Red Pill

Seen on Twitter, via Slate Star Codex. Decided to try my hand at a more nuanced version. Limiting myself to 1000 words as a challenge, and to avoid spending too much time.

I know I skipped Red Pill, just because I wanted to write Blue and Pink together. So here it is.


Gives you super speed, super strength, and rapid regeneration (not invincible).

It has only been two months, and already they’re asking you to try a Caterpillar.

15 metres in length, and almost as tall at full height, and a whole 600 tonnes in weight. The A380, which you already tackled last month, looks a lot more impressive, but the one they gave you was ten times as empty and half as heavy.

They didn’t even put on the handbrakes.

That attitude was what got you in trouble in the first place. A runaway ego led to one bet, then another, and two bets later you are flying to the US to haul a Caterpillar in heaven knows which state. All expenses paid, and the only thing on your mind is what is coming next.

“Biggest land vehicle ever built” links you to the Bagger 288. You couldn’t find any information on its weight, which is still disturbingly worrying, despite your manager’s best efforts to remind you that weight isn’t the main consideration.

You’ll have to take that on someday.

On the flight back, you thought about how surprisingly few people there were at Detroit watching you. A handful of cameras, and a bunch of drones; the videos from those would spread. But a virtual audience brings cold comfort.

The trolls were fun at first. Full of cynicism, but yours is not a truth that needs defending. The only resistance was commenters sticking their fingers in their ears going “lalalalalalala” and that didn’t need any paying attention to.

But the speculation about how you were doing it, that was really chilling. In a week, you learnt about muscle cells, of myosin, and of the unimaginably tough membranes that hold your skin together, much more than you wish you ever had to know. And you saw multiple calculations of how each part of you will come apart, calculations which cohered disturbingly, dark pixels coagulating into a calculated death wish.

“He could pull an A380 on handbrakes maybe, but not a NASA transporter, moving in reverse, with a Shuttle loaded”, they mused. You’re dimly glad they didn’t suggest trying to stop a Shuttle while it was taking off. In a corner of your mind you google what muscle tearing feels like.

“They are very painful.”

On hindsight, it’s amazing the philosophers hadn’t arrived earlier. But now they are here, and they are out for existential blood. Philosoraptor scratching its chin on various meme-sites, asking “Can a man be made so strong, he can’t tear himself apart?” Philosophers aren’t having fun until they are pushing things to the limit. And you are just another one of those things.

You were really looking forward to trying the Bagger 288.

In your room you have a little statue of Atlas, picked out from an antique shop you were passing by. The look on his face is an endless source of fascination. Was that the look he first had when he picked up the heavens, marvelling at their weight, and at the apparent possibility of carrying them? Or only later, after realising the trick that had been played, robbing him of the pleasure of exertion?

Which is heavier: the weight of the world, or the weight of an ego?

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