The following short story is based on characters created and/or copyrighted by SEGA! Enterprises, DiC Productions, Archie Comic Publishers, Fleetway Comic Publishers, and the Taki Corporation. All other characters were created and copyrighted by Roland Lowery.
The author gives full permission to distribute this work freely, as long as no alterations are made and the exchange of monetary units is not involved. Any questions, comments, suggestions, or complaints should be sent to esn1g(at)yahoo(dot)com. Thank you.
"I have found that
great people do have in common . . .
an immense belief in themselves and in their mission."
Resurgance of Self
by Roland Lowery
They say that when you are roboticized, you can sense everything on the outside. That it's like watching a movie of yourself through your own eyes, a movie of you working deep in the mines, or sorting bolts on an assembly line, or whatever other insanely mundane job you have been programmed and assigned to do.
They are wrong.
When you come out of it, perhaps then you recall everything. Perhaps then you get to see the entire movie of your wretched existence, force-fed directly into your consciousness like slamming a bullet through your head. Certainly that is what Sir Charles must've felt, as he remembers all ten years of his service as a robotic slave.
I remember nothing.
Since the process was completed, there has been nothing at all. I have been trapped in the dark cell of my own mind, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to think. It's as if I'm not even there, yet I am being forced to pay witness to the fact that I am not there. I exist only to acknowledge that I don't exist.
But he is there. He is always there.
He is my only companion. The one who put me here in this place that is nothing, not even a state of mind. With a cold grin and his dark machines, he cosigned me to this place that is worse than any hell. He hangs over me like a dark specter, a reminder that I am not, simply by his being there.
I would hate him if only I could remember how to hate.
They say that when you are roboticized, you occasionally dream about the life you had before. That flickers of memory bubble up to the surface and break the tedium, if only just slightly.
I only wish that it was nothing but random flickers. Instead, my entire past is there for me to see, only I'm no longer in it. Events in the memories progress as they would have normally, only I am not there. Other people ask me questions, react to my answers, and even try to touch my body, but I cannot sense my thoughts while they are asking their questions, hear my replies, or feel their touch.
It's maddening, like an itch that's beneath your skin where you can't reach it.
I don't have skin anymore, of course. It will have been replaced with a titanium alloy shell filled with wires and gears and hydraulics and microcomputers. I'm sure that I no longer walk in my normal gait, but trudge along in a preprogrammed manner, just like all the other robots.
But I can't see it, because I can't see myself.
They say . . .
No. Forget what they say. They know nothing. They are nothing, just like me. There is no me, no them, only him. Only him and the overbearing heat and depression that he lays across my non-being from time to time.
Not that I can measure time in that space between life and death. I would count myself lucky that I can even tell that his oppressive being leaves me along occasionally, except that the brief reprieves make his harsh existence that much harder to bear. I do not fear, as I have forgotten how, but I still do not want him near me again.
I cannot say that I cannot bear it much longer. I have already borne all that I possibly could and yet cannot go comfortably insane. I am stretched so tightly thin across the surface of endurance, my atomic structure should pull apart with a grand explosion of nuclear fire, yet he finds a way to stretch me even further, and I am still here in the not-here.
It's like crying without tears. It's like all the pain in my life is gone, and I miss it because at least it was real. It is passive torture that can destroy worlds without even the slightest whisper of a touch.
He's gone again. He's not here. I am not here. We are not here together, a paradox that would be funny if only it were someone else it were happening to. I don't pause to wonder where he went. He'll be back again, he always is.
" . . . "
For the first time in this timeless place, something has happened. I cannot speculate on this, and that inability makes me come so close to feeling despair that I begin to believe it will catch his attention and bring him back. I do not know what the something was, but I know that I must come to understand it before he does return and stomp out even this mild sense of curiosity that I now sense.
It's an odd sensation, actually. The curiosity seems to flow into my nothingness from outside, almost as if it were a nearby star and I were a black hole sucking in its excess plasma.
I must force myself to pay attention. I have been in here too long, and I find myself unconsciously slipping back into contemplating my navel, as it were. I've been talking to my non-self for time on end, and it's hard to break out of the habit.
I watch, and wait, and try to feel. He is far away, but this something is playing around at the edges of what senses I have left.
" . . . ce . . . y . . . irl . . . "
It's there again, stronger. Making me stronger. I feel it moving around me. I see the flicker of light dancing in the nothingness. I cannot understand the significance of what this something is, but the unalterable fact that I'm feeling is not lost on me. I'm feeling. It's not much, no no, but it's more than anything I remember feeling. It's more than anything, period. All of my old memories are completely subsumed in the here, the now. It hurts to feel so much after such a long period of nothing.
And I love it for being so horrible.
