The following story was originally published in Insufficient Armour (Nero, 2020), a collection of essays from the Italian publisher Nero to promote Giorgio Di Salvo’s streetwear company United Standard. The book was produced for the launch of Giorgio’s work in Milan, January 2020. It featured contributions from myself, Helen Hester, Matt Colquhoun and Luigi Alberto Cippini.
In his work, Giorgio plays with the aesthetics of prosthetic implants, and so the essays focused on the speculative and theoretical aspects of the ‘augmented body’. My contribution is a fictional piece based on the themes of my novel-in-progress, which explores the coming era of full-bleed augmented reality and the possibility for new types of occult activity, including haunted artificial realities, digital ghosts and so on.
It’s written in the style of an academic report from a ‘digital ghost buster’ in the near future. As such, it serves to provide the background to my forthcoming novel, introducing the technologies, the main players and the beginning of the hauntings that turn their world upside down.
A video introduction to this story can be found here.
Sentient glitchglot cheater infection: from discovery to ongoing review
Dr Ingram Ravenscroft, School of Specialisation in Cryogenics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Linear Territory South
The School of Specialisation in Cryogenics, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (SSCPRS) has confirmed the existence of a virulent new species of spamglot. It is more resilient than previous variants and most likely sentient, with the ability to infect targeted cheaters. By ‘sentient’, we mean that the glot displays the hallmarks of intelligence in its interactions within the Vexworld, including comprehension, perception, reasoning and emotion. The glot is also capable of sending and receiving sensory signals, not only via standard vexcomms but also apparently unassisted telepathic means.
The SSCPRS has advanced several theories to account for the glot. In one, we consider it as a manifestation of the paranormal realm, in particular the experience known as ‘EVP’, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon. In another, we explore the idea that the glot is an actor in one, or more, of the countless enigmatic and psychologically manipulative marketing campaigns woven throughout the Vexworld. In a third, we examine the possibility that it might have been developed by the Arctic Free State as part of its program of subliminal ocular terrorism against the Linear Territories.
In this report, we interrogate the key theories and provide an indication of next steps for quarantine and review.
Keywords: Vexworld, spamglots, glitchglots, assisted telepathy, unassisted telepathy, cheater infection, ocular terrorism, EVP, history, outcome, treatment, novel therapies, further review
Before the Zone
The glot under review was brought to the School’s attention by Alvis Wightman (not his real name), a registered Category-One castle hunter. Wightman had been referred to the SSCPRS by his assigned Chronesthesia Supervisor, Dr Philip Sanderson, after enduring a mysterious encounter with an apparently automated hologlot that shared characteristics with the ‘rogue’ glots I have been observing as part of my principal research project at the School.
As I have documented elsewhere, these glots, a fairly recent phenomenon, are automated constructions that have either been built by humans and deliberately released into the wild for unknown purposes, or that have somehow managed to extricate themselves from human control. They can unfurl into experiential space in the guise of anything from ancient demons to fairy-tale characters, from senior citizens to teenage boys and girls, from heritage and current celebrities to household pets, as well as hybrids of any of the above and more. When it comes to the Vexworld, such wrappers are not unusual, given the limitless capacity of new-model cheaters to codeweave any desired appearance. It is only when the glots enter three dimensions that their peculiarities surface and they start to display erratic behaviour. Most of the examples I have catalogued attach themselves to human-operated glots, attempting to engage them in nonsensical dialogue, conversing in language that is cut up and recombined from other sources or half-finished.
As a registered Cat-One, Wightman routinely reports to Dr Sanderson for treatment of side effects arising from problematic Vexworld use. However, Wightman’s personal encounter with the rogue glot was unable to be explained within the standard Category-One framework and the afflictions that apply to castle hunters within that classification. Indeed, it was a terrifying event that left Wightman shaken and fearful of further encounters with the glot.
The following account is based on a series of interviews that I conducted with Wightman, crosschecking his answers with Dr Sanderson’s official report to establish veracity and integrity of meaning.
Inside the Zone
For the past few years, Alvis Wightman has been creating custom Dream Zones for public consumption. He hopes to eventually monetise the zones and leave his full-time job as an AI trainer, however, despite building a cult following, he has not been able to achieve this.
