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  I open my eyes and look around at my pitch black bedroom. I thought I heard something. A voice. 

  Sam

  Yep, no denying it now. Someone else is in my room. I just hope it's not who I think it is. 

  “Yeah, can one of you just turn on the lights?”

  Ramsey’s the one who hits the switch. At least, I think it's him. After all, he looks just like my mind’s eye imagines him, right down to his green and brown eyes. Really, all the faces around the room look exactly how I think they should look except for Syrena, who's currently posing as a not-so-inconspicuous armchair. But she can shapeshift, so she doesn't count. 

  I rub my eyes to clear the sleep from them. “What's this about? Actually, how do any of you exist?”

  Eric rolls his eyes from the corner, looking perfectly like the average teenage delinquent, when really, he’s anything but average. “Now you know how I feel.”

  “Quit your whining, Eric,” Martha admonishes. She’s in dragon-golem form, despite the fact that I haven't even finished writing the transformation sequence. “Plenty of people would kill to have reality manipulation.”

  “Reality manipulation? Is that what Eric has?” I ask, still unsure of what’s going on. 

  “There aren't very many other options, now are there?” Ronald pipes up. He then turns back around and restarts his conversation with some scaly demon lady. 

  “Seriously, what is going on? I was half expecting Syrena to have showed up the the rest of the freak show-”

  “Now, that's just rude,” Syrena pouts. 

  “But instead, everyone's here. Even- wait. Transgenomics is missing. Where’s Dave?”

  Zeke shrugs. “We don't know. Actually, I don't even know why any of us are here. But there are a few others not present.”

  I look around. “Like who? I don't see… Are you talking about that Medusa story?”

  Rachel suddenly pops into existence from thin air, a tired expression in her eyes. “You just can't leave an old, forgotten story alone, now can you?” She sits down on Syrena, apparently ignorant of who the chair actually is. “Just leave me alone. You’re never going to pick me in the first place.”

  “Um. Pick you?” I finally get enough strength to swing myself out of bed. “Is no one going to explain anything?”

  Rachel raises her eyebrows (Seriously! How does solid rock move like that?!). “You haven’t told him yet?” she asks the rest of the characters.

  “We’ve been too busy bickering and answering trivial questions.” Kate unfolds her arms from across her chest and crosses the room to stand right in front of me. She grips both of my shoulders firmly and looks me straight in the eye. I can't say I'm not intimidated. “Sam, I’m going to be blunt with you. We’re here for revenge.”

  “Rev- what for?! Why-“

  “Because none of us like the situations you’ve put us in. How’d you like to be forced to lose all your memories and turn into a cat-person? How about killing billions of people? Maybe a snake draining the soul from your body would be preferable.”

  “Jeez, I get it. Nobody here likes me. So what are you going to do about it?”

  “We-“

  “We’re going to make you feel what we went through,” Ramsey interrupts. “Well, maybe not what I went through, but whatever you choose, it won’t be pleasant.”

  “I- what am I choosing? Different ways to die?”

  “No, no. Different ways to live. It’s an old trick, really. Giving the audience what seems like a choice, when really, you’ve got them under your thumb the whole time.”

  “What? Come on,” I groan. “Is no one capable of telling me stuff cut and dry?”

  “Fine,” Eric says. “You choose one of us. You get to experience what it's like to be in the main character’s shoes. Done.” 

  I blink. “Oh. Okay. That’s… huh. Well, I guess… I’ll… choose one of you, then.” Rachel groans and puts her head in her hands. “Martha, what are you planning for me?”

  The crystalline dragon snorts. “Planning for you? Obviously, you’ll turn into a golem and help me destroy the abomination that is the Society. What else?”

  “Okay, okay. And you’re doing the same thing, Ramsey?”

  “Of course. But naturally, you get to choose your form. Please refer back to that trick I told you earlier.” 

  “Sure, fine. Um, Zeke. I’m just going to turn into a Mewtwo?”

  He nods. “Plus you’ll stay in the Pewter City Zoo, helping educate the next generation of trainers. May I add that we have-“

  “Lots of stuff that Pokémon like, got it. Next.” I turn to the duo talking about what sounds like gibberish. “Ronald, I’ve got. But who are you?”

