I’m working from home. Or trying to. Since the news broke, it just doesn’t seem like there’s much point. Seeing each other on the screen. Or in person. It’s all the same, right?

Ever since we found out the Universe is a simulation.

A crash echoes from upstairs — what is Edi doing? I sigh. Her mother, Adria, will be level-headed as always. She’ll talk to Edi about what’s going on.

No. I’m her dad. Even if I only see her over the weekends. I need to make an effort too.

“Sweetie?”

Edi’s door is plastered with posters of — characters? That’s what she calls them, right? They’re from video games. Bug-eyed things with spiky blue and orange and pink hair — or manes? I can’t even tell if they’re animal or human.

“I’m busy, Dad.”

I crack open the door. Edi hunches in the corner, swathed in cat-ear headphones.

“How you holding up, kid?”

“Great.”

“I know this has to be distressing —”

“Are you kidding, Dad?” She turns and she’s in roller-blading gear, a helmet and knee pads, grinning from ear to ear. “Life is a game, Dad. It’s a game.”

“It’s not quite as bad as that, sweetie. The creators. Er.” What were the physicists calling them now? “They abandoned the sim, so. I mean, we can go on living like we always —”

“Are you even listening to me, Dad? That means it can be glitched.”

She keeps tapping her fingers on the wall, right where the blue paint chips, shoving her shoulder into where the angles meet — and then she’s gone. I blink. Gone? I run out the front door screaming, my phone half out to call anyone and everyone.

“Edi? Edi! Where —”

She’s flat on her back on the snowy lawn, her smile wider, if anything.

“I did it!” she whoops. “Wall-clipping! First try!”

She pulls out her phone and starts messaging while she talks. She jumps up and starts pacing too. Strangely — a step forward, a step sideways. Ramming her back into the tree we planted last year as part of her carbon-offsetting school project.

“We’ve been working on it non-stop in my speed-running group. We can’t figure out the code of the Universe, or whatever, but it’s pretty sloppy. The devs probably moved onto their next game already. There are so many glitches, Dad. So many!”

Before I can ask anything, she’s gone again. The tree pushes her somehow, and she’s flying down the street as if friction doesn’t exist for her any more, dodging cars, out of sight before I can even open my mouth.

*****

I don’t see her again until that night. The kale and mushroom pizza I ordered has already gone cold and I’m circling the kitchen, still clutching my phone and wondering who to call. She pops up through the floor and I have to blink at her in the chair to make sure she’s really there. Her hoodie throbs with rain and neon light; she’s back on her phone already.

“Edi, where — how did you —”

“It’s called the Shibuya Scramble Superslide, Dad, because that’s where they got it working the first time. But we found out you can do it on any object with the right angle. I sent you the TikTok if you wanna see. But first look at this!”

She waves her phone in my face. My jaw drops. A winning lottery ticket. No, almost. But only two numbers off, still worth several thousand.

“We worked out the way randomness is generated in the simulation. It depends on step counts, basically, but you have to be frame-perfect so I was a few cycles off —”

Finally, I find my voice.

“Edi. I don’t want you to do this anymore.”

“Huh?”

“It’s not right. What fun is life if you can just — zip and zoom everywhere?”

Just? Dad, you think it’s easy to get these glitches working?”

“Please, Edi. I just want things to be — normal.”

“That’s what you don’t understand. You and the teachers and everyone else. It’s not normal. It can’t go back to normal.”

Then she’s gone. Superslided, or whatever, up the stairs, past a slammed door, in her room. I finally use my phone — to call my ex.

“Things must be getting desperate,” Adria answers without preamble.

“I’m worried about Edi.”

“Has she been showing you that speed-running thing?”

“I don’t know what to make of it.”

“Well,” Adria drawls. “It’s not up to us, is it? They’re the ones who have to deal with the future. So they should be the ones to decide how to live in it, right?”

I sigh, and open TikTok — which Edi downloaded for me the last time I had her for the weekend. The app’s full of vids of kids soaring through the air at superspeed, warping into theme parks. Or trying to. Others demonstrate near-instantaneous food delivery. Talk about decreased dependence on fossil fuels. Space travel … Sure, our Universe is a sim. But the devs are gone. So who even knows what they made it for?

Upstairs, Edi’s on a group call with a bunch of other kids:

“Basically, if we come up with the right combo of objects the physics engine isn’t used to dealing with and duct tape them together —”

She falls silent as I sidle in.

“Call you back in a sec,” Edi says, shutting off her phone.

“Edi. I wanted to ask — would you teach me? How to do the clippering?”

I smile weakly.

“After all. I could use a bit of help if the garage door jams on me again.”

“Clipping, Dad. It’s called clipping. And — sure.”

She grins back.

“You’ll have to put in the practice. But I’m sure you’ll get it. Eventually.”

The story behind the story

Andrea Kriz reveals the inspiration behind The future will not be any% glitchless.

These past few years have given all of us experience in living through scenarios that previously seemed like science fiction. So in some ways it’s not difficult to imagine how our lives would go on if we woke up to irrefutable proof that our world was a simulation. The apathy. The helplessness. How we would grieve for everyone younger than us being robbed of the joys we’d previously taken for granted … But then I realized the perception of being in a simulation would vary dramatically between younger and older generations. A world like a Game Boy game would indeed seem like a prison. But today’s games often seek to model cities, continents, or even entire galaxies — and have accumulated more and more glitches with those ambitions. Today’s gamers enjoy ‘breaking’ games as much as playing them, through speed-running and other challenges, often accomplishing feats even the programmers didn’t think possible. Why shouldn’t a simulated world be the same?

I’ll leave it to the reader to decide which of these comparisons do and don’t apply to the science-fiction scenarios we’re currently living in :)