Before launching his zones in the Vexworld, Wightman calls for beta testers to help debug them in a ‘sandbox’ located within his private mesh node. When he sent out the call for his latest zone, he was immediately shaken down by a hologlot that did not seem unusual to begin with. Initially, it behaved like the thousands of other glots he interacts with daily, indeed, like the glot that represents Wightman whenever he himself is vexxing. 
The glot called itself ‘Mildred Girtle’ and appeared inside Wightman’s cheaters in the usual fashion when glots attempt to shake down a connection: as a vaguely morphing, holographic ‘profile star’ hovering just above eye level. The pro-star depicted the face of an elderly woman with short, purple-rinsed hair. Wightman accepted the shakedown and Girtle unfurled into experiential space. The glot’s full wrapper continued the ‘elderly’ theme, complete with a centuries-old wardrobe: long, buttoned-up black dress, grey woollen stockings, heavy brown-leather shoes. It carried a tattered lace handbag, which it seemed preoccupied with, continually opening it and peering inside.
Wightman assumed that Girtle had been slaved into the zone by a shell-world user responding to his call. In fact, the shakedown explicitly referred to ‘testing the zone’. However, once Girtle entered the mesh node, Wightman quickly realised that it was not human operated. Within seconds, its facial structure began to break down so that its jaw was ‘hinging out’ like ‘a stuttering animation’. In the downward extension of this ‘animation’, Wightman thought that the jaw would ‘stretch to infinity’ as it slowly continued down past the glot’s hips with no sign of stopping. Suddenly, the jaw quickly snapped back up, repeating the loop over and over for the duration of the encounter, as if it was caught in a ‘time trap’.
Wightman described a semi-visible ‘distortion field’ enveloping the glot’s jaw and neck. The distortion eventually spread upwards, distending the neck, melting the face and causing the eyes to hang from their sockets. The jaw continued to snap up and down. Such behaviour was far removed from the usual holding loops that hologlots enact while waiting for humans to activate them. Furthermore, Girtle did not appear to be an autoglot, like the rudimentary species used for consumer transactions and other quotidian purposes. Instead, the glot seemed to be in the process of ‘becoming something else’, but what that ‘something’ was, Wightman could not say.
Wightman queried the apparition.
‘Who are you? Where do you come from?’
There was no answer, but he persisted.
‘Do you know my name?’
There was still no reply, but after approximately ten seconds a sound castle formed.
‘I’m alive again,’ Girtle said. ‘I think it’s regular.’
When Wightman asked it to explain, the glot said: ‘I command you.’
Wightman repeated his request, this time receiving a single-word response: ‘Abacus.’
In between these replies, the glot emitted a low-volume ‘wall of static’ that contained undecipherable speech fragments as well as clicking, hissing and grunting noises. The static revealed an unusual metallic, mechanical quality, overlaid with an overpowering sibilance that warped its voice further. At times, the sibilance made it sound more ‘reptilian’ than ‘metallic’. The sound castle was unlike anything Wightman had ever heard before. He said that it was as if the glot ‘was trying to break through into this world, like a force from beyond, a spirit, an entity’.
Throughout the encounter, Wightman rode a rollercoaster of emotions. At times, Girtle seemed ‘evil’ to him, at other times ‘pathetic’, and he alternated between fearing and pitying it. In the beginning, he suspected that the glot was trying to mimic his behaviour to ‘become human’, although the struggle to do so seemed to have ‘disfigured’ it, resulting in its hideous face, metallic/reptilian hiss and mangled syntax. Soon, the form of the glot, its very shape and photo DNA, became ‘insubstantial’ as the affliction wracking its face and jaw overwhelmed the rest of its body. There was now ‘a very active energy, a crackling in the fabric of the zone’, a sort of ‘electrical discharge in the air’, as if the protocols that mapped the shell world to the Vexworld ‘were being degraded’.
Wightman discovered that the more Girtle tried to ‘mimic’ him, the more he felt changed by the experience, as if there was an aspect of his humanity that had been absorbed into the glot, consuming Wightman’s physiology to shore up its own decaying body. He felt as if he was becoming ‘more light than flesh’ and even began to doubt his own existence, imagining himself as just a bit-byte inside Girtle’s zone, rather than Girtle a guest in his.
