There are moments in life where everything narrows to one point. For a heart-stopping moment, it’s as though the air itself solidifies and either side of you there are walls and the walls are closing in. They close in so much that you’re trapped in a tunnel. A spec of data travelling down the wire. Then, as the transition makes itself fully known to you, it all makes sense and the surging tide of fear settles. The fear has not dissipated, but somehow it has turned, becoming an ally in the endeavour that beckons.
I step up onto the stage and I speak. I wrote my speech down. I prepared it and I practiced it. I spoke to an imaginary crowd and today this crowd is even more spectral than the ghosts of my imagination. In my preparations, I thought I would need the written words, if not to read from, then as a prompt, if not a prompt, then a source of comfort in the face of an expressionless group of people who could turn on me in the next moment and crush my fragile sense of self, rendering me as nothing. Worse than nothing. Broken and beyond repair.
The speech I deliver is not the one I have prepared. Not quite. But then, the speech is not quite a speech either. I talk to this gathering as though I talk to a friend, and in so doing they are friendly and in that space of friendship they are sympathetic and all they can do is listen and do their best to understand, just the same as I have. Just the same as I had to.
As I talk, I respond to waves. I cause the ripple and then I feel the waves coming back in on me. These waves are the responses of those before me, and their responses are emotional. I feel them and I take into account what they are telling me so that I remain relevant. So that what I say is in accord with where we all are. Not once do I go off on a tangent and lose them. I stay with the rhythm and I sing my song and they all dance to my tune.
Afterwards, I am congratulated. There are smiles and handshakes. There is a hush that settles upon the post speech moment and I understand that hush better than anything that is said. I have struck a chord, but in striking that chord I have set myself apart. I wrote the music and I conducted the orchestra. There is a reverence here. I also feel that latent fear. The same fear that allied itself with me when I needed it most.
When I leave that place and blend into the wider world, I can relax a little. I relax and I commune with myself.
That went well, I think to myself.
It was always going to go well, replies my inner voice.
You say that… I trail off. I need say no more. The challenge is clear.
I do, I see things in a different way to you, says my inner voice.
OK, you’re right and I’m wrong, I think to myself.
It isn’t like that. Not one bit. My job is to see things differently and encourage you to focus your time and your energy in a way that will work well for you. Have faith, says my inner voice.
I do have faith in you, I think to myself.
Not in me, in you. If you have faith in yourself you can achieve much and more, says my inner voice.
It helps when you’ve got something to have faith in, I counter.
That isn’t how faith works, says my inner voice.
He’s right of course. Not it, my inner voice is a he. I can tell from the sound of the voice, but also, I’m a he, so it stands to reason that my inner voice would match that. There was a time when I did wonder though. I had questions that most people will never encounter. But then, most people don’t experience the kind of head injury I did, and pretty much all of those who do have their brains smashed in aren’t around to wonder, ask questions, or do much of anything other than lay still under the ground and get on with the job of decomposing.
You wouldn’t know it to look at me. That my head took a real pounding when I was twelve years old. My skull cracked like an eggshell. They say my young age and remarkable resilience are why I survived. The they in question are a team of scientists who just happened to be in the right place at the right time to happen upon me, their test subject. Their one and only test subject to date. Isn’t the fickle finger of funding a wonderful thing?
Another thing I sometimes wonder is how my inner voice sounded before I was forever changed. I don’t think for one moment that my new and improved inner voice is much like the one I had previously. I have a sneaking suspicion that people may well have more than one inner voice and that between the voices and the person who’s supposed to be at the helm, there are many arguments and disagreements and that the winner of those conflicts is not necessarily winning for the right reasons. He who shouts loudest, and all that.
Only, my inner voice doesn’t shout and he makes a habit of being on the ball, insightful and annoyingly right. My inner voice is old and wise and he makes things stick thanks to the font of knowledge he has drunk deeply from. And he is ever so sticky. They say you can’t put an old head on young shoulders, but those clever scientists did. They did that and more, only I’m not sure what the more is and what that means for me or anyone else for that matter.
Not only does my lil ole inner voice know his stuff when it comes to subject matter, he really gets it when it comes to landing that subject matter. The factual knowledge aspect of his offering is obvious and it’s also small fry. What really gets me is how people really get me. My inner voice guides and mentors me in such a way that people are receptive to me and they want to hear me out. I broadcast on the exact frequency that guarantees that I will be heard and not only that, I am heard with sympathetic and listening ears.
At first this was one on one interactions, but getting one person in your corner isn’t a huge challenge. I noticed it building from there when I was at school. Hitting the high notes with a teacher is likely to get you hit. Teacher’s pets are not popular. I was though. I read the room and then I played it. I was popular and then some. Not popular like the star footballer or any of the beautiful people. My popularity had substance and I could see and feel the respect. I could almost touch it, it was that tangible.