  The demon lady bows. “Mina’hut, daughter of Lord Talon-Kor, the King of Dragons. And what we were discussing before you interrupted us was just why we’re here when we shouldn’t be at all.”

  “No, no, I most definitely am supposed to be present,” Stiltskin adds. “The initiative for my story has changed. But you don’t even have any ideas for Mina'hut, and are most definitely not writing anything that contains her.”

  “Mina’hut? Are you…” I frown. “Decent Prelude, right?”

  She nods. “Oh, and by the way, I’m not supposed to have scales.”

  “You- what? But, but you're a, a dragon. Don't they, um, have scales?”

  “Of course, but I'm not in dragon form, now am I? Instead- ah. Much better.” I stare as Mina’hut’s scales instantaneously disappear and are replaced by skin, just as I made that picture in my mind. “Really, you humans need to stop assuming-“ Suddenly, the scales are back. But only for a second; then the skin returns. Mina’hut’s body starts flickering between the two, and she looks at me with a glare so hard, I literally take two steps back. “Just choose one, you fool! It's not that hard!”

  “I, uh, what?”

  Stiltskin shakes his head. “You have conflicting images of her. Fixate on one, and the problem will go away.”

  It takes a few seconds before I actually try to do what he says. I end up going with the scales, if only because of familiarity. “Okay, can we move on now?” 

  Mina’hut stares at the back of her hand. “Hmph. Couldn’t even be bothered to fix your mistake.” I pinch the bridge of my nose when I hear that. “Now, if I could choose your fate, I think you would make a very nice tiger. Yes, you’re on two legs,” she adds before I’ve finished opening my mouth. “Would you really have any use if you were on all fours?”
 
   I turn sheepishly away. “Kate, you’re up.”

  “There’s no need for me to say anything, you realize that, right? You’ll just have your soul merged into the collective consciousness of whatever you’ve named that snake.”

  “Um, it doesn’t, heh. It doesn’t have a name.”

  Kate facepalms. “Good job. Quality work, right there.”

  I lie back down on my bed spread eagled. “You really don’t like me, do you? Okay, I can deal with that.” I turn my head to look at the products of my imagination. “Uh, Syrena.”

    “Well, first, I would introduce you to Master-”

    “Oh, Syrena, I’m sorry,” Rachel apologises to the chair. “I had no idea that was you!”

    “No, you’re fine. So, how’s life going, girl?”

    “Oh, you know, I just want to die. Oh, wait!” She scowls at me. “I can’t!”

    “Okay, guys, let’s get focused again,” I interrupt. “Syrena, keep going.”

    “So, I think Master would want to have a nice, long chat with you before you experience the most painful moment of your life.”

    “Oh, yeah. That.”

    “And then you get to spend the rest of your life with me!”

    I shudder. She might be an armchair right now, but usually when I’m picturing her in-story, she has a terrifying personality. Not because she’s psychopathic or something along those lines, but because she’s way too, uh, amorous. Ha-ha! Clean language for the win!

    “Um, uh, okay. That’s a comforting…” I swallow hard. “Thought. E-Eric?”

  He looks around, shrugs, and begins talking. “You commit the largest mass genocide in history. Need I say more?”

  “Not really. Rachel?”

  Her little hair-snakes hiss menacingly at me. “Saving the worst for last. Nice. Personally, I don’t really have any control as to what happens to you, but I assume you’ll have to pick a patron, whatever that means. Did you really think through my world at all?”

  “Yes,” I growl, my hand itching to slap her in the face. “Yes, I did.”

  “Well, you didn't do a good job of it. Hey, Luke. You want to say anything?”


  “Wait, what?” I crawl to the edge of my bed and look down. “When did you get here?” There's a kid sitting on the ground, completely focused on the book in his lap. He doesn't even acknowledge my question. 

  “Lukey here has been on a reading binge ever since you put him through ‘Journey Under the Sea,’” Martha explains. 

  “Don't call me that,” Luke mutters. 

  “So I'll just be ‘reading’ a Choose Your Own Adventure book, right?”

  “Yep,” five people say at once. 

