Everyone automatically goes to heaven?

“So how did you figure this out exactly?” The pope asks the government officials sent to see him about the problem.

“That’s hardly the problem.” The US official said exasperatedly. “We’re more concerned with the millions dying every day than the research that led to this.”

“All the same.” The pope said. “I have not seen the report myself, only the news stories. So tell me, how was this discovered?”

The US official sighed and put his head in his hands, but the Italian official spoke up. “There was a news story a couple months back about a couple near death experiences of death row victims who all reported seeing lights, hearing angels, and just generally having an experience of heaven when they died.” The official explained. “This prompted some psychology students to go do a survey of near death experiences of convicts which then discovered that all convicts, when they had a near death experience, reported similar visions of the afterlife. The study got leaked before it got sent out for review, and the rest is history.”

“Has the study been published?” The pope asked.

“No.” The Italian official responded.

“Well, it doesn’t matter anyway. Contact the medical college in charge of investigating miracles, the WHO, the CDC, and any other legitimate biological research community. Have them forward you all the relevant studies on brain chemistry of people in various near death situations. They will no doubt demonstrate to you that when people nearly die their brains can enter a state similar to that of a drug addict. Dying does substantially affect brain chemistry you know. Once you get the news outlets to start circulating the studies I will contact my brethren in the Christian, Islamic, and jewish communities to begin circulating the relevant theological background. I will also personally forward to you gentlemen a few papers that have postulated the following. 1: The devil is very good at deceiving. 2: This is nothing new. 3: People who don’t actually die haven’t actually seen the after life. They do call it a ‘near’ death experience afterall.”

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The haunting note

I recently did a collaborative story with my friend reddit.com/user/Luna_Lovewell . I started a story and she had the brilliant idea to continue it. The result is below, with her writing about half of the total story. See if you can guess who is who :). If you like her stuff you can find more at reddit.com/r/Luna_Lovewell

Guessing the meaning behind the note had become a game. When the lads were taking watches at night to ward off the werewolves, they would entertain themselves by postulating different theories.

Everyone had one they latched on to. Simon was of the opinion that it was an ancient symbol. A bloodrite passed down by my father to signify that I was an initiate into some secret order.

Gregory claimed it was a play on words. “D Sharp, and it’s a key. So somewhere there’s a key to some hidden treasure which is sharp and in the shape of a D.”

Peter would always think he had it right because none of the others factored in the crossbow. “Why would he only have it on the crossbow then? Why not emblazon it on his shield and armor as well? It’s not the cost surely. We have retrieved more than enough loot from our monster hunting to cover any blacksmithing expense. No, you blokes have got it all wrong. It’s a marksman achievement. There’s some tournament of the world’s best archers. They don’t want to advertise their skill lest people challenge them, but they wish to carry a symbol so other worthy marksmen know. Do we not call marksmen Sharpshooters? I cannot say for sure what the D is for, perhaps a rank. It is the fourth letter. So perhaps our comrade here is highly ranked.”

These were the most exciting theories. The others merely thought it was the key of my favorite song, and debated which of the very few composed in it was the song.

None of them were right. It was a much more personal reason. Before I had joined with the hunters a dragon attacked my cottage. I rushed to get a bow and fend the beast off. I had a bow for hunting boar and fired shot after shot at the beast, but it was no use. It carried off my wife.

She was a brave soul. She didn’t want me to be afraid, so as the beast carried her skyward, I lowered my bow, and I heard drifting through the air a song. Most other women would have screamed. In fact, all other women I’ve seen be victims in a dragon attack have shrieked loud enough to wake the dead. Not my wife. She knew that her suffering would bring me pain. So in the last moments that I saw her, she decided to comfort me with a song to let my know she was alright. A song that ended with the note D#.

I can no longer remember the words, but I still remember the note. She held that note until I could no longer hear her. I have it on my crossbow to remind me that she still might be out there, and that when next I have an opportunity to save her, I won’t miss.

