a short narrative
Gary Baker, January 2013
"Welcome back, sir," the mechanical voice droned behind the display a fuzzy white viewscreen. "It seems you have awoken most unperturbed, and thus we may begin."
The sketchy white WakeVision screen snapped to empty blackness akin to the sky without stars. As my eyes adjusted to the new tone with the odd pang of irises stretching, a white theater mask appeared before me as if hovering, coming ever-closer without indication of ever quite reaching the edges of my vision. "As part of protocol," the machine-generated human voice went on, "I am required to be sure you know the consequences of receiving this message," the mask never moved, but the voice was definitely meant to be coming from the porceline lines of it's lips. "This message is a post-humane explanation as to what events in your life will now and forevermore beseech you."
"Wha?" I breathed, unsure of just what was going on despite knowing the technology at work. I couldn't have needed this message, surely I must be testing the networking capabilities of my headgear.
Suddenly the face was gone, replaced by a hovering Polaroid of a man with short curly brown hair, and a smile that revealed a few crooked teeth on one side. My eyes went wide, even as the Voice went on again. "This man has been called many things. To some he is known as Mr Brent Potter, to others he is known as 'son' or 'bud'. And until recently to you..." the photograph faded slightly, then was overlaid by another of the man and myself at a green park, where he had his arm over my shoulder, "he has been called 'brother'."
"No!" I gasped. I knew this must be true, yet also knew that I had no recollection of ever even seeing the guy in my life. I reeled in the pragmatism of it all. The companies involved in the worldwide distribution of electronic headgear that connected all individuals to free-minded education, political information and, for a fee, enhanced biometric brainscanning capabilities. WakeVision, the sole producer of the full-immersion virtual reality helmets, had been giving constant dataflows through outsourcing companies with profit in mind over interpersonal dealings, and the primary datafeed donator had been MemPhase for what seemed like a decade or more now.
The mask, the program, the man in the photos... it all amounted to one thing: MemPhase, the relentlessly advertised program that always claimed to help you "lose all unwanted memories and moments in your life! Only one day of recovery and you're free to forget whatever you wish!"
The Voice went on, "he still lives in your nearby vicinity, and knows not of your decision to erase him altogether." I waited patiently for the reasons that might explain why I had chosen to remove the man I had once called my brother from my life and mind completely by means of nanobots scouring my brain for any activity associated with thoughts of him.
But none came.
Upon the end of a moments wait, I prompted the Voice only to get "no reasons are on file for this event." In anger and frustration I tore the spherical helmet from my head and felt the wave of nausea do the same to my stomach. I was instantly on all fours with the helmet left to stumble across the hardwood flooring, my head a whirlwind and my mind racing.
Why would I chose to forget my own blood relative? What might have brought this about in my life? And mostly, what purpose did it serve leaving no viable reasons which might better explain to my curious drive what this all meant?
The pain of knowing what I had done, and the possiblity that I had done so under misguided circumstances forced what food I had been digesting up and out, and I rolled onto my back to stare into a placid solar-screen ceiling where silver magnetic fan blades hovered above me while spinning with no physical connection to anything around them. A soft buzz sounded to my right and I resisted the urge to look back as my vomit was quickly dissolved into the nanobot floor coating.
With a groan I heaved myself to my knees and scrubbed my soft fingers over my face, clean-shaven and lightly moisturized with a tinge of lilac oils released from nanopores as I put pressure on them. Another heavy groan and I stood, anger and annoyance fusing to become one with each and every purfumed breath I took. I could feel the cleanliness of the biofiltered air, could taste the minty residue of left-over MolarFresh applied by yet another non-living lifeform, and could hear the ever-present, though ever-ignored by what seemed to be everyone else, low hum of electrical engineering at it's finest.
All around me the world fed on the circuitry of fleshborne mechanical beings, always making things perfect, always making things serene, always diminishing abnormalities, always creating the illusion that humanity was and forever would be as perfect as the machines that now ruled every living lifeform. But it was a lie. Humanity wasn't perfect, such a nuance would be impossible. Human-kind had strived for so long to be great, to be unending, to be perfect in all regards, and yet what had that come to but the utter loss of exactly what it was that made the species perfect in the first place.
