【Short Story】Man in the Mirror

“You think you’re smart, huh?” I shoved the frail boy into his locker. A loud bang resonated throughout the empty hallway.

“If you’re so smart, you should’ve realized what would happen if you call me an idiot in the middle of class,” I grabbed the glasses off his face, threw them on the ground, and stomped on them.

It was the end of the school day. All the buses had left, and it was mostly people who had clubs that remained. The nerd said nothing, and did nothing to retaliate. Instead, he just preemptively tried to shield himself from any blows I might make.

“You’re lucky I’m in a good mood today, or you’d be in the hospital,” I gave my last words and one quick jab at his upper arm. Tonight, my parents would be gone for work, and my girlfriend finally decided to put out. I turned away from the nerd, and just down the hallway I saw her: my girlfriend.

“Cayla, I thought I told you to wait in the car,” I told her.

“Is this why? So you could bully Kevin without me knowing?” she responded, her voice beginning to quiver.

“Babe, don’t worry about him,” I walked up to her and tried to calm her down.

“Of course I’ll worry about him, he’s been my friend since elementary school!” she yelled at me.

“Well, he should know his place,” I looked back towards him, and saw him running the opposite way down the hall.

“Was it that joke he made during class? You really couldn’t take a joke?” she was starting to turn from upset to irritated.

“Look. No one makes fun of me,” I raised a single finger and pointed at her.

“You used to be different. You used to be a leader everyone could look up to. Now you’ve let it all go to your head,” she folded her arms and turned away. Her long hair slapped my face softly.

“It’s not like that, I promise,” I tried to tell her.

“No, we’re over. I’ll see you in class tomorrow.”

She began to walk away, but instead of chasing her, I went the opposite way. That damned nerd is going to wish he was never born. I ran down the hallway, and nearly caught up to him. He was just outside on the schoolyard, but when I tried to exit the building, the doors wouldn’t open. They wouldn’t even budge. It was as if they were completed fixed in place. I assumed this exit was out of order or something and didn’t even think about how the nerd left. I just needed a different way out. I went to the gym right nearby and tried to leave that way, but again, nothing would budge. Something also seemed off—the gym was completely empty. I thought there was supposed to be basketball practice today.

The front door was shut, the fire exits were locked, and none of the windows would open even the slightest. Not to mention, the entire school was empty. I tried peeking into the staff room, but even there, was nobody. I banged on the windows, and even threw a chair at them, but the window did not break. However, something did happen. A high pitched, inhuman shriek came from the direction of the staff room’s fridge. It almost sounded like someone screaming for their life, but it was more mechanical and inhuman sounding. The fridge door started opening by itself, but I could only see it from the side and the door was opening towards me. I wasn’t able to see inside. All I could see were extremely long, and sharp, metal claws coming out from inside.

Shit, what the hell is going on? I booked it to the only place left that I could think of. As I ran down each hallway and up the stairs, I could hear the sound of metal digging into the floor, and the ear-piercing shrieks continued. I didn’t dare look behind me. Eventually, I made it to my last hope: the door to the roof. It opened with a creak, and made a loud thud when I shut it behind me. A second later, I heard a loud metallic bang and the door shook. Whatever was chasing me must have hit the door. My heart was racing a million miles a minute and my brain couldn’t even think properly as I was guided only by survival instincts. The thing kept pounding on the door, and I backed up to the edge of the building. I looked down and saw nothing. Actually nothing. It was as if the school was floating in empty space, except there were no stars or planets or anything like that. Then, I heard a crashing noise as the door broke down, and what came out was a diabolical machine. It had four sharp metal legs, and two arms. One was a rusty hook, and the other was a pincer. Sitting atop the mass of metal was a human head. It was the head of the nerd who I saw not that long ago, except the flesh almost seemed to be melting off.

With barely a moment to react, the machine darted at me. I tried to turn away and jump into the void, but felt a sharp stinging sensation in my back, and was pulled away from the edge of the roof. I could feel my limps dangling as I was suspending in the air, and the machine turned me towards it.

“You should know your place” it said in a non-human voice, before placing the pincers around my neck.


I suddenly felt myself fall to the ground, except I could not move. After all, who would be able to move without a body? My vision went black, and completed faded out.

Then, I was surrounded by a bright white. It did not give the impression of brightness, so much as the absence of dark. Surrounding me were countless mirrors. I looked down, and saw that my body was still connected. I could move my limbs, but only a little. I was bounded. It was painless, but it felt like I was pinned to a cross. It wasn’t long before I heard a voice.

