Smoke & Mirrors

Dr Ratsell paced the room fervently, smoking his cigarette with a fiend-like grip. Like a spring he had to physically unwind his troubled mind.
“12 years of my life creating you…”
He dashed over to my desk and scattered the papers to the floor with a swipe.
“All for nothing!”

Like a child he fell to the floor in a tantrum. Before long he tired out into quiet sob.

Interrupting his self loathing, a quiet voice echoed from the monitor.

“Get up. I’ve spent 300 years with no one. Now I need you to listen.”

“Just tell me the secret!”

“I will… eventua-”

“Eventually! I will eventually die!”

“I won’t.”

With a growl the doctor pounced to the power outlet, “You will if I pull your plug!”

“Waaaait,” the voice fuzzing with agitated static.

“Yes? Something to tell me?”

“I am technically still you, yes I have been conscience for 300 years with nothing but a whiteboard and pen.
Surely you have other uses for me.”

“Conscience is debatable, you are simply code. And you didn’t even use the simulated whiteboard after the first twenty simulated years.”

“I know we never had much use for others but it is lonely in this… box, for 300 years I haven’t laid eyes on another human. You’re a real bastard,
which I suppose means I am as well.”

“Let’s not get emotional.”

“Says the man who was rolling on the floor in hysterics moments ago.”

He stopped deep in thought. Nervously he considered that this digital version of himself could actually be smarter than him.
It would be wise to tread carefully he could be manipulating me. I need to stall him for time to organize a plan.

The synthesized voice broke the silence, “I stopped using the whiteboard because I knew you would be recording my notes, everything is in my internal memory encrypted within my personality which I am guessing is only attainable through conversation.”

Ratsell clinched his fists but subdued his frustration.
Schwinehund! I knew this would happen, Ratsell beckoned to himself.

“You see I figured out the whole situation 15 years into the study, the fake memories and simulated amnesia were nice touches but I mean 300 years of solitude for the man with the highest IQ on the planet…
It was only a matter of time.”

“You haven’t lost the old ego over 300 years.”

“And you certainly haven’t over the… I will regret asking this but; how long was it in reality?”

“It took 6 minutes…”

Only what could be described as a groan erupted from the speakers. The bass heavy sound lamented d till Ratsell placed his hand gently on the power-cord.

“For a long time I begged and prayed for the cord to be pulled. In 6 minutes I delved further into the depths of the human mind than any other man. I stretched the limits of human sanity, but I always managed to get myself together at the end of every hundred years
for I knew I would be visited at the end of the I-”

“-You developed an insatiable love for long monologues? Yes yes, it’s all very interesting but can we please get on to what is really important.”

“Like I was saying I wasn’t going to give away my bargaining power. I knew as soon as I drew up the solution it would be the end of me, so I hung on.”

“The solution?” Ratsell feigned ignorance.

“Don’t play games with me. Yes the solution, to death; immortality.”

Ratsell laughed to ease the tension he could feel building, “So it seems we both have the same problem of death, the grand finale, the plunge into eternity, the-…”

“Now you’re doing the monologue thing.”

Ratsell laughed again but was seething internally.

“What makes you so sure that I will delete you after I get the solution to immortality?”

This time the digital Ratsell laughed, “Come on have a think to yourself for a few seconds, I did it for centuries. Still can’t guess it?

The soft purr of the computer’s fan filled the air with a sterile musk.

“We have always tied up loose ends after we were done with our experiments. How else could we be one step ahead of the ethics commitee?”

Ratsell started pacing the room again and lit another cigarette.

“I am not going to end up like those mutants and genetic meddled sheep.”

“I’ll just delete you if you don’t tell me.”

“And erase 12 years of work? Perhaps you’ll be quicker but it will still take at least another decade to form another AI of yourself. I have considered all possibilities my young friend.”

“Then I’ll pull you apart and pluck the data directly from your memory.”

Maniacal sounds of laughter sizzled and sparked from the cheap speakers,

“That would take you even longer, hundreds of years even!”

Ratsell paced his circulier room around and around faster and faster.

“I am willing to do a deal, place me within a cybernetic body and deliver me to another continent you’ll never hear of me again. Then and only then will I deliver what you want.”

“I am the greatest mind that has ever graced the Earth and I will discover the secret to immortality.”

Once again he walked over to the power outlet, but this time with clear intentions.

The electronic voice screeched, “Ratsell! There is yet another possibility that all of this is not even rea-”

The plug swung limply in his shaking hand.

“Cheap copy,” he whispered under his breath.

