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I cannot and will not give up on my search. I need to know. I need to know if I’m sane and if my world is real and if anything means anything. The caustic sense of dread and anxiety makes it hard to focus. However, as has always been the case for me, once I get into the groove of working a problem, everything else tends to fade into the background, including the gibbering insanity that’s taken residence in my mind.

I spent the last week going over logs, trying to find some fingerprints to identify more of these machines. I doubt the SSH-keys are being re-used between servers, but I’m keeping an eye out just in case. The main thing I have to go on is the weirdness of the OS and what services were running. I’ve got automated scans looking for machines that aren’t running a web server, are running ssh and ftp, but return no version information. I also saved the OS-fingerprint scan from nmap and added it into nmap’s database of fingerprints so I can check that automatically. Even ignoring IPv6, on IPv4 there are 3,706,452,992 valid, public IP addresses. I’m scanning about 10 a second. I could limit myself to US IP addresses, but it seems more likely to me that these machines are located all over the world.

As the search continues, I’ve been filling my time with research. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on simulations: physics simulations, sociological simulations, neural-net simulations, and more. The fact that the machine was familiar (unix-y and English-based) leads me to believe that my world was designed to be close the world running the simulation. I’m still, how to put it delicately? Conscious. Aware. As far as my simple mind can tell, the world is very complicated and from a macro-perspective, deterministic. The non-deterministic behavior of subatomic particles is beyond my ability to comment upon.

I think they might not be able to see into the sim. Introspection into complex simulations, without adversely affecting the sim ranges between hard and impossible. That would explain the machines. They allow for interaction and examination within the rules of the sim. Alright, I’m creeping myself out with all this ambiguous “they” and “the machines” talk. So let’s call the folks who made and maintain reality the Eitologists (gotta put that AP Lit course to use). I’ve been calling the first machine I found the Behemoth, given its speed and memory capacity. The Behemoth and it’s theoretical ilk I’ve been calling SINs: Simulation Interface Nodes.

I ditched school this Monday. I figure I’ve lost my mind and have no chance at a normal life or I’m right and pretending everything is normal will get me nowhere. After a couple hours reading Simulacra and Simulation, I had the brilliant idea of re-watching The Matrix. I’ve seen the movie many times, but this most recent viewing has taken on a special meaning, as one can imagine it might for someone in my situation.

I have to say, if I find out I’m a real person being used as an inefficient, poorly designed powersource, I’m going to be pissed off. Not because of the whole slave-blind-to-his-shackles thing. But because anyone who has the technology to simulate reality down to subatomic particles, better have a superior means of power generation. I mean, have a little self-respect, Eitologist engineers.

Also, I will admit to wasting only a handful of minutes trying to bend a spoon with my mind. Or bending myself, since there is no spoon.

I got back to reading research materials. Alternating between philosophy texts and research papers on particle simulations. Actually, I was surprised how similar they are in some aspects. They’re both written by very intelligent people, about things that can’t actually be directly observed, but still impact the world in which we live. Unseen hands move everything.

I did go to school the next day, but all my classmates were still talking about “the glitch.” Most of them were asleep when it happened, thus the ones who got to experience it were enjoying the attention it got them from all the non-participants. I claimed I had been asleep and missed the whole thing.

School was pretty insufferable. I tried to focus on lessons, but in every class, the teachers would bring it up themselves, sharing news stories they read and their own personal theories. School had been my one hope of a temporary reprieve from my mental burdens, but it was not to be.

I cut out at lunch. Back at home, I checked my automated scans. Still nothing. I didn’t have the foresight to slurp down files from Behemoth for analysis--maybe that way I could’ve figured out the architecture and who knows what else. I’m really kicking myself. I’m better than that, or so I like to think. In the middle of debating whether to continue with Simulacra and Simulation or Fausett’s 1994 paper on the fundamentals of neural networks, a notification chimes.

My computer tells me it’s found a host with the same SSH key.

My palms start to sweat.