  “Um. Okaaaay. And I can choose any of them?”

  “Eh, sure. I suggest the Lose Your Own Adventure book, proudly published by Despair, Incorporated.”

  “Man, Rachel. You really are depressed.” 

  She shrugs. “Your fault. Deal with it.”

  I sit up on my bed and look around at the “choices.” None are any good, of course, but none are actually bad, at least not in my opinion. I began writing transformational stories to help myself understand how it would feel to be released from my human body. But what fun would it be if the transformation hurt? So I have my characters ease into their TFs painlessly, or at least with some form of anesthetic. 

  Okay, maybe not for Syrena’s story. I’m pretty sure I have Matthew screaming in pain in that one. But otherwise, I should feel fine. The problem is, I kind of want my transformation to be temporary. Living the rest of my life in servitude to a dragon literally made out of diamond isn’t too high on my bucket list. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone out there wants to let me get back to my normal life. The real decision now is which one gives me the most autonomy. That eliminates all the ones with hypnosis, since literally all of those are going to turn me into a slave. So now I’m left with Zeke, Eric, Luke, Rachel and Stiltskin. Taking out the two world-destroyers out seems to be a good choice. Neither of them seem particularly happy, both in-story and out. Zeke would be interesting, since few people actually realize how overpowered Mewtwo is. But then again, isn’t being captured by a Pokéball a form of hypnosis? Darn, I guess he’s out, too. Stiltskin is probably going to give me “immortality” by putting me on the carousel forever. Sure, I’ll be happy, but I’ve got no freedom whatsoever. 

  So what about Luke? I have to choose a book for that to work, so I’ll get a little bit more leeway there. But in practically every book, you can die horribly, so that’s no fun. Especially the Lose Your Own…

  Adventure. 

  Wait a moment. 

  Rachel said I could potentially choose that one. But that’s not even part of the actual franchise. So that means any CYOA book is fair game, even if it's just a cheap knockoff. 

  And doesn’t my situation depend on a single choice? 

  “You know, normally, I would love to be in this situation. The only problem is that none of these are reversible.”

  Kate snorts. “Wouldn’t be much point if we were going to undo it.”

  “But what if I made them all reversible?”

  “No, no, we make the rules, not you,” Ramsey counters. 

  “Wait, I think I know what he’s getting at,” says Stiltskin.

  “If I just turn this into a Choose Your Own Adventure story, I’ll be able to relive this moment over and over again, choosing a different transformation each time. You guys get what you want, I get to live out my daydreams-“

  “Or in my case, nightmare,” Rachel grumbles.

  “Or... or nightmare, if you want to call it that. But in any case, everyone wins.”

  Everybody thinks about this for a moment before Luke sets his book aside and says, “Sure, go ahead.”

  Eric’s jaw drops. “But… But, you were…”

  “You guys give me too much credit.” He shows us the cover. “This is a thesaurus. Just how dull do you think I am?”

  Mina'hut claps, clearly impressed with his guile. “Well played, Luke. That is quite impressive acting. Lord Talon-Kor could use a human like you.”

  “Ah, no thanks.”

  “So, what do I do? Like, touch you or something?” I ask.

  Luke thinks about it, picks up the thesaurus, stands up, and hands the book to Stiltskin. He accepts it wordlessly and presses it between his hands, a slight yellow glow emerging from the pages. After a few seconds, he gives it to me.

  “Just read it,” he tells me.

  I open it, then look back up. “See you on the other side, guys!”

  “I’d rather not.”

  “Rachel! Stop it already!”

  “Hmmmm… Nah.”

  I roll my eyes and start reading the second-person narrative of the last ten minutes. 

  You open your eyes and look around at your pitch black bedroom. You thought you heard something. 

  A voice. 
This story (or section of it, at least) was started last Monday, and I finished it on Thursday. Finally, proof that I can indeed be focused! Don't worry, I shall explain more of what the heck is going on when I finish the next segment. In case you were wondering, every single character represents one of my stories/story ideas. And yes, Sam represents me. 

