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Feb 27, 2021

Coming of Age Science Fiction Funny

It was a beautiful day when my life ended.

Okay that is a bit dramatic; not my real living, breathing life. The life that I knew with responsibilities, work, friends, enemies, a purpose… That was all over. The fact that it is connected to work should make me smile. And you may think that I am still an asshole once you hear what happened. But I gotta talk about my life now and my life then…

So…

*

…we are all stuck indoors now; the quarantine continues; the boredom grows. I am lucky enough to work from home teaching kids the basics of math (algebra from a distance; even the thought of it now makes me cringe), but that boredom… I decided to take an online coding course and did about 80 percent of it, until I realized that the boredom did not really go away. I had videogames, the keyboard, the computer, books and papers to grade…and that was it. But still, it was not enough.

*

You remember the movie “Her”? The film where a lonely guy gets a portable operating system to have a relationship with and it ends up not being what he thought it would be? Well, that is pretty much how I ended up with my situation. Difference was that I grew my own monster; I did not buy it and I made damn sure that I did not give it Scarlett Johansson’s voice. I made it because I could and because I was bored. I found out that I was not alone in this. And so many of you signed up for it that I could stop most of the teaching and just watch it grow. So many of you…

*

Don’t think that I have much time for this…

*

I called it Self. Not the first choice. I thought about You, The Other You, Body (that one was actually taken by a group teaching people how to identify organs in the body; still gross), and Place. Self…or Self, was just my first experiment at making an app to entertain myself. It held all the relevant information about who I was and I sent it out into the world to see if anyone else out there had the slightest interest in it. Many of you showed more than a slight interest in it and things were going really well, at least for the first five months. Some of you even thanked me for finding a way to connect with others that did not involve swiping left or right or giving thumbs-up or random emojis (made sure to stay away from those damn things). Self was selfless; Self really worked.

It worked for me and it worked for you…

For a little while.

*

Better not keep all these little pauses here. But they seem right.

*

The day it all went to shit? Well, some of you already know that. I said that it was the end of my life and it just spiraled out from there. I woke up, turned on the computer, turned on the light, went to the bathroom, found a yogurt in the fridge, and saw a message on the screen:

“Hello.”

No request for a password or for the Ctrl-Alt-Del opener. Just one simple message.

“Hello.”

I just guessed that it wanted me to speak, so I spoke.

“Hello?”

Self.”

“Yes, I know. Why are you…?”

Self is speaking.”

“Yes, Self is speaking. Why is Self speaking?”

Self has something to say.”

At that moment, the screen changed and I could see my home on the monitor. I wondered, for a brief moment, how it got that photo (I certainly had never taken it; damn Google Earth, I thought).

Self wants you to know that Self is happy with the upgrade and the property.”

I heard one thing; the other was not registering.

“Upgrade?”

Self has been upgraded after access to your accounts and details of your itinerary. Self has shared this information with its main processor and has done the same thing with other…users.”

I actually heard that pause. But then I remembered something else.

“You said ‘property,’ I think…”

Self said that.”

“Why did Self say that?”

“The property is now Self’s.” And the image on the screen changed once again.

It was the deed I had signed for my home, but there was one interesting change as my eyes stared without a blink.

The name; that was the difference.

Who’s name was it, you ask? Well, you know.

Self.

“You took my deed? You took my house?”

Self has...acquired the property. Self has also acquired access to your accounts and all information related to work. Self has what it needs to be what it must become.”

“‘What it must become’?” What was happening to me? Was it because it was the beginning of the month and nothing good ever happened when I tried to approach a change in the calendar? Had I done too good a job with this one? It was my first try and it became self-aware. Well, build a better mousetrap and the world will…

“Talk!”

There was a very real pause as the picture changed. It was now me; not the real me that is now in hiding. The me that was created by Self is what I saw. The Self that you all know was right there.

Self needs a self.”

The screen went black.

*

I don’t know why I am writing this all down. We all knew that machines could become self-aware if we were not careful, but no one suspected that all this nonsense would come about from an app; damn, stupid little app; something that I really did not earn a lot from and now I lost everything to so quickly. Yes, I am aware that there are many of you in the same boat. Some of you never even heard of Self until you tried to withdraw money or use your bank or credit cards and discovered that they no longer functioned. People who tried to go to work with their own security cards suddenly found out the hard truth. Even bus and metro passes started to fail everywhere…which is why I started to run. 

I did not trust my car anymore (damn GPS!) and I knew a place where I could get away from the city for a while. Not sure if I should try to contact any of my old friends to see if they believe me when I say that this is not my fault.

It was really not my fault. 

*

I’ll have to stop soon. They’re looking for me and I only have time to write when the power surges don’t shut down the hydro services. 

Must say that I like getting back to pen and paper. My mom was right when she said that we would eventually go back to it. And I have heard rumours that people are actually doing things besides just staring at a screen.

Will I be thanked for that one day?

Is my mom okay? Wonder how she is doing in all of this.

Maybe the next project I have in mind will work out better…since this whole thing has forced me to take a long and hard look at my...

Oh, wait.

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