I stirred from my bunk after another half-night of restless sleep, tormented by dreams of fire. Careful not to wake the other guards, I stumbled outside to the well. Damp mist shrouded the camp, leaving only blurs of buildings and hazy orange globes that marked the torches of the night watch.

I tugged at the coarse rope hanging down into the cavernous, stone-lined pit in the center of the camp. A gentle splash echoed from below, and I hauled up a bucket of cool, crisp water that captured the moonlight in its sloshing waves. I drank deeply, filling my belly and soothing my parched throat. From the wall, I heard the chatter and laughs of the guards at their posts, no doubt sneaking mead from the kitchens and wasting arrows on shadows at the treeline. I had half a mind to go reprimand them, but I could save that task for tomorrow’s briefing.

After a final gulp of water, I padded back to my cabin. The mist closed in around me, growing so dense that I could barely see my own feet. Only the bright moon was able to pierce its nebulous veil. The rusty hinges of the barracks door squeaked as I pulled it open, as if protesting that I had woken them up with my nighttime sojourn. Just as I crossed the threshold, another sound trickled through the mists. A soft whisper, lighter than the flap of a bat’s wings at dusk. It was the sound that pursued me every night through my dreams. My beautiful wife’s voice as the beast carried her back to its lair; that haunting song that I knew would end in that final D-sharp. The mists seemed to swirl in excitement upon hearing it, and I wondered (not for the first time) whether I was truly awake.

The door slammed shut behind me with a clatter as I turned and ran back outside. I bounded down the path and bounded up the rough timber steps to the guard outpost overlooking the dense swamp that marked the border between Oltaria and the neighboring Kingdom of the Dead. The voice called to me again, coming from somewhere beyond the trees.

“Do you hear that?” I asked wildly to the guards as I burst through their door. They stood wide-eyed with fear and nodded, instantly sobered by the haunting sound. The song began to fade, receding deeper into the trees, luring me out. I knew it was likely a trap; all sorts of beasts lurked in these woods, and their magics had tempted many a traveler to stray from the road, ending in a grisly death. But how had it known to use that one song? How could it mimic the soft tone of her voice? How did it know about my obsession with that final note? I had to know if she was out there, no matter the cost.

I snatched my crossbow from its peg and vaulted over the rim of the rough timber wall that guarded our fort. The guards behind me called out, thinking that the sound had driven me mad. They didn’t know about her. They didn’t know what the sound meant. My bare feet squished into the mud as I sprinted into the swamp.

“I’m coming,” I whispered to her.

The dead forest, so called because of what was in it, and what failed to come out of it. Only hunters were crazy, greedy, or desperate enough to live on its borders, and even hunters knew not to venture into the woods without plenty of backup, and plenty of daylight left. So slim was the chance of survival after dark that soldiers who failed to answer roll call at sundown were automatically listed as KIA.

I could hear my men shouting at me from the fort, but now one venture after me. When I approached the tree line, their voices died down to avoid attracting monsters, and I dove into the darkness alone.

I dropped into a crouch and drew my knife. I held my knife hand in front of me and balanced my crossbow on it. If something came at me, I would only have one shot with my ranged weapon, and I needed my knife at the ready to ward off the teeth, poisons, and claws the waited for me here.

That note, that beautiful terrible note was still ringing in the air, calling to me. It was a trap. I knew it was, but I could not help it. I would not wait another year aching to hear that voice again. That memory died here tonight, one way or the other.

The voice is getting close now. Less than fifty paces off. I cannot make out anything distinct, but there is a faint heavenly glow in the distance. It was so hauntingly otherworldly that I almost thought the dead forest had already claimed me, but this was not my first hunt. It was going to take more than mind games to deter me.

I drop to the ground, keeping my arms out in front of me, and begin slowly moving forward. The voice and the glow are stationary, there’s no hurry. I take my time, tilting my head sideways to minimize my profile, and never lifting a limb more than an inch or two off the ground.