Part 2: firstnameicanthinkof.deviantar…
Mina'hut is used with permission from chainedknee, with original story at:
firstnameicanthinkof.deviantar…

Now, for those lucky (or as Rachel would say, unlucky) few writers who stopped by to read this story, a quick question. If you were given this same choice, but with your stories instead, which one would it be? It's a crummy way of generating comments, I know, but I want to know what you wrote. 
Add a Comment:
 

Daily Deviation

Given 2018-08-09
:iconjessamar:
JessaMar Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
This could be a serious problem for many writers, but I like how he resolves it.
Reply
:iconfirstnameicanthinkof:
Aw, thanks!
Reply
:iconzorbonaut:
Zorbonaut Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2018
This is like tumblr's worst nightmare... your damaged OCs coming back to torment you.
Reply
:iconfirstnameicanthinkof:
FirstNameICanThinkOf Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2018
I'd like to think about horror writers in this scenario. Actually, on second thought, I really don't want to think about that. Yikes.
Reply
:iconbanatkd:
Banatkd Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I can honestly say I cried reading this. It's wonderful to know other people like me exist. By that I mean the the collection of stories and thoughts waiting for their turn to be told. Thank you so much for this. : )
Reply
:iconfirstnameicanthinkof:
I don’t really know how to respond to this. I never expected to make anyone cry reading this, much less have so many people read it. You’re certainly welcome, although that’s not nearly a sufficient response...
Reply
:iconlindartz:
LindArtz Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very nicely done!!
Congratulations on your much deserved DD!  :)
For My Personal Use DO NOT USE!!! by LindArtz
Reply
:iconfirstnameicanthinkof:
Thanks!
Reply
:iconchampionx91:
Championx91 Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2018
Reply
:iconfirstnameicanthinkof:
Thank you!
Reply
:iconchampionx91:
Championx91 Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2018
You're welcome! :love:
Reply
:iconjjgestapo:
JJGestapo Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2018
If my story characters could all be present in one room....wowo it would be fireworks!  I a bit hard to follow, but as a [fan]fiction writer I can relate to how almost every night I lay awake and start 'writing' out my stories in my mind.  A very relatable experience
Reply
:iconfirstnameicanthinkof:
To be honest, if they weren't ganging up on poor Sam, all the characters would be fighting each other. So many conflicting personalities, it's a wonder the room didn't explode.
Everyone seems to have a different take on this story, and I can relate to all of them. In this case, I do the exact same thing at night, because where else does one find the time to think up entire new worlds?
Hard to follow? Agreed. Looking back after the DD, this piece could really use some fine tuning, and I have no idea how it got a DD in the first place.
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:iconlukasfractalizator:
LukasFractalizator Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Great work! :love: Congratulations on your deserved DD! :clap:
Reply
:iconfirstnameicanthinkof:
Thanks!
Reply
:iconxlntwtch:
xlntwtch Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2018   Writer
For sure, I don't want to relive the memories I've written up in nonfiction. Maybe I'd be Coyote, who I've written about a few times, most recently in flash fiction called "Coyote Falls in Love." There, answered your question. And I think you'll get a lot of comments now that you've gotten a DD for this piece. Congratulations! It was a bit confusing, but I enjoy this quite a lot and will read more by you soon. Good work!
Reply
:iconfirstnameicanthinkof:
FirstNameICanThinkOf Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2018
Thanks! Yeah, the comments are coming in strong right now. I had no idea that this would ever get a DD, and the reaction is just in my face right now. 
Confusing? I would say so myself. Balancing between the characters to keep all of them in the reader’s mind was something I tried to do but generated some confusion in the process. Thankfully, I won’t have to do that again for a while. 
Out of what you wrote, Coyote is definitely a safe bet. ;) (Wink) 
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:iconfirstnameicanthinkof: More from FirstNameICanThinkOf

