Flash Fiction : Word Association


It all started off so simple.

A little trick, a hack. Just a little quirk on the way people read and interpret symbols.

The technology was developed by a disgruntled undergraduate at NYU. Frustrated from the hours of working on his supervisors mathematics study, he needed a distraction. Just a little side project. And then after reading a self-help book ‘Your dream, Your reality’, he decided to make the impossible, possible. It was a dream of his, to see his own name in the comic books he read as a child. No longer would it be Peter Parker, or Bruce Wayne, on the panelled pages. It would be Jonathan Sibekowicz. With all the powers and abilities fit for any modern myth.

It was just a matter of finding the core root symbol which people would interpret with their own name.

He started delving into Symbol Grounding, memetics, cognition computation, tribal symbols, evolution of language. Hours at libraries, random phone calls to people who wrote articles. Jonathan became so obsessed with the idea, that his supervisor began questioning if he was on drugs. Coming in at strange hours, smelling like he had not bathed in weeks, slept in clothing, snapping at people for no apparent reason.

After several months, Jonathan had the breakthrough.

Then slept for thirty-two hours straight.

He quickly made it back to the lab, and straightened his work hours altogether, putting in new time and new ideas to his supervisor. Theories which were once dismissed were now plausible now taken from the new point of view. Jonathan was going places.

He took time off from his work. A sabbatical, something that he needed to do for quite some time.

Three weeks later, human consciousness began taking a turn.

***

The symbol appeared in a small press electronic comic book which had become quite popular amongst the 7 to 16 year age. Kid hero, was aimed at delivering long-term stories which helped educate and subtly deliver life lessons. It was quite typical to read the climax of a story arc where Kid Hero would have forgotten his new weapon against the powers of evil, because he was too busy looking at other things on the internet. On a following story, the new weapon would be missing the power pack, because he forgot to write it down.

The media began showing this new comic book where your child could become Kid Hero. The style quickly spread, and other publishers began using this new type of code. A simple little symbol. New types of fiction emerged.

It was something new, and it was very marketable. The phenomenon and style had spread. Further research by John Hopkins Hospital found other core symbols. Shapes and colors, tonal sounds could be all translated into making similar images.

Jonathan signed different agreements with major publishers, newspaper pushers, audio and video producers. Overnight he became a very wealthy to the point where he could disappear. The last mention of him in recorded history (which could be understood), showed that he had won a small church bingo in Christchurch.

This new type of language was embraced equally and quickly from all nations. And then human consciousness began changing. The amount of interconnectedness with information had become not only habit, but essential to the wellbeing of people. And it was being rewritten by the core symbols which Jonathan discovered.

That was the scary part. It was stronger and more ruthless than the English language.

People with dyslexia had protection. That little reversal which rearranged letters and numbers had actually saved them. They had their own mental firewall against the information virus which appeared in all forms of media. Eventually, their own efforts to stop the information from entering their memories were futile.

Others, whose brains were still developing, tried to keep their grip onto the basic concepts of life. That which had names, no longer had them. Mom, Dad, door, book, red, yellow. They were meaningless. There was a break in the distinction between object, name and meaning. Soon, they began withdrawing from everyone. Behaving quite distinctively anti-social. Running directly on instincts, these children became feral and tribal. Groups of them would be spotted in urban cities, running in packs, gathering and hunting for resources.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an isolated incident.

Religious leaders across the world, simultaneously met, speaking only. Those who were found with paper and printed material were banned and removed. They were isolating themselves, against a virus that could be spread just as easily by drawing it on a wall. The new theory was that the Babel virus was rediscovered. A wave of destruction which would spread through the minds of everyone connected to written word.

Scientists who studied infectious diseases were baffled. How does one stop a type of information that spreads like a virus? Information shut outs? The human mind is curious at best, and will seek out new sources when it has not been fed.

Ironically, the illiterates were partially affected. People who were indifferent, and didn’t remember too much, they would skim media. Some of them were obliterated with the information that had jumped into their consciousness. Their subconscious trying to chew away at that unsolvable symbol, slowly degrading the associations had been built into a lifetime. Some of their doctors were baffled, as it appeared to be the same symptoms as some types of brain cancer.

The symbols continued to propagate themselves, taking on a new life. Groups of people would gather together, in trance states, writing them, drawing them in all sizes and forms on any available surface. The language itself had turned viral, and people were the host.

Then there are us. Those able to relearn, rebuild from the crumbling remains. We’re the ones trying to rebuild society. Unfortunately, the only ones who will are able to read these records are ourselves. We’ve become meaningless graffiti, only noise in the background from the pure signal of core symbol languages.

Because there are a lot more of them, then there are of us.

For once, in a very long lifetime, I’m glad I’m blind.

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