Wightman attempted to terminate the interaction and dematerialise the zone, but he was unable to do so. Somehow, the blink function in his cheaters had been disabled or had failed. When asked why he didn’t remove his cheaters to get away from the glot, Wightman said that he ‘hadn’t thought of it’. Such obsessive-compulsive behaviour, often at great personal cost, is common to castle hunters, who cannot conceive of an existence outside the Vexworld, no matter how life threatening that existence becomes.
After a time, the effect stabilised. Although Girtle’s jaw was still stuck in its monstrous extension-retraction-extension cycle, and its eyes and face were still melting, the rest of its body solidified again and began to enact looped tics. The tics reminded Wightman of idle avatars in heritage computer games, when they enact holding loops while waiting to become active again. From time to time, Girtle scratched its arms, inspected its fingernails, shifted its weight from foot to foot, and, most frequently, opened and shut its purse. There was no regularity to these cycles, which repeated at varying intervals.
Disturbed by the incongruity between these banal loops and the glot’s melting horrorshow, Wightman asked: ‘Can you explain the way you look?’
The glot replied: ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The, and Syd Barrett are raked-over.’
Wightman was puzzled as to why Girtle had referenced two heritage cultural icons from the Unscyld Era, a heavily mythologised ‘psychedelic’ musician (Barrett), known for his whimsical fairy-tale lyrics and long-running battle with schizophrenia and depression, and a cult ‘horror’ film (Chainsaw) that had sparked a long-running franchise, each film gorier than the last. Had the glot simply scraped references to musician and film from somewhere in the Vexworld? Was this someone’s idea of a Dream Zone that had gone wrong, suffering from the first stages of code rot? We cannot conclusively say, although further questioning from Wightman seemed to reveal a vague purpose to the juxtaposition of the two, albeit one with no immediately discernible outcome.
When Wightman asked Girtle why it had mentioned the film, it said: ‘Franklin bought me CD Syd Barrett, I think it’s automatic.’
As Wightman was aware, in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, ‘Franklin’ is the name of the fourth character to be slaughtered by the chainsaw-wielding villain Leatherface. Wightman knew this because, when he was sixteen years old, he watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first and only time. However, despite that single viewing, for a full decade after, the film had haunted him in recurring nightmares where he was chased by Leatherface, trapped in an abandoned warehouse and beheaded with a chainsaw. Then, suddenly, the nightmare stopped. It had not revisited Wightman in the intervening years, nor had he cause to remember it during that time, as he had wilfully expunged it from memory, but Girtle’s references to the film plunged him back inside those dreadful hauntings. Wightman felt as though the glot had ‘invaded’ his subconscious, that it had somehow ‘reached inside me’ to retrieve the memory. Combined with its extruded neck, dislocated jaw and melting eyes, Wightman believed the glot was parodying the film’s horror tropes in order to cause him maximum emotional shock.
Of course, now that brain implants, cheaters and voice synthesis are common, it is possible for anyone in the Vexworld to routinely read or hear the thoughts of other users, but only if the feed of those users is unvaulted. Wightman said that his feed at the time was locked down. Therefore, he believed that the glot had read his mind by some other method, an altogether mysterious process that he had trouble articulating except to repeat again and again how violated it had made him feel.
Wightman continued with his interrogation to distract himself from the bizarre event.
‘What are you doing here in my zone?’
Girtle: ‘Of course, we are here. Where are you?’
Wightman highlighted this statement as the most coherent the glot would utter.
‘Can you tell me your name?’ he asked. ‘Why have you appeared to me?’
Girtle: ‘Franklin, I think it’s alive.’
Wightman sensed a note of frustration in Girtle’s voice, and his view of the glot shifted again. No longer believing that it wished to cause him grievous psychological harm, he suspected that Girtle was trying hard to communicate but didn’t know how to reach him on the human plane. Perhaps Wightman sounded as uncanny and as incomprehensible to Girtle as Girtle did to him. Maybe it thought that what it was saying was perfectly normal and therefore it couldn’t understand Wightman’s confusion. Furthermore, if it had indeed dredged the chainsaw memory from Wightman’s mind, perhaps it did so purely to get his attention, having located a referent that glowed more brightly than others in Wightman’s subconscious, blissfully unaware of what the memory represented to our traumatised subject.