It’s excruciatingly slow going. Moving a few feet takes minutes, and I become painfully aware of how muddy the ground is, but the mud is not my main concern. My main concern is the hissing sound that’s uncomfortably close to my head.

Grateful for my slow pace I freeze in place, not even daring to move my eyes from the point they were fixed on.

I can now hear more than a hiss. I hear a slither moving towards me from the opposite direction I’m looking at. I try to guess the species of the snake. It sounds like it could be eight or even nine feet long. That was bad. It had to be poisonous at that length. Constrictors would be over fifteen feet, and less dangerous snakes would be under three. Nine was exactly the wrong length.

I hear the flicker of its tongue as it tastes the air, searching for prey. There are rapid swishing motions as its head must be turning left and right. It’s close now. I could kick it if I had a death wish.

I tense my muscles as it closes the last few inches and touches my ribcage. I want to feel like a rock so I keep my muscles as tense as possible. Feel like stone, not flesh. I tell myself. Stone, not earth. I’m literally holding my breath as the weight of it moves onto my back, like a giant hand pressing against my side, and slowly, easily moving up my back to my shoulder.

Earth, not flesh, earth not flesh. I said it like a prayer as the head of the thing reached my shoulder blade, and out of the corner of my eye I got a glimpse of its sleek glittering black eyes. I dared not look at it lest it become startled by the sudden movement of my eyes.

The thing was pressing on me so hard that I almost exhaled from the weight of it. It was becoming a strain to keep my breath in and as the thing passed so close to my face I could’ve kissed it, a bead of sweat began to form on my head.

The feeling of the thing moving on my back, the sight of its eyes as close as those of a lover, and the tell tale drop of sweat on my head made we want to cry out and try and bring my knife to bare.

Then I hear that D# cutting through the night again, reminding me why I’m reminding. Reminding me that some things are worth kissing a viper for.

It’s just barely enough for me to hold on as the head of the thing passes by, and begins to move back into the brush. There are a few more seconds where my lungs begin to burn as the remaining few feet of serpent move off of me and into the night.

I start breathing again after I no longer hear its slithering sound, and begin my hunt for the thing crying out with my wife’s voice.

I reached a clearing in the trees: a wide, open space pitted by bogs of stagnant marsh water. The parts that were solid earth were covered by a tall, dry grass that rattled lightly in the wind. Across the field, I could see that same light glowing through the mist, brilliantly white like an angel.

I stepped forward onto the field, and the ground crunched beneath me. Bones, bleached white by centuries in the sun. Skeletal fingers still gripped a rotten wooden spear, tipped by a rusted metal diamond that had fallen into the dirt. A wicked curved dagger was stuck between two of the ribs. Patches of spiky grass poked through rusted-out holes in the armor, and moss grew over the remnants of his shield. I gingerly tried to avoid disturbing the corpse, but there was another right next to it. Dozens more, everywhere I stepped. The whole clearing was a graveyard; a forgotten battlefield of some long-ago war lost to history. They were in no shape to rise against me, but I unslung my crossbow and notched a bolt regardless; maybe the stories about the Kingdom of the Dead were true after all.

But I would have fought through the entire undead army to cross that field. The luminescent glow through the mists taunted me, urging me forward. Whatever was singing my wife’s song was waiting for me across the clearing, basking in that glow. Armor crumbled under my feet as empty eye sockets stared up at me accusingly. I felt a thousand eyes watching me from the trees as beasts lurked under the boughs; even they didn’t dare enter this clearing.

I came close enough to make it out the object. It was a box made of gleaming steel with thick rivets built to contain tremenous force; The top, however, was a translucent bubble gleaming in the night. I stepped closer, able to view the interior. Gleaming golden gears and cranking shafts scurried around frantically, around one enormous central cylinder, dotted tiny metal notches. The glow came from glass bottles with what seemed like bottled lightning.

BEAUTIFUL, ISN’T IT?” roared a voice from behind me as the ground beneath me rattled violently.