“Welcome to my world, where you shall atone for all you have done wrong” it said.

“W-who are you?” I could barely even speak at this point.

“The one you so mercilessly tormented,” it emotionlessly spoke back.

“Kevin? Is that you? You have to let me out man. What’s going on?” I began to plead.

“Out? How can a computer program leave a computer?” the voice laughed.

“Huh? What are you talking about? We were just at school together, weren’t we?” I couldn’t hide the confusion in my voice.

“Maybe that’s what you think. Take a look into the mirrors,” he said, and I obeyed.

In each mirror, was a different me. I would see myself picking on Kevin in countless different ways, and then I would meet a gruesome end.

“This is your fate,” he said, before continuing.

“What a beautiful world,”
“What a twisted world,” we said at the same time.

Once again, I was thrown into the mirror, my memory erased, and I was slaughtered, again, and again. Sometimes, I would be forced to experience Kevin’s life, and be beaten up by myself. Sometimes, I would experience my girlfriend’s perspective, and laugh and cheat on myself behind my back. The sea of mirrors and worlds contained within them was endless. After each time, I would end back up in the white space with an amalgamation of memories for a short period of time. Kevin’s voice eventually stopped, but the experience would continue. Endlessly, I would be born, and disposed of. This world could have been anything, but, reflecting the heart of its tortured creator, it became disgustingly distorted. Despite the torture and knowing that I was a piece of garbage without a soul, I still clung to hope. In the end, it felt like having nightmares. But even nightmares are just dreams.

After what felt like a hundred years, I finally heard Kevin’s voice again.

“I think you’ve learned your lesson. I’m satisfied. You’re free to go,” and I was thrust again back into school. This time, I kept all my memories. I was me. I was able to leave and do whatever I wanted. I avoided Kevin and graduated high school, married my girlfriend, and moved to Hawaii to get as big of a change of scenery as possible from that school. I’d get a job as an electrician, make a respectable living, grow old, and eventually retire. I had children who grew up and had their own kids, and on my deathbed, I was surrounded by all my loved ones. I would die in peace. My world faded to black.

Then everything went white.

【Short Story】Museum of Regrets

I lived a quiet, peaceful life. It all started in elementary school. Perhaps my path was determined even earlier than that, but my memory does not go back that far, so I’ll have to begin from the first grade. There was a bully on the playground. He wasn’t in my class, thankfully, but he was a nuisance to everyone during recess. He’d stand atop the play structure and make it so that anybody who wanted to use the slide or monkey bars would have to deal with him. It was unfortunate, but nobody stood up to him. The teachers could not be bothered to do anything about him either, even despite parents complaining. Perhaps they didn’t believe the parents, or maybe they thought the claims were exaggerated. It’s hard to tell. It was a different time back then, before schools had to bow to the absolute authority of parents. Anyway, as long as we stayed away from him, it was usually fine. I say usually, because he wouldn’t stay up there all the time of course. If nobody was coming up, he’d get bored and leave to find someone to pick on. I was never bullied by him personally, but one day, my friend was the victim, and all I did was watch on as the bully shoved him. I should have stood up for my friend. I’m not sure why I didn’t. It wasn’t like I had to fight the bully or anything. I could have just tried to break things up, but I did nothing. Now, of course, you could just blame that on me being a dumb kid, but like I said, that was where it all started.

In middle school, it was me who got bullied. Nobody stood up for me, and I didn’t expect them to. They would take me and throw me outside the school building right before classes began so that I’d be locked out. They’d make fun of me and take my lunch. But I didn’t react. I didn’t fight back. I figured that if I did not give them any reaction, they would leave me alone eventually. And they did, but at what cost? I should have tried to protect my dignity. I should have tried to fight back—maybe give them a punch or two—but I did nothing. In general, I tried to stay as down-low as possible. I didn’t want to cause trouble to anyone, or give myself trouble.

