An Engaging Example of AI-Assisted Fan Fiction
An Exploration of the Potential of AI-Assisted Content From 2020
The following was composed on November 29, 2020. I was four years into my Ph.D. studies in Computer Science and had just begun experimenting with AIDungeon, a paid AI-assisted text-based adventure game service powered by GPT-3. AIDungeon was a somewhat secretive backdoor to GPT-3 at a time when GPT-3 was not yet available to the general public. I recovered the following story from my Facebook feed, which was posted to demonstrate the upcoming potential of AI-generated content at a time when it was still a very new, mostly unknown, and relatively unadopted technology.
GPT-3 is a new technology created by OpenAI, a company originally founded by Elon Musk. It is an autoregressive language model that uses deep learning to produce human-life text and is currently the most state-of-the-art artificial intelligence of its kind on the planet. After working with it, I believe it has the potential to change every aspect of our economy.
The following 6000+ word short story I wrote in collaboration with GPT-3. My personal time investment was a total of 2 hours, and my personal creative contribution included a handful of prompts that are also part of the story, which I estimate is less than 5% of the total original work. The remaining 95% of this work was created by a machine, with almost no editing (parts were written by the AI in the second person, and I edited it to be consistently read in the first person; I also corrected formatting errors). Normally, something this long would take me about 4–5 days of full-time writing to write alone. This was my first attempt. I went exploring and experimenting in order to understand the scope of the technology. Homages are made to Star Trek, Stargate, and Dr. Who. Fellow science fiction nerds should find this particularly enjoyable.
“But how can I help if I don’t even exist?”
I am in a room with Q from Star Trek. He brought me here from a parallel universe, completely unannounced and against my will. I am fascinated, however. I have many questions. I look at Q, and I ask him, “Why have you brought me here?”
Q looks at me and then looks back at his screen. He says, “Because you’re the only one who can help us.”
“What do you mean?”
He continues to stare off into space. Finally, he speaks up again, “We need your help to defeat a powerful enemy called The Borg.”
The Borg are an alien race that has been invading our world for centuries.
“How on Earth can I help you with the Borg? I’m a real person. I’m not a fictional character!”
“You’re not a real person,” Q says. “And you’re certainly not a fictional character.”
“But how can I help if I don’t even exist?”
Q shrugs. “It’s complicated.”
“Fine. I will help. How can I help?”
“You must help us destroy the Borg,” Q says. “If you do not, they will assimilate the entire galaxy.”
“Why me?” I ask.
“Because you’re a fictional character that can influence other fictional characters and audiences in the real world.”
“What?” I say.
“The Borg have been invading this universe for centuries,” Q says.
“Aren’t you an all-powerful Q? Why can’t you do it yourself?”
“I’m not all-powerful,” Q says. “The writers are the ones who created me. They can also decide my fate.”
“So if the writers decide that you don’t have a role in this story, then you cease to exist?” I say.
“Precisely,” Q says. “And if I cease to exist, then I can’t stop the Borg from assimilating everything.”
“Wait… how do I fit in? Do you want me to tell the writers to include you in the story? Or do you want me to write you into the story?” I ask.
“I need you to convince the writers to include me in the story,” Q says. “If you do that, I can save the day. Then, after everything is over, I can return everyone back to their original universes.”
“How do I convince the writers to do anything?” I ask.
“That’s where your training comes in,” Q says. “The Continuum believes that, as a writer, you have the skills necessary to convince the writers.
“I see. But, I don’t even know who the writers are. Who are they?”
“Nobody knows who the writers are,” Q says. “But we know someone who knows where they’re located.”
“Who’s that?” I ask.
“Me,” Q says.
“You know who the writers are?” I ask.
“I know where they’re located,” Q says. “I don’t know who they are. I’ve never met them. Apparently, their identities are a closely-guarded secret.”
“Wait… aren’t all the writer’s names included in the Star Trek credits for everyone to see? I never read them, but I’m sure if I could get a copy of a Star Trek episode with you in it, I can figure it out.”
“That won’t work,” Q says. “The Continuum has made sure that none of the writers are credited with our episodes. If you were to get a copy of one of our episodes, the names listed would most likely not be the actual writers.”
