fast that I quickly ran out of breath and just kept running, trying to breathe as I did.

I must have been miles away when I realized I wasn't being chased anymore.

I'm scared. I'm tired and scared and don't know what the fuck is going on.

Someone help me please.

Monday, June 4, 2012


I walked to work today. I hadn't heard anything outside for a while, so I thought it might be safe.

It was weird. There was nobody around. I mean nobody. Just...empty streets, empty buildings, no one anywhere.

Work was locked. So were the local stores. I walked back to my apartment in silence.

What happened to everybody?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Emergency Broadcast

There was an emergency broadcast on the news. It's the first time they've reported anything on what's happened.

They said to stay indoors and wait for local authorities. They never said why. They never said what the riots were about or who started them or how many there are. They just said to "stay indoors" and wait for "local authorities." Wait for them to do what?

...seriously, what the hell is going on?