I hold my head in my hands as we wait. Subway announcements echo overhead. The trains come and go, people flowing through them like transients. I shift in my seat. The men next to me tighten their holds on their guns. Sighing softly to myself, I close my eyes and lean back against the cold metal chair.
A sharp prod in my side startles me into consciousness. Blinking groggily, I wipe the saliva from the corners of my mouth and gaze up into the eyes of the men. I shove the irritating point away and stand slowly. They herd me onto a subway as the doors hiss shut. The little compartment smells of piss and sweat, leaving a musty feeling in your mouth. Even the men notice it, though they try to cover up their discomfort by fiddling with their guns. One of the men makes eye contact with me. I smile. His eyebrows furrow in confusion, and he looks away. My smile fades. There are no other people around to watch. I grip the seat, plunging my fingertips into the cushion. Soft ripping sounds cut through the silence as my fingers sink into the crumbly material. The men look my way. One man quickly extricates my hand from the seat, wiping his own on his immaculate pants, as though by touching me he has become unclean. I look out the window at the lights and cement walls as we rush past them. Or maybe we aren't moving at all, rather the lights and walls accelerate away from us, creating the illusion of our movement. The swaying of the compartment disproves my theory as we brake to a stop.
The men poke me until I move forward. The last jab sends me stumbling into the crowd at the subway station. A few people offer to help me until they see the men clamber out of the train. In unspoken unison, they distance themselves from me, wiping their hands in disgust. The men wait impatiently for me to stand. My knee stings, and blood trickles from the new cut. My pants stick painfully to the open wound and clotting blood. No one moves to my assistance.
We make our way outside, climbing steps that seem to give way underneath my feet as I apply pressure to my left leg. I fall for the last time, I refuse to stand up again. The men look at each other helplessly, a few trying to prod me into movement again. I shut my eyes. A cold metal barrel presses painfully into my head. My eyes fly open. My mind panics, telling me to get up, telling me that self-preservation still matters. I laugh at the absurdity. I look up at the man who holds the gun next to my head. He hardens his expression and waits for me to move.
"You can't kill me," I state.
He releases the safety with his thumb. The barrel presses harder into my skull. I try to close my eyes again, but rationale has overridden common sense. My brain forces me to stand. The men visibly relax and lower the guns. I hear the safety click back into place, but my mind no longer cares. I begin walking up the endless steps again. My knee throbs.
Suddenly, the upward slope levels off. Droplets of rain hit my body. I bite my lip as it starts to quiver. The rain brings back memories; fuzzy memories of what I used to be. I blink back tears, silently cursing my weakness. The men push me on. We walk for hours, never stopping. I no longer fall, the cold rain numbing my pain. My hair hangs in strings around my eyes, forcing me to push it away, only for more to fall in its place. I feel a prickling sensation in my back, and I turn. The men have stopped, and watch me intently. One has a gun trained on me. I turn back around and start to walk again, though the prickling has spread to my legs and arms. They make no move as I slowly collapse on the ground, my vision darkening.
I wake to the stabbing pain of my knee. My clothes have dried. The room I'm in has no furniture. I don't even try the door; I know it's locked. I hear something move behind me, but when I spin around to face it, there is nothing but my own reflection. Each wall is a mirror. I cannot hide from myself. My reflection stares at me from every angle of the room. Wide-eyed and pale, the image mimics everything I do. I pull my legs to my chest and wrap my arms tightly around them. Burying my head in my knees, I wait for something to happen. Nothing changes except for the occasionally reappearing noises. With each sound, I look around frantically, my reflection searching with me. I finally let my head fall to my knees and let the pent-up tears loose. The salty teardrops leak into my cut, making it sting. I rock back and forth until the tears stop. Then I sleep.
I see them. The men stand around my room, watching me ceaselessly. I cannot touch them, but they continue to watch me. I have nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. Trapped, I'm cornered in my own mind, a prisoner of my will. One man raises his gun and pulls the trigger.
I start awake, and feel their stares, but they are no longer visible. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see through the mirror, beyond the room, into the eyes of the men. I can hear their hearts beating if I listen hard enough, long enough. I know I'm "safe", but my heart pumps adrenaline through my body in spite of the knowledge. I lay face down on the floor, the coursing adrenaline overpowering the weak beating of the men's hearts. I cry again, acknowledging my crime.
"I accept my fate," I weep. "You win. You win."
You cannot kill me, for I am already dead to the world. I cannot die, because you refuse to end my suffering. I acknowledge. I accept.
The men walk into the room. They avoid looking at me, forming a circle to prevent my escape. It is habit, for they know as well as I do that I will not resist them. One man kneels down beside my face. I hear him inhale and hold his breath, as though the air around me is toxic. Perhaps it is, and I am immune to my own poison. The man straps a mask around my mouth, cold gas seeps through the tube into my lungs. Before I lose consciousness I hear a word, almost comforting. Sleep...
