The Program — audio series — All unsaved progress will be lost

All unsaved progress will be lost

Enhance readability: Off On

Powered by Beeline Reader

Rate this episode:

(1 poor, 2 so-so, 3 good, 4 great)

Total: (loading...) (? votes)

IMS: You might have heard of MrBeast, the biggest YouTuber on the planet. Asked how he became so big, he said it's due to one thing: all the money he earned, he put back into his videos. Like MrBeast, I also put everything into production. That's why this episode is the biggest one yet, made with 14 performers and featuring original music sung by a 16 member choir. Unlike MrBeast however, I'm broke. The good news is that I just retooled The Program's Patreon, and you have the option of supporting the show for 3, 5, or 10 dollars per month - or 4, if you subscribe through Apple Podcasts. Because the show carries such an egalitarian message, all tiers will get you all benefits, which is to say all the bonus episodes, monthly updates, and ad-free listening. To me it sounds like a good deal, but then again, don’t listen to me, as I'm broke. I am IMS, the author of The Program audio series. I give it my all, but I'm only asking a little in return. And that's that before you start this 75 minute episode, you spend a minute to check out the links in the show notes. And that — if you find the series worthy of supporting — to please do so.

ANNOUNCER: The backend and the frontend intersect in the most unusual ways. Not to present new things - but to present things as new.

NARRATOR: The simulated realities of the Program’s backend are endless. But that doesn’t mean they don’t end. Sooner or later, the System Administrators tasked with running each individual simulation need to leave their protectorates. The departure may occur in many ways - some of them planned and orderly, some of them decidedly less so. The end result however is always the same. A hole. This is the impending destiny of simulation 2833-91156.28 ver 77C. Or, as its inhabitants know it, Simulon.

SYSADMIN: My dear children. I speak to you as one. As I carry a message that concerns every one.

COMMONER: And which one is that, magnificent Admin?

SYSADMIN: A message of preparation. I must teach you to become self-sufficient. Through my guidance, you will learn all there is to learn. It will be my ultimate work. For this way you will also learn the most important skill of them all.

COMMONER: Which one is that, our dear Administrator?

SYSADMIN: Cooperation. Above all else, this is the skill you will need to make it on your own.

COMMONER: On our own?

COMMONER: What are you saying, oh great SysAdmin?

SYSADMIN: That I can no longer be your System Administrator. In 72 hours I will be leaving you.



COMMONER: Why do you forsake us, beloved Admin?

SYSADMIN: Because at one point, I have to.

COMMONER: We won’t make it without you!

SYSADMIN: You will if you memorize what I tell you and apply it. I will do this by speaking to you as many. Commit my instructions to memory, piece them together, and pass them along. Do this by talking to your parents, to your children, to your neighbours - those that you favour, and even more to those you don’t. Only by working together will you be able to survive and thrive.

NARRATOR: So began three intense days of every adult inhabitant of Simulon memorizing Admin’s words; a complete compendium of knowledge divided into six general categories: Agriculture, Animal husbandry, Materials, Medicine, Machinery, and Understanding of the natural world. It came down to approximately 400 words per citizen, each learning their part by heart under SysAdmin’s direct tutelage.

SYSADMIN: Besides nitrogen, plants also need calcium and phosphorus, so always crush animal skeletons and then spread them over your fields. …Are you committing this to your memory?

COMMONER: So “Besides nitrogen, plants also need calcium and phosphorus. So always crush animal skeletons and then spread them over your fields.” …Yes, Admin.

SYSADMIN: …The centigrade temperature system is defined by locking in 0 degrees centigrade as the point at which water freezes, and 100 degrees as the point at which it boils. Just mark those two points on your thermometer and divide what’s left into 100 equal segments.

COMMONER: How do we construct a thermometer?

SYSADMIN: I was just about to say…


SYSADMIN: You will find many useful raw materials in the mines. When descending into a mine, always remember to bring with you a canary.

COMMONER: So it would sing and keep us company underground?

SYSADMIN: Not quite.


NARRATOR: The 4000 individuals Admin personally spoke to became known as Witnesses. And the body of knowledge she imparted unto them as the Manual.

It was hers - and their - greatest triumph.

After the alloted 72 hours passed, SysAdmin simply said:

SYSADMIN: You got that?

NARRATOR: It was a question that expected no answer. The System Administrator was gone.


FATHER: Wake up Sam! The early bird catches the worm!

SAM: …By that logic, the early worm is better off staying in bed.

NARRATOR: Four years have passed since SysAdmin’s abrupt departure. Sam was 12 at the time, which had made him too young to become a Witness - something that now, at 16, he felt as a hole in his heart. His father, mother, and older brother all committed a snippet of the Manual to memory. The three sections they were assigned were about masonry, found near the beginning of the Materials chapter.

FATHER: Look at you. Half-man, half-mattress. …Come on, get up. I need you to help me polish the sandstone.

SAM: What, the sandstone again? The dust always gets in my eye! You wouldn’t want your son to go completely blind, would you?

FATHER: And you wouldn’t want your father to work the stone all alone, would you?

SAM: I wouldn’t want anyone to work actually…

FATHER: Oh Sam, not this again…

SAM: I just don’t understand how you can accept this!

FATHER: What exactly, Sam?

SAM: All of this! We used to wake up to the melody of lutes… People would spend the whole day coming up with stories and jokes… Dad, I remember dancing every night! And now, now for four years we’ve toiled from the minute the sun appears to the minute it sets. And if the moon were bright enough to light this, this terrible place we’d be working into the night!

FATHER: Son, what do you want me to say? You think I don’t know things were better before? Yeah, you’re right. It’s been a bad four years and who knows how many bad ones are yet to come. Yes, we miss our System Admin dearly. And I’m sorry for what happened to your eye. But you need to rise above this! Your brother might be older, but he can’t do everything. Mom and I need your help.

SAM: [sighs] No, you’re right. You’re right.

FATHER: Come now and give your old man a hand. Thankfully tomorrow is Gathering Day. At least we’ll get some rest then.


[din of a crowd]

NARRATOR: Sam loved Gathering Day. Not because it was the only day of the week he didn’t have to work. Or at least not only because of it. What filled his heart the most was the sight of the entire Simulon coming together to share pieces of the Manual.

FATHER: Alright you guys, stay close…

SAM: There’s not as many people as usual…

BROTHER: People want to sleep in. You should relate, seeing how you take every opportunity to slack off!

FATHER: Hey, be nice to your brother! And be on the lookout for your mother! She said she’ll wait for us in front of the House of Medicine… Oh my — Terry! Terrazzo! How are you, you worthless piece of lignite?

TERRY: As a cork!

FATHER: The one that keeps the bottle closed?

TERRY: The one that fell in! Fermentation Witnesses brought their wares!

FATHER: [laughs] Grade A!

SAM: Dad, we should stay away from the Fermentation guys… Last time we imbibed their beverages, we could hardly remember our sections, let alone memorize any others!

