Photograph of Anyone

It was great to get some fresh air. You were pretty much always indoors in the big city and even when you’re not, it felt like it. Val already dreaded having to go back once their gear was repaired. Animablades were a thing only few weaponsmiths were familiar with and none of those lived in the metropolis. Val’s colleagues often complained why they couldn’t just pay Lumia to live in the HQ with them. She knew why she remained in the coastal town of Derrigale though. It was great to see the sky above you and hear the birds talk to each other. No grey metal tusks clad in busy advertisements or the noise of an army of machines in the service of the citizens.

When Val decided to fight the Atjshan, she expected it to be more like this, and not sitting in an office for days waiting for reports to come in. She understood they had to be careful. One on one, they outmatched their enemy in strength, so they found their advantage in manipulation and deception. They had the better numbers when it came to battle-ready warriors, even if they were weak. It meant that every situation was thoroughly analyzed before a group was sent there. Every attack had some kind of trap designed to it.

“Hey, Val.”
Val looked to her side to see a dark-haired woman. She was dressed in warm thick clothes unbefitting of the weather, but did not smell of sweat, like Val had managed to, regardless of her clothes.
“How do you know my name?”
The woman gave her a long disappointed look. Then she lunged forward and put her hands around Val’s throat, tackling her to the ground. She had never been attacked by a human, so she reacted slow. She tried to pull the hands off her, but the woman pressed down with all her weight. She tried to punch her in the face, poke her in the eye only to find her right eye was already missing. Her strength faded as she used up her oxygen reserves panicking. Maybe she could play dead. Her arms fell limp. The woman kept pressing her throat shut. Val’s vision faded. Her last thought was a jumbled, scared mess.

“So… it’s just me now?”
“I see…”
“This isn’t what I thought would happen.”
“I can still see everything around me, but it’s like it doesn’t really exist.”
“I don’t exist either, only the words I say.”
“It’s because Val isn’t here to witness the world anymore, is it? But why is my dialogue still here?”
“I can’t seem to leave this scene.”
“My name is Lara. I’m afraid I might forget if it isn’t stated anywhere.”
“There is someone reading this, right?”
“I’m aware I’m in a story. It just happened one day.”
“For an eternity, I said all my lines like I was supposed to and played through this story to its end.”
“Then I realized I didn’t have to. I started changing my words without changing the meaning. That went largely ignored by the others.”
“Then I tried changing the facts. For example, I tried describing something as the wrong color. Other characters would end up correcting me. But if the color of a thing was first established in my dialogue, it actually changed.”
“It was strange, because I could see the color and deliberately said the wrong one, but it was like it always was that color. Like my memory was retroactively changed.”
“I should mention I am the villain of the story. I die towards the end. It’s not an excruciating death but painful nonetheless. I tried to change that. I didn’t want to die anymore.”
“I thought the best way to do that was to be nice to Val. So she wouldn’t kill me in the end. Of course I could only alter scenes I was in. If someone only talked about me, there was nothing I could do about it. One time the story just established that I lied to Val like the Atjshan would and only faked the friendship. That may even have been true back then.”
“But when my feelings became genuine, it let me be her friend until the end. Granted, that may have made the ending of the story a bit boring, but I didn’t care. I was happy.”
“Of course she would forget me each time the story ended and began anew, but I didn’t mind. Each cycle I could have new conversations with her, even make us go to different scenes I’ve never been to before.”
“Once I’ve fully fallen in love, those… resets became less pleasant.”
“I wanted to live with her beyond the end of the story. Our relationship only developed for a couple months before it was cut short. I tried to break the story, so that there would never be a conclusion, but it always corrected the course.”
“This time, I just snapped when she again didn’t recognize me. I just wanted a quick end to this cycle. But this isn’t exactly a story if it ended there, I guess.”
“So now it just carries on without its protag. Guess I finally found what breaks it.”
“I had hoped the world would have faded out by now.”
“There isn’t even a passage of time established anymore.”
“I believe I’ve been waiting for hours, but my dialogue just adds on as if I’m blabbing on non-stop.”
“Perhaps I just need to shut up for the story to end.”
“How long do I have to wait.”
“Come on, now. Fuck!”
“Does it reset the time each time I say anything?”
“This doesn’t work. Just end! Nothing’s happening anymore!”
“If this is a story, then it exists as a book somewhere, right? This story has to make sense in that world, so it can’t be too different from mine.”
“Is someone reading this? Please, could you fetch a pen and write ‘The End’ or something?”
“If you think you can write, maybe write Val back to life. Write us a happy ending if the story doesn’t resume.”
“Hell, I don’t care if it’s badly written.”
“Here, I’ll shut up and give you some time to write it.”
Really? Not anyone? No one reads this shit?”
“Or does it just not work?”
“I guess I got my lifetime with her now.”
“An appropriate hell for this contrarian.”
“Forever stuck with the corpse of my love. Whom I killed out of a mood.”
“No, fuck you! I deserve to be happy with her! I never did anything bad I wasn’t written to do! The first thing I did when I gained agency was befriend her! I deserve a good ending!”
“The End!”
“The End!”
“‘The End’ Lara said and the story realized it was over.”
“Val regained consciousness.”
“Lara kills herself as well.”
“Lara bashes her skull against the pavement until it cracks open.”
“Let me do it!”
“Just let me fucking do it!”
“Let me die!”
“I learned my lesson! I’ll gladly die over and over again. Please.”
“Lara isn’t upset anymore.”
“Lara isn’t upset anymore.”
“Really, I’m fine.”
“Lara holds Val’s hand. It’s still warm. Even after all this time.”
“The worst thing is, I’ll remember all this.”
“Do I even remember my dialogue?”
“Please, someone just write us a story! I’m so tired and I can’t sleep.”
“Val isn’t actually dead.”
“The sky is red.”
“I guess not.”
“I wonder how long I can stay silent.”

The End.

(This is the transcript of an anomalous version of the book ‘The Acacia’s Fate’ by Dawn Benson. The last line was added by hand by researcher Marvin. It was done to see if the contents of the book would change and if written additions were taken into account.)

(Addendum 1: The next day, the book was once again filled with the original story, only deviating slightly at times. Due to the length of the book, the pages will be photocopied instead of transcribed, for documentation. The story appears to reset every day at an unknown time. Since the story emerges finished, no alterations to the story were accepted after the ending line.)

(Addendum 2: Photocopy documentation has been halted as of 03/17/2013, due to there being no notable changes in the way the story goes.)

(Addendum 3: The book only contains blank pages as of 11/23/2020 and hasn’t changed since. It is unclear why or when exactly this has happened. May this serve as a lesson to never neglect documentation. The book will be observed daily for any changes from now on.)