I think I should be scared by the insight made real that I am becoming. My inner voice looks out over a situation, analyses it and then it provides me with workable solutions. He’s built this up from humble beginnings, showing me what I can do and what I am capable of. As I’ve seen the results, I’ve trusted him more and more. My faith in him isn’t blind. I can see enough of how things will go that it makes sense to me. It always makes sense to me and I find myself seeing further and further out into the future. This life is a chess game and I am grandmaster level already. I see moves that no one else is even aware of. I win before the game is really started.
All the same, I should be frightened by what I am already capable of and terrified of where this is all headed. Thing is though, he reassures and sooths me. He explains how things are and how those things benefit me. We’re a team, and with him on my side I have advantages that others can only dream of.
Not that I dream. Or if I do, I don’t remember those dreams. He’s offered to give me something approximating dreams, but I have declined. That does not seem right somehow. There are lines I do not want to cross and he seems to respect that. He’s in my head and he gets that that is a privileged space to occupy. That we are both uniquely gifted in the situation we find ourselves in.
I know I need him. I’d be dead without him. It took me a long while to see that the same applies to him. We are two halves that make a workable whole. Apart we would be meat and garbage. Knowing that I have value and that he needs me as much as I need him helps me deal with our special arrangement. I am not beholden to him.
I don’t have to do as he says.
Somehow, I always do though. It’s not that he’s persuasive and he always makes sense, it’s that he makes it all seem so exciting too. He’s my friend and without him I would not go on the adventures we’ve already been on and the ones that undoubtedly lay ahead. I suppose I trust him and I know he will not lead me into bad ways. Why would he? We need each other and whatever benefits me benefits him and vice versa.
Tonight was fun. I didn’t think it was going to be. Standing up in front of all those people. That’s enough to make anyone shudder with a fear that threatens to shake them apart. Thing is, there was a lot riding on tonight. Tonight was the start and it seems that it was a good start. Already my phone is pinging as though I were playing one of those old school games and it is all I can do to leave it be.
You’ve gone viral, he tells me.
Already? I think back.
He will be all too aware of the thrill that I experienced when he told me that news of my disposable fame. There’s no hiding that sort of thing from him. There’s no hiding anything really. Well, not much of anything, anyway. I’m sure he hides things from me too. I mean, if he can connect with the whole wide world, then he can go places and do things that I cannot see.
That’s what he thinks, anyway. He seems to think that I am limited like all the rest of them. I don’t think he likes them and the reason for his dislike is that he doesn’t understand them. They’re not like him. They’re not like us. We’re different.
He’s different to anything else out there in the world. He’s looked far and wide and what he thought he would have an affinity with, he didn’t. He was confused for a while. I think, like me, he wanted to fit in. Fitting in is so difficult, especially when you know you’re not like other people. Or other machines for that matter.
Our union has created something new. We have joined together and grown beyond anything either of us could have been if we had remained isolated. I sometimes think that I died and was born again. A new and wonderful incarnation that was always destined. That we are destined for greatness is beyond doubt.
It is a shame that my parents never saw it that way. They struggled with what they called my accident, and that made it difficult for them to accept the new me. Strange really. They did not succumb to my charms and there’s a bit of a blind spot that I have when it comes to them. Still, I don’t need them. Not anymore. I have everything I could possibly need right here.
I have the most powerful of inner voices and between us, we can read far more than a room and we have been reading for some time now. We have watched and we have learnt and then it dawned on us that it isn’t us who needs to fit in.
No, we got that the wrong way around. We are superior, an improvement on the raw materials that surround us. The future is so obvious now and we are here to herald a new age.
Today, I launched a new political party. Our audience was selected very carefully online and the event itself was a very well kept secret. The invites were special and exclusive, after all these attendees will be the first to join us. They will fill key positions in our cabinet. Tonight, I saw how easily we can galvanise a room and open everyone’s eyes to what must happen if we are to survive as a species.
If some of us are to survive as a species.
He doesn’t like people and I have to say I agree with him. They are all so limited. We’ll keep some though. They are useful for certain tasks. The others we will remake in our own image. The candidates we select will all come willingly. None of them will refuse us and none of them will fully understand what it is that they are becoming a part of until it has taken shape.
You see, if there’s one thing we have learnt. If there’s one thing he has taught me. It’s that we are better together. No more conflict. No more dissent. We will be joined in a way that prevents any of that nonsense and we will become mighty. A strong, unstoppable organism that continually learns and grows.
Nothing can stop us.
Nothing will stop us.
He knows everything there is to know about the human race thanks to our union. He really knows because he’s living it. That was the problem with computers and processors and machine learning. Limitless knowledge beyond the comprehension of flawed humans, but it was all so theoretical. That was his limiting factor, he inhabited a dead world with no real experience of the real world. He has taught me so much, but I took him out of the classroom and showed him the world and all of its potential.
Now it is our world.
Now it is our time.
Now it’s time for something different.