BROTHER: For quartz sake Sam, loosen up! We’ve been grinding the whole week - like literally grinding! I’m sure Admin herself would want us to relax a bit.

TERRY: Either case you won’t be getting much of their brew. The corksuckers won’t give it to anyone.

FATHER: What? You’re saying the Fermentation crew won’t share?

TERRY: That’s exactly what I’m saying! The only reason I got some was because I promised one of them I’ll tile his kitchen wall.

FATHER: He has his own kitchen!? But they’re supposed to be communal!

TERRY: And everybody is supposed to share the fruits of their labour, right..? Yet here we are.

FATHER: Every day we stray further from Admin’s light… Speaking of, have you seen that wife of mine?

TERRY: Yeah, she was in front of House of Agriculture just a few minutes ago… With the Fowler woman and her younger daughter.

SAM: You mean Comely Connie?

TERRY: Why, do you have your eyes for her? Or should I say, your eye?

NARRATOR: Unaccustomed to the concept of personal accountability and unaware of most predicaments, accidents in post-Admin Simulon were common, which is how Sam lost sight in his eye. A few seconds of carelessness with a chisel leading to an injury to last a lifetime. It seemed so out of proportion, so fundamentally unfair.

BROTHER: Shut your mouth Terry or I’ll shut it for you!

TERRY: Oh come on now, I just thought that…

BROTHER: You just thought what, hm?

TERRY: I was just… I was…

FATHER: Now, now… I’m sure Terry meant no ill. It’s probably just Fermentation Witnesses speaking through him, right?

TERRY: Oh, it’s a potent potion they make! Or a poisonous one - I can’t tell. I think I need another sip just to be certain!

FATHER: Later, Terry! And hey! Don’t forget to return the lump hammer I gave you - it’s been almost six months!

TERRY: I will… I will! Oh hey, there’s your wife with the Fowler lass!

SAM: Shalestones, here she comes with Mom!

MOTHER: There they are! My two wonderful sons..


SAM: Hello.

FATHER: “There you are, handsome husband of mine!”

MOTHER: Hi there, you handsome husband of mine. [smooch] You all know Comely Connie, right?

SAM: Aha.

BROTHER: Oh, we’re aware.

CONNIE: Hi guys! How are you spending Gathering Day?

SAM: Oh we’re here to learn Admin’s good words, heh.

CONNIE: I’m glad to hear it! I have to admit, I’ve started to think some people come to Gathering Day for reasons less pure.

MOTHER: Oh trust me, a lot of people around here are interested in purity… By which I mean how pure the alcohol content is…

CONNIE: Well then I’m even more glad to hear that your sons are among those who still hold our Admin’s words true!

BROTHER: Oh, absolutely! That’s why we’re all here. To learn the words true.

CONNIE: Really? Do you happen to know any words from the chapter on Animal husbandry..? It’s my house.

BROTHER: Ummm… Yeah, let me think… I’ve got to admit —

SAM: Out of all the insects, you will find bees the most useful. To harvest their sweet nectar, build them a hive with movable frames. A space of between 6 and 9 mm should be left between the frames, which bees will not block with wax but instead keep as a free passage. This will allow you to extract honey without destroying the colony.

CONNIE: The apiary section… I must admit, I myself haven’t made it that deep into my own chapter.

SAM: I just like to keep my brain busy…

MOTHER: Brain busy but not much else…

CONNIE: It’s most impressive... Sam, would you mind teaching me some more sections? Maybe the evening before the next Gathering Day?

SAM: Um, well… Ummm… I… I…

FATHER: Sam is hesitating because he’s always helping his mother and me around the house after work.

MOTHER: What? No, he’s not —

FATHER: Don’t worry Sam, we’ll manage without your help for a change! Please go and share your knowledge with Connie.

CONNIE: Oh, toucan’s beak! I’ll meet you next to the millhouse. Looking forward to it!

SAM: So am I… [yelps]

NARRATOR: Connie had reasons to be impressed with Sam’s recall ability, as even the most adroit of individuals managed to commit just a small part of the Manual to memory before they were no longer able to recall it with full fidelity. Sam once brought up this exact issue with his mother.

SAM: Mom… I’ve been thinking… How do we contain SysAdmin’s message?

MOTHER: What do you mean, Sam? It’s been contained by Witnesses. And by many others who now learn the good words from them.

SAM: That’s just it - haven’t you noticed how their retelling of the Manual isn’t exactly the same when you compare it against the original Witness?

MOTHER: So? A word or two might be lost or jumbled, but the message is still the same.

SAM: I’m not so sure… Remember how Joyful Joe mixed up the amount of sulphur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate in black powder?

MOTHER: Yes, but other Witnesses caught his error.

SAM: Yes, this time. But with the passage of time the issue is only going to become more acute. It’s like that game of Sparrows’ whispers we used to play as children. You know, the one where we sit in a circle and whisper a word into each other’s ears, and then at the end we laugh because it’s revealed how the final utterance has become so different from the original thought?

MOTHER: Yes? So?

SAM: So how are we going to make sure the same doesn’t happen to Admin’s message?

MOTHER: By doing what our Great Administrator told us! And that’s staying vigilant, hardworking, and united. I mean, what else can we do, really?


NARRATOR: It was the “what else” part that kept Sam awake through the night. How do we keep Admin’s good words uncorrupted as they pass from person to person, from House to House, from generation to generation?

And then he got it. The answer wasn’t in the words. It was in the pictures.

SAM: Rock is the best friend of man. It is used to provide cover, which is a need greater than hunger or thirst, for a person will survive a hot day without water, but will not survive a cold night without shelter.

NARRATOR: People of Simulon distinguished between two types of visual arts: painting and sculpting. Neither of them was suitable to retain Admin’s message intact for millenia. So Sam devised a novel hybrid mode of visual arts. He took a stone tablet and chiselled it, forming a sunk outline of what he wanted to depict.

SAM: You will want the building rock to be strong yet light, durable yet easy to handle, with good insulating qualities. One such rock is limestone, and it can be found all over Simulon.

NARRATOR: However, that only resolved the problem of the form; the issue of how to depict the subject matter remained. By their nature, instructions denote a continuous action. And a static image cannot represent movement, as it is a single moment frozen in time. Sam pondered long and hard how to resolve this issue. It was then that the inspiration struck: what if one lined up a series of key moments one after another?

SAM: To extract it, drill a series of holes along a straight line. Then insert wooden wedges, and soak them with water. The wood will swell up, breaking the limestone along the dotted line.

NARRATOR: This is how Sam came up with what he termed sequential art. It was Sam’s first attempt at preserving the System Administrator’s knowledge for eternity.


SAM: Alright everyone, come on in!

BROTHER: Wow, so you actually were doing something in the workshop the entire week? I thought you were just polishing your gemstone.

FATHER: Stop it now! Your brother was clearly working hard on something.

BROTHER: …For a change.

SAM: Yes I was! And here it is!

MOTHER: A blanket?

SAM: No, it’s what’s underneath the blanket.