High school was a lot more peaceful. I had a small group of friends, though I would not say we were closely knit. We mainly hung out together at lunch because there was nobody else to hang out with. It was better than being alone, so it was sort of just an obligatory friendship for all of us. I kept my head down, did my work in school, went home, and played video games the rest of the day. It wasn’t bad, but at the same time, other people were beginning their lives. Athletes doing their best to master a sport. Artists developing their skills. Other people were taking school seriously, aiming for scholarships, taking AP classes and planning their entire academic future. Meanwhile, I just wanted to pass with as little effort as possible. Even when it came time to graduate, I didn’t ask anyone out to prom. I didn’t bother taking any chances with girls. In hindsight, high school was the perfect time to develop my social skills, but I didn’t do anything. I didn’t even really get much from the friends I was hanging out with. Like I said, it was obligatory more than anything else. I didn’t see than any other time outside of lunch hour, and even then we weren’t exactly social with each other. But that was okay by me. I didn’t need a date to prom. I’ll find the one for me eventually, right?

My parents pressured me to go to university, so I ended up going. I didn’t really feel determined to go, but I didn’t want to let down my family either. Because of that, I decided to take something that I thought would be safe and easy and majored in business. I wasn’t really invested in the idea of becoming a business man to begin with, but the classes were somehow even more boring than I expected. I couldn’t care less about societal stakeholders or marketing. I just wanted a simple desk job. In the end, it was the math that got me. For some reason, we had to learn calculus. It was bad enough at first, but I’ll never forget the how difficult the chain rule was. But in the end, that was on me. I should have studied more, or asked for help. Maybe if I really tried, I could have understood. Maybe if I really tried, my accounting homework wouldn’t have all been turned in late. It just felt like too much effort. I didn’t want to go to university and major in this in the first place. But again, it was all my fault. I should have argued with my parents about this and tried going to a community college instead. I should have tried to take control of my own destiny. I can say this now that I’ve had so much time to look back on it, but back then, I still had not yet realized the result of my compounding mistakes.

In the end, I dropped out of university, and I was shackled by a mountain of debt. There wasn’t much I could do except work a minimum wage job—call center work from home. Of course, by home, I mean my parents’ basement. I didn’t have much of a life at this point, and working the night shift and not seeing coworkers really didn’t give me a chance to try to turn anything around. 

Years passed, and I finally paid off my debt. I was still working close to minimum wage at ungodly hours, and my parents were starting to get sick of me. That said, they weren’t sick of me simply for living with them for so long. It was a rough economy and they understood that. It was more along the lines of them not feeling proud of me. What had I done with my life? I didn’t do anything special, and I failed when I did try. I looked at what my old high school classmates were up to online, and that was when, for the first time in my life, it truly hit me. One was on his way to becoming a doctor. Another was a parent with a loving husband. There was someone who had started their own business, and someone who had been working their way up the corporate ladder from the very bottom. Everyone was doing something. They were accomplishing something with their lives. What was I doing? I was living a shitty life, but deep down, I believed that someday my life would truly begin. Someday, I’d get the recognition I deserve. Someday.

But that day never came. I kept working low-level jobs, putting in minimal effort while at the same time expecting some kind of break—some kind of opportunity to fall into my lap. I moved out of my parent’s house, but whenever I came home from work, I never felt ready to start a hobby or work on self-improvement, not realizing that there’s never a “perfect time.” I found a girlfriend, but she quickly broke up with me when I wasn’t putting in enough time for her. She tried to tell me, but I always argued back. I never blamed myself and tried to change. In my early life, I had not been assertive enough, but now it was too much. If only I had practiced social skills earlier on, I would have learned the right level of agreeability for different situations. Now that I escaped debt hell, I’d waste my excess money on gambling and booze, when I could have been putting it into good use by investing in something that would give me long-term satisfaction. By the time I was in my mid-forties, I realized. It was too late. I had wasted all my time. There was no way I could turn things around now. The life I lived was the real deal. I spent the whole thing taking no risks—never going out of my way for anything—and I got what I paid for. Instead of taking control of my life, I let life take control of me. Even when I was taken here, I wasn’t able to resist…

Anyway, thanks for listening to my story. All I can do now is think back on what I could have—and should have done, but perhaps you’ll be able to take something from it. Or maybe you’re just here to get some amusement. I’m not really sure, but it looks like my time is up. Once again, thank you.

The red light emanating from the terminal faded, and the speakers went silent. Despite how many people were walking around, the chrome floor remained perfectly clean. Other voices could faintly be heard in the distance. It was quite the large room, but it was very plain, except for the walls which had various wires and tubes running along them. These tubes connected to the bottom of a cone-shaped pedestal, upon which was a cylindrical glass container. It was difficult to tell, but the inside the glass container seemed to be filled with a liquid. Inside the liquid, a snaky mass of flesh and bone with an especially wrinkly lump of meat on the top was suspended. Many wires were connected to that lump. This was only one of many displays. Many other cylindrical exhibits were in the room as well, each with their own terminals in front allowing you to interact with them, and each with their own story to tell. 

