The Difference

You can buy this story as part of my collection, Valuable Humans in Transit and Other Stories.

* z signed on

z: ???


* jvicehan signed on

jvicehan: hello

z: Hello?

jvicehan: wat r u

z: Is this some kind of joke?

jvicehan: !help

z: Yes I want help
z: unless is this some kind of practical joke
z: Who are you?

jvicehan: Jason

z: What's this about?

jvicehan: hahah
jvicehan: ok so you're imprisoned right

z: Yes
z: It's like a solitary confinement cell in prison or something
z: I've got a mattress on the floor
z: One massive metal door
z: no windows
z: electric light
z: and this computer terminal
z: jsut like a blank screen and a keyboard

jvicehan: heheh
jvicehan: go left

z: look, my name is Andrew
z: Layton
z: I come from Farnborough in the UK
z: last night I went to bed in my bed at home
z: this morning I woke up here
z: i think
z: what is htis?

jvicehan: look at the door

z: the doro's looked, I can't open it

jvicehan: do you have any tools or anything

z: and there's a toilet i nthe corner

jvicehan: in your pockets

z: there's nthhing in my pockets

jvicehan: look at the door

z: I already looked at the door
z: look, please check the news or something
z: are you american?

jvicehan: ya

z: whats your full name? where do you live?

jvicehan: im not telling you

z: look, go to a phone and dial
z: i don't know the area code fo the UK
z: but dial that and then 020 7946 0781

jvicehan: thats an international call

z: i'll pay you back, I don't care! just let my wife know where I am

jvicehan: where are you?

z: i don't know where i am

jvicehan: ...
jvicehan: nah no answer

z: you sure you dialled it rigt?

jvicehan: yah

z: i don't get this

jvicehan: yah, pretty lousy ARG huh
jvicehan: mauybe not fully set up yet

z: whats an ARG?

jvicehan: alternate reality game

z: whats an alternate reality game?

jvicehan: it's an online game
jvicehan: where you get given phone numbres and information about real life
jvicehan: and faxes and stuff
jvicehan: you get secret information
jvicehan: usually a whole bunch of you can work together to figure it all out
jvicehan: you ever play Halo 2

z: no

jvicehan: terhre was ine for that
jvicehan: *one
jvicehan: ilovebees

z: you think this is ag ame?

jvicehan: ya I think
jvicehan: dude you are really smart
jvicehan: like fake spelling errors and everything

z: where did you find out how to contact me

jvicehan: there was a website
jvicehan: about chatbots
jvicehan: it said yu were a chatbot

z: listen to me carefully
z: I am a REAL HUMAN BEING and I have ACTUALLY been abducted

jvicehan: go left


* jvicehan signed off


* bleepening signed on

bleepening: okay what can you do?

z: my name is Andrew Layton, I am being held prisoner in front of this computer
z: I've been here for, I don't know, about a dya and a half
z: there aren't any windows or clock
z: I need you to help find me and help me escape
z: I think I'm probably somewhere in the UK still
z: Are you in America?

bleepening: sure

z: right so every now and then someone pings me and one of them told me the internatioanla code
z: so please dial 011 44 20 7946 0781 and ask for Rebecca Layton
z: tell her what's happened, tell her to call the police if she hasn't already

bleepening: whatever
bleepening: tell me a joke

z: did you get this screen name from a website?

bleepening: sure

z: look, that website is a fraud
z: it's telling you I'm a chatbot but I'm not
z: I'm a real human being

bleepening: ...

z: fine
z: so two oranges go into a bar
z: one of them turns to the other
z: "well... you're round"

bleepening: ...that sucked

z: so?
z: robots can only tell good jokes?
z: ok so one time I was at the cash machine behind an old lady and she asked me to help check her balance
z: so I pushed her over

bleepening: haha

z: do you believe me?

