(or Susan has a really bad day when the internet goes down)
This is the story of a woman named Susan. Susan lives and works in flat number 427, in a big building in Stanley Road. Susan’s job was simple. Every day at 9 0’clock she would begin the process of cleaning flat number 427. She swept and dusted and mopped, as though she had been made exactly for this job. Then, at midday, she would log in to her computer to browse the net, and check her Facebook, email and twitter. This was what she did every day of every month of every year. Susan felt that she was part of a big cyber family, all pressing computerised buttons – and Susan was happy.
And then one day something very peculiar happened, something that would forever change Susan, something she would never quite forget.
Susan got up as usual and began to clean. Some would consider this soul rending work but Susan relished every moment. Then she logged in to her computer and waited for her life to upload. Nothing happened. The screen was blank. No photos from friends and family showing last night’s dinner. No links to hilarious youtube posts. No inspirational lifestyle quotes. The screen remained void, completely empty. Susan checked the internet connection; the internet was offline. The phone that she carried everywhere was ominously silent. She speed dialled a friend but there was no sound, not even voicemail. She tried the landline, the phone was dead. She opened a window and was met with eerie silence. Susan sat staring at the black screen for the longest time – something was very clearly wrong. She felt shocked, frozen solid, never had she felt such complete isolation.
Eventually Susan got up from her chair, walked down the hallway and came to two doors. She took the one on her left, the one that led to the kitchen. She would make herself a cup of tea, that would make her feel better. Susan reached for the tea bags but then decided she’d have coffee instead. Immediately she heard a voice inside her head.
‘Susan always drinks tea. This is because she is an incredibly boring person who never deviates from her achingly dull routine. Perhaps the shock at not being able to connect to her virtual world had temporarily impaired her cognitive processes, and made her forget that she always drinks tea. Susan should stop making instant coffee this instant (childish wordplay – how amusing) and switch back to tea. She is, however, under the laughable impression that she is in control of her own destiny. Does Susan even know what they put into those coffee jars?’
This voice sounded very much like an omnipresent male narrator. Susan decided that, in future, she would definitely not be playing any more ironic, narrator-driven computer games; if this was going to be the result. Susan also knew that hearing voices was the first sign of madness, and so resolved to ignore the narrator’s smug, supercilious tones. After all life wasn’t a gigantic computer game was it? She carried on making the coffee.
Susan sat down at the kitchen table and began to drink her coffee. She tried to put her thoughts in order. The voice in her head rudely interrupted her flow.
‘Susan tried to put her thoughts in order. This was difficult because she happened to be a monumentally stupid person, with a brain the size of one of the coffee beans she was currently drinking. Moreover, she had ignored a sign mysteriously placed on the kitchen cupboard door. This clearly stated:
DRINKING COFFEE IS VERY BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH
I’D STICK WITH TEA IF I WAS YOU
Susan looked up at the cupboard and sure enough there was the sign. Was she now hallucinating? Was there something wrong with this coffee? Perhaps the jar had been contaminated by a vengeful shop floor employee. Susan’s thoughts ran wild, but it was too late, her cup was empty. She looked around and her eyes came to rest on the piano in the adjacent room. Immediately she felt an overwhelming desire to play. She walked over to the piano and sat down. Suddenly she was overcome by existential panic. Was she real? Did she exist? She took a selfie on her mobile phone and the screen remained blank. If she couldn’t capture herself in digital form, did that mean she wasn’t actually there. Susan thought about life, the universe and everything. If she couldn’t post her life to the internet, did that mean she didn’t have a life. What would happen if she couldn’t sum up her thoughts in a daily 140 character tweet. Would she continue having thoughts at all. The annoying voice broke in again:
‘Susan wondered if her life had any meaning without her various social media platforms however, did she but know it, this was the least of her worries at this present moment in time. She had chosen to drink coffee, despite an explicit warning not to do so, which had led her to the piano, where she had yet again ignored another mysteriously placed sign. It clearly stated:
THIS PIANO CONTAINS A NUCLEAR BOMB (YES REALLY)
PRESSING ANY KEY WILL OBLITERATE THE PLANET
Susan had ignored this sign because she was used to living her life via her various mobile devices. She had become incapable of seeing what was right in front of her eyes.’
Susan told the voice what he could do with his ridiculous signs and equally ridiculous end game scenarios, and hit a key on the piano. Immediately Susan and the house vanished in a vast mushroom cloud of smoke.
Susan was sitting at her computer staring at a blank screen. How long had she been sitting here looking at nothing? Suddenly the familiar hum of her PC filled the room. A message appeared on her screen:
PRESS ANY KEY TO RE-START YOUR LIFE
Not this time Susan decided, she wasn’t going to be dictated to by a machine. She turned off her computer and promptly………….
‘How strange, we appear to have been left hanging in mid-sentence. I wonder what happened. Had Susan become a virtual character in her own virtual world? Did Susan turn off her computer and then vanish, never to be seen again. She was certainly unable to make a move without recording it for digital posterity. She appeared to be happy to let life pass her by while she sat staring at an HD screen…………well, you get my drift. Perhaps she had simply run out of ideas for this obvious Stanley Parable parody. I fear we may never know the answers to these deeply philosophical questions, and more’s the pity I say.
Now where was I; but where are my manners? Dear reader, forgive me, I didn’t see you there. Shall we break the fourth wall and mull things over together? Please don’t be concerned that I the omniscient (if I do say so myself) narrator am now speaking directly to you the reader; we’re all friends here. Do you know, I think Susan was making some kind of meaningless (I do apologise, I meant MEANINGFUL) comment on the nature of society’s dependence on social media but, on the other hand, do we really care? Good heavens, is that the time! I’ve enjoyed our little encounter, I really have, but might I suggest you stop reading this rubbish (someone had to say it) and let’s get back to our lives. Something absolutely riveting could be occurring on Facebook right this second; in fact I’m off to check @thenarrator right now – who knows what earth shattering news I’m missing. It’s time, I think, to end this game.’