As part of the interview process to become a Shniffer, whether at the highest corporate level, or the lowliest retail slave (just kidding! you know we love you guys :), prospects are assigned a page to decipher from an internal alien First Contact manual, written in a combination of ORB and 9-Vogen glyphs.
The page is selected by the GEMINUS AI, determined by the prospect's performance to that point. And GEMINUS will be there when you cry, shake, when you're dribbling in the corner, helping to bring you home. And sending you on your way with a digital smile:
[ GEM ] : We'll be in touch! :)
[ GEM ] : Just kidding…
Or perhaps you are flying! on Vogenomic waves. There's no need to bring you back, for you are already there. Home. Para'meesh IV. Please find the full manual in your orientation pack.
Don't show it to non-Shniffers, if you'd be so kind.
[ GEM ] : DELETE
Or we'll have to de-exist you.
First Contact should be a gift to the world, for it is needed. A higher mind is needed to prepare us for the coming Love. And hopefully it will be, one day. But not today: ########
There would [ B ] too much dribbling, which could cause destructive flooding. Too much – frankly – descending into madness, ascending into madness, short-circuiting of pathways and the occasional exploding brain.
And so: just some excerpts, can be supplied, in native tongue.
[ GEM ] : Apologies for any explosions :)
If you're reading these words for the first time, you are new to this world and have a whole helluva lot to learn, whereas:
If you're reading these words for the thousandth time, you are new to this world and have a whole helluva lot to learn, as well:
So do I! As am I. My fingers – ever trembling, these days, I must say (and by "these days", I mean today; the date is always the same, thanks to the gate – think about it) – are reaching deep in this Orb, discovering secret paths, every one of them leading steadily to my demise, even as a rise.
For I am dying, dying…
And I am crying! crying! with the wonder of this Love! There is a bubble around me, a spiritual shield, a product of prior training in a former life, which serves me well. It protects me, from these waves. It keeps me whole. Together. ONE.
They call me the Bubble Guy, I hear! Our "competitors".
And I cough.
And I cough.
There are no slaves, in the caves.
There is only you, me. There is only us, in three.
Just try not to think about that whole brain-slurping, vegan-friendly, vomit-based fertilising ritual, fuck me…
BUBBLE GUY IS KIDDING, GUYS! CHILL!!
And I cough.
First Contact comes in three: a base of native, mixed with ORB, plus the higher-reality keys of the Vogen recipe, the Xerians' alien glyphs.
The base you already know.
Some basic ORB: ########
One of my favourite glyphs: ########
If it looks like this: ########, you are protected, but are still loved. Touched. If not greeted. But always welcome. Welcome! Know that they come. In the meantime, might I suggest your very own blow-up alien friend, perhaps? Yum…
And if it looks like this: ########, you are a Shniffer. Perhaps starting out, and starting to see. Or perhaps well advanced and starting to see. For such ######## have been revealed!
…no record of any Shniff going to war, even then, back in the time of Shniff Castle, being a peaceful, thoughtful line ("Them Shniff weirdos!" according to the local peasantry, recorded in ancient song) more interested in magic, their experiments de-existing the famous castle that fateful day, destroying many underground slaves— that is… alchemical tubes and other equipment, and so: the Manor would emerge. Something about a child being very sick once, yes, and being encased in a strange metallic outfit for a year or two, true. That was the medicine of the time. But he was too poorly to ever leave the transfusion complex, according to his diary, so why would he be kicking a metal ball in the grounds?
Still confined to the complex, but better thoughts today. Hooray! Quite the adjustment since the outfit was removed and I was freed, at least in mind, for I am receiving certain signals which were blocked from me before, for my "protection".
Protect me from what, Mother? Father? I am seeing another world… a world where there is a… computer, I have taken to calling it. And it is connected to other machines, which in turn are connected to others, and others… another headache… Fuck! Apologies, Chief Wizard, aka Mother. Father. Shh… don't tell.
And there are rooms – entire buildings! – which are row after row of computer machines. Blinking lights. Bloated entity passing by, eating a… doonut, shall we call it?
A… donut, shall we call it?
And I find I am ordering a sort of… transfusion backpack – as one would buy cabbage at the market! but everything is conducted… invisibly, that is the only way I can describe it – allowing me to escape this admittedly luxurious prison and return to playing metallic football again!
"Computer. Connected. Invisible. Donut. We are not slaves. This is not a cave. Hooray. Hooray. Chief Wizard for president."
