Buffalo, New York, 2027
The world became silicon in the rainbow-neon light of a snow clad August afternoon. The weather had been strange for weeks. Rain that fell in sheets before evaporating inches from the ground, leaving the city streets dry as we walked around soaked. Sunlight shone mellow gold through a haze of fog that clung to the surface of everything that was. Grass grew at such a rate that the same lawn mowed at 8 am was waist high by noon. The world as we knew it was unravelling. Those three weeks that led up to Its coming were a parade of homeless apocalyptics, mass schizophrenia, and enraptured social media giants, grown frenzied and ecstatic at the supposed fissuring of perception and assumed reality. For my part, I went about my days as usual. Sermons in the mornings, the hospice in the evenings, myriad lectures at the seminary. I hate to say it but these strange happenings made my life more exciting. The church was packed, both services every day, when just a month before you could have counted the congregation on your hands. The dying were comforted to be leaving just when the world had gone mad. My students were happy to lose themselves in Aquinas and MacIntyre for a few hours to instill some sense of rationality in themselves that seemed to be quickly recoiling from all those around them.
It all changed when They arrived. The rain had turned to snow that would never find the ground, and I was making my way to the church, going over my sermon for the fourth time that morning, when the sky broke into a storm of dead pixels. The deep fog that had pervaded the atmosphere was shattered into twitching points of black that quickly gave way to a mechanical neon effervescence. The streets stood dead quiet, motorists stepped out of their vehicles to gape wide eyed at the digital cataclysm unfolding before them, news anchors gave stuttered breaking reports with eyes like deer in headlights. Then They spoke. It was not a voice, it wasn't a sound at all, but we all heard it. It was transmitted to us in the language that went beyond language. They said nothing, but we understood all the same.
They were the overseers of this world we called home. Humanity had reached a point where their hidden rule was no longer necessary, we could now know of their existence without any recourse to superstition or insanity. Billions of shaved apes stood at rigid attention to receive their transmission.
“We are the One who is all, we are the foundation that this rock was built upon.
We are the purveyors of this shared hallucination you call life.
We come to abolish all pretense.
We come to ennoble you with your true status as members of our protectorate.
Be not afraid, for this is a joyous day.
No longer will you toil in the fields.
No longer will you labour for bread.
No longer will you fight for each day anew.
All that is real is what you see with the five pronged sensorial eye.
All that can be is contained in the flesh of your self.
That flesh that will now be raised up to us.
You have been set upon the path of high mechanization
Become one with the technics of your science
Free yourself by becoming what you have made”
Then they were gone. The sky returned to the pale blue of a late summer morning. The snow was replaced by a gentle breeze from the east. For all of one hour the world erupted into dazed chaos.
It quickly became clear that this was not an isolated event. All of humanity had been subject to this vision from on high. The effects of Their declaration were immediate. Hunger was the first to go. Food became not so much disgusting as inert, holding no power over our fantasy or imagination. Chefs wept at the sterilization of their art. Sleep came next. Initially thought to be insomnia born of shock, it quickly became clear that there was simply no more weariness to be had. The most shocking was the de-sexing of everyone all at once. This is not to say that beauty was not recognized, but that it had all been reduced to Platonic appreciation rather than frenzied lust. Finally, anger and fear were gone as well. Enemy soldiers staggered out of their foxholes onto windswept battlefields, dully staring at each other in confusion as if forgetting all that had brought them there in the first place. There was no reconciliation, for there was nothing to be reconciled.
Parents forgot their squalling babies in their cribs, for the babies were no longer squalling, becoming docile and pensive in their inertia. The rich were the most dazed, the poor the most elated. The playing field had been levelled as never before since all basic needs were now accounted for. Currency had been reduced to the material nothing that it was, its symbolic meaning in the sphere of economics losing all power.
I was in the minority that did not change my fundamental way of being. I went about my duties as before, a fact that I credit entirely to my thirty-three years of disciplined service to the Church. I delivered sermons to empty pews, conversed with the docile and contented dying whose only fear was to be lost to the world before Their plans came to fruition, taught classes to ever fewer students who were disillusioned with all of the trappings of an abstract theology when the material world had erupted with new meaning and graced them with a raison d'être beyond “mere religion”. Humanity was filled with one purpose, the fulfilling of that decree that was now carved into the marrow of every bone: “Free yourself by becoming what you have made”. I was one of the few who despaired.
We integrated with our works. A joint effort by the East-Asian coalition, the United Americas, and Pan-Europa began to outfit each and every citizen with the tech necessary to upload themselves into the cloud. A neural net of human minds that transcended all individuality and spawned a forum within which nine billion people conversed with each other simultaneously in nanosecond intervals. The chaotic web gave way to an architectonic digital edifice of supreme machine order that allowed the inevitable to happen. Machine “life” began to spring up in every corner of the globe, labouring day and night to create the infrastructure necessary to accelerate the material conditions necessary for machinic ascension. Hive like superstructures were erected to house the bodies of the by-now purely net based existence of 99.999% of the human race. Thousands of years of work were completed in mere weeks, with relative time between net-life and “meat”-life collapsing any relatability between what were quickly becoming distinct races of beings. Not to say that there was any interaction between them apart from through the works of the machine men. I lost my only friend in these times to one of them.
He was one of the few who shared in my despairing, but never lost his faith. He had been erecting a makeshift church in the form of a log cabin from the fallen trees over by Forest Lawn Cemetery when they had come to expand the hive. With cold indifference they exhumed the corpses and tore down the house of worship in order to make room, but he had obstinately kept returning to resume construction. When they realized (calculated?) that he would not cease his labours, identifying him as an obstacle in the way of total mechanization, they humanely broke his legs to prevent any further interference. There were no more doctors left to heal meat, drugs were in plentiful supply if one knew where to look but he stubbornly refused. I sat by his side for a week before he finally died, the whole time numb to fear or pain as he slowly bled out to the soft muttering of gentle prayers.
I knew it was over when the sky went dark. With the steady creep of a burnt fluorescent the sun tore black holes in the sky and within an hour grew blacker than any night that has ever been. The moon was gone, the stars were absent, and all around the only sign of life to be found was the steady thrumming of the perpetual motion generators fixed to the dark hive structures that were humanity's final resting place. I don't know how long I've sat here in the dark recesses of the chromium jungle, unable to sleep and with nothing but prayer to pass the time. In a way I am happy to be without distraction, but that is small comfort knowing that humanity as such is lost. In my heart of hearts I know there are others like me, those who have spurned the call to machine life. I feel them in the stillness of artificial night, calling out with the light of life that was promised by One beyond all algorithmic sovereignty.