PSA: Cognitohazards and You!

rating: +242+x

Agent Mills shut the door to the SUV with a quiet thunk under the light of a full moon. The lights to the house were on, which was a good sign when responding to potential memetic dispersion situations. Vegetables tended to be incapable of using complex electronic interfaces like light switches.

As such, Mills relaxed minutely as he knocked on the front door.

Two minutes later, Mill’s momentary relief was cancelled out by a sinking feeling in his gut. He had tried looking into the small suburban house’s windows, but the blinds were closed.

It wasn’t until he returned to the doorstep that he realized something was leaking from under the door. Something viscous, and red.

“Shit.” Mills swore under his breath, pulling on a set of SCRAMBLE goggles, and pressing the emergency button on his watch.

Timothy Deering the Third, or “Timmy” as everyone and his mother called him, had been walking home from school after a particularly uneventful day.

As most third graders were, he was entirely engrossed in his phone, scrolling through his Tiktok feed. So engrossed was he with his feed, he almost stepped into traffic at a particularly busy intersection. Only the dedicated and vocal honking of several drivers kept him from a near-death experience.

Unfortunately for them, their efforts almost engendered the opposite, as, while Timmy was occupied crossing the street, he accidentally clicked on a link in the comments section, helpfully titled “WATCH FOR CRAZY SHIT, BRO”.

When he looked back down, he knew immediately that something was wrong.

But it was too late. He had already seen the anomalous organization of shapes and figures, and now it was working its way through his prefrontal cortex.

The door to the suburban home was thankfully the flimsy kind of plywood American cookie-cutter housing was infamous for, so Mills was easily able to force his way in.

However, the sight that greeted him when his foot kicked it open made him deeply regret not waiting for an MTF.

Even through the delayed pixelated screen of his SCRAMBLE goggles, the sight of blood and viscera caked over almost every surface was enough to make his stomach turn.

His fingers made the reflexive decision to pinch his nose shut, but the pungent taste of copper still filtered into his mouth.

His other hand pulled out his sidearm, and the agent began to stalk through the house.

Timmy had never felt a sensation like this before. It was like his brain behind his eyes just hurt. Like someone was trying to claw its way out of his skull.

It was almost enough to make him cry. Almost.

And under his breath, he began to whisper something.

“When you see a Cognitohazard, and you’re feeling really shocked, it’s really quite important that you remember “CLOKS”…”

Mills started in the kitchen. A woman, the mother, presumably, was lying facedown on the active stove, while something in her blood was drawn on the counter.

His SCRAMBLE gear blurred out the bloodstained image, to which Mills let out a sigh of relief.

The agent’s left hand kept his nostrils firmly shut as his gun hand reached over a large pool of blood on the floor, and he turned off the stove, pointedly not looking at what it had done to the poor woman’s face.

“Timmy!” his mother called from the kitchen. “Want some lunch?”

He shook his head quietly, not even looking his mother in the eye as he moved as quickly and unobtrusively as he could up the staircase up to his room.

Her eyes followed him as he moved up the staircase, and while his behaviour was odd, he was eight, so she simply shrugged and let him pass.

Mills looked around, bending down to approximately where the woman’s head was, and tried looking around. She had clearly fallen quickly, to a visual Cognitohazard, so whatever she had seen was fast-acting, and she had to have seen it where she’d been standing.

It wasn’t until he looked in the window that he realized that SCRAMBLE was blurring out something reflected from behind him.

He turned away from the grim scene and moved cautiously towards the staircase.

Timmy shut the door behind him, and locked it. For added measure, he copied a movie he saw and propped a chair against his door.

Further imitating the videos he’d seen, he shut his blinds, and even pushed a towel into the crack under his door for good measure, before sitting down on his bed and quietly dialling 555.

At the bottom of the steps was the body of the man of the house. The Cognitohazard his wife had seen was scrawled over the staircase in his blood. The rest of his blood was pooling at the bottom of his body, presumably unable to stop leaving him once his scrawled note was finished.