" . . . oto . . . ix . . . on . . . afra . . . ll . . . "
More more MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE
I drink up the something. It becomes a part of me, so much so that I become afraid that it actually is me trying to break through. I feel like a copy, a fraud. A cloned me that was flung into the deepest abyss and forgotten. I become afraid that if I continue to suck up this something, I will have completely absorbed the real me, and the black hole metaphor springs to the forefront of my mind again.
I may very well destroy myself if I am not careful.
I can feel him, but not in the same way I felt him before. He is far off, but he is coming. I must learn, I must absorb, I must be. It's the only choice.
" . . . WAKE . . . UP . . . "
There. Yes. I am awake. I can hear you. Please please tell me what to do. I'm so afraid, and I haven't been afraid in so long. I no longer know what to do when I'm afraid. He will be here, and he will erase me again. I cannot allow that.
I hope and I pray to be awakened like Sir Charles. As horrible as the memories he related were, they are everything compared to this nothing. I would gladly take memories of pain and suffering if it would simply end this damnable nothingness.
And then the other is there. He is staring at me with sad, old eyes. At first I think that it is Sir Charles staring at me, but no. It is not he. Though it looks like Sir Charles, this one is the other. My other. I remember now that he belonged to me, and I to him. Not in the way he owns me, but a true belonging.
I need him.
What has happened to his face? It is so old, so tired. Grey is on just over his eyes and under his nose, covering his upper lip. What has happened to his body? He wears odd clothes, far more than he used to, and he looks frail. What has happened to him? He looks as if he has aged so much, an aging that has nothing to do with the actual passage of time.
I listen to him as he speaks to me, thirsting for the knowledge he is about to share.
"Sally . . . I'm . . . I'm sorry."
His image flickers for a moment. Why? Why! WHY WHY WHY WHY! And now he's back, but he's wearing different clothes. How much time has passed! Surely none. He is still far away, but the other has changed. Why?
"The doctors . . . they say that you probably still can't hear me, even with all the work they've done. I don't even know if you'll remember who I am, but I just have to tell you . . . I have to tell you that I love you."
Another flicker. It's maddening, and he is getting closer. Please, hurry.
" . . . said that your memory is eroding, bit by bit. The section of your brain that contains 'em is just . . . rotting away. I wish it weren't like that, but I guess it was gonna happen sooner or later. You've . . . you've just been in there so damn long. You probably don't even remember how you got in there."
I don't? I don't. The other is right, it's fading. I look back over what was originally crystal clear memory of things as they were without me, and find giant gaps. I still know that I was roboticized, but I don't remember how. It hurts, and suddenly I want the hurt to go away again.
"We were in the tower, and . . . "
A flicker, but shorter this time.
" . . . was there, too. He'd set this huge machine going, a massive roboticizer that was gonna zap the whole continent. Everything we threw at the thing just bounced off. It was gonna happen, and we couldn't stop it. Then you . . . you just ran into the main reactor of the thing . . . thought it was impervious to any attack, and he was right. But you didn't attack it.
"You ran into it. Every single bit of the energy running through the reactor suddenly ran through you, and it short circuited. No big explosion, no sudden collapse. It just . . . stopped. And it stopped everything else, too. The whole system shut down, including the locks on the roboticizer's control room door. I ran in there and was about to . . .
"Hell, I don't remember exactly what I was gonna do. Then you stepped out of the reactor, lookin' like this. I yelled at . . . to change you back. He just stared out the control room's window at you, then shook his head and said he couldn't. That no one could.
"I . . . I'm so sorry. It's not what you woulda wanted but . . . I . . . I killed him."
I can feel him breathing on the back of my neck, furious at the intrusion of the other. He's going to take the pain away, the fear, the joy, the love . . . all of it will be gone again.
NO. He is dead. He is gone. While I am still here. The other killed him, and I have been living with his ghost. And now that I know, he is powerless, and now he knows it. I feel the slick oppression for just the briefest of moments, and then he is gone forever.
"It wasn't right, but I did it. I did it because of you, because I lost you. Then, and for a long time afterward, I felt a burning anger and pain inside because I thought that your death was meaningless, and that you were just torn from me by some blind hand of fate. I was wrong about that, too.
"You sacrificed everything so that the rest of us could live free. You gave up yourself and everything you had going for you, all for us. And even though it hurts so much to live without you, I know that you will carry on in the hearts of every single person on this planet.
"I love you, Sally."
I love you, too. And I truly feel the love, coursing through my veins and filling my heart. A love for the other, and a love for all of Mobius. A love that I cherished so much that I was willing to give it up for myself so that it would live on in others. It fills me completely, and even as I feel the connection to the outside world slowly fade, I am myself again.
They say that when you die, you go on to a place that is filled with light, and happiness, and joy.