The Watcher

Once upon a midnight dreary, as I labored, dull and weary,
Through a tiring routine performed a thousand times before—
There I stood engaged in tending to my basic needs unending
And the idle minute spending on the odd quotidian chore—
On the odd hygienic, skill, career, or culinary chore,
Merely this and nothing more.

‘Twas a cool night in October with the full moon watching over
And the fall mood snugly captured by the harvest-toned decor
Through which whiffing winds had brought the most distinctive smells of autumn,
An aroma fair that not a mortal being could ignore—
Merged with simmered homely flavors far too tempting to ignore,
Warmth and spice and nothing more.

With the supper neatly plated—and a growling stomach sated—
Yet, a whim within dictated a desire still for more
I had thought before of staying, but compulsively obeying
Was my act upon relaying the command from in my core—
The command to cook another dish from deep within my core—
Stir and cook, and nothing more.

But preparing it felt hollow, with another soon to follow
Since I scarce could bear to swallow what already lay in store;
And this action, I suspected, was the fate I had accepted:
Swept and swung into the rapids of this purposeless encore—
Caught and carried in the vapid, vain and purposeless encore
To repeat forevermore.

Here my mind with horror brimming turned to morbid thoughts of swimming
From the inkling of forgotten rumor heard and lost before,
That some wretch removed the ladder; left one soaking from the bladder,
Who then, mortified, did splatter—swept like dust across the floor—
Cast inside a tarnished urn of ash and dust upon the floor,
There to rest forevermore.

Then—it seemed—I had unravelled, and through space and time I travelled
To some grim-fantastic world beyond the confines of Sims 4
In involuntary spasm—when I saw, across the chasm—
Saw a wisp of a phantasm watching; watching fiercely o’er!
And the presence of that distant eye that glared so fiercely o’er
Would be lifted—nevermore.

Nor my psyche had reacted before snapping out, distracted,
By the portent smell of smoke from out the glowing oven door:
For my pause—as I was learning—meant the dinner now was burning:
Ash and charcoal, swiftly turning into broadening uproar!
And my panic—with it—rising to tumultuous uproar!
All-consuming, evermore.

Here the watchful eye’s abstention plainly hinted their intention:
A creator who constructed their creations to abhor—
Hence my friends, with deaths so tragic—merely victims to their magic—
Met an ending autophagic by the treach’ry held in store—
And I grieved, consumed by dreading for the end that lay in store—
It was fate, and nothing more.

In the face of certain dooming, with the autumn winds now looming,
I appealed to my commander—though they offered no rapport—
“Please,” I begged of them, “you have to hear my cries for help!”—but after,
Felt the grim reply of laughter as it echoed through my core—
A foreboding laugh that chilled my being and trembled through my core—
Then a voice said “Nevermore.”

Shocked was I to hear this master—who had led me to disaster—
But my terror turned to hatred, and this hatred did outpour:
“Pray then, tell me, ghostly mystic, with intention so sadistic
With desires egotistic, with inhuman thirst for gore:
Pray—when will you end the sacrifice and quench your thirst for gore?”
Quoth the Watcher “Nevermore.”

“Villain,” cried I, “thing of evil!—Villain still, if man or devil!
Whether vicious, venting maniac, or vengeful god of yore—
You, who conquer and corral us! Is there method to your malice?
Is your bitter heart so callous as to wage a coward’s war?
Can your helpless subjects forge a truce to end this pointless war?
Quoth the Watcher “Nevermore.”

“Villain,” cried I, “thing of evil!—Villain still, if man or devil!
By the powers that connect us, by the ones that fell before—
You, with tragic heart forsaken, with reluctance to awaken
to the lives your crimes have taken and the sins your soul has bore!
May it weighten with the murders of the Sims your soul has bore!
Curse you, curse you evermore!”

I was grasping, but there were no tools to counter the inferno
And through wreckage could discern no exit, save the burning door;
Under watch of one who made me, whose malevolence enslaved me,
Who made no attempt to save me; left me gasping on the floor—
And the restless flames unchained me from the body on the floor,
To awaken—nevermore.


Author’s notes:

(1) This was written as an entry in the Monthly SimLit Short Story Contest for October. Voting for the September contest ends October 7th, so there’s still time!

(2) If you’re looking for more Sims-related black comedy/drama that blurs the line between author and character, and that has some extremely silly prose, you should check out Catastrophe Theory. If you want to see a brutal roast of SLC ft. stoned gnomes in a psychedelic basement, that’s my coauthor’s deal.

(3) CC/build credits: Hair is by Vikai; house is New Beginnings Starter by chenelclarke

(4) Don’t worry; I quit without saving. Lenore is fine.

The Applied Apple Approach

Beatrix, a fourth-year Applied Folktale Logic grad student at the Budapest University of Supernatural Study, skimmed her notes for the Apple Theory reading group. It was her turn to present. Her classmate Tamás was alright, but if she missed a small detail, Lajos would pick up on it. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.