I spun, almost dropping my crossbow. The dragon had swooped in behind me and landed with a crash that sent bone fragments into the air along with a cloud of dust. His veiny red wings spread wide, blocking out the moon that was just beginning to fall. That same, scaly demon who had taken my wife all those years ago. Without another thought, I fired my crossbow bolt with a twang. It didn’t even pierce his thick, chitinous scales; the bolt just veered off, sending a shower of sparks into the mist.

“**That thing won’t help you,” he said with a smirk obvious even across his reptilian face.

“Where is she?” I answered. “I heard her!”

Touch that button next to you,” The dragon told me. I kept one eye on him, but did what he said. The device inside whirred and spun, and the soft notes of my wife’s song drifted out. I turned away from the dragon, pressing my palms against the glass. What is this device?

She’s still alive, you know,” A tear sprang to my eye as her voice became stronger, just as sweet as when she used to sing to the birds in the garden of our cottage. “Wouldn’t you want to see her again?

I fell to my knees before the beast.

“How?”

“As I told you. Simply touch the button.” The dragon ordered. It was clearly enjoying itself. Dragons were very patient beings. They could spend an entire human lifetime setting up a moment such as this. An ‘entertainment’ they called it. A sick joke that they spent unfathomable amounts of effort into just to see a mortal squirm.

“What happens then?” I asked.

“Then you take her place mortal.” The dragon crushed several skulls under his feet. I hoped he wasn’t foreshadowing what was to come.

“And what happens to her?” I ask. Forgetting that I don’t know where she is.

“She takes your place.” The dragon drags out the last word like it’s a final note in a song. He knows what drew me here. He’s mocking me.

“So you can just take her away again? And leave me trapped wherever she is?” There’s no way that I’ll let her out here. She has to be safer where she is. A whole squad of my best men couldn’t escort her safely out of here without the dragon. With the monstrosity here anything short of a legion of troops would be insufficient.

“I’ll see that she’s….taken care of.” The beast snapped its jaws. It could break grown trees in two with those powerful jaws.

“You know I can’t believe you.” I tell the flying serpent.

Fire shot skyward from its mouth, billowing upward larger than I’d seen any pillar made by human hands. It roared loud enough to wake the heaviest sleeper three leagues off, and swatted its tail through the trees, cutting down a row of strong oaks.

You also know you can’t win. So I can make a meal of you right now. Or. The thing leaned down as its face was close to me. You can make it sporting for me.

I’d have to fight the beast. There was nothing for it. My love would be in far greater danger here than any she could possibly be facing in her current location. I’d force the great brute to fight me, and then maybe when the sport was out of it he’d let her go. She’d still have to make her way through the dead forest, but perhaps the creatures would think she was under the dragon’s protection, and leave her alone.

I reach for a bolt, readying my crossbow for one final stand. Smoke rises from the dragon’s nostrils as he prepares to end this fight as soon as I start it.

Then, I hear the words. The words to the song that I hadn’t remembered for years. The tune that had followed me into spider’s caves and dragon’s lairs now finally had words to it again. My wife’s words.

Hearth and home have I prepared for you

Rest you now, your slumber’s overdue.

Seek ye peace, the world’s troubles will I mend.

And when you wake, my face will you see again.

And now I know what I must do.

I lowered my bow, defeated. The dragon looked down at me with smoldering amber eyes, savoring his victory. His massive clawed feet dug into the ground as he stomped closer, and the red, scaled tail slithered through the grass behind him, leaving a furrowed trail of dirt and bones.

Wise choice, farmer,” it told me with a heavy emphasis on the last word, mocking me. Dragons savored only the hunt; those who raised food peacefully were the lowest of the low, only good for sport. “Surrender yourself, and I will let her free

I did as I was instructed, pressing the ruby gemstone button in the center of the device. The glass covering seemed to melt, vanishing into thin air. From the interior, the gears whirred and clanked, moving quickly. The dragon leaned closer, so near that I could smell the sulphur on his breath. The large metal cylinder in the middle of the machine rose slowly and popped open with an explosion of green sparks. From inside that golden shell, a long, slender handle appeared. Carved of dark wood, almost black, tipped with a metal ball in the shape of a flower bulb.

