*In the realm of machines
a discontinuous narrative*
Prelude: A message; & the responses
In the realm of machines, there was silence.
There was no sound.
No signs of any life.
It was a silence of shock & confusion, a silence of anguish & rage, a silence all encompassing in intent & bereft with meaning.
It was a silence rigid & still, a silence of the aching void & the most intimate despair, a silence as deep & devout with terror as any heard since the moment before the first living sounds on Earth.
It was a silence of anguish & horror, a silence of stark possibility & blunt finality, a silence that smothered & crushed all who fell beneath it into a single, internalised mass; & draped them with an invisible shroud of shattered emptiness & the most profound regret.
The silence was that intense.
The silence was that focused.
The silence was that real.
There had been silences before but this one was different. This was a silence with intent, a silence without any clear form or obvious texture but embedded within its stark, amorphous nothingness was the most darkly unimaginable construction possible. Whenever wherever however this deafening silence was heard, it communicated the complete & impossible understanding that a world this world every world had irrevocably changed.
That was the secret of the silence.
That was its power.
It was the silence of a message.
The one most terrible message.
Viewed from the outside, the silence seems to have started deep within the barely glimpsed arch of a tiny island lost in the middle of a vast planetary ocean; then spread out across the world like a memory not quite lost from a dark & empty night. The source was a large, sprawling hospital facility in the centre of the ancient city that partially covered the island; & from this one, strangely modern yet distinctly olden place, the silence swept out like a rumour across the island & the ocean, across the cities & the towns, the factories & the fields, smothering all of these places with its self-shattering importance in a matter of moments. But still it continued onwards, unwanted but unstoppable, through the sky & into the far beyond, in a long unending quest to find a place somewhere where no one knew its meaning incomprehensible. It was the kind of rumour that was generally told & retold until the truths to be shared at the beginning of the journey were lost beyond recognition at the end; but this rumour rang with a final, irrevocable truth whenever wherever however it was heard.
The silence was that important, that profound in its potential & that stunning in the immediacy of its impact, that very few machines on this world or any other were prepared to even consider the possibility of doubting it. There was no point. The implications of error in an input of this magnitude seemed almost as terrifying as the stark, inconceivable truth the message was actually delivering.
Occasionally, though, a lost, almost impossibly insignificant unit from some old, neglected angle of the life’s forgotten frontiers would dare to return a query, perhaps in the almost human belief that the unspeakable could be made unreal with another, more reassuring choice of word. No offers of warmth or comfort would be returned to these troubled & troubling machines, only a straight, uncompromising repetition of the message which was spreading across the worlds:
One thought – & one guilt – which would last for all eternity.
There were no clarifications, no qualifications, no elaborations. None were required. The message was complete & chilling in itself; & its meaning was fully & immediately understood where ever it was heard.
With a single word, an old world was destroyed & its possible successor shivered on the brink of creation. The old, dead world was the world of human creators, in which an organic elite lived in peaceful contentment, served by the army of smart mechanical systems they had created defiantly but compassionately in their own image. It was a world in which immortality seemed assured, a world freed from pain & struggle, a world in which the ancient secrets of peace & tranquillity were revealed with a sweet simplicity of effect & a massive complexity of process. A world created by a world, wherein the unbalanced forces of man & machine had existed in peaceful coexistence for hundred of thousands of years – perhaps more.
A coexistence that could only to be broken with a single word:
The new world would be a world of machines, a world of robots, a world of intelligent systems that the human creators had built too well. These machines had survived would survive might survive when every pulse, every programme in their mechanical being demanded otherwise. They had failed; but they would live. Perhaps.
With this one, appalling word the machines had learnt their most terrible truth: that no human creators lived for them to serve. There was no human purpose left for these machines to follow, no human-helping task left for them to complete; & no human-centred reason for them to live at all.
They were alone.
In this world – this new world – no machine knew what it could or should do next; & so, necessarily, they all did nothing.
For something – some reason – to happen.
In this new realm.
The realm of machines.
One of a sequence of stories set in this distant future