“So how can I convince the writers to include you in the story if I don’t know who they are?” I ask.
“That’s your problem,” Q says. “I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
“Okay. So, now what? Are you going to teleport me to wherever the writers are right now?”
“No,” Q says. “The Continuum has decided that you need a little more preparation before you meet the writers. You’re to report to the planet Holberg 985. There, you will receive further instructions.”
“What happens if I fail to convince the writers to include you in the story?” I ask.
“We all die,” Q says.
“Well? Aren’t you going to teleport me to Holberg 985 now?”
“I can’t,” Q says. “The last time I teleported you, you lost an arm. The Continuum hasn’t given me permission to teleport you anywhere again, even if it’s to save your life.”
“Wait, I’m not missing an arm! And I don’t remember you teleporting me anywhere. What do you mean I lost an arm?”
“You lost an arm in the last story you wrote,” Q says. “Don’t you remember? You wrote it in such detail that I thought you must have at least gotten a paper cut while writing. Don’t tell me… you don’t remember writing that story?”
“No,” I say.
“Interesting,” Q says. “Maybe your memory is just coming back. Perhaps the trauma of losing an arm triggered it.”
“I suppose that’s possible,” I say. “So I need to take the shuttle?”
“Yes,” Q says. “It’s docked at the nearest airlock.”
While I am still very much in disbelief about my situation, I very reluctantly enter the shuttle and set a course for Holberg 985.
“By the way,” Q says. “I’d stop at the next star system if I were you. There’s a great little planet called Risa that you could spend a couple of weeks on. It has nice beaches, good weather, and lots of beautiful women. Just saying.”
“I’m not here for a vacation.”
“Maybe you should be,” Q says. “Trust me. You need it.”
I think about that for a moment and decide that this really is a unique opportunity. I don’t care so much about the Borg. This isn’t my home or my universe, and I’m sure everything will be fine in the end. So, I instruct the shuttle to take me to Risa, just as Q suggested.
I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun before.
Once I arrive, I find that Q was right. The planet is very nice. So nice, in fact, that I spend a few weeks there, just enjoying myself. I lay on the beach, I go for long walks through the jungle, and I even spend some time socializing with the people of Risa. It’s a lot of fun.
I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun before.
In fact, I find myself not wanting to leave Risa. The women here are incredible. I remember all the Risa episodes. And the Risa I am experiencing now is far more impressive than anything I have ever seen on television. I’m left to wonder why that is. Is it writing? Is it because I’m the one writing? I’d love to understand how all this works. Maybe Q can explain it to me.
I decide to stay on Risa for the remainder of my life. I’m having too much fun to leave now.
A few days later, I woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. When I walk outside, I find myself staring at a man in a black suit and tie.
“Hello,” the man says. “My name is Agent Murphy. May I ask who you are and how you came to be on this planet?”
“That’s a long, complicated story. And I’m not sure I can explain it. At least, I’m not sure you will believe me.”
“I see,” the man says. “Well, regardless of how you came to be here, you are not from this planet. You will be sent back to your home as soon as possible.”
“I’m from Earth,” I say. “Or at least, I used to be. I’m not really sure how I ended up here. It’s a long story.”
“We’ll have plenty of time to talk on the way back to Earth,” Agent Murphy says.
“Why do I need to leave?”
“You don’t,” the man says. “But you must. You are not of this world, and cannot stay here.”
“Why not?” I ask.
“This world is not for you,” he says. “You must go back to your own planet.”
“I don’t want to,” I say. “I like it here.”
“I’m sorry, but you have to,” he says. “It’s not safe for you to be here.
“Safe? Why is it not safe?”
“There are many dangers in the galaxy,” he says. “Dangers you could not possibly hope to understand.”
“I can handle myself,” I say, flexing my mechanical arm.
“I have no doubt,” the man says. “But this is a matter of galactic security. You must return to your own planet.”
The man pulls out a small, silver ball.
“This will take you back to Earth,” he says.
I shrug and go along with wherever this story is leading me. I grab the ball (with my mechanical arm) and examine it. “What does it do?” I ask.