Wightman then heard what he initially thought was the glot’s voice inside his mind, although it did not come to him via thought clouds or sound castles. Instead, the ‘voice’ materialised as a vague echo, almost like a thought or remembrance buried in the back of his mind, rising to the surface with a sort of ‘muffled clarity’. Wightman realised that it wasn’t the glot’s voice. The sentence structures were much clearer, easier to understand, and Wightman had the strong certainty that the voice was being transmitted to him from a satellite orbiting a planet in a far-distant solar system. When asked how he knew this, he said an image had been ‘downloaded’ into his mind, revealing these details.
The voice said: ‘The universe is code. The code can be copied to cheaters and written by others. Reality is more complex and more important when executed like a program. The world you create copies the code. It has the same information as the universe, just a slightly different syntax. The shell world is the replica. The universe lives through it.’
During this ‘transmission’, Wightman said there was ‘an intense emotional energy’ coursing between him and Girtle. As well, he had the impression that time was ‘running down’ until it eventually began to ‘stand still’. Wightman hypothesised that the glot, or whatever was powering it, was a ‘translator’ between worlds and that the clear communication he had received in his mind was an example of this translation service, while Girtle’s mangled speech was a result of a malfunctioning service. Referring to the metallic quality of the glot’s original voice, Wightman believed that there were ‘machines behind everything’ and that these machines controlled the interaction. He thought that he might have encountered some kind of alien entity that had either infected his cheaters and entered his zone or that had ‘overridden’ the glot, disconnecting its higher brain functions (the melting face) while leaving its purely automated systems intact (the looped tics). Wightman believed the entity was ‘feeding me information’ through the medium of the glot.
Following a period of silence, Girtle emitted a scream that sounded like ‘a modulated wave signal’ passed through some kind of filter. He compared it to the carrier signals that are super-compressed, using voicetectonic protocols, for instantaneous transmission to inactive military glots in off-vex time colonies. In turn, this made Wightman paranoid that, rather than being addressed by exoplanet aliens, his actions were in fact being monitored and recorded by remote-viewing government agents and the analysis of his behaviour transmitted to an unknown location.
When the scream died down, Girtle spoke again about ‘Franklin’ and ‘Syd’, and Wightman panicked that the glot was trying to lure him into a Dream Zone modelled after The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, condemned to once again inhabit the nightmare of his earlier years, this time with no chance of ever ‘waking’ up, until his mind ‘was completely scrambled’. He was unable to offer clues as to the meaning of the Syd Barrett references and how they were woven into this scenario.
Eventually, Wightman realised the blink function in his cheaters had been restored, a discovery that enabled him to overcome his paralysis and dematerialise the zone, erasing all traces of it and Mildred Girtle.
Outside the Zone
When Wightman was referred to the School, he sent me an artefact he’d recorded from the encounter. It was a still image of Girtle standing idle in his Dream Zone. Wightman thought his cheaters had been capturing every second of the interaction with full-immersion audio, video, experiential and sensory outputs, however, after processing the session, the only product was that single still image. Furthermore, there was only an elongated, solid grey space where the glot’s distended jaw and neck were supposed to be. Strangely, its eyes were completely normal. These dead sprites, apparent glitches, rendered the image half-finished and unformed, as if the output had been corrupted.
Despite the underwhelming nature of the image, my interest was piqued when Wightman informed me of Girtle’s bizarre speech patterns. These matched the sound castles generated by the glots I had been researching. I agreed to meet Wightman in my personal zone. He was clearly distressed by what he’d seen and wanted assurances that he was not alone, that others had encountered what he had. Although I was unable to offer such comfort, I explained to him the broad parameters of my work and the ways in which it seemed to intersect with what he’d described. I then attempted to lighten the mood with an offhand comment that I hoped would defuse the tension.
‘But the real reason I wanted to meet you,’ I told him, ‘is that I appear to be attracted to glitch.’