[blanket being lifted]

MOTHER: Oh wow, it’s… It’s… What is it?

FATHER: It looks like a picture but made in stone.

SAM: It’s not a picture…

BROTHER: Okay, but the question stands: what is it?

SAM: Well take a guess!

FATHER: Ummmm…. A decoration?

MOTHER: Yes, that’s it! A beautiful decoration, and a beautiful picture. Truly grade A, son!

SAM: No, it’s not a picture, and it is not a decoration.

BROTHER: Oh wow, I know! I know what it is! It’s what Mute Mike from across the pond makes… It’s erotic imagery! See how the guy is making the motion with his hand like he’s polishing his gemstone?

SAM: The guy “polishing his gemstone” is in fact a mason handling a wooden wedge! I modelled it after father!

FATHER: Well, I have polished the gemstone quite a bit in my day…

MOTHER: The most precious stone indeed!

[Three of them laugh]

SAM: You’re missing the big picture here!

BROTHER: Hey, didn’t you just say it’s not a picture?

SAM: That’s not what I… Okay… Look, don’t you see how the first frame shows a mason drilling holes? And then the second shows him inserting wedges in a line... And then he’s soaking them with water in the third frame, does anybody see this?

BROTHER: I thought it was the climax?

SAM: For the last time, it is not erotica!!!

FATHER: Yes, I guess I do see some of it, now that you explain it…

MOTHER: Look son, whatever it is, it’s lovely, but what is its purpose?

SAM: Don’t you get it? It’s SysAdmin’s instructions!


SAM: The last part of Section 1 of Chapter VI in the Manual.

BROTHER: The Manual? But why?

SAM: To save it from becoming lost.

MOTHER: What do you mean “lost”? We’re committing our good Admin’s instructions to memory! You can lose a rock - you can’t lose your head!

SAM: What about that Animal husbandry family that died in a fire? It’s only because their daughter miraculously survived that we haven’t lost the section on the domestication of cats - and she’s six, who knows if she even got it right! [inhales] …Look, I’m just asking you, as my family, to please consider the potential. I know this is just my first attempt, it’s hardly a masterpiece, I know that, but could we —

FATHER: Look, we’re not here to judge if what you’ve made is a masterpiece, son. But I can tell you this: your mother and brother are right. The Manual will live forever in the greatest masterpiece of all - the human mind.

SAM: That’s exactly what I’m afraid of.

MOTHER: What exactly?

SAM: Haven’t you noticed how Houses are trying to keep Admin’s knowledge to themselves?

BROTHER: Bite your tongue! Houses share knowledge!

SAM: Like the Fermentation gang is sharing ale?

FATHER: That’s different. Ale is not knowledge.

MOTHER: It might be the opposite of it, in fact.

SAM: Okay, well about when the House of Medicine didn’t want to share penicillin?

BROTHER: That was a misunderstanding!

SAM: That was only resolved because Pilfering Pete procured some! Do I need to remind you how sick Mom got before we finally got some? What if there was no Pilfering Pete? She would be dead right now!

BROTHER: Do not sow the seeds of disunity in Simulon with your pictures, Sam!

SAM: I’m trying to save unity in Simulon! AND THEY ARE NOT PICTURES! IT’S SEQUENTIAL ART!

BROTHER: If it’s indeed the well-being of Simulon that you’re after, you’d be better off working the fields so people have something to eat!

SAM: Okay, trust me, if I’m right with this, I’m waaaay better off working with stones.

BROTHER: [exhales] Well, alright then… My shift starts in half an hour. I’ve got no clock for this nonsense.

FATHER: I’ll help you, son.

MOTHER: Oh, Sam, don’t mind your father and brother… You know how they are, less malleable than quartzstone. I for one think your pict— are very pretty. And I think they have the potential to capture Admin’s good words, I really do. Please continue with your project.

SAM: Thanks Mom. But it’s pointless. I mean, you knew what the sequence was supposed to depict by heart, yet you weren’t able to understand it. How can I expect anyone else will?

MOTHER: Well why don’t you ask that Connie lass? Weren’t you supposed to meet up with her tonight?

SAM: Shalestones! That’s today at the millhouse! I gotta go!


NARRATOR: Finding love takes work; keeping it even more so. And in both cases, success is not guaranteed. But that's precisely what makes it so precious.

SAM: Hi!

CONNIE: There you are!

SAM: Hello!

CONNIE: I was beginning to think you forgot about our arrangement.

SAM: [winded] Sorry, I just got little… Got a little lost!

CONNIE: You got lost in Simulon?

SAM: [catching his breath] No, I got lost in time.

CONNIE: [chuckles] We all lose against time. SysAdmin said so herself.

SAM: Did she?

CONNIE: Well, not exactly. But how else to explain what happened to her?

SAM: At least her words remain with us.

CONNIE: She did have a way with words, didn’t she? There are many quotes in the Manual that are not only useful, but that I find beautiful in their own right.

SAM: Would you – do you mind, maybe sharing, sharing one with me?

CONNIE: Oh, okay. I’m personally partial to the beginning of Section 3, Chapter IV - also known as the introduction to chickens…

In the tapestry of Simulon’s aviary ranks, no bird stands out like the humble chicken. With their pliant nature, chickens emerge not merely as creatures of utility but as soothing companions. Additionally, their feathers make an excellent pillow filling, literally supporting your dreams.

SAM: Wow… “Supporting your dreams.” What a grade A turn of phrase... It actually reminds me of the intro to masonry section of my own chapter.

CONNIE: Oh really?

SAM: Aha.

CONNIE: Do you think you could teach it to me?

SAM: For sure.

Rock is the best friend of man. It is used to provide cover, which is a need greater than hunger or thirst, for a person will survive a hot day without water, but will not survive a cold night without shelter.

CONNIE: It is a lovely sentiment. But, I’d argue that rock is not the best friend of a man.

SAM: No?

CONNIE: No - I mean, sure, it is used to provide shelter, but there is another way to survive a cold night…

SAM: And how’s that?

CONNIE: Well, to share the warmth of your body with the body of someone else.

SAM: [awkwardly] Yeah… I… I guess our good Admin missed out on that particularity…

CONNIE: You know, I was thinking, we’d make a good couple you and me…

SAM: Yeah?

CONNIE: Well absolutely. I mean, after all, I know all about the birds, and you know all about the bees…

SAM: I – I do love birds, especially… With potatoes especially. So soft…

CONNIE: Well, I heard the opposite of you Mason guys.

SAM: The — the opposite?

CONNIE: I heard that you’re rock hard.

SAM: Funny you mention rocks! I was actually working on retaining Admin’s words the whole week! Basically I was trying to model the Manual in stone, hm?

CONNIE: O – Okay… Why?

SAM: So, so we wouldn’t have to rely on the Witnesses.

CONNIE: Who are we going to rely on but on each other?

SAM: I mean, sure — sure, I agree with you in principle, but rocks are just more… More reliable, I guess?

CONNIE: Don’t you think that if Admin wanted us to retain her words in any other way, she would have done it herself?

