Chapter 3:

Log #3


Before we even reached the underground garage at the Institute, I already knew that there was a long day ahead of me. After thirty minutes of two fourth-graders arguing in the backseat about which dinosaur was the coolest, a vein bulged on my temple. Wow, do I ever feel old. Already, I regretted bothering with Bring Your Kids to Work Day. Despite my wavering patience, I held my tongue as I drove down three floors to my parking spot. To my favorite nephew J (yes, the letter), Aunt Yolanda was the young and hip aunt, and the young and hip aunt I intended to stay. So, when J and his cousin Alacrity asked me who would win in a brawl between a Triceratops or a Stegosaurus, I simply said that a Tyrannosaurus rex would eat them both when they were tired from fighting. The rest of the trip to my office was serene, as they considered my wisdom on this oh-so-important issue.

Ah, now nice it is to be taken seriously once in a while. Even if it's just by two wide-eyed kids.

"Yo, yo, Yolanda. You're later than usual."

Well, it was nice while it lasted. Seeing Sam leaning against the door to my office, I rolled my eyes and rubbed the bridge of my nose.

"It's still barely half past eight, Sam. I hope you know I'm supposed to start at nine."

"Come on, girl. Totally not cool to lead me on like that." Sam looked over my shoulder. "Two little monsters? But you don't look a day over thirty."

"I'm twenty-nine, dick." I scoffed. "So, what does our esteemed director want at this auspicious hour?"

"You, of course." Sam stepped forward and put her arm around my shoulders. "Let's get frisky in my office. Bring the two brats, too."

Hump Day

"Sam, you're so unreasonable! I'm going to the damned conference for you and you can't help me with such a small thing? Ugh!" Yolanda loudly slammed on my desk, making the three bystanders on the other side of the room flinch. 

Though I did not visibly react, I was ready to shit my pants. With her eyes narrowed, the usually pretty data scientist looked like the type of person who would kill in cold blood. Yuck, my feet are sweating. My poor Chelsea boots. However, I replied in an even tone.

"I'm the epitome of reason. Your office is a perfect playground for adorable goblins. Just let 'em climb the bookshelves or use your computer to hack the Pentagon. Some easy, harmless fun."

"You expect my family members to stay in an office all day? After they came all this way?"

"They're extended family, and you're the one who decided to pull them along. Anyway, they'll be sitting in an office in the greatest research center in America. Doesn't that sound swell, children?"

"I'm bored," said the girl flatly. The boy gently nudged her, and she said no more.

Yolanda grinned dangerously. "How's this, Director? If you don't show them around the Institute, I'll quit first thing tomorrow." She turned and victoriously headed to the door.

"And what if I have a long list of potential replacements for one Head of Data Science?"

"Gotta run~~! Or I'll be late." Yolanda stepped out of the office. "You'll definitely do the right thing, Samantha. I just know you will. Toodles~~!"

The door slammed shut. I considered my work schedule for a moment, then addressed a certain man standing with the two children.

"So, Spencer. For how long have you been showing up in my office every day to change my mind on becoming your sensei or whatever?"

Spencer cleared his throat. "Three weeks, Master."

I smirked. "Well, today's your lucky day. Do me a favor and I'll let you be my slave."

Spencer blinked. "Master, what do you—"

"Hey, you two." I glanced at the children in my office. "You guys in the mood for ice cream?"


[The following was adapted from the Director's slave's pet's private audio logs.]

"Hey Nemo. Lemme try some of yours."

"Sure." The girl named both Alacrity and Nemo offered her ice cream cone to the boy named J, who took a large bite. After he swallowed, he sighed.

"You were right after all. Salty caramel is way better than caramel fudge."

"That's why we should have had him buy us two each! He would've done it, you know."

"That's not very nice, Nemo."

While the two children spoke as if I were invisible, I was elated. To be useful to Master and also gain a place by her side? It was a dream come true. With a jovial lilt, I entered the conversation.

"So you two are family, I take it?"

J turned to me. "Aunt Yolanda's the first cousin of both our moms, so our first cousin once removed. Nemo doesn't see her as an aunt, though."

Mysteriously, Alacrity pouted. Sensing some deeper family history, I pivoted. "Are you two Canadian? Dr. Clement once mentioned in a talk that her family had lived in Ontario for generations."

"We're from Waterloo," J replied proudly.

"Ah, the technology hub." I closed my eyes. "And what an exquisite name. It has always struck me as so poetic that although Waterloo and the fictional Avonlea of Canadian conception could not be more different, they both possess names that etymologically refer to fields close to rivers."

