June 15, 2020

“You vs. the Apocalypse,” by Ayman Elsayed

“You vs. the Apocalypse,” by Ayman Elsayed
TITLE: You vs. The Apocalypse 
GENRE: Legal, Simulation, Strategy 
DEVELOPER: COVID-19 
FRANCHISE: Pandemic Interactive 
PUBLISHER: Ayman Elsayed 
RELEASE DATE: March 15, 2020 
 
The handling of the end of the world is on trial. Your only mission is to survive. Overcome struggles such as mental health, physical isolation and deteriorating resources by interacting with technology. Engage with others. Find a hobby. Judge your community. Protect yourself from yourself. 
 
Single-player 
Achievements 
Full Remote Compatibility 
 
RECENT REVIEWS: Very Negative. 99.9% of the 7,729,536,211 user reviews in the last 30 days are negative. 
 
Popular user-defined tags for this product: Closed World, Survival Horror, RPG, Retro, Sandbox, Social Distancing, Crafting, Souls-like 
 
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
                                                    _________ 
                                                   / ======= \ 
                                                  / __________\ 
                                                 | ___________ | 
                                                 | |         | | 
                                                 | |  START  | | 
                                                 | |_________| | 
                                                 \_____________/    
                                                 / """"""""""" \                        
                                                / ::::::::::::: \         
                                               (_________________) 





[ DAY ONE ] 

[ Your morning routine begins.] 
[ It is the end of the world. You are now under strict quarantine. ] 
[ Your mental narrator is providing useless arbitration, endless commentary and obtuse punchlines. ] 
[ Your goal is to stay informed, safe and engaged throughout regularly scheduled Programming. ] 

Exhibit A: 

Like most people, I met the looming threat of COVID-19 with outright denial. I became more and more apprehensive with each major announcement, each blow softened by the dismissiveness of peers and inaction by leaders. We kept the existential threat at bay for a short while with healthy doses of satire, sarcasm or simple misdirection. The growing wave of panic continued to set in seemingly overnight. By the time we realized shit had gotten real, we were already fighting over toilet paper. It was a pyrrhic victory at best for the half that won, because the sewer systems were so backed up from the other half flushing down whatever they could get their dirty hands on. Next thing we knew, we were all knee deep, stocking up on anything wipeable for the long haul. It didn’t matter what public officials were warning– cognitive bias based on a lifetime in security is a whole ‘nother ball game. 

[ You do not understand what you have read yet. ] 
[ You have just woken up. Your eyes are hazy. Your thoughts are murky. ]  
[ Your mind is taking its time to unravel puzzle pieces of a dream from another world. ] 
[ You finish collecting yourself. ] 
[ Your dream triggers a memory about how self-expression is vital to #selfcare during times of hardship. ]  
[ You feel energized with an abundance of life. ] 
[ You are bursting with rays of hope. ]  
[ You will be a beacon of light in a long, dark and silent night. ]

[ You endeavor to be a #selfmade citizen of the world who shares #simpleapocalypsetips to combat ‘Viral Panic’. ]

[ You decide to spend your day being productive by researching a new skill. ] 

Exhibit B: 

This week on How It’s Made: End Times Edition– we take a deep dive into the subtle nuances of Content Writing for a 21st Century Audience. These dystopic publications act like bookmarks for mental collection and later, extensive in-house processing. Through a vain attempt to feed the mind’s rapturous desire to stave off compulsive self-thought, self-obsession quickly boils, bubbles and crystallizes into diagnosed classic narcissism, steadily settling beneath the surface tension. This is where seemingly random bits of information are systematically condensed, sorted and added to loosely correlated collections of superficial worldviews that are sold in the social marketplace to willing participants using a complex process called ‘cultural osmosis,’ or what is colloquially known to the unwitting public as an “opinion.” Upon dissemination, the ever-so-humble opinion’s reactive bonds become viscous and achieve maximum virality by mechanism of muted golf claps and hushed pinky raises followed by an obligatory #toast for its tireless contributor. 

[ You have learned that being overly specific, relevant and ironic are key to seeming authoritative through a seemingly authoritative source that is overly specific, relevant and ironic. ] 
[ ‘Social Media Marketing’ Skill Level increases +1. ] 

[ You believe that your opinion will have weight from validation. ] 
[ Mood increases +1. ] 

[ You feel happy that you have used your time wisely. ] 
[ Mood increases +1. ] 

[ You have spent some time online. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -1. ] 

[ This experience triggers a memory about SEO. ] 
[ You decide to spend some time compiling a list of unique words to include in insightful content. ] 

Exhibit C: 

Top 5 Buzzwords During the Apocalypse: 

-Optics 

-Brand 

-Agency 

-RNG 

-Cheesing 

[ You question whether you are #woke enough to appease your target audience. ]  
[ Mood decreases -1. ] 

