The Abandoned Station

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Here's a Thought

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It's not a telephone, it's The Sometimes Machine.

I am in charge of the Sometimes Machine. The few people who have crossed its path and lived to tell about it agree that the universe is a better place when it doesn't work.

I spend most of my days and night trying to make sure it doesn't work, but I can only do so much.

When the lights begin to flicker my heart quickens and I can feel my sister reach out and reassure from across the city.

Seconds later its not quite depleted battery sends bursts of electrical energy through its not rusted enough guts and then, in a brittle, guttural tongue, it calls out to us.

I am the closest physically so I get the full-brunt of its demented glossolalia, barely able to pick out certain phrases, images, sounds, and motions of a past that the history texts now say 'felt like forever'.

As the signal spreads it weakens, but there is purposely not a connected man, woman, transhuman, or child within the red zone. Not long after the terrible pain of my own mind nearly being split apart, I can feel the lighter but still tortured thoughts and mental cries of those in the orange and yellow areas who just received the Sometimes Machine's digital poison.

For years the corrupt, primitive unrelenting wail of the digital slowly covered not only the land but in the unprepared, undefended electric signals that constantly flickered inside our brains.

Giving so little thought for how these unnatural electrical pulses could affect natural ones. The worst poison is the kind you think is helping you.

Even as the shadow slowly spread, the warnings that reached out, tried to connect to everyone at every moment and say this was dangerous, were at first drowned out by still assurances that this was good, this was right. But each new trinket or update ultimately became less impressive, less convincing, not nearly enough to hide the growing plague of anger, helplessness, and isolation. Because alongside this assault on the concept of self was the concentration of power that this technology allowed, and ultimately what happened to the relationships between individuals became the relationships between companies, institutions and nations. Divisions, denials, petty putdowns, and a bitter refusal to ever compromise.

A wise one once said a society that burns books soon burns people.

Likewise, an incessant, unyielding war of words, threats, and insults soon becomes a war of gun, bombs, and terror.

Which meant the resources that were used to make devices that were already harming us now had to be expanded to build the machines of death. And as communities fell and whatever counted for power clung violently to the leftovers, lies continued to spew out of the gadget you gave your whole life to.

For hideously too long it felt like it was all there ever could be. Devastation and malice reigned. And soon the devices fell alongside the people. Which meant those that remained were even more important, had more protection, were considered that much more vital for getting through this dark time. There was still a resistance to the truth, a denial that what we maddeningly clutched was the cause.

Until there was only one. All of its chaos contained to one machine.

Those still alive had no idea if this final phone was in the clutches of the last madman in his office chair throne or was making random devastating decisions on its own thanks to a virus-laden sudoku app.

We were set apart from each other. The only way to be close was physical. The other side of the world became the other side of the galaxy. A shaking withdrawal that we all felt, an awareness that we were sick and there was healing to be done.

Which would be interrupted by the machine, as it came to be known. Sending chaos and discord into and through the remaining instruments and contraptions we relied on to build a newer, cleaner, healthier society.

And then it slowed. Its energy waned. And allowed us to create a new community: The Great Activation.

But it still threatened, just not as often.

It became the Sometimes Machine.

And it was found in the basement of a ruined building by my grandfather, thanks to the new locator technology he created. Physically it was no longer simply a phone. It was encased in some mysterious fibreglass shell, built by its last caretaker.

Its power was dormant, but its sensor meant it could inflict tremendous pain, and my grandfather felt a seizure coming on, the blood pouring out his eyes and ears as he fell to the dirty concrete floor.

And here and now I wipe the family blood from my own nose. There are already a chorus of well-wishers and associates dipping in and offering me thanks, congratulations, and credits.

They said I was strong. That it runs in my family. How my grandfather survived that initial assault is a mystery to us all. But not longer after that he tried to destroy the Sometimes Machine.

He got further than anyone else who tried, being able to peel back the outer shell and stare at the hideous dim lights blinking in freakish tandem inside.

How he did this I do not know, since he kept the method secret from everyone and was not successful in his attempt to live much longer after doing so.

Everyone from before the Great Activation had their secrets. This dark period was a heap of broken images and constant hardships. The stories that still echo through our minds about the terrible times that came before.

And sometimes you can grab hold of the pastís echo and ride it briefly for fractions of seconds that you can then pull apart like cheap window blinds.

What I thought I knew. What secrets I would have to keep. The suffering I would turn away from with a shrug and scroll. Letting the future burn to near destruction just so there could be a greedy, indulgent present. The melodramatic tone. Even looking back, I'm not sure how much more of it I can bear.

It amazes me that this state of mind was considered freeing, that pleasure was found within it, scouring like a desperate creature in search of water.

So important that we never forget it, that we never fully exorcise it from our new and improved collective. To never repeat it we must keep it close but contained. And as I have these anxious thoughts my friends and family are here, inside and outside, the hum between us all relaxing me.

I think of the first quadrant.

192.168.1.1

I think of the cold decisions made to try again, to pull ourselves out of the ashes. To connect once again in a better, harmonious, more organic way. To learn the dark lessons and seek only the light. Connection through a device was no true connection. To understand the electromagnetic pulses of the brain and build the network from there. From our inside out.

A tattoo of silicon-ink behind the ear at six months, its complexity increased throughout your life to improve and expand connectivity, and your thoughts are partly mine and mine are partly yours. Sharing on the most of basic level. Finally building a civilization on a strong foundation. Not of machine, but of you, of me, of us all.

And now, to rearrange how Iím sitting on my chair, I thoughtlessly bring my knee up quickly, and it clips the very corner of the Sometimes Machine thatís hanging over the edge of the counter.

It tumbles to the floor, my fingers moving quickly enough the graze but not catch it.

Lands with a dull thunk and skitters across the floor, clicking and clacking all the way.

I pick it up with unsure hands and inspect.

The side light is off. No blinks, no flickers, nothing.

I feel a soothing lightness in my head, and I can quickly tell others are feeling the same.

I think I just destroyed the Sometimes Machine.

 

 

END

 

 

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