This has been ringing through my head for a while now.


Somebody in trouble. Somebody falling through oblivion, out of power or rapidly running out of it. He says it twice, then:

"Somebody help me."

It's not real, it's just an idea in my head which has been struggling to get out. Most of my recent nodes have been written along these lines - inspiration strikes in the form of a word or a phrase or a scene and it bounces around my skull until I get around to pinning it down on my scratchpad. In fact I've already written up something very like this so I don't quite know why this idea hasn't gone away. There's this person falling into oblivion and this alarm, the biggest alarm in history, the one which sounds for one low, terrifying and incredibly long note, "MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM", then pauses just long enough for you to think it's stopped, then sounds again. That's the Space-Shuttle-about-to-launch alarm. The oil-tankers-on-collision-course alarm. The end-of-the-world-is-fifteen-seconds-away alarm. Where am I going with this?

Within the context of a work of fiction, the world is real. Itchy & Scratchy is real within Itchy and Scratchy's world, but that's fiction in the context of The Simpsons, which is real for the Simpsons but fiction in the context of our reality. DC Comics have taken this to unimaginable extremes, with this universe's heroes influencing the subconscious of that universe's comic book writers and so on and so on, with all of them - it was initially implied - influencing the real world's comic industry.

The obvious and very cliched step up from this is to wonder if our reality is, in some way, fictional in some greater context. True, it's been done, thousands of years before The Matrix.

But the thing is, in a very real sense, this world IS a work of fiction being created by some higher power. Not "in a very real sense". For real. Because this is just a writeup on Everything2. I, the narrator of this writeup, do not exist. I am fictional. THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE. THIS IS TEXT.

A point made long ago by smarter people than me is that fiction often perseveres longer than reality. Characters from fiction never age, they are immortal; even if they do die, they live over and over again, whenever somebody opens that book or watches that film a second time. Here is a real conversation I had with my family at dinner the day before yesterday:

"So anyway, I've decided that I'm going to take this conversation, that we're having here, right now, and turn it into a node on Everything2. I'm going to try to remember it as best I can and write it up and put it online."

"Why?" asked my sister's fiancé, James. My sister was at university at the time.

"Well, it's to demonstrate a point. Because right now, this is reality, us, you and me talking. But at the same time, because I'm going to write this up, and because I have in fact, already done this, and people are also reading it right now, you're all fiction!" I pointed to them all at this point. "Everything you say right now isn't real, it's just writing on a web page. It's probably not even what you actually said, because I'll forget what you said exactly and have to paraphrase."

At this point my mum made a humorous confused noise.

"Gareth's got a tape recorder," said my dad.

"It's in the other room, I'd have to look for it," said my brother, Gareth.

"Never mind, it's probably better this way. Anyway, you are all being watched by everybody on Everything2 right now, so say hello!"

"Hello, Everything," said my dad, and the others made similar comments.

That's about as much as I can remember, although it was as short a conversation as the above implies. It was a pity, because I'd been running through this conversation in my head for several weeks leading up to it, trying to get a grip on where to go with it, and I'd hoped it would work out longer or more insightful.

You, right there, are sharing this moment with hundreds, perhaps thousands, perhaps millions of other people. You might not even reading this on a website. You might be reading it on paper, or watching the movie. You might be sam512, reading his work a second time; I, meanwhile, might not sam512, but just actor portraying sam512 - in fact, it may well be that sam512 is dead by now, but simply can't be made to stop talking! If this is messing with your head, wait until the "Making Of" feature!

I was sure I had a point when I started this, and now I remember it: What you're reading right now is a distilled fraction of what its writer, the "real" sam512, thought in the weeks leading up to when he wrote it. And all the time, all those weeks I spent sitting on the bus to and from work with those, well, these strange ideas ringing around my head, I was thinking about how eventually I would put those ideas to paper. I was, in fact, thinking about this very moment when I'm writing this node, and about these myriad moments when you're reading it. And the thing I was thinking at the time was: "this isn't real life". Because they've now been written down, and because I've got this wrong in tiny and not-so-tiny ways, those moments, also, were not real life. They were text. The last three weeks of my real life are and always were a work of fiction.

I wish I was as good at this as Grant Morrison is. Pseudo-existential guff; I'd probably better daylog it.

So, in this very special episode of Sam512's Nodes, I've realised and proved that my life is just a work of fiction, and successfully broken my own fourth wall. Hi there, reality: great to be here. Try the fish. And who's the mysterious individual screaming for help? Nothing. An idea, not fully exorcised; maybe I'd better write more about this helpless person so he or she goes away. We'll see.