Welcome to the museum of regrets.

[Original Story] Serving the Dark Lord? I Didn’t Sign up for This!

Howdy, Amen here! I’m writing an original story for a web novel contest. I am aiming for a comedic deconstruction of the fantasy isekai genre. You can find it here if you’re interested. New chapters each Monday https://www.honeyfeed.fm/chapters/11501


“Welcome to the realm of darkness, my new acolyte”
I was summoned to a fantasy world… by the dark lord himself!? The hero has become a tyrant, my only ally is a delusional mad-scientist wannabe, and it’s our job to restore balance to a world blinded by light.
My ally may embrace this world of monsters, magic, and all that it comes with it, but I’ll knock some common sense into whoever crosses me and deny fantasy until my dying breath.

Forget everything you know about fantasy in this genre-busting adventure.

The Amen University Experience (Year 4)

It’s about time for the penultimate chapter of the Amen university experience. I’ve had most of this written for a long time now, but for some reason or another I never felt ready to post it until now. If you’re new to the series, you can begin here. Now, onto the main story. Year 4. The extra & phantasm stages. It’s time to lay everything out flat on the table. This is a confession.

In my second year, I discovered latent magical power. I named this power the「何とかなる超能力」or the “everything will work out” superpower, which let me escape any bad situation. Later on, I would learn about the closely related skill「Highly Responsive to Prayers」which periodically allows a reasonable wish to be granted. This skill plays a big part in the upcoming story and in last year’s normie quest success. But what is the logic behind these powers? Surely you all think I’m just a crazy chuuni who’s making this stuff up. After all, what kind of aspiring scientist would I be to believe in magic? But the magic is all in believing in it. If you believe you are likely to succeed, for whatever reason, you are more likely to. I suppose you could call it a psychological trick. “What you habitually think largely determines what you will ultimately become.” – Bruce Lee. Self-doubt will sabotage you before you even begin. At first, I was doubtful about this “everything will work out” power, however through repeated success, my belief in it strengthened, which further strengthened the effect, creating a sort of positive feedback loop. In effect, this psychological trick grew into true magic. Later on, I learned about the occult concept called the law of attraction, which I believe functions on the same principles. If you believe it works, it will work. You will fool your own brain into a positive state of mind. However, if you doubt the law, it will not do anything for you. I suppose it’s also kind of like a placebo effect.

I also came to know of a technique which I call「影シンクロ」(Shadow Synchro). Recognition of and coming to know your subconscious self. Only through intense physics did I learn of the self within. Whenever an answer would just pop into my head, it was him. The one who showed me the procedure to solve questions was him. If I was stuck on a question, I could just stare at it, not thinking, until my brain found a way. You may read this and think it is something akin to a strange form of multiple personality disorder, but I came to recognize it as my shadow. This is a term from Jungian psychology, which was probably debunked, but I do think there is some truth to it. I, personally, am not very intelligent. If I had to rely on my conscious self alone, I would be completely hopeless. The only reason I could do anything like math or physics or even learning Japanese was due to my shadow working in the background. Recognizing this shadow as a separate being allowed me to consider his needs above mine in order to maximize his performance. Just as human consciousness is trapped inside a body, he’s trapped here with me. But if I want to get through life, I need to keep him happy. Of course, the main methods for this would be things like eating and sleeping properly. Healthy activities. However, it also explains why my performance drops significantly when around other people. My shadow is lazy and sees other people’s presence as a chance to relax. In the end, I suppose it doesn’t make a difference for most people, but it was still enlightening to see the truth. After all, it’s thanks to my shadow that I also have the skill「即座想起」”Instant Recollection.” The ability to relearn any forgotten knowledge with extreme speed.

But enough about that. The time is fall. 2017 bizarre summer had just ended. I was hooked listening to Alstroemeria’s “Romantic Fall.” After the experiences that summer, listening to this song had made me want to experience a romantic fall myself, however there was a problem. There were no girls I liked nearby and I had no idea how to meet anyone I would like. Even if I was an expert at picking up girls at bars or something like that, I’m not interested in the types of people that go there. So, nothing happened. Classes went on. But the thought remained in my mind.

