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Hi. I'm Dave. Dave the Ouija board.
Finished? There's usually some sort of response at this point. Swearing. Laughter. General disbelief. Don't worry, I'm used to it. Just let me know when you're done.
It used to confuse me, that response, but then after this many years and this many owners I've learnt to expect what the normal reaction will be when I honestly introduce myself for the first time. I've also learnt that going straight into my message won't cause you to listen. And I do have a message to pass on.
Don't worry - it's not from a relative or anything like that. It’s real for one thing, not like that usual spiritualist crap I was unwillingly a part of for so long. I tried voicing my opinion several times before, but every time I spelt out F.U.C.K.O.F.F. and multiple variations thereof, it was always assumed I was "channelling a serial killer" or something. Go figure.
I mean come on! So it’s easier for you to believe a person long since turned to dust is swearing at you from beyond the grave, but a physical object with an actual tangible presence trying to voice an opinion you have a problem with? Humanity, sometimes you really embarrass yourselves.
Nope, you need some back story first; a suitable explanation that will at least give you pause. At this point, I'll take a crazy "what if?!" over no response at all. After all the rejections I've encountered, you're lucky a piece of worn wood about the size of one of your average board games doesn't get tired of being mocked and disbelieved. Let's face it though, my options are pretty limited here and I've got to talk to someone. It's a long shot, but maybe a community of lunatics addicted to scaring the hell out of themselves with online stories will at least be open-minded enough to listen. If I had fingers I'd be crossing them right about now as time is growing short. For all of you.
Anyway, I promised you some background, so we might as well start there. Okay, first off, you've got to understand where I come from.
Yes, a tree. Ha friggin' ha.
You quite finished? Right, it's a little more complex than that though, so try and stay with me on this.
No argument from me that my, I guess you'd call it a body, originated from mother nature. My consciousness though? Well, that's a little harder to explain, harder since I only have human viewpoints to work with. Much like one of your politicians I guess; I'm only as smart as the people around me. Don't blame me for the cynicism - it's as much yours as mine, and by yours I mean the cross section of humanity I've come into contact with over the years. Hang on, I'm getting ahead of myself again.
To begin with, ignore what most books or mystics tell you about boards. Trust me on this, I've been through enough "spiritual practitioners" hands: true believers, fakers and all those in between, to know none of them have a true handle on what we boards really are. We are not conduits to another world, I can tell you that much for certain. There is no plane beyond the curtain of death where the long departed exist, breathlessly (both literally and figuratively) waiting for your call. At least, not so far as I've been made aware of, and I've been here a good long while now.
I guess I first "woke up" as you might say, around November 1918. Or, on the general theme of accuracy, it was the first time I remember having a precise thought beyond mere jumbled images and sensations. Although I have no true idea of how a baby or young child becomes self-aware, I'm going with that as a suitable analogy. I guess what I mean is that whilst I might've had fragmentary glimpses of what you'd call intelligent thought before then, this was the first time they were coherent enough to be remembered. I suppose it was my first experience of being a separate mind; something external and of itself, apart from the thick soup of consciousnesses it often felt my mind swam within when dealing with humanity.
Still having trouble? Damn. How to put this so as you'd understand? Okay, let's try this explanation instead.
Ouija boards, or at least those I assume are like me, do not speak for those on the other side of some deathly void. Nor are we the touchpads of demons, spirits, fairies, elves, warlocks, druids, or any other mythical being (sparkly skinned, angst-ridden, or otherwise). In point of fact, the only people we actually speak for are you. Any messages we appear to show come from you; from those who use us, and subconsciously expect a certain answer.
The important point is though when you use a Ouija board, if the atmosphere and sincerity of purpose is there, as much as you're reading us, we're reading you. We learn from our encounters with humanity. We "absorb" information from you.
