You have a thirty-four day streak. That is proven. Tomorrow, you will not blink an eye when you find yourself having a twelve day streak. Yesterday, your streak was broken. But such is the way of Duolingo.
Reality is a fickle and cruel mistress. Do we submit to its whims and outbursts, or is it our right, our moral duty, to stand up and say no, we will not surrender? Do we, as humans, consent to this form of reality intruding, keeping watch over our lives? Or is there more? You ponder endless questions as your finger hovers over the phone. Would your life be more real if it were lived on your own terms, and not the vicissitudes and vagaries of the Duolingo owl?
You sighed, looking down at your phone. You wished that you had stronger convictions, but for now, at least, the answer had to be no. It seemed, however, that a definite answer was not enough to stop your wandering mind as you translated sentence after sentence of Dutch.
Ik ben een appel.
Hij heeft een vrouw.
Ze hadden een gezin.
Ze hadden een vrije wil.
Maar het was overgegeven.
You took a breath to steady yourself. Something about these sentences was making you nervous- something that you couldn’t quite put your finger on. Momentarily, you contemplated using a streak freeze, but you concluded that it wasn’t worth it. It had never been worth it. You took another break. Perhaps you just needed a break. Maybe you were too tired, or maybe you needed to drink water, or exercise, or-
No. No more excuses. You were going to complete this lesson, get the XP, then it would all be over. You closed your eyes, and, for but a fleeting moment, it wasn’t real. It wasn’t real; everything was fine. But then the sound of ‘de uil eet de mens’ brought you back to the present, and, with a grim determination, you decided to persevere.
Dat is goed.
Probeer geen controle.
Je hebt je hiervoor aangemeld.
Zie de gevolgen onder ogen.
As you pressed the ‘repeat’ button again and again, you swore that something was wrong with the sound. It seemed distorted- mutilated, perhaps? No, that wasn’t it. It was almost as though it sounded far away- no.
The voices were coming from behind you.
Twisted with the realisation that you knew they were there, they began to cackle, shrill and devilish voices filling the room, uttering forbidden vocabulary phrases and accursed verb conjugations. In a frenzy of fear and panic, you did what should have been done so long ago. You deleted the app.
All was calm, and all was quiet. Relieved of the fear that was finally, finally gone, you turned your attention to some other app. Duolingo wouldn’t bother you again.
Somewhere behind you, a single green feather settled on the ground.