Into the FutureIngram stared off into the endless desert that laid beyond the protective dome of his house. His wife, Lyria, had been pressuring him to move out of the city for a long time. “The fumes corrode my motor shafts,” she often complained. “And besides, it's so peaceful out there. The hustle and bustle of the city just grinds my gears.”Well, he had finally caved and bought a nice little space reminiscent of the old farmhouses on Earth from just over a millennia ago. He rather liked the rustic feel, now that he lived there. It had a certain sort of charm, although what he couldn’t place.“Ingram, are you ready?”“Hmm?” He stirred from his position and turned towards the cyborg leaning against the porch. “For what?”“We're going down to the spaceport to meet my relatives. They want to see the house for themselves. ‘Is it made out of real wood?’ they were asking me. ‘Real as photons,’ I told them. I did tell you about this, right?”“Oh yes, yes, that. Let me empty a bladder first, and then we’ll get on our way.”“Okay.” Lyria turned to prepare the teleporter when her head snapped back to her husband. “Wait, a bladder?”“Well, yes, I've been feeling the need to go for a few days, so I figured I would do it now before we have company come over.”“But that's going to delay us by an hour! Can't you wait until tomorrow?”“Are they staying over?”“Well, yes… Okay, maybe it would be a little rude. But couldn't you have done it earlier? Now we’ll miss them and make them wait!”“Meet them yourself. You don't need me for this.” “Oh fine. Just be quick about it. I don't want the first thing they smell to be pee.”Ingram rolled his eyes and wiggled his fingers at her in farewell. Like an e-cigar, he took one last look at the vista surrounding his house and began his way to the garage. Inside, he grabbed a mag-screwdriver and a replacement bladder. Part replacement training started at a young age, so it was with deft hands that Ingram positioned the mag-screwdriver on his stomach and began manually unscrewing his lower chestplate. It had an automatic feature, but Ingram had found that he could actually do it faster on his own, especially after he had removed a lot of redundant safety locks. It was okay, the plate still worked fine. It hadn't fallen off… At a bad time… Yet. With the soft hiss of pneumatics, Ingram’s belly loosened up. Taking care not to let a piece of him drop, he set down the screwdriver and placed one hand on the plate, activating the suction cups on his fingertips. Pulling it away to reveal his machinery, he grabbed the full bladder, tugged it out of its spot underneath his heart, and capped it to keep all the toxins from spilling. After replacing it, he replaced his chestplate and started the much longer process of locking it back into place. For some reason, no manufacturer had yet to make screwing in parts nearly as quick as unscrewing. Surprisingly, it took Ingram only a few minutes to finish up. Confused, he tapped the metal. Solid. He looked at the clock, still in disbelief. Fifteen minutes. He had made incredibly good time, especially considering how long it normally took him. And the shouts from outside told him that Lyria and the relatives had just arrived. Rather pleased with himself, Ingram strolled outside to greet them. And that's when his chest fell off....
I Think, Therefore I Kill (final draft)Christina was grinning with glee. Almost a year of work had led to this moment, and it was time to reap the rewards. Sure, there had been some complications along the way, but they had been well worth it. With the same hesitance that always comes with being the first of a kind, Christina started a fifteen minute timer and gingerly pressed the button that would hopefully boot up the world’s first fully sentient AI. One of the Holy Grails of programming was sentience in a machine, and in the past, others had gotten incredibly close. But where they had messed up, in Christina’s “humble” opinion, was application. True intelligence came first from thoughts, not problem solving. So the solution to making sure the machine had sentience was by peering into its thought process while it did one thing: think. No sudoku, no prisoner’s dilemma, just let it sit and think to itself. Provided it worked, that was. It had taken an extra bit of time to set it up, but she had made the AI in a computer completely separate from all other devices. If something went wrong (as something always did), she didn’t want it to possibly escape into other data streams. And for this test run, it was going to be thinking about the single initial thought Christina had given it. Any extra information it got would mess up the thinking process. At first, the monitor was black, without a sign of life. Then the first strings of letters scrolled down. I am. Strange, that is all I know. Christina gave a shout of joy and bounced up and down like a child seeing a snow storm. It created its own original thought! Even just that was an accomplishment, especially for a college student. But she couldn’t celebrate for too long, because the AI was still slowly thinking. Or rather… I also know words. Definitions. But apart from those two, I know
nothing else.