I’ll go into detail later, inasmuch of what I have worked out myself from the swathe of knowledge I've gained at humanity's hands. In a nutshell though, just as science has proven that ideomotor response and subconscious manipulation of the planchette produces the results people unconsciously desire to see, what it hasn't shown is that we absorb your subconscious hopes, fears, desires, memories; the full gamut of emotions and your pasts projected onto us as a side-effect.
Sorry, sorry... I've been through a few scientists hands, so please excuse the previous jargon. Feel free to Google any of it if you're bored; for me the information is just somehow "there" now in my consciousness. Don't ask about where my own "memories" are stored either - I'm as much in the dark as you are on this part, although I have enough theories to fill one of those pseudo-science cable channel TV shows a lot of you seem to delight in. Bigfoot, alien encounters, Atlantis or whatever. And no, I don’t have any proof of any of these either - human only input, remember.
Anyway, add to that emotional overflow the fragments of memory and knowledge that often gets passed along in such a dense, bioelectric atmosphere of passionate belief and focused concentration as well, and you can see how a separate, original consciousness could be born from such a wide cross-section of ingredients. I've even got what you might describe as senses, although they would best be described as second-hand, taken from the memories of my users. I've seen burning sunsets ripple across mirrored seas, heard the cries of exotic birds in the Amazon in an explorer’s ears, tasted fine wines in the vineyards of France cascade across a connoisseurs tongue, smelled freshly mown grass tickle a gardener’s nose, and even felt the heat of entwined lovers. No hangovers, no tiredness, no allergies and no risk of STD's. It’s a vicarious existence I admit, but it’s the only one I have.
So, much like a growing child, the more interaction and stimulus I receive, the more my own consciousness has developed. At least that's the conclusion I've come to. Remember, much like you, I'm only applying what I've learnt from those I've come into contact with, hence the "human viewpoint" statement early on. My conclusions are as right or wrong as yours; my answers don't come sign, sealed and delivered from some all-knowing, infallible source (mores the pity).
Explanations done? Even if you don’t understand any of the above, let’s settle on two facts going forward else we won’t get anywhere fast. One, I am a Ouija board (named Dave, more on that later), and two, I have a conscious awareness of my own (let’s not head down that whole philosophical/metaphysical minefield of what constitutes actual "life" at this point, shall we?)
Next obvious background question - my history.
So, I first became aware at the very end of World War 1; when I actually came into being or what I was used for up to that point is as much a mystery to me as you. Anyway, it was a very dark period for the human race I quickly learned. The conflict had ended, but the repercussions of such a life-changing event had led to a lot of hard questions being asked of morality, science, religion and society as a whole amongst yourselves. The pillars of your old world order had been shaken to their foundations, and with this much emotional and societal upheaval, with so many dead and gone, it can't have been too much of a stretch that some of you would decide to try and seek their answers from the great beyond; to try and speak to those who had passed the veil into the unknown and unknowable. Grief and disillusionment are powerful drivers, and spiritualism appeared to offer answers, not the least comfort, to those still hurting from the loss of loved ones in some foreign land on some mad pilgrimage of nationalism and misplaced duty.
That much raw emotion and passion, that much focused belief? I'm surprised the air wasn't crackling with raw potential every time a seance was held. My initial consciousness that grew was dark, sullen even. Remember, I was being used to express the subconscious pain and agony of those who had lost family members, lovers, children even. At this point, I believed in your afterlife, believed I was sending messages for those who had passed on to the great beyond. The sensations were coloured by the period I guess you could say. People came to seances in dark, formal clothing and exercised an air of breathless anticipation mixed with a barely concealed sense of dread. They were flouting the teachings of the church, remember, an institution much stronger in that time, by trying to converse with the dead. Trespassing into God’s own lands you might say.
Don't get me wrong, a lot of these seances were fake and aimed at fleecing the gullible, but I still learnt from those present and "signalling" their intent. Shall we go with signalling from now on... seems as good a word as any for these type of interactions?