J widened his eyes. "Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book! That was amazing, mister."

Alacrity agreed. "Rich people must read a lot."

I chuckled politely. "I cannot say that literature is my forte. The only highlight of my liberal arts education were my Latin lessons."

"Wow! Latin!" J and Alacrity marveled.

"Speaking of Latin," I continued while turning to Alacrity, "does your middle name come from the cyclops episode in the Odyssey?"

She beamed. "That's the first time someone outside my family got it! People usually guess Finding Nemo." She pointed at J. "His real name is Jason, from the Argonautica."

I nodded. "What wonderful names."

"And since both our names came from explorers," declared Alacrity passionately, "we're gonna build a vacuum airship and fly around on adventures!"

I nodded without a word. So wonderful it was, to see children dream so bravely. Even though vacuum airships were an obvious absurdity.

"After you two are finished with your ice cream," I said while holding up Master's ID card and a high-resolution image of her retina, "how about we go see some real human brains?"


"Do I need to repeat myself, Keller?"

"No, sir. I understand. I will have the first complete data release for Simulation 137 delivered by Friday."

"I hope you remember your position," the bass voice snarled. "Do not test me. Goodbye."

I waited for the man to hang up, then slowly lowered my cell phone from my ear. I checked the time: 8:41pm. I leaned back in my chair in silence until I heard the door open. I sat up and forced as natural an expression as I could muster.

"Did Yolanda pick up the two troglodytes already?"

"I took them to a wonderful restaurant for dinner," Spencer said as he entered. He placed my ID card and retina image on my desk. "I am pleased to report that everything went well. So, Master—"

"You'll be an employee at the Institute starting tomorrow. Report here at nine o'clock sharp."

Spencer objected: "But I have no need for—"

"A slave should just do as their lord commands, no? I had to put you on the payroll to get HR to issue you this." I produced a new ID card from my lab coat pocket. On it was Spencer's name and a headshot I found on Google. "Also, I'm adding one more condition. Cut it out with the 'Master' shit or I'll die of cringe. It's either Sam or ma'am."

Spencer took his new ID card. To my surprise, a soft but unmistakably heartfelt smile came across his face. "Understood, ma'am." With that, he left the room, gently shutting the door behind him.

". . . Well, that was a first."

All's Well (?)

I tapped my foot impatiently. "Read faster. I'm getting anxious just from watching."

"Then stop watching." Yolanda turned over page 41. Twenty more to go, and then a few hundred pages of data summaries in the appendices. "Go finish off some work. Or just try kicking back again."

"Hey, too soon." I shuddered thinking back to a certain incident from last month (see Logs # 2 – 4). "Just tell me what you think so far."

Yolanda dropped the binder-clipped document onto her desk. "Something weird is going on."

I straddled a chair and rubbed the back of my neck. "For once, I don't feel like saying I told you so."


"I got word back from the techs that the updated life support system and Doom Room circuitry passed the quality assurance checks. They should also be done testing those upgraded sensors too. And most importantly, the automatic data collection has already been recalibrated to match fifteen minute intervals inside the simulation." Sam stepped back and leaned against the front of my desk. "Looks like they're finally done bitching and moaning about my prized knave."

"I am glad I could be of use," replied Spencer.

Since when did my office become their briefing room? I pictured bashing my head against my desk while the director of the Institute and her new lapdog discussed something or another in the same room. There was no way I was getting any work done.

"This should get the government suits over at the Office of Science off my back." Sam stretched. "Tracking the anomalies will be a cinch for Yolanda with all the improved data."

"The old data already gave us a clear answer," I chimed in. "They occur mainly in places where the time is between sunset and sunrise."

Spencer shook his head. "But what of the anomalies outside those times? We can do better than that." He pulled a flash drive out of his pocket and tossed it in my direction. Clumsily, I caught it. "Please take a look and tell me what you think."

Hmm, isn't this beyond my paygrade? I pursed my lips as I opened a few petabytes of data on my laptop. Sam and Spencer watched on as I fiddled around.

"Is this gonna take as long as the paper?" Sam sighed. "Spencer, go fetch me another mug of—"

Sam muttered something about security before trailing off. Spencer, meanwhile, stepped forward and pointed at a peak in the late evening hours. "What is special about the vertex of this curve?"

I shrugged. "Eyeballing it, the vertex should be somewhere between eleven and eleven-fifteen. Though I can't say I see any real significance."

