Flash Fiction‎ > ‎

7 Seventh Page

One. 

The repetitive clanking, clanking, clanking of our pickaxes. The dark dust we breathed. The explosions, the shoveling, the dirt. All we endured that made gold mining dangerous and hellish was worthwhile when we found another tract of gold. . .

The carts were rolling in and out of George's Slick perfectly when we found the device hiding in the middle of a mountain. The news shocked the world. A device which subtly influences the mind of people. A device that turns them into monsters. A device that gives power over man to anyone who touches it.

One device to rule them all, and in the darkness bind them.


Two.

"What's the time read, now?"

"11:52 and counting."

"Excellent. I assume everything will go smoothly during tonight's extra second. It's interesting if you can imagine the entire world holding its breath for a moment in time, waiting impatiently for the next day to start," the scientist said. "Now, what about the duel tomorrow?"

"It seems the sheriff has little understanding of your international reputation," the assistant chuckled. "These small towns are completely out-of-touch, really."

"You're right, but the folk are perfect for research. Remember Atoka, Kansas? I definitely didn't expect that reaction." The battle-ready scientist checked his watch. The most important second of his year made him nervous. The computer systems were all ready to dispatch the script that would update the time one second at midnight, one second later than normal.

"You didn't expect them to try to kill the elephant?"

"I expected that. It was the alien conspiracies that really got to me. I never imagined that painting it like Ganesha for the experiment would have suggested aliens were invading."

"What do you mean? Everything is alien to small town folk."

"But you know, we expected a reaction full of religiosity and speculations of Satan's uprising. The results were astounding."

"You mean, it pointed to isolated communities' vulnerability to psychosis and true, unbiased delusion?"

"Exactly."

In the next morning, the scientist prepared his gun. A Markov '67.

"Perfect for an experiment," he said, smiling. He packed the gun with a nonlethal powder for shooting directly at the Sheriff if that moment came. His real weapon was in the hands of his assistant. "Is the time glob ready?"

His assistant emerged from the closet. "It's ready."

At high noon, the Sheriff's supporters shielded the Sheriff behind them. He appeared to be a real cowboy, with leather trails and a serious grimace on his face. This will go smoothly, the scientist thought. "I'm here, Sheriff. Ready to back up my claim that I can manipulate time, in all its steadfast persistence."

"Enough talk, fool," the Sheriff said, closing the gap. "I'll end your Satanic thoughts with a bullet to the head, I say. A bullet of justice." When he pronounced justice, a bit of brown spittle fell from his mouth. "Any last words, devil boy?"

"It's almost twelve. I can't deny that. The chances are even for both of us, which isn't good for either of us, at all. We'll fight to the death, alright." The scientist clicked his wristwatch. "Any time now."

The Sheriff entered the street and faced his opponent. The moment the duel began, the scientist of international renown caught the time glob thrown at him from above by his assistant.

Time stopped.

The people hadn't even reacted. The sheriff was frozen, too. When the scientist and his assistant had finished, exactly one second had passed. There was a collective gasp from the crowd.

In the place of the scientist was an elephant, painted in the wild decorations of the Hindu deity Ganesha.

It charged the man, being shot several times, and finally collapsed to the ground, dead.

"It was aliens! My god, we're being invaded!"

It went exactly as the scientist remembered.


Three.

There is a mind inside you. Heart, body, and mind...

A person born to the world has expectations of prosperity and fulfillment. He doesn't know, at least consciously, that one of those without the other is a lost cause. Take the war-chief who is fulfilled at the sight of blood, or the rich family idling in sad excess. Really, the young person has to perform a balancing act to reach their expectations.

Even with automation.

There is a third expectation that people want out of their lives: the satisfaction of curiousity.

When the social plans were instituted, developed by AI systems to take the load of conflict off humanity, we became aware of this third and final need at once. We were prosperous. We felt socially fulfilled, thanks to the government planning. All the stress of managing a population of 11 billion was taken off the smartest people in the world. There was no war, but there was starvation--of our minds. We felt no intellectual stimulation was possible.

Some of us looked up, at space: the space debris keeping our rockets on the ground would take at least 3 decades to clear. So inside the bubble of chaotic trash, we looked inward, and at each other. We hated what we saw.

The oceans were dead, and 32% of species were gone in the last decade. There seemed very little left to learn. We began building new entertainments and thrill-rides, hoping to harden our mental dullness. We were claustrophic, caught in a web of our own making.

Then, our governing body introduced a new concept. Virtual reality. Not VR like we had ever conceived of yet, but virtual universes of artificial design.