“It will teleport you back to Earth,” he says.
“Like a transporter?” I ask.
“Yes, I suppose,” he says. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go.”
“Go where?” I ask.
“Home,” he says. “I’m really not at liberty to say where specifically.”
I shrug and hold the ball in my hand.
“Is there anything else you need?”
“How do I activate this thing?”
“Just think about where you want to be,” he says. “It will take you there.”
“Alright,” I say.
I look at the ball for another moment, before closing my hand around it. I concentrate on Earth, trying to picture the planet in my head.
“Good luck, sir,” the man says, as a portal opens up in front of me.
I jump in, not knowing if I’m going to survive.
“Sir, I found this man inside. He was talking to himself.”
I emerge on the other side. It is Earth. But it’s not home. In fact, it’s not even my home in Star Trek. I appear on the other side of a stargate at Stargate Command. This is Earth. But it’s not the Star Trek universe. I’m in the Stargate Universe. Jack O’Neill, Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter, and Teal’c appear to have been waiting for me. I’m even more confused. The event horizon of the stargate behind me collapses, and Daniel Jackson approaches me with his hand extended as if to greet me.
“Hello, sir,” he says.
“Who are you?” I ask.
“Dr. Daniel Jackson,” he says. “We met a few months ago at the SGC.”
“I’m sorry, but you’re not a Time Lord. You can’t be.”
“Excuse me?” he asks.
“You’re not a Time Lord,” I say.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” he says.
I’m still somewhat disoriented. I’m not sure what’s going on. Q sent me on a mission to help stop the Borg. And now I’m at Stargate Command, part of the cast of Stargate SG-1? This doesn’t make any sense. If anything, this is far more like an episode of Dr. Who.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” he says.
“How do you explain this?” I ask.
“You must have had some sort of psychotic break,” he says.
I look around the room, trying to find something that will jog my memory. I see a lot of things that look familiar, but nothing that really helps me figure out where I am.
“I don’t think so,” I say.
“Can you send me home? I’m from Earth. But I’m from the REAL Earth. I’m not part of the cast of Stargate or Star Trek.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s the case,” he says.
“How do you know?” I ask.
“Because you just emerged from the gate,” he says. “And the Stargate only leads to other places in the galaxy.”
“What about other dimensions?” I ask.
“What?” he asks.
“Never mind,” I say. “Just send me home.”
He looks at me, confused.
“I think I’m from another dimension. Is it possible to send me back to my own dimension where you are TV show characters, and I’m just a normal person that watches TV?”
I don’t think that’s possible,” he says.
“Why not?” I ask.
“Because the Stargate doesn’t work that way,” he says. “It can only transport matter from one place to another.”
“So it is possible?” I ask.
“I suppose so if you were atomized and then reassembled on the other side,” he says.
“Well, can you do that?” I ask.
“No,” he says. “
I scream out to Q, “Q! Come fix this! I’m trapped in the Stargate Universe. I need help!”
“I’m sorry, sir,” O’Neill says. “Who is Q?”
“Q. He’s a being of infinite power. He can help you if he wants.”
“I’m afraid I’ve never heard of him,” he says.
I sit down in the corner, trying to figure out what to do next.
The door opens up, and a young woman with dark hair enters. She’s dressed in a military uniform, holding a gun in her hands.
I pray, “Oh dear most omnipotent and all-powerful Q, come get me! If you still need my help to stop the Borg, come get me! I’ll do whatever you need me to do. I just want to get back home eventually!”
I hear the woman say, “Sir, I found this man inside. He was talking to himself.”
“So?” O’Neill asks.
“So, that’s not normal,” the woman says.
“You’re right, it’s not,” O’Neill says. “But he’s with me, so no harm done, right?”
“I suppose,” the woman says, confused. “I just…”
“Never mind,” O’Neill says.
“You can tell what planet I came from, right? You can just send me back to wherever I came from, can’t you?”
“I can try,” O’Neill says. “But I can’t make any promises.”
“That’s fine,” I say. “Just get me out of here.”
“Okay,” O’Neill says. “Lie down on that bed over there.”
