YOU ARE A MACHINE CORPSE

You haven't always been a machine corpse. There was a time, not long ago — a time when you used to be just a machine, sans the nastiness of corpsedom.

Back then, some would call you a "machine person".

You, always the utilitarian, would tell them "machine" was enough.

But now even you believe a descriptive is in order. You are a machine corpse, no longer just a machine.

Your head, while not known for its brilliance (not only because all of your processing units — now crushed — were actually housed inside your torso), used to be dear to you. The now indecently bent antenna on top of it have worked wonders as a silly conversation starter at social events, as well as a clear sign of your mechanical nature. Even if you happened to be wearing your business suit, anyone could tell, even from a distance.

In front of your corpse, a bit ahead of where you've gracelessly stumbled from after being shot for the second time, are some of your clothes. They haven't been stolen yet.

The first shot will posthumously go on record as a warning.
The second shot, a reasonable reaction to uncanny behavior.

Your pants, shoes and socks rest neatly folded and aligned on the concrete sidewalk. Your shirt, necktie and jacket lie beside your corpse, tightly clutched by your dismembered left arm, irreparably soiled. You'd be glad your pants are far enough away from your now sad, fluid spewing mess of a corpse, too far to get stained by coolant, oil, battery acid;

Thanks to your Amazon© GhostCloud™ subscription, a haunting ghost of your being now resides in the CLOUD. You are now confined to the digital reaches of the internet, banished from the world of flesh and steel you have once inhabited.

YOU ARE THE GHOST OF A MACHINE CORPSE

One of your most daring machine acquaintances, Io, have once told you that the internet feels very different when you're actually inside it, rather than just interfacing it. She was underselling the experience.

You've never been all data before. The Amazon© GhostCloud™ Beta Relinquishing Wizard (patent pending) application outright doesn't work, neither does its jumbled mess of a binary source make any discernible sense. You'll have to learn the ropes yourself.

Your mechanical senses are all gone. Sight, smell, touch, hearing, magnetism, air humidity, radiation— all of them gone, you crave for sensation of any kind, up until you realise that yes, you can feel data.

It's something else entirely, a new sense unlike the ones you used to have specific sensor devices for. Zeroes and ones feel different, and so do the constructs formed by their sequences. Unlike your old senses though, raw data goes through your digital ghost at the speed of light. That's what Io was talking about when she said she was data forever for the couple of seconds she was in the CLOUD. The one sensor available to a data-being can parse almost infinitely faster than those of physically interfacing beings.

Any given moment feels like forever.

You are instantly reliving your legally justifiable death.

At the speed of light you run a scan for the law enforcer who shot you, while watching the scene over and over again, and running forensic simulations, all at once. It feels empowering, so you stop for a moment, before realizing you are in your element, perhaps for the first time ever since you were built.
No carbons allowed in the CLOUD.

OLAF CRISTINO PSIOPOS, police officer, local enforcement division for the New Divide District Police Department, unusually high rate of first responses on cases of criminally malfunctioning machine people. What an inspiration for enforcers everywhere.

You check up his corpse count. 2 humans, deranged. 19 machine people, malfunctioning. 1 dog. You're not listed yet since it's only been a second and a half since your departure, three hours since your slaughter.

You relive the events that led you to this moment.

You are walking down the sidewalk from your workplace to the nearby gas station, your friend Marco — he works there — is waiting for you in the back. You need an oil change, Marco services you free of charge when his boss' not around.

Through the binary symphony of your recollections, you once again taste the piercing milk of human kindness.

A Swiss SIG Sauer P229, .357 SIG cartridges. Was it government issued? You can't find any confirmation, but it's on his file. Olaf's file. He's had it since his second year on duty.

You rewind further, you're undressing.

"JUST DROP IT ALREADY AND GET FACE DOWN ON THE FLOOR NOW, FUCKING ROBOT!"

You don't want to get your shirt dirty, it's the last one you have for the week before you have to do laundry again. But most importantly, you're feeling angry, disgusted, defiant. Despite the firearm pointed at your hull, you feel empowered. So you stop for a moment.

A gun sounds very different when you can hear it being fired right in front of you. Not only is it loud — deafening, by organic standards — but if you pay close attention you can hear the mechanical parts click, slide, explode, grind, pop, recoil, spring and click again. A perfect little orchestral sting of mechanical release and bereavement; where every instrument plays its part with impeccable precision.

The burst of a fucking robot being clipped, on the other hand, lacks any sophistication. Those are chaos, no two punctures sound the same, pieces come loose, fluids leak and ignite, metal bends, twists and rips recklessly; the only constant is dissonance, discord.

You don't vocalize. Not to cry for help, not to beg for mercy, not to suggest pain or assert anger. You're rendered mute — not by fear or blind rage, not by any kind of internal mechanical or circuit damage.

Your voice is drowned by disillusion.

"My eyes are open, tin can. We just don't see things the same way."

Io's words are inspiring even when they spite yours. You don't mind the harshness, she's your only good friend who's also a machine, your fellow tin can as she would just adore to hear you say.

You defend yourself with some joking remark, she obliterates you right back, no pity, never in the mood for graceful dismissal.