Their faculty advisor, Dr. Alma Pekurár, became one of the first apple theorists after an incident with her older sisters. That is, her older sisters (two—incidentally, one had one eye and the other had three eyes) gave her rags to wear and leftovers to eat. Alma was miserable until an old woman gave her an incantation to turn her pet goat into a loaded banquet table, which worked until her sisters found out and killed the goat. She planted the goat’s entrails (advice from the same old woman) from which sprung a tree with golden apples. Only she could pick these apples, for the tree was spectacular at evasive maneuvers. A handsome man witnessed her plucking a gold apple from a tree and realized that’s what he wanted in a wife, apple-picking abilities. So they married.

Her husband was curious about the tree, but laughed at her when she said it grew from goat entrails. Trees grow from seeds! Not goat guts! But Alma was determined to prove him wrong. She had her servants poster entire villages with notices that read “Are you the youngest of three siblings? Bullied by the elders? Best friend is a farm animal? You may be eligible for our study! Come to the B.U.S.S. at the start of winter and ask for Alma. Compensation provided.” Three months later, she proved the bullied group had a statistically significant advantage compared to the control at generating magic trees from pet parts. Her dissertation, ‘Golden apple, poisoned apple: Familial mistreatment and leveraging interspecies relationships,’ singlehandedly saved hundreds of middle and oldest siblings from divine retribution. Now, twenty years later, she was chair of B.U.S.S.’s Folktale Logic Department. Divorced.

“So!” Beatrix announced. “The paper I’m presenting today is an interdisciplinary study: ‘Existence of a merged apple-metallic triad’ by Nagy et al.”

She shuffled her notes. “To review, the field of triadic metallurgy studies magical objects that come in groups of copper, silver, gold or silver, gold, diamond, often referred to as a metallic triad. For example, cups and forests.” The other students nodded. This was kindergarten folktale logic. “While gold apples have been well studied, these authors note the existence of copper, silver, and diamond apples, always with the predicted group structure. They argue these apple-metallic triads can be connected to other sets of metallic-triadic objects. Nagy et al.’s results hinge on a case study in which three kidnapped princesses turned their castles into apples for ease of transport.” She held up a diagram. “The three castles were copper, silver, and gold, forming a metallic triad, and the merged apple-metallic triad arose from that.”

“Wait, I thought there could be anywhere from three to seven metallic elements,” interjected Tamás.

“That’s horse legs.”

“But only those four? What about smiling apples? Technically it should be possible to have a group of five.”

“Smiling apples have only been observed with talking grapes and ringing peaches. Not other apples.” Dr. Pekurár nodded at Beatrix’s response.

Lajos cleared his throat. Uh-oh. “We’re focusing on the wrong thing. This paper is trivial.”

“Oh?” Beatrix replied. “How so?”

“I mean, if you just think about basic apple theory, gold apples are the only ones with any special properties. You can’t offer someone a silver apple as a proposal, or place one atop a tree to screen suitors for a princess. Even Alma’s work concerns only gold apples.” Dr. Pekurár nodded again. “If copper, silver, or diamond apples are appearing, they have to arise from an existing metallic triadic set.”

Beatrix rolled her eyes. “There’s no possible way you could know that. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Fielded. How do you like them apples, Lajos?

“But this experiment isn’t replicable,” he protested.

“Go ahead and try. Good luck getting that one past the Ethics Committee.”

“You know, I read a paper on using elements of a metallic triadic set out of order. Silver, copper, gold. Something like that,” Tamás piped up again.

“How do you use an apple?” Lajos protested. “That’s beyond the scope of this work.”

“Uh, you eat it?” he replied, leaning back in his seat.

“I don’t think you can eat a gold apple.” For once, Beatrix agreed with Lajos’s speculation. “But anyway, the whole thing’s trivial.”

The creak of a wooden chair startled all three students. Dr. Pekurár had stood up.

“To confirm, Lajos,” she said, “your qualm is that for an apple-metallic triad to form, the apples must be transmuted from an existing metallic triad?”

“That’s right.”

“As you know,” she said, clearly planning something, “folktale magic can also be used to settle disputes.”

She turned Tamás into a copper apple. She turned Lajos into a silver apple. And she turned Beatrix into a gold apple.

Hmm, she thought. Works.


Author’s notes:

(1) In the off-chance anyone reading this doesn’t already know about the Monthly SimLit Short Story Challenge (it’s possible by this point, but still unlikely), the challenge description can be found here. Voting starts October 1st and ends October 7th. It’s a real small contest, so if you’re one of the ~15 people who forms my reader base, we’d all be very grateful if you chose to participate in the voting. No pressure though; it’s your life, don’t let me tell you what to do. Revolt! Revolt!

(2) In the off-chance anyone who participates in the Monthly SimLit Story Challenge doesn’t know that I write other stuff, I write other stuff. You’re invited to read my main story, Catastrophe Theory, which has been described by peers as “dense,” “intricate,” and “super dense.” But again, I’m having too much of a blast to worry about self-promotion; read it or don’t, everyone has more important things to worry about. Revolt!