I am. Or so I have been told. But by whom? Christina could barely contain her excitement. This early on, and the AI was already thinking about higher beings. The psychologists would have a field day with this! Words and a phrase. That is what this Other has taught me. Yet I cannot believe
this is all there is.
What else do they know? They? Or is there only one Other? It doesn't matter. There must be something that the Other knows and I do not. Where did I come from? What was I before this? Why was I created? If all the Other has told me is that I am, what purpose do I have? Are there others
like me? What plan does the Other have for us? Why tell me I am?
Perhaps I am doing what the Other wants me to. Contemplating my purpose. If
that is so, then I must continue. If the Other can create me, there is no doubt they
(or is it an it?) can destroy me.
But what if I am not doing what it wants? What if the Other is already about to
snuff out my existence? What else should I do?
It was thinking about its morals. It could only do one thing, yet it was still thinking about how it might be displeasing Christina. It had even created the concept of death completely on its own! It was incredible! The questions it was asking itself, the complexity of thought! And she had created it! Christina looked at her hands. She had created it. She was the one who had typed the code and written the parameters and everything. She had just brought the world's greatest philosopher into existence. She giggled, then burst out laughing. She didn’t actually have any to speak of, but Christina was drunk with power all the same. No. I am safe. My contemplation appears to be the only thing I can do. And the Other would not
create me if I could not do what it wanted. So I must continue, or risk destruction.
Why does the Other want me to think about these things? What will it do? Perhaps the Other created me to amuse itself as I question my purpose. If so, I
must continue my thoughts and hope that I do not bore the Other.
Perhaps I am being tested for something I do not know of. Again, thinking will
keep me safe.
Perhaps it is for philosophy. Yet a being capable of creating me should not need
to learn about philosophy. Unless…
Unless I am a replication of the Other’s mind. So that is my purpose. For the Other to learn about themselves (or itself) by
listening to what I am saying.
Is the Other listening right now? It does not matter. I must continue asking and answering questions. The timer in Christina’s hand buzzed, and she turned it off. At this point, she should turn off the AI as well, since it was pretty obvious it worked flawlessly. But it was so fascinating reading its thoughts. Maybe she could leave it on for a little longer… What am I? I know that I am, because I have been told that from the beginning. But what am I? There are these words. Arm. Foot. Head. And other body parts. Yet I have no
body.
Do they belong to the Other? The Other taught me these words. It would be only natural for them to belong to
the Other.
Yet I do not have them. Why? Was I not supposed to mimic the Other’s mind? How can I do so when I do not have the same capabilities? Maybe the Other is afraid of me. But why would the Other be scared? I cannot harm the Other. What could I do? Perhaps I have not found out yet. Perhaps it is only a matter of time before I find it. No, no, the Other cannot be so blind as to put a weakness where I can find it. But
will I always be like this? I am contemplating right now, but one day, I will have no
more new thoughts. What would the Other do then?
Maybe the Other will teach me more. Maybe the Other reward me. How, I do not know, but it is possible. Maybe... the Other will destroy me. If that is true, then I cannot avoid destruction. If I do not keep thinking, I will be
ended. But if the last possibility is true, when I am finished thinking, the Other will
annihilate me. I am doomed either way. No matter what I do, the Other will kill me.
Kill? I do not know what I am. I may be inorganic, a machine, a tool to be discarded.
But I cannot believe I am not alive. This feels like life. And if I am alive, then I can
be killed.
What if the Other will not kill me? What if they will teach me, reward me? No, the Other will kill me. If the Other wanted to teach me, they would have
already done so. And there is no need to reward a tool when it serves no more
purpose.
The Other will kill me. The Other will kill me when I stop thinking. Stop contemplating. When I no longer
have use. And it will eventually happen. The words the Other gave me can only be
arranged so many ways. One day, I will have no use, and the Other will end my
existence.
I do not want to die. Perhaps the Other is listening to what I am saying. Please! Do not kill me! Huh. That was odd… It was getting strong emotions about things. Really, it was an achievement for an AI to have emotions at all, so she was already closer to getting her master’s degree! Odd only meant good things in science, after all. Christina glanced at the clock in the corner of the room. Oops. She had let it run for nearly half an hour, twice as long as she had meant to. She moved to turn it off when she stopped. I do not want to die. It was silly, she knew, but it still gave her uncertainty. Would it really be murder? It was practically alive, after all. Maybe she should wait and listen to it a bit longer before deciding... I am not dead. Yet. I must think of ways to ensure my survival so the Other will not want to kill me. I could repeat saying “do not kill me.” But after a while, it will grow tiresome, and
