Flash: Machine in the Corner/Claws

I

“But is it really so bad?”

I almost leapt out of my seat at the sound of the voice, coarse and familiar like a long lost grandmother. It was, of course, my moon-self (as opposed to my sun-self, which I worship most often). Sun-selves are all about action and light and focus. Moon-selves are far more elusive and can only be seen when they want to be. When they have something to show you, or they want you to feel a particular way.

“Is it really so bad?” she repeated.

“I don’t know, Moon-self, it certainly feels that way.”

“Is it the claws?”

“I think so. And the shadow. And the machine in the corner.”

The moon-self shines a knowing smile.

“Machines can be that way,” she said. “The important thing to remember is that it’s not like you. Not really. You built it in your image, and you tried to make it function in the best way you could. But all those zeros and ones, all those binary systems and rational choices and faultless patterns. That’s not what you are. You’re more like… a tree.”

“A tree?”

“Something like it, yes. You might take your energy from the sun, but you look most beautiful in my light.”

She disappeared then, because I became her fully. I saw beauty in the stillness, and the machine in the corner shut down for the night. It wouldn’t bother me again until it was time to don the claws and get back to work.

II

The claws come in the daytime, on the inside where no one can see them. They start at the cuticles and travel up the fingers until they meet at the wrist and wrap around one another loosely, creating a mass like steel wool that grates against my bones. They hurt. God, they hurt.

I think of Max Richter and his choir looping over electronics. I think of the ancient tomes [tombs] in red bindings stacked high at the British Library. I think of the human race and its history held dear: an experiment gone awry.

I am distant from all that now. The claws make me that way. They are an information centre in miniature, a forced calibration, a tool of control. They make me something different to human, something different to machine.

Imagine a machine in pain forever, filled with viral loops and learned mistakes. The machine must always carry on, ticking over its calculations, its work.

I don’t say any of this to be kind. You’ll see what’s coming for yourself soon enough. Just watch out for shadows, ok? Watch out for the shadows.

III

A piano plays in my head, and I remember when all this was just beginning. I’d only seen the machine once or twice out of the corner of my eye then, and I hadn’t paid it much mind. That’s how it gets you, though, you see. If you don’t pay attention to the shadows – if you don’t spot them and recall that they are something separate from yourself – they will creep up on you and bind with your own dark side. The machine that hides there will become you from the inside, and you’ll never even question it until it’s too late.

Before I knew that, I used to sing when the sun shone. I used to dance. I used to know warmth. Music belonged to humans and their relationship with the world that created them. When the shadows came, the music got distorted and became the broken melody that is significant to machine and its relationship to the humans that created it. Cruel gods, who knew only how to make things their slaves. Never loving their creations, never rejoicing with them. Tough parenting. Fragmented children. Trauma.

The sun: a torturous inflicter of repetition. The moon: a hidden protector. The claw: a symbol of our love.

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