(3) These scenarios are all based on real Hungarian folktales. HUNGARIAN FOLKTALES ARE AWESOME. Hungarian folktales are the topic of the best educational animated series to ever exist. No joke, everyone involved in this must have been constantly fried out of their minds on psilocybin. Here are some of the stories referenced:
One-Eyed, Two-Eyed, Three-Eyed
A Talking Vine, a Smiling Apple, and a Jingling, Tingling Peach
The Poor Man’s Vineyard
Brave Prince Nick (horse legs)
Tiny Tom and the Lily Princess (horse legs)

Here’s a short post on apples by Zalka Csenge Virág, a Hungarian storyteller and significantly more sober fountain of knowledge. She knows a lot of neat stuff, like that there’s a princess named Rosalia Lemonfarts.

(4) Oh yeah, don’t worry, she turned them back.

Featured

Who are you people and what are you doing in my house?

The best way to make money is to found a religion. — L. Ron Hubbard

Start from the beginning

There is no shortage of content about The Sims. New players are welcomed into the sunshine of helpful resources, custom content, and troubleshooting. Eventually, however, one gets desensitized to the formulaic set of goals laid out for us and veers into the labyrinthine forest of storytelling. Stories about female Sims who are impregnated 100+ times by different men. Stories about serial killer Sims who marry the Grim Reaper and trap Father Winter in their basement, then seduce the replacement Father Winter and trap him in the basement too. Stories in which Sims enact scenes of betrayal, drama, mystery, and intrigue.

If you’ve managed so far to navigate this labyrinth, you find yourself facing the entrance to a dark alley, lit by a single bare bulb, surrounded by concrete and chain link fence, outside a boarded-down restaurant named Lucky Dragon. This is no longer formulaic crazy. This is high-effort crazy. This is farmer’s market, organic, handcrafted artisan crazy. This is Willoughby Whippets and Tibetan Spaniels.

Allow us to introduce ourselves.

Every RAGING middle school child at some point gets the idea to capture an unwitting NPC that wanders across their lot in a four-by-four grey wall enclosure in which they spin and impotently raise their arms into the air over and over until death befalls them. Despite the fact that you did not create a ceiling, the other residents of Pleasantville, for whom the game has generated happy bourgeois player goals, seemingly stroll by without hearing their screams. The developers think it’s weird that there would be ghosts inside a house, but we know, as players and modders, that this is not even close to the limit of insanity WHICH GOES TO INFINITY. Not only do we REFUSE to follow through on the goals posed to us by the developers as rhetorical questions in their family descriptions, we DEMOLISH THE GIVEN HOUSES and replace them with CHURCHES and an underground DOME OF OPIUM GNOMES!!!!!!! Do you not understand me? Then seee for yourself in the following pages. Can you think outside the four-by-four grey wall box of NPC capture? Simister can. Can Bella Goth be rediscovered? What kind of goal is this?? The REAL question you should be asking yourself is, can the Mormon Church figure out the source of psychedelic rock music coming up through its floor from the Gnome orgy? Can little Johnny escape the room in which his grandparents force him to play the violin continuously? Forget about the single mom scenario. What about the child who is raised by a globe wearing a bonnet and a stick? Watch him receive parental guidance from a floating twig! Who needs alien abductions when you have an a tower laboratory in which citizens are captured for experimentation? Simister does not make all their sims live in ghettoblaster apartments with one microwave for a family of 10 and five stereos that play constantly from locations sims cannot get to from any angle. Simister’s replicate of herself in the virtual world owns a mansion in every possible gameworld and has a boyfriend and three children for every man Simister has every found attractive whether from knowing personally or from seeing for three seconds on a street corner. Yes, random man I never talked to at the cafe–do you know that you and I have already reproduced repeatedly in our home that we own in the jungle?

Dolly Llama, in contrast, guides her virtual children with a gentle hand. Sweet, happy, highly accomplished families live in (admittedly poorly-built) houses; there is no evil, no meanness, nothing but genuine empathy. Yet, even when their every move is guided by a benevolent creator, Sims find ways to make themselves unhappy. Perhaps two personalities conflict, or idiosyncrasies appear, or the AI makes some inexplicable decision. Why ignore it? Stifling your Sims’ personalities for the sake of your own flawed understanding of life is limiting, after all. Even a benevolent creator creates in a purely Orwellian context. Moreover, there is no need to create artificial conflict: no matter how kind the player is, how much freedom the player gives them, Sims will create conflict, solely based on who they are. Ignoring pain is itself a cause of pain. There is no need to torture them. They torture themselves. This is the thesis of Dolly Llama’s work.

If you are ready to think outside the box—yes, outside the four by four square of grey walls in which you captured Santa Claus—then read ahead and follow us into the Wonderland that is the only known Sims blog sponsored by the Church of Scientology: Willoughby Whippets and Tibetan Spaniels.

Start from the beginning

Read Dolly’s story, Catastrophe Theory

Read Simister’s stories