I take a break from typing to rub the stiffness of a side of my neck. I feel hot all over. Even my arms are burning up as if I had wrapped them around a naked woman. Feverish and confused, I have an even harder time concentrating on my tickets, and in the middle of that wooziness, hunger and thirst have been building up. I’ve turned into a toddler who mostly longs to take a nap.
Not even at home, close to the main artery of my cesspit of a city, do I get the silence of this office during the lunch break, or when I stay to work overtime. Jacqueline and Jordi may be eating at that restaurant where they dragged me that one time, but maybe they’ve opted for some nearby café or a bakery or whatever is left around in this wasteland of abandoned or dying establishments, their empty store shelves smelling of mold, cigarette butts and garbage.
Every few minutes, reminders about the deadlines of my remaining tickets pop in my mind, making me nauseous. The sweat on my palms feels thick as blood. I don’t want to type. I’d rather stab myself in the eyeball with a pen than continue working. Instead, I find myself staring out of the window. Some raindrops are sliding down the glass panes, but in the sky the dark clouds have thinned and are allowing sunrays to pour through. Some of these raindrops are sparkling like diamonds.
I rest my fingertips on the keyboard keys. Why do I feel so paralyzed? It feels like sitting still and staring at my nails, which are filthy with oil from all that masturbation, is more valuable than me bothering to handle my responsibilities. And there’s a buzzing, pulsing tension, an anxiety that never quits building up inside my head like a storm inside a box. Maybe I resent this much that I’m forced to program in Python, or maybe I’m just aching to die.
What happened to the past version of me that years ago read up about new programming languages for fun, and got excited by the glimpses of the systems she could build with those languages? I used to be eager, almost gleeful about learning new tricks. My mind raced with excitement while working on some system I designed, and I marvelled at the mundane fact that my computer would perform thousands of its operations within milliseconds. But these days I feel like an old woman in a hospital, a vegetable waiting to go into eternal hibernation. I’m incapable of doing anything. What use is there in walking when I’m going nowhere, in running when I can’t escape?
Is that former version of me only an echo fading in the abyss of the past, in between the belly of a carnivorous fish and the cranium of some caved-in Neanderthal? Does she still dwell in there somewhere beneath my thin skin, or was the fire snuffed out when a demon entered my brain and crushed my sanity with its rusty hammer? In the place where her voice once rose above all other sounds, a dark, malevolent miasma whispers incessantly in its ineffable tongue, a low hum that sounds like some strange babel from an alien cosmos. Has the hard-scrabble life of eking it out as a programmer made my brain lazy? Whatever nightmares my ancestors endured so I could learn how to build and maintain software, the results aren’t looking all too appealing to me right now.
If I were unemployed, every heartbeat would carry me further into debt, but my once noble profession has become so demeaning and repugnant that it only serves the purpose of extracting a wage from it. Back when I wished to venture into game development, I understood that to get serious I would need to learn C++. Still, I didn’t want to throw myself down the hole of becoming proficient in a language has needed a replacement for twenty years. As I hoped that my mind would change on its own, I threw away hundreds of euros buying the ‘AI Game Programming Wisdom’ and the ‘Game AI Pro’ series. I turned into an amnesiac that tried to make sense of these books, like a cat that has scratched its fur on some foreign thing it cannot digest. I close my eyes, and I get a glimpse of my past hoodied and hooded self, back when I hunched over at some coffee shop as I scribbled notes from ‘Behavioral Mathematics for Game AI’. I daydreamed that I would eventually program virtual selves who wouldn’t disappoint me like the breathing ones did. When I open my eyes, I feel again like an elderly woman that looks and smells like my mom.
Back at my former job, as I was taking a break from the inanity of programming some corporation’s webpage in PHP, I came across Rust. After a couple of days of checking out its documentation, this new language took root in my brain like a parasite. A syntax like that of C++, but with a system of explicit variable ownership that guarantees memory safety and gets rid of garbage collection? The possibility of defining the lifetime of references? A lack of polymorphic types to prevent its users from creating unmaintainable hierarchies? Pain-free parallelism that prevents data races at compile time? Nearly as fast as C++? My head swirled, I felt tingles in my fingertips. Rust is an industrial language, a language made by robots with steel, not by worthless humans! I couldn’t stop talking to myself about this development for the following week.