[ You question whether your contribution will age well. ] 
[ Mood decreases -1. ] 

[ You question whether your contribution will be considered pandering. ] 
[ Mood decreases -1. ] 

[ You question whether your contribution will be meaningful. ] 
[ Mood decreases -1. ] 

[ Your mood has changed too quickly. ]  
[ Sanity decreases -1. ] 

[ You feel sad that you have not used your time wisely. ]  
[ Mood decreases -1. ] 

[ Your mood is critically low, triggering a psychological self-preservation module. ] 
[ You gain a ‘Depressed’ status debuff in the form of a mental response. ] 
[ You are immune to the effects of your mood for the remainder of the session. ]  
[ You can no longer pursue hobbies for the remainder of the session. ]  
[ You are a testament to the power of learned helplessness. ] 
[ You must assess the situation before continuing. ] 

[ You realize the Optics are poor as you have lost Agency over your emotions. ] 
[ You decide to move on for now to gain some perspective for your Brand. ] 
[ Sanity increases +1. ] 

[ You have spent some time online. ]
[ Sanity decreases -1. ] 

[ You decide to continue. ] 

Exhibit D: 

A good portion of my idle time is spent sifting through random articles. The would-be slivers of dopamine I unlock are episodic and rare, triggered by some particularly specific insight about world affairs. And if I have to be completely honest, and apparently I do, I am completely and utterly addicted to 24-hour “news” cycles. I can say this with absolute certainty because this endeavor has provided no net benefit, intellectually, emotionally or spiritually, and I have been rendered morally bereft in the process. Although I am obligated by law to let you know that I am, indeed, morally bereft, I still got out clean with my dog by my side. If you know me personally, you know I have probably mentioned the pangs of hurt I can physically feel when I consume media that is unambiguously lazy, deliberately void of opinion, or worse, strategically manipulative. Constantly analyzing who some content is meant to appeal to, or obsessing over players and the motives behind them, is all part of the game. It’s the meta-entertainment and I play on both sides against myself, scrutinizing every angle, paying little merit to any inherent message. I consider it a valuable service worth its weight in equal parts gratitude and mercy. I’m also bound by law to advise that you should “pay no attention to the idle musings of a morally bereft, cyber-world derelict” and am to maintain at least 300 spaces between your viewing receptacle and eyeballs at all times. 

[ You internalize a sense of embarrassment that feels foreign to you. ] 
[ You cringe in response. ] 
[ Empathy decreases -1. ] 

[ You feel for the person who wrote this, although you believe that they do not deserve empathy. ] 
[ Empathy decreases -1. ] 
[ You do not understand what you are experiencing. ] 

[ You are worried that your brain has encountered malicious Programming. ] 
[ You think that it is reading code, processing an error and rebooting its thoughts. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -1. ] 

[ You think about how you are thinking about this. It hurts. ]  
[ Sanity decreases -2. ] 

[ You think about how you are thinking about how it hurts. It hurts. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -3. ] 

[ You are now Ensnared by a Thought Loop. ] 
[ You are slowly developing a ‘Headache’ ailment. ] 
[ Health decreases -1. ] 
[ You feel sad that you have not used your time wisely. ]  
[ Mood decreases -1. ] 

[ You have spent some time online. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -1. ] 

[ You decide to resolve the error with a special update to regularly scheduled Programming. ] 

Exhibit E: 

EXPERT OPINION: My name is Dr. Professional Advocate, here with an abundance of years of knowledge, research and experience. My goal is to reassure you that Everything is O.K. Currently, your screens are fully saturated with a seemingly endless stream of content, and most of it is overwhelmingly negative. Manufactured this way for clicks, hits or whatever your preferred nomenclature for engagement is. The effects are relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of things and are deemed safe for regular consumption due to low risk. That is O.K. The vast majority of available Programming is filtered through an algorithm personally designed to promote a feeling of insecurity, which you can satiate through further engagement. This is a closed feedback loop designed to reinforce your sense of security for maximum viewing pleasure. You are O.K. Thank you.  