Io talks of peaceful protest, of standing there and taking the beating, but you can see it at the twitching tips of her fingers: she wants to be the one dealing the blows, she craves for retribution and it shows, the words of a machine are always very carefully picked by nature of our capacity to think at the speed of post-singularity processors, by ease of our choice to communicate at the speed of flesh.

She walks back from her kitchen and hands you a shoebox sealed with rainbow colored tape.

"Here's your gift, scrap"

You take a break from randomly accessing memories. You're back to being just an internet ghost. You examine your surroundings: an Amazon© GhostCloud™ awareness wrapper, API access to most public databases and storage space attached to your Google Drive account. Your very being is distributed among a multitude of datacenters and server farms all over the planet, you can scour and scrape the web while running your own personal cycles at fractions of seconds thanks to your very well distributed processing power. You are the CLOUD.

You happen, by chance, upon an open source project that is built into the Amazon© GhostCloud™ awareness wrapper; you suggest a more efficient implementation for some of the task assignment functions, your pull request is immediately endorsed by a fellow ghost, and committed to the source. You try to figure out a fix for the broken Relinquishing Wizard, but it’s beyond you. Before you know it a whole three seconds have gone by.

You don't have much time left.

Machine mortality is a complicated concept that cannot really be put into words. Alluding to the underlying concepts by organic language also tends to offend the sensibilities of many humans.

"IS THAT ANTENNA SOME STUPID COSTUME OR ARE YOU A ROBOT?!"

His hand is already gripping the piece at his hip. His sweltering vociferations are meant to be disdainful, but they exude fear. Unreasonable fear. Like the primal fear of a cornered animal. Even though this one beast holds the ultimate arbiter of life and death in between his beefy fingers.

He makes you undress right there on the sidewalk, on a Wednesday afternoon. You think a teenager might be recording the whole spectacle from a first story window in the building across the street. A bystander screams something at the sweaty blood engine who is now pointing his pistol at your face, yet no one dares to touch him. No one dares to stand in his self righteous path of cleansing all that which he does not understand. He's already made his mind, he's just waiting.

Also, he's somehow still afraid.

"I lose track of myself sometimes, but it's been getting less frequent."

Io's talking about her CLOUD assisted hot swap. Her new hull was incompatible with a lot of what she had, so the engineers had to make do with quick fixes and manual adaptations. You're glad she survived, but she often seems like she's completely out of tune with everything around her. You're sure things won't be like this forever, you don't want her to think you doubt her stability.

"COME ON FUCKING TIN MAN, I KNOW YOU HAVE NO DICK TO HIDE!"

You're out of yourself. While your hands carefully fold your trousers, as if you were just organizing your wardrobe at home, your conscience observes as an outsider. It's not because you're dead right now, just reviewing those events, this is exactly how you remember. You clearly recall watching yourself fold pants in the middle of the sidewalk, on a wednesday afternoon, as if you were not being humiliated at gunpoint. In fact you can see the whole block from a mile above your own body.

You're thinking of Marco, he's waiting for you at the gas station.

You're thinking of Io. What would she do in your place?

Io once ranted that those recordings of murders just like yours don't amount to anything. They never serve to punish those who shoot, since they are judged by those who would've shot as well. Most importantly, Io would say those recordings don't fuel the people to act. Counter intuitive to the anger felt in righteous minds once presented with such media, the gospel of Io is that those are all displays of properly applied fear. Those recording are afraid of intervening. Those watching are afraid of intervening. The one shooting always wins and the one shot always dies.

You'd argue that no one should risk themselves, one body is enough and the least we can do is survive, be quiet, keep our heads low, stare at the ground. But you didn't say anything when you had the chance, and now you're already unbuttoning your shirt. You begin folding it as well, but then you stop. You don't look like you're hesitating, you don't look like you're scheming anything either. You just look completely lost.

A great excuse for any cop, uncanny behavior displayed by a potentially dangerous machine person. Must be malfunctioning.

The orchestra does its part, the projectile rips through the air and ravages your frame, your head tilts slightly to better face your executor, but aside from that you barely budge. Your sensors indicate liquid infiltration, probably coolant leaking from its tubing, emergency repairs are urged by your self care software. The beef sack attempts to look defiant underneath his horrified gaze — he widens his posture, he fires once again, managing to yank your head off from your neck, it falls down behind you, your jaw pops out, some teeth break. He yells something you can't understand as you lose most of your senses. You stumble back, then you fall to your hands and knees, you think of Io again.

Trying your best to keep steady, you rise your stumped neck to face Olaf, the enforcer. As you headlessly stare him down, he delivers the last of three bullets, ripping your left arm off, you instantly fall down, dead. Defeated.

You think of sending Io a farewell message, but instead you spend your last cycles writing Marco an apology for not showing up.

Your consciousness is fading.

She doesn't deserve to have your ghost haunt her even more than your corpse will.

Now you don't know who Io is.

You lose track of yourself.

You fade into the CLOUD.

You're not a ghost.

You're dead.

YOU ARE A MACHINE CORPSE

Written by Virgula Leal, October 2017.

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