2×07: Borderlands (transcript)

August 2, 2022

Cold open

N: I used to be… kind of charmed by the whole simulation theory thing.

N: I mean I was charmed by it conceptually. I guess you’d say. Because it has that flavor of a conspiracy theory without there being any kind of shadowy cabal thing that turns out sooner or later to be antisemitic. You know? There’s really no villain. Because there isn’t really anything awful going on. Aside from how the world is normally awful, I mean. It’s just that… maybe nothing around you is actually real. 

N: Or it is, but there’s some… bigger and more real reality outside all of this. 

N: It’s charming because it’s an interesting thought experiment but it doesn’t have any actual consequences, in terms of how you live your dang life. Nothing has to actually change. You get up just the same. You go to work just the same. You eat, you hydrate, you do your laundry, you do your taxes. Nothing is different. The truth is it might as well go either way. 

N: The problem is… that’s not true. Not really. There are consequences.

N: Because… I mean, there are a lot of reasons why it’s not as harmless as it seems. For one thing I think maybe we should all be a little unsettled by a theory that gives unstable people reasons to believe that all the people around them are fucking NPCs or whatever. Seems like that might not go great. And I’m saying this as a historically unstable person. 

N: But also, like… if it turned out to be true.

N: If it turned out to be true and something went wrong. 

N: If it turned out to be true, and someone didn’t adequately debug this whole thing before they set it up and pressed play. 

N: Or.

N: If someone got a console open somehow. And started fucking around with the code in real time. 

N: I kinda think that might create some problems. 

N: I used to make games. Or… I used to be on the bigger picture side. Coding was never my thing. But I knew enough about the guts of a game to see firsthand all the shit that can go wrong. Does go wrong, until you work out all the bugs. 

N: Thing is, you never do find them all. 

N: So players find them for you. And some of them exploit them. Like speedrunners. Some of them take advantage of glitches. Some of them clip out of bounds and skip entire levels. Some of them break your physics and fling themselves through the map. 

N: You start to see how this thing you made is a lot more broken than you suspected. 

N: And sometimes that’s a lot of fun, watching them break your thing. Because people are creative. 

N: Sometimes it’s not so fun. Sometimes it keeps you up at night. Sometimes you lie awake thinking about how… you can never be sure you got it right. You can never be sure there isn’t some gigantic monster of a bug lurking in the middle of the whole thing, like a supermassive black hiding in the heart of a galaxy. Just waiting for someone to find it. Fall in. 

N: Pull the whole fucking thing in with them. Turn it all inside out. 

N: What would that look like? If something like that happened? I don’t mean like a broken game that didn’t go through enough playtesting, I mean something… more. Bigger. 

N: Worse. 

N: What would that be like? 

N: I think I know.




Scene 1

(Sound of walking on road/gravel, wind)

N: So I’m on foot. 

N: I know how to siphon gas. I learned. But I don’t like doing it, and mostly I haven’t had to, not once I figured out how to hotwire a car. But suddenly it matters what car I have. So I’ve been keeping the cruiser going that way. It’s been… I don’t know. Two resets now? Three?

N: But the thing is I’ve been wondering if it actually does matter what car I have. 

N: Because it’s been radio silence the whole way. Radio. Fucking. Silence. 

N: Not totally, I have gotten the odd word through the static. But as far as I can tell, no one can hear me. Or if they can’t, they can’t get anything intelligible back to me, so what difference does it really make? 

N: Shit. 

N: I think I’m still going in the right direction. Pretty sure. But direction is most of what I have. There’s a lot of west to go to. 

N: After the last reset I pointed myself in the right direction and ditched the car. 

N: Maybe that was another stupid decision. Hell, probably. But it also felt like the right one? I don’t know how I can even discern what right means anymore. It felt right for myself, how about that. Self-fucking-actualization. Living my goddamn truth. 

N: I am seriously losing it. 

N: Just… Long dark ribbon of road and this wall of trees on either side. Silent. I thought I was used to the silence but for the first time in a long time it’s starting to… pound on the walls of my skull. Like it’s pushing on my eardrums from the inside. I’ve been getting headaches. They never last long but they’re… 

N: They’re just making everything harder. 

N: I guess maybe I could go back for the car. But I left it hours ago. I think. Shit, it might not even be there anymore, because how can I be sure of anything like that now? 

N: Anyway, it was almost out of gas and there weren’t any other cars around that I could see. 

N: I don’t know what I’m doing. 

N: I don’t know what to do.

Scene 2

(Sound of crinkling wrapper)

N: The thing I keep coming back to is who I should be trusting. 

N: It’s a more difficult question than it should be. 

N: What’s… Okay, what makes this all so goddamn complicated is that once I would have trusted her immediately. Like, no question. No argument. Once she would have said don’t trust this total stranger, go and do X instead, and I would have been like, sure. Absolutely. You trust your wife, right? You know she loves you and she has your best interests at heart and you trust her.

