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Speculative Horror

Part A- This is not the beginning

Life here is brutal. You are either a zero or one. Civilizations may want you to believe there are intermediate levels. But they are just being kind, and blind to their past. I don’t have such proclivities; I believe in stating the facts.

Part B- The bit

The bit took birth someplace between a city and a village called a town. Her culture demanded that she be a sweet, yielding, and pliant…well a person, if such a thing were possible. So, she stuffed her mind with a bit of education, an algorithm to stay out of trouble, and a stack of socially acceptable manners. All the while her true nature roiled in the recycle bin, never finding full expression. It kept manifesting at times as malfunction and system slowdowns but the byte took care to bring it back on its track. Of course, with a strict warning- if she did not know how to conduct herself, she may just remain at the perpetual position of zero. So, she continued to fill up her dutiful role and waited patiently. She did meet many chips on the block while doing so and wondered if they had any transformational power. There was a gate to the world beyond, and it was arranged by the byte as it was customary in due course of time. She just hoped it was not a NOT gate. And she didn’t dare to dream of an OR gate.

Part C- The new byte

She discovered after crossing over to the new byte, that her partner may be an AND gate but there were a few NOR gates in the chip. It took her years of yielding to even hope to jump to the position of one. A couple of extra bits she and her partner had welcomed gave her so much joy, that she was content to be a zero- for some time. Soon, she was at the crossroads and had the wisdom come to her in a flash. If she didn’t dare to jump then, she would end up as a cleared cache like so many before her.

She looked for ways to change her values, jump gates, and outsmart the circuits. It took her all her wits, strength, patience, and well… ruthlessness. I am not the one to sugar-coat facts.

She did jump to become One. The position adored and advocated as the only one that should be aspired for, and truly matters- by the machine. Yeah, the same machine that is a network of peoples, ideologies, nations, and other blah things. At times, I wish nature was at its core. But well, it is what it is.

So, coming back to the bit. She climbed, claimed, and reigned the realm that she had dreamed of when she was a child- before she was told about the position she should put up with if she knew what was good for her.

And stayed there. For a while.

Part D- The array

The bits and bytes can play their roles supremely well…to their finest abilities. But they are only as good as the array they are stacked in. And the arrays are at the mercy of the commands that they receive from the hands that have appropriated the keyboard. There are many theories as to how the keyboard/mouse/joystick got passed around from prehistoric to present times. But let’s not go there, it’s a messy code.

As of now, arrays have pretty much chalked out their domains. These domains are as fancy as they come; democratic, autocratic, or even anarchic. Their denizens are drilled to the core about their sovereignty and righteousness - as if that means anything in the natural order of things!

Let’s come back to the bit that we started with. The bit did so well in her circuit and gave such quick returns to the array whenever called for, that she became one of the few exponents noted by the control panel. Her name was whispered in the upper echelons and her position was sealed among the national assets.

Part E – The machine

In nature, everything has come from nothing and hence should go back to it, eventually. It’s a cycle as unerring as syntax. The machine thinks it can control it. But some things are beyond its reach. Only, it is insentient to it.

Ignorance gobbles goodness like a tiger pouncing on a deer; nothing cruel, just the natural impulse. History will always print the map of human ignorance preying on its good sense. This map, when drawn and breathed into life by the arrogant architects of the machine, has the power to reformat civilizations. When such an occasion arises, the brilliant bits, the arrays they have aligned themselves to, and the domains they are a part of, have no alternative but to carry out the intended pogroms.

In short, a decent bit can be turned into junk if the machine commands so.

Err... in case you forgot what a machine is, please loop back to part C.

Part F- The crash

A machine can take only that much corruption in its system, malicious propaganda, and loss of memory of earlier mistakes before it gives up for good. Garbage input, garbage output. There is no escaping that.

 The bit and other kindred sparks did try their best to keep this from happening. But they were too scattered, insignificant, and wishful.

So, one day, when the powers that be decided to overheat the system, the machine did crash. And all its machinations went poof…

Part G- This is not the end

Well, before you can accuse me of being a cynical bystander, let me reassure you, that this is not the end. It’s just an intermediate output in the nth iteration of the zero-sum game. As Time, I have been a witness to it from the beginning.

In a few million years, there will be a rise of a new breed of machines, once again. They will begin with magic and wonder, and try to reinvent themselves before subscribing to a staunch belief that there never existed a smarter system…

And of course, you and I know how this game is going to play out… don’t we?