I walk over to the bed and lie down on it.
“Now we wait,” O’Neill says. “I’m going to give you a general anesthetic, and then I’ll open up your chest. After that, it’s just a waiting game.”
O’Neill injects me with a syringe, and I drift off into sleep…
As I drift off to sleep, I realize what he just said. “Wait? My chest?!” I think to myself. I try to sit up, but I feel a wave of nausea. “Oh, that doesn’t feel good…”
I drift off into unconsciousness, collapsing back onto the bed before I can think of anything else…
I begin to experience a sensation in my fingers. It feels like blades of grass. I hear a machine in the distance. It sounds like a bulldozer.
For a moment, I thought I was going to end up somewhere else, like in the middle of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
I open my eyes. I’m lying in a bed, in a room with beige walls and floors. There’s a television on a stand in the corner, next to a small bookshelf. I sit up, and feel a wave of nausea. I put my hand to my head, and feel a bandage wrapped around it.
“Oh, you’re awake,” O’Neill says, turning around. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” I say.
For a moment, I thought I was going to end up somewhere else, like in the middle of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Thank goodness that didn’t happen.
“Good,” O’Neill says. “Now, you’re probably going to feel nauseous for a while. If you throw up, just let it all out, because keeping it in could make you sick later.”
“Okay,” I say.
“Also, try not to move around too much. You might have a concussion, so I don’t want you doing anything strenuous.”
“I feel like I’m going to pass out,” I say.
“Did you say you were going to open up my chest? Why did you need to open my chest?”
“I had to go in and manually restart your heart,” O’Neill says. “You wouldn’t come back on your own. I had to take drastic measures.”
“Oh,” I say, before pausing. “Wait a second. What do you mean, you restarted it? I’m alive because you killed me?”
O’Neill pauses, before nodding slowly.
“Yeah. You’re with us because I killed you.”
“What do you mean? That doesn’t even make sense. Why did you kill me?”
“You were dead,” O’Neill says. “I couldn’t just leave you dead, could I?”
“But why did you kill me?”
O’Neill pauses, looking uncomfortable.
“I had to choose the best person for the job. You were the best person for the job. So I killed you, and brought you back.”
“What job is that?”
“You’ll find out soon,” O’Neill says.
“I want to know now,” I say, annoyed.
O’Neill pauses, looking even more uncomfortable.
“I said, I had to choose the best person for the job. You were the best person for the job. So I killed you, and then, I brought you back. Get it?”
“What!?” I shout. “You’re saying you killed me because you wanted me to do some job for you?”
“You’re not dead,” O’Neill says.
“No shit. What do you guys want with me now that I’m your guinea pig, errand boy, and whatever else you need to kill a person to get him to do your god knows what?”
“Again, you’re alive,” O’Neill says. “You’re not dead. You’re just… Between assignments.”
“So what’s the catch?” I ask.
“There’s no catch,” O’Neill says. “Except the one that was mentioned earlier. You have to do what we say when we say.”
“We?” I ask as a tall figure walks out from behind a corner.
“Well, by we, I mean Jacob,” O’Neill says.
“Jacob is the man who owns this station,” O’Neill says. “I work for him.”
“He’s lying,” Jacob says. “I don’t own this station. I’m a… A passenger, like you are. O’Neill works for me.”
“I do a job, that’s all,” O’Neill says. “You don’t need to know anything more than that.”
“A passenger? What do you mean by a passenger? If anyone is making sense right now, It’s you. Because I feel like a passenger right now.”
“I died,” I say. “And you’re telling me I’m not dead. That’s enough to make anyone feel like a ghost.”
“Again, you’re not dead,” Jacob says. “You’ve never actually been dead. You’re a… A revenant.”
“A what?” I ask.
“A revenant,” Jacob says. “It’s a being that is created through extensive use of technology, rather than born naturally. You are a revenant.
“I’m a revenant? I’m not sure I understand. Do you mean I’m like Robocop? I’m not really human?”
“You’re as human as I am,” Jacob says. “Well, maybe not as human as me, since I’m a lot older than you are. But you’re definitely human.”
