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American Sad Fiction

March 12th, 1952

I have not kept a journal before.  Journals, diaries, and daily logs are for the preservation of days.  In my lengthy time on this Earth, I have not wanted to preserve my days.  Thousands of days and nights have all blurred together, one as forgettable as the other.  The moments worth remembering are few enough that I can recount them easily enough.  Each time I tried to end my life failed, but I am hopeful that I have made a breakthrough.  With the understanding that eventually someone will find my corpse and wonder at its presence, I set pen to paper now in an attempt to answer the questions that will surely come.  There are typing machines now that some use for clarity and speed, but I’m afraid my fingers lack the dexterity to use such a device.

To say I am more than two hundred years old would imply a life of growth that began with a birth.  This is not my circumstance.  I have existed in my present state for more than two centuries, beginning in the Old World of Europe and arriving in the New World of America nearly fifty years ago.  I have never had a friend or loved one, though there once was a man who I thought knew me well.  I wept when he died, which was a new experience for me.  Until that moment, I didn’t know I could produce tears or feel anguish.  Since that day, I have not cried for another living soul, only for myself, and either I have no soul or my soul is not alive.  I still do not know for sure.

March 15th, 1955

Science has made striking advances in the days of my existence.  A German man used an Italian’s battery to refine mankind’s understanding of how electricity moves from one place to another.  Faraday’s work on metals and electricity has been very well received.  Others have discovered ways of transferring energy without wires, a method called radiation, that they are learning often has unintended consequences.  The evolutionist, Darwin, proposes interesting ideas that people seem quick to adopt, but those people are also looking for reasons for life beyond basic vitalist principles: there is a force or an energy that creates life that has not been quantified yet.

The study of vitalism made important strides before it was derailed by misguided persons who are now considered madmen by their former peers.  Scientists now refuse to acknowledge an inherent difference between organic, living beings and inorganic materials, asserting instead that the living tissues are made of quantifiable amounts of matter that can be found and compiled with the proper understanding and equipment.  The notion that life has a “vital” component - be it a spirit, a soul, or something else - absent in non-living beings and organisms has been abandoned by most.  The vitalists pursued fields of mesmerism and spiritual energies until the fundamental understanding that formed the foundation of their knowledge lost all credibility.  Some might say that the scientific world has thrown the vitalist baby out with the biological bathwater.

I, myself, am proof of vitalism.  Before this existence, I was organic matter alive as six different human men.  They all died prematurely from injuries and wounds, and their salvageable parts were assembled by my creator.  Their inanimate materials were made animate again through the scientific vitalist efforts of that man.  While scientists in their fields have various qualifications for an organism to be considered alive, I do not meet enough of any of those qualifications to meet the definition of life.  My body is ordered, but is selective in its response to stimulus.  I see and hear and I can touch and taste, but I do not perceive changes in temperature such as extreme cold or heat.  I smell aromas when I inhale air into my lungs, but I do not need to breathe as my body does not process air, water, or food.  I do not need to eat or drink, nor do I sleep to rest as other beings do.  Where does my energy to move come from if not from a vital spirit?

The wear and stress on my body across the decades seems mitigated by my form’s innate stasis, as wounds and injuries I have endured across the years close and repair, leaving no discernable marks.  The keloid scars, as I have learned they are called, that form the seams of my predecessors’ contributions to my body are the only indication that I have ever been less or other than I am today.  The only change I have managed to enact on my body has been to my hair.  It does not grow, and after trimming it with scissors once or twice, I shaved it off, and I am bald to this day.

March 20th, 1955

I have purchased a small industrial building on Cannery Row, in Monterey, California, USA.  Under the name of Adam Mann I buy, sell, and trade for my needs.  While the world is becoming more connected with the use of the telephone, radio, and now television, there are few people who request references or refuse to do business when you offer cash significantly over their asking prices.  I simply say, “I value my privacy,” and give them time to count the bank notes.

I kept my creator’s designs.  I have had them reproduced by printers over the years as the paper aged or became damaged in my movements around the world.  My current set of schematics was made for me in San Francisco, shortly after I disembarked from the ship that carried me through the Panama Canal and up the Pacific Coast.  I booked a small room with a porthole from which I could watch my journey.  Aside from the occasionally cresting whale, it was as uneventful as the rest of my days.

For the past three months I have contracted out carpenters, electricians, welders, and fabricators to assemble a modern replica of the machine that pulled me from the void and placed me on this planet.  With the collapse of the sardine fishing and canning industry, there are plenty of men in need of work who appreciate cash payment for their services and discretion.  They tend to be gregarious in nature, asking if I’m a biologist like so many others in the area.  “Something like that,” is always sufficient enough an answer.

April 20th, 1955

I have taken delivery and installation of my equipment at night to reduce casual observation from the locals.  My workshop is at the end of a pier, and with the local conditions what they are, I have no neighbors.  I hear the laborers assuming I am conducting groundbreaking scientific experiments and fear Dr. Ricketts and others might steal my work.  These are useful fictions, so generous cash tips and knowing winks help solidify the lies they tell one another.  I don’t care what they say.  If all goes well, the rumors and speculation will soon be no concern of mine.

May 15, 1955

The assembly is complete.  The original design relied on lightning to generate the electricity needed for the procedure that made me this way.  With modern resources, I have designed and fabricated a capacitor to store energy harnessed from the physical motion of the tides of the Monterey Bay.  They have ebbed and flowed for weeks, and the power level has reached its zenith.

I have watched the sun set over this beautiful bay for the last time.  I hear sea lions barking on the shore.  Gulls call to one another, singing their tuneless song.  I witnessed an otter and her baby paddling on their backs by my workshop.  These natural phenomena are idyllic, but after such a time of loneliness as I have endured, they bring me no comfort.  I have never had companionship, friendship, or love.  

To whomever finds this journal, I hope you find utility in my designs and can bring some profit from them. Or not.  I was bitter and angry toward mankind for decades, and it has made me numb.  I now want only to sleep, to enter the void once more, and to never dream again.

March 25, 2023 03:29

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