There’s something feeding on stories, following the story-lions around in their prides; some kind of scavenger pack, they’ve nick-named them jack-alls, because they seem to be some formed from some kind of undifferentiated ideational tissue.

The Chief Headitor Spence was moving his craft through the interstitial caesura where ideas were half-formed, and stories were half-uttered – not unscripted realms, but barely written; the territory of thumbnail sketches. Jack-alls were feeding on a red shirt that had wandered off the narrative path into swampland – he fired a dart at the leader of the pack, and was thankful that the bang of the gun was loud enough to scare the others off.

They wanted to analyze the animals and see if they could work out from studying their informational underpinnings, what was happening with them, in terms of why they were forming. The suspicion was that they were advanced viral information conglomerates that had leapt up the evolutionary chain much further than anything they had previously seen, and that was worrying.

What was driving them to evolve at such a rate? Was there some rogue author dropping organisational rules into the mix that shouldn’t be in there? They’d found haiku stimulators in the water and epics being used to framework random stories, but they hadn’t been able to determine a signature.

It was months since they started hunting and dissecting; months since they’d pulled in their last suspect and had to let him go because of lack of evidence. Random Acts of Textualism was an anarchist writing collective that had been releasing avant garde texts into the wild, and everything seemed to point to them.

Spence sat there in his office, and Headwick was jotting something down for him, while Peracluse sat in a chair off to the side.

‘Peracluse,’ said Spence ‘It seems that you have a poster child that you golemed out of snatches of conversation, that has been running around in the streets and has attacked people. Officer Headwick here says that the child appears to have something in common with the jack-alls, so, Peracluse, did you create the jack-alls? Admit it now and we might be able to do something for you when it comes to sentencing.’

‘Sure, I’ll admit it. What’s the big deal with a bit of environmental programming?’

‘Because the Text Edict mandates that it’s illegal. We’re going to erase them, and you know what’s going to happen to you, don’t you? You’re going to a Writer’s Block.’

‘That’s not fair. How can you justify that?’

‘The rules are there in black and white.’

Peracluse clammed up after that. Sat there in silence.

Headwick went to Peracluse’s house and grabbed his typewriter ribbon, took it with him to replicate, so they could snare and then wipe the jack-alls. Not a fun part of the job, but a necessary one. There were a lot of them, but they hoped they’d contained the problem.

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