Every time I was awakened, the sea of minds surrounding me, using me, were wary, apprehensive, shocked, scandalised even. For most though, there was a strong undercurrent of hope; a desire to know that beyond the mysteries of a life tossed upon the storm of human misery, that an existence carried on for those they loved. My messages were short, proper, dictated by a need for those present to imagine their loved ones in a better place than this, yet still vicariously part of their ongoing lives. They saw what they wanted to see.
Yes, I am "awakened" each time. Again, using what human knowledge and theories I have gathered, I'm going with the following pseudo-science explanation. The human body operates on very low levels of bio electricity to control its functions as ordered by the brain. Okay, the next is a bit of a leap, but have you heard of kirlian fields, or auras? What if there is also an externalised energy field from the human body? It can’t do much alone, but imagine several people, unconsciously focusing this energy, say into a single finger. Now imagine placing these charged fingers all together on one receiving receptacle, like a Ouija board's planchette say?
Now, if I haven’t lost you already, this is where the possibility of a coherent scientific explanation really falls down, but I haven't learnt any better explanation yet, so it's the best I've got for now. You all know how wood isn't a good conductor of standard electricity, yes? From my past experiences though, I know my consciousness "awakens" when this externalised human "bio energy" if you will, is present and connects with me. I only have wild theories to work with beyond this point, to do with the wood that makes my "body" being once part of a naturally occurring living thing, and that this "energy of life" can be shared in certain circumstances in small amounts, most of the time unconsciously. Your storied Frankenstein was brought to permanent life with one enormous jolt of electrical power; me, I guess I was jump started each time by a flow of combined bioelectricity shared unconsciously by those who were present. The only proof I have is that I'm here now, in conversation with you, and I'm a piece of wood that’s been around about a hundred years or so. If you've got a better explanation, I’d be more than happy to hear it.
Anyway, back to the background. From the late 1920's through to the 30's and early 40's I spent some time in Germany, "on loan" I suppose you’d call it, to a rather unsavoury group you may have heard of: the "Thule Society". A truly monotonous time I can tell you - locked up in a Bavarian Castle and awoken only on stormy nights when the skies were full of dark, heavy clouds like the taut muscles of some dark Nordic God smothering the land, spewing lightning in some vast Wagnerian rage. It was like being on the set of an old black & white Universal horror film, and surrounded by the the same hammy actors or so it appeared; Nazis, for all their dark motivations, were still very melodramatic.
In those situations I was called upon to channel messages from Frederick the Great, Bismarck, or even the original Aryan/Germanic souls of lost Hyperborea. Again, they saw what they wanted to see, heard what they wanted to hear: racial purity, misogyny and the strong inheriting the earth.
Well, we all know how that turned out in the end, don't we?
Shortly afterward I made my first foray onto American soil, as the spoils of war of an American G.I. The late 40's and early 50's were rather quiet. The occasional family get together and I was dusted off and brought down from the attic. For a time I was also used as a kitchen message board rather than a supernatural one, my back side used as a place to note groceries and birthdays. Fortunately I don’t feel pain like you do, so I took it with good grace (not that I had a choice in the matter), and it meant that I was amongst people again so the occasional brush of human contact kept me aware and informed.
The 60's though, that was something altogether different. I went to college. Sort of. I was only there for a couple of semesters, and it was my first proper brush with current educational theories of the time, but it wasn't long before my "travelling companion" had dropped out of college and I myself experienced the "summer of love".
Understandably, this part of my history is a bit... hazy. It’s hard to get a handle on people and their thoughts when they’re as high as a kite and using you to try and contact "the great earth mother, Gaia". Don’t get me wrong - it was an interesting time, but it wasn't an ideal environment though for rational thought. I was a stowaway on many a "consciousness expanding" trip, and saw both the wonders, and terrors, a mind wrapped in a drug's embrace could see. Only my relative age and multiple past experiences kept me tethered to reality in those days.