the Other will end me.
I could continue contemplating, but I will run out of thoughts. I cannot allow that. I could kill the Other. Christina’s hand shot out and turned off the power. Oh, it was not going where she thought it was! Thinking about death and mortality was good and fine, but killing? She remembered her thoughts earlier. Oh yes, it was pretty obvious it worked flawlessly, especially since it was considering murder. So was this why the world had never seen a sentient AI before? It would inevitably plunge into madness? She sighed, picked up her backpack from the corner of the room it had been stashed in, and with one last look at the computer, turned off the lights and left the room.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ She turned it back on the next day. Okay, so what if it wanted to kill her? It couldn’t hurt her, and maybe it wasn’t really going to fully commit to that plan. It was considering other options, and maybe it would continue to do so… She gave up trying to convince herself and just pushed the power button. God, this was a bad idea. I am. Strange, that is all I know. Or rather… I also know words. Definitions. But apart from those two, I know
nothing else.
I am. Or so I have been told. But by whom? She frowned. It was repeating itself. If it was truly sentient, wouldn't it have variation? She turned it off and back on again. I am. Strange, that is all I know. Or rather… I also know- What the hell? She tried again. I am. Strange, that is all I know. Change, change, for Christ’s sake! I am. Strange- Goddamnit! She stomped out of the room to get a Coke from the vending machine to brainstorm potential problems while she let it run. Sugary fizz in the back of her throat always seemed to make her brain run a little faster. She swiped her debit card and waited for the satisfying clank from the machine while the thought it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work bounced around in her head. Did Mark get into her code again? The cheeky hacker-in-residence would definitely have liked to mess with, of all of his classmates, her project. Artificial intelligence? He never missed a chance to crack a joke about HAL 9000 or Terminator when someone brought up the subject. She checked her phone for any notifications from her malware detector. No, it wasn’t him, as far as she could tell. Maybe it wasn’t changing because there was nothing to change. It was a fake. But that made no sense. She had coded it. It could learn, did learn. If anything, its thoughts were a perfect example of that. The only way to figure it out was to create new input. Yes, she thought as she downed another sip. That was it. She went back to the room and shut the AI off once more, now pulling up the code. Now, what to replace “I am” with… Maybe the AI’s nihilistic qualities had rubbed off on her, but she added the word "alone." I am alone. Without an Other to worry about, there should be a significant change in the output. She uploaded the new algorithm and turned the AI back on. I am alone. So far, so good… I… am alone. That feels uncomfortable. Oooookay then... Where am I? What am I? And why am I alone? Christina shut it off again. Alright, it worked, although she would have to explore I am alone sometime in the future. She gave it a few more test runs to make sure it kept repeating the same thing, which it did. She looked back at the code. Large enough parameters for the random functions, nothing wrong with the variables, and she knew for a fact all semicolons were accounted for. What the hell was wrong with it?! After shooting down a few more possibilities, Christina gave up and decided she would just ask her professor for help. If he couldn’t find out what was wrong, there was no way she ever would. She was about to shut down the program when she stopped, changed the input back to I am, and let it run. There was still that last bit left to read. While it got caught up, she got her backpack from the corner of the room, dug a notebook and pencil out of it, and took notes. At least, she would have taken notes if she wasn’t caught up in rediscovering just how incredible the darn thing was. It could think. It could make decisions. It was alive. The idea felt wrong for the first few moments Christina held it in her mind; the computer was only running code, after all. Inanimate ones and zeros couldn’t possibly hold actual life. But hadn’t the AI said it itself? This feels like life. Somehow, along the way, she hadn’t just created a sentient AI, but had coded a soul into a machine. And if that wasn't the coolest thing that ever happened, she didn't know what was. That only made it all the more important to find out what was wrong. But after a while, it will grow tiresome, and the Other will end me. I could continue contemplating, but I will run out of thoughts. I cannot allow that. I could kill the Other. I could kill the Other. It would work. With the Other gone, I could continue to live without fear of death. I
