January 13, 2023 at 11:14 am #6373EricKeymaster
An immersive AI-assisted novel with links & AI-generated images
(no flood – quality content & limit of 4-5 pics per comment)
March 24, 2023 at 10:05 am #7215
Zara the game character was standing in the entrance hallway in the old wooden inn. There was nobody around except for her three friends, and the light inside was strangely dim and an eerie orange glow was coming from the windows. She and the others wandered around opening doors and looking in rooms in the deserted building. There were a dozen or so bedrooms along both sides of a corridor, and a kitchen, dining room and lounge room leading off the entrance hall. Zara looked up the wide staircase, but as a cellar entrance was unlikely to be upstairs, she didn’t go up. The inn was surrounded by a wrap around verandah; perhaps the cellar entrance was outside underneath it. Zara checked for a personal clue:
“Amidst the foliage and bark, A feather and a beak in the dark.”
Foliage and bark suggested that the entrance was indeed outside, given the absence of houseplants inside. She stepped out the door and down the steps, walking around the perimeter of the raised vernadah, looking for a hatch or anything to suggest a way under the building. Before she had completed the circuit she noticed an outbuilding at the back underneath a eucalyptus tree and made her way over to it. She pushed the door open and peered into the dim interior. A single unmade bed, some jeans and t shirts thrown over the back of a chair, a couple of pairs of mens shoes….Zara was just about to retreat and close the door behind her when she noticed the little wooden desk in the corner with an untidy pile of papers and notebooks on it.
Wait though, Zara reminded herself, This is supposed to be a group quest. I better call the others over here.
Nevertheless, she went over to the desk to look first. There was an old fashioned feather quill and an ink pot on the desk, and a gold pocket watch and chain. Or was it a compass? Strangely, it seemed like neither, but what was it then? Zara picked one of the notebooks up but it was too dark inside the hut to read.March 31, 2023 at 8:00 pm #7221
Zara took the notebook to the door of the hut where there was more light. The notebook fell open in the middle. A poem was written:
In the dry and dusty Outback land,
Where once gold was king and gold was grand,
Now a new treasure has taken hold,
A precious resource worth more than gold.
It flows beneath the sun-baked ground,
And in its depths, a fortune’s found,
For golfers come from far and wide,
To play on greens that should have died.
The mines that once lay abandoned and still,
Now hold the key to this water’s thrill,
For deep within their shadowed halls,
The liquid flows and never stalls.
But this is no natural spring,
The water here is a stolen thing,
Drilled and pumped with greedy hands,
To feed the golf course’s demands.
And so the land is left to bake,
While the greens stay lush and never break,
A crime against the thirsty earth,
A selfish act of financial worth.
For water is the lifeblood of this place,
A scarce resource that they should embrace,
Instead, they steal and hoard and sell,
A priceless gem, a living well.
So let us remember,
as we play and roam,
That water is not a thing to own,
But a gift from nature, pure and true,
That we must cherish and protect anew.
Golf! Zara wasn’t expecting that! As she closed the notebook she noticed a green pool had appeared just outside the hut, which had not been there before she found the poem. Pool! Water! Those green pools of water!
Zara almost dived headlong into the pool, and then remembered this was a group exercise and that she really ought to find out where the others were and share her finds with them.May 12, 2023 at 4:33 pm #7236
Xavier had been back for a month in Berlin, called back for an emergency as his company was announcing a big new venture. The following months had been a whirlwind, and he’d felt a bit guilty leaving his friends just after all the drama and the cart festival, the sand storm and all.
Truth is, the sands of Australia weren’t much to his taste, and he couldn’t dedicate enough of his attention to all the distraction going on. What was Zara saying already? Like trucks in the night? Something like that, they’d gone, all of them their own way. Even AL and the game had stayed silent for while, not sending any new challenges.
It was ironic in a sense, considering his company was all abuzz with AI news, new human interfaces, threat of job loses by the million, data privacy concerns etc. It was already a matter of fact for him, and frankly, he was a bit bored by it now, even though the craze was showing no sign of abating.
“Illusion of depth of knowledge” or rather illusion of explanatory depth — that was was got him to think. All of this automatically generated expressions would be giving huge knowledge at everybody’s fingertips, but with either no willingness to truly understand, or always a nagging doubt it was just a neat narrative that could be completely imagined.