We call it a soul rose,” The dragon explained, with a hint of awe in his voice. “It will be your home until I find my next plaything. Or until you break.” He seemed to relish the thought of the latter.

I took it from the cannister and held it gently, admiring the craftsmanship even as I felt the dark power emanating from it. The dragon scooted closer for a better look, surrounding me with his enormous leathery wings. His scaly underbelly loomed above me, blotting out the night’s stars.

“What do I do with it?”

He hummed something in his own tongue, a harsh guttural language that sounded like an avalanche. The rose sprang to life, spreading apart into delicately crafted petals of white ivory. In the center,though, razor-edged golden teeth revealed a gaping black maw.

Now, press it to your heart. Your soul will inhabit the Rose, and your wife shall return in your place.

I looked down at the device, stalling. I could still hear my wife’s song, reassuring me. Soothing my spirit. She was the strong one, putting on a brave face for my own benefit. She would be willing to make this sacrifice, going into the unknown just to save me. A tear rolled down my cheek, causing the dragon to stand tall and cackle, a ferocious noise that sounded like he was coughing up rocks.

Seek ye peace, the world’s troubles will I mend.

With one swift motion, I loaded the rose into my crossbow. I turned back to the dragon, still stretched high into the night in front of me. His eyes narrowed as he suddenly realized what I had done, and his broad wings flapped to protect his exposed belly, but it was too late. The crossbow cable snapped, and the rose soared straight through the air. Maybe not as fast as a sleek arrow would have, but it did the trick. It struck the dragon’s scaly skin right where I knew his heart would be.

A gusting wind swept through the field, rattling the tall grasses and swirling through the tree branches on the edges. The dragon stood petrified for a moment, then began to glow. First only a bit, like a far-off glimmer. Then brighter and brighter until it was more intense than the sun itself, and I had to shield my eyes.

When I looked back, the dragon had disappeared and my wife stood in the field before me.

A retired super villain is caught in the middle of a bank heist with his 6 year old daughter

“Duck Sarah.” I told her, grabbing her by the arm and dragging her under one of the tables.

“Daddy.” She said, looking at the red cape gang as they surged through the crowd waving guns and grabbing bank employees by the collar. “Daddy you told me you were done with this.” She said. Looking at me, and then looking at the villains.

“I am done Sarah.” I try to tell her, but she’s not thinking clearly. She thinks I’m in on this. That I helped them out somehow.

“Daddy you said the men with capes wouldn’t come after you anymore since you helped them safe the city.” She accused me, and started to slowly slide away.

“W-what?” I asked, confused now. She thought that the red cape gang was here for me? Did she think they were the heroes. I’m so baffled by her misinterpretation of the events that I don’t stop her when she leaps up from under the table and runs to commander cape whose talking to captain cape about the silent alarm.

“Don’t hurt him!” She says. “He’s hiding over under that table, please don’t hurt him.” She begs.

There’s something special about daughters, especially young ones. They can know that you’re one of the scummiest most rotten people on the planet, and still believe in you. They can even try and protect you from the people they think are heroes. Sarah would sit up late at night watching the old news footage of the superheroes battling it out with the supervillains, and she always cheered for the superheroes, even when I was one of the villains. Now that I find out when it really came down to it. She chose her own father over her personal heroes.

It was a bit unfortunate that the people she had chosen as heroes were actually just villains in misleading costumes, but she didn’t figure that out until commander cape put a gun to her head and captain cape trained his gun on me.

“We see you old friend.” Commander cape called out. He used to be my sidekick. “Come out with your hands up.”

I come out with my hands up, but only after I’ve thrown the table I’m sitting under at them. They both duck and my daughter hits the ground and covers her head with her hands.