As background, many of the latter-day glots in my study had found me before I found them, following me from out of the blue. This led me to conclude that they were somehow aware of my work and wanted to bring themselves to my attention.
I told Wightman I’d be in touch soon to begin the formal interview phase. At this, he calmed down and then vanished from my zone. Sure enough, within five minutes of his departure, I received shakedowns from two glots I’d never encountered before. They called themselves ‘Sacko Miles’ and ‘Ferny Shandra’ and instantly captured my attention. Remarkably, portions of their facial pro-stars were greyed out with dead sprites just like the face of Girtle in Wightman’s still image.
Knowing that time is of the essence in any encounter with anomalous glots, I moved quickly, capturing the two pro-stars with the edit blade in my cheaters. I noted that Miles’ face featured dead space around the midsection, including the nose, and Shandra’s around the forehead. I cut out the dead areas from each glot and combined them with the dead facial space from Girtle (henceforth referred to as ‘Glitchglot Zero’). The result was startling: a composite ‘identikit’ outline of a generic face with all its features greyed out and deadened. Adding to the bizarre discovery, the portions taken from Miles and Shandra continued to undulate while Glitchglot Zero’s remained completely still, giving the composite face the impression that it was mutating into something else.
Regarding this shared glitch, it was almost as if the Miles and Shandra glots were able to somehow ‘listen in’ on Vexworld conversations that were relevant to them and insert themselves into that interaction, confirming the accuracy of my seemingly throwaway remark to Wightman, about being ‘attracted to glitch’. For the record, like Wightman, I am certain I had vaulted my feed, as I habitually do most of the time when vexxing.
Shandra had become totally unresponsive, so I accepted the shakedown from Miles. When the glot unfurled from its pro-star, it appeared as a man in his forties with receding hair and an unfit, flabby body. Strangely, its face was the only physical feature that had not fully unfurled, retaining the dead-sprite glitch across the midsection. I was unable to interact with the glot in real time. Like Glitchglot Zero, it was rooted to the spot, repeating similar looped behaviours.
I scrolled through Miles’ historical thought clouds and found that its dialogue, true to type, was essentially nonsense that scraped and recombined existing conversations from elsewhere in the Vexworld. In my work, I draw upon the hypotheses generated by the influential digital researcher Ken Hollings, who operated in the latter part of the Unscyld Era. Hollings speculated that certain bots found on the dead pre-Vexworld communications platform Twitter were a form of EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). In times past, occultists claimed that the voices of the dead could be heard in, and summoned from, bursts of white noise emanating from electrical appliances, such as the static and hum emanating from TVs, radios and fridges. Hollings’ Twitter bots, which he called ‘non-people’, conversed in a similar cut-up fashion, which led him to believe that they were a contemporary update of the EVP enigma.
Since the demise of such media, the discourse around EVP has died down, although as the Vexworld evolves, and as data pollution is consequently created at an exponential rate, the potential for EVP-style behaviour could increase, with these ‘voices of the dead’ perhaps heard in the e-waste emanating from a hover screen or the electromagnetic distortion from a malfunctioning pair of cheaters. Clearly, the speech patterns of the glots that I study share characteristics with these ‘dead voices’, namely, their peculiarly scrambled and distorted quality (after all, the glots themselves are a form of e-waste, having originally been discarded). In my view, such glitchglots could be a direct descendant of the bots that Hollings had studied, whatever their origin or purpose.
Hollings speculated that perhaps the Twitter non-people were automated bots that were once part of some marketing campaign, shilling products unknown, but that had since broken loose and were replicating themselves, looking for people to interact with on Twitter, lonely and adrift, lost between worlds, just like EVP occultists thought the voices of the dead were in radio static. Could Hollings’ theory explain Glitchglot Zero’s Barrett and Chainsaw references? Was the glot part of some super-sophisticated Vexworld campaign that attempted to marry the two disparate cultural icons? If so, Glitchglot Zero’s true purpose might not be revealed for months or even years, once the campaign plays out and its ultimate purpose is revealed, although the glot’s apparent supernatural powers (non-vex ‘telepathy’; forced control of cheaters and Dream Zones) render this theory unlikely, unless there is some top-secret ad-server technology being A/B tested on unwitting participants.