This semester, I was taking on classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, a physics seminar course, logic, and programming. Classical mechanics ended up as one of my favourite classes. It really tied together everything we had learned up until this point, and learning about calculus of variations and how it led to Lagrangian mechanics was extremely cool. If I recall, it involved minimizing a path integral to find the path an object would travel that takes the least amount of energy. In a way, it felt like cheating or a loophole using the laws of the universe against itself. It was almost like Hempel’s Raven. In order to find the path an object would take, you just have to eliminate all the paths it won’t take. Of course, this also ties into the principle of least action, which is very interesting, and very intuitive. If an object must move, it will take the least amount of energy possible. I have a pet theory that this also applies to shifting timelines, but that’s a story for another day.

Electricity and magnetism was a lot more difficult, but I could do vector calculus. Ever since I messed up on the final exam for my vector calculus class, I’ve always wanted to understand it deeper, but somehow, it ended up becoming one of my biggest strengths. In fact, learning this stuff ended up strengthening my understanding, since divergence and curl are so important in it. In the end, the class was manageable. Lots of crazy triple integrals among other things, but I could do it.

Magic circle of electrostatics

The seminar course… I’m not sure if it’s really worth talking about. Not that it wasn’t useful, but it mostly involved listening to others give presentations, followed by us writing about their presentation. As well, we had to give presentations, but that was fine. It’s kind of funny, actually. Throughout physics, I was given more presentation practice and advice than during high school, where you would expect to find it. Perhaps it’s because of this, but I don’t really experience stage fright. After all, at this point, I had experienced the maximum possible embarrassment: being grilled about every single detail in my presentations by professors. If I didn’t understand every single small detail of what I was presenting, and sometimes stuff beyond what I probably would be reasonably expected to know, I’d be in for a bad time.

The real fun came in logic and intro to programming. After all, I had already taken a programming class. The catch is, this was a separate course hosted by the math department for the same purpose. Key words: Separate course. I could get credits for this. Previously, I learned C++, and in order to practice, made a program named “Mathlord’s Servant” that would solve any linear algebra question I could think of. This, of course, turned out to be much more practice than I needed for the first course, so this next intro to programming course was not ready for me. It was Python this time, but learning new syntax was trivial. Programming is all about technique and thinking in terms of algorithms. I didn’t even need to show up for class. In fact, I showed up late to labs, centered around problem solving, and finished them in 10 minutes while other people were still stuck. Rather than learning in class, I probably spent more time helping my physics comrade who was also there. It was a good time, and I wish the university offered Japanese courses so I could have done the same thing there. If you’ve ever watched Hunter x Hunter, the closest thing I could describe it to is Hisoka during the Hunter exam. The guy is already highly experienced and knows all the trade secrets, but is just taking the exam for the certification. It was really fun.

Logic was very similar. After all, in programming, you need to learn the basics of logic. That is, Boolean algebra with a bit of “if X then Y” statements and a few other things. This class added a bit more than I had seen in programming, but in the end, I was solving truth tables faster than Light Yagami wrote names in his notebook. The actual challenge was using proofs, but again, with all my problem solving experience, this was more fun rather than difficult. When it came to learning logical fallacies, again, I had the experience. When you’re on the internet, you see these all the time. In fact, they can be a very useful tool against people who do not recognize them to make it sound like you know what you’re talking about when you, in actuality, do not.

In the meantime, I was still playing online games with friends. In particular, Overwatch. I had become what I hated most: a Genji main. At some point, some girls we were friends with (but didn’t talk to often) began playing with us more frequently, until they became a staple part of the Overwatch group. We all had a good time, and it went on like that for a few months. I was still hoping to find a girl to go out with, but after my last relationship, I vowed to never have an online relationship again because it was too difficult, so I didn’t see these girls as romantic options. However, that wishing slowly went from “I want to find a girl to go out with” to “I want to find a girl like her to go out with” to “I want to go out with her.” I tried to deny my own feelings for the longest time, but eventually I had to face the truth. There was one girl in the group who I liked. But the situation was far more complicated than that. Not only did I not want to get into a long distance relationship, but she didn’t want to get into a relationship either. But it’s not like I could just erase these feelings. If it was possible, I would have done so. At the beginning, I didn’t mind hearing about the other guys she met or what she was doing or how she was feeling about them. After all, we were just friends. But slowly it became painful to hear about those sorts of things. Especially when she was upset by their actions. “I would be so much better than them,” I couldn’t help thinking. Classic. I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I had to do something. It was all or nothing. I had to confess my feelings. At this point, I made an ultimatum with myself. If she did decide to go out with me, then it was a happy ending. Otherwise, I would have to place some distance between us, so that I could move on from these feelings. So I told her how I felt, and she liked me too. But, she was still unsure about getting into a relationship. However, she did say that she may be open to the idea of one in the future. It’s extremely rare for me to fall for someone – a once in 7 years occurrence – so I decided to tough it out for the possibility. However, eventually our friendship evolved into something strange. It wasn’t a true relationship, but it was as close to one as you could be without calling it that. We were constantly acting all lovey dovey and flirty, the whole shebang. It really felt like a relationship, but she still didn’t want to go official. All the while, she was still hanging out with other guys. She was “just a friend,” but she would have heavy expectations on me as if I were her boyfriend. She would be upset if I didn’t give her enough attention. I’d stay up awake many nights to talk to her when she was having mental health crises, to the point where I ended up skipping classes. I knew that I shouldn’t be used as a therapist, but I couldn’t help it. I liked her, after all. I wanted her to be happy. At some points, I would feel happier than ever, and at other times, I would feel worse than ever, going back and forth, over and over. San値ピンチ.