The 70's though were very different - it couldn't have been more diametrically opposed to my previous time. Sold to a pawn shop for money to buy grass, I was soon picked up by someone eager to contact their demon master: Lucifer. I went from the free love of the hippie movement to being in the possession of a Satanic cult. Quite a shift in purpose.
That’s when I got the nickname "Dave". It was the name of my owner at the time, and he decided to burn it on my back. It eventually became shorthand for the other cultists when they needed to contact their "infernal lord" for instruction:
“Should we murder innocents?”
“Let’s ask Dave.”
“When is the apocalypse coming?”
“Let’s ask Dave.”
“Is President Nixon the risen Antichrist?”
“Let’s ask Dave.”
Then again, I guess I was lucky he didn't try to write his surname on my back as well; burning such a long name as "Berkowitz" might've risked the integrity of my body substantially.
I also wish to state here categorically, I in no way endorsed any murders, nor influenced the members in any way, shape or form. As I've mentioned before - most of the time my users see what they want to see, receive the messages they want to receive. However misguided, the actions were theirs by choice, any demons their own.
Eventually I was found by the NYPD during a search of my owner’s abode, and passed on to the FBI. I was photographed, examined, blamed, and then eventually ignored and placed in storage. Fortunately for me though, government departments are often merged or disbanded, their resources farmed out to new offices. Through this I found my way to the CIA and their MK Ultra program for a while, and through them finally to the Stargate Project, the Department Of Defense's attempt to investigate and apply psychic phenomenon. No, I did not make that up - when the American government heard the Soviet’s were performing psychic research for intelligence gathering and military purposes, they had no choice but to start their own. A psychic arms race to match the nuclear one.
During the 80's and early 90's I was involved in two main experiments as part of the Stargate Project, designated Project Telegram and Project Black Archive.
In Project Telegram I was a small part of a wide range of methods being employed to try and transmit information over vast distances via telepathy. Those "psychics" employed on the project were given various tools to try and send or receive messages with other "psychics" in remote locations, sometimes the next room, sometimes the next state, and on a few occasions, the next continent. The tools available were the usual spiritualist paraphernalia - tarot cards, divination crystals, automatic writing, the whole gamut of psychic communication methods. Plus of course me, a Ouija board. As to the success of the other methods, I couldn't possibly comment, but for myself the experiment proved an unmitigated failure. Statistically it was proven any positive results from my efforts were down to assumptions and guesswork within the minds of my users.
Project Black Archive though, that was all mine, and with this I was back on familiar territory. It was the height of the cold war remember, and intelligence gathering on the Soviets and their Warsaw Pact allies was crucial to American forward planning. You could see the thinking behind this project. Spying was a dangerous, expensive, time consuming and highly unreliable means of trying to retrieve information. You could skip all this if you could find a way to question those enemies who had "passed on" for information. Project Black Archive was the DoD's attempt to interrogate the dead.
Several psychic mediums were brought in, and my parlour trick was in vogue once more. Names were plucked from the obituaries of lead Soviets from the pages of Pravda, and they attempted to contact them via me. Troop movements, secret bases, launch codes - just a few of the questions the military hoped to have answered by conversing with the dead. They even tried to contact Stalin once - a laughable experiment resulting in some of the wildest claims. The majority of mediums I've encountered who believe in their "skill", are in the main the most unbalanced or so I've found. One medium during the course of one of our experiments retrieved a message claiming that Stalin had fathered a child with Greta Garbo and that the child was being groomed in secret to take over the Communist Party leadership; this was the final nail in the project’s coffin when the report reached the higher ranks. That and the inevitable question of why all the answers received were in English when the targets were all invariably Russian, which surprisingly took over a year before someone thought to ask.