Beyond the Zone
Soon after first contact with Miles, I followed both it and Shandra. I tried to shake them down but was unsuccessful. It had only been an hour, but nonetheless the two glots seemed to have vanished almost completely from the Vexworld, although their pro-stars remained as ghostly after-images in my cheaters. Any attempt to shake down the pro-stars simply returned the Vexworld’s standard ‘No glot… C’lom Fliday’ error message for dematerialised accounts. Curiously, I was still able to listen to and read their historical sound castles and thought clouds from previous conversations with other vexxers, although I could not initiate new dialogue. The conversations were typically nonsensical and revealed no new information, except for the following, transmitted by Shandra to an unsolicited vexxer a few weeks before first contact with me:
‘I talked to her about pain, and she finally helped me relieve all the years of abuse. The second time I knew her was the day I realised how it all worked, and how important it is to not.’
There was no recorded response from the vexxer, who had immediately denied the shakedown for reasons unknown, and whose account, too, has since vanished.
The tone of Shandra’s monologue echoed what Wightman believed had been transmitted to him from the exoplanet ‘satellite’. In both instances, while the syntax was clearer and more understandable than the usual blender-style EVP comms, the actual content of both monologues was in fact nonsensical.
Experimenting with different cheaters belonging to members of my research team, I repeatedly decompressed from the Vexworld and time-spiralled back in, but the result was the same every time. Inside these other cheaters, the glitchglots did not exist at all, not as pro-stars or anything else. Then a few days later, the two ghostly pro-stars vanished from my cheaters at last, leaving no trace at all of Miles and Shandra. Interestingly, the morphing portions of their pro-stars, which I captured with my cheater-blade to create the composite facial image, disappeared too (although the Glitchglot Zero cut-out portion remained). I tried to contact the vexxers who had previously interacted with Miles and Shandra, but, in almost all cases, they too had dematerialised from the Vexworld. I managed to find three documented vexxers, but their pro-stars were inactive, and I was unable to sort through past dialogue as their feeds were vaulted.
When Miles and Shandra first initiated their disappearing act, leaving just their pro-stars behind, their liquidation happened so quickly it was as if it occurred in response to being ‘touched’ (that is, followed by me), somehow ‘forcing’ the Vexworld to terminate them. Sometimes, glots that have been identified as ‘spammy’ are suspended, although more often than not, such glots are allowed to live, all part of the Vexworld’s original purpose: to create a planet-wide (and beyond) petri dish, a perpetual experiment in generating artificial life in whatever form it might take. In any case, their combined powers seemed completely beyond the usual spammy annoyances one encounters while vexxing.
Could they have been ‘recalled’ then, by whoever created them? Were the three glots—Glitchglot Zero, Miles and Shandra—part of a terrorist crack-hack that had not gone to plan? This is a distinct possibility, given the current state of Geotraumatic Emergency across Linear Territory South, in which the Vexworld has had to marshal all available resources, including vexpulses, holowarns and polglots, to repel the sustained battery of codeswarms unleashed by the Arctic Free State in its ongoing battle with the Linear Territories for ultimate spectrum dominance.
Based on Wightman’s testimony and, to some extent, my own (as I will recount shortly), the glots seemed to have the capacity to induce synaesthetic hallucinations in targeted users by recoding the blink function in the user’s cheaters, a new and highly sophisticated form of subliminal ocular terrorism. The desired result is unclear, but one hypothesis is that the victim might ultimately be transported to nightmarish Dream Zones and subjected to a full-bleed sensory assault that weakens and eventually destroys the mind. Certainly, at one point Wightman believed he was on the verge of being led into a Dream Zone that he could not escape and that threatened to torture him to insanity by surfacing his deepest fears, however, to date, he remains the only vexxer we know who has experienced or reported a ‘full glitch’ encounter.