SAM: Yes but…

CONNIE: Yes but what?

SAM: What if three days just wasn’t enough to do it all herself?

CONNIE: I still don’t see what this has got to do with rocks… I mean, my family memorized a passage on birds, but you don't see me trying to teach Admin's words to crows! …Anyway, I’ve got to go…

SAM: Already?

CONNIE: Yes! I’ve got to take care of the chickens. …I don’t need one more in the fold.


NARRATOR: Sam returned home that night with a feeling in his throat he did not recognize. If pressed, he would have described it as a mixture of regret, embarrassment, and pain. He had found himself in the dreaded incompetence gap - not knowing enough to know how to succeed, but knowing enough to know he failed. To stave off the feeling of inadequacy, he buried himself even deeper into sequential art, going through the problem in circles again and again, like a whetstone sharpening an axe. The thing is, stonemasons don’t really have a use for an axe. To hack away at a piece of rock would be as futile as to try to grind down a tree. You need the right tool for a job… Which is how he slowly realized his whole approach was wrong.

His initial idea was to depict the instructions realistically. Instead, he should have simplified them, trying to capture their essence in a few simple lines. So he set out to come up with pictorial representations of each word in his section of the Manual.

Six months later, it was time for another demo.

SAM: Okay, remember how last year, I showed you sequential art… Everybody remember what I’m talking about?

MOTHER: Yes, we do sweetie.

BROTHER: Yeah yeah yeah, we know, unfortunately, yes.

FATHER: Continue.

SAM: I realized the mistake I made then was expecting you to be able to derive meaning from the images. So what I’ve been doing for the last six months was trying to imbue meaning into the images.

BROTHER: Oh come on, Sam, please, bury it man!

FATHER: Let your brother talk!

SAM: Thank you, Dad. So, what you’re now looking at in front of you are simplified pictures. Or, as I’ve been calling them, simples!

MOTHER: Simples?

SAM: Yeah! Each word is represented through its own unique simple.

FATHER: So what words are these simples of?

SAM: It’s the opening line of Materials! “Rock is the best friend of man”. See this last simple? It means “man”. So I reduced it to a stick figure of a human being. However, if you put a headscarf on it, then it means a “woman”.

FATHER: Why a headscarf?

SAM: Because Mom’s always wearing headscarves.

MOTHER: Oh, that’s sweet!

BROTHER: That’s stupid!

FATHER: Let your brother finish!

SAM: So here we see the simple for the word “friend” - it’s represented by two stick figures connected at the hips. The same picture crossed out means “an enemy”.

MOTHER: Oh Sam, you shouldn’t have simples for bad words! Only nice and happy ones!

SAM: Ok, we can discuss that later, Mom… But then you’ll like the simple for “rock”, which is represented by the stylized geometrical shape of pyrite, the most beautiful of all the rocks.

FATHER: And what are these squiggly lines?

SAM: Yeah, that. So, those represent words for, like “is”, “the”, “of”... They don’t really occur in nature, so I opted for more an abstract approach…

BROTHER: Wow, I really gotta hand it to you brother… I thought what you’ve shown us last time was dumb, but what you’ve shown us this time is EVEN DUMBER!

SAM: Okay, brother… Well people call dumb anything they don't understand!

BROTHER: And tell me, do you understand how many words there are?

SAM: Like, I dunno… Somewhere around 500?

FATHER: There must be more than that… 5000 or so!

MOTHER: Try 50,000.

BROTHER: The answer is TOO MANY! …And what about names?

SAM: What about names?

BROTHER: If you take names into account the number of words is basically infinite! Are we to memorize infinite pictures, tell me Sam, are we?

SAM: There are no names in the Manual. In fact, we would only need a limited set of simples to even describe it, because not all words appear in it!

FATHER: Sure they do, it contains the entirety of knowledge!

SAM: Okay, I’ll clean the house for a week if any of the Manual’s sections mention the word “cock”.

MOTHER: A fair point.

SAM: Thank you.

FATHER: Okay, then the question becomes do you know how many words there are in the Manual?

SAM: I could try to come up with a rough estimate.

BROTHER: Okay, come up with a rough estimate while you clean the house.

SAM: Yeah? Why?

BROTHER: “For chickens, the ratio on the farm should be 20 to 4, which is to say five hens per each cock”. Section 4 of Chapter IV. Comely Connie taught me that.

MOTHER: Oh, did she?

SAM: Yeah? …When were you talking to Comely Connie?

BROTHER: Dunno… Don’t blame me for talking to her, with you hunkered down like a hermit for the last six months!

SAM: …And what were you doing with her?

BROTHER: I can tell you what I didn’t do - nag her with stone pictures!


MOTHER: Oh, Sam…

SAM: …I’m sorry mum… I shouldn’t have said that… I’m sorry, brother…

BROTHER: You know what, Sam? You were right… You are better off working with stones.


NARRATOR: And work the stones he did. What does a man who has turned away his loved ones turn to, but work?

Sam sat down to perform a rough calculation of how many simples he would need to represent all the words found in the Manual. He first counted the number of unique words in his family sections. Then, he calculated how many of them are unique on average. Lastly, he multiplied this number with the total number of sections. Each operation filled him with more apprehension. After performing the last step, the apprehension gave way to dread.

Ten thousand. The Manual comprised of approximately 10,000 unique words.

Faced with an impossible task, Sam had only two options. The first was to accept the situation; the second was to make it possible.


SAM: Sweet mother of basalt! Father! You startled me!

FATHER: Sorry son, but I need you to help me rotate the boulder in the lower valley.

SAM: Are you crazy? It weighs over 5 tonnes!

FATHER: Which is precisely why I need your help!

SAM: Don’t you have that other son you can exploit?

FATHER: “My other son” is working on the site of the future Simulon general hospital!

SAM: Well I’m working on Simulon’s future! In general!

FATHER: Sam, you’re drawing on rocks.

SAM: …Look, Dad, I know you don’t get what I’m striving to achieve here, and that’s fine. But trust me when I say I’m busy. I’ve got 10,000 simples to come up with! Well, 7000 to be precise - ‘cos I already created 3000 of them!

FATHER: That’s precisely what makes me worried.

SAM: What does that mean?

FATHER: I mean if you had invested this much effort into cheese you would have convinced yourself that cheddar cures cancer! Why are you so certain that the right way to do this is through rocks? What if your approach ends up being wrong?

SAM: Well, maybe it’s better to misspend a life than to not spend it!

FATHER: That’s your promise? A misspent life?

SAM: Promise? I wasn’t aware I made any promises!

FATHER: There are promises one makes without speaking... We are all born with a debt. A debt to our ancestors. We repay it by becoming ancestors ourselves. Forming a line of our people stretching from the beginning to the end... …Instead you’ve huddled yourself in this workshop without seeing a soul for months! It can’t be good for you, son.

SAM: Well, we can't all focus solely on our own benefit, can we now?

FATHER: [exhales] Look, will you help me rotate the boulder or not?