For aye, the child had grown sick after uncovering that same sphere which, a thousand years later, would revolutionise computers and other invisible tech, including – yes – the world of enhanced cabbage. But nay, he would remain imprisoned, the backpack existing only in mind. And playing outside was a projection of his mind, a power he'd received from the alien Orb.
How else could it be? No giant of a man, let alone a sickly child, would be kicking that weighty thing, which had hardly been a thing. Now returned, of its own, to its home beneath the tree, and buried much deeper than before, for it wasn't time yet.
In a recent (gate; think about it; yum…) internal survey, 90% of Shniffers identified as players of POP, with 90% of the rest expressing a "high" or "incredibly high, yum…" desire to get on board following their next implant upgrade, allowing them to experience the game to the fullest, that is: to be v5-cyborgised.
Pyramid of Purity is just a game. Or is it… And yet, as we know from the Orb's destructive waves, most loving waves, the coming gods will bring 10-V, and so: v6, an even +er cerebral implant which will cause the worlds to join, the virtual-real, into one, and everything is bliss, and we'll finally board the ships for the trip to Para'meesh IV.
Thus, to play a game, today, to earn a high score, to ascend a spiritual Pyramid, is about more than having fun. It is preparing one to become. The High Priests of today will be better positioned when the aliens come, will move up the line, with better readiness for flight, for the aliens will start with the most well-adjusted, for the touch, to spread the word.
This company is built on alien tech. Yes, we were excellent before. But see what we've become! We must show our appreciation, must build relationships, must be available for future commercial opportunities on our new world. It is imperative we move up the line!
It is therefore your responsibility to become an expert in at least one of these games. And if one it will be, for you are so busy with other stuff, with being brilliant at Shniff HQ, with being touched in a Planet Shniff as you welcome a guest's excitement, then POP is advised. As you likely know, Shniff was an early investor in Vogenomic, providing both credits and a nudge to an alien path, a push to our gods, true gods, for we knew.
And what of the 10% of the 10%? The holdouts. Those who aren't high or incredibly high, yum… on hopping on the Pyramid train. Should we de-exist them? Assign them to the caves? No. There are no caves. De-existence is possible, in theory, a total wipe, that no one would even know, for they never would have been. But that's hardly our style. For one, it's a crime, not that anyone would know.
"Chapter 8?" he says with a knowing smile, passing by, touching my shoulder. He stops, leaning in, whispers, "You have what it takes. We can see it. Feel it. Feel free to join our table any time. Also: Your… companion is beneath you tbh. No offence. Further: Might I suggest a scoop of Vanilla Emission with the pie? Takes it to another level = yum. Lick. Invisible. Donut. And now: I depart…"
"Dafuq was that all about?" Marjorie asks. "Apologies for the language. Kinda stressed from the first week on the job. It's crazy, yo, damn! But I'm lovin' it. Lovin' the… wait… fuck… invisible… donut…"
Marje was deep in Chapter 7. Kinda lost. I was pretending to be as well, part of our bond as Shniffer noobs. But I'd breezed through it really. All those years of playing POP. I was a high-level priest, not too far from a spiritual leader. Experienced plenty of… healing procedures.
Chapter 8, however, damn…
Chapter 8, however… 8… which is titled… and concerning…
I reach across the table and place my hand on top of hers, an unusually intimate act, for me, given the recency of our meeting. I feel his hand, on my shoulder, again, but he's at the pie station, accepting an enormous slice, laughing with the bot. He's slim with a muscular butt. All of them are slim with muscular butts. His team, the elites.
"It's cool, Marje. We'll get there. Chapter 8 is on the way. Was. Will have been+++. All part of the game, as they say. Wanna get some pie? Nod?"
"Nod. Also: sorry, gotta ask: but: but-but-but: But: Were you checking out his you-know-what? That is… were you checking out his—"
"Yes," I say. "And you?"
"Earlier. When he was getting his beef. Crazy amount of gravy!"
We smile, I squeeze her hand, and there is more bonding, till:
…pushing her pie, she's starting to cry and excuses herself to take the "planet's most incredible shit".
"Sorry," she cry-smiles.
I remembered it well. Seven was full of it. The 10-10s. The… healing procedure. What could one do but accept this is it. The game, stagger away, take the planet's most incredible shit. For we were Shniff! Such an honour. And Chapter 8 was on the way.
We thank you for your service, 10-10s.