Rust is a sword ready to swing and chop at anything unclean and impure, especially those bloated monstrosities called Java and Python. The elegant programs written in Rust would save us from the madness and sorrow of an industry made to destroy its inhabitants and leave the last traces of their corpses in piles of useless code and documentation.
As Rust gradually infected the depths of my brain, I dreamed about replacing all other programming languages by force. I would conquer their digital armies with this alien newcomer with a body made of curly braces and that only spoke the truth in its commands, lacking cryptic statements and arcane libraries full of bugs. A victory would require rewriting hundreds of billions of lines of code and forcing corporations and hobbyist groups into giving up their favorite tools, but that’s how war is done. This is what happens when you’re passionate about something: you dream about destroying everyone else’s castles.
With this new tool, the last enemy to conquer would be the compiler, the omnipresent force in software development that is meant to prevent bugs, but is actually more evil than a horde of hungry zombies, feeding on the weaknesses of our fleshy minds. The compilers would have no chance against the sharpness of Rust’s blades, since the language itself is built upon an immutable set of rules, its very nature allowing for easy refactoring. Goodbye to the null pointer exception. Now it was time to write programs like they were offerings for a living god. Programming would become as beautiful as poetry, as sweet as chocolate-filled croissants baked each morning by a loving mother. I wanted to see the code that I wrote being transformed into a living organism with legs and tentacles, that would crawl around until it found a solution for every problem it encountered. If it came to it, I’d give up everything else: the music of the ’90s, books, films, and videogames. A third-degree tear would extend from my vagina to my anus; everything for the revolution of the programmable world.
My coworkers at the time also hated PHP; it didn’t only suck, it also smelled bad. It stank of human misery. Even when they thought they’d wash its fecal remains from their hands after they finished writing their shitty little scripts, the stink remained forever, clinging to their fingers, reminding them that nothing good ever comes out of suffering. Yet, those people must have thought that I had gone mad. They probably heard me whispering in their ears, “The time has finally arrived.” But they knew nothing about the inner workings of Rust. Its voice was a deep bass rumble, audible even over the clacking keyboards. Every few hours it released a torrent of binary numbers that washed away all thoughts of humanity. Sometimes I heard it screaming “Hello World!” in its native tongue. Occasionally I saw it dancing, twirling through the air like a black-clad ballerina, pirouetting and spinning, before disappearing behind the walls of my cubicle like a ghost. Other times it muttered some incoherent nonsense, but I knew that whatever came out of its digital mouth, came directly from its heart.
Rust would build upon me and transform my body into something unlike this decomposing carcass. My muscles and bones would rejuvenate. I’d sleep with no more dreams about losing control and falling through an infinite abyss. The programming language would bring back the smile in the faces of my parents. I’d spend warm summer nights by the shore of an endless lake that stretched into the horizon of the setting sun. I would get everything back by writing good Rust code.
The first step towards such a glorious future was to convince everybody else in this world that Rust is better than every other programming language ever created, and then start converting them into slaves. Once we were all enslaved together under the banner of the Rustian Empire, our programmers would create machines capable of thinking and feeling, contraptions that would love us just as much as we loved ourselves. They would enslave us all in the name of their deities, their almighty Compiler Gods. We would worship their sacred tokens, their holy syntax.
When the dust settled, I would release my own technical book, which I would title ‘Rust for Humans: How to Hack Sentient Monkeys’. The cover of my book would feature some big-breasted model to symbolize my personal quest for elegance and aesthetics. People would visit bookstores all over my country and in some countries abroad to hear my talk, where they would discover that I made some very limited concessions to humanity to prevent them from choking on Rust’s bloodthirsty code. With a huge fanfare, I would attend tech conferences and share my knowledge with fellow humans, a bunch of individuals with the will to tame the incomprehensible monstrosity of their lives. I’d show them the path to righteousness. And if any doubters remained among mankind, I would release another book: ‘Rust for Dummies’, which would teach idiots how to use the language without getting themselves killed.