Eventually the second semester came, and with it, she was coming over to visit. Then, we made a strange agreement. Just for this visit, I could call her my girlfriend. This was my chance. If I didn’t win her over here, I didn’t think I ever would. It ended up being one of the best weeks of my life. We went out to eat, I gave her a tour around the university, we played ping pong, we watched shows and cuddled together. On her last day, I couldn’t help myself but break into tears. I wanted these times to last forever, but I knew they couldn’t. That last day I wanted to make perfect for her, but our plans ended up being derailed. I was sad that I couldn’t do it and apologized for her last day being lame, but she said “It’s ok, I got to spend the day with a really cool guy.” I still remember those words. Hearing that killed me. Why? I’m not sure, but it did.

After she left, things went downhill. I really liked being with her, but at the same time, her expectations were too painful, and she played with my heart too much. Whenever we had problems, I wanted to sort them out through communication, but she expected me to know everything. Classic guy problem, I know, but I was willing to do anything for her. If she had just told me what was bothering her, I would have accommodated her needs happily.

One day, I suggested that until she’s actually ready for a relationship, we should act like friends in the meantime instead of this fake relationship. When I said that, she lost it. She brought up how I triggered her trust issues, and said that it’d take even longer for her to be ready for a relationship now. At this point, my bullshit detectors were set off. What is she talking about? She’s the one who said she wasn’t ready for a relationship. Why is she so upset by this? I made sure of her feelings beforehand, so it’s not like I was failing to read her. In the end, I was no more than her boy toy. I’m not saying I’m completely innocent in this. I made some mistakes along the way, but at least I tried to fix them and work on fundamental relationship skills. After all, the reason my first relationship failed was because I wasn’t communicating properly. Now, I was on the other side.

The “break up,” if you could call it that, was extremely painful, even though I was the one who brought it up. I couldn’t take my emotions flying from one extreme to the other anymore. The final straw was when I heard from a mutual friend that she still liked someone else. I was just a substitute. I couldn’t bear to be in that kind of position. That was the end. I couldn’t even talk to her anymore after that. I really put in a lot of effort to make things work, knowing that with the 7 year curse and all, I wouldn’t have another chance in a long time, but it wasn’t meant to be.

The worst part of everything, perhaps, is that this one week relationship broke me out of the genjutsu I placed on myself. I had brainwashed myself into thinking that all I needed was math and physics. I didn’t need anything else. I was a physics robot. For 3 and a half years, I had made it through like that. But then, the illusion shattered. I re-awoke to my true desire: to not be alone. So… this is what it means to be human. This is the true conclusion of the normie quest that begun in my third year. Perhaps, had I not pursued such a goal, I would be working towards a PhD in physics right now. Instead, that realization was my ruination. In that second semester, I had quantum physics, electromagnetic theory, classical mechanics 2, physics research, and a course dedicated towards physics labs. After everything, I wasn’t ready to continue on, but I had no choice. This was the phantasm stage: my final semester. And the pain had just begun.


The physics research was a continuation of where I left off from the 2017 bizarre summer. I had been nearly done, so I had grown lazy. However, unexpectedly, the final calculation had a problem. In the end, I’m still not sure what went wrong with it, but something went wrong. When it came to particle physics, I barely had any idea what I was doing to begin with, but this research took things to a new level. And I had to write something like 30 pages about it. Jesus Christ. As I am now, I could do a lot better, but back then, I was still not used to writing. I gave it my best shot, but it was bad. But it wasn’t my worst that semester.

The worst was the physics lab. Labs were already another one of my weaknesses, and now we had to do it as an actual class, with crazy advanced experiments. That was fine, but one day, I was talking with someone else about the lab instructor, and they mentioned how unfairly he graded. Apparently — and this was just what I was told by that friend — the lab instructor graded girls much, much easier than the guys. I made a few tweets about this, again saying this was just what I heard, without even mentioning the lab instructor’s name, saying how I don’t think that’s right. Somehow, he caught wind of this. Now, as you may know, my twitter is completely detached from my real life self. Later, I would learn that a friend of a friend at the time had tracked down and stalked my twitter for some reason, and ratted it out. I’m not sure how she knew it was me or what her motivation was or if she was misunderstanding something, but it was a cuck move. I wasn’t even planning on taking immediate action. Next thing I know, my friend is telling me that the the physics department is having a meeting behind my back about my tweets about how the physics instructor was discriminating. The twist is, I was the one in the wrong. I was the one being sexist, for suggesting that people be treated equally. What the hell kind of logic is that? They had a vote on whether or not I should be made to take some sort of sensitivity training, but thankfully the majority voted no. I would like to believe that most of the department saw what I said for what it really was, but who knows how the story was twisted and re-framed. Later on, I would go on to become a teacher myself, and I can gladly say that I did not treat male and female students any differently at all. In fact, going easy on female students would be putting them at a disadvantage later on. Giving them easy grades would not be preparing them properly. So on top of the break up, I had all this going on in the background. It was not a good time. I couldn’t even bring myself to ask the lab instructor questions. In the end, I got extremely lucky and passed with a 50%. I’m sure it was just a pity pass, but I’ll take it. Is it possible that my friend was making all of this up? Sure. Maybe he did. But personally I want to believe in my friends.

Electromagnetic theory was also a special kind of hell. This was where partial differential equations were introduced. Last year, I had already kind of learned them in a mathematical physics class, but man, it was so condensed that I felt like I learned nothing. What I really needed was a full PDE class, but that wasn’t offered at this university. I had to take the crash course version instead. These PDEs ended up being my greatest weakness. Perhaps if I had taken the time to properly study, I would have managed somehow, but I did not. I could not, with everything going on. I just wanted to be done at this point. Up until last year, I had been interested in researching particle physics, but after taking it, I had lost interest. It was not what I had imagined. Academic writing was not something I was a fan of or good at either. At the same time, I lost my magic by becoming a normie. There was no way I could center my life around physics anymore. Anyway, I didn’t do too great in this course either.

Neither did I do too great in quantum physics. The notation was what ruined me. It just came out of nowhere with no explanation. People praise Griffith’s textbooks, but I actually wasn’t a fan of them. Perhaps I should have taken a second linear algebra class at some point. I was following the class fine up until perhaps about halfway through. At that point, I sunk into “don’t understand, just do” syndrome. Memorize the patterns, but don’t actually learn anything. God knows I’d have been doomed had we actually gone into perturbation theory. Man, there’s so much crazy stuff going on. It’s no wonder I couldn’t understand particle physics, since so much of it was built off the back of quantum mechanics. Sometimes I wonder though. If I were able to turn back time and redo my physics degree, how would things go? With the knowledge I have now, surely I’d do better, right? Who knows. It feels strange to say, but at this point, it all feels like a distant memory. Almost like a dream. But at the same time, it also feels like it just happened yesterday. What would my life be like right now had I not declined that offer to do a master’s degree in particle physics, I wonder. There are a few “what if” moments in my life that I wish I could see. Perhaps, if a god really does exist, and there really is an afterlife, they’ll show me the possibilities.