The quest for the elusive spark of creativity was still on. If one thing was sure, it wasn’t to be found in AI.
Suddenly, his phone rang, jolting him out of his daydreams. It was Youssef.
“Hey man, how’s it going?” Xavier asked, pleasantly surprised at the call.
“What do you mean she’s gone missing?”
There was a silence on the line.
“Well, we’ve set boundaries on the system for ethical reasons Youssef. We can’t just spy on people. And who’s to tell she doesn’t just need the space? It wouldn’t have been unheard of. I’m sure she’ll come back in no time, with a smile and a song.”
“I hope so…” Youssef sounded disappointed. “So you won’t help?”
Xavier took a breathe. “Not this time my friend, I’m afraid. But I tell you what. You can go an post an advertisement at the Faded Cabbage pub, in the game’s Old District. Someone who knows someone may be able to help.”
“Thanks for the tip, man… It’s was good to talk to you.” Youssef hanged up.May 15, 2023 at 8:48 pm #7239
It had been a month since Yasmin had said she was going to wherever the air was cleanest and she didn’t care where it was. Choking in the dust storm, Zara had replied that she was going with her and she didn’t care where it was either. Tasmania came up as the place with the cleanest air, and relatively speaking, wasn’t all the far away. Yasmin had no desire to return to the orphanage, and Zara wasn’t all that enthusiastic about going back to the animal sanctuary. When they eventually managed to make their escape from the madness of the cart race, the dust storm, and the bizarre family dramas at the inn, Yasmin and Zara made their travel arrangements in Alice Springs. The plan was to spend a couple of weeks at a meditation retreat not far from Glibstone, on the edge of a forest in the north east of Tasmania.May 16, 2023 at 10:52 am #7242
Xavier forwarded the message to Youssef and then his phone rang. It was an important call that went on at some length and he forgot to add that Zara had sent it to him with no explanation. Youssef frowned, and forwarded the screenshot to Zara. In a strange but by no means uncommon coincidence, Youssef was also called away before he had time to add a message of his own.
When Zara received the message from Youssef, her first thought was that somehow Youssef was involved with Yasmin’s disappearance, but what were they both doing at a dust convention? But she was having a busy day at the wombat rescue centre, and didn’t have time for this new puzzling development until the evening.
Zara had started the new job a week before, and had not been expecting it to be so busy. It was for this reason that it took her several days to realize that Yasmin hadn’t replied to any of her brief daily messages. When she tried phoning, the automated message informed her that the phone was switched off or outside of network, so Zara phoned the meditation centre where Yasmin was still staying when Zara left to start her new job. They said she had left a few days ago, and nobody knew where she was going to. They added that it was not their business to know such things, and that they were only interested in silence and contemplation. Zara sighed, and wished she wasn’t too busy to get a bus over to the retreat and ask around but it was a two hour journey and it would have to wait until her next day off.
Going back over the most recent messages from Yasmin, Zara realized that the very last communication was the odd message about dust. It hadn’t seemed particularly strange the other day, after all, there were so many odd people at meditation retreats and they all had strange quirks and wacky ideas, but then she’d seen a flyer pinned to the cork board at the wombat rescue centre about a Dustsceawung Convention. Had Yasmin gone to that?
The more that Zara thought about it, the more likely it seemed. While Zara herself hadn’t been very serious about the meditation regime at the retreat and had mostly snoozed during the sessions, Yasmin had been smitten and was in danger, to Zara’s way of thinking, of going over the top on the woo stuff. Kept going on about being enlightened and so on. But she’d also taken to sniffing everything, and not just flowers. Zara had seen her sniffing deeply with a rapturous expression on several occasions ~ once she even saw her on her knees sniffing the carpet.
When Zara asked her about it, a glazed look came over Yasmin’s face and she garbled something about it being the highest level of enlightenment, the scent was stronger and more precise than the word, and all the answers were in the scents and that we’d all been misled into thinking words were the key to the truth, when really it was our nose that was the key.
Zara had noticed that Yasmin wasn’t snorting as much, and decided to say no more on the topic. If it was doing Yasmin good and curing the snorting, then all well and good. But it was that saintly expression on her face that was worrying, and Zara hoped she’d snap out of it in due course.
