Determined

Author: Nicholas Schroeder

The supercomputer could predict everything you were going to do. But Kyle was skeptical. “Let me see that video again!” He studied it carefully. “None of that’s going to happen.”

“Could you be more specific?” the scientist asked.

“Well, I’m supposed to barge out, leave, make a scene. Nope! Not going to happen.”

“How much of the video did you watch?”

Kyle smirked, “Two hours, that’s all I got to last; just two hours.”

The scientist made a long note. “What else?”

“I’m going to get a call from my girlfriend. But I’m not going to answer. My phone it’s on silent.”

“That’s interesting. Why are you so determined to prove the program wrong?”

“Because I’m free dammit. No machine is going to determine my fate,” Kyle said.

The scientist smiled. “Did this conversation happen in the video?”

“Well yes, but that’s not the point. I just have to prove it wrong in general.”

“How are you supposed to do that?”

Kyle knocked the notepad out of the scientist’s hands. “That didn’t happen in the video!”

The scientist was flustered. “That’s extremely inappropriate.” He regained his composure. “Are you sure that didn’t happen in the video?”

“Yep. Positive.”

“Let’s look at the video again.” They walked over to the computer. The scientist played the video, pausing twenty minutes in. “Yeah, you’re right.”

“Told you!”

“Well, that’s just a glitch; the program works.” The scientist retrieved his notepad from the floor. “What happens next?”

Kyle looked intently at the scientist. “I’m not telling you. You’ve got reason to make these predictions become true.”

“Well, I could just watch the video.”

“Come on man,” Kyle said, “let me make my point.”

The scientist made a short note. “I suppose so. Would be interesting if you’re right. You know the other test subjects were predicted with perfect accuracy.”

“Well, I’m not them,” Kyle said. “I’m free.”

Kyle’s phone vibrated in his pocket.

“Aren’t you going to answer that,” the scientist said.

“Nope.”

“What if it’s an emergency?”

Kyle took a seat. “Not going to happen.”

The scientist looked uneasy. “Answer your phone.”

“Nope.”

The scientist went to check the video.

“I thought you weren’t going to check?”

“I have to.”

“Yeah, I’m supposed to throw my chair at this point,” Kyle said.

“Yes!”

Kyle picked up the chair and threw it. “Now maybe I was determined to be not determined to throw the chair. Either way I did what I want!”

“So you spited the program by deciding not to throw the chair, then spited yourself by throwing it?”

“That’s right baby!”

The scientist scratched his head. “Now you’re supposed to come check the video with me.”

“No, I think I’ll just sit here a while.”

The scientist studied the video carefully.

“No, I think I’ll get up! No, I think I’ll sit down! No, I’ll do a handstand!” Kyle performed a handstand crashing to the floor.

“What the hell is going on!” the scientist yelped.

Kyle punched himself in the face. “This is freedom.”

“Please stop!”

“Now, I’m going to meditate until time is up,” Kyle said.

The scientist checked the video over and over again. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

After the two hours were up Kyle gracefully got up and walked out. “I’m free to choose.”

***

The scientist rushed into the control room. “I don’t think the program works!”

The CSO laughed. “No, everything happened exactly as predicted. The computer just showed him the wrong video. It’s the Compatibilist Patch.”

Revival

Author: Mikhail Gladkikh

First, there were thoughts. I acknowledged my existence. None of my senses functioned, but I felt their presence. Somehow I knew they were taking care of me.
Then my vision started to return. I realized I was submerged in liquid. I remembered I was human, but I could not feel my body. I saw green light instead of my arms. But they were around, and it gave me hope.
As time passed, my memories materialized. Along with my limbs. I felt my feet. I could move my fingers. They continued to restore my essence. I recalled who I was, and what had happened.
I’d worked at the space station. A comet had passed nearby, and then strange events had started to occur. Sergio had torn his clothes and smashed his brains against the wall. Alexander and Mei had disappeared without a trace. Camilla had attacked me and opened the airlock. The last thing I remembered was being sucked into the open space.
Magically, they had saved me and brought me back to life. Who were they? Extra-terrestrials? Why had they helped me? Sentient life recognizing its own kind? They were the healers. They gave me the second chance to live.
Gradually, I grew stronger, until I felt the liquid surrounding me receding. I rejoiced in anticipation of making contact with my saviors.
And they indeed came. Many of them. I felt their eagerness and tried to communicate with my thoughts, expressing appreciation and gratitude. Their response was bizarre, incomprehensible, they did not even recognize my presence. Yet they were restless and…craving for something? There were sinister undertones in their demeanor. I was scared, and they sensed my fright.
Suddenly, a sharp pain pierced my limbs. Bewildered, I observed with horror how thin rays of light were carving out pieces of flesh. Unimaginable agony inflamed every organ and every cell of my body. Darkness descended as my eyes burned from the inside. I became the embodiment of pain and suffering. Yet I stayed conscious, able to think as if my mind was undisturbed by this torment.
They were ecstatic and triumphant. Convulsed with agony and terror, I realized they were feeding off my suffering. My anguish was their narcotic. Why were they doing this? They, who brought me back to life?
Before my flesh disintegrated and my mind receded into the bleakest madness, they gave me the final piece of knowledge, taking this abysmal torment to its zenith. They attacked our station. They restored me so they could destroy me again. This had happened many times before. The dreadful torture would never stop. This thought completed the eternal circle of inevitability. It finally broke me.
When they exulted in my comprehension, I understood this was their objective. Not pain and suffering, but total obliteration of every rational thought and emotion, except the darkest fear and despair. As all light inside of me was extinguished, I knew I was destined to experience this torment over and over again, for all eternity.