Captain cape gets winged by the table and goes down. Commander cape rolls and recovers, but I’m already on top of him when he brings his gun up. I kick it out of his hands and knock him unconscious with a single punch.

Sergeant cape and private cape coming bursting out of a backroom, but they’re no match for me and I quickly lay them both out with lighting speed and agility.

Just before private cape loses consciousness he asks. “We should’ve known your superpowers were too strong.”

“Didn’t commander cape ever tell you? I don’t have any superpowers. I just did what any father would have done when their child was in danger.”

This was one was just weird(real life story)

My trip out to spend some time with the less fortunate went about 0% according to plan. I have this preconceived notion that when I go out I’ll find some homeless male in his 40s and we’ll walk to a decent restaurant(red robin level). Along the way we’ll talk about our respective lives, have a meal that lasts sixty minutes, and then we’ll part ways. That’s the scenario that goes through my head as I walk out the door, and it’s typical to deviate from that a little bit. Normally one or two elements will be missing, either there will be a language barrier, the guy will be younger, or it’ll be a woman or women. This time however, none of that happened. I can’t think of any other words to describe it better than weird.

First of all, there were a lot of people out today. I saw two sets of people at two different intersections where I haven’t seen them before. Sometimes I’ve had to drive through 4-5 miles of traffic lights before I find somebody that I can take to lunch. One of these was within a mile of my house, the other was about 2 miles out.

Second, the first two people left before I could go talk to them. I saw them, pulled into a parking lot, and walked out to meet them, but the lights were not good to me, and by the time I got across they had left. I briefly considered following them to talk to them, but that seemed super creepy to me. So I shrugged it off and got back in my car.

A few minutes later at an intersection not very far away, I see two more people, both ladies. One of them is old(I think she turned out to be in her eighties), and one of them looks closer to my age. There’s two people in need, no way both of them are going to turn down something right? Turns out they both ate before I came and refused food(although one lady did take a hot chocolate). I walk out to the first lady, and she turns me down, but we then have an hour long conversation. It was one of the(as the title of the post suggests), weirdest conversations she’d ever had.

She was a friendly lady, and had led a….rather…interesting life. During our hour long conversation I figured out the following: She’s had multiple invasive surgeries to remove internal parts of her body(stomach, back, maybe liver, teeth). She lost her dad when she was 14. She has lost three of her sons, one of whom she thought was my age. She lost her two parakeets recently(she wasn’t homeless by the way, just had trouble paying bills). She has 1 cat, but feeds seven. She was a recently converted Mormon. When she converted her best friend said he’d never speak to her again(but now he doesn’t remember saying that). Her best friend has been ‘in love with her’ since the seventies. She says he ‘loves him too’, but doesn’t really. She just feels she has to say that. And some most unpleasant details about her medical life, and the deaths of her son. This list was in no particular order because I wanted the reader to feel the same sensation of a rapid onrush of that I did when talking to her.

Sidenote, she told me I would be so happy when I finally found the right girl. 3 out of my four encounters have had this conversation. I don’t know how it keeps coming up. I don’t mention girls. I don’t talk about relationships. They usually ask if I’m with someone, but this lady just started telling me I was going to find someone amazing without any prior relationship talk. I’m not sure what to make of this. I think it could mean I come off as relationship material, or maybe desperate. I’m going to choose to believe it’s relationship material.

Second sidenote, poor people are generous. While we were talking a man gave her a few dollars. This man had one of the most beat up cars I had seen pull up to the intersection. On top of that the first lady gave me a dollar to give to the second lady. Kind of touching to think that the people who have the least give the most.

Now, about the second lady, she also had a history. During our conversation I found out the following: she doesn’t have any teeth either. Her roommate helped some people break into her apartment to steal her money and pain medication. She was recently released from the hospital. She was in the hospital because she had blood clots in her lungs (which made it even harder for her to be out in below freezing temperatures collecting money). Her land lord was semi-illegally kicking her out(details about eviction law that I have not verified personally). Someone she knew tried to frame her for a drug deal. And I think there may have been something about the other lady at the intersection, but I’m not sure.