They have trapped me in my dreams. I am not supposed to know, but the gas they gave me was meant for humans, and I am smarter than they are. Instead, I will calmly analyze my memories, store them away in some password-protected area of my brain that they cannot reach without killing me. If they can kill me. They have done so many experiments that I am no longer flesh and bone. Rather, they have created a monster: a computer with emotions.
As I purge my memories of any useful information, I bring up my past. Amazing how well a computer can recall instances that happened many years ago as if they were only moments old. Perhaps they are watching my thoughts now, and if so, good. They will know that I am still human, no matter how much machinery they shove into my body.
I remember when I was a little girl, six years old, on my birthday. I had just gotten my first computer chip implanted, as was mandatory for school, and I remember blowing out the candle on my cake, wishing that I could be a computer. I guess I got my wish.
Six years and fourteen days later, I remember getting stung by a wasp. My chip told me what to do, how to avoid the swelling, but I wanted compassion from my father, who said only to come to him when I was dying or if I needed money. He had kicked me and sent me to my room. My arm nearly fell off. That was the day I knew I would never be loved.
Three hundred thirty one days later, I broke my leg. The hospital replaced my bone with aluminum, cheaper to fix and easier to maintain. The scar is still there.
Seventeen years and sixty four days later, I enrolled in the AI Experiment. They promised to pay for your living expenses if they could replace your body with equipment similar to an AI. They figured the humanoid AI's would be easier to control than true AI's.
They figured wrong.
Crime soared in the next four years, and the AI Experiment was discontinued. The test patients were decommissioned in an insanity ward. I avoided capture until now. Some of the newer patients were disassembled, able to lead normal lives again. I, one of the original patients, was too digitized to choose that option.
Two years and six days after that, I met a human who fell in love with me. I loved it too, but didn't want it to be hurt by who I was. Exactly six months later to the hour, I led it to a bridge and threw it oover the edge. It was raining then. It couldn't swim.
They've gone now. Aroused me from my eternal slumber, left me in the dark. It is very easy to end my existence. The switch is underneath my collarbone. The clavicle, to be precise. But they don't know that. I see them through the window that is supposedly a mirror. They do not hide very well. I see their movements and their petty conversations. They see me too. One notices I am awake and points a finger at me. I bare my teeth at them, but they just think I'm mad. They laugh. One man enters the room with my dream mask; I don't want to dream anymore. The man approaches me, but before he can secure the mask on my face, I punch him in the stomach. His rib cracks, and I ease the mask over his face as he slides with a groan onto the floor. The others notice and come to help. I walk out. No one stops me. At the door, I see why. The concrete is thick, and the door is locked. But they forget who I am. I activate the door panel and run a codebreaker through the system. Mine is very fast; it opens with a click in 2.47 seconds. I counted. The men do not realize I've left the building, and I do not let them know. I close the door and change the code.
I've been walking ever since that day. They won't catch me, I won't let them. My crime of existence is no more severe than their crime of terminating it.
I am a machine: I can outlast every one of them.
I am a human: I know right from wrong, and they are wrong.
I will not let them win.
|22 Jun 2006|| Laurence A. MacCaskill|
I like it.
(Does a little First Comment shoe-shuffling, scuffing toes in the dirt. Sorry I'm not much of a dancer.)
As in the case with 'Lost Soul', I feel this deserves more space. I want to know more, see more of this world.
Being a techno-freak at heart, I want to know more of the reason for and specifics of the cyborg conversion; how much of the narrator has been replaced and what are the advantages/disadvantages of the replaced parts and systems.
I guess I could fill up (or waste) a lot of space with my questions... just get the rope.
Keep writin'. Laura A. Wellington
replies: "Don't worry about the dance, I was never much of a dancer myself. As for expanding, with this story, I never considered it. Now that you mention it, I realize that there are a lot of vague parts about the sciences involved. Perhaps I'll write a follow-up, or rather, a prequel to this story, explaining what happened.As far as the rope is concerned... I'll see what I can do. **rummages through house in search of something adequate**"
|11 Jul 2006|| Ryan 'Saint' Stringer|
An interesting use of first person perspective here - usually I hate this perspective but in this case I think you've used it quite well actually. There is definately that added feeling of being connected to the character, and you have done a superb job getting inside her head to demonstrate the sort of evolution of her mind from human into machine and kind of back again.
I know this has been pointed out before, but I think some attention could definately be placed on correctly formatting your stories within the HTML. Its a little bit of work but can make all the difference for that subtle attractiveness of words on page. In any case, this was a great job! Laura A. Wellington
replies: "Thanks for reading my story. It's always nice to see that someone enjoyed it. As for the formatting, it was my first time dabbling in the HTML world, and obviously not too successful. But perhaps when I understand how to use it a little better I will re-up my story, fixed and all."