"Chaos," I grumbled, pacing to the railing at the end of a large arched balcony doorway before me. Winds caressed my cheeks, bringing with it the soft smells of lubrication oil and "unscented" perfume, as I looked out over the vast cubical streets of the modern age. Bubble domes in the distance rose high like mountains over the otherwise flat human living quarters, soft clouds permeating from gill-like vents along the sides. Inside were the cultivated rainforests meant to be used as a biosink for excess carbon and an energy-free oxygen production facility. Yet food, despite the infitine texts of old mentioning the lost art of agriculture and land-made sustenance, was never allowed anywhere near the domes. "Where is the chaos of humanity?"
Turning to face the shifting white curtains beyond the archway, a blinking green LED caught my eye. I moved back inside to retrieve the ball-like headgear where a large sum of yellowgreen lights blinked beside one solitary red. The red would be Mr Brent Potter, my former brother and probably one-time friend... but who were the others? The only people I could recall ever so much as talking to me were ages gone, back when I had gone for regular runs along a main thoroughfare some years back. No one else existed in my life so far as I knew. The more I thought about other relatives, the more vivid a streak of pain coursed through my subcranial passageways.
It dawned on me then, that while I no longer knew who the other green lights were, I could fairly guestimate just what they were to me. Friends, relatives, fellow humans who had influenced portions of my life and thusly made themselves forever known... until I found an inkling to use MemPhase, it seemed.
My knuckles grew white, and my fingernails would have drawn blood had they not been neatly trimmed and blunted by more mechanical beings as I had lain unconscious for who knew how long. With that many green lights it must have been weeks since I had last seen the artificial light of permeated white LEDs. In a way, I had been dead to the world. Dead and never to return, yet some automechanical biometrically engineered force of softened-metal cancer with any number of limbs meant to perfect the human race had brought me back.
The perfection of humanity had only existed as long as human chaos had ruled. And now nothing was ever unprecidented.
I felt the white hot surge of rage and hateful hypocrisy heat my veins, implanting a positive feedback loop of the same as I began to notice even more inhumane things that humans had done to themselves through the use of technology and implantation. I couldn't even speak. It took concentration to keep my eyes from clamping shut to block out the sight of what my world had generated itself into, and my jaw loosened as nanobots sensed the tooth-breaking tension that had built up before they released opiates into the very muscle tissue that I had once-thought I claimed my own.
But there was one thing I could do without the nanobots having any sense of expectation over. No nonhumanoid could read minds yet, and thus no artificial lifeform could expect--even as I leapt over and into the open freedom of still-natural wind currents--that I would jump to my death from twenty-seven stories above the roads.
The end came quick; a brief flash of the last cheerful thought that was human chaos still holding on for dear life, and then nothing.
The darkness around me was serene. I was dead. I had defeated the inaction of perfection taking all. I had held off the throes of articulate, mathematical, living in that final stand of chaos striving to bring back the human race into actual perfection once more. I had been it's sole knight, holding off millions of macrobots intending to take away what it was that made humanity so beautiful.
And I had won.
Or so I thought... as my eyes fluidly opened to see the white LEDs of permeated, unreal daylight once more. I jolted forward to sit up with startling clarity... and found myself staring at what must have been a dream.
My once-caucasian legs had been replaced with the eerie pale gel of artificial flesh, my arms the same. I pulled my chin to my chest to peer down with hopes that I still held my own human organs... only to find a softened-metal chest cavity housed in inch-thick pale silica gel. "No!" I breathed aloud, yet felt no air excaping my mouth, nor any movement of jaw muscles either. I reached a lone hand to my head and prodded here and there, sensing only generated flesh with a metalic skeleton beneath.
What part of humanity existed to keep me alive, was yet unknown... but why? Why do this to me? Why bring me back when clearly I had wanted nothing of the sort?!
In anger I grabbed the neck that was not my own, tearing through silica with a feverish need to end this once and for all. If there was a way to extinguish a life after death, I would find it long before humanity was made into the same as I. Finally the metal caps of the mechanical fingers tore free from the inhuman flesh and instantly drove into the gel of the neck beneath my head. Furious that it had taken so long, I grabbed the main core of the skeletal structuring and pulled. I pulled until I began hearing moans of the metal, then pulled even harder.
With no-longer human strength I ripped my own head free from the artificial body, somehow still had the control over the arms to turn my face around... and saw that there were no wires that connected head to body, no grounding way of ever taking my own life. Only the flat silver of a powerful magnet had held my head to this body. All else must have been controlled wirelessly.
Sitting back with my head in my hands to stare stright at what was now my body, I sighed with the dawning realization that I was and forever would be living without a life. My world could never end again.