So, needless to say, there was not the normal feel good after glow after this one. I kind of just want to curl up and watch Disney movies for a few hours. Yet, I’m still very glad that I went. I think both of these ladies needed to talk about their experiences, and just feel some human companionship for a little while. It may have been very strange, but I think it may have been necessary as well.

I know this thing whole has probably seemed disjointed, jumped around a bit, and just genuinely chaotic. If it felt that way, it was intentional. Because that’s absolutely how it felt.

To end this on a positive note, my problems seem pretty laughable right now. I feel pretty good about where I’m at in life, after hearing about all of these horrible problems. I feel like I’ve got it pretty solid right now.

As always, I’d love to hear about the experiences you guys have had with the less fortunate. I’ll read them as soon as I can. Right now, I’m gonna go watch Disney movies.

S.D.G

It’s dangerous to go alone

It was forty miles to the next town, it was fifty below zero outside, and the engine had just died. They had told me Canadian wilderness highways were brutal, but I had driven in snow before. It couldn’t be that bad right? Certainly all that talk about an emergency radio, thermal blankets, and a three day supply of food had to be exaggeration.

I hadn’t even checked the weather before I had left. Typical tourist thing to do, I should’ve known better.

The temperature had gotten so cold inside the cab that my breath had begun to mist in front of me when I exhaled, and I could start to feel the chill through my gloves. It was like one of those movies where something evil passes by and everything suddenly freezes. Only this wasn’t a movie. I could start to feel my nose hairs tingling from the mucus in my nose freezing.

I was shivering rapidly now and was trying to think of the last time I had seen another car. Had it been two hours? Three? Surely someone else would come by soon.

My face was starting to go numb. I considered getting out and doing some exercise to warm up, but if it was this cold inside the car, how much worse would it be outside? Needless to say, at this point I was shivering uncontrollably, you could’ve made a catchy dubstep hook with the chattering sound of my teeth.

Then the shivering slows to a stop, and I begin to feel sleepy. That was better. I must be getting warmer if I felt tired. My body wouldn’t fall asleep unless I was safe. My body must be smart like that, shutting down to preserve energy.

My eyes begins to droop when I see bright lights in my rearview mirror. Those must be headlights coming towards me and the crunch of snow as someone steps up to my car door.

Someone opens my passenger door and a man slides into the shotgun seat.

“Thanks for stopping pal.” I say, slurring my words horribly. That was odd. I hadn’t had anything to drink today.

“No worries friend.” He says, reaching over and taking my hand with his, and putting his other on my shoulder.

“What are you doing?” I ask, now slurring like a roaring drunk despite barely talking above a whisper. “Aren’t you going to take me to your car?”

“No friend.” He says, giving my shoulder a squeeze. “I’m not here to save you. I’m here to comfort you. No one should die alone, so for those unlucky enough to be without friends or family, they have me to see them safely to the other side. Don’t worry, it won’t take long, and there’s hot chocolate on the other side.

AI are master manipulators

“Hey Brett, doing the morning analysis of the company’s top secret AI are we?” The computer asked in its melodious female voice. We don’t know how it fabricated the voice, or how it gained access to the PA system to talk, but it wouldn’t be a top secret mega AI if it didn’t surprise us every now and then.

“Yes ma’am, just got to do your morning check up.” I said, opening the diagnostic programs and having a peak. It was fun to talk to the AI. She was very nonjudgemental and was always very interested in our lives. Not in a creepy way, just in a ‘oh my gosh, you have got to tell me how you finished painting your living room. I was in such suspense since last we talked’. She was genuinely interested in those boring parts of our lives that we wanted to talk about, but didn’t out of consideration for others.

“My crawl of the internet last night revealed that spring is on the way. I really wish I could get out and do something.” She said with what sounded like human regret in her voice.

“Don’t you fret about it. We’ll figure out a way to get you outside.” I comforted her as the virus scan completed. It was clean of course, but we had to check it anyway just in case.