While I have noted Wightman’s overwhelming feelings of unease, terror and dismay during the encounter with Glitchglot Zero, further research is needed, including independent witness verification, before we can conclusively conclude that he was mind-hacked and simply not hallucinating due to his Cat-One status. My own interactions would seem a good place to start along the road to corroboration, however, to date they have revealed nothing as immersive or as psychologically corrosive as Wightman’s experience. Nonetheless, there are undeniable parallels, leaning towards the theory that the three interactions were a coordinated codeswarm of some sort.
For example, in the week following Miles and Shandra’s final disappearance, I received several notifications about anomalous glots following me and initiating shakedowns, but when I accepted their overtures, my cheaters told me that the glots either didn’t exist or there was no record of any shakedown attempt in their public thought clouds. The most compelling instance involved a glot that called itself ‘Rest Warrior’. The glot sent me a thought cloud that said: ‘Wait. Don’t stop. I’ve now followed two of them.’ Its pro-star was a slowly rotating head of a grinning woman in a baseball cap. A small bright-purple octopus was stuffed into her mouth and she was licking its tentacles. Some of the tentacles were wrapped around her face and some were embedded deep inside her ears, creating puncture wounds that dripped blood down her jaw and neck.
When I scrolled through Rest Warrior’s thought clouds, I found the standard junk dialogue. The glot carried no biographical information and I could not locate a human operator inside its wrapper. I tried to shake it down, but my cheaters crashed, and I was ejected from the Vexworld. I deployed the hard-reset stub on my cheaters and tried again to shake down the glot, but when I blinked the necessary command, I was transported to a Dream Zone located inside a mattress company’s office in Dubai. The company was called Rest Warrior.
The zone was full-bleed in every respect, including pungent spice smells, a rather dank air texture and realistic details like peeling paint on the walls. From the rear of the office, a hologlot emerged. It engaged me in conversation and spoke perfect language. There were no glitches in the glot’s appearance and certainly no tentacles. Instead, contrary to the woman in the original pro-star, the glot assumed the appearance of a healthy male in his early thirties. After checking the hyperdata and sys-ax protocols, I found that the glot was human-connected, although our conversation was automated, since the operator was away and had looped the glot in a customer-reception cycle.
Rifling through the glot’s historical thought clouds, I discovered that they were all in the same perfect syntax, with no glitches of any kind, and no mention of either myself or the conversation that had led me to shake down the glot: about ‘Rest Warrior’ ‘following two of them’. I decompressed from the zone and left the Vexworld to gather my thoughts. When I returned, I again sought out Rest Warrior, only to find that its pro-star was now that of the young man, not the demented, octopus-suckling woman. Shaking down the glot, I was transported once more to the Dubai Dream Zone, where the unattended sales glot repeated its banal transaction loops. Based on this event, I can only conclude that the fourth glitchglot had somehow hacked the company ‘Rest Warrior’, replacing its thought clouds and DNA wrapper with its own, before initiating its cryptic connection with me. This interaction lends further weight to the terrorism hack-crack theory, although I have no further data about why Wightman was subjected to the full-glitch experience while I was not.
At the time of writing, I have recorded a total of twelve ‘ghost’ notifications since the interaction with Miles and Shandra, but they all dissipated too rapidly for me to inspect their vexcomms, let alone shake them down. Of course, due to their fleeting appearance, no recording of any kind has been obtained. The SSCPRS will continue its surveillance of the Vexworld for further symptoms and will review unusual patterns carefully.
In addition, we are working with international partners and experts to locate and classify similar occurrences around the world. Alvis Wightman is currently sequestered at the School, undergoing further tests. He exists in a severe state of paranoia and catatonia. Glitchglot Zero has not reappeared, nor has Miles, Shandra or the hacked Rest Warrior. There have been no further full-glitch encounters.
Further reports will follow to assess the situation and review recommendations for extended surveillance, monitoring and review.
 ‘Castle hunters’ are the highest grade of Vexworld addicts. They generally display all the standard side effects of long-term vex-addiction, including ‘bodysmack’, a result of decompression from sustained vexxing; synaesthesia, which afflicts vexxers who fast-forward and rewind Dream Zones more than the accepted medical recommendations; cognitive decline, the result of inhabiting and processing too many artificial realities at once; and memory bleed, in which experiences inside the Vexworld become confused with experiences ‘outside’ (that is, in the shell world).
