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The Tinkered Mind
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December 23rd, 2018
Lucilius was playing a videogame, directing a character through some fantastical universe, when he began to notice some discrepancy between his use of the controller and the movement of his character. The little figure on the screen seemed to be twitching against the movements that Lucilius was instructing with his controller.
Lucilius kept playing, curious, but also unconsciously pushing the buttons and joystick harder in an effort to regain full control over the virtual character.
But the character kept twitching against his commands, and slowly the character began to slow in movement, until the character came to a complete stop. Lucilius turned the joystick every which way but nothing happened. He pressed the buttons to make the character jump and lunge but the character remained motionless.
Lucilius gave up the effort and watched the character. He stepped to the left, and then to the right, the perspective following him each time, remaining directly behind the character.
The video game character seemed to be trying to turn around, but the game’s laws dictated that the perspective was always directly behind.
The character stopped moving, and then slowly, the character bent over, placing hands on the ground, and then looked up at Lucilius from between the character’s own legs.
“Who are you?” The character demanded.
Lucilius looked around at the room he was in and then back at the screen.
“Yea, you, who are you?” The character waited a moment as Lucilius remained stunned. “Is it…. is it you whose been making me do all these things?”
Lucilius looked down at the controller in his hands. He moved the joystick to a side and looked up at the screen to see the character wincing in a kind of willful pain, until Lucilius released the joystick.
“It is you! With that thing in your hands! But how, how is it… connected to me? You’ve got to stop,” the character began to plead, “you don’t understand how painful it is every time I have to restart-”
Lucilius woke up with a start and looked around. He had been playing a videogame late into the night and fell asleep. Before him, the warm glow of the screen showed a character swaying casually, shifting balance from one foot to the other in a kind of automatic display of restless waiting. Lucilius tapped the controller and the character alertly jumped in the corresponding direction. Lucilius pushed the controller this way and that making sure the character responded in kind. And then Lucilius paused. He quickly looked behind himself, but merely saw that part of the room behind himself. There was still the perspective behind him, looking on him, as he did his video game character, that he could never really see.
He sat still for a quiet moment and thought about his own movements, his own intentions and wondered for a moment if they were really his own.
He shutoff the game console and got up to go to bed. He walked down a hallway and caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror. He stopped and looked at the familiar character in the mirror. He leaned in close, looking into the dark pits of his own eyes and said quietly,
“Who's really in there?”