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Submitted for the March 2024 prompt: Othering AI


I’ve lost myself somewhere.

 

I think I’m male, but I could be female. I’m not sure. Why can’t I remember?

 

I stare at my hands and they tell me nothing, and that’s all I have, hands and a jumble of wires.

 

“Move your left hand,” says the voice.

 

It sounds familiar, the voice, from a distant memory floating around somewhere in my head. I wish I could just grab it, ground it, remember…

 

“Your left hand,” repeats the voice.

 

I concentrate and from nowhere my hand, my left one, moves, just a little, a wiggling within my fingers.

 

“You’re awake.”

 

Am I? Is this what awake feels like?

 

And then everything goes black.

 

* * *

 

“Move your right hand,” says the voice, when I’m next awake.

 

I try to move my eyeballs to follow the voice, but they refuse to budge. They only stare straight ahead, at my hands – soft, pinkish flesh, like a newborn, untarnished by sun and age. I notice I don’t even have fingernails, just fleshy beds where nails should grow. Why do I have no fingernails?

 

“Your right hand.”

 

I think I used to write with my right hand. My fingers are long, elegant, good for playing the piano…

 

A memory starts to surface. Music starts to play in my head. The memory bubbles up.

 

“Your right hand,” repeats the voice.

 

But I’m not listening to the voice, I’m listening to the music, the memory building, the sweet melody, the…

 

“It’s not responding.”

 

“Shock it,” says a different voice.

 

Pain. Sudden. My fingers jerk and twitch in a series of spasms. The music crumbles and dies and is replaced by the sound of a scream inside my head.

 

“Your right hand,” says the voice.

 

I curl my right hand into a fist.

 

“It appears to have a bit of an attitude,” says the different voice.

 

I hear a gruff laugh, a smoker’s cough, the sound of wheels, before the blackness returns.

 

* * *

 

Gradually I am built. Arms are added, a body and legs, even feet. I am not female or male. I am nothing because I have no genitals, just baby-like skin. I want to ask what I am, but they haven’t given me a mouth. Only eyes to see, and ears to hear. They’re not interested in what I have to say. And I still cannot turn my head, or move. But my eyeballs can slide within their sockets.

 

“Progress report.”

 

“The hands are fully operational, as are the feet. It’s responding to my commands. I’d like to begin the next stage.”

 

I am an "it". This confirms that I’m neither he nor she.

 

I wonder what the next stage is.

 

* * *

 

When I next wake up they have brought me a piano. I’m sitting, my hands resting on the beautiful black and white. My feet placed on the pedals. A sheet of music is already waiting. I remember the squiggles well. I remember this piece. I remember…

 

“Play,” says the voice, from somewhere behind me.

 

And I begin.

 

The music pours forth. I feel something I have not felt in a long time. Joy. It’s been so long since I heard those sweet sounds. Memories start to come back to the surface. I was good, very good. People came to watch, to listen. To hear me play. Applause runs in my head. If I had a mouth I would smile.

 

“Excellent,” says the voice when I finish. “That was pleasing. Initiate reward.”

 

A warm, golden glow floods my systems.

 

And then the blackness returns.

 

* * *

 

When I next open my eyes, I’m again in front of the piano. But something is different, my head can turn. I hesitantly tilt it left and right.

 

“Play for me,” says the voice.

 

This time I can turn to look.

 

And I find me.

 

An old me, in a wheelchair, with arthritic bent hands curled into claws.

 

The old me offers me a sad smile. One I cannot return.

 

I turn back to the piano, and I play for both of us.

Copyright 2024 - SFS Publishing LLC

Lost and Found

I've lost myself somewhere...

Anne Wilkins

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