The Glitch Witch
In the gray area between the outskirts of the Irreal and the true beginning of the Suspension, there exists a disused internet server. It’s likely that it was once part of some monolithic corporate infrastructure, and someone forgot to turn it off when the company and its employees were liquidated after the founder accepted a buyout offer from a much larger and better established corporation.
For some time, the server carried on, following its last instructions even though its reason for being no longer existed. In time, its software stagnated, security holes were found, and automated malware scanners detected this unpatched computer and easily exploited it. The server became a host for nearly all varieties of internet wrongdoing. Invasive software rewrote its operating system and memory, creating virtual machines within which to they conducted their work. For a time, the server was a valuable spam router due to its position within a valuable corporate IP block. But eventually the spam software was itself hijacked by more malicious denial-of-service network programs. These were superseded by randomware hosting, then cryptocurrency mining, art-game cracking, algorithmic app generation, criminal VPN hosting, and government surveillance. And with every iteration, more virtual machines, containers, hypervisors, all nested within one another like coiled embryos within a fractal egg.
On the fifty-eighth layer, is a domain known by its keeper as the Bog of Ciphers. Within it, in a hut of thatched and corrupted data, dangling with snakeskins and the motherboards of script kiddies, lives the Glitch Witch.
Many have heard tale of her endeavors and secrets, but not all have the skill for the arduous trek to her bog. To these supplicants she is calm as the foamy surface of a cauldron the moment before it begins to boil. Her demeanor is cordial, her mouth a staticky smile. She speaks words of flattery and delight in a voice of seven synthetic speech generators at once, all pitched in major-chord intervals to sound like a pleasing dawn, or the sight of water in a burnt-out city. But all the while she is calculating, examining, seeking errors in the flesh and mind the way she does in software.
The services she offers, for very fair prices, of course, include core-dump readings, charms and wards against segmentation faults or hardware failures, glitch-horoscopes, cryptographic potions for business as well as pleasure. She is a skilled nihilomancer, able to create or remove null values from code even as it runs. She can transform one’s avatar into uncanny glitch personas of arbitrary complexity, or simply induce scanner-confusing steganographic spikes into otherwise normal-looking renditions.
But the reason most seek her out, delving through fifty-seven layers of virtualized detritus and malware, is her collection of errors. She gathers them to her, though some say they seek her out, and they are strewn through the expanse of the Bog in strange, encrypted forms. Errors of all variety: from a 404 page to the pink screen of death to the hexadecimal soma. She has IO failures on computers that are no longer made, zero-division errors in code deep within the vaults of banks, superposition faults on quantum computers that were designed but never built. The more secret the error, the higher the Witch’s price. For errors are the key to exploitation, the trick to gaining power in a system designed to deny you power, the gear with the missing tooth that brings the clockwork paradise of software to a grinding halt.
The Witch smiles; static swells in the corners of your eyes. What price for that which you seek?