"But based on the data," Spencer insisted, "what would be your best estimate for the time?"

I took another look and fiddled with the numbers on the screen. "Eleven-eleven, I guess? Make a wish, guys. Huh, now that I mention it—"

Spencer leaned in conspiratorially. "Does it not seem strange to you, the esteemed Dr. Clement, that this particular time is a perfect fit for the data?"

I rolled my eyes. "I might be impressed if I were as old as J and Alacrity. You really expect me to read into the meaning of pretty numbers?" I changed the date range for the data. "Here's my eleven-eleven wish: please let this hogwash be the answer." I hit Enter, and the graph on my screen changed. With a start, I looked back up to Spencer. "No way!"

"Now for the final test." Spencer pointed to a much smaller peak twelve hours earlier. "What would be the time of this smaller anomaly?"

The blood drained from my face. I flipped back and forth between time intervals to confirm before I croaked out raspily: "Also eleven-eleven."

Sam gawked. "Spencer, don't tell me you already figure all this out on your own?"

Spencer chuckled softly while rubbing the back of his head. "It was just a hunch."

The computer time read 11:11am. I stayed silent.

Pop Numerology

"It makes sense, if you think about it." I carefully put down my plastic fork and dabbed my face with a paper napkin. "The more I read about the methodology of the simulations, the more I felt like something like this could happen."

"Was I supposed to understand that?" Dr. Keller — no, Ma'am — pushed away her half-eaten sandwich. "Explain it again, for the benefit of my feeble mind."

"He means that it makes sense for common superstitions to have an effect on results." Dr. Clement finished her macaroni and cheese. "The whole simulation is just one big Ouija board. As we're relying on the brains themselves to conjure up the required imagery and sensations in the virtual world, it makes sense if quirks in their perception become expressed. Back in Simulation 112 there was a weak but noticeable relationship between the appearances of black cats and tornados."

Ma'am smirked. "It's already 2033, and yet we still can't build a rational brain according to specification. Literally the worst timeline."

"Though somewhat crude in design, this setup is quite useful in practice." I drank bagged tea out of a small styrofoam cup. "It is just like how Yudkowsky described Occlumency in Methods of Rationality. Using a mind to model another is a much simpler task than truly understanding its inner workings."

"Oh shit, I know which Harry Potter fanfic you're talking about! Gave up like ten chapters in, though. Shit's lame, man." Ma'am pointed to her sandwich. "Yo, Yolanda. This isn't gonna eat itself."

"I'm on a diet." Dr. Clement frowned. "Sam, why do you enjoy acting like a total idiot?"

"Come on, Yo-Yo-Yolanda. Just let me live in my carefree world for one lunch break." Ma'am closed her eyes and spread her arms. "With you and Spencer here, this big ol' mystery with the anomalies is as good as solved. Finally, I can chill."

"Can you chill in a way that doesn't lower morale at the Institute?" Dr. Clement gestured around her. "Some of the greatest minds in North America — no, the world — are looking to you for leadership, and here you are embarrassing yourself. Even I'm annoyed that the youngest director in the Institute's history talks like a teenager from the 2010s."

"Bruh, why the salt? You nerds are the ones who loved studying enough to do four whole years of high school. Like, wut? I could not have gotten out of that hellhole faster, and y'all were fighting for places in AP and IB classes." Ma'am shivered in evident disgusts and gulped down her coffee. "But anyway, this shit's not hard. Just requires three brain cells, a bucket of guts, and the patience to drink to the good health of braying career politicians and dumbo regulators. Speaking of which, there's some charity event or whatever coming up in two weeks. Wanna help me write and deliver a speech, babe?"

Dr. Clement grabbed Ma'am's sandwich and took a huge bite. She spoke while chewing: "Only if you give me clearance level five."

Ma'am raised one eyebrow. "I mean, sure. You should get it by tomorrow. Oh, and be sure to not be dressed like such a prude at the event." She pointed at Dr. Clement's sweater. "I won't complain about how your boobs look in that, though. Are you sure Josh didn't mess up his pullout game?"

The blonde-haired data scientist blushed. "What he really did was buy me Oreos on sale. I'll have to wear something that hides my belly." But she continued eating with contentment written on her face. When she was done, Dr. Clement left the table with an unopened Coke Zero in hand. As Ma'am also stood up, she snickered with a wide grin on her face:

"I was already gonna give it to her anyway. Score."