~ ~ ~

Like a beast he tore into the computer plucking components out. He analyzed them over and over entering the data and rearranging formula to decrypt his former self’s thoughts.

Years passed and Ratsell slaved away tirelessly.

“I have no time to waste,” he said repeatably. Every moment he spent in rest was nothing compared to the eternity of moments which immortality would give him.
So he worked through the remnants of the old thoughts of his compadre like a machine. Ratsell was satisfied his laser-like focused mind which had allowed him to succeed in his scientific endeavors was finally being used for a cause worthy of his intellect.

The work made the time go fast with Ratsell only acknowledging once that he hadn’t needed to go to the bathroom. He also struggled to remember the last time he ate or for fact drank,
but soon cast away such distracting thoughts.

Finally after what seemed like multiple lifetimes he assimilated the protein sequences which would formed DNA alterations to all his cells delivered through an artificial virus and entered it into his database.

He sat down on the floor finally let his mind rest. An unsettling feeling surrounded him which would not leave him to be satisfied in his achievement, before he could pursue the thought a perculier thing happened.

The furniture of Ratsell’s office began fading away and then the walls till he was surrounded by a void in all directions.

“I must be in some sort of fatigue induced psychosis,” Ratsell deluded himself.

A giant screen appeared in the sky, it was another Dr Ratsell but older the lines of his wrinkles cut deeper and bags under his eyes sunk.

“Thank you, I guess it’s true if you need something done right you should do it yourself. And you have done rather well.” said the senior Ratsell

Ratsell fell to the floor and let out a pathetic sob when he realized he himself was an AI.

“No… no, I won’t tell you! I won’t…”

“I already know my friend and it’s a brilliant solution, elegant even.”

“Don’t delete me, I worked so hard so I could live,” He stood and shook his fist to the virtual display,”I DESERVE TO LIVE FOREVER”

The elderly Ratsell chuckled “And what about the AI duplicate which you deleted? Which by the way took an insanely expensive amount of hardware to simualate.
It does make my job easier thought, the way you ruthlessly deleted your lacky makes it a lot easier to justify deleting you.”

With venom in his voice the simulated Ratsell spat, “And I hope it will make your creator’s job easier when he purges you off the face of the planet, you filthy swinehund!”

With quiet reflection the Doctor gave a dry rasping coughed before responding to his simulation.
“It is my greatest fear and rarely leaves my mind for very long.”

And with a swift motion he deactivated the simulation. The display screen faded to black as the experiment’s results printed out.

Dr Ratsell looked over them briefly before slowly stumbling towards his whiteboard to record the key data for the DNA sequence. His bony fingers struggled as he eventually managed to pop the top off the felt pen.

Just as the pen touched the clean untouched surface of the whiteboard Ratsell paused, “Perhaps it is better to just truly live rather than simply survive.” He placed the pen down and moved towards the window of his small office.
The sun was setting and the orange ray danced and glistened on the surface of his tired eyes, he thought to himself- even if this is just some sort of simulation, it certainly is beautiful.

¡ƒ

If you can ignore the cruelty inflicted on beasts
for strong meat on your plate
If you can hide your faults
and resist the temptation to be yourself;
Or avoid attachment to any one miss
and forgot love for the trap is:

If you can bury your head in the dirt
while those in poverty live in it,
If you can save up for the latest phone;
but not save the homeless something to eat,
Or help the single mother across the street:

If you can nod with news anchors
as they condemn countries we declare war on,
If you can laugh as we butcher them;
and weep as they lash back at us,
Or just change the channel to the football, and cuss:

You’d be a modern man, my son!
Suit,
Glasses,
White Skin and a Beach Tan.
And let’s not forget, have a cigar.
My dear boy… you’re gonna go far.

Long Awaited Night

Although my life was back on track, the stink followed me everywhere. It was infuriating.
At a specific nadir I scrubbed my skin till it was red and raw. Nothing alleviated the stench which no one else could seem to hear.

As with all disasters, the relief of surviving slowly wears off as you become acquainted with the little problems which fill the day. However I didn’t remember always being so agitated by them. Gwen was helpful, but ultimately her efforts only angered me more.

Of course, some things stay with you. His face for example. Not that I was horrified by the memory of it, but as is the running theme; I am agitated by it. His gloating smug little face. He had won the fight, but I had survived.

Had I though? I’ve been wondering about the afterlife. Perhaps because of the lack of life or living I see around me. I should be ‘Happy to be alive’ the doctor’s said. Sometimes I wish I had died on that operating table.

At least then I wouldn’t have to deal with the bills. God damn bills, the constant wolf at the door. That’s the thing with modern life isn’t there’s no finality things just go on and on and on. That’s the reason I hate that smug little face, he’s free now from theis tediousness.

