You’d known your mole friend Urthdigger for several years now. An eccentric sort, he believed in magic and the occult, and had one room in his apartment in particular that he forbade you to enter. Still, outside of that he was a decent sort. Funny, caring, not half bad at Mario Kart, and a little cute if you must admit.
That room kept invading your thoughts however. Most of his other eccentricities he’d play off as a joke when you didn’t take them seriously, but that was the one thing he insisted on being serious about. So of course you made jokes about what could possibly be in there. A shrine to demons, the bodies of his previous friends, the next twenty years’ worth of Christmas presents. Eventually, he cracked.
“Alright, if you really want to know what’s in there, I’ll show you. But you have to promise not to tell anyone else about this alright?” he says.
You nod. “Sure thing. It can’t be that bad right?”
He shrugged, went over to the locked door, and placed his paw on the locked door. He closed his eyes, and there was the thunk of a deadbolt sliding back. Oh Urth, always with his dramatic sleight of hand tricks.
Inside the room was empty except for a pedestal holding a glass case with a thin book and a red pen. “This is our world.” he said.
You cocked an eyebrow at him. “That? You’ve got to be kidding. It’s TINY.”
He gave the case a few taps and lifted it up, sliding the notebook out. “It’s a small world. You’d be surprised how little matters enough to be written down. There’s whole centuries where nothing of note happened.” He began to flip through it towards the end. “Let’s see… past all the really dangerous parts… let’s NOT touch the future chapters… ah, the appendix. I can show you a harmless demonstration if you’d like?”
You were still skeptical at this point, but a sense of dread began to overtake you nonetheless. “Sure… it’s just a book, of course it’s harmless.”
Urthdigger browsed through the book, looking for something. “Ah, here you are. Let’s see… skeptical, eager to make friends… huh, you didn’t exist before today?” He made an unpleased squeak as he just realized what he voiced out loud. “Ahh, hah, forget that last part.”
That was a ridiculous notion. You had memories going back to when you were five, this couldn’t be right. And yet… you had this unmistakeable invasive feeling of someone reading you. “I will… it’s crazy after all…”
“Alright, now for the fun bit then!” He grabbed the pen, and held the book up close. “Gonna have to write pretty small, they didn’t give me a lot of room…”
He began scribbling something down, and suddenly… you were aware that you didn’t have to worry about money anymore. You were comfortably rich, always had been since you landed a lucky gig doing networking for a business downtown straight out of high school. And the years you spent almost homeless, doing random temp jobs to make ends meet… didn’t exist? You clutched your head and staggered. “Wha… what did you do?”
“I just thought I’d fix your money problems, not by a lot! Your life’s still largely the same!” he glanced down at the book. “Ah shit… sorry, gimme one second.” he scribbled in the book some more and suddenly… that inconsistency didn’t seem to matter. “There’s only so much I can do to the past when I’m inside an active world. I forgot the memories would stay, but it’s fine now.”
This was astounding. With just a single stroke of his pen, well, two, he’d drastically improved your life. “I don’t know why you’d hide this, this is amazing! You could fix everything! End world hunger, make the government run, stabilize the economy…”
The mole shook his head. “Trust me… a world like that wouldn’t be worth living in. Past a certain point we start dealing with matters of free will and determination… as much as we have as characters in a story after all.”
This was infuriating. “If we’re in a story, shouldn’t we do all we can to make it a happy one? You’re just saying that because you haven’t had to struggle yourself. It’s fine for you to use this on yourself and friends, but you won’t help the world?” You couldn’t help yourself. You trusted this man, and this was the sort of person he turned out to be? If he wouldn’t help people you would. You charged him, fist raised to punch his lights out.
Urth sighed and struck out something from the book. Suddenly you felt something vital torn out of you, and you faltered. He wrote a few more words, and the rage abated. “Hopefully now you’ll see why I don’t just rewrite everyone on a grand scale… and I’m sorry, but I had to come up with something fast. I had to do something.”
What he said made sense, people DO deserve to have their own free will. You could feel your own desires and ambitions leak out, replaced by calm serenity and devotion. It was tranquil. It was nice. It was the single most horrifying thing you’d ever experienced. You would never hurt Urthdigger. You’d do everything you could to serve him. The idea of not doing so was incomprehensible to you. But you’d still always have those memories of when you could. When you were an individual.
Living as a character in a story has its benefits and drawbacks. All it takes is a little editing to change everything about someone.
Just a little idea that popped into my head after chatting with some friends on twitter. Not sure if I'll do more with this concept, let me know if you'd like that!