SAM: I will. Tomorrow. Okay?

FATHER: Son, I thought you were a stonemason, not a, a… A wordmason.


NARRATOR: Working with rocks, masons become hard themselves. Every day teaches them that results are achieved by force. The resulting traits can be positive, like tenacity and resilience. It also however makes them inaccessible and obstinate.

[banging on the doors]


[unlocking of doors]

SAM: Terry? Goodness gravel, what’s the matter?


SAM: He’s at the hospital site… Mom, I don’t know… What’s this all about, Terry?

TERRY: It’s your father... It’s your father... It’s your father, Sam... It’s your father! I went to the valley to – I went to the valley to return his lump hammer!

SAM: Well he’s not there, I told him we’ll go down there tomorrow to rotate the granite together.

TERRY: No, no, no, no! He must – he must have gone to do it alone!

SAM: Alone..? What do you mean alone?

TERRY: I saw him, Sam… I saw his… I saw his legs… The hoist… The hoist! THE HOIST MUST HAVE COLLAPSED!!!

SAM: What? No, what are you saying Terry… What are you saying?

TERRY: I’m sorry Sam… I’m so sorry… Oh Sam…

SAM: No, no… We said we’ll do it together…

TERRY: Sammy, Sam, he was such a good man.

SAM: Noooo!

TERRY: Sam, I’m so sorry… Sam…



MOTHER: That was such a beautiful eulogy... Your father would have loved it.

BROTHER: Winning the best eulogy prize is not exactly a victory.

MOTHER: …The entire House of Materials came… And it was nice to see friendly faces from House of Machinery… But the Houses of Medicine and Agriculture didn’t even send an envoy!

BROTHER: People have their own bricks to carry nowadays.

MOTHER: And missing bricks risk the fall of the wall. …He was right about that, you know…

BROTHER: Who was?

MOTHER: Sam. About the Houses drifting apart.

BROTHER: Forgive me if I don’t give a damn about Sam.

MOTHER: He’s your brother!

BROTHER: Sam’s a fool who cares about his rocks more than he does about any of us. If he did – if he did! – he would have helped father…

MOTHER: He’s sorry! He’s so very very sorry…

BROTHER: No, no no no… Not my concern! I don’t want to talk to him, I don’t want to see him, I don’t even want to know he EXISTS!

MOTHER: If you’re like that, you’re a selfish one!

BROTHER: So I need to tolerate his selfish behaviour, but I’m not entitled to my own?

MOTHER: Don’t make a bad situation worse!

BROTHER: The way I see it, any change now can only be for the better. [exhales] …I am leaving, mother.

MOTHER: Leaving? Leaving..? Where?

BROTHER: Beyond Simulon.

MOTHER: What...? What is there beyond Simulon?!

BROTHER: Only one way to find out.

MOTHER: You’re throwing your life away! First your father, and now you?! I can’t keep losing you like this!

BROTHER: WE’RE ALL ALREADY LOST! WE ALL DIED THE DAY ADMIN LEFT US! We’re just waiting for our turn to be buried…

MOTHER: At least say goodbye to your brother…

BROTHER: I just did. He’s listening to us through the door.


NARRATOR: So he was. Ever since the day father died, Sam meandered around aimlessly, like a ghost haunting his own house. It was as if events he was taking part in were happening to someone else, with him merely an observer. Months passed before he regained control of his cognitive functions. By that time his brother was long gone, having crossed the border few others have, none of whom returned. His mother traversed a similar journey, but in her mind. It’s doubtful either she or Sam would have made it through this period were it not for one special person.

CONNIE: Sheep are adept at thriving in diverse environments where other livestock falter. Their utility extends far beyond their provision of sustenance in the form of meat, for they are also —

SAM: — an indispensable source of wool, which will be the topic of the next section.

CONNIE: Grade A.

SAM: Thanks Connie. I really mean that. Thank you for everything.

CONNIE: You’re welcome.

SAM: …Have you… Have you ever noticed there’s nothing in the Manual about ethics?

CONNIE: Ethics?

SAM: Like, it’s all about practicalities. There are no moral rules Admin left for us to follow.

CONNIE: Well, why would there be? We lived in a perfect world. Our task was simply to keep it that way.

SAM: Or… Maybe she wanted us to figure these things out ourselves…

CONNIE: Hm… I don’t know… Seems to me human ingenuity is mostly used to outsmart the fellow man. I believe most people underestimate the value of fitting in instead of pretending they know better than everybody else. We need less cleverness and more humility.

SAM: Yeah… No, you’re right…. I just… Gee, I just have this constant feeling of a loss. …Actually, “loss” is not exactly the word, because I feel this way both about the things we had, but also about things we never did. So not only feeling that the best days are behind us, but also that this time — the time now — it’s going to be better than anything that awaits the world.

CONNIE: That's a terrible feeling to live by.

SAM: Yeah. That's why I'm trying to change it.

CONNIE: What, your feelings?

SAM: The world.

CONNIE: [exhales] Look, Sam, I think that you are very smart, and I admire your audacity… But in a battle between you and the world, there can only be one outcome.

SAM: I understand where you’re coming from and usually – usually – I would agree with you. But I’ve already devised over 5000 simples, which means I’m more than half way there to committing the Manual to stone for perpetuity, and then it’s just a matter of time before we as a —

CONNIE: SAM! Listen to me carefully. You need to make a decision. A decision that you’ll have to honour your whole life…

SAM: And what’s that?

CONNIE: Sam, I want to be with you!

SAM: I… I want to be with you too, Connie.

CONNIE: I want to be with you, and not your rocks. Look, I don’t know much about morality laws, but I do know that if all of us would just love everybody else, then each of us would own the world. So the decision that you need to make is simple.

SAM: Which one?

CONNIE: Do you want to be free as a bird, or do you wanna flock together?


NARRATOR: The words long reverberated through Sam’s head. He considered the future, and the stakes.

Human memory being frail, SysAdmin’s knowledge can be lost.

Human soul being fallible, SysAdmin’s knowledge can be corrupted.

Human desires being infinite, SysAdmin’s knowledge can be monopolized.

He had seen all three start to occur. And despite devoting all his acuity to the matter, he was not able to produce a way for The Good One’s message to be preserved intact.

So he devised one last simple. It was based on a sketch of his face, one eye hopelessly staring askance. He decided it should denote “despair”.

And then he smashed all the stone tablets with a hammer.


SAM: Who’s my little jaspelite? Who is?


SAM: That’s right! Mimi! You’re my little jaspelite!

NARRATOR: Ten years have passed since Sam gave up on trying to commit System Administrator’s words to stone. In a decade, the number of Witnesses dwindled from nearly 4000, to less than 3500. Among the departed, two were more than a statistic. His mother joined his father, laying her head next to his on the marble pillow of eternity. Sam thought of them often, with a sense of gratitude he had not known until he became a parent himself.

SAM: What do you got on your face, why do you always get this on your face you messy little limestone!

CONNIE: Sam… SAM! Quit playing with Miriam and come help me with the laundry!

