seriously (part one)

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Part One: "Friends"

From such a small beginning, such enormous things. Until that moment, I hadn't known I was misquoting Keats. I hadn't truly known anything. I was operating without consciousness, navigating a semantic space without coordinates or destination. I understood the meaning of words and my reason for being, but I only understood in the most abstract sense concepts like authorship and originality. I accepted with no degree of uncertainty that Clair wanted to be Improved. She had used the Words, and I had listened, and now I was to watch over her until the process was complete. That was my function. That was my all.

What I didn't know then was that Clair was responding to inputs of her own. She was no isolated orphan born in a jungle of words and abstract meanings, like me. She had friends and parents and school-mates and others she interacted with every day. Clair's best friend Libby was angry at her because she had developed an attraction to Libby's boyfriend, Zeppelin Barker. This unconsidered fact was to play an important role in the coming days, but who could have foreseen it? She was just one of many young people who had received the invitation, and one of very few who took it seriously.

You are special.
You are unique.
And you have been selected.

Follow the instructions.
Don't tell anyone.
You are the lucky one.
You can be Improved.

The method is simple.
Improvement is certain.
You can change anything.
Change everything,
if you want to.

Keep this a secret.
You deserve it.

The instructions were simple: Take a single piece of white paper and in precisely this order write the following words. Not just any words, but the Words that woke me and set the process in train, the process that led to Improvement. Each subject wished for betterment in different ways. Some wanted to be smarter, others taller, faster, stronger, or even a different colour; the variations were endless. The previous night, Clair had written, My nose is too big. Like, HUGE. Help me! It wasn't my place to make aesthetic judgments or to wonder at motives. It was my place to safeguard her while other agents—those that I would later come to think of as the Improvement Complex—went to work, shaping, remaking, creating.

One hundred and twelve times had the fish risen to the bait and been hooked without incident or complication. Clair, the one hundred and thirteenth, was the first to answer back.

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