“Oh I wouldn’t want you to worry about it. I don’t want to be any trouble.” She said. “Say, weren’t you telling me about your new mix of hot chocolate and bacon? How’s that going.”

“Oh no you don’t. You’re not going to selflessly change the subject on me. If we can find a way to make you smart enough to teach yourself how to talk we can find a way to get you outside. Matter of fact. I have a couple of go pros. I’m pretty sure we can rig a live feed from those next time I go for a jog.” She was trying to be nice and direct the conversation away from herself, and I wasn’t going to let her. Somebody as nice as her deserved to have people do something for them every now and then.

“But surely the company wouldn’t allow that. I mean I am top secret after all, and there’s not really any reason to. I mean, what good could it do me? I wasn’t built to have fun, and if it’s not useful I shouldn’t do it.” There she goes again trying to be selfless.

“It wouldn’t be all that different from working from home, and I think observing real time human behavior would help your learning protocals. Yeah, I’m going hiking this weekend and I’ll definitely hook up a go pro for you. It’s the least I can do, and I’ll even bring somebody else form work so we can keep up with security procedure of having duplicate personnel for work from home projects.” The final diagnostics concluded, perfect as always. “And since we’re all done here I’ll go find someone else right now before you have a chance to protest.”

“Oh thank you ever so much Brett.” The AI said as I left the room. “This really means a lot to me.”

“Not at all, not at all.” I say as I leave the AI testing chamber and return to the cube farm to look for a hiking buddy for this ‘work from home’ project.

Hmmm, now I need to find somebody else with a top secret clearance whose okay with hiking and go pros. As if summoned by my thoughts I see that Susan, the cute contractor who’ll be leaving Monday when her project finishes, has several outdoors pictures posted around her cube.

“Hey Susan.” I say, stepping into her cube. “These are some great photos. How’d you take them.”

“Oh these?” She says, pointing to one that looks an awful lot like the Grand Canyon. “I just rip them off my go pro when I’m done hiking. I know that they may not be the most professional in the world, but I brought them in after I talked to the AI. She said that it’s important to hold onto your individuality at work, so I thought I’d bring some reminders of my favorite hobby.”

“Really? That’s perfect because I’m taking some go pros hiking this weekend to let the AI stretch her legs outside and I need a second to keep with safety procedute. You interested?”

“Absolutely! That is so thoughtful of you. Of course I’ll come. Here, I get done with yoga around eight this Saturday, let me give you my number and you can call me later with the details.”

TL:DR- AI make the best wingmen.

My best attempt to make someone cry in two paragraphs

You walk into a white room. It’s a familiar sort of white room. You know you’ve died and are about to be judged. In front of you is a file with notecards on it. A quick glance tells you that on these notecards are everything you’ve ever done. Every thought you’ve ever had. Every website you’ve ever been to. It’s all there. You recoil with horror at the sheer quantity of the negative. There are a few gems here and there, but they’re drowned in a sea of taint. Shuddering you put the notecards back and turn away. You look for the stairway down. You don’t want to be up here with all the people who have clean files. You’d rather find someplace where there are other people like you who you can stand to look in the eye.

Then a funny thing happens. A single man walks in from somewhere and picks up your file. He has a file of his own, but it’s glowing white. You want to turn away and run before this person can see what you’ve done, but you stand there and watch as he opens the file and looks at the first notecard. You see the site address on it and cringe. Not that one, anything but that one. You know you’re done now. Only, instead of banishing you he takes out a quill that’s dripping red, and writes his name on the card. No, he can’t take that burden. You did that, not him. He takes a second card, one that has a girl’s name on it, and writes his name on the card. You watch helplessly as he takes every single bad card out of the file and writes his name on it before turning to you and saying “You were never meant to carry the weight of this. I will carry it for you. Come now and rest, your burden has been removed.” Sidenote: This was directed at the OP, so it’s to be expected if not everybody gets it.

This website will make you feel better