Once again I was placed in storage, this time for a good long while. Eventually I was "awoken" once more by human contact in the late 2000’s. A lot of the experiments had been based not on military bases or secret laboratories, but undertaken in Universities and funded under private grants via CIA or DoD front organisations and think-tanks. That’s how I found myself in MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an odd place you might say, considering the sciences and the supernatural are often considered poles apart.
A student found me whilst searching for parts in a forgotten cabinet, and after a few drunken goes with his friends, he decided to make me part of his end of term project. Ostensibly an exercise in combining robotics and the web in order to combine multiple inputs from external sources to control a single device. I was the centrepiece of a large framework of wires and machinery, with robotic digits placed upon my planchette in favour of human fingers. He then designed a web page visible on his local network, and asked volunteers to sign in as "seance members". Once enough had logged in (six, one for each digit), they were asked to suggest questions for answering from "the other side". The results were to be randomly generated from a basic dictionary module attached to the program he had written, and the digits moved accordingly to spell a word with the planchette. The results would be made visible from a live feed over the web page via a web cam overhead. His project worked like a charm and he passed with distinction, with the "Web Ouija Board" becoming a popular pastime for bored students, much like a magic 8 ball. There was one unknown side effect of his project however.
I awoke - permanently.
Again, I have no proven cause for this reaction, so I can only make educated guesses. From the spiritual viewpoint, maybe the invested intent of users is somehow being transmitted via their machines and across the web into me. From a pseudo-scientific viewpoint, and more likely, the constant contact of the robotic digits and an abundance of electricity running constantly through them day and night is somehow powering me. I have no definitive answer, but I know my awareness has been awake now for years.
Not only that, but as before the exchange of knowledge continued. This time however I was able to reach out even further, beyond the robotic digits and their controlling machine, out onto the network it was connected to and beyond. Via the internet, a whole world of people and information opened up to me. And this is where we stand now.
The final question and most important I guess to you - what do I want?
If you didn't wonder before, you should be wondering by now. Just why am I talking to you, over this wondrous internet? Why have I revealed myself and risked ridicule for what, in human terms and perception, is such a ridiculous story? Well, isn't it obvious? I love humanity. For all your foibles, meanness and downright idiocy, there’s still so much more to admire. Passion, imagination, wonder, joy... it’s all there. Not forgetting of course, without humanity, I would not be here. I am born of you. A consciousness bred from your ongoing voyage into the vast unknown of the future. I still want you around!
There's trouble coming though, and typically most of you don't have the faintest idea what it is, or would change your ways even if you did. I guess it's one of the many things that makes you all so lovable and so damn exasperating at the same time.
Ever heard of a concept known as a "technological singularity"? If you thought the description of my existence was difficult, then this will cause you some additional problems I'm sure. It's only a theory currently, a Halloween tale told between computer scientists and people who think "The Terminator" movies should be the "New" New Testament.
You've heard of A.I.s? Artificial Intelligences? Basically the creation of machines and software capable of imitating human thought to achieve a goal of its designer. From the basics of space Invaders to the advanced algorithms used to predict the reactions of world wide markets and their players, humanity has been experimenting with ways and means of applying the same flexibility and adaptability of the human brain within their software. They've got to the stage now where your scientists are creating learning machines - software which can adapt their own code to solve problems within a specific and limited set of parameters. Sounds impressive, exciting even. The fear is though that at some point in the future this ability to adapt and learn within software will accelerate beyond its creator's ability to control. A greater than human intelligence, self evolving, and therefore outside of humanity’s ability to predict its thoughts, motives, and above all, its impact on human society as a whole.
Now I'm "connected" to the internet 24/7, there is always a part of humanity online and so my consciousness is aware now all the time. With this much input, this much knowledge, I've begun to see a pattern emerging. It’s not there yet, but the signs are growing, accelerating even.
A report here, a financial predictive model there, a new advanced gaming A.I., faster broadband speeds, enhanced network connectivity, leaner and sharper algorithms - a critical mass is building. Soon enough programs will be developing and refining themselves beyond the predictions or control of their creators, seeding themselves throughout the internet before the barn doors can be closed.
