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Conspiratopia: Chapter 19

Pushing shopping carts at the Conspiratopia Project was way better and different than pushing shopping carts at Walmart. That’s for sure! Never mind I was making like twenty cents more and hour, which ruled.

For one, like they were all electric and crap. But like, that was kinda the problem and stuff. Cause the electronics and stuff weren’t working right. So now they were just like ordinary dumb shopping carts. Except they were like extra heavy and awkward because of the self-driving stuff added underneath. And like, because they weren’t meant to be used that way and stuff, you couldn’t really stack them together inside each other, and push a bunch of them at the same time. 

I was really good at it though, so like I figured out how you could sort of push two or three at least a little bit, depending where you were. I think it’s cause I’m like such a good gamer and stuff. And I like puzzles. So it was totally cool. In fact, the first few days I was so super into it that when they asked me at the shop if I wanted to turn on autopilot, I said no. Plus anyway it kinda gave me a chance to walk around and look at stuff, and learn where everything is in the mall on my own. 

Well, not everything, cause not all areas were like rated for smart carts and stuff. But sometimes people took them outside designated zones, and um I had to use like this little handheld radar thingy to try to go figure out where the hell it was. It was really fun. 

My dad and I were put on alternating shifts, so for a while I didn’t actually even see him all that much. Sometimes we got to eat dinner or breakfast or something together. A couple times our days off lined up, and we got shitfaced together on beers and weed and stuff, so that was really fun. Or me or him would have fallen asleep watching TV and would come in from a shift and wake the other one up. That was alright though, cause it would give us a chance to catch up for a few minutes. 

After a while though – I don’t know how long it was, maybe a couple weeks or something – it started to get a little repetitive. I started letting them turn on autopilot and doing overwrite sessions at work. That was actually pretty cool though too. Cause like even though you could turn it on and watch a movie or something, you could also just like turn it on, but then watch. They called this “maintaining peripherals.” And like your body and stuff would just keep going, even if you didn’t do anything. It’s hard to explain really the feeling, what it was like. I mean it was like somebody else was running your body and what you saw or did was like a film. It was a little weird, but also like totally cool because it meant you could zone out really. Or like even take a nap if you turned off peripherals, or turned them down low enough. And that was really cool. Or you could like mix a film or game with peripherals anyway you wanted, as an overlay, or like in a little picture-in-picture window thing. 

Sometimes I liked to mix games with where I was in the mall IRL. So like while my body was collecting smart carts, I could be like running around in a first-person shooter in that same place, and pretending to throw grenades and stuff at shoppers or whatever. Or I could be like a sniper hiding up somewhere, and I could watch my own body pass by pushing shopping carts and shoot myself. It was totally cool. 

Once I got into that, I actually ended up joining some of the games that my dad and his friends did during overwriting, and that was really fun as hell. So I ended up seeing my dad actually more during games than IRL, especially cause sometimes I would go home from work and play games during my off hours, instead of sleeping. 

They had some really sick games there, actually. Way better than the stuff you see commercially on the outside. Ten times more advanced graphics and game play and stuff. Apparently according to my contract, I’m not supposed to talk much more about it than that or something. My dad said it had to do with the AI’s that run the place. Because they were really good at making games and shit. He was totally right. That stuff was sweet as hell. It made me glad I moved there. 

I actually stopped going on message boards and stuff, because there really weren’t any. Not any good ones anyway. The internet on the inside was not like the internet on the outside. Everything was focused around games and stuff for the people who lived and worked there. And it was really just one big platform run by the Project, and it was all pretty boring and stuff. 

There were like some channels where people talked about conspiracy theories and whatnot still. Just for fun I liked to check them out. Sometimes a new group would form that tried to be anonymous and stuff, and they would come up with some crazy theory about how the AI administrators of the Project were like going insane and gonna kill everybody one of these days. But like nobody cared that much IRL, because IRL we were all pretty much doing virtual shit or game shit all the time that was much more interesting than a bunch of old farts sitting around and whining in chatrooms. 

Plus like, you couldn’t really be actually anonymous there, which was a little weird at first, but then I got used to it. There were always like a bunch of cameras and sensors that were like watching or measuring or something. But it wasn’t really invasive. It was more like idk fun and even reassuring or something? Like I always felt totally safe. Like the AI’s always had my back. 

I never got scared or anything when they turned on autopilot. I would get hella stoned before, and would just like ride the wave. You know? Surf that shit. I heard some people freaked out and stuff, and they had to like operate on them or send them away, because workers who couldn’t be overwritten were a drain on resources. And they hated that. They hated like waste and stuff, which I totally started to get into. I hate it now too. I’m into like efficiency and stuff, you know? Improving my percent scores. Shaving milliseconds off of completion of micro-tasks and stuff. It’s totally rad.  

That’s why when they asked for volunteers for a like dangerous experimental job to improve efficiency, I volunteered like right away. If I successfully finished the job, I would end up earning a lot of credits and bonus multipliers and stuff that the algorithm would boost my rankings with, so I could finally become a citizen. It sounded like it was gonna be totally cool. 