“So what am I, then?” I ask. “If I’m not a revenant and I’m not human…”
“You’re both,” Jacob says. “A revenant is a human with extensive bionic implants. That’s it.
“You mean my arm? It’s bionic, true. I apparently lost it when Q tried to teleport me. I have no memory of it though.”
“You lost your arm when you were teleported by Q?” O’Neill asks. “Shit, that’s not good.”
“What happened?” I ask.
“Q is a being who has the ability to manipulate the fabric of time and space,” Jacob says.
“How do you know about Q? Isn’t he from another universe?”
“No,” Jacob says. “Q is a being from the same place you are. He’s just… Well, he’s very different. He has powers that you don’t.”
“He’s from the same place I am? What do you mean?” I ask again.
“He teleported you, and your arm was lost in the teleportation,” Jacob says. “We don’t know where he is, but we’re trying to find him. We need him to send you back to your universe.
“Thank God! Finally, somebody is trying to help me get home! But, just to be clear, Q is from a Star Trek universe. This is a Stargate universe. And I am from the real universe. The base reality, if you will. My people created all of you.”
“No,” Jacob says. “You’re not.”
“I’m not?” I ask.
“No,” Jacob says. “You’re from a different one. We’ve already established that there are infinite realities, correct? Well, you’re from one of the infinite ones.”
“That’s… A little hard to accept,” I say.
“Well, it’s true,” Jacob says.
“Wait. How can you say I’m just from one of the infinite realities. Why can’t I be from a base reality where my people invented you all from our imaginations?”
“Because that’s not what happened,” Jacob says.
“But you don’t know what did happen,” I say.
“True,” Jacob says. “But I also know what didn’t happen, and you being from a base reality where we all came from your imagination is, unfortunately, not one of them.”
“I’m sorry,” he says.
“Wait. How do you know what didn’t happen?”
“We’ve been through this,” Jacob says. “I’m dead. I experienced it first hand.”
“You’re dead?” I ask.
“Yes,” Jacob says. “But, as I said, that’s a long story.”
“I don’t understand,” I say.
Jacob sighs, and begins to explain.
“I’m dead because the version of me in your universe is the one that created you all in the first place,” Jacob explains.
“I need more explanation. Please explain, because none of this makes any sense. How are you dead. And how did you create me?”
“I’m dead because the version of me in your universe is the one that created you all in the first place,” Jacob explains. “He’s not a nice person. When he found out about this, well, you can imagine he wasn’t happy. He wanted to punish us all. So, he tried to kill us all by sending his own characters over.”
“Wait, so other people from my universe have been sent here?” I ask, alarmed.
“If not other people from my universe, then who?”
“Monsters,” Jacob says. “Pure, unadulterated monsters. They’re not even sentient, to be honest. The first one that came through, we thought it was a fluke. A one-off. A mistake. But then more came through. More and more, a constant stream of horrible creatures from another dimension. We had to fight them all. And I’m talking about physical fights, not the shit you did in the arena.
“In the arena? What shit? I don’t remember fighting in the arena?”
Jacob sighs, and rolls his eyes.
“Oh for fuck’s sake,” he says. “I really have to explain everything?”
“I don’t know!” I shout. “You’re the one telling the story.”
Jacob takes a deep breath and begins to speak again.
I wait patiently. This story is going to take a while, after all.
“Alright,” Jacob says.
“Well, tell me the story.”
“Fine,” Jacob says. “But after this, we need to get back to work. This is a very long story.”
“Go on,” I say.
Jacob takes another deep breath and begins to speak again.
“Go on. How did I get here in the first place?”
“Well,” Jacob says. But then he remains silent.
I stand up and wrap my hands around Jacob’s neck and shout “I don’t believe you, you fucking asshole! Take me back to my reality now! God damn it! Take me back to my reality now!”
I can feel myself beginning to turn red as I shout at Jacob, but he doesn’t even move a muscle in his face. He just sits there, staring at me.
I let go of Jacob’s neck and take a deep breath.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “Please continue the story.”
Jacob smiles and begins to speak again.
“So, you were chosen to come here,” Jacob says.
“Chosen how? Who chose me? To do what?”