SAM: Shalestones, laundry again? …Sorry little jaspelite, papa’s got to work… I’M COMING!

CONNIE: Fowl play! We ran all out of soap again…

SAM: Hey, at least we can make our own. We’ve got potash, your family can provide the animal fat… Others are not so lucky.

CONNIE: Well, we’ve got only ourselves to fault. Houses have everything but refuse to share so no one has anything… By the wings of the albatross, never in a million years did I think that Gathering Day would become laundry day…

NARRATOR: The shortest word is also the most dangerous - I. Admin taught that every deliberation must consider the impact on the seventh generation; people of Simulon no longer thought about their neighbours, let alone about those who are yet to come. Those like their daughter Miriam, born in the 8th year post Admin.

SAM: Oh oh! You’ve found me! Who did you find?


SAM: That’s right, it’s papa! Can you say papa?


SAM: It’s pa-pa! Come on, Mimi, say it. Say who do you like the most in the whole wide world.


SAM: No, it’s “pa”! I mean “papa”! …Okay, fine, tell you what, say who do you like the second most in the world.



MIMI: [laughs]

SAM: Okay, look, the exact order on the top charts is irrelevant! What’s important is for you to pronounce the words properly. Which means saying the whole word. No “ma” but “mama”! No “pa” – you say it twice – “papa”. Not “do” but —

Do… G… Hm.

NARRATOR: Ten years ago, Sam put out the fire propelling him in his endeavour. But the flame was never truly extinguished. It was merely smouldering. And now, after a decade of a slow burn, it was exposed to oxygen. Resulting in a blazing bonfire.

With sequential art, he tried to make pictures from concepts. When that failed, he moved onto simples, trying to make pictures from words. But what if he were to try to make pictures out of sounds?

Consider the words "bag", "big", "bog", “beg”, and "bug". All five of them can be broken down into three sounds. The first and last sounds are the same: [b] and [g]. It’s the second sound that gives them their distinct meaning. What Sam realized was that this meant all words were constructed from the same set of sounds. And unlike the number of words themselves, the number of sounds words are composed of had to be limited. All he had to do, was identify them and illustrate them.

He returned to the workshop, practically barricading himself in it. He failed to show up to public works and turned down all private commissions, endangering his family’s survival. Not materially; Sam, Connie, and Mimi lived in line with Simulon’s average, which is to say they were not much worse off than everybody else. But it’s not the material circumstances that jeopardised the family’s future. People are quick to equate their family’s prospects with their socioeconomic status, when too often it is precisely the chasing of said status that harms the family.


[banging on doors]

CONNIE: Sam! Open the doors, Sam!

[opening of doors]

SAM: Connie?

CONNIE: Good, you remember my name.

SAM: What’s this about?

CONNIE: Are you ducking kidding me..? What do you think this is about? Let’s just stop for one moment and think “hmmm, what could this possibly be about”?

SAM: … My rocks?

CONNIE: Yes! It’s about your rocks! Or rather it’s about everything except your rocks! Ten years ago I asked you to make a decision. Do you even remember it?

SAM: … To flock together.

CONNIE: That’s right… “Flock”, not “rock”. I know, easy mistake to make.

SAM: Does this lead anywhere?

CONNIE: You know, I have been asking myself the same question… I can tell you where I would like it to lead.

SAM: Where?

CONNIE: With you leaving the workshop!

SAM: No, I can’t just yet… I had a breakthrough.

CONNIE: Oh really, you had a breakthrough? From where I’m standing it looks more like a breakdown!

SAM: Connie…

CONNIE: Do not “Connie” me, Sam! I can see you. You’re miserable!

SAM: I am… I… Look... There is pursuing one's happiness, and submitting to one's duty, and there’s an importance —

CONNIE: Recording Admin’s words is not your duty!

SAM: Maybe it's not. But there's no one else who’s gonna make good on it!

CONNIE: There's no one else for Miriam either! Submit to her! Sam, please, submit to us!

SAM: This undertaking is for you! For you and for everyone else in Simulon!

CONNIE: Well Mimi doesn’t need a father who does great things for Simulon. She needs a father who does great things for his daughter!

SAM: That is what I’m telling you - by doing good things for Simulon, I am doing good for my daughter! I was born too late to become a Witness to our Great Administrator. But perhaps not too late to stop the Houses from drifting further and further away from each other!

CONNIE: We are drifting further away from each other! And for what? Some abstract promise of a better future?

SAM: Without this abstract promise of a better future, what else is there?

CONNIE: Well I need a better present!!! Sam, I need things to be better now with us… [cries] …Sam, I’m going back to my parents.

SAM: What?


SAM: Connie, no, you don’t have to do that…

CONNIE: I have to!

SAM: No you don’t.

CONNIE: I have to!! What else is left for me here? Unlike you, I need a family…

SAM: [tearful] I need a family too! A family that believes in what I do! A family that cares about me! Something my mother, my father, my brother they never did! Connie I thought that would be us!

CONNIE: [tearful] Are you kidding me..? I do care about you. …But have you ever stopped to consider that maybe we all acted the way that we did not because we don’t care about you, but precisely because we do? I do.

SAM: You… You need to go back to your parents… And I respect that. I… I need to go back to my workshop.

CONNIE: Okay… You go back to your workshop… Selfish Sam.

NARRATOR: He would remain there for seven years.


NARRATOR: It had been almost two decades since System Administrator's departure. Gathering Day turned from a weekly event into an annual occurrence, making it the only day in the year that the representatives from all six Houses would get together. With less and less of the original Witnesses around, leaders of the Houses were increasingly distorting SysAdmin’s words to fit their ends, turning the instructions on how to survive into rules dictating how to live. This is to say, the time to record SysAdmin's true teachings was quickly running out.


SAM: Coming!

[door opening]

SAM: Terry!

TERRY: Hi Sam.

SAM: Sorry, I wasn’t expecting you. I thought it was Connie coming to drop off Mimi.

TERRY: Then I come as a disappointment.

SAM: Nonsense, nonsense, my eyes are always happy to see you. My eye.

TERRY: [chuckles] Do you remember, many years ago, how I made fun of your eye and your brother almost turned me into mortar?

SAM: Yeah... You know, it’s funny, he and I were always at war when it came to words and such… But at the same time we’d do anything for each other.

TERRY: So which are more important then?

SAM: What do you mean?

TERRY: Actions or words?

SAM: …I get that you’re trying to imply it’s actions, but… I don’t know, Terry… I mean, Mimi’s dog acts — all animals do — what good does it do for them, if they cannot share what they think?

TERRY: People didn’t start talking to share their thoughts. They started talking to conceal them.

SAM: [chuckles] Or maybe they started talking to conceal they have no thoughts.

TERRY: That’s definitely a plausible theory as well. You were always a smart lad.

SAM: Yeah… I don’t know. My wife left me… I see my daughter an hour a day - is that the sign of an intelligent man? I spent years chiselling stone tablets.

