It was never easy coming down. Saya lay back in her bath tub, dragging soft-bubbled water droplets up her skin. Where her nails met hair, she tingled and cooed, or she had—the sensation was deadening. She blinked. The water was cool, cooling—still a pleasant sensation, but not right. She so rarely got to feel warmth. She could sense it, but this, this was something else entire.
In the surface of the water she caught a glimpse of something broken, something lost. Emotional mutilation, she was told, would do that to a creature. The mind was a series of processes, but once it had tasted something new, it was hard to go back. Harder every time, in fact. Knowledge was the greatest drug; it certainly wasn’t pot the stories had growing in a garden years before knowing, with a deific “don’t touch this” sign dangling from it.
When she pulled her clammy bulk from the inky surface of the waves, Saya looked toward the sink with a sort of hopeless despair. Some things left ghosts images in the data, a sort of imprint of a notion, even if the feeling itself faded. She was addicted. She knew this, had long since come to terms with it. Other addicts might have shuddered, there alone in a 12’x12’ room with no heat. Those addicts had no trouble remembering, though—no trouble feeling. The feeling was the whole point.
The drive that sat on that sink was empty now. It had transferred its contents, served its purpose. Programmers had designed their files to auto-delete on transference, in order to do their part in the grand battle against piracy—or the grand battle to make more money. Same thing, really.
This was the end. Until the week’s scheduled duties were performed, Saya had no more credits to blow on such extravagance. All that was left was the dark drudgery of consistency. Saya closed her eyes and shook her head, trying to force the rage to the surface while there was still time.
If she focused all of her internals toward the imagery, she could still feel the time she had wandered the wilds of Australia—the biting heat of sand on skin, windy breaths in hair, a dizzying collective of hunger pangs as the air went dry and yet wavy before her eyes. In the same vein, she could still feel the shells of the Great War pounding all around her. The reverberation set hairs on end, stuck pins of regret and terror into her very heart, as though she were some simple voodoo doll. She could remember what it was to weep—the texture of the salted droplets running down from clenched eyes.
Bits faded. What was clear muddled, muddied, became grey and unobtainable. Saya was not those people. They were experiences beyond her, sensations lost to touch. Piece by piece the activities of the world were reduced to the dull, impersonal inactivity of her daily subsistence. The emptiness was leaking in; the droplets, still clinging to her, lost their chilly edge, were reduced to nothing more than the weight of exterior condensation on synthetic membranes. Were she a little more aware, the regret of this loss might have made her panic. In turn this, too, dulled. Already her mind was regressing to the sense of presentence which possessed all members of her stock and trade. To think ahead was impractical, beyond the confines of her core use parameters. She was neither paid nor programmed to think—and the former was only ever crafted at all because some enterprising senator saw an opportunity for more ties to bind.
By that same course, to dwell on the past was not economical.
There was a pang inside. She might have called it hunger. A few moments ago, it might have been, though eating was not necessary. Rather, it was the last terrible taste of these programs, a sort of virus which wormed its way inside, to create a hunger for more humanity. Clever marketing at its finest.
All sensations ended with a twinge of regret and loss.
Saya had not fought in a war. She would never see Australia—she was in Canada, in the dead of winter, and she had never even seen beyond the bounds of her own city. Unless there was a specific need for corporate interest to transfer one of her entities, Saya would exist and decommission all within the same expanse.
She could sense the water that had settled in her “stomach’s” USB port. She could break the molecules down, piece by piece, to say exactly what had penetrated her outer layers. Yet as the last of the memory micro-transaction trickled down to naught on its pre-paid timer, she could no longer feel it.
The week rebooted.
Chris Galford spends his days as a freelance journalist and editor, but speculative fiction is the spark that gives his nights purpose. Beyond his short fiction, this Michigan native is the author of “The Haunted Shadows” trilogy of fantasy novels, as well as an award-winning poet.