Mills’ eyes tracked the man’s blood trail as he backtracked the father’s movement down the staircase.

“Okay Timmy, you locked your door, right?”

“Yep. What-what do I do now?”

“We’re going to be cut off in a second, but when we do, I want you to pull out the batteries from your phone and computer okay?”

“What if I can’t?”

“Then put it under your bed, or just break it with a hammer okay?”

“I-I don’t know if I’m allowed to do that?”

“Timmy, we’re going to have words with your parents, okay? Trust me, you can blame me if they get mad. Now, after that, just wait, okay buddy? You’re doing great.”

“Okay. Uh. Do. Do you want to know what it looked like?”

“No! Shit, Alex, wait, he’s not going to actually-”

There was a click on the other line, and the line went dead.

At the top of the staircase, the blood trail continued down the hallway, slowing only where it was used to add more drawings that set off his SCRAMBLE gear.

Helpfully, the blood trail also ended at a partially open door.

Timmy unplugged his computer and dragged it with all of his 8-year-old might to his closet, where he threw his deactivated phone on top of it and covered it with bags, clothes, and toys to bury it.

For good measure, he also removed the batteries from several of his toys and shoved them deeper under the pile.

Mills slowly pushed the door open, prepping his stomach for what was inside.

Timmy sat on his bed, trying to keep his mind off the increasing pain in his head.

Unfortunately, the pain was morphing into thoughts not his own, thoughts about hurting people, and himself.

He was so consumed by the pain, he couldn’t even hear the screams he was letting out, the answering cries of his parents as they desperately tried to open his door, or the wail of police sirens in the distance.

There was nothing left alive in the room.

There was only blood. Just… so much blood. Who knew that much blood could come out of a child so small?

Mills leaned over, and quietly reached down to close its eyes.

No 11-year-old girl ought to be subjected to this.

A boy, eight years old, emaciated, eyes bloodshot, the expression even, is sitting in a wheelchair in the hospital.

His parents and an orderly talk in the background.

“You were lucky ma’am. It was only a Level-1 Cognitohazard, it would have destroyed an adult brain in minutes, but these little guys’ heads are hardier than ours. Timothy’s call might have saved his life, and he definitely saved yours.”

“… will he be okay though?”

The nurse paused and reread her clipboard. “…I know he doesn’t look it, but yes. He should. The amnestic regimen isn’t great for young minds, but as I said, your boy here is a tough one, and we got it early. He’ll be just fine.”

At the words, his mother broke down in tears, and he was engulfed in her arms. While he couldn’t say anything immediately, a tear slowly slid down his face.


Hello Kids! My name is Skippie, the Cognitohazard Expert! My job is to teach you all about basic safety measures to keep you and your family safe!

As you smart boys and girls know, it’s a dangerous world out there. There are all kinds of criminals and thieves out there, but today, we want to talk about a different threat.

Have any of your kids heard of something called a “Cognitohazard”?

A Cognitohazard is any piece of information that can cause physical harm to someone just by knowing it. A Cognitohazard can be on anything, in pictures, videos, paintings, music, etc.

Now, these Cognitohazards are rare, so you shouldn’t worry too much about seeing one. Very few people encounter them. But, with the lifting of the Veil, Cognitohazards have become more common, so it’s important that you all know what to do when you see a Cognitohazard.

To remember what to do when you see a Cognitohazard, remember the word CLOKS.

C stands for “Calm”. Cognitohazards come in all types, but most of them create strange feelings after looking at them. The most common feeling is like someone’s poking the inside of your brain with a fork, but there are also those that feel like burning or an overwhelming feeling of fear. The most important thing when you feel like this is to remain Calm. Even if it hurts, it’s important that you remain calm so you can finish the rest of CLOKS.

L stands for “Lock”. After you calm down, find a room you can lock yourself in. This is because Cognitohazards take longer to affect you if you put more things between you and the source of the Cognitohazard. Ideally, you want a room that requires a key on either side to lock it, but at the very least, you have to make sure the doors lock from the inside. If possible, grab any keys and make sure you have them before you lock yourself in. You don’t want those Cognitohazards getting in easy!

