Heavily fragmented reality


“Put your hands up!” I shouted, and the sound was clipped with digital distortion like a drive-thru speaker.

“You can have the money, it's yours. We don't want any trouble.”

The teller's face was blank. No fear, no anger, no amusement. Nothing. I started to laugh. “You don't want any trouble? When's the last time you wanted anything?!” I ran a hand over her face, slapped her cheek lightly. “Look at yourself!”

“You can take the money,” she said again in exactly the same tone.

“Fuck you! We don't want it! Come here!” I pointed the gun at her head and escorted her to the full length glass at the front of the bank. My accomplices did the same with their hostages. There was an army outside of state PD, SWAT, and feds. Several Al Pacinos, Tommy Lee Joneses, Denzel Washingtons, Jet Lis. I think I saw a Steven Seagal out there.


I sat back watching the news. I know that's such a boring way to start a story. I felt so impotent, watching helpless, passively as life played out before me. There was a hostage situation. The fifth one this week. A room full of dolls, mannequins. Moving, speaking. Shouting through frozen faces, plastic visages. Their captives were the same, unblinking, unflinching, unreacting. They stood as stiff as statues with the same expression they'd wear to drive to work in the morning. Things had only escalated to this level a few weeks ago, but I could trace this back to last year.

I had a friend really into the tech stuff. Lex. He was a genius. He was a bit of a futurist, but a philosopher, too. He was really into the Eastern stuff -- Tao, Zen, Hindu -- so it kind of surprised me that he chose to get a new body. He talked up the advantages with glee. You never age, never get sick. Run faster, jump higher, think clearer, remember more. I asked him, “How do you fuck?” He gave me a cold look for about five minutes and walked away.

Undated Entry 1

There's no point to life anymore. It has grown as cold and mechanical as I. My ambitions are fading slowly every day. I'm forgetting what I looked like. What things smelled like, felt like. The aroma of a familiar perfume, bringing back memories of someone I know was close, but I couldn't recall who. Maybe I'm better off without that feeling. It's been so long since I knew what caress was. My mind is slipping away. It is like an hourglass with no bottom, each grain of sand falling into oblivion. I've tried to fix things. I tell people I love them to see if I'll feel it again. I try to meditate, but in my mind's eye I see a face looking at me with scorn. (I know who it is.)

At first, the early adapters were looked down on. They were the real weirdos, seen at the same level as maybe Scientologists or Hare Krishnas. When the models were improved, they started marketing more aggressively. Soon enough, the “keeping up with the Joneses” effect kicked in, and natural humanity became a minority. The old and dying would buy them to live forever. Druggies would buy them if they had the money, so they could just have a button installed to directly stimulate their pleasure center. That meant lots of shiny plastic rock stars and actors, as if anyone could tell the fucking difference. After six months, the only people not in cybernetics were either poor or outcasts. But it wasn't as clear a division as say, suits and the left. You would find someone on the street, gleaming in the light, and they'd start talking, and you'd know that they were gone. The reasons the early adapters had for switching never went away. There were the technophiles and New Agers and body modders. It just made things all the more surreal, made me feel all the more alone. So many of the people you'd think would understand went and fucked themselves up that way.

Lex changed back when all this was bleeding edge. The designs hadn't quite crossed the uncanny valley yet, and it was before they invented prosthetic sense corpuscles. He was deprived of smell and touch. Humans can't survive without touch.

“Listen up! We want one thing, and one thing only! I want our message broadcast on every TV channel, radio station, and as many podcasts as possible!”

“What are you going to do if we don't?”

I shot the teller. From the look on her face, the tone in her voice, she couldn't care less. I couldn't care less. None of the police appeared to care, not even the naturals. Everything proceeded according to the usual process: my move, their move, my move again.

“You realize we are now authorized to use lethal force?”

“Nothing has changed. You have an hour.”

Undated Entry 2

I tried several exercises today in a post-hypnotic state. In one, the memory of an emotionally charged event in the past is recalled. Normally, bringing to mind something that made me angry would have instigated clear changes in biochemistry. When I was human, my skin would flush, and my face would feel hot. My breathing would be affected. I performed the exercise exactly the same as I used to, but the changes never came. I no longer have a sympathetic nervous system, or adrenal glands. There is no chemical basis to my emotion, and even though I thought they were still sustainable, I can only experience feelings in a detached intellectual sense. I do not possess them, they do not happen to me. I only observe them.

“Okay, times up! Everyone get--”

“We've met your demands. The camera crew is right here.” Setup took them a matter of seconds, cameras, lights, monitors all set up with the whir of servos and snaps of locking mechanisms. I stared directly into the camera, trying to project menace. I knew I wasn't capable anymore, but I still tried to recall what it felt like.

“Attention America. We are not your enemies, but your liberators. Over the past century, you have become detached. You have lost the meaning of your lives, and with it you have lost compassion for your fellow human beings, if you can still be called that. Your existence is only rationalized by the leaders of the world as how much you can consume, and what you produce. You only survive to boost the GDP. This has reached its logical end.”

Somewhere off to the side, one of my comrades stepped forward with his gun. He was quickly shot by a Bruce Willis.

“Look at yourselves. You do not even deserve to be called imitations of humans. No one who throws their humanity away for a shiny new toy should be allowed to speak as if they are still alive. They should not continue to live, because they have forgotten what life was.”

Another stepped forward, and was shot dead as predictably as the first.

“Body by Apple. Brain by Intel. Thoughts by Google. Don't you love it, you preppy fucks?!”

Another stepped forward, another died. The Gillian Anderson standing over with the feds exchanged a look with one of the Ice Ts, but I couldn't grasp a meaning from the expression. Because there fucking wasn't any.

“So, what do I want from you? An apology?” I scoffed. “As if it would have any sincerity. No. And you can not change. None of us can go back to the way we were. Half the naturals are as far gone. They wear blank faces and walk in stiff gaits and preach against the plastic while remaining unaware of themselves. What I want is for all of you to die. I will not lie to you. None of us will see salvation. You lack the presence to even enjoy the torture of Hell. To be truthful, your death will be almost meaningless, as it will resemble your so-called lives. It will be an eternity of emptiness. But I insist on this death all the same, because it is simply how things should be. We are stuck in a limbo, you see. We are where we do not belong.”

My remaining accomplices all marched forward into the crowd of guns and riot shields. I was deaf for a while, as the shots fired past me, and the glass of the bank shattered behind us.

“Kill yourselves, America. Europe, Japan. Whoever gets this broadcast. Pull the trigger. Jump off the highest roof you can find. Take off your protective skull-covering and dip your head in a tub. If you have a shred of decency left, you will comply.”

I began walking forward, arms wide open. I would've liked the last thing I saw to be a flood of people rushing in to die by cop. I suspect that the broadcast never made it past the bank, and the city street. My brothers and sisters would reenact this same scene next week, and every week until it worked. For the last second of my life, with that thought held in my mind, I believe I felt tranquility.

I turned off the TV. The news story was same as ever. A mass of loons took hostages, got themselves killed. No explanation. No logic or reason. Just the way of the world today. That's what the anchors always implied. I laid back, rubbing my eyes to try and quell the fever. I wondered about Lex a minute. What happened to him, where he ended up. I felt a pang of sadness, but I couldn't place why.

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