Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 318

Manic today, which could be one reason for having spent almost entirely no time on social media so far today. I also think it’s partly the balancing effect of being on mastodon, too, which is such an unshouty place I feel no huge need to go and rebut lies put up by right-wing politicians. Although, it has to be said, in the five minutes I spent on twitter this morning, I was busy doing just that. Some of this all points me in that direction my thoughts often go in, which is that social media is probably totally unnecessry except when you’re trying to publicise yourself. The problem, of course, is that hybrid authors like me rely on social media to get themselves out there (mainly unsuccessfully for me, I must admit, especially as my twitter feed over the last 6 years has been mainly about politics – and there the question raises itself in my mind as to why the hell I wasn’t more politically active on there prior to that).

Pffft. This is as well the place, that place, between a rock and a hard place, I find myself in. I don’t want to appear self-centred, but if you’re trying to prmo yourself, you’re almost forced to talk about yourself to the exclusion of everything else. And I find myself looking at myself and listening to myself – and reading this – and seeing myself talk about myself most of the time. It’s a little uncomfortable, that realisation, that knowledge, and I do try to turn off the talking about me when I’m in private, but it can be awfully difficult, especially as it can often be a good way of getting people to open up, talking about yourself for a tiny amount of time before you start listening to others for a long time.

Yes, this is going in circles, partly because I couldn’t really think of anything substantive to write (and those two thought paragraphs have been in my head for quite some time and it was about time I wrote them down), and partly because the days become so curtailed by the early dark (and associated damp) that they seem to shrivel into nothingness. I’m just glad O and I went for an invigorating walk through the Heath before noon – it was glorious, and there was still some of the early morning mist dancing between the trees, leaping from what leaves were left on one tree to the leaves left on the other. And the crowd of dog walkers or baby walkers that sometimes irritate me when I go for a pre-noon walk were conspicuous by their (welcome) absence, too. I could have spent all my early afternoon up there, but that wasn’t to be, nor can it be all the time. Grateful for small times. Tomorrow is forecast to be horrid, and M and I are going for our C19 vaccine boosters.

Just to close, however much I love sport, I am really annoyed that the BBC has once again cancelled quiz night on BBC2.



But Aggie changes her mind. She dresses again quickly, her guilt evaporating for the moment. She stills her mind, so that instead of rushing and running and longing, it slows down, becomes analytical and methodical and focused. She swallows down her feeling of distaste for dead bodies, reminds herself that he is not a body but a machine. And then she sets about dismantling him, in the hope that she might find some weakness, and if she finds no weakness, then maybe a way to release any future robots she might encounter from Valentine’s control. She assumes that Valentine has totally cut himself off from this useless lump of materials now, that he must be thinking she’ll have left the room as soon as he’d terminated the thing. But part of her feels it’s wrong to call him a thing, this motionless, almost decapitated form, his existence ended just as he was trying to become sentient in his own right, when he was trying to escape not just Valentine’s control but the values and urges that Valentine had implanted in him.

For some reason, she starts at his wrists which, now that she looks at them dispassionately, seem disproportionately thick compared with the rest of his body. Humans, whatever shape they are, seem to have narrow, small wrists, with all their strength in the sinews and muscles which run through the tight carpal tunnels and connect the arm to the hand. But not here. His wrists appear be be as wide as his palms plus the base of the thumb. She mutters meaningless sounds to herself, sighs, pulls up his trouser legs to reveal his ankles, pulls off his shoes and socks. It’s the same here, the ankles just about the width of the widest part of his feet, something that makes his physique seem clumsy, out of kilter. And it’s not as if they were swollen, like pregnant women’s ankles swell, but that they just are that way. Perhaps the mechanisms that drive these robots need more room than the natural connections humans like her have. She rotates one of his feet, still surprