FIFTEEN - Narrative Bank - Main Branch

After about twenty minutes of driving, Arthur pulls over to the side of the road, pardons himself for reaching, and opens the glove box, from which he removed a curiously titled "Map of the Possible". This map, he said, was from a store called 'infinity'. He said it was one of the clues. He told me to hold on to it.
With that, Arthur got out of the car and used a key to pop open the trunk. He then grabbed a few items which immediately betrayed that we were now in some sort of 'gaming' situation. He tossed me a joystick and asked me to plug it into the Rabbit's dashboard.
He handed me a set of headphones, which he then proceeded to plug directly into the dashboard.
"I've got something that's complimentary. You won't need to cover your ears."
"I was looking forward to it," I said.
"Ah," said Arthur, grinning. "That's good, because it's a soundtrack. Some ambient music, I think, from a game."
Arthur sat next to me, and he quickly oriented the map in his lap.
"So is this a geographical map, a concept map, a game-world app, a storyline map? It's GORGEOUS!" I said, sincerely. "I could stare at this map all day without knowing what it is a map of, and still feel aesthetic fulfillment, you know what I mean Arthur?"
Arthur gives me a 'are you seriously asking me that?' look, and he points to the title at the top of the map, and hands it to me for me to hold and inspect. The answer to my question about what the map is a map of, is written right there, helpfully, on the map itself! And there it is, the map title.
I feel vindicated upon reading it, however, because my question turns out to not have been ignorant after all.
"METAMAP: INTERACTIVE NEUROSPACIAL ELECTRONIC RELATIONAL VARIANTS in AUTHORSHIP"
read the title of the map, and beneath it in parentheses was the rather annoying, 'trying too hard' kind of acronym for the same map:
"M:INERViA"


I rolled my eyes, then mentally recanted and reversed my eye-roll. I'm not kidding when I say, if I am 'correcting or retracting' an eyeroll in my mind, I literally am compelled to roll them back the opposite way, ending with looking down.
Otherwise, the initial reaction of rolling my eyes will go 'on the record' (where? I don't know) as my 'real' reaction rather than my more well-considered reaction, which is actually the one I'd consider more 'real'.
I emphasize to you now that I am an attendant of detail, and if the details in the rest of the world matter, the details about myself must certainly matter more. And with these thoughts chattering in my mind, I returned my attention to "M:INERViA".
First of all, the name (which we never ignore!) has some semiotic peculiarities about it to notice. I don't know what they 'mean' yet, but ultimately that will be up to me, not the "M:INERViA". So right now, I simply wish to gaze at the text of "M:INERViA" (just that one part, the title), to see what it might reveal.
Start with the M. The letter M is famously used in the James Bond films for the character who serves in some way as a powerful mother figure. M is the M of the Mother.

Next we have a ":". Yes, it is a colon, and that is a pun, but the word 'colon' is very closely related to many important concepts like colonialism, Colonel, column, and early smiley face eyes. We'll set it aside and proceed.
The obvious reference of course is the the word Minerva, the Roman Goddess of wisdom. So then, if it's referring to Minerva, why the extra "i" at the end, making it 'Minervia'? The answer is obvious when looking at the font cases.
The "i" in the word is the only one which is lower-case. Which is to suggest that Minerva now contains an "i"; a small eye . . . ?
Minerva is growing an extra eye ?

It could also mean something like 'intelligence artificielle' . . . wait. I think that is perhaps the more likely intention of the cartographer here. (Are cartographers always dead? I'll think on that.)
The word suggests a Minerva who is Artificially Intelligent (AI in English; IA in French; neither should be confused with IA - Iowa, which, while as intelligent as any other state, is not intelligent in any particularly artificial way.)
Having overthought everything from the top of the page to perhaps 8cm down, I now looked at what the curious interactive map display was purported to do. So I asked Arthur the question I had asked, again: "What is this a map of, Arthur. Yes, I already read the title. It tells me nothing straightforward."
Arthur grins and seems eager for what's next. "From now until several hours from now, much of what you hear from me will be much less than straightforward. The game already started when we left your house. And the rules of this game include an absolute prohibition on specifying or explaining any of the rules to new players. The players are to deduce -- or I should really say "significate" -- everything for themselves.
"Signify," I corrected him, only half-sure I was right. He remained silent, probably facing the same uncertainty I was experiencing. So we had an unspoken stalemate. My correction was not rebuked, nor was it acknowledged.
My correcting Arthur with the word "signify" to correct his "significate" might be compared to farting at the dinner table. All parties engage immediately in an unspoken face-saving compromise that goes:
I won't talk about the fact that you deserve to be shamed right now
I refrain from humiliating you mainly because it would make me uncomfortable to bring it up
I was secretly even more intrigued now, but I do admit it sounded like it was going to be a frustrating game if they wouldn't answer any questions about the rules.
I suspect they got the idea from that game 'Mao' that my high school friends would use as a way of asserting power over others because of asymmetrical knowledge. Like the US Government used to work before everyone forgot what knowledge was.
"Arthur, can you at least tell me whether this is like the game 'Mao'? Do you know that game?" I asked.
Arthur relented to say, "I cannot comment on the game in progress, but I can comment on the game Mao. Yes, I do know the game. It's a game in which the destruction of collective transparent knowledge can destroy social bonds in some cases, but can also forge them in other cases.
But that game is a game played with cards, Charlie . . . and this game takes place in a . . . quite different medium, and therefore a quite different format." Arthur smiled knowingly, bringing to my mind what I had just been thinking about asymmetrical knowledge and its power.
With this as my only guidance, I figured my next best shot at understanding what the game is and how to play it, is to simply watch and imitate Arthur. Problem is, he has no map. He's just staring at me, smiling, like he knows what's about to happen and I don't. Which is exactly the case.
Arthur's smile turned into a grin and the grin turned into a bemused smirk. It was getting to be a very weird expression, when the smirk turned into an evil grin, and the grin turned into a sinister smirk . . . and then a very wicked smile.
Then Arthur spoke, "Anyone can tell a lie, but it takes a good liar to make it sound like the truth." He paused for a few long seconds, then added, "now find a seat, Charlie. It's time to play."
I looked around and saw that I was already sitting in my seat. I had been sitting there the whole time. What's up with Arthur? He had started acting strangely ever since we pulled over.
"Arthur, I am physically incapable of mimicking the obviously well-practiced mirror work you have done to put together that particular series of microexpressions. I'm impressed, and I'm convinced you have acting talent. However, for the record, I would like you to know that in my mind, if not on my face, I am returning your evil, smug, arrogant looking grin that has now, I think, turned into a wicked evil smile. I will from now on mentally be reflecting every single facial expression you make back at you. Be warned. If your face is supposed to frighten me, it will doubly frighten you." This was the best attempt I could make at covering up my growing fear that this might be a game that is more dangerous than I was expecting from the likes of Emma.
Then I remembered it was Emma I was thinking of, not some amateur prankster. This was not a prank, whatever it was. I could tell that Emma had put a lot of work into this . . . this, whatever it is, . . . and that her purposes and intentions will therefore be in the interest of my own literary development. It's just . . . wow, this was getting to be an elaborate story she was taking me on.
And I love it. I love this kind of story.
Arthur still had his eerie smile on when I turned to look at him. He was now staring at me, with his teeth exposed, as he slowly opened his mouth. He slowly inched out his tongue, like he was suddenly a reptile or something. He slowly brought the tip of his tongue over the edges of his teeth, to clean them. I was thinking quickly as to how I would describe this exact gesture to you. It's difficult to describe but ultimately simple. All I can say is that it was one of the most frightening things I've ever seen in my life.
I then had an idea. If I was going to be in an elaborate story, I may as well try and write out what I understand so far about my situation.
I took out a piece of paper and a pen and proceeded to document and lay out my thoughts on the paper in an organized way. Specifically, I wrote a limerick - a succinct poem to capture the most important aspects of the scene I was, apparently, now in.

THIS BRANCH CONTINUES IN THE LAND OF ROAM


Using the story so far as the prompt beginning, the author, with the assistance of an artificially intelligent entity, has written the above.