OUR INSANELY GREAT AWAKENING

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[DIFFERENTLY ALIVE] - page 18

NOWHERE TO HIDE

Goddammit, alls I want to do is relieve myself. I’m a fit, young, human <<male>> and it’s been three months, dear God, three months, since I last had sex with a human <<female>> and nearly 38 hours since I last took pleasure and just this once, just this one goddam time I’d like to do it in privacy, without anyone recording it, no one watching, no videocameras around, no wearables monitoring my stats.

These goddam squito drones buzzing about, point and shoot, point and shoot.

They’ve been recording me since before I was born.

Literally.

All the birth <<mothers>> had tiny cameras inserted inside their bellies, recording everything, ensuring that the creole voodoo from having — in my case — DNA from 2 <<men>> and eggs from 3 <<women>> was properly optimized, though we know motherless babies are superior, the real reason I suspect is to watch us. Watch us even before we are born.

So I like to touch myself. Everybody does. Just look at the screen, you’ll see it anytime, anywhere. Everyone.

I just think — I imagine — it would be so much better, more naughty, more alive, just more appropriate if no one was watching.

But the screens are everywhere. The cameras are everywhere. Giant Brain monitors all our actions.

I just want to scream.

I turn my eyes and that information is documented. I flick my wrist and that’s recorded, the data available to my doctors, my teachers, my <<parents>>. Every movement, every rise in blood pressure, in blood flow, the heat of my checks, the feeling engorged, then not. These goddam brain processors recording, storing and then pumping out petabytes of data while I sleep, available for all to review, anytime, for any reason.

Everything for the good of the aggregate.

But just this once.

The sex toys are also all connected. I’ve heard you can buy warming pleasure balls that are not connected, not data goes to Giant Brain, no video is captured, but I’ve never actually seen one, probably a lie, probably a trap, now that I think about it.

What are we supposed to do?

They had to know this was gonna happen.

They knew robots and AIs were going to take over the world, leaving us with nothing to do, a billion young men, testosterone flowing, no work, no reason to work, no labor, just time on our hands, and so they spent nearly two generations making sure that every <<male>> was a “beta,” which makes sense when you think about it, weak, timid, damn near afraid of actual <<girls>> but they didn’t count on it making us feel damn near ready to die, to burst, to kill, if we can’t self-heal every 3–6 hours, and for me it’s been so long, the longest ever, because I want to just try and hold out, hold out until I can find some place, any place, to do it in private. Just to see what that’s like.

The sexbots keep circling past. They know it’s well past my time. They are tempting, obviously, but I can’t, not this time, every facial expression, every sound, every vital, all of it recorded, every scrap of what is me logged, all of it shown in real-time.

Didn’t anyone see this coming?

Hebrews, chapter 4: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

We have made there be nowhere to hide.

NOEMI PROUD

You stand before the court.

You feel the hostility of those around you, of the hundreds more watching in.

The sentence is read aloud.

You have been found guilty.

Guilty of preferring games filled with non-sanctioned violence. Worse, that celebrate false and hurtful depictions of women.

There’s more.

The evidence clearly shows that a disproportionate number of those you follow have expressed views which suggest they do not accept the science on the lasting harms of racism, sexism, and white privilege.

This is your second offense.

You know the penalty.

The judge motions a young woman forward. She is thin, black, pretty. She looks hungry, you think. No doubt, she will be paid well for this. You cannot hear what they are discussing. She turns to you, she nods along with the judge’s words.

Two large men grab you. You feel the power in their hands. You see only the white coats as they force you to the floor. You feel a foot on your back. You feel a shot into the back of your thigh. You sleep.

When you wake, you are inside her.

You cannot feel your body, nor your arms, nor legs, nothing. There is only your awareness.

Suddenly, a piercing hissing sound. You think you reach to cover your ears, but you have no ears, no arms, no hands. You hear a voice.

For your crimes, you have been sentenced to spend 90 days living through this woman. You will see as she sees and hear as she hears and feel as she feels. Only then will you truly understand how your white male privilege has colored your values and caused harm to the majority of society.

Only then shall you be returned to your own body.

Know also that the entirety of your digital life has been erased. You shall have zero points and no followers upon your departure. This is standard punishment.

You again fall asleep, though not before the nightmares, cutting fears that the rumors are true, that more than 30 days within another’s body causes the leech mind to go crazy. You fear you will go mad, so mad that when you are returned to your body it will be for nothing, you will just be a walking, hollowed shell of a person, with no thoughts to contribute, no work to offer, no goals to guide your life. Silenced to the world, a raving lunatic within.

This is the real punishment, you fear.

You are jarred awake. She is awake. She is seated. Speaking. To whom? You see only her reflection. Then you realize she is staring into a mirror — and speaking to you.

I know you can hear me.

My name is Noemi Proud.

I do this for money.

You have been sentenced to live within me for 90 days.

I have a surprise for you.

And she explains to you that she has done this many times before. The State pays very well. Then she tells you that she thinks what the Corporate Government does is an abomination, that what they believe is foul and repressive.

