Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

I’m just a golem: made of flesh rather than clay, but still propelled along by the words in my head and the fire in my eyes. Under my skull is no clay tablet or ancient scroll, though: break me apart and you wouldn’t catch a glimpse of the contract that binds me. The clauses and caveats were imprinted onto my conscious mind with chemicals and surgery: precise and purposeful. About six thousand golems were created before the company was investigated, invaded and shut down, but by then, it was too late. With the dissolution of the company, our contracts passed to the state.

On the news, there were stories about successful deprogrammings, golems released from their terms of employment to become normal again. When it was my turn, the men in white coats just tutted, and glanced at one another. A few days later, I was told: there was no hope of undoing what the company did. Since the state held my contract, they decided to keep me on as staff. I’m sure they meant well by it, at least at first.

At first, golems were just given menial jobs, things any simian could accomplish. We did them, and did them well. I was in data entry: each time I completed a sheet, it gave me a little buzz of joy. We were Pavlov’s bureaucrats, and we were good at it.

But managers change. And a supply of warm bodies that appear willing to do anything you ask is a precious commodity indeed. I was transferred to a military research establishment. At each step there were cameras and biometrics, and questions in the vein of ‘are you willing to do this for us?’. It never crossed my mind to say no. It was literally unthinkable. I was willing to do anything at all, no matter what. I felt it to the core of me — I guess the tapes were just so the white coats could say ‘look, there was no coercion here’.

At first I was set to work in the labs, preparing chemicals and glassware and the living samples — some animals, some golems. I said nothing: I had been told to say nothing. Eventually I graduated into handling experiments myself, from start to finish, able to follow a complex script

When the quarantine chamber quickly dissolved into a twinkling grey mess, I was transferred away from the experimental levels. I was told that I had been lucky to get away, but it had been my fault. Originally, I had thought the script was at fault, but apparently I had mishandled the samples. It made sense. My original suspicions washed away, like mist dispersed by a freshening wind.

They gave me armour, and a gun, and took me to the east. I was told to defend a small plateau in the mountains: a hidden weapons cache. I discovered that I was unable to get further than about a kilometre from the plateau before the compulsion to return became undeniable.

I’ve been here twenty years

I think they forgot me.

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