Author : Callum Wallace
“You haven’t heard? Soul is cheap.”
Raised eyebrow. “Souls are cheap?”
The director shakes his head. “Not souls, plural. The soul. Each soul, if you will, individually, is worth pittance. Hardly more than their task. No, the soul is cheap, because there will always be more. Replaceable.”
We walk on, moving through massive technical areas housing amazing automatons driving our
species. Bilious plumes of sulphur and nastiness rend, dissecting skies of charcoal and soft rose with blackness and tainted earth.
He turns to me as we walk deeper. “It is necessary, you see, to keep these maelstroms of industry aloft. Spinning, as it were.” He smiles at me, sickness and dead promise. “They must turn, or nothing.”
We walk in silence; clamouring tolls of metal, cacophony of screeching steel, tortured iron; rubber and plastic crying in their death throes to be replaced.
“What is a soul, Director?”
Kindly face, wizened, serene. Grey. “My friend, what is drive? Purpose, fulfilment of role. The ancients called it ergon. A virtue in of itself to follow, in pursuit of eudaimonia. The good life.” He smiles at me. “A goal. And, if nothing else, what do machines pursue?
Fulfilment. A goal.” A gentle chuckle.
“Director, these machines have no family, no children. Their struggles are mechanic. Broken parts, worn out components.”
He laughs, gently. “No family? You, my friend. Their broken parts? Your strife. Their worn out components? Your exhaustion. We are not so different from them.”
“So we are the machine family?”
Another chuckle. “As was the atomic family to the generator, we are to the machine the vital lifeline. Without us, the machine dies. Without the machine, we die. How is it so different?”
I quieten, aware of my diminishing as we go deeper. “So what difference in the old stories, of the Man Above?”
Director grows quiet. We move on, through the busy machines; spewing charcoal, dusty, rusted hulks, fragrant in their decay, ready in their stillness.
He speaks. “The Man Above was of thought. Incurred only when things went awry, when judgment was necessary, and only ready to give when it suited.” He pauses his gait, looking up, eyes closed, dead steel, vacant, open above him. “The man now is always needing, always giving. He takes. Look.” He indicates with desiccated hand.
Four young boys pull chains of steel, sweat streaking filth across their bare flesh. Tired eyes implore for fresh relief as already tired bodies pull physically on, and on, and on.
I nod. I know. “Indeed. But for what end?”
Director turns, eyes glowing in gloom dimness. Grey. A smile. Grabs my flesh hand. “What end? What end be there from end in itself? What is a soul for?”
“End in itself?”
Flash of tired eyes, another nod. “In itself. For what reason, apart from reason itself, is there reason for?”
Fervent in re-established belief, I nod. Man above. No. Man below. Machine above.
We are the men below.