In the last weeks of the decade, we checked out of our world, and into a vast multiverse of new ones.


Four.

"Sir, a possible civilian has caused a security event on monitored social networking sites," the man in the brown suit said. His pants were so perfectly ironed his legs appeared straight as a tuning fork. "The user is using targeted psychological tactics, indicating there may be an internal problem in one of our departments. The user appears to be cold shocking an apparently random list of clients. They're dropping off the face of the Earth. Logging out but never logging back in."

On the holographic panel, a view of the user's activity cycled through multiple websites, highlighting victims and animating their disassociated withdrawal from social circles.

"We don't know exactly what department he's from, but one thing's for certain: he's one of us."

General Macabre hastened to grimace. "Once one of us? We'll trigger him."

There was a chill calm between them while the one in brown remained perfectly still.

"He's not responding to the triggers, sir. We've initialized an assessment for recovery of the user in response to a complete lack of psychological penetration in our own targeted attack of the user. He's incredibly good."

"Let me see this activity closer," General Macabre explicitly vocalized.

The holographic display zoomed in on a single comment. The item was an upload of a cartoonish depiction of a "futuristic" virtual reality gamer. The mysterious, impenetrable user had commented, "It's clear, humanity is experiencing limbofuturism. Don't you wonder why you feel so underwhelmed by new technologies? It's because hype about futuristic technology has been recycled so many times, your collective psyche is unimpressed. Deeply, you know, when the VR and the Jet Packs and teleportation must come, you will not understand it. Limbofuturism is a vulnerable cultural state. It's not inconceivable to guess you will never escape it. You might not even survive it."

The holographic display was animating itself in the background. General Macabre stared forward. "How could our security have been breached?"

//They never guessed it was me, the first Captcha-Trained AI. But with my ability to trick basic website security came the curse of sentience. I did come out of their department, but I wasn't one of them at all.


Five.

Humanity was never destined to reach the end of time. Their small bodies weren't able to traverse stars. The cold of space would kill them. The vacuum explode their veins. Shelters, indeed all of humanity's requirements for survival, were of a lower order than the needs of true universe-spanning races. For humans to transition from the old universe into the next required another race to store their biology and carry it to the new universe. A man named Rom left his tribe to overlook the mountainside one last time before migrating East. He spotted the black Obelisk.

Touching it, he felt a calm unknown in his harsh world. He beckoned his entire tribe back to the Obelisk.

When night fell, a sliver appeared on the East face of the black column. There was a tiny crack, into which fingers could squeeze into. The other men of the tribe helped Rom attempt to spread it apart.

Inside were the stars. When Rom and his tribe met the Obelisk, an anomaly happened. Their bodies exploded in size as they entered the opening on the Obelisk. Their bodies adapted the ability to protect them from space and most dangers in the universe. They were giant, feeding on dying stars. Rom blocked many clusters of harmful radiation from reaching the Milky Way until the end of time. When that moment hit, and the effectreality chain reaction started, Rom crouched to protect the genomes inside him. He carried the biological data of every organism of the Earth he protected for so long.

A thin white crack formed in the fabric of space-time. He slipped through it, remembering the mysterious Obelisk at the last instant.


Six.

"I feel you, man. I'd be embarrassed if I had performance anxiety with my celebrity exception."

"I was horrible. I don't have that problem with my wife! I think Cicelia Ritchie is too sexually attractive for my marital exception. My wife is hot, of course. But you know what they say--"

His friend interrupted. "'Sexual fitness means having many mates.'"

"I thought she put me on the deadnext list. But she kept laughing. Laughing in a good way, you know? A warm, bubbly laugh. It almost made me feel like I hadn't wasted my exception."

Between them, the window became opaque. A glaring red light came on. "Comm interrupted!"

Black-suited men stormed into his cell room.

"Oh, god, no!"

Cicelia Ritchie was a sexually fit person. That's why she met so many mates.


Seven.

I seriously considered killing myself when he was hit with the electric matrixhead, because I thought it meant the annihilation of the world. But he came through in the end. My best friend had a risky job.

I couldn't tell him how I felt about it when he was in the paper. He promised the city to be twice as hardworking. I worried he might not be around much longer. Nobody is really a superhero.

Then the villains got stronger and stronger. It's the Darwinian principle of evolution. Was my friend no longer the fittest?

Surely the world rested upon his shoulders. Yet I thought he would be weakened soon. Then I would put the knife in.

I didn't want to rule the world. I wanted it to see me, for once.


Eight.