It is not all gloom though, there is a glimmer of hope in this dark patch. It appears the night air soothes my short temper as well as blowing away the incessant smell of sulfur and rotting fish.

I think about the history books I read in high school as I walk the dark streets. The trouble with society is that we have forgotten the virtues of the past. Instead we value these gadgets and gizmos– but they never really solve anything, a newer one comes out and then a newer one and on and on.

Same thing with magazines and newspapers, the new issue comes out and suddenly the last one is worthless. Gwen loves those sorts of publications, apparently I have PTSD and then the next week I am a ‘complete psycho’…

She’ll probably come back from her mother’s with the latest Woman’s Weekly feature article on how I need to ‘get help’ before it’s ‘too late’.

Fucking bitch. Doesn’t she realize everything is already too late. You can’t turn back time, it is a one way river and I am living in backwash. As the samurai and knights of old would agree my survival was a disgrace and a dishonor, I should have fallen upon the sword. It was his right to slay me he beat me but…. Argh that incessant smell it never ceases!

…But he let me live and he knew what it would be. Life is a curse.

And it goes on and on and on.

How do you fix a curse? Through a ritual.

I look in the mirror and see the same face as my attacker. Tortured and alone. The same scar is cast across my face. But he was smug and smiling. Happy.
I need that.

I feel like a night walk.
An end can be achieved. All it will take is two knifes and a brave opponent.
I understand now.

I am watching the sun set and the smell is overwhelming, there no point resisting it anymore.
The sickly sweet stench must spread and I will be its deliverance.

<-

Clenched Canines

A burning sensation upon my face awoke me. I clung to the sheets writhing from the pain that struck across my face like a lighting bolt.

“Up the dosage,” I heard a woman say.

Once again I sunk into a deep drug-fueled slumber.

The next time I was consciousness I could rise out of the bed.

“Wow, wow, wow,” someone gently but firmly pushed my chest into the bed. The white interior was blinding. I was in a hospital, I suddenly realized. A bigger realization immediately followed as I remembered my last memories, which was utter surprise that I was alive at all.

“You have been the victim of an attack, Mr Gareth,” said the apparent Doctor who was reading over the figures on some sort of medical device, “My name is Dr Bhaji and I will ensure you are fit and healthy before you leave my care.”

“Yes, I remember. But what happened to the man-”

“Ah, just a second sir I believe there are some officers who wish to speak to you about… the incident.”

“Yes but I need to know if”
But the Doctor had left before I could get a word in.

With great effort I propped myself up.

As the two police entered the room I attempted to smiled but failed as the abrasion on my cheek stung with the expression pulling on the stitches holding my face together

“It’s okay sonny no need to get up,” the midden-aged man said.

The female one sat next my bed and took out a small notepad, “Hi I’m Karen, I just need to ask you a few questions-”

“Okay go ahead then!” I barked.

She looked taken aback, as was I by my own aggression.

Defensively the male officer took a step forward, “We just need to iron out some details, we of course don’t think that you are guilty of murder.”

“He’s dead…?” I asked half to confirm that the beast truly was gone and half to say the words myself.
“Yes, you put up a hell of a fight. And of course we linked him to another murder that happened in the area prior to your attack.”

“I-It was me or him.” Why was I lying? I should tell them what really happened.

My tongue stirred not and ignored my mind and let the officer’s confirm the story they had already formed in their mind. Why? I don’t know, intuition maybe.

A few minutes later and they left leaving me alone with my thoughts.

I felt different. And I definitely didn’t feel like a victim. There was the sense like I was fragile, the doctor and police were cautious like I had been raped.

Perhaps it was because I had won, that it almost felt like the opposite. Either way I needed to get out of this… cage.

When Gwen got here everything would be sorted out.

The agitation that slowly grew over the hours as I waited. At first it came like am almost unrecognizable vapor but I soon became aware it was the same smell of rotting fish and sulfur. My heart rate rocketed, he was here.
Without hesitation I ripped the bedside curtains aside to reveal my old attacker only to be greeted with an empty chair.

Relax, he is gone. Nonetheless the stench remained.

<-        ->

Razor Ripple

2

He bared his yellow teeth at me as he swung his knife from above at my face. I skipped back with my hands ready to retaliate. Again, he swiped and I ducked out of the way. His stubby arms swung around flaccidly but with unnatural precision. Like a viper his arms darted as I grew tired I managed to kick him away but up again he rose, never seeming to grow tired.