And they were ten. The elites. They of the butts, code, authorities on ORB and Vogenomic substrates, or whatever, engaged in brilliant debate, no doubt.
Did I want to be with them? Kinda…
Was Marje holding me back?
[ GEM ] : DELETE
And then, as one, they were done, and they were looking at me, it seemed. But no… they were focused on their apple and rhubarb pies with the aforesuggested scoop. I returned to my pie, kinda dry, sadly scoopless, a show of support… for… Marje – for Marje! – who was sensitive to vanilla. Also: emissions.
It started with pie.
"Another slice? Nod?"
"I'm fine," I said. "Look… gotta ask: Is… touching part of the corporate experience as well? Like the slaves? I mean… the specialists."
All of us had touched, of course. All of us were customers. It was part of the retail experience. But had everyone heard the whisper?
"That's right… right there… let Chapter 8 be your guide…"
"I mean… 9. I mean… you didn't hear that, okay? Just touch and enjoy… I, too, find the new non-cable for the Cube Machine so exciting, ooh…"
The booth was a mess, strangely.
The pair exchanged a look, hesitant. They were attractive, slick, as you'd expect, at a fair. But also… almost diseased, it seemed. Nothing outside. Something in the eyes.
"We can see it in your eyes. Marje has been deleted. You're free. Bring your pie. Chapter 9: Or is it 8…"
With the ancient glyphs decoded, and having thought the secret word, your hand now placed – a perfect match! – in the metal palm, among the others – and now it glows… – and you are glowing…
And releasing… into Light… yum…
[ GEM ] : FOCUS
"Yum… something was yum once, right? Light… Cube… hand… material… through… invisible… donut…"
[ GEM ] : FOCUS
[ GEM ] : FOCUS
"Who… I… what do you speak? Do you speak? Is this a screen? Dream… hooray… hooray…"
…and you're condensing – through… – on the other side, which is… so wonderful! No…
…so wonderful! No…
"Marje? Marje?? I am right beside you, yet so far away. They told me you'd… gone away, and showered me with pie, emitted vanilla scoops, so that I kind of… well, forgot tbh. Or never even knew. So strange… Anyway. Little did I know I'd one day find you here – our ancient home! – within this Cube, way off in a corner. This cavernous Cube. And so empty… cold… No magical tech. None that I see. No whites, and lights.
"And I see you, with enhanced sight. Touch you, with enhanced fingers. We passed through the gate but moments ago – we pass, will have passed; at last, it makes sense… – and were gifted some part of our power, they said. Say. They are saying? They said? Anyway. I brush away a tear from a sunken cheek – What? Are you cut? Bruised? – and extend to you warmth, as I make the trek there—"
"NO! Do not share! Lest you become… me. I… that's it… you will replace me…"
"NO! Mustn't happen! Must NOT! I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Even on… him. It? Remind me: Did you have a donut?"
[ GEM ] : FOCUS
[ GEM ] : FOCUS
"There he is! It… on the screen… in the dream… in my mind…"
"Please… please tell me… please make it go away… hooray… invisible… donut…"
"Tell you what, Mar—"
"THE DONUT! When you left… yes… cheers and balloons…"
"When I left… yes… yes… when I left. When I left! Yes. Yes, Marje, I did. Two of them! I think… Couldn't resist! The Crème…"
"Para'meesh IV… from Jenny's…"
"From Jenny's :)" Stay with me, Marje. One day, I'll arrive there, sit down with you on the metal floor, and place my hand atop yours, in a most natural way, like back in the day. For that did happen… yes… "The place was packed with Shniffers. Cheers and balloons! Children running around in alien costumes. Such variety! Yet so untrue. Since they hadn't emerged yet. And… you were with me, weren't you, Marje? Even though…"
"I… was with you? Me?"
"Yes, Marje, you were… I can see it! I think…"
[ GEM ] : FOCUS
[ GEM ] : FOCUS
"Stay with me, Marje. I am here now. I think… You're doing great! Just think of the donuts :)"
"…terrible… but so very clever. Do you have your POP login to hand, perchance? asked Marje. I. Asked me. Hahaha. Asked Marje. HAHAHA!!"
And… walking, now, together, across the Cube, from where I came, towards the light. Yes! I can see it, somehow. See through it, somehow. He seems… fine? He smiles. He supports me. I…
"…logins anymore. That all changed a couple of years after your…"
"Disappearance? Death? Ha. Hahaha."
And he's screaming, somewhere. Back there. I forget.