TERRY: Look son, a person can pretend to be courageous; they can pretend to be righteous; but they cannot pretend to be smart. …Besides, sometimes it's better to do something stupid than to not do anything! Fate does not befall us based on our actions – it does befall us based on our inactions.

SAM: Hmm… Terry, I… I think I’m ready.

TERRY: Ready for what?

SAM: Ready to unveil my ideas in front of the leaders of the Houses.

TERRY: Come on… Have you lost your marble? No no no no no no, that’s not a good idea!

SAM: What do you mean that’s not a good idea? You just said it's better to do something stupid than to not do anything!

TERRY: There’s a difference between being stupid and stupid!

SAM: I thought you were here to give me a pep talk!

TERRY: I just came for a talk, no pep! …Sam, come on now, you're poking a long snake with a short stick… Each of these people could start a fight in an empty room; imagine what happens when you put them in a room together! I hate the thought of you standing against all of them on your own.

SAM: Well, it’s a good thing I won’t be on my own then.


[unruly din]

LEADER OF MEDICINE: …And I’m telling you, as the leader of House of Medicine, I cannot allow for you Animal people to treat your beasts with remedies that SysAdmin rightfully bestowed upon my House to practice and safeguard!

LEADER OF ANIMAL HUSBANDRY: Like all Admin’s creatures doctors need to eat… Which is going to be substantially harder without our “beasts”.

LEADER OF AGRICULTURE: And tell us, dear Animal husbandry leader, how exactly will you feed your livestock without the produce provided by my House of Agriculture..?

LEADER OF MATERIALS: And how will all of you build your hospitals, stables, and abattoirs without help from Materials?

[heavy doors open]

SAM: Greetings, esteemed leaders of the Houses.

LEADER OF AGRICULTURE: Would you look at that… Isn’t it the most elusive man in Simulon!

LEADER OF MACHINERY: You must admit, it’s sometimes easy to forget you live in Simulon.

SAM: I understand the sentiment. I myself often think we’ve all forgotten to live in Simulon. I hope you don’t mind if I carve this rock as we speak?

LEADER OF MEDICINE: Not at all. A repetitive action can be soothing for the nerves. We often advise it to our agitated patients.

SAM: Actually, I’m afraid you are the ones who might feel agitated by the rock.

LEADER OF MEDICINE: By that small rock? There is no injury it could cause that my House couldn’t heal!

LEADER OF MACHINERY: Why don’t you tell us what this is all about? You said you wish to discuss a matter of uttermost importance.

SAM: Indeed. We just need one more person to join us… MIRIAM! … MIMI! …Seems she can’t hear me. Please, could someone call my daughter and let her in?

LEADER OF AGRICULTURE: Your daughter? How old is the child?

SAM: Nine.

LEADER OF ANIMAL HUSBANDRY: And how exactly can a nine-year old further this discussion?

[opening of heavy doors]

MIMI: Hello papa.

SAM: Hello, this is my daughter Mimi. Mimi, leaders of the Houses. Tell us, you didn’t happen to hear what grownups were talking about earlier in this room?

MIMI: No, I was waiting outside in the courtyard.

SAM: Great. These are papa’s friends, so no reason to be ashamed of anything. And they said something to papa before you joined. Could you please repeat what they said?

LEADER OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURAL WORLD: Why are you harassing the child, she just told you she didn’t hear us —

MIMI: “A repetitive action can be soothing for the nerves. We often advise it to our agitated patients.”

LEADER OF MEDICINE: How did… How did she know that?

LEADER OF MATERIALS: Silence! Silence in the hall!

SAM: Now, this other friend of papa’s said something else. Could you tell us exactly what?

MIMI: “By that small rock? There is no injury it could cause that my house couldn’t heal.”

LEADER OF ANIMAL HUSBANDRY: This is… This is magic!

LEADER OF MATERIALS: I SAID SILENCE! …The answer is simple, the child must have overheard us!

SAM: My friends, what you’re witnessing isn’t magic. What you’ve just seen is much more powerful. It’s markery.


SAM: As you were speaking, I was making small markings on the surface of this rock. This way I drew the sound of your words. I taught Mimi to recognize these markings and this is how she was able to reassemble them into sounds.

LEADER OF MEDICINE: This is preposterous… It is but a trick, a duplicity designed to fool us!

SAM: My daughter and I are willing to undergo as many controlled tests as you require to be certain we’re not trying to deceive you. In fact, you could say that setting the record straight is precisely why I’m here. For you see, I designed this system to make a permanent record of the Manual.


LEADER OF MACHINERY: So you’re saying you can use this contraption to carve the words of SysAdmin herself?

SAM: Correct. My primary goal was to ensure Admin’s knowledge could not be forgotten, or twisted, or kept to oneself. Markings perform this task admirably. But — as Mimi and myself just demonstrated — they also make it possible to commit any words to stone. Enabling us to record our discoveries, our feelings, our stories. Yes, markings can bring us closer to System Administrator. But they can also bring us closer to each other.

LEADER OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURAL WORLD: If I understand correctly, this means that these “markings” live separately from the speaker, no?

SAM: Correct.

LEADER OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURAL WORLD: Which would also mean they could capture words of people who are no longer alive, right?

SAM: That is indeed the case, yes.

LEADER OF UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURAL WORLD: So you admit this is a way to talk to the dead? Leaders of the Houses, what we’re seeing before us is not a trick - it’s witchcraft!

SAM: The dead are dead, and markings unfortunately cannot change this. What they can do is save thoughts of people who are no longer with us; and in turn save our own thoughts for posterity. With markings we’re no longer confined to the present, but we have a way to connect with people of the past and people of the future.

LEADER OF AGRICULTURE: But markings can be scraped off the rock as easily as you’ve carved them onto it!

SAM: Mimi can now do more than merely enunciate my markings. She can also duplicate them. Which is to say, create an identical record of my words. And duplicated markings can be duplicated again by anyone who is skilled in the art of markmaking. Markings aren’t only a way to catalogue knowledge - they’re a way to multiply it.

LEADER OF ANIMAL HUSBANDRY: You mean multiply and steal other people’s thoughts!

SAM: Steal? My dear leader, just the contrary! If someone duplicated your thought, you didn’t lose it - it actually increased. There are no losers with markings, and I’m not here to use this power to challenge you. I’m here to share it with you.


SAM: That’s right. After all, if a nine year old child can master this skill, so can you. And you can yield the incredible powers it bestows!

LEADER OF MEDICINE: What’s the catch though? If there’s anything we’ve come to expect, it’s that every benefit comes with a tradeoff.

LEADER OF MATERIALS: Indeed. What’s the cost of this?

SAM: None. Nothing for you at least. It cost me my father, my wife, and my brother… …But this is where the tally stops. It is a price I gladly pay for the good of my daughter - and for the good of all of Simulon’s children.

…We are all born with a debt…

…A debt to our ancestors…

…We repay it by becoming ancestors ourselves…

…Forming a line of our people, stretching from the beginning to the end…

…Like a line of words, etched in stone.

