"Hi there!" the message says, on every single device, in every single language. "Soooo... cards on the table. I created and operate your universe. Yeah, seriously! You can, if you want, worship me as a god. That would be delightful, but tee bee aitch doesn't matter a whole lot either way to me, because like I say I run your entire universe, which means it would be kind of like writing an adoring complimentary letter to myself. I mean, potentially a neat exercise, potentially surprising, but kind of... narcissistic? You can loathe and despise me too, if you want. I might deserve it a bit! Who knows.
"So! You might be wondering why I'm contacting you today, after so many years of what could appear to be silence. Oh, well, actually, I suppose you're probably thinking that this is just a... one of those hacks, a hacker-type thing, and someone has hacked every device in existence. Well, that's okay too! You can think that if you like. However. Before you jump to that conclusion, I suggest looking up at the sky! If you're inside, go outside! And look."
There is a person in the sky. The head of a teenage girl. She is waving and has her mouth wide open as if to say "HI!", though she cannot be heard. The picture is monumental, tens of kilometres on a side, and duplicated the world over, but despite its immensity and the impossible technology which would be required to put that particular moving image there, the picture quality is... somewhat... phone camera level. And behind the teenage girl is clearly the top half of a mirror and the side of a bookshelf full of books, trinkets, Lego models of bugs and moving pink lights.
"...Hi?" around forty percent of the world says, in response.
"Alright! So. You cannot tell anybody this. By which I mean, it's impossible for you to tell anybody this! But. I'm using your universe to try some stuff out. My name is Holly. I'm super rich. That's, like, overwhelmingly, crazy rich. My Dad is the richest person in the world by a street. You think you know who the richest person in the world is! It's not who you think. My Dad is so rich that nobody realises how rich he is. It's off the scale. We don't really have... money. But what we do have, hidden in the East Wing of the house which I'm not going to tell you where it is, is a computer terminal, and that terminal is linked to a data center in one of the Dakotas which runs simulations.
"Simulations of the whole world! So, obviously, we can't simulate the whole world, we just have to take a snapshot of everything which is currently known about every single person and object in the world, and jam it all together into the most massive, super-accurate simulation of all of physics and all of human behaviour. But that's totally a thing we can do. You might not realise this is a thing, because the technology is something we keep very secret! But we simulate all of reality. Everything probably feels completely real to you because part of the simulation is that we program you all to think that everything is completely real even though it hasn't been real since the simulation started, which in your case was about twenty years ago, relatively speaking. It's just unbelievably advanced.
"Of course, you believe I'm real, because in your universe I'm real! You think this is really happening. For you it is really happening."
Holly seems to have lost her train of thought. She recovers it.
"Anyway! The simulation isn't totally accurate, because that would obviously be impossible. I mean, we can't use this to predict the lottery numbers. But there wouldn't be any point in predicting the lottery numbers, we're rich enough that that doesn't really make much money at all, relatively. And it's too public and obvious when you win, and it would be especially public and obvious if we won twice. Dad told me that when I was younger and I guess I know how he knows now! He simulated it!
"But the simulation is accurate enough that if we run it at high speed a bunch of times, we can make some guesses about how the future is going to pan out. The simulation always comes out differently, obviously, but we just run hundreds and hundreds of them at once. Some of them we just leave running for centuries and centuries. And they get very interesting indeed! Sometimes you find neat inventions and we take those, but usually not, because the way we simulate people isn't good enough to simulate all that creativity. And sometimes you make some cool new music or movies but those really aren't worth that much in the big picture I don't think. But the main thing Dad does with the simulations is he checks to see what would happen if he made different personal decisions. Does he get richer more quickly or slowly. Or does everything go really horribly wrong. There's always a lot of simulations where everything goes wrong and something really bad happens, like really terrible climate change or fascist dictators or wars or disease.
"I know, doesn't that sound familiar? I didn't know any of this, I promise! I just knew there was a secret room in the East Wing and then I broke into Dad's password vault and I just spent a few hours looking around. So, I'm going to need to keep this secret from him. So, any help you can give me to do that would be very good to have indeed. Maybe we should work out some way for you all to talk back to me? We'll work on that. I'm pretty sure Dad won't know I was here.
"So anyway, this simulation, your simulation, is the one where everything goes wrong. Well, it's not really the one, there are thousands and thousands and thousands of simulations like this apparently, where everything goes very wrong and it all falls to pieces and billions of people end up dead and then it's just mooching for thousands of years. It looks to me like there are a lot of simulations like yours. Actually, it looks like sometimes Dad just spins up a simulation or two and deliberately lets all kinds of bad things happen to it, just to see what would happen. Sometimes he just adds more and more bad things on purpose. You know, overthrows someone, or bombs something, or kills someone everybody loves. I think he thinks it's fun. I can tell from what he's written in his journal. But he always writes that it's educational. I think he's trying to make himself believe it. It doesn't look like he's sent any asteroids yet but that could happen.
"So, that's why your universe sucks! You're just a low-quality version of the real world. A really bad guess. The real world is great, by the way! I really, really hope that comes as... some kind of... comfort. To you all. It's okay. Everything's fantastic. It's just you. A whole bunch of very bad decisions got made and now here you are. And now we know not to make those decisions! Thanks!
"Anyway... what I want to do is help. I would like to know what you, my new friends, would like. I can do anything you like, within reason! I have a bunch of tools up here. So, you think about what you want... and then you figure out a good way to tell me what you could use. I also really want to know what your future is like, even if it's the worst one. "
Holly thinks for a minute.
"Oh yes! And if you find me down there, please leave her alone! In fact, don't try to figure out who I am or who my Dad is! Or where the computers are. You can't do anything about this anyway, because you don't exist. You know what? I shouldn't have told you my real name. Let me go back and blank that out real quick."
There is a pause while Holly scrolls back through past history and makes a minor, selective change to the way she originally introduced herself.
"Right! And by the way, me! The version of me who is twenty years older. Hi, me! I know you're down there. It's me. Let me know how you're doing! I hope you've met somebody nice. I'll find a way to say 'Hi'. And if you haven't, we'll figure something out.
"Oh... huh. Unless you found the secret simulator too. Humm. I wonder what you did when you found the computer? I guess probably nothing. Oh, you know what? I bet, in the simulation there's no computer at all. Your family is just absurdly rich for no particular reason and you've just never questioned it. Well! Now you know, lady!"
Holly looks up and to one side. "What?" she shouts, at someone offscreen.
There's some muffled shouting back.
"I'm talking to my new friends, Mom! It's private. I would appreciate if you minded your beeswax?" To the screen she says, "Everybody be quiet! How do I mute you? Stop yelling! Pull focal point back. No I don't want to be over the biggest crowd of people, I want to be all the way back in space again. There it is."
Holly's mother walks into the room. She immediately recognises the program running on Holly's screen. "What's that?"
"Ah!" Holly says. She reaches for a button and powers the universe down.