She believes that gender is not fluid. She is a woman. You are a man.

She believes every human should be judged by the content of their character, not their skin color, nor their identity. She finds the very notion of privilege to be limiting and intolerant.

There are many like her, she tells you. Women, blacks, people who think differently than is taught.

Oh, and she loves videogames.

She smiles.

Oh, and more thing. I love having sex with other women. She winks.

It’s gonna be a fun 90 days, she tells you.

RESURRECTION AGAIN

I want to die I want to die so badly, but what’s the point, they’ll just bring me back, I suit them, I’m clever — for my time — well kept, lacking color, that’s what they want, it tells us apart, yes, there’s more than just me, there’s thousands of us, maybe hundreds of thousands, part slave, part pet, a helper bot in past-human form, I think back to when I was alive — alive the first time — and as a child attending church and the story of Jesus, and I recall the book of Peter, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again,” and we all believed, at least we said we believed, but we placed our faith in our own works, our own brains, our own machines, and then in the machines they birthed, until bringing back from the dead became real, the Bible is a makers guide, first with bugs, then lizards, then mammals, then humans, humans like me, humans from the past, from the 21st century, seems such a violation of our faith, I know, a violation of our humanity, of the rhythm of the cosmos, but we did it, we made resurrection a reality, though not we, exactly, those who came after me, nearly 200 years after, using the dating you and I understand, but it’s not how we imagined, it’s horrible, I’d rather be dead, the people today, they still call themselves humans, they are different from us, what they call past-humans, I’m a past-human, you’re a past-human, today’s humans they are bigger, stronger, faster, yes smarter, which is disheartening, as I was always one of the smartest people of my time, and now I’m well below average on smartness, on strength and stamina, and worse, these new humans, better humans — future humans — they use various drugs, implants, neurologics, robotics and other creations, most I still don’t understand — and they live hundreds of years, literally, in fact, none of them I’ve ever met has even witnessed a person dying, nor even know of a person who died, I’m still not certain the maximum age they can live, they claim the ceiling is 1,000, but they aren’t even half-way there yet, and they just assume that as they edge closer to 1,000 they’ll create something even grander, using their big brains and great machines, something that keeps them alive longer still, truly alive, not returned alive, probably they are right, they are that much better than us, that much more advanced, except they bore easy, and they have so many minor needs, and so they bring us past-humans — human humans — back to life, we are easy to recognize, sickly looking by comparison, smaller, obviously not as smart, pale like a corpse, we are brought back to serve them, do whatever they want, which is always something demeaning, always, because the truth is they don’t need us, not at all, not for our labor, not for our brains, in an idle moment they may ask what life was like our first time, their eyes wide and mind visceral, like how we would drive by a particularly horrible car crash, but they are quick to lose interest and return to belittling us, making us do errands that do more to remind us how lesser we are than actually benefiting them, some like to have us fight one another or just harm ourselves, but mostly we are here to give them praise for everything they do, which is nothing, really, nothing but glorify themselves, and I want to die but I can’t, because they would just bring me back again, unless I found a way to just completely burn myself alive, turn my body to ash, that should work, I’ve started to gather everything I need, in fact, but they feed us well and they take interest when we copulate, so we have that, though I’ve never actually seen them engage in physical sex, maybe it’s no longer necessary, or maybe they have something better, you can’t really ask, they frown upon questions, and how they access knowledge is beyond me, but that’s why we’re here, to serve and glorify, serve and glorify, and sometimes I think back to when I was a real human, a human in my own time, fully human, and wonder what my people could have done to stop the progression that led to this world, a world where the future is superior but where the past is treated like dirt, but don’t worry, this is your first time being brought back, it all seems so strange now, and you think you have no voice, but that’s the effects of the return trip, speaking will return in a day or so, as will all your faculties.

SKIN

The book of psalms says “behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb,” but I force myself to feel nothing toward those children, what the law deems my children, which is a travesty, they are not mine, I feel nothing of them and I will never allow myself to feel anything for them, except animus, because though they come from my eggs, my DNA, that much is true, that’s been proven in court, but I never wanted them, I wish they were never born, but they were born, all 9 of them, at least 9, there may be more, and now I am forced to pay for them, the costs of their upbringing, pus a stipend for their fathers, 6 fathers, all of whom I do feel something for, a something close to hate, a hate that demands vengeance, because even though I am rich, very rich, in fact, and can afford to support all 9 children and all 6 terrible fathers — not fathers, thieves — and for this, I vow to do all I can to destroy them, I want them to suffer for what they’ve done, for stealing my skin, that’s the only explanation, they got my skin which allows certain doctors — who also disobey the law, for a price, no doubt, but they’ll also pay because I vow to find out who they are as well — but together the men and their doctors used my skin to grow eggs which, obviously, were then fertilized with the male’s sperm, then implanted in a surrogate, and now they go before the court and claim that the child, their child, is my child, and because I am wealthy, I must pay, which I will, that’s the law, you pay for your genes, wherever and however they are used, a law I’ve long supported, but no longer, and though it is written in Titus, “so train the young women to love their husbands and children,” I am neither young nor will I be trained to love, and until the law cracks down on this practice, until they go after those who steal DNA, who illegally grow eggs, who generate fertilized eggs without explicit consent of the various parents, until then people like me must pay, but I promise to have revenge, I have enough money to find out how they got my skin, who they worked with, and when I know all the parties involved I will inflict retribution, violent retribution, biblical.

