Author : Ray Burke

Maybe he was broken. It would certainly explain a lot. He always felt lost, hurt, angry even. It never mattered how many were around him, who he talked to, even when sleeping with them in the throes of romance. He just felt alone, detached, like none of it was real. He felt like he had woken from a dream, a dream where he could fly and go wherever he wanted yet on waking he was stuck, like he’d been clipped. He wondered at times do tamed birds that have been clipped look at their reflections and remember flying? Did it sadden them they couldn’t anymore? Were they tortured by this knowledge?

Always he felt a hunger to belong, he wanted to be with someone to escape, to feel that connection, that love, that interdependance. It all felt wrong to him, it was like a hollow life, a hollow world. He realized at an early age he felt different to everyone, no one seemed to be aware of the gap, the seperation. He was five when the world broke and the curtain dropped draining the magical shine from life.

Sitting watching people brought him some comfort though he never knew why exactly. To imagine their lives, to see their complexity from afar. He could sympathise, he had great empathy for them, going about their lives unaware, ignorance is bliss. That always made him smile. It explained perfectly why he was never comfortable. They all seemed so happy, the daily routine, family life, personal problems, relationships. He just couldn’t understand it all. Couldn’t they see they were wasting their lives? The nine to five rat race. Fritting away their energy, their talents and dreams, to make someone else’s life more comfortable.

He smiled as he felt him coming. The world seemed to slow down just for him, like their time was important, he could always smell his aftershave before he ever saw him. It was the one surprise he looked forward to in this seemingly endless term of detachment, the one thing that felt real. A hand squeezed his shoulder, “Good afternoon Kyo, how’re you today?” The cheeriness and optimism was almost infectious. Always he asked how he was doing, if he was ok. No one else seemed to care about him. He had only known Brian these last few years but he felt in him something that made all the pain recede, he felt something real, someone there behind the face.


Walking in Brian looked over the control room. He’d managed to slowly whittle his staff down to remain undetected. The main readout in his office still flashing red in warning beside the timer running on twenty six months and thirteen days. Everything seemed normal despite the error report compiling daily. Interface dilation was still on track hovering at seventeen hundred percent, response times were optimal, data exchange seemed to never deteriorate. He hadn’t dared shut the program down when the critical error occurred. Could he really have happened upon a virgin AI? Removing his lab coat he sat in the interface chair and reclined, adjusting the headset as he inserted the recording chip coded; Kryptic Estrangement Observation Program.

As the dilation effect wound down and the interface loaded in Brian materialized on a side street near a cafe. Was the program truly aware? Did it even know this environment wasn’t real? He could see the program avatar sitting watching people as it always did. He approached and squeezed its shoulder.

“Good afternoon Kyo, how are you today?”

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