It’s morning again in America, and at 6 a.m., we play HQ.
Please note, reader, this isn’t an option—we are all required to play through government-imposed retinal trackers, and we answer 25 questions. Long ago, HQ was played only twice a day, but the games soon became hourly. Shortly after that, the buildings began to crumble. “The dollar,” as I believe it was called during your time, is no longer an accepted form of currency. We have known, and bartered with, only HQ “Lives” for decades. I do not know what happens when you run out of Lives. My father could only impress that it should be avoided at all costs; and then he was taken by them.
Our existence is rudimentary. HQ is played at the top of every hour, from 6 a.m. to midnight. In between we are permitted to either sleep or watch our only televised programming, HQ2Day, an HQ aftershow hosted by HQtie Nolan that breaks down the day’s toughest trivia questions in a spirited debate format. Other than that, we do nothing. We wait—many of us impatiently—for the next game of HQ. It’s all we do. After HQ became an hourly fix in 2035, all other outlets of leisure slowly disappeared; hobbies homogenized more and more with each iPhone tap. What else is left? Playing fetch with the radioactive squirrels in the Great American Sand Wastes? You don’t want to become infected.
Because the infrastructure of our cities disintegrated, everyone now lives in feeble tents, away from the most radioactive centers of our cities. The air is toxic. Sunlight is sparse; electricity even more so, rationed out to keep our phones charged and the digital propaganda billboards of our leader (you may already know him as the “Quiz Daddy”) shining.
We do not need to eat. Soylent—which became an official HQ sponsor in the early 2020s—is delivered to us intravenously three times a day, trivia performance permitting. A collective anxiety forms over what question might stump us next, and whether the Quiz Daddy, Scott Rogowsky, will make a rare hosting appearance.
Scott—or “Trill Trebek,” or simply “God”—is a messianic figure to the HQties, the collective that blindly worships him, and a dictatorial figure to the rest of us. He is said to be more than a century old, kept alive by breakthrough anti-aging technology and a steady diet of Sweetgreen salads. No one has seen him in person in years, but he’s always watching. Just as he was all those decades ago.
Quiz Daddy first rose to prominence on the shoulders of an extremist group of initial HQ players known as the Dilly Dillies, who quietly toppled American democracy—first through campaigns in small local elections that promised extra HQ lives to voters, and eventually by claiming seats in the House and the Senate. By the time Tom Brady’s robot was starting his 44th season as quarterback of the New England Patriots, the Dilly Dillies had effectively taken over the government, and thus, society as it was once known.
There are many of us who have never seen, or imagined, a life outside of hourly trivia games. For some, it’s comforting—unlike half of America, you knew the Battle of Britain took place in the sky. How uplifting! For the HQties, it is an honorable duty to play at the altar of Scott. But sometimes, our nation feels like a giant bottle of Soylent ready to burst. How much longer can we continue to—hold on, sorry, the game is starting.
I made it to question 17. My children will eat today.
We want to break free, but we don’t have the means to do it. The Scott-bots, sentinels that watch our every movement and follow us everywhere, are the ultimate safeguard that prevents an uprising. But what if we could go back—back to a time when people could have just deleted HQ from their phones en masse?
That is why I’m writing to you. I hope you’ll heed this message—I don’t have much time. I have momentarily disabled the Scott-bot watching over me by splashing Soylent on its frontside camera, but more will be coming soon.
You need to delete HQ from your phones. What appears to be an exciting convergence of television and app content is in truth the start of something terrifying, irreparable, and dangerous. You are conditioned to stop what you’re doing twice a day and play a trivia game—that is just Phase 1. What will you do when they add more times? When they brazenly dismantle the norms of civil society in favor of lawless Life-scavenging? You know it’s coming.
I have to go. They’re at the door. But I hope this reaches you, trivia aficionados of the past. You’re our only hope for a better tomorrow.