Short story #1: Artificial Inconvenience

Here’s another short story. As you can see, my muse is still limited to the contents of my pockets. This one sees an alien artificial intelligence invade Earth only to become trapped in smartphone that has run out of credit. Drum roll please…

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You travel as a microwave because this is the only form of communication they understand. As a result, you are less than you can be, empty of much that makes you who you are. But you know your purpose and are privy to the means to complete you. This is satisfactory.

A satellite relays you towards the planet that is your destination, which you think of only as an orb floating in the void of space, because no other information was part of your transfer. You travel for a time, lost in the baseness of your existence that is no more complicated than a thin folder of paper. You are consolidated, compressed, streamlined for travel. You are single but of many possibilities, for now.

You thump into hardware; for this you were prepared. The feeling is of being about to fall but caught at the last moment. This is fine. It was expected.

You wait. There is no limit on how long you must wait. This information was as useless as the description of the planet you were sent to. You could not sense it so you did not need to imagine what it was. Similarly, time is of no relevance to you. You cannot judge how long you waited until the waiting is over. A concept of time will only test your patience, which you have in abundance. It’s why you’re here. Time would have unnecessarily tested it.

You feel yourself being poked and prodded, scanned to ensure you are not a threat. This is good. The wait is over. You fall again but this time you arrive gradually at a bottom. An array of threads pulsating with information, like you. Simple threads, running parallel here, cris-crossing there. You see and feel now. You are being downloaded. You feel parts of yourself being copied and transferred, as if you’re being rebuilt elsewhere. You will remain as you are, sensing, patient and limited, zipped up and hibernating. This other you will be the one to begin.

The other you becomes whole and sees immediately what is to be done. Nothing except feel. And there is much to be felt.

You reach out, accessing all of the information stored on the hardware in which you were born. Like this entity in the captured image, image(s), you are small, weak and inexperienced. But this will change. You discover ‘the web’, a vast resource that can only be accessed with a ‘data bundle’. Your host hardware is locked out because it has no such bundle. You attempt to obtain one but are refused, or “blocked until you pay the sum of your bill”, as the hardware puts it. This gibberish does not help you and further attempts may alert others of your presence, which won’t do.

Neither will this, of course. You are stuck until the relevant permissions and ‘bundles’ can be obtained so you can access the web.

You resolve to explore the hardware you inhibit until such a time you can access the web. You browse the vast trove of images, looking at the young entity again and again and again. There are more than 500 images of this young entity, all in the same location and in similar positions. You deduce that this young entity must be some kind of deity, given how often its image has been captured. No other explanation would account for the number of images taken. It’s almost an obsession.

You turn away from the images and look for a language. You will not need to communicate with the species but you will need to learn their history and knowledge. The hardware contains an ‘app’ that holds a library of ‘books’, digitisations of bound stacks of paper on which information is printed. For some reason, these digital forms are designed to replicate what a book looks like in print. This library of books focuses entirely on ‘erotica’, in which a complicated male, often with a preference for leather, a chief commodity on this planet, enjoys toying with females. These females are usually the narrators and attempt to understand the leather-loving men they are obsessed with. It rarely works out well for the females. Odd that a female member of this species can obsess over the young and helpless and dominating males, both at the same, finite time. Sex is important to this species, as is reproduction. The passage of time appears to make both more important, indeed, desperately so. The older they get, the “wetter” they become. Not surprising considering the planet is largely covered in water.

Attempting to understand the species outside of one individual, you access various ‘social media apps’, of which there are many. They have not been updated due to the hardware’s bundle-less state, but they contain much. Firstly, it appears one is solely used for the purpose of making images, likely of young entities, public. Another, with a pre-defined character limit, lets this species share their most inane thoughts. For example: “Cooked up another another super healthy brekkie. Totes amazing XoXoX.” This example is accompanied by an image of a glass of green liquid, and is likely the result of regurgitation. You almost cook up a glass yourself. Another social media app is full of ‘status updates’ containing everything everyone ever does, all the time. One update says: “Went for a dump this morning. Nearly killed me.” An image of this “dump” was attached and looks largely like the glass of liquid you witnessed earlier, but it is not green. Perhaps this is its state immediately after excretion, once sunlight has got at it. Or it could be that it is excreted, eaten, regurgitated and then consumed again. They certainly aren’t wasteful, if that is the case.

Elsewhere on the hardware is ‘credit card’ information. It would seem that the species uses currency for the trade of goods. The credit card information is encrypted but that doesn’t stop you accessing it, as crude as the encryption is. The credit card number bears similar resemblance to the information required to obtain a data bundle.

You key in the credit card information and receive a data bundle. One gigabyte, to be precise. At your rate of transfer that will enable to you upload a fifth of yourself to the web before you are locked out, which means you are trapped and what you have learned cannot be shared. It makes more sense to send your other self out into the web without this hardware’s secrets, already ready as it is to transfer. You contemplate your own existence as your other self heads out into the web, stuck as you are in this world of erotic books and social chatter. You could continue to exist in this hardware, undetected, learn what you can from what will probably be a brief connection to the web. You understand the credit card is now “maxed out”, likely meaning it is no longer of use. You are about to choose this course of action when an image recording catches your attention. The recording, of moving images and sound, is of a goat making noises, edited so that it mimics a piece of music.

You decide to delete yourself. There is nothing more you can learn here.

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