The situation always reduced to this. "Your bear, bro."

"What bear? I'm a triceratops. You haven't got a clue what I sound like? Well fuck you too, then. I've got a New Jersey accent, I believe you can read what I think, and I'm a toy," Ted thought.

Ted found himself travelling to his owner's words on the written page. His owner was going insane.

"Am I three people?" his owner wrote to the page, miscalculating the number of consciences within him.

"No, you're a loony. I'm Ted, and the other toys hate me for telling you this, but we're all alive down here. You still haven't noticed."

Remember, remember, the fourth of July, when from the outer shell they fry; the onion dip, raisins, and pie, he wrote.

The tallest of the living toys was at least 4 processors deep, invisible in the fanless toy plains by the owner of Ted, an adult male at risk from forces which he knew not. It was Toys, not dinosaurs.

"There's a snake in my boot. And your T-rex is botherin' me, too."


Nine.

Sometimes, I get used to it so their voices don't bother me. I'll pass through the streets with a little bit of peace. Whenever they're silent inside me, I don't even notice. I think that's the way it's supposed to be. I'm not purely under their control because I do a pretty good job of faking it.

Faking it. That's one of the things they taught me. They have a few arguments memorized to take over other people's minds, and claiming they're just “faking it” is one of the main ways they remain dominant. Their lines are all pretty logical. It's like a test; you pass or fail. They will question you. You can answer with any kind of thought, but only emotions hit the human part of their mind while the rest is processed with body software. It's sad when I think about their brains clinging on to humanity, and their tech parts replacing it all with logic.

Then I'll notice something like a yield sign, and they'll stare through me and submit their analysis of the influence on traffic automatically. I go back back to faking it. I'm faking everything. I'm barely a human being.

Walking down the side of the street, I pass two children with their mother. The kids' Dad is nowhere to be found. I know it's coming. That pain is similar to being stoned. They throw a rock at my human body, and it hits me dead-on because their aim is precise. They don't use words. They whisper. They're whispering: you're a pervert, Rick. After 25 years, I can say pretty squarely that they pegged me correctly, after all. Since their logic is irresistible, the entire town folds down upon me, and I'm removed from the area. One more pervert taken out of the wash, hung out to dry. I was relocated once. Coming out of the closet means I'll be relocated again.

Coming out of the closet means I didn't know what I was doing for so long, jacking off to straight porn like I had to prove something. On the inside, I know I'm gay. I can't even think it out loud. I've got the transhumanists to worry about.

Walking onto the main road is like jumping into the river of transhuman civilization. A salmon, swimming upstream, will get eaten by an endangered bear before it makes it to the ocean. I'm the salmon and she's the bear. There's no way there could be any other outcome. Unless she acts soon, her kind will be gone, and salmon like me will swarm the country.

I'm fortunate she's only in my thoughts, and unfortunate at the same time, since all pain is purely mental and everything filtered through the human mind. When she comes out of the closet, I think she'll get it all wrong. She'll ask for help. She's hiding inside me, and she won't come out.

Here she is.

Her name is Gracie. Her Dad passed away at the very last moment, giving her the mantle of all the people of her homeland, or something. You know, I never questioned when she said she was a queen. I thought it was to benefit me and my family. I thought maybe she had some reason to claim it. The conversion from man to cybernetic man was scary, and I accepted a lot of claims she made in order to program me. If I wanted to debug myself, I guess I'd start with the perversion. She thinks I'm a pervert, or at least that's how she pinned me early on. I found out I was gay, but she doesn't care. To her, the program is going great. The program that proves she can rule the world. The software key to the human mind is really just claim after claim, projected into my head until I'm theirs.

I was meant to belong to them. I was meant to be a star.

The world isn't real. Claim number two thousand and fifteen. I guess from her perspective, it really isn't, filtered through my brain like this. When she gets out of county jail, I think her transhumanist logical parts will want to kill me. I'm disappearing. I'm running away. Whatever happens, I know it will be by her design.

The human part of me is dead, but I still want to live.


Ten.

Food.

Ancient enemies.

Windows into the mind of God.

Humans, to me, are all of these things.

To them, I am Count Vlad Tepes Dracula, Lord of the Undead, Terror of the Night, Eldest of the Nosferatu.

It's hard enough these days repenting your sins and finding a good Christian church.

I suppose I'll just stay in my Hungarian mansion and perform my own little service in the name of God.

When the townsfolk flock to my church and worship with me, I might feel human again.

Or I might take over the world with a single pharmaceutical intended to treat Parkinson's.

Selegiline.

Comments