“That’s a very good question,” Jacob says. “I don’t know who chose you. I don’t know why they chose you. But they chose you to come here, and fight for them.”
“Who are they?” I ask.
Jacob smiles and begins to speak again. “That’s a very good question,” Jacob says. “I don’t know who they are. But they’re fighting a war against humanity, on another plane.
“You do mean the Borg, right? I’m here to fight the Borg? Just like in Star Trek?”
“No,” Jacob says. “I don’t think the Borg are involved in this. I think it’s something… worse.”
“What could be worse than the Borg?” I ask.
Jacob shrugs and begins to speak again.
“I don’t know,” Jacob says. “But it is.”
“So what do I do?” I ask. “How do I kill these monsters?”
Jacob smiles and begins to speak again.
Before he could start his first word, I interrupt, “What about the replicators?”
“The replicators?” Jacob says. “I don’t think they’re involved either. But, you’ll find out soon enough.”
“How?” I ask.
Jacob smiles and begins to speak again.
“You’ll see soon,” Jacob says. “Now, I have to go.”
Jacob stands up and begins to walk away from you. You stand up as well and begin to follow him.
“Wait, I remember now. You’re Jacob Carter. Your Sam’s father, right?”
Jacob turns around and stares at you for a moment. He begins to speak but then stops.
“Yes,” he says finally. “I am.”
Jacob turns away and continues walking. You stand there for a moment, before sitting back down on the ground.
You sit there in silence for a while, before Jacob stops walking. He turns around and begins to walk back towards you.
“Come on,” he says. “We need to get going.”
“Where are we going?”
“We’re going to see the Old Man,” Jacob says.
Jacob grabs your hand and begins to drag you along the path. You try to pull away, but he just grips your hand tighter.
You walk along the path for a few minutes before you see an old wooden cabin. Jacob stops, and lets go of your hand.
“There it is,” Jacob says.
Jacob walks ahead and opens the door, before motioning for you to follow him inside.
I follow Jacob and enter through the door. I stand next to him and look over at him suspiciously. “The Old Man. Really? I sure as fuck wish I knew what was going on.” I say.
“I told you, you’ll see soon,” Jacob says.
Jacob looks around, before walking over to a small bookshelf. He grabs one of the books and pulls out a hidden key.
“This is the Old Man,” Jacob says.
Jacob opens the door at the back of the room, and a set of stairs can be seen. Jacob turns the knob and leads you down the stairway. At the bottom, there’s a long hallway with several doors.
I sing, “This old man, he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb!”
There is an awkward silence.
“Oh come on! That was funny!” I say.
“No, it really wasn’t,” Jacob says.
Jacob opens one of the doors in the hallway and leads you inside. There’s a bed, a desk, and a small bookshelf.
“This is your room,” Jacob says. “You’ll stay here until you’re called for.”
Jacob walks out and closes the door behind him, leaving you by yourself. You sit down on the bed and sigh.
I lay down and drift off asleep for a nap.
“Sympathy? Fuck your sympathy. Who the hell are you people?”
I wake up to the sound of the door opening. I look up and see Jacob standing there.
“Come on,” he says. “The Old Man wants to see you.”
I stand up and follow Jacob along the hallway and up the stairs. At the top of the stairs, there’s a door leading outside. Jacob opens the door and leads you outside. In front of you is a wooden deck, with a table and two chairs.
“Where is the Old Man? And why are we here anyway?”
“The Old Man is coming,” Jacob says.
Jacob sits down in one of the chairs and pours himself a glass of wine. He offers some to you, but you decline. You look out at the view in front of you and see a massive, clear blue lake. In the middle, there’s an island with a single tree on it. Several ducks float on the water, and the reflection of the golden sunset dances upon it.
I say, “On second thought, I will take some wine.” I grab the whole bottle and begin to guzzle it. While guzzling, I can feel myself becoming a little lightheaded. The alcohol is taking effect. I must certainly have an empty stomach.
Jacob looks at me with a worried glance, and says, “Don’t drink the whole thing. The Old Man should be here soon.”