Infighting

Author: Surina Venkat

“Your nanobots are infighting,” my doctor tells me over the phone. It makes sense now – the sudden blackouts, the locked limbs, the dark red bruises that snake my body. The doctor’s voice is tight but careful, in the way of someone who’s used to delivering bad news. He tells me he’s never seen this before and my respect for him increases; unfamiliarity doesn’t phase him, even when he’s confronted with something as unordinary as this.

“Come to the lab for more tests,” he says. It isn’t a suggestion but an order. The implications of the nanobots’ malfunction are not good, especially since they’ve just started injecting babies. I’m a walking, talking PR disaster. I’m not stupid, no matter what the bots seem to think. It appears I don’t have a personality disorder as suspected – I feel vindicated in the realization. No one had believed me when I said I could hear voices in my head.

They’re whispering at me, even now, even as I hang up the phone. You’re our home, my left ear murmurs. You’re our prison, the other side says. Or maybe I’m imagining it. Or I could be hearing it. They can alter cognitive function, warp my senses so I conjure voices that aren’t audible to anyone else. Is that what’s been happening? Did they know they were slowly driving me insane? They have the ability to measure cortisol levels, they must have.

I pause. The whispers don’t. I feel dizzy but I don’t get a moment’s peace. I can’t, not with the them inside me. Or am I nothing but their container? Can both be true? I lean back against the kitchen counter. Take a deep breath.

My body won’t be my own for much longer. I don’t want to trapped in it like they are. I know how being trapped feels because one side won’t shut up about it. I look at my arms and imagine I can see them swimming inside me. My entire left arm is red and bruised and it’s all their fault.

I realize: My body is already not mine. It hasn’t been mine for a long time, longer than anyone else has realized. I don’t want it anymore, not like this.

I drop the arm to the side and use the other hand to pick up a steak knife.

The Girl in the Grove

Author: Alzo David-West

And the midnight air is hall’d,
all the people turning cold,
shadows storming in a stare,
something’s coming, drifting near.

* * *

Ocular atoms detonated in a scream from a lonely girl’s eyes. An android woman and a little dog disintegrated like embers in the black night. The girl ran down a dark, ramshackle road in the rustic place. It was such a secluded, outland area, with crows, foxes, and stoats, no one was aware what was happening. She ran to the weathered, eroded stairs of a miniature, furrowed mountain overlooking a solemnity of memorial stones. The heat-glow of her eyes was emanating. They always stayed hot for a while. She went up the stairs and tripped, but then she got up again, half way up to a small portal through a tangle of shrubs and bramble, which led to a hidden, bare grove. She had been there a few times before, within the hollows, where she reflected with the reeds, the leaves, and the decayed things, but not with the mosquitoes, which she hated. They kept away when her eyes were burning.

As she walked over skirmishes of tree roots and catastrophes of broken branches under her illumination, her insides felt weird, like a vacant wrenching, and a sensation of nausea came, so she put her fingers down her throat and began to purge herself. After some minutes in the forest hall, she thought she had cleaned out whatever it was that was hurting there. But then her hands began to shiver. She felt weaker, and she lay down on the stubble-ground. The android woman and the little dog flashed, like mercury, in her mind. She didn’t really mean to kill them, did she? She turned her face into the grove sand, massaging the black earth and the mulch leaves in her high-school girl hands, sliding in the spaces between birth and death; a solitary cricket trilled in the solitude.

In the morning, the grove haze quenched the golden blaze, which transuded through cedar trees, mutating into something that was neither dusk nor day.

Glacier 2020

Author: Anna Hamilton

Glacier National Park. Many Glacier, year 2050.

You adjust your iGoggles and look at the rock face. You blink twice, fast, indicating you want to do a search. You look at a result towards the bottom, hyperlinked words superimposed over the trees climbing up the mountain, and blink twice again. “Many Glacier,” the webpage says. “Thousands of years ago, snow compacted into sheets on the high mountains to form glaciers. As these glaciers moved, they slowly carved out the geological features you see today…today, due to the Great Anthropogenic Climate Shift and the resulting rise in world temperature, no glaciers remain in Many Glacier.”

Your eyes sweep over the lake, low and stagnant but the same crystal blue as in the archival photos; the brittle skeletons of trees left by fire and beetles, the immovable stone itself. And suddenly you want there to be glaciers, something cold and remote, unmeasurable, secure from man’s power, wild and mysterious…but all you see are the juttings and inlets of the rock face—those at least seem unchangeable. You take off your iGoggles and stare at the rock and do not look away for a long time.