N: Or that’s how it’s supposed to go. 

N: Nothing’s the way it’s supposed to be. 

N: I want to trust her. That’s what really hurts. I want to trust her so bad, it’s like this spike my insides are curling around. Everything would be so much easier if I could trust her. I think. 

N: And the thing is… I don’t actually have much of a reason, on paper, to not trust her. 

N: And yet. 

(Long pause)

N: I don’t think about my mom that much anymore. 

N: I did. Used to think about her a lot. She used to live rent free in my head, oh yeah. We tell ourselves that we get out, but we don’t really. Not all of us. But it’s just that… in the annals of queer people with religious conservative parents, mine was…relatively not that bad? She never told me she hated me. She never kicked me out of the house. Although okay, yeah, in fairness I didn’t come out to her until after that was a moot point. But she didn’t tell me I was going to Hell. She didn’t tell me I was disgusting or anything. She never hit me. Not for that. She slapped me a few times when I was little for mouthing off or whatever, but y’know, not even that hard. 

N: I was a little nightmare anyway.

N: It wasn’t that bad. I started getting stories from other people about what their families put them through, and I kept going back to that over and over. It wasn’t that bad. I didn’t have it that bad. It could have been so much worse. 

N: On paper I didn’t have that many reasons to be pissed off. I didn’t have any reason to be traumatized. 

N: On paper. 

N: Except now I think two things. I think it’s pointless to compare what we go through to what someone else goes through. It’s like comparing two different universes. Two totally different frames of reference. In some ways they look the same but the differences almost always… they go right down to the bones. 

N: And the other thing is that sometimes we don’t even know what someone is doing to us. It’s only later we realize how it shaped us. It’s only later we realize how we got hurt. 

N: It’s later, you’re like… Yeah, wow, that was fucked up. That fucked me up. Maybe not even a big thing. Just a thing someone said once. Maybe not even as big as that. Like… a look. A feeling. What isn’t said at all.

N: And then what really fucks you up is you realize… that thing that fucked you up? That was really important in retrospect? They might not have ever noticed it. They might not have known they were doing it. Didn’t know what it meant. Didn’t remember it after. 

N: It wasn’t important to them. It didn’t matter to them. It was… (laugh) Tuesday. 

N: Why am I rambling about this? Why, unspecified abstract nonexistent listening person, am I boring you with all this navel-scrutinizing bullshit?

N: I don’t have any reason on paper to mistrust my wife, no. 

N: But I do not trust her. 

N: And I think maybe there are actually a lot of reasons. 

Scene 3

[radio crackle]

N: (sounding very tired) Is anyone there? (Pause) Anyone? Anyone at fucking all? 

N: Anyone at all, or is this an exercise in futility? Anyone there, or did I just imagine all that? Just like I could be imagining all of this? What does it mean if I won’t even talk to myself anymore? 


N: (sigh) This is hopeless. 

(Another long pause)

N: I’m wasting my time. 

(Sound of car door opening, N getting out, birds) 

N: I’m wasting my time in a fucking car when I could be… standing in the sun. I can do that, until everything flips back over. I can stand in the sun and look at… trees taller than I’ve ever seen before. Tall trees, and the shoulder of the road sheering away into thin air, and a valley down below. Rolling hills. Farmland. From this distance it looks like it’s all… fine. 

N: Looks like it could all be fine.

N: I’m just… I’m so tired. I am so fucking tired of this. (Starting to cry a little) I’m so tired of this, and I don’t know what to do, and I feel even more alone than I did before, so I’m like… what was the point of all that? 

N: What the fuck was the POINT? 

N: I can’t even drag any second of anything even remotely like pleasure out of this, because any second it’s gonna be snatched away and everything will flip back to the way it was, and I’ll get to live the same pointless fucked up day all over again. 

N: Because it’s all the same day. Doesn’t matter where I am. Doesn’t matter what I do. It’s all the same day. 

N: It was always the same day. I just… I get that now. I see it now. 

N: I want to go home. But I don’t know where home is anymore. 

N: I don’t think it’s anywhere. 

(Soft gasp, sound of a deer on pavement, snuffles)

N: Holy shit.

(deer snuffles, startled)

N: Nonono—Please don’t run. I’m not gonna do anything. I’m just…

N: You’re home, aren’t you? Close to it as you need to be. For a deer. I guess all of this is your home. 

N: God, you’re beautiful. 

N: How come you’re alive? How come you’re alive and all the people are dead? How did that happen? Did you see it? 

N: Did you even notice it? Or was it just Tuesday? 

(Long pause, the sound of the flip cycling up. Deer bellows in alarm and suddenly sprints away into the trees. World flips back over)

N: (Exhales) I’m getting out of this. Whatever that involves. Whatever it takes. I don’t give a fuck if everyone is dead over there. Maybe everyone is dead over there, but a lot is still alive. Whereas here…

N: Everything is dead. Except me. I’m not dead. 

N: I’m keeping it that way. 

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