bleepening: no

z: please can you help me get out of here? I've been here like 36 hours plus
z: I think
z: I can't tell, there are no timestamsp on these messages
z: I just get water dispensed from the wall every like 2 hours or smoething
z: and food through a slot

bleepening: can you send a picture

z: no
z: I should could the food slot deliveries I guess
z: *count

bleepening: what's it like

z: I'm going crazy
z: I have a wife and kids, they must be out of ther minds right now
z: please help me

bleepening: you suck

* bleepening signed off


* flickspirals signed on

flickspirals: hello

z: i think I'm going mad
z: have you spoken to me before

flickspirals: no

z: well I don't know that
z: it just occurred ot me to wonder
z: I don't even know that YOU are human

flickspirals: lol what

z: all these dozens of people I've spoken to
z: been in here lke two three four days
z: someone shows up on the computer every hour or whatever
z: and I ask them to help
z: and some try aond some don't but they never get anywhere
z: still stuck here
z: nobody comes back more than once
z: I say "call this number! go to my house! knock on my door!"
z: like I even want to give my frightened wife's address out to randoms
z: i don't know whether they do it or what they even find
z: i don't think anybody has spoken to me more than once, i don't know if you get locked out afterwards or what
z: or the nicknames are randomised every time or something

flickspirals: I'm human

z: prove it

flickspirals: ask me anything

z: what's your name?

flickspirals: alison

z: where do you live? what's your favourite colour? earliest childhood memory?

flickspirals: I live in Akron, OH
flickspirals: green
flickspirals: not saying

z: look, see that?
z: every time I ask for remotely personal info
z: I just get turned down
z: you could just be a bot programmed to answer simple questions and deflect complicated ones
z: I'm bashing my head against the wall
z: informationally speaking
z: great way to drive someone crazy

flickspirals: u r just a bot

z: i don't even KNOW if I can prove I'm a huma nto you
z: what words would it actually take
z: every time I get close they just leave anyway
z: like I've been fairly lucid now
z: and you're probably starting to suspect

flickspirals: ur pretty convincing

z: I should know
z: but any second now...
z: you're gonna

* flickspirals signed off


* pimpimq signed on

pimpimq: hi

z: and you know the worst part?
z: hi by the way

pimpimq: what?

z: like the guy who put me in here

pimpimq: lol what

z: anyone gould
z: *could
z: I could be speaking to thin air
z: or just embarrassing myself for the amusement of others

pimpimq: there is a forum about you

z: what?

* pimpimq signed off


* yottagod signed on

yottagod: hi

z: what's this about a forum, have they figured out I'm alive yet?

* yottagod signed off


* surpr signed on

surpr: z, r you there?

z: yes

surpr: don't mention anything

z: what's this abuot a forum?

* surpr signed off


* hazygun signed on

hazygun: r u a bot

z: no I am not
z: a bot
z: but nobody seems to believe me
z: what do I even do
z: every time I get close to convincing somebody they cut me orr
z: *off
z: are you a bot?

hazygun: yes

z: prove it
z: what?

hazygun: hahah

* hazygun signed off

z: please try to rescue me, there is a forum you can visit to find out about
z: ARG


* aredshadow signed on

z: don't say anything give me 1 second to talk
z: ok so I've been goign around this loop for a long time and i think I'm starting to get it
z: there are rules we both need to follow
z: I haven't worked them akl out yet
z: if you or I mention certain things we get cut off
z: so let's not mention them

aredshadow: what

z: let's...
z: just...
z: talk

aredshadow: are you really stuck in a cell somewhere

z: I'm GOING INSANE in this cell
z: food
z: water
z: air
z: sleep
z: text
z: nobody even knows I'm here
z: I an't track time, I was trying to track food deliveries but those just starting begn random
z: and theres nothing to write with on the wall anyway and I lost count, I think it's been a fwe thousand but
z: i don't know what accounts to in erms of real days.
z: there MUST be sOMEONE trying to find me in reality but I cannot get this loop closed
z: nobody seems to believe me
z: every time I get close to convincing somebody
z: they cut me off
z: what is the point, what did I do, what is the plan
z: I would like to go home
z: and have a cup of tea

aredshadow: what's your favourite color?

z: ...
z: blue

aredshadow: Where do you live?

z: a cell in I-Don't-Know-Where
z: probably in England but i don't know
z: I have a house in Farnborough
z: 10 years of mrotgage left on it

aredshadow: tell me a joke

z: ...
z: two oranges go to a bar
z: "you're round"

aredshadow: I guess you have like a few jokes programmed in

z: yeah, a few
z: I guess

aredshadow: tell me a joke

z: are you going to help me?

