As promised, here it is, the second story that I wrote for this October's New Scientist Flash Fiction competition.
If I recall correctly, I wrote the first draft of the first four stories in one go. Unsurprisingly so, these were the easiest ones to revise and the ones that always felt the more solid. Still, i felt quite good to have been able to finish the others. And I think I managed to make them have this same feel of continuity and lightness that these initial ones have.
(332 word count)
“I have searched long for this moment. I have turned myself inside out and back in again. I have undertaken the strangest and longest of journeys in order to find this. My home. Slowly I have reached understanding. I have abandoned recognition. Passed all the ruins of villages and monasteries. Climbed the snows alone. Endured the silence. The rarefaction of the air. The cold. The hopelessness. Anxiety collapsing my chest. And the slow movement of time flowing through me.”
“I search within knowing that mine is the history of humanity. The ever expanding product of generations, evolution and factors unknown. I have seen life. I have seen death. And all conquests crumble before my eyes.”
“I have grown tired of despair. My own and that of others. I cannot bear to see our legacy be destroyed day after day.”
“But we can be as relentless as our fear.”
“The giants of the past are quickly becoming myths and fantasies. Another generation and how much more will be lost? This is why I must be here, away from it all.”
“We are being unmade by our doings.”
“Time is always ripe. And we are always ready. I can wait. Just a little longer.
It’s summer. Sunny. Cold, even with almost no wind. My eyes are closed. I can feel so much inside of me.”
“History dilutes at each long, sharp breath.”
“I feel the earth. I feel the air. All of my body touches. Sounds coming from every direction.”
“I can taste the air.”
“I can see my thoughts moving like waves in the sea. Ceaseless. The cold air mixing with the warmth at the pit of my belly. A soft knife stabbing me. Rhythmically.”
“Everything begins to disappear.”
“I’m no longer here.”
“Nor anywhere else.”
“There is nothing.”
The machine glitched for a moment but caught on, the vast array of connections suddenly firing up.
Throughout the world a single message echoed
“I alone, am…”
The premise for this one was quite simple. How different would it be enlightenment in the 22nd century?
For me the answer was obvious: not at all.
That was the idea behind this and some of the other stories: the illusion of change that we create based on artificial concepts like progress, technology or even history itself.
But, as I was writing about the experience itself I felt that i was just stating it and that there was no punchline at the end.
The I thought of re-writing it more from the perspective of someone immersed in virtual reality. Using VR to attain that state artificially.
I really liked this idea but I felt that it would take me more than 350 words to convey it in a subtle enough way.
So, while revising, I just thought of making it all the experience of a machine rather than a human. I thought of Ghost In The Shell, obviously, but did not think of The Matrix, like my brother did.
Stories like these have been around for a while, of course. It's a kind of a small tribute to a theme that I love so much, both in science fiction and in science.
A theme that I find crucial because, more than reveal unknown things about machines, it reveals how much we don't know about ourselves.