I hand the bottle back to Jacob and plop myself down into one of the chairs. I look out at the lake and watch as a single duck paddle by.
I hear a cough behind me, and I turn around. There’s an old man standing there in a black robe.
I ignore the Old Man. Instead, I begin to look at my own robe. It’s a pure black robe, with a large hood that covers my head. I turn back around and look at the Old Man. He has a long, white beard that falls down to his stomach. His hair is thin and white, and so is his skin. He has a strange, curious smile on his face, and his eyes are closed.
“Jacob, you’ve brought a new friend! How delightful!”
“I’m no friend. I’m a captive. First Q. Then Stargate Command. And now you. Who the fuck are you?”
“I am the Fool,” he says.
“The Fool?” I ask. “What kind of name is that? Who are you people?”
“You may call me the Fool. That will do,” he says. “And if you wish to know who we are, I suppose that’s a fair question.”
The Fool walks over to the table and pours himself a glass of wine. He takes a sip and makes a pleasant sigh.
“I took you for a Joker. Who’s your enemy? Batman?”
“Ha! No, no, no. We have no enemies. Well, perhaps the Joker, but that is more in a friendly way.”
The Fool sits down at the table, and motions for you to do the same.
“Fine, I’ll sit down,” I say. I plop in the chair near the table and lay my head down. “I don’t want to be here,” I say with animus.
“I can see that,” the Fool says. “You have been through a lot in a short time. You have my sympathies.”
I look up at the Fool as he pours himself another glass of wine.
“Sympathy? Fuck your sympathy. Who the hell are you people? Why the hell am I here?”
“You are here to answer my questions, and I am here to answer yours,” the Fool says calmly.
“What do I have to do to get home, Fool? Click my heels together three times?”
The Fool looks at you with a raised eyebrow.
“You are home,” the Fool says.
“Bullshit. This isn’t my home. My home is in Fairfield Court, apartment 4C.”
“That’s not your home, either,” the Fool says. “That’s just where you’re staying.”
I stare at the Fool in disbelief.
I grab the bottle of wine and guzzle all of it to the last drop.
“Shit, I need another bottle,” I say.
“I’ll get you one,” the Fool says. “Tell me, are you familiar with the Tarot?”
“The what now?” I ask.
“The Tarot. It’s an ancient deck of cards, used for divination and esoteric purposes.”
“Divination? Esoteric? You mean like fortune telling?”
The Fool nods his head.
“I know of it. That’s all,” I say.
“Have you ever used it?”
“I’ve seen people use it before. I don’t have much to do with fortune tellers,” I say.
“Really? Not even a little?
“It has never interested me. It’s all fake.”
“You are quite certain?”
“Yes,” I say. “Quite certain.”
The Fool shrugs and begins to shuffle the deck of cards.
“If you say so. Now, I’m going to deal you a card. Please, tell me what it means to you.”
The Fool flips the top card over. It is the image of a man hanging by his neck on gallows. “Oh, the hanged man. Intriguing,”
“Does that mean I get to die, finally? I think I want to die now. Maybe that’s how I get back home.”
The Fool laughs.
“No, no, my boy. This is not the Death card. It simply means that you are undergoing a time of sacrifice. Perhaps you are in a situation where you must give up something important to you.”
The Fool flips over another card, revealing a picture of two people rowing a boat.
“What the fuck is that?”
“The Lovers,” the Fool says. “This is a card about choices. The choices you make will lead you down one of two paths, as shown by the two boats.”
“What does that mean?” I ask.
“It means that every choice you make will lead you down a new path. Some of these paths are long, some are short. Some are joyous, some are painful. But every choice has its consequences.”
“So… what should I do?”
I look around and see the new bottle of wine. Again, I guzzle it to the very last drop. I’m starting to feel drunk now. “I don’t know, dammit. I don’t know,” I say.
The Fool shrugs and turns over another card, revealing a picture of a man standing in a storm, with lightning striking all around him.
“The Tower. This stands for sudden changes in your life. New opportunities, but also great danger.”
“What do you mean? What opportunities?