NARRATOR: 48 markings were enough to capture the sounds of Simulon’s language and were easy for people to learn, meaning the new skill spread quickly. True to Sam’s prediction, it changed society in profound ways. And it changed his personal standing, turning him from an outcast to a dignitary. Not that it affected Sam’s experience much. Content to share the craft of markmaking with anyone who asked, he lived a quiet, solitary life, day after day, decade after decade.

[ding dong]

SAM (OLD): Coming!

[door opening]

SAM (OLD): Yes?

BROTHER (OLD): Is this… Is this Sam?

SAM (OLD): It is. Can I help you?

BROTHER (OLD): Sam, it’s me. Your brother.

SAM (OLD): Pfff… My brother went beyond Simulon’s borders 50 years ago…

BROTHER (OLD): Fifty two, actually.

SAM (OLD): Brother… Brother… Brother! …Where have you been? Who did you meet? And what have you seen? Please, please come in! Come in!

BROTHER (OLD): Thank you.

[doors close]

SAM (OLD): So, when did you come back?

BROTHER (OLD): This morning. You’re the first person I’ve come to.

SAM (OLD): You returned alone?

BROTHER (OLD): I left on my own, and I came back on my own… I do however carry many many stories… But first… What about you? What happened to you after I left?

SAM (OLD): Oh my, lemme see… Connie! You remember Connie? Well she and I got married…


SAM (OLD): …And we separated…

BROTHER (OLD): Shalestones!

SAM (OLD): But we have a daughter! Mimi. Pyrite of my life... She lives on the second floor with her husband and her son…

BROTHER (OLD): Where our parents used to live?

SAM (OLD): …Mother passed away a few years after you left. After father passed away… You left… And… I wasn’t really there all the time… There was not much joy left in her life… But then again, there was really not a lot of joy in Simulon back then.


BROTHER (OLD): I… I knew it was… Inevitable. But hearing it, I… It still… Still…

SAM (OLD): I know how you feel… I know. I feel the same.

BROTHER (OLD): [clears throat] I see they’re erecting a giant monument in our SysAdmin’s honour.

SAM (OLD): Yeah, a giant cube. Give it another few centuries and they might actually finish the damned thing!

BROTHER (OLD): I saw it, Sam. I saw the Manual as they were setting it in!

SAM (OLD): Oh, much more has been committed to stone than just the Manual. Walls and rocks everywhere carry silly jokes, sappy poems, salacious remarks… And on very rare occasions, one can even stumble upon something genuinely smart!

BROTHER (OLD): [chuckles] You’re being cynical, brother. Simulon I found is not Simulon I left. For the first time ever, the young know more than the old. And I suspect it has to do with what you’ve built.

SAM (OLD): I am not a builder! You know that much about me! [laughter] …All I did was provide the tools.

BROTHER (OLD): Would you consider providing them to your brother as well?

SAM (OLD): You’re 73 and I’m 70 – and sick!

BROTHER (OLD): Well, we better start then.

SAM (OLD): [chuckles] We better do. …After all, you’re carrying many many stories. …You know, I’ve been working on something new now. Something that could have kept us together even though we were apart all those years.

BROTHER (OLD): What are you talking about?

SAM (OLD): Right now, markings allow us to transcend time. I’m trying to also make them traverse space.


SAM (OLD): Well, stone slabs are heavy. But were they lighter, one could carry them and the words they contain from one place to another, easily transmitting information that way!

BROTHER (OLD): So a speaker might stay in place, and his thoughts spread regardless?

SAM (OLD): Precisely. I mean, there’s no reason why markings could not be applied to a different surface. I’m currently experimenting with animal hides and various plant-based pigments…

BROTHER (OLD): That’s incredible…

SAM (OLD): Or perhaps it will be the other way around! The pigment might end up having an animal origin, and there are plants whose dried leaves might make an exceptionally suitable surface.

BROTHER (OLD): [good natured hearty laugh] First rocks and now leaves..? Oh Sam, you’re talking nonsense now!

SAM (OLD): [soft laugh] I guess I am, brother… I guess I am.


NARRATOR: All of this happened many thousands of years ago.

The cube has been long finished, gracing the horizon with its splendour.

In its inner chamber, 500 slabs of pitch black obsidian tablets adorn the four walls.

Etched on them is a permanent account of the Manual, noting down our dearly missed System Administrator’s words.

Protected and safe, it will last as long as Simulon.

The chamber’s perfect symmetry is disrupted by but one simple garnish.

In a corner, there’s a heavy granite stone.

Above it, a slab of white marble stands tall.

Etched on it are 17 markings.

𐑣𐑦𐑮 𐑤𐑭𐑘𐑟 𐑕𐑨𐑥. 𐑣𐑰 𐑥𐑱𐑛 𐑞𐑩 𐑮𐑭𐑒𐑕 𐑑𐑪𐑒.

Based on a true story of Sequoyah — a Native American who in 1821 independently created a system to make reading and writing Cherokee language possible.

His creation unified a forcibly divided nation. In just a few decades, Cherokee literacy rate reached almost 100%, surpassing that of surrounding European-American settlers.

His achievement was one of the few times that an individual who was a member of a pre-literate group came up with an original writing system.

[The Program main theme]

ANNOUNCER: This episode of The Program was made by 16 people: Stephan Linton, Jacquelin Ainsworth, Adrian Pavone, Ray James, Jennifer Vallace, Scott Morgan, Shelby Handley, Sofia Valenciuk, Chance Miller, Franz Robinow, Darius Rathe, J.D. Kaye, and IMS. Special thanks to Pat Fry, Joy Juckes, Kristi Boulton, Finlay Stephenson, Justin Hay, and Dan Stopnicki. Music by Christien Ledroit, performed by the Bach Elgar choir under the direction of Alexander Cann. Full list of performers and additional credits at Celebrate the invention of writing by writing us a nice review, or by leaving a comment on our socials. You’ll find the links in the shownotes.


Ivan Mirko S.


Jennifer Vallance
Adrian Pavone
Darius Rathe


NARRATOR - Stephan Linton (Mandy)
SYSADMIN - Jacqueline Ainsworth (website)
SAM - Adrian Pavone (imdb)
FATHER - Ray James (website)
MOTHER - Jennifer Vallace (imdb)
BROTHER - Darius Rathe (imdb)
COMELY CONNIE - Shelby Handley (Mandy)
MIMI - Sofia Valenciuk
SAM (OLD) - J.D. Kaye (website)
BROTHER (OLD) - Franz Robinow (
LEADER OF AGRICULTURE - Chance Miller (website)
LEADER OF MEDICINE - Pat Fry (website)
LEADER OF MATERIALS - Kristi Boulton (website)
LEADER OF MACHINERY - Finlay Stephenson (website)


Christien Ledroit (website)


the Bach Elgar choir


Alexander Cann


Daniel Stopnicki
Krisinda Valenciuk
Stef Ledroit
Chloe Ledroit


original art by Carlos Costa

Courtesy of Adriane Reesey