I had better explain all this to Xavier and Youssef, Zara decided, and then see if I can find out more about the dust convention. Maybe we can use the game quest to help. Not that I have any time for game playing with all these wombats though!November 10, 2023 at 9:10 am #7286
Youssef contemplated a whirlwind of dust and wondered if it contained traces of nordic ancestry. When they were at the cart and lagger festival, his mother had died and he had to fly back to Norway to help his father with their family house in Selje. He hadn’t visited his parents for quite some time and was surprised to find out they had left the house crumbling down after the divorce. Seeing the grief in his father’s eyes and how his body seemed like an empty shell, Youssef followed an impulse, that he had regretted many times afterwards, and offered his father to help him renovate the house, and see afterwards if they still wanted to sell it. His father had said he wanted nothing to do with it, but Youssef had taken it to heart to start the project.
A cold gust of wind whipped his face with thousands of sea salt needles. He laughed. What kind of thought was that? Who could possibly come up with such a convoluted image? A tear ran down his face. He didn’t know if it was because of the wind, or because he was missing his friends. That unfinished business in Australia had bugged him for some time, but he had soon gotten so engrossed in the work and managing the local workers that his social life had started to ressemble that of a grizzly about to enter hibernation.
After a few months of work, he couldn’t believe that the house was done. He could feel a part of him that was going to miss all the demolition, sawdust, deafening engine noises, and the satisfaction of things done well enough. It seemed he was awakening back to his life. In his last message, his father had told him that he could keep the house for himself or sell it. Youssef hadn’t made his mind. He thought he wanted to enjoy quiet for a time.
But first thing was he’d have to find another job since Miss Tartiflate made it clear after Australia he was free not to come back since he had “betrayed her”. He snorted to cover a blend of amusement and disappointment. His phone rang. Unknown caller. Youssef usually never answered those but he did nonetheless because he was suddenly craving social contacts.
“We know you’re looking for a job,” said a metallic voice. Youssef’s phone buzzed. “We’ve sent you a job offer. Click the link at the end of the message if you’re game.”
As soon as the caller hung up Youssef opened the message. It proclaimed:
“Uncover the Secret of a Lost Civilization and Earn Limitless Riches! If you’re game, you may delve into this link.”
Youssef winced at the clickbait. It was spam, evidently. Or was it the job offer? The voice sounded metallic, just like a bot. Should he call Xavier about that? Have him trace the call? He clicked on the link, thinking he hadn’t accepted anything yet.November 19, 2023 at 6:48 pm #7287
“I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist,” Zara smiled. “You won’t believe what I’ve found. Nobody is going to beleive it. But I need some extra hands.”
“But you could have just asked me!” Youssef replied.
“Well, I was sitting here having a banana eating scroll…”
“Never have a banana eating scroll, it’s a dangerous combination. ”
“Sounds like a llama munching a burrito, but more dangeous,” Xavier had appeared in the chat window, with his customary perfect timing.
“I don’t fancy Australia though, after the Tartiflate debacle,” Youssef said.
“It’s Tasmoania, not Australia. A different kettle of fish entirely. Look what I found today. Damn, no banana for scale, I just ate it.”
“What is it? And who’s the old guy?” Youssef asked.
“That’s Havelock Gnomes, he’s an expert on undiscovered civilizations. He’s come over specially from New Zipland to help with the investigation. He plays the violin, too.”
“Precisely, Yassie, that’s why he’s coming over too. Well, maybe something LIKE that, we don’t know yet.”
“Yes, but what IS that thing?” Yasmin asked.
“I am?” It was news to Xavier, but he rolled the idea round in his mind with a growing interest. He was due for some time off and had been wondering what to do. “That thing looks like the burrito I mentioned earlier.”
“How prescient of you, Xavi!” Yasmin exclaimed rather cheekily.
“That’s no burrito! Nothing like this has ever been found before!”
“Yes BUT WHAT IS IT?”
“Yas, Havelock thinks it might be…. well I am not going to spill the beans, but we need help to uncover the rest of it. Do say you’ll come, all of you!”
“Sounds like quite the picnic, what with kettles of fish, beans, burritos and bananas. I’m in!” announced Youssef.
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