O stands for “Orders”. After locking yourself in a room, it's important that you call the Foundation Cognitohazard hotline, at 555. The Foundation representative will send agents to help you and give you more specific orders concerning your Cognitohazard. The Foundation has experience with them, and we might have even heard of your case before! Remember to do exactly what the representative does, even if it seems odd.

K stands for “Kill”. If you can’t get through to the hotline, or if the representative is cut off unexpectedly, it’s important that you Kill all of your virtual devices. Turn off all of your devices. Not just put them in sleep mode, fully disable them. If you have a computer where it’s easy to do, remove the batteries and unplug them from the wall. If it’s an apple product, press down the power button ten times in a row, and select “Yes” when the product asks if you wish to initiate an emergency shutdown. Remember kids, the more you isolate yourself, the harder it is for the Cognitohazard to hurt people. If you cannot turn off your devices easily, try to at least place them somewhere outside of your reach.

S stands for “Stay”. Rest assured, even if your call is cut short, the Foundation is well aware of your situation. The most important thing you can do is stay where you are. Thus, the foundation can more easily find you and fight the infection. Even if things start to look strange, as some Cognitohazards affect vision, it’s important you don’t move.

Now, kids, it’s time to learn a song to help you memorize this!

When you see a Cognitohazard, and you’re feeling really shocked, it’s really quite important, that you remember “CLOKS”!

C is for Calm down, and L is for Lock door.

O is for Orders, and then wait, there is more!

K is for Kill devices, S is for Stay put.

I’d say there was more, but you’re all good!

Just remember, when your brain’s embers, listen to Skippie, and use CLOKS!


The young man looked expectantly at his boss as the man finished reading his proposal. “Two things. First, if we're being technical, this PSA is really more about Memetic Hazards than Cognitohazards."

"We're aware, sir. The problem is, kids already have a very specific definition of 'meme', so we're worried calling them that will make them confused."

The boss nodded slightly. "Fair enough. My second question is, has it occurred to you that your “CLOKS” here doesn’t actually protect children from Mem-Cognitohazards?”

The young man looked at him in confusion. “Uh, duh? Anything above a Level-3 Coghaz will render you either a vegetable or a homicidal maniac on sight. CLOKS isn’t supposed to protect children.”

His boss glared at him with annoyance. “Jesus, man, this is supposed to be a PSA about protecting the public from Coghaz's. CLOKS just seems like it’s meant to lock infected kids in a dark room away from their parents…” the man trailed off.

The young man looked almost bittersweet as his boss realized the implications. “Sir, we can’t protect people who are already infected with Coghaz's, at least not consistently. All we can do is convince the afflicted to not infect anyone else.”

“…” His boss looked pensive at the reasoning. "You want to convince every kid in America that if they get infected, they should lock themselves in a dark room so their parents can't get to them and help as their child's brain gets fried from the inside, out."

"Thus keeping them from being infected, and cutting down on the damage any Coghaz outbreak creates."

“…if the parents figure out what we’re trying to get their kids to do, they’re gonna riot.”

The young man smirked slightly. “And that’s what the rest of the ‘adult’ version of the PSA is for. Skippie’s to tell the kids what to do, while Timmy and Mills are supposed to show adults what happens when kids don’t listen to CLOKS.”

His boss frowned, and flipped through the proposal again, before sighing. “…approved. Get the full thing on Adult Swim every day of the week sometime between 9 pm and 7 am. I’ll call Janet in youth outreach to get the kiddie bit as a nationwide kids PSA.”

“…and Skippie?”

“Yes, you can go to AIAD and ask to hire Skippie out for tours. Just Skippie. Her brother would scare those kids shitless. And make sure she knows what she’s hawking, we don’t need the PR nightmare of Skippie suddenly asking on 60 Minutes why we’re locking kids up in their rooms.”

rating: +242+x
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License