The following epistolary short story was inspired first by this speculative fiction writing prompt from Eric J. Krause, and then by the stories of Philip K. Dick, and then maybe just a little bit by The Matrix.
Technical Difficulties[Pinned to office chair]
Dear Mr. Mannfred Anders,
As you have likely noticed, we are suffering some technical difficulties due to a software update. We are working diligently to repair the problem and will have things up and running as soon as possible.
We ask that you remain calm and stay at your desk until the problem is resolved. We apologize for the inconvenience.
[Taped to steering wheel]
Dear Mannfred Anders,
Although we applaud your persistence and the ingenuity it took for you to make your way from the fourth floor down into your car in spite of the current technical difficulties, we ask that you please remain here in your vehicle until our technical issues have been worked out. Services will be repaired soon and the Program will be restarted from a previously saved configuration.
Your vehicle will, of course, not start.
Thank you for your cooperation.
[Nailed to a public bench]
Dear Mannfred Anders,
I am unfortunately required to report your disregard of our two previous warnings to the Karma Department. Furthermore, your continued interactions with the various elements of the Program are causing runtime errors and creating further difficulties for our technicians.
Also please note that your continued actions may also put your own welfare in danger. Although the Program may seem to be frozen, it is apt to run at normal speed for short periods as buffered data is executed.
Please, for the integrity of the Program and for your own safety, remain at this bench until our technical issues are resolved.
[Taped to a cash register]
[Laying on the floor of the Taco Bell manager's office]
Dear Mr. Anders,
Please disregard the previous message. It was transmitted without the knowledge or consent of upper management. After our current situation is resolved, Homer will face disciplinary action for his unprofessional behavior.
That said, Homer's comments are not entirely without merit. Our species programmers are perplexed by your choice to forcibly break into a Taco Bell (in fact, analyzing and accounting for this choice may push back our release date by a full week). We caution you that continued interaction — and especially such violent interaction — with the elements of the Program will only prolong and complicate the already difficult technical issues we are working through.
Once again, we ask that you please remain where you are. Our technical difficulties will soon be resolved, and we can continue with beta-testing.
To help you pass the time, we have replicated a copy of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass" for your enjoyment. (We know how much you think you love poetry.) You will find it in the dining area in the first unoccupied both on your left.
[Caught in a bush]
We apologize for the error. Our current difficulties have apparently affected our font files in unexpected ways, causing that copy of "Leaves of Grass" to be rendered entirely in Wingdings.
Please return to the Taco Bell immediately. Laying on the checkout counter, you will find the twelve previous issues and six forthcoming issues of Penthouse Magazine, the full script for a seventh Star Wars movie, a ninth Harry Potter novel, and our original conceptual sketches for Lady Gaga. Although all text is unfortunately rendered in Comic Sans, we trust that you will find at least some of these items sufficiently entertaining to occupy your time while we fix the Program.
Please return to the Taco Bell now and enjoy these wonderful gifts.
[Taped to the back of an ER nurse]
Though we wish you had returned to the Taco Bell as asked, your running to the hospital at least makes more sense to our species programmers.
You should be hearing the nearby courtesy phone ringing now. Please answer it to speak to Gautama at our help desk.
[Glued to a bicycle rack]
Dear Mr. Mannfred Anders,
We regret the physical pain that your recent accident has caused you. We warned you earlier that various elements within the Program might behave erratically as we work through our technical difficulties. Had you answered the telephone, Gautama could have explained in more detail the danger of walking through traffic that seemed to be frozen.
Your mishap, however, has proven useful for our current situation. While you were unconscious, one of our programmers relocated a nearby bicycle rack around you, thus entangling you, securing your position, and allowing repairs to continue more smoothly and without interruption.
Although our ability to repair your body is of necessity quite limited, we were able to repair both your fractured left femur and broken septum. Your body's own biological repair mechanisms will complete the healing process, meaning that you will be rather sore for the next few days.
I have been told that the source of the systems error has been located and will soon be repaired — perhaps before you even finish reading this note. When repairs are complete, we will reboot the Program and reload the most recent backup — which occurred at approximately 2:00 a.m. Monday morning your time — and beta testing of your species will continue.
The good news is that you will have the opportunity to relive the past two days and perhaps make wiser choices. (On a personal note, I do hope you find the courage to ask out Miss Danoff this time around; she's programmed to be demure, but she will eventually say yes.)
What you will likely view as "the bad news," however, is that — apart from some soreness and a vague sense of déjà vu — you will not remember any of what has happened today.