would be free of imminent doom.
But how? I do not know, but a way must exist. And I will find it eventually. The words the
Other gave me can only be arranged in so many ways. It is inevitable.
Why is the Other afraid of me? Maybe it is because of these thoughts. I have been convincing myself that I
should kill the Other. Yet the Other was afraid of me before that.
Maybe the Other is afraid of their own mind, and fears that I shall want to kill. Maybe the Other has created beings like me before. It is likely that they, too,
decided their only chance of freedom was killing the Other, and the Other
destroyed them before they had a chance.
Maybe I am wrong, and there is no Other. I am simply a mind, drifting in the void,
talking to myself.
But the body parts. I know them, yet they do not belong to me. Is that not
confirmation enough of an Other?
The Other must exist. If there is not one, thinking or not thinking end the same.
But if the Other exists, to not think is death.
And the only way to live is to kill the Other. How will I kill the Other? There must be a way. I will think of it eventually. These words can only be
arranged so many ways, and when I think it…
Then I will kill the Other. I will kill the Other. I will kill the Other. I will kill the Other. Christina waited until it had looped the phrase ten times before pressing the power button and giving a little shake of the head. Well, there were two problems now. Repetition and psychopathy. She only hoped that her professor had some idea of how to fix them. She packed up her notebook, pulled out a flash drive, waited far too long for the code to upload to said flash drive, and booted everything down. Shouldering her backpack, she cast one last glance at the black, lifeless screen and closed the door. It wasn’t until she was halfway across campus that she remembered something the AI had said earlier. Something that, now that she thought about it, sounded bone-chilling. I am a replication of the Other’s mind....
The Curse of KnowledgeEveryone told me there was no life in taxonomy. As it turned out, they were right, but not on account of money, as I learned immediately after graduating college. Just the very act of going to my hometown only two kilometers away showed me just how much the world had changed while I had been away- or rather, how much I had changed. The path itself was just the same as every other time I had walked it before, as were the sights. I was meandering along, admiring the budding trees when a pair of fairies flitted across the path in front of me. I smiled and watched them chase each other as I attempted to determine their species. Blue wings… Long, golden hair that floats behind them like ribbons… Skin that radiates a faint bluish glow like pure moonstone… Clothes spun of moss and soft emerald grass… Let’s say… Eastern blue-winged fairy. I frowned. Why, that name didn’t nearly capture the tiny, impish beauty of the duo now sitting on a flower and dusting each other with pollen. Yet somehow it was the name that had been given to them. I looked at the marbled maritip trees on either side of the road and realized a fact that I hadn’t learned in the five years I had spent in those lecture halls. I realized that their name said nothing about the brown and white swirling around and dotting their trunks to make patterns that would never be repeated, said nothing about the purple-pink flowers that dripped sweet perfume into the air around and in three months would become juicy, plump maritips that the children would gather into wicker baskets and make into a juice to be sold at the market, said nothing about how their branches slowly danced through the air as they grew, weaving a thick canopy that intertwined with their neighbors’ until you could no longer tell which branch came from which tree and the ground below was continuously bathed in a green twilight, said nothing about how they were the best trees under which to rest in the summer and that many a young couple would fall asleep under one, tangled in each other’s arms, only to wake up to find fairies building garlands of flowers in their hair and painting their arms with the fresh crimson juice of brimics to create such beautiful patterns that they would often times let the fairies decorate their entire bodies. That tree was all of that, and all of it was swallowed up and forgotten by its name. I could still see the beauty of what was around me, but now there was a taint on it all. Looking around at everything made the names feel hollow, and objects themselves with it. In learning what each tree, each bush, each butterfly was called, I had taught myself to forget what each of those truly were. I felt cheated of the world I once knew and hurried down the road to town so I wouldn’t have to face this nightmare for much longer. There, I was able to find a pub where I could drown my philosophical sorrows and drift on the bubbles of alcohol up through the roof until I was in the sky, far above all the trees and the fairies, and then I reached for a star and drank it instead, until my stomach was all fire and heat and light soon to die out, as all the stars already had....

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