[ You are distracted by trying to understand what you have read. ]
[ You feel a little bit calmer. ] 
[ Sanity increases +5. ] 

[ Experience saved into Memory Bank. ]
 
[ You feel happy that you have not used your time wisely. ] 
[ Mood increases +1. ] 

[ You have spent some time online. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -1. ] 

[ You decide to continue. ] 

Exhibit F: 

Reading about the plight of citizens in China who are suffering through an entirely novel, highly contagious and deadly pandemic didn’t make me more empathetic, as much as I wish I could say otherwise. At most, it made me feel grateful that my loved ones are safe in a way that is entirely based on fear– 

[ You feel ashamed that you have read this and give up half-way. ] 
[ Empathy decreases -1. ] 

[ You feel ashamed of the human race. ] 
[ Empathy decreases -7,729,536,212. ] 

[ Empathy is critically low, triggering a psychological self-preservation module. ] 
[ You gain a ‘Numb’ status debuff as a physiological response. ] 
[ Your heart is a stone-cold samurai, unbound by the emotional tethers of this world. ]  
[ You are immune to the effects of empathy for the remainder of the day. ] 

[ You have spent some time online. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -1. ]
 
[ You decide to continue. ] 

Exhibit G: 

Let me paint an uncanny picture. I meet horrible headlines about social inequity or disasters multiple borders away with false sincerity and resigned apathy. I mean, I care, but not in a way that is personal because ‘it doesn’t affect me’ or ‘I can’t do anything about it.’ The truth is, I have hardwired myself this way to a fault by choosing what I consume and how I consume it. Even worse, this is a source of distinction that I identify with. Even better, I enjoy it more than the pleasure of ego death. 

[ You are unsure how many times the writer has used the word “I” in the last paragraph, still making these issues about themselves, and unfairly, you. ] 
[ You are not satisfied by your observation. ] 
[ Nothing happens. ]
 
[ You continue ruminating but there is no effect. ]  
[ Nothing happens. ]
 
[ You count seven times in six sentences. ]  
[ Sanity decreases -1. ]
 
[ You try to remember what the issues at hand were. ] 
[ You fail. ] 
[ You read again. ]  
[ You give up. ]  
[ Sanity decreases -2. ]
 
[ You have internalized too many discrepancies in Programming. ] 
[ You are slowly developing a ‘Confusion’ ailment. ]  
[ Sanity decreases -1. ] 

[ ‘Headache’ is now pounding. ] 
[ Health decreases -2. ]
 
[ You have spent some time online. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -1. ]
 
[ You decide to continue. ] 

Exhibit H: 

The truth is, I have probably always had the basic amenities I need to survive, even if they weren’t on the mental periphery. It’s easy to squeak by the thought of an apocalypse using skeptical, ironic and satirical deflections from a distance. It’s what allows me to feel safe because I don’t have the misfortune of being personally affected by it. Incidentally, it’s also what hampers my ability to genuinely acknowledge it. Basically, I enjoy the simple pleasures that life has to offer. 

[ ‘Headache’ worsens. ] 
[ Your gushing heart is mainlining an unhealthy dose of stress hormones into your brain. ] 
[ Sound is muted from an obnoxiously high-pitched ringing in your ears. ] 
[ Health decreases -3. ]
 
[ ‘Confusion’ is now causing your eyes to wander indiscriminately. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -2. ] 

[ You consciously trigger a memory: you are O.K. ]  
[ Sanity increases +1. ]
 
[ You have spent some time online. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -1. ]
 
[ You decide to continue. ] 

Exhibit I: 

Before the epidemic hit, I had no security. I was a victim of existential dread, with no prospects. Most days, I had the trouble of knowing where I stood in life before anyone else knew where to look. Now, thanks to the threat of a global pandemic, I am a different and better breed altogether. By tracking the spread of the infection since it first began its onslaught against mankind, I realized only one thing matters: “we are fucked.” It was so reassuring whenever someone heard those words come out of my mouth that I could tell people were beginning to feel completely at ease. Despite my best efforts, the neighborhood has taken to social distancing. Society’s eventual entropic spiral will swallow them mercilessly as I ruminate upon its collapse from the safety of my isolated home dwelling and bulk shipments of emergency supply drop care packages. I’ve come to admire this charming disposition, along with my sense of duty and personal conviction.  

[ ‘Confusion’ worsens. ] 
[ You notice the weight of your body. ]  
[ You are no longer entranced by the stupor of glowing softness. ] 
[ Your eyes are glazed over. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -3. ]
 
[ Sanity is critically low, triggering a psychological self-preservation module. ] 
[ You gain a ‘Mental Fatigue’ status debuff in the form of a physical response. ] 
[ The call of the void seductively echoes: Zzz… zzz… zzz…  ] 
[ You can no longer legibly understand English without losing ‘Conscious Awareness’ unless you internalize useful Programming. ]
[ You must assess the situation before continuing. ]
 
[ You decide that you will only stay informed by the most authoritative sources. ] 
[ Sanity increases +1. ] 

[ You have spent some time online. ] 
[ Sanity decreases -1. ]
 
[ You decide to continue. ] 

Exhibit J: 