Conspiratopia: Chapter 2

It had been like a week or so since I quit Walmart. When my mom would leave for work, I would always promise her I would look at job ads (which all sucked), but mostly I would watch conspiracy videos, or read threads on conspiracy forums. Like I said, that’s how I got so smart about all of this stuff. 

One day, I was really surprised to find a job ad that sounded like totally super perfect for me. It wasn’t on the local job search site that I used to find things nearby. It was actually in an ad on a conspiracy forum, so you know it’s legit. It read:


I thought to myself like, damn, this could be frickin’ amazing. I love taking surveys online. Signing up for contests and crap. Plus like holy cow, free VR glasses? I am in. Maybe I can use them with my Xbox. 

I clicked through to sign up, gave them my email, my password, my credit card, my pin number, my social security number, birth date, everything they asked for. Cause like I said, I love surveys. And who frickin’ cares. What the hell do I have to hide? 

After about like thirty pages of questions about myself, the system said that I passed the initial screening, and I was welcome to complete the first hundred surveys in exchange for system credits, so that I could earn my free VR glasses, and then start getting paid for realz. Yessss, awesome. Done.

I clicked the sign up button, and waited for the page to load. I went to the mini-fridge to crack open a Diet Coke, and came back. 

I spent about the next six or seven hours almost just frickin’ taking surveys and stuff. I went totally nuts on those surveys. I felt like I was just getting faster and faster on them. I was in the zone, you know what I mean. 

Most of them were really easy questions about like products or games and movies and stuff. I liked those ones the best, cause I could just sail through them fast and earn extra points for finishing before the recommended time. Some of them were about politics and the news, or asking your opinion about a certain celebrity or politician or whatever. I didn’t know who a lot of those people are, but the instructions said it didn’t matter, and I should just go with my first reaction and not think about it too hard. 

So that’s what I did. I went with my gut, and like I said got faster and faster, and was earning extra points like crazy. And like the system started sending me messages like:


I was all like, hells yeah. It was a little confusing though at first, because there were “credits” you earned for each survey. But then like you could also earn like “points” and “bonuses” for finishing things early, or doing mini-puzzles and stuff. 

The mini-puzzles were actually really cool. I started getting more of those mixed in as I got faster doing the surveys. At first they were mostly like solving CAPTCHAS and stuff. Which I’m pretty good at anyway. I clicked on so many fire hydrants and crosswalks and stuff, omg you have no idea. Sometimes they would be more like short timed games where you moved around jewels or tokens or something. And then there were games that remembered where you left off after each round, like one with growing vegetables in a garden. That one was kinda boring I thought, but at least the vegetables would grow even when you weren’t playing, and could be exchanged later for points. There weren’t even any shooting games, though. But whatever, I was obviously earning bank. I could just play Call of Duty later. It was no big deal.

There were also some personality tests too that were like, what would you do in such and such a social situation, or like what if you saw your friend taking money from the cash register at work. Stuff like that. I didn’t always know what I thought for all of those, and was a lot of times just picking whatever the middle response was, so I didn’t look too weird or like a creep or something in the system, haha. I mean, I don’t know anyway what you’re supposed to answer with these. I tried to be honest, I guess. A lot of times the questions would repeat later in a different way. 

After about 3.5 hours on the site, I got a system message that was like:


And there was a timer. 

I got up and stretched, took a leak, and cracked open another Diet Coke. I guess I should eat something, I thought. So I got some chips, and got ready to settle back in. I didn’t feel tired at all. 

It said 9 more minutes, so I put on some tunes, checked my messages for a minute. Surfed a couple forums. There was nothing really interesting, plus I wanted to get back to work and stuff. I never had a job like this before, where I could just work at home. Totally cool. My mom was gonna be stoked too, I thought. 

Before I knew it, the timer was almost up, and I closed out the other windows and stuff I was looking at. I ended up just like staring at the numbers as they went down from 1 minute 45 seconds, down to zero, and the page refreshed automatically, and we were back in business. 

I kept the tunes on this time, even though there were some sound effects and music in some of the games and mini-puzzles and stuff. I put in another solid 2.5 hours no problem before I started to get a little tired. 

I got a system message that said:


I thought for a minute about switching over to Xbox or even PlayStation, but instead clicked on the button marked Nah, I’m cool.

The system responded:


Sweet, I thought. So I put on some new tunes, and blasted out another 1.5 hours, no sweat. 

Surveys? What surveys! I was going so fast, I was like Neo in the Matrix, but filling out surveys instead of dodging bullets. I started to wonder if Agent Smith would show up, my skills were so good. It was frickin’ awesome. I didn’t even think about playing Xbox or checking my messages or going to the bathroom or anything else again that whole time. I was so totally in the zone and stuff. 

Then I got a message:


Damn, I thought, this rules. This is the best job ever. I can’t wait to tell my mom.

But things were about to get weird, and I didn’t even see it coming.

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