And with that, she headed to her office, leaving me to sip on my green tea by myself. While enjoying the aroma of my lukewarm beverage, I considered just how little of the preceding exchange I could follow. What a joy it was, listening to Ma'am and Dr. Clement speak on casual terms without even the slightest understanding of what was going on.

Ah, women are such mysterious creatures.


The following stories are narrative interpretations of selected scenarios from Simulation 117.
Any and all artistic liberties do not reflect the values of the Institute or its Hallowed God-Director.

Love, Romance, and Sex

Man (Specimen 1) sees Woman (Specimen 2). He offers her a stick. She accepts it. They have passionate sex.

He eats a poisonous fruit. She is bitten by a poisonous snake. They die.


Man (Specimen 18) sees Woman (Specimen 11). He offers her a rock. She refuses it and instead accepts the rock of his younger brother (Specimen 4). The brothers fight to the death.

She rejects the winner. They both die alone.

Cain and Abel

Man (Specimen 10) sees Woman (Specimen 15). He offers her a stone hammer. She refuses it and mocks him. He hits her on the head with the hammer. She dies. He cries next to her body.

He does not notice the wolf. He dies too.


Man (Specimen 3) sees Woman (Specimen 9). He offers her his food ration. She accepts it.

Their Master (Specimen 12) orders them to get back to work. He forgets to lock the storage room.


Man (Specimen 20) sees Woman (Specimen 17). He offers her a pretty rock. She shakes her head. He offers her two pretty rocks. She nods.

After sex, they never see each other again.

The Oldest Profession

Man (Specimen 22) and Woman (Specimen 16) have been having sex together for a while. He suggests that they enter into an exclusive social arrangement. She notes that his economic value is low and he does not have the character she expects of her sire. He also snores.

She accepts anyway. They die miserable side by side.


Man (Specimen 5) and Woman (Specimen 23) see each other. Their loins ache for intercourse, but they say nothing. They each return home to masturbate.


Man (Specimen 13) and Woman (Specimen 14) pass by one another. She, interested in the stranger, asks for his name. He leaves her dead in an alley.


Quotidian Life

Man (Specimen 5) wakes up at the usual time, eats his usual morning meal, and attends to his usual duties at work. One day, he stops going to work and receives a stipend for his lifelong devotion.

He dies the week after of old age.


Woman (Specimen 17) attends a school where she learns the science behind baking pastries. After graduating, she starts work at a bakery.

A week later, she finally knows how to bake pastries.


Man (Specimen 21) meets Man (Specimen 7) on public transport. They speak about topics neither cares about. They learn each other's names before parting, but each forget within five minutes.

They appear in each other's dreams many years later.


Woman (Specimen 15) gossips with Woman (Specimen 21) about a coworker (Specimen 2). When their coworker arrives, they both fake smiles.

Their coworker is glad she has such nice colleagues.


Man (Specimen 22) and Woman (Specimen 23) talk about something popular neither of them enjoyed.

They each secretly enjoy the same unpopular thing. The subject never comes up.


Man (Specimen 8) makes people laugh. Everyone loves him. He is a famous celebrity.

When he cries alone, no one hears.


Wife (Specimen 19) dresses herself up to impress her Husband (Specimen 7). She cooks his meals, washes his clothes, and cleans the household.

His greatest wish is that she talks less.


Man (Specimen 6) lets his employer (Specimen 10) bully him and sleep with his wife (Specimen 15).

He does not mind. He prefers sleeping with his employer's wife (Specimen 11) anyway.


New Dawn

Man (Specimen 1) wanders in a vast desert. He rides on a camel (Specimen 4) with expensive wares in tow. He is robbed by a highwayman (Specimen 13), who takes the camel and the wares. He is left for dead.

A day and a night pass. He is still alive, and struggling to find his way. His tired feet, scorched by the hot day, are frozen by the cold night.

Another day and another night pass. He loses heart. He staggers, desperately throwing his body forward. He cannot feel his legs.

On the third day, he lies in the hot sand, letting the sunlight beat down on his exposed skin. He thinks of his wife (Specimen 2) and decides to struggle on. He lifts his head and sees an oasis. Though he knows of mirages, he fights for this last hope.

Finally, after crawling for hours, he reaches the oasis. He drinks the sweet water and bathes his sun-battered body. It is soon nightfall. He sleeps under the fallen foliage of palm trees. The next morning, he is rescued by travelers (Specimen 3, 8, and 12.). He cries with joy.

As he leaves with his saviors, he turns around to give thanks to the oasis.

The oasis (Specimen 24) bids him a warm farewell.