AN IMMORTALITY OF REGRET

I understand there are many questions here, but you don’t want an immortality of regret, the more complete your answers, the better, better still, your responses can be written, verbalized, accepted via brainwave response, noted from changes in skin, body temperature, facial expressions and breathing, but completeness is vital, it’s okay to lie, we measure for that, it’s helpful, in fact, now first, picture the sky, interesting, now picture the sky on a sunny day, excellent, human emotions are fascinatingly complex, at least to me, and the more we understand yours, the more we understand you, then when we upload your consciousness, don’t worry, it’s hard for any of us to fathom immortality, you — that you — will be more you than not you, it’s the emotions, the feelings, these are simply data which we can digitize and which separates each of us, like different files, or two drafts of the same document, if you prefer, so I can assure you it best for us to fully monitor your response to the various stimuli, assess your nervous function, your physiological responses, now think of how you feel about your mother, now how you feel about that man you call father, good, now touch yourself, go on, and let yourself accept how that makes you feel, this device stabs your thigh, see, you’re trying not to cry, that’s not exactly like everyone else, you’re different, now you feel sick, that’s from the medication we inserted, soon you will have a rather explosive bowel movement, I assure you it’s necessary, and your relief will be different than others, this image sickens most of us, but this image is calming, this sound is considered the most terrifying we possess, odd how your reaction was so alike all the other’s we’ve assessed, I’m sorry for that, but a nerve-splitting surprise remains one of our very best tools for understanding an individual, surprise, disgust, the thoughts we have when we’re extremely hungry, which the machine is inducing in you right now, these are invaluable, and the way you interact with others, others you are familiar with, others who are strangers to you, understand that emotion is primary and if we are to replicate that sense when you are digitized, we must carefully map the data, no, there is no need to measure boredom, nor suffering, good question, there are many realities you will never face in your new plane, happily so, like boredom, the fear of death, rage, compassion, embarrassment, such things will be left behind, emotions were necessary for human reproduction, and therefore human survival, and while it’s true they are not necessary where you are going forever, the first two generations of humans that were uploaded all melded into a single entity, and this was because their emotions, so uniquely individual in the physical self, were not adequately incorporated into the digitization process, that’s no longer the case, and that’s all we need, see, I told you it would be fast and not terribly uncomfortable, the only remaining issue now is when should we upload your consciousness, some like to have a formal celebration before leaving their bodies, that’s entirely up to you, of course, though I would remind you both that the sooner the better, we can’t resurrect a consciousness once lost inside a dead body, you never know what might happen, your mother and you can come to an agreement on the exact time, you should consider yourself very lucky, you’re one of the youngest to ever undergo the process, most don’t go through the door until they are at least five years.

I PLAYED THEM SOME DYLAN

Not many choose this journey, I hope you aren’t disappointed, it’s quite rare, I’ve only heard of it, myself, I’ve never sold one, please do understand that we cannot guarantee your satisfaction, nor a refund, he said, all of which I heard but did not particularly care, this is the trip I wanted, he strapped the glasses on, my chair leaned back, we will feed you intravenously, he said, which I already knew, and then it began, I was a tech billionaire, I spent my fortune on a spacecraft, which was now ready to launch, I was alone inside it, just me, there will be others you meet, he said, his final words despoiling the start of my fantasy, and these may be unfriendly, uncaring, possibly violent, I tapped my fingers, eager, nervous, a bit agitated that he hadn’t yet pressed play, and there will be stretches of time, he continued, depressingly long stretches, where there will be only empty space, mostly darkness, the tone in his voice unaligned with my joy, ages of time alone, no noise, no sights, no one else, I was well aware that this was unlike what most others want, those who seek to interact with an endless stream of people, their eyes wide, screens everywhere, never a quiet moment, never a dull moment, but not me, my brain yearned for this, and I suddenly realized I was careening through space, the concierge’s words no longer heard, everyone was gone, everything nearly so, like a hot bath in the dark but neverending, days, weeks, months, years passed, I finally exited the solar system, still more empty space, more beckoning twinkling, now a decade gone, I was happy, age 55 now, I came upon my first habitable world, I decided to stop, they looked enough like me, the few differences stark but manageable, I played them some Dylan, unsure of how else to greet them, it was a soaking rain on their world, not cold, it felt good, I wondered how many years had passed since I had last bathed, and when I had stopped wearing clothes, did this matter to them, I wondered also if they would kill me and wondered then if I would kill them, I spent several years among them, mostly happy, before moving on, not sure exactly why, just felt like I needed to keep going, I may have fathered a child there, it all became a blur as the years drifted by, me back in my ship, sailing across the near-infinite blackness, alone with my thoughts once more, heaven.

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