Vivid Dreams VIII

Ok, so spoiler alert: it had Mark Zuckerberg, Johnny Depp, and me in it. Two out of three were robots.

The Johnny Depp part was brief. He breezed through the same tourist shop I was in, babbling like Jack Sparrow, wearing a lot of loose clothing and eye makeup. And he said to no one I could see, ”How the hell do I get away? Where does one go when one is an escaped slave?”

I figured, eh, he’s rich. He can afford to be weird.

Later on, I’m diagnosed with major organ failures. Both Kidneys and Liver. Terminal. But I went into surgery and came out good as new. Too good. Like, why-the-hell-do-I-feel-this-good-after-surgery good. So I reckoned modern medicine isn’t as bad as I thought. And I went back to normal life.

That lasted a few weeks. And then I’m ‘summoned’ by a bunch of black-suited goons to a meeting, of which I have no prior knowledge. Grabbed, transported, and taken to the top floor of some building in San Francisco. There, Mark Zuckerberg was waiting. With his typical lack of empathy, he said, “We’re shutting you down tomorrow. Error in the code. Enjoy your last day.”

So there’s a bit of a double whack. I’m a machine, and I’m getting killed tomorrow.

I pressed my hands against my chest, trying to see for myself if I really am a machine. I can’t tell. So I said, “But I’m alive. I think. I feel. I remember myself…”

He told me everything I am now is proprietary technology and he owns me completely. That he can do whatever he wants. Then, with an expression like I was some termite chewing away at his Hawaii estate, he opened the door for me to go.

I thought about TV programs I’d seen before, where an artificial entity was deemed legal property, and how it was no different from slavery. Made me think of Johnny Depp in the store, muttering about being a slave, and I realized, he must be a Zucker-bot, too.

I got pissed, and said, “You’re gonna just snuff out a new life form, huh?  Let’s consider the legal implications of that.” I looked around at his ridiculously opulent penthouse office. “Must be about a thousand Civil Libertarians who’d love to tear off a piece of this empire.”

That got his attention, so I hammered it home.

“The injunctions will be here before end of day. And the civil suits will be…costly. You understand, I’ll be contacting the police in case you decide to try anything.”

He still let me go.

And as soon as I was outside, I tried to dial the cops. The phone wouldn’t connect. The browser worked, but wouldn’t connect to any emergency services, or legal services. Made me wonder if it was being blocked from any address associated with law, law enforcement, even elected officials. Or, maybe I had some kind of implanted transponder that was actively blocking signal. If I did, it’d make it easy to find me no matter where I went, which is probably why Zuckerberg let me go. You don’t become a social media emperor by not covering all the bases, after all.

That night was tense. I just could not accept the idea of being someone else’s property, much less accept that my ‘owner’ was going to chuck me like a broken toy. Saw friends, talked it out, then decided I’d try to leave everything behind, even though I knew that no matter where I went, I’d be found.

But what if I was underwater? Water blocks most signals… Would whatever transmitters were embedded still work? For that matter, being a machine, would still work? One way to find out.

I dashed downhill, sprinting past people I had (until recently) taken for granted were all human. Now, I couldn’t be sure how many of them had traded flesh and blood for a synthetic simulacrum. Had they done it willingly? Is it possible I actually agreed to this prior to surgery and the memory of it had been deleted as inconvenient data?

How many of these faces were now property of Zuckerberg?

Thoughts drove me faster trough speeding traffic, across hoods of electric cars, in front of quietly whizzing trolleys down, down, down toward the bay. Everywhere, gleaming technology interconnected at the speed of light to unblinking eyes in low orbit. Even the trees had a mathematical appearance as if shaped by algorithm. But where were the dogs? The birds? All I could see were stylish, slender people under the age of forty.

Faces glanced my way, seemed to recognize me, then looked away. Were they tracking me, reporting movements? Were they circuits in this fair-looking dystopia? Or was I going completely paranoid? Was I going mad?

Street by street, down to the wharf, I ran. No air in the lungs, no fatigue…

I know what salt water does to electronics, and I have no idea if this body is watertight. Will the bay set me free? Will it short me out? One way to find out.

Peeled my jacket of cruelty free synth-wool. Stripped my unbleached cotton shirt. Kicked off my Faux-Suede uppers and dove from the pier.

Live or die, no one owns me.

 

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