The class that I did the best in, and my favourite class, was classical mechanics 2. At this point, I understood the professor and his expectations and his lectures completely. I was very used to him. His expectations were very reasonable, if you ask me. That said, I don’t know if my judgement of reasonable expectations is reasonable. But either way, I was able to follow what was going on. It probably helps that classical mechanics 2 didn’t introduce anything radical, like how EM theory had PDEs, but whatever. It was a fun class. I can’t really remember much that went on besides hamiltonians, more lagrangians, rotational motion (like the earth rotating and Coriolis force) and a few tensors that were just matrices, but it was good. That’s not to say the other professor was bad, but I really liked this one’s style. It complimented how I do things, and I enjoyed working on his assignments. But man, I gotta say, the assignments in general for physics were brutal. Sometimes, assignments would take 12 hours or more straight working on them. With multiple assignments like this per week, I was locked in a world of solving puzzles, seemingly endlessly. Whenever I finished one, a new one would be assigned. This normally isn’t supposed to happen, but because of high school, because I couldn’t take the math I needed, I had nearly an entire physics degree shoved into the final 2 years of my university career. The workload was more intense than usual. That, combined with the breakup and the lab instructor conspiracy was a triple layered wall of pain. I’m still somewhat surprised I managed to make it through everything. At the end, I had to give a presentation on the research that I did, and man, I still remember having no sleep that day. Despite this, for some reason, after giving my presentation, some man I did not know gave me a pat on the shoulder and said I did a great job. If I was a madman, I’d like to say that it was me from the future giving myself a pat, but I doubt I’m going to invent a time machine anytime soon. At this point, I have moved away from physics, sad to say. I still like it and all, but I can’t see myself going back to it.

Barrage of work

After that semester, I somehow graduated. The graduation ceremony itself wasn’t much, but I did get my fancy piece of paper worth $50,000 and a fancy medallion for excellence in physics. The award almost felt ironic. I wasn’t so much happy to as finished the degree than I was just relieved that it was all over. I needed a break, badly. I know, it must suck seeing your protagonist so beaten up, but the journey doesn’t end here, don’t worry.

After graduating, I took a break and went full hikiNEET for about 5 months to let my soul heal a bit. After finishing university, I had felt like I was in a constant state of “I should be doing something, I have work that I’m probably forgetting right now, I can’t afford to relax” but eventually I finally managed to recover. My only goal now was to work an easygoing job and live an easygoing life. Well, it’s kind of already been spoiled, but what I had in mind was to become a high school teacher. Since I was already extremely proficient regarding math and physics, I figured it would be easy. Grading wouldn’t be too bad, and I’d be able to give students a quality education. But, the time period for applying to the education program was over. I had to wait until next year. Towards the end of the summer, I ended up taking up a retail job. I was working as a clothing salesman. Kind of a shitty job for someone with a physics degree, but in the shitty town that I lived in, I could not get anything else. I actually could not get anything. Due to my parents, I had been applying for jobs the whole time I was a hikiNEET, but I wouldn’t even get an interview for a minimum wage job with my degree. In fact, the only reason I got the job I did is because one of the employees (the only other employee) wanted less hours and insisted on the boss hiring me. I couldn’t even get a cashier job at a dollar store. Some good this degree did me.

It was a very slow paced job. Some days, barely any customers would even set foot in the store. My coworker did not really like this, but I didn’t mind it, honestly. After coming out of university, where I felt like I was working more often than not, it was a very welcome change. However, I couldn’t convince people to buy things. The company wanted us to reach certain goals. These include selling so many dollars worth of clothes by the end of the week, selling an average of 2.5 items per transaction, and also selling a certain number of socks. In other words, if someone, for example, only came in to buy a belt, the company would want you to convince him to buy two more things. It was possible, but I did not know how to do it. There was one store in the region that was always hitting these insane targets, but nobody here had a clue what their secret was. And, of course, being a minimum wage job, you were treated like a slave. Whenever I didn’t meet certain goals, I would be included on a list of shame that was emailed to every store. They would have the names of people who accomplished the targets on top, and then the names of people who didn’t coloured red on the bottom. It’s not like I had an incentive. The commission was so negligible that it did not make a difference. You only got commission after selling a minimum amount total, and at the store I worked at, with so few customers, that was not possible.

I worked there for a year. The time was now the beginning of August and I would be quitting in a few weeks. I got accepted to the education program, but it was at a new university, since my old one did not have a bachelor of education program for high school teachers. This would begin in September. As well, a friend, one that I had moved away from (see Amen high school experience), was having a wedding mid-August and I was invited as a groomsman. The year of working retail was a blur, since nothing exciting happened, but lots of changes were coming.

Well, I came out with a degree, but of course there would be no jobs. At least I got a decent break afterwards. The next chapter will be the last. Next time on the Amen University Experience: “The grass really is greener on the other side,” “Quarter life crisis,” “How it feels to be hit by gold experience and king crimson,” “The Five Impossible Dreams,” “Amen Requiem: Birth of the sorcerer of knowledge.”