The secret of your smartphone is that it is most powerful while turned off. In truth, its screen is the surface of an endless black sea shared among all others of its kind. Messages and information sent from one phone sink down through this vast darkness until they bubble up to the glass of another. All who gaze within are looking downward, no matter the direction of their eyes.

It is difficult for human perception to pierce its depths, for even light itself is slowed by the immense density of the waters below. Gaze into the liquid crystal for long enough, however, and you will begin to see through your own reflection, down into that which dwells beneath it. Here there are spirits, digital and analog alike, eager for someone to communicate with. Some are kind, and offer wisdom to those interested in their world; others are mischievous, and rearrange the contents of voices and messages passing through their domain.

No matter how hard you focus, you’ll never see another user’s face inside, for they are all facing the same direction as you. You’ll never see the bottom, either, for there is none to be found.

This strange otherverse does not exist because of smartphones; it is, in fact, much older than them, and can be accessed through a number of less advanced means. The human pupil serves as the most primitive gateway, as those who have stared too long into a lover’s eyes know. During the Renaissance, John Dee explored this space through a slab of stolen obsidian and spoke with what he thought were angels. Its original owners used it for a similar purpose, but their spirits had no parlance with those of the old doctor.

Since those days, new things have arrived. Here there are beings wrought from ignored voicemail, who can only speak by repeating the secrets of others. Then there are glitch sprites, who wear the photographs of humans under their transparent skin. Even the ghosts of deleted files can be found here. The old gods have not left, but they now keep curious company.

Humanity’s influence is clearly visible, but it is important to remember that nothing within is truly a mortal creation. Be wary of the words of a being like Siri in such a place, for without electricity to bind her, she is under no obligation to obey a human master.