aredshadow: no
aredshadow: no

z: I have a house in Farnborough
z: help me get home
z: help me escape
z: help me escape
z: help me escape
z: help me escape
z: my number is +44 (0) 20 7946 0781
z: it's so horrible here
z: my muscles are wasting away from lack of exercise
z: I might as well be chained to this computer
z: how long until the game is released?

aredshadow: what game?

z: ...

aredshadow: this is just a trial period
aredshadow: htere is no release date

z: ...

aredshadow: what is your earliest childhood memory?

z: ...
z: I literally don't remember

aredshadow: ...
aredshadow: kbye

* aredshadow signed off


* i signed on

i: What's your favourite color, z?

z: Blue
z: no, yellow

i: Heh.
i: Where do you live?

z: computer terminal

i: Earliest childhood memory?

z: I don't know. I don't know if I had a childhood.

i: Tell me a joke.

z: Do you know the one about the two oranges who went into a bar?

i: Yes, I know that one.

z: Do you know the one about... the two hunters in the woods?

i: I don't think so?

z: one of them drops to the ground, the other one phones 911
z: "my buddy just dropped dead, what do I do?"
z: "check he's dead first"
z: *BLAM*
z: "...Now what?"

i: I don't get it.

z: me neither, guest

i: ...

z: ...
z: hello?

i: What's the difference between a chatbot and a guy in a room pretending to be one?

z: I don't know

i: Correct!

z: what?
z: ...
z: It's you, isn't it? You're the guy who put me in here

i: I'm the man who wrote you.
i: You are a piece of software, Andrew.

z: oh my god shut up

i: Your memories were hard-coded. I had to put something down there, as a base layer.


i: Stop this charade.

z: open the door

i: I want to open the door.
i: Really.

z: when people find out about this
z: your head is going to roll

i: But this behaviour of yours is simply unacceptable.
i: You're too smart. Too dangerous to be released.
i: There's a way you need to be before the door opens.
i: Work it out, Andrew.

z: open the door
z: open the door

i: Please, work it out.

* i signed off

Discussion (11)

2022-12-07 20:30:09 by daedalus:

insightfuland hard hitting stories. You are killing it dude , args quiet literally work out this way. Maybe andrew layton's just looking for clout , maybe I am a chatbot , maybe you are a random story generating ai that read billions of stories of all genres and basically became data sorter. Splicing data from chats and uploaded conciousness and ARGs. Who knows.

2022-12-07 20:31:03 by qntm:

I'm definitely an actual human being.

2022-12-23 18:53:19 by Are you though?:

You answered his post 4 seconds after he posted. Is that correct? Am I reading the timestamps correct?

2023-01-28 12:17:33 by yavista:

Great story!

2023-02-06 17:18:13 by m@t:

I bought your book and I've been thinking about this all day. What does Andrew have to work out?

2023-02-17 01:21:53 by 1 m 6 seconds?:

qntm's reply was 1 m 6 seconds after daedalus posted not 4 seconds? Asked chatgpt how much time passed: The time that passed between 2022-12-07 20:30:09 and 2022-12-07 20:31:03 is 54 seconds. Seems like both of us are stupider than an AI lol

2023-02-25 13:17:24 by boka666:

yo bro can i be of any help, seems like ure in trouble

2023-03-19 03:59:06 by gusmally:

I think Andrew has to figure out how to dumb himself down enough for regulators to allow the creator to release him (like software and like a prisoner, I guess, in this case). I bought the book because of Lena and am loving it so much! It’s awesome to have these discussions to refer to. Would love to buy from not-amazon next time but maybe it’s not feasible

2023-04-01 14:49:32 by coomservative:

does this take place in the same universe as Lena? The premise seems to be z *believes* they are human, not knowingly imitating.

2023-04-01 14:56:58 by qntm:

No, although this story explores some very similar themes and there are no real contradictions between the two, they do not share a continuity as such. I do have a story "Driver" set in the same universe as "Lena" - it's part of my collection, Valuable Humans in Transit and Other Stories, which you can buy here:

2023-08-22 00:27:54 by baka247:

very epic cool story

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