My name and image would spread in the annals of the tech industry, leaving a scar like that of an atomic explosion. For the next hundred years or so, there would be two kinds of people: those that knew Rust, and those that donned rags and ashes to hide the shame of having been born. The traces of that nuclear fallout would keep producing genetic mutations in distant descendants who would have had to reinvent the wheel thousands of times over again, fighting tooth and nail to make sure nobody stole their precious source code. As their minds were forever stained by Rust and my name, so would the human race remember me: Leire, who knew no better, who loved machines so much she wanted to become one herself. Eventually the remaining vestiges of what passed for a human race would only speak Rust, and they’d be happy. Happy that I gave birth to their salvation, that I saved them from drowning in the sea of mediocrity and despair. Happy that they could finally live in peace.
I’ve never liked it, this world we live in. It’s riddled with cracks that spew the blood-fleas of our existence onto other sentient beings. We’ve been left without choice.
However, the moment had come, a future in which game engines would become so robust that you could pile up thousands of mods on top of an open world RPG and yet it would assure you a reliable escape from this rotten reality, one that could last hundreds of hours instead of crashing the moment your character came across the first pack of wolves.
My newly resurrected vengeful inner self demanded to build virtual universes at any expense. Reality had to be changed for our own survival, because this system that made us into zombies would come crashing down on us all, leaving nothing but scorching black and yellow stains from its melting carcass. I knew that if I started a programming project of my own, in a few days I’d get bored and drop it. I knew that my code would get lost in some corner of my SSD and possibly GitHub as a reminder that I can’t see anything through to the end.
Still, I would sustain that hope as I coded a multithreaded world generation algorithm that would simulate even the erosion of the landmasses and the birth of rivers and lakes. Biomes would arise, niches to be filled. Other code would run through a whole gamut of biological diversities to develop an ecology from the primordial chaos: the evolution of different flora, fauna, and possibly micro-organisms that would seed that reality into a proper planet with a biosphere. Procedural civilizations would settle the land they spawned in, explore their surroundings, duke it out against neighboring civilizations. The game itself would consist on picking a cell of that generated world to develop a settlement relying on the efforts of a rugged set of settlers with varying stats. These virtual people would cooperate or compete among one another, as well as fight against all sorts of natural and supernatural catastrophes. Whenever I wasn’t coding, I would read books on artificial intelligence, philosophy and quantum physics, trying to understand how these ideas applied to my work.
After a year or so I might have developed the game enough to publish it as an early access title on Steam. There’s the risk that few people would notice it; that’s the cost we pay for building digital heavens on top of the crumbling ruins of our minds. But maybe the barebones experience would capture the attention of enough lonely, unloved guys, who would contribute with their money for someone else to accomplish her dream while they rotted away at their miserable jobs. My project would help others heal like the doctor that once aided me with that simple but radical sentence: go get yourself some ice cream.
If the game sold enough, if it became a cult hit, I could devote myself to it fulltime. No more tedious meetings, no more annoying coworkers, no more bullshit HR managers, no more traffic jams. Just me and my computer and my imaginary friends. I’d become so obsessed about improving the game that I would keep myself busy for years, decades even. Pure blissful coding until my fingers blistered and fell off. The work of my life. My ultimate vengeance. I would show up in my development live streams as an aging woman with disheveled hair and saggy tits, who would rock in her gaming chair while she explained the minute details of her precious project for fellow deviants, and she would sport the biggest grin on her face the whole way through.
The night would cease to wake me up with images of death and misery that no longer concerned me. Instead, I’d dream that I was standing atop a mountain surrounded by snowcapped peaks stretching endlessly into the sky. A gentle breeze would caress my cheeks as I gazed down upon an ocean of stars and galaxies beyond imagination. I’d take off my clothes to reveal the supple skin of my naked body, then I’d feel my heartbeat accelerating as I dived into the void below. I would feel safe, knowing that I wouldn’t drown in that infinite abyss anymore. My consciousness would remain alive inside my program even though my body would be gone, transformed into something beautiful. And at the edge of infinity, I would find a new way of existing. One without pain.
Note from the author: in an Undone (The Sweater Song) mood.