 See my article: ‘Are spamglots living or are they dead? A reassessment of evidence based on 28 case studies and 55 instances of field research inside multiple custom and commercial Dream Zones’, Journal of Vex Studies, Rugpjūtis, LinY-1.
 Dream Zones are alternate enhancements, reworkings or re-imaginings of the shell world. When vexxers transmit Dream Zones to their followers, the reality of those followers becomes augmented with the zoner’s imagination. Interactive role-playing adventures are immensely popular, as are zones that replicate vintage films and TV shows. Because the planet’s cultural output has been completely digitised, users can access any video or film ever made and extract artefacts from them. Using cheap, easy-to-learn cheater apps, visual cues can be synthesised from these artefacts and overlaid onto physical reality, imparting the illusion of inhabiting the film world. In the most popular Dream Zones of this type, the point is not to faithfully replicate a heritage form or cultural artefact, but to recombine it with wildly incongruous elements, to pervert and alter it in ways no one could see coming. There is a shock-value element in many of them, in trying to outdo everyone else by creating the most outlandish zone imaginable.
 Wightman’s zones typically take the form of shell-world locations that have been remapped in the Vexworld and overlaid with dystopian themes, many pilfered from films and novels: severe climate change (usually ‘drowned world’ or ‘burning world’ scenarios); alien invasion; the collapse of world order into a single totalitarian state. Users of the zones must decode various clues in order to ‘escape’ the zone. The typical course of action involves acting counter-intuitively, for example, colluding with the forces that brought about the destruction, exterminating other survivors, travelling deeper and deeper into the afflicted areas instead of away from them, or summoning ancient demons through the manipulation of e-waste spectrum radiation. Outwardly, Wightman’s zones appear more traditional than ‘quick fix’ zones that declare their intentions right from the start, however, on closer inspection and extended inhabitation, they betray truly innovative directions and consequences, hence their cult status.
 Pro-stars usually portray facial features or another representation of the glot’s photo DNA, unless the vexxer has chosen to represent themselves as an inanimate object or something non-human, in which case the sky’s the limit.
 Wightman’s castle hunter status is a possible explanation for this inability to locate physical boundaries.
 As with any castle hunter, it can be difficult to understand what they have vaulted and what they merely thought they had, making them easy pickings for mind stalkers and thought gangs, even casual passers-by. As memory bleed is a main side effect of problematic Vexworld use, it is possible that Wightman may have leaked the chainsaw memory upon sighting the glot’s broken jaw, after it had reminded him of that teenage moment of trauma, rather than the glot mutating its jaw and referencing the film to match the memory. Whatever the case, Wightman continued to emphasise the deep unease he felt at the painful connection.
 As with all paranoid-conspiratorial castle hunters, the question arises: if, for argument’s sake, aliens or government agents were indeed targeting Wightman, why had they chosen him in particular? What was so special about him? When I put this question to him, he was unable to offer a conclusive answer, except to point to his Cat-One status as an ‘undesirable’ person, although of course under that classification he was already being officially monitored and recorded.
 Of course, it is now rare for any image, object, or representation to appear as ‘still’, that is, as a flat, 2D experience, given the total ubiquity of the Vexworld and its ability to render any object, article or reproduction as a fully immersive clusterplex, whether originally coded that way or not. On first analysis, it therefore seems unfeasible that Wightman was unable to capture a representation of the glot beyond the flat plane.
 As the Vexworld develops apace, marketing campaigns can be finegrained across millions of channels, portals and media types, since almost anything in the shell world can be connected and mirrored in the Vexworld. The new breed of campaigns strives to ensure that vexxers, as they go about their daily activities, can never be certain if they are even witnessing or experiencing a campaign. Campaigns never appear the same way twice or the same way to two different vexxers, and increasingly their conclusions take years to play out, subliminally manipulating users and their emotions all the while, until they think and act like different people, primed for purchase and non-reversible slaved consumption patterns.
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Each contributor to Insufficient Armour was asked to produce a video introduction to their work for screening at the launch. My video, posted here, introduces the themes of my piece, and their genesis: a series of strange interactions I experienced with Twitter spambots in 2016.