The man with the cigar looks at me, it’s making me uncomfortable.

He pulls out the cards and places the deck of shadows to one side and the symbols to the other.

I pull from the deck of shadows, as always. The 3.

He pulls from the other deck and holds up the chimera. I watch as it’s exotic topologies unfold like an origami bird, It’s configurations will set the protocols for the mission.

I feel this ritual is unnecessary and embedded with superstitions I can only guess at: procedures he follows, as did those before him - traditions as unfathomable to me as the man himself.

There is no defined outcome for this mission, no tangible asset to extract as such - not this time - just a process, picking up signals: maybe they produce artifacts, maybe they don’t… Maybe there is something else? Or just his perverse curiosity, picking through my precious findings before I can make sense of them. I sometimes think he is a sadist.

I feel a deep sense of shame that I have taken on yet another contract, but maybe I have my own perverse curiosity? This mission in particular, is pulling me in, the ambiguity of it compels me. I feel that this time I am closer to something.

He knows I have been interfering, not following the protocols, I have a feeling my curiosity could reveal more than our position. But I point out that we may learn more than we expected by interacting. He goes still for a moment: there is a part of this, that is foreign to him. I feel satisfaction, knowing there is something that I know, that he doesn’t.

The display confirms a new artifact: the quantum telemetric’s internal quantum clocks running through a series of random walks, functions performing complex tensor operations on a trillion quantum states per second until it picks up an interference, an anomalous fluctuation. The visualizations show a segment of hopf-like fibers breaking away into a new cluster, resolving into its mysterious representation of strange geometries: I am drawn in.

These anomalies produce the exotic artifacts - a sort of side business - captured in quasi crystalline structures and usually sold to unknown buyers through opaque transaction processes: something I know but am not supposed to know. Something about it makes me feel dirty: using such elegantly architectured machinery for this purpose. I am betraying my craft.

I try to interpret the signal as best I can, trying to decipher the significance of these artifacts before they are sealed away from me, a black box of anomalous information. I try to find coherence in its emergent patterns, I sometimes feel I am getting close, but not really. A signature of something: an intelligence encoded deep in the geometry itself?

It’s possible no one really knows what these artifacts mean. But my focused observations are now somehow changing the signature. The directive is to detect and observe without interfering or making our presence known.

But for now, no one knows the origin of the artifacts may not be entirely alien… I need more time.

“You realize these signals are not a form of communication you will ever understand” I turn back, forgetting he is still in the room.

Then, with that, he is gone with the last word. I know it’s true.


I posted this on Twigg a few months ago and these are some of the notes I wrote to go with it. I would also like to write an expanded version of this science fiction short story at some point and create a 3D scene to go with it. I’m currently deciding where to host this immersive 3D facet of the story and whether it’s going to be in full 360 in VR or if it’s going to be in video format, probably both. I’d like to construct the room in which the scene takes place, the exotic quantum machinery showing its ghostly readouts.

Notes and summary:

It was originally a story about the psychological introjects we carry around in our internal landscape, I decided to give these internal voices a fictional arena in which to play out their dynamics and interact in, as though they are fully embodied people. The story itself is about someone who must capture quantum alien artifacts that come across as coded signals, these ‘artifacts’ are then isolated and sold on an obscure interplanetary marketplace for such items. As he watches the quantum display, he secretly tries to decipher these strange communications, which is not part of the mission, a mission guided by the mysterious cigar man and some arcane rituals that seem to have little purpose. As he observes these quantum fluctuations trying to decipher patterns and meaning, he feels he is getting closer to something, as though something is trying to reach out to him.

At the time of writing this, it felt as though I was laboring under the imperative of an unconscious drive, pattern or voice, I then decided to characterize this introjected ‘voice’ and create an externalized entity from it/him. The main, first person character is also a way to characterize myself or what would be considered ‘the ego’ as an external figure, that must grapple with the demands of the introject or the mysterious ‘Cigar Man’. The main character does not know exactly why they are being asked to perform these tasks or why they are even on this mission in the first place. The drives and intentions of this mysterious man are cryptic and unfathomable: a part of the self that one is not familiar with but a part that drives our will to take certain actions nonetheless. At the time it was helpful to let the story play out, become its own thing and to allow these otherwise internal voices to play out their tensions, and I was then able to observe them as an outsider which had a clarifying effect on this dynamic and these seemingly tangled emotional threads.