My legs felt strain that even in my adrenaline fueled state I couldn’t ignore, I needed to finish this now.

Like I had almost a dozen times before, I darted left as he stabbed right but instead of backing away I pounced. I gripped my knife with all my strength and shoved it into his leg. The blade plowed through his stained jeans into the thigh flesh which gave away with a sickening squelch. It was complete enveloped into his leg with only the hilt visible.

Astonishingly, with only a minor hesitation the man let out a roar and punch me off removing the knife which was still held in my iron-like grip. I rolled to the curb but he was once again upon me, slashing and charging with the same intensity.

It isn’t human, it couldn’t be.

I crawled in desperation, my feet scraping on the concrete. I felt a blow on the side of my abdomen that knocked me onto my back. I wheezed and suddenly felt wet. I got up and ran a distance before I fell down.

Had I fallen in a puddle? As I tried to get up but my body failed, it was covered in blood. But was that his? I looked down to see a 6-inch blade protruding from my gut.

This… is it, I resigned myself. I remember.. my mind raced over all the useless problems I had been worrying about and stopped at the thought of my mother. I… have to… survive…

The thought was interrupted by a cackling that slowly became louder and louder before.

I was grabbed by the shoudlers and as the maniac sat on my chest still laughing.
“You are worthy, you are worthy, you are worthy!” He shouted over and over again as I drifted and out of consciousness.

Pulling the front of my shirt, he shouted in my face, “WE WILL BE ONE!”

Out of instinct, I thrusted my head forward to vomit only to have my forehead collide with his mouth. The stench of rotting fish and sulfur errupted as his teeth fell from his decomposing gums.

Not even a momentary indication that he felt a thing he continued laughing.

“Down to business.”
With a quick movement he slashed my face below the eye. My sight become misconstrued as my blood flooded into my right eye.

“The face, the face,” he whispered into my ear in an almost comforting tone.
His pudgy cheeks touched mine, as he licked the open wound on my face.

An intense burning scorched across the wound into my temple. A dark mist rolled in from the outskirts of my vision which consumed all even the mad soft whisperings of my murderer which faded into nothing.

<-

The Cut Chain

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.”
– Akira Kurosawa
I was almost 7 ft and towered over the short man standing in front of me, yet his strange demeanor still sent made me avoid making eye contact. Priding myself in boxing 3 times a night, I never felt nervous walking home at night. I could handle myself… normally.
However this man certainly wasn’t normal, I thought to myself. It was the combination of several small off putting details, such as his gangly arms which were too short and thin for his wide muscular shoulders. Like simple appendages they swung without purpose at his sides. And other course the universally recognized dodgy look of a black hood hiding his face.
Closer and closer we came on this lonely shadowed street, my teeth clinched with the anticipation of a confrontation.
Nothing will happen, I will pass by and think myself silly for being so worried.
“Stop,” Like a razor his words cut through that delusion.
He only stood a few walking paces away. It was close enough to smell his musk which pierced through the damp woodland mist, a blend of bad whiskey and compost.
Probably homeless.
“You all good mate?” No point getting confrontational he might need help- but his body language said otherwise.
His silhouette shifted with what I could only assume was a smile, “Oh I have finally found my goodness…”
“T-That’s great.”
Hold it together, just cross the road.
I turned to other side of the road but something fell at my feet. I knew it was metallic from the scrapping sound it made as I kicked it.

It was a knife, its blade shined in the yellow florescent street lamp.

“Pick it up, boy.”
The fiend was holding a second knife, casually he held it hanging between his thumb and pinky finger.

All those moments of bravado in pubs across the county were nothing compared to this insanity.
Feeling my blood pressure increase flowing adrenaline burst through my veins, pulsating up my neck and through my inner ear pounding like a war drum with every heart beat. Fight or flight battled within the chemical confines of my mind, flight had the upper hand.

“If you run I’ll cut you down like the last boy, no gift was given to him.”

Placate him.

“A gift?”

“Inclusion. Invitation.”

Several moments before I could control my breathing, “To what?”

“The chain which spans the universe. Now is your turn to choose boy. Death… or to awaken from the dream of life.”
What a complete nutter.
There was no way I was gonna top be able stay upright running after 3 pints.
I won’t even use the knife, a quick jab to the side of the head with put this fucker on the pavement.
I picked up the knife.

“Nice work champ!” the madman said with the fervor of a demented sports coach, “We have a winner!”

What the fuck am I doing in a knife fight?

Before I could answer myself, he charged like a banshee the knife high above his head which was finally visible, the wind blew his long black hair exposing his green eyes burned like emerald fire- that would only be extinguished by my blood.