El Thorvaldo Moderator

Thorvald glowered at the monitor, hands balled into fists perched on the wrist-rest. The deadline was only... actually he didn't know when submissions were due, but Australia was half a day ahead so he was screwed regardless. It had all seemed so simple: tweak the names and identities and the story had literally written itself, an epic cautionary tale about the dangers of manhandling your own fate, the slow erosion of the Shining Hero into so deadly a menace to the space-time continuum that in the end, the universe could only survive by rebooting without him. It had everything: black humour, metaphysics, philosophical quandaries condensed into layman's terms—and even a couple Jasper Fforde shout-outs to boot!

Picture: the gallant knight, leading his nation in victory after victory, risen to the rank of veritable God among men—yet always putting the people first, spurning the pursuit of power for its own sake. But in victory the state grew complacent, and in its hubris finally crossed one bridge too far. It was a noble goal: turn back time, correct the mistake, prevent the catastrophic unravelling of the City on the Hill. The hero was duty-bound to save his world, was he not?

Witness: determination become obsession, war after war creating a future steadily worse as the protagonist tries every option except not to fight. The golden eagle withered into a vulture as the national cause degenerated into personal vendetta, citizens sacrificed time and time again in a desperate bid to save his ego. He was the hero—he had to triumph!

Lament: the once-enviable nation collapsing into the very sort of tinpot dictatorship it ate for breakfast. Was he a hero anymore, ruling with an iron fist? Still it was never enough, and in his mania his revisionism became sloppy, tearing ragged gashes in universal continuity such that each reset tacked on shards of memories the world faintly recognized yet couldn't comprehend. And still the prime hurdle could never be bested, taunting him, as if trying to teach him that some realities had to be accepted.

Remember: your own values, which he gleefully discarded—or had he simply forgotten himself?—pursuing his ultimate scheme, wiping the score by obliterating history entirely so that at last, he would have his way. But now he was the villain, and the Time Police could intervene rather than merely narrate. A reboot took place, a new reality cemented—one in which the prime instigator never existed to wreck it. And they all lived happily ever after.

It had all seemed so perfect in thought, that juicy chrono-jargon begging to be sprinkled out: "Sisyphus syndrome", "floating points", "recursive callback"... By the sixteenth paragraph Thorvald knew it was failing as he struggled to pull the central tenet out from underneath the mounting history lecture. He always overthought—how'd such a simple structure get bloated with all this padding? Staring at the half-finished paragraph, he knew he'd have to back-track, maybe axe the whole thing. But there wasn't enough time

He grinned at the irony. He was about to reboot his story, and what was the week's keyword..? This was too perfect: not only would the original plot's summary technically count as a story in itself, he would score mad points from the meta aspect alone! Could he do it in time, though? It was already Friday evening and he'd be starting from scratch, who knew how long it'd take...

But as he opened up a new document, he knew he had one key advantage: this story was coming straight from the heart.

He began to type...

HU6 - Reboot by @Thorvald (El Thorvaldo)

Week 1 submission to e350tb's Halloween Unspectacular writing contest; keyword: 'Reboot'. Based on a True Story™, the original short was written first-person from the universe, but the main thread got away on me and when I realized I'd need to rewrite it pretty much from the ground up, I went for this meta-option instead. Probably turned out better this way, I say.

[Originally submitted to DeviantArt December 2016.]

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