PRESS CONFERENCE: I am now firmly grounded in reality and the sense of uncertainty it comes with. The fear for my loved ones, people in general as a whole, including complete and total strangers is Very, Very real. Their mental wellbeing and cognitive ability to perform during a time of social collapse, especially. It’s really, scary times, and completely unprecedented, which I think everyone understands and fully agrees, that I don’t think anyone could fully understand the projections in the simulation, with or without great intellect. That’s only fair to say, which I am now co-opting confirmed agreement upon, by the most established professionals, who I am privileged to have close relation to myself, in the ‘biz,’ so-to-speak, something that we like to say for laughs, who all agree, that foreshadowing was simply, Again, completely and utterly, not possible. It has been done. It has been co-opted upon. It is only worth discussing how we can Make it through the, Again, Great future ahead of All of us. I hope we can all muster up the courage to get our hands dirty, you know, really dig deep, Very, Very, deep, into the trenches of common ground. I don’t think I have to mention the foreign horrors going on here, chances are you have already heard about that. So, I won’t. But they are still there, which you know, are large in number, always ever-present, and forever encroaching on our way of life, as the epitome of #fakenews, which we know to be the Very unacceptable essence of life itself. But I have spared you that. It has been done. Now– the real reason I am here. I am here to stand up for those of you who are able to stand up. As Senior Politician, who takes Great pride in Great action with Great responsibility, I declare war. In response to my own public and Very sincere declaration, one that is proven to be mutually reassuring, that is to say, this is about Very real and Very actionable war. I can even probably say, on the record, that I am honestly, the luckiest person, to be among the most privileged of them all, because today I can proudly state, Again, in complete earnest, that I will be offering, my Very highly regarded and Great, Certificate of Public Security, intended for bordered consumption, available completely for free, with no prior conditions, no questions asked, no strings attached, absolutely nothing, to any Great individual, or corporation, in exchange for a solemn oath of undying loyalty, stated clearly, of course, on the record. Whether we want to accept it or not, our fundamental model for security has been damaged by a magnitude of ten global fortitudes. Great action is now taken, which is a monumental stride for the downfall of our history textbooks. It has been done. I am now going to finish, by stating, the Great loss of humanity through suddenly apparent misfortune, and am equally strengthened, by the also Great resolve, of those who maintain our livelihoods in vital sectors under the immense pressures of personal security risk. I generally feel a mix of everything, at all times, offending no one, or perhaps, everyone, half the time, even if it’s only a little bit of them, covering every base possible. This is just the kind of person I am, personally confirmed by a Great and professional relative of mine, to be more than just Very O.K. In closing, what a cool bond to share. What a Great blessing it is. What a most unfortunate circumstance lurking among us. Fuck. Okay. 

[ You notice that you have nodded off until you are interrupted by silence after quite some time. ] 
[ This experience triggers a memory that a blank slate to start over is important for practicing #selfcare. ] 
[ Although you are unsure what that means, you allow yourself permission to recede into temporary nothingness. ] 
[ Tomorrow is a fresh start. You gently close your eyes to enjoy a sacred moment of peaceful equilibrium. ]  
[ You begin to fall asleep, off the clock, into a deep slumber. ]
 
[ You have been released from your ‘Mortal Coil’. ] 

[ END OF DAY ONE ] 

                                                                                                                 
                                                    _________ 
                                                   / ======= \ 
                                                  / __________\ 
                                                 | ___________ | 
                                                 | |         | | 
                                                 | |   EXIT  | | 
                                                 | |_________| | 
                                                 \_____________/    
                                                 / """"""""""" \                        
                                                / ::::::::::::: \         
                                               (_________________) 

***

My name is Ayman Elsayed and I am a digital creative writer, tech enthusiast, and self-proclaimed metamodernist. Based in Greater Boston, I also get to be a lucky husband and proud father. My work is all about generating voices that breathe life into untold worlds.

You can find him on LinkedIn. This is his first feature on The Fictional Café.

Fictional Cafe
#computer game#humor#pandemic#short story
2 comments
  • Jack says:

    Ayman, what a terrific piece of writing! You have captured the pathos and the bathos in full equal measure in a very innovative format and i stand in awe of your work. I love Guy Davenport, Bolaño, Murakami. I hope metamodernism stills the flailing hearts of Derrida proponents. And I hope you’re working on a novel because David Foster Wallace won’t be writing any more.

    • Ayman Elsayed says:

      Hi Jack! Thank you for your insightful comments. You clearly understood what I was going for, and I very much appreciate the high praise of even being in the same thought as Derrida, Murakami, Wallace and the like. It’s funny that you mentioned some of these folks– it’s captivating how they tend to mesh the personal, the ‘real’ and the ‘strange’ in ways that obfuscates narrative agency within certain points of view. As a reader, I always felt I was at the center of an honestly human experience with no exemptions barred. So you really got to the crux of my intentions here, kudos to you! And, I promise if I ever finish a book I will certainly spare a page for the first kind stranger to offer words of encouragement. Best!

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