F. woke up to a whirring sound and found himself scanning the room, which being mostly darkened – it was the dead of winter – usually meant a purblindness. Not this morning. In fact, he could see the full gamut of shades. In fact, he could see the computations in his field of vision. His eyes had a glass plate in front of them.
He was mildly fascinated by the sight. Numbers floated upwards, stopping at the top with colour, shade codes explaining what he was seeing. He thought he was looking at a camera readout. Though he couldn’t see a battery level symbol. Perhaps this would be on another screen?
A moment’s pause, then he realised how free he was of the aches and pains he usually felt on waking: headache, varying between mild nausea and acute bilious, room spinning, belisha-beacon throbbing: back spasms due to bad posture at work, given the nature of his pootering role up the dat of redundancy; assorted, less pressing but nevertheless present twinges in his middle-aged body.
But not today. This morning was painless. Yet, something disturbed him. Without any doubt he knew the time and date. A set of white figures in the left hand corner of his vision. He felt no hunger. He felt no enthusiasm. Although this morning it was indifference and not ambivalence. In fact he realised he felt nothing. The term feeling was merely a relic of yesterday. A residual memory. Probably more accurate to say he assessed, even calculated, that he felt nothing. His hand moved noiselessly, painlessly to view the cover gathered like a big top, in the region of his genitalia. Yet he felt nothing.
Usually he felt pleased at this morning ritual, this sign of his normal human functioning but this morning, although there was efficient functioning, he actually felt nothing. He imagined nothing, made none of his usual sensual associations with this sign of his manhood. Had he been capable, he would have felt disappointment but not this morning. There was absolutely no emotional reaction. Figurative logging of its mathematical achievement in angle, rigidity and projected length in time and space, but no more than that.
After only two minutes, thirty-two seconds, F. had achieved what he no longer could consider, given his new condition: F. was a mechanoid organism. Somehow, and we are the sole surviving witnesses to this perverse turn of event, F. had woken up as a machine.
Initially, F. wasn’t as astonished as we were, for obvious reasons. However, the metamorphosis was not complete: after he had efficiently, with only a modicum of sound – whirring mainly with the odd beep – gotten up and prepared to go to work, he suddenly felt, or thought he felt, or we perceived it to be felt, melancholy and a little panic.
How could he face his colleagues, the general public, his family?
This quandary was short-lived as he considered the situations and environments this entailed. At work it was expected to be something of an automaton, strangers also passed and commuted without any visceral acknowledgement and his family had long since given up on him and considered him a boring tit. Reassured and would-be saddened, F. motored his way efficiently to his place of work.
All but one person didn’t stir at the ‘new man’. It was her response that caused him further would-be sadness and spurred him to resist his new orientation. In an ironic sense, her expectations were as uniform as anyone else’s but her genuine and unique response to him on a daily basis was what made his present condition so inhumane and frustrating.
As the monotonous day progressed he became more and more frustrated and determined. Her rejection of him in his present state was testimony to the dynamic in their relatedness as she alone noticed the difference in his behaviour. She demanded more, not wilfully but by her very nature, which had a tolerance of ordinariness in exchange for conversation.
His efficient responses to her weren’t enough. She wanted that spark of quirky individuality that entertained her and served a purpose in alleviating the boredom of routine in the workplace.
Her rejection of him served to bring him closer as he too was perturbed by this cold efficiency that lacked his usual idiosyncratic take on the world. His sense of humour had been reduced to logarithmic calculation. Although his sense of communication with her had been heightened, he actually felt the absence of the vital anxiety of trying to please and stimulate her as a desired and distinct individual.
(to be continued..?)