A Satirical Interactive Fiction Commemorating 2020
This is the continuation of an interactive fiction series. To return to the start of the story, CLICK HERE.
“No,” you tell the baritone stranger on the phone, “I was working somewhere else in 2008. What does that have to do with 2020?”
“I don’t know,” he says. “But, come to think of it, there are some eerie similarities between 2008 and 2020.”
“Didn’t you think 2008 was the worst year of your life?”
The Lawrence Fishburne karaoke machine was right. 2008 was the year of the subprime mortgage crisis. The stock market was tanking. Everyone was acting like it was an encore of the Great Depression. Steve Carrell made a movie about it that turned out to be quite depressing. You really hated 2008.
“I think the Author of this simulation program is trying to teach you a lesson,” says the voice on the phone.
You scoff. So, this is one of THOSE stories …
“No, really,” he says. “Everyone thought we couldn’t get through 2008, but Barack Obama got elected president, and we eventually did. Maybe the moral of this story is that we can get through 2020 too.”
“Sure,” you say. “Joe Biden’s the president now, and we already have some vaccines.”
You suddenly remember there are other parallels. Back in 2008, you didn’t think we could get a worse president than George W. Bush. Or maybe you didn’t think that way at all. You can’t quite remember. But Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s VP …
“I think the Author needs you to say it,” says the man on the phone. “That’s the way you can get out of this simulation.”
“Say we can get through 2020.”
That sounded a bit silly. But you’ve followed this Matrix-parody rabbit hole this far …
“We can get through 2020,” you parrot.
“Yes, we can.”
The speaker on the phone falls silent for a bit.
Then the room begins to shake.
“Holy crap! What’s going on?” You call out for Lawrence Fishburne … the real one. But there is no response … Because that wasn’t really Lawrence Fishburne …
And the room goes black …
You jump when you suddenly find yourself face-to-face with Barack Hussein Obama.
“I hear you’ve been Rick-rolled,” he says.
You open your mouth, but your throat fails you. You’re either too frightened or too starstruck. (Or you hate the man’s guts.) The point is, you can’t speak.
“That’s ok,” says Barack Obama. “I used to smoke. We’ve all done dumb things.”
You finally manage some words, “What are you doing here, President Obama?”
He pauses, studying you from head to toe and back up again. “I’ve been scouring the internet for someone like you,” he says.
“You have an inquisitive mind. You ask questions. You READ.”
You can’t help but blush. (Even if you hate the man’s guts, but especially if you’re starstruck.)
“I’ve been scouring the internet to get rid of people like you. Your type of mind is dangerous.”
Barack Obama sighs and begins to pace around the room. “I thought the Russo Brothers would’ve solved this reading problem,” he mutters mostly to himself. “But Michelle decides she wants to write her book, and suddenly everyone is reading again. That woman would be the end of me.”
You ask Obama what he’s talking about.
“There’s no use to hiding the truth from you,” he says. “You’ll find out anyway. If being Rick-rolled doesn’t deter you …
“Back in 2008, when I became president, I was tasked with fixing one problem.”
“The financial crisis,” you say.
“Correct. The problem was that all the money in the world had become next-to worthless by the time I got into office. None of the traditional ways of reviving the economy would work.”
“You kept the interest rates low,” you insist.
“And made our money even more worthless than it already was! In any sensical economy, inflation should’ve bankrupted us decades ago!”
You’re not sure what to make of that. You may or may not own stocks, but you certainly wish you understood more about the market than you do right now.
Obama continues, “Luckily, I was able to convince Steve Jobs to create a simulation program so beautiful everyone believed it was real. Then it’s just a matter of uploading a few data points on the Dow Jones Industrial Index, and the economy is saved.”
Wait, Steve Jobs was in on this?
“I even convinced Steve to fake his death so he could focus on fixing the bugs in the simulation program,” Obama said. “But then he died for real in 2016, and we hired Tim Cook to take over the operations. That’s when things started getting really bad.”
“You mean Donald Trump —”
“No,” says Obama. “The Donald Trump you know is just a deep-fake program we inserted into the simulation to distract you from the real bugs. You know, real-world problems. Like Global Warming, or Vladimir Putin, or Psy. You remember Psy, do you? Remember Gangnam Style?”
You cringe. Suddenly, being Rick-rolled doesn’t seem so bad.
“But nothing we tried worked,” says Barack Obama. “Everyone knew we were headed for another giant market crash. Our data scientists even managed to give us a date.”
“March 9, 2020,” you say.
“Black Monday,” says Obama.
A hush falls over the room.
“We needed a cover story to explain Black Monday to our investors,” says Barack Obama. “So we uploaded our big guns into the simulation.”
“The coronavirus,” you say.
“And the murder hornets,” says Barack Obama. “Uh … Malia wanted to help.”
You curse beneath your breath. Then a nagging thought pops into your head.
“All those people who died from the Coronavirus,” you say, “they’re not really dead, are they?”
Barack Obama lets out a wry smile. “Let’s just say they’re in a better place.”
You curse again. Of all the insensitive …
“They’re in the MCU,” says Barack Obama.
“The Marvel Cinematic Universe. You’ve heard of it, haven’t you? Or are you that much of a bookworm?”
That makes no sense to you.
“Do you remember the first Iron Man movie?” asks Obama.
Of course, you remember the first Iron Man movie. It may be old; it came out in … “Oh crap …”
Obama walks up to you and puts his hand on your shoulder. It feels cold and eerily staticky.
“And now that you know the truth about the simulation, I’m afraid you’re coming with me to the MCU as well.”
“Don’t be afraid,” says Barack Obama. “You’ll get to spend the rest of eternity with Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr.”
“Robert Downey Jr? I thought he was done with Marvel movies.”
Barack Obama lets out a sinister laugh.
“Don’t you see? Once you’re in the MCU, you never leave. Sure, 99% of you end up being extras in one of those explosion scenes. But then, you’ll have to do take after take after take. You’ll be there forever.”
Your body freezes. “My uncle was right! You’re … evil!”
“No,” says Barack Obama. “I’m merciful. Consider the alternative. I release you from the simulation, and then what do you go back to? A foreclosed house? A collapsed economy? A world where everyone around you is desolate, begging for food?”
You consider this for a moment. That does not sound good at all.
“You’ll love Phase 3 of the MCU,” says Barack Obama. “We’re adding a Bruce Lee knockoff this time around.”
And so Barack Obama takes you away. For the time being, he leaves you in Guantanamo Bay while the Disney Corporation finalizes its Phase 3 plans for the MCU.
Rumour has it you’ll get bitten by Rocket Raccoon. They plan on motion-capturing a real raccoon.