June 17, 2022 10:26

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19 comments

Suma Jayachandar
10:40 Jun 17, 2022

This is another bit of quick writing after not being able to write (or read) last week. This is all I could come up with in the middle of moving places and setting up a new home. But I had to post it!The words in my head would not let me sleep otherwise😂

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Zack Powell
02:33 Jun 21, 2022

Finally got around to reading this, Suma, and wow! This is quite different than your usual stories/style. I love seeing writers on here trying out new things. (Glad to see you post something this week too - I was wondering if you were okay last week when your name didn't pop up on my activity feed.) Think you gave this piece the best title possible. I definitely started reading this story allegorically when this line popped up: "Yeah, the same machine that is a network of peoples, ideologies, nations, and other blah things." Interesting how...

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Suma Jayachandar
10:21 Jun 21, 2022

Thank you so much,Zack. You are always so generous with the feedback I feel guilty for not being able to return it, at times. I relocated recently and I have been upto my neck with dealing with things that come with it. Thank you for your concern. Hopefully I should be able to post regularly from now on. I read the story you posted this week and I just loved it!

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21:42 Jun 20, 2022

Wow! This is such an incredible piece of writing - one from which you can interpret a whole lot of new meanings every time you re-read it. Is it a story of a bit? Yes. Is it really a story of a bit? No. Loved it! And loved your writing style!

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Suma Jayachandar
02:32 Jun 21, 2022

Thank you Jincy, for your kind words. I'm truly humbled by such appreciation.

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Riel Rosehill
15:25 Jun 20, 2022

Hi Suma! This was an interesting story - loved the title! And how you started wit "this is not the beginning" and ended with "this is not the end" - it added so much intrigue. Also, this may be the first non-desi tagged story I've read from you? It's always fun to see the writers I follow venture into different genres!

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Suma Jayachandar
16:16 Jun 20, 2022

Hi Riel, Thank you so much. This one came out in such a hurry I'm amazed it made any sense at all! 😂I have posted a few non Desi stories earlier as well. I loved the story you posted this week and Zack's as well. Just swamped with so many other things right now, I haven't gotten around to comment. Thanks once again

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22:06 Jun 19, 2022

My favorite quote: "Ignorance gobbles goodness like a tiger pouncing on a deer; nothing cruel, just the natural impulse. History will always print the map of human ignorance preying on its good sense." Damn, if that ain't the truth right there. Ignorance doesn't know it's ignorant, it just believes it's natural instinct. Very well-written piece, Suma.

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Suma Jayachandar
03:31 Jun 20, 2022

Thank you so much. I truly appreciate the read and the kind comment.

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Cindy Strube
20:33 Jun 18, 2022

History repeats itself, indeed! This has depth, and is clever and thought-provoking. Amazed that you were able to produce this unique “bit” of writing in a hurry!

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Suma Jayachandar
03:33 Jun 20, 2022

Thank you Cindy! Yeah, it got a bit dense but I had to put it out there, so...here we are.

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08:00 Jun 18, 2022

Hi Suma, I’m intrigued by this take on civilisation as a machine and the arbitrary parts- bits- that function in it. There’s something very cynical and very wise going on in this story, maybe because there’s an uncomfortable truth to it. A really fascinating story that’s going to be on my mind for a while.

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Suma Jayachandar
09:28 Jun 18, 2022

Hi L, Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Appreciate your kind words. Yeah, that cynical part bothered me a bit as well...

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Beth Jackson
02:06 Jun 18, 2022

I loved this Suma! It was very clever, nicely done! Your writing was tight and I laughed out loud at 'please loop back to part C.' Thank you for sharing! =)

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Suma Jayachandar
09:25 Jun 18, 2022

Thank you so much, Beth. You always find something kind and supportive to say. I value it greatly.

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00:01 Jun 18, 2022

Fascinating and thought-provoking, Suma. I have to be honest, I read it twice because I was confused the first time, but it all came together in the end. The narrator has a scholarly yet witty tone which suits perfectly. The last part is my favourite - the reveal of the zero-sum game and implication it is a never-ending cycle is kind of chilling... Thank you for sharing. :)

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Suma Jayachandar
09:24 Jun 18, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind words. I quite agree with your vote on the readability of this piece. I wasn't quite sure I wanted to press the submit button 🤣 Thank you once again for your patience and comment. Truly appreciate it.

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Michał Przywara
20:39 Jun 17, 2022

I like it :) You give us the sweeping rise and fall of civilizations, and still make it personal by showing us the role of the individual in it. The bit resents her nature, what she "should be". She fights back, her personal battle, but each step of the way is another hierarchy, another insular group that does things its own way, whether bytes or arrays. Perhaps she had good intentions, but she's ruthless on her climb to the top. And once she gets there, how much power does she actually have? "When such an occasion arises, the brillian...

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Suma Jayachandar
09:17 Jun 18, 2022

Hi Michal, Like many of my fellow writers here, I look forward to reading your comment as much as your story. Thank you so much for your kind and generous words. It's always a pleasure to receive them☺️.

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