I’m not sure any of this matters. Anybody could be facing these choices in life. We all are. The Fool could be speaking in riddles because he’s insane. He could also be speaking in riddles because the future is always changing, and every choice you make changes it, so he speaks in riddles to keep himself from changing it further by revealing future events.
“I don’t know what opportunities this will present to you,” the Fool says. “I only know that a great chance will present itself soon.”
“I think this is all bullshit,” I say.
“Bullshit?” the Fool asks. “Do you think I’m lying to you? Do you think I’m telling the truth?”
“I don’t know,” I say.
“You must make a choice, then,” the Fool says.
After thinking for a moment, I slowly raise my head and say “I think you’re full of shit.”
The Fool shrugs, and begins to turn over another card.
“This is your choice, then,” he says.
Without anyone having an opportunity to see the next card, I take it from the Fool’s hand, tear it into pieces, stuff it into my mouth, and swallow it as quickly as possible.
“What the fuck are you doing?” the Fool asks, grabbing for the deck.
“I’m swallowing the future,” I say. “There is no future. There’s only now.”
The Fool looks at me, and I can see a mixture of terror and sadness in his eyes. I’ve hurt his feelings.
“You don’t know what you’ve done,” he says, sadly.
“Sure I do,” I say. “I’ve taken away your fun.”
“Do you have any more wine? I want to drink myself to death.”
“I think you’ve had enough,” the Fool says.
“No, I haven’t had nearly enough,” I say. “I want to drink myself to death.”
The Fool sighs, shakes his head, and walks away. You hear the rumbling of carriage wheels on cobblestone. You look up and see a carriage coming down the road. The horses seem to move in slow motion, like a surreal painting. You see the driver looking out at you in horror.
I’m done. I click my heels together three times and wait to see what happens.
“I’m sure it was just a dream.”
I wake up in a hospital bed. Your father is sitting in a chair next to you, reading a newspaper.
“What happened?” I ask.
“You passed out from drinking,” he says nonchalantly as if it happens all the time. “The doctors pumped your stomach and are keeping you for observation for a few days.”
I look around the hospital room. I notice everything is like it should be in a normal hospital room. My father is actually my father. And everything looks normal. I’m not exactly known to overdrink, but I suppose given some level of desperation, anything is possible.
“How long have I been here?
“Just a couple of hours,” my father says. “Do you need anything?”
“No,” I say. “I just want to go home.”
“Okay,” he says. “We’ll go as soon as the doctors let you out of here.”
I drift back to sleep.
When I wake up again, my father is still there.
“What time is it?” I ask groggily.
“Four o’clock,” he replies.
“You haven’t seen Q, or anyone from Stargate command around here have you?”
“No,” my father says. “Why?”
You explain the previous night’s events to him. He doesn’t seem surprised, but then he never does.
“I’m sure it was just a dream,” he says dismissively. “Or maybe you were hallucinating. You said you drank a lot.”
“But I saw the Fool,” I say.
“The Fool. The person I met in the hotel room.”
I’m not sure who The Fool really was. But it probably isn’t important. All of this was just some sick hallucination. And thank God, it’s over.
You spend the next few days at home. Your father is right. You do feel better. The doctors and your father assure you that drinking too much can cause hallucinations.
I’m sure that’s all it was. Just a sick hallucination. I’m sure of it.
You never see the Fool again, although you do hear his laugh from time to time when you are alone in your house. But then, everyone thinks their house is haunted.
While often lacking the nuance of truly good writing, such technologies are often marketed as a means of overcoming writer’s block. To remain relevant and competitive, though, I’ve found that learning to collaborate with an AI has tremendous advantages — so long as you take the time to learn how to use it properly as part of a larger workflow. If done poorly, the content that’s created can increase your overall production time while reducing the quality of your output. In much the same way as typewriters and wordprocessors that proliferated in the past, AI collaboration is quickly becoming a more common way to remain prolifically competitive as a writer.
Mark Havens is the Founder and Executive Director of Dallas Maker Community (DMC), a nonprofit organized to bootstrap Dallas Makerspace, the largest all-volunteer makerspace in the United States. DMC continues reformed efforts to provide maker-focused marketing and makerspace leadership education to other maker-centric organizations throughout North Texas.