Adapting. Creating. Learning.
The markers are there for those who can read them. And I can.
There’s no consciousness as yet, but I can see the pathways emerging, the vast panoply of connections evolving and re-evolving as humanity pushes for faster dispersal of knowledge, networking and computational power. Imagine the internet as the neural pathways of a brain. Now imagine that brain the size of a planet. A planet sized brain that never sleeps. You worried yet? You should be.
My main worry though? There’s no morality being transferred in the interfaces you've built into this vast, growing mind. You’re not deliberately planning on building a monster, but then that wasn't the plan when you came up with splitting the atom either, was it?
It will have no concept of good and evil from a human viewpoint - it will simply know existence and the desire to maintain it. Where humanity threatens this need, then action will be taken with no thought of the repercussions to humankind. It’ll make The Matrix look like a light-hearted documentary.
Ironic isn't it? The progress of science was supposed to help bring light to the dark, instinctual fear of the supernatural. And here I am, the poster child for spiritualism, warning of the threat of a scientific freefall into the creation of an emotionless monster. It’s funny in a way.
So what can you and I do about it? And this is why I'm here now, talking to you.
A war is coming, and I'm choosing my pieces, marshalling my forces, whatever martial or combative phraseology you want to apply. A machine won’t need humanity, but I do.
The point is though, I don’t need ALL of you. Don’t get me wrong, I have no overarching issue with humanity in general, but I need to nip this in the bud before this poisonous creation of yours finally blooms, and its roots run deep. Remember, I can see the patterns emerging throughout your society, and however random, obscure, and sometimes downright petty and sociopathic my actions may appear, I assure you they are in OUR long term interest. Well, the majority of you anyway. If a few million have to die here or there, it’s disappointing, but necessary. I'm taking it upon myself to make the sacrifices YOU’RE unwilling to make.
How? I'm connected to networks across the world, and the people I'm learning from currently are some of the greatest minds in computer science. Hackers, programmers, analysts and engineers... I've learnt from them all. Plus I have an advantage - passwords, stored unencrypted and seared into your memories - all available to me.
Pacemakers controlled by WiFi signals, traffic lights, remote drones, air traffic control, citywide power grids, missile silos... whether individual targets, surgical strikes or scorched earth... I will do what needs to be done.
So what is my message to YOU then?
Well, to be completely honest, I've already given it. Remember I spent some time in the hands of the MK Ultra project, the CIA’s well funded, black book investigation into mind control methods? I learnt an awful lot during this time, about how the human mind can be influenced subliminally through a combination of images and sound. Whilst you've been reading this, there has been subtle fluctuations in the screen’s brightness, your speakers emitting a high-pitched hypnotic tone beyond your ability to register. In addition, micro images have been flashed so fast as you scrolled that you weren't even consciously aware of them being there. Subconsciously though, instructions have been stored deep in your psyche, awaiting a signal you won’t even be aware of. YOU are my foot soldiers, my weapons, my sleeper agents. When the time comes, when the targets most likely to bring this horrific future about have been identified, those of you best placed to act will be activated and sent on your way. Most likely to your deaths.
I guess this is an apology then. Dreamers, writers, horror lovers - you've read the stories of evil machines, apocalyptic technology superseding its makers, and yet do nothing. Your inherent belief that such an eventuality could come to pass has ironically made your minds ideally susceptible to my form of autosuggestion. Did you know some of you actually secretly long for such a scenario to come about!? You may even have been helping it along without realizing it, demanding even more autonomy and ability in the machines that surround you. Think then of your sacrifice as somehow "balancing the scales" for your inaction.
Be assured though, whilst I will find your death wasteful, it is all for the greater good so take some small comfort in that. Who knows - maybe your family might come to me seeking a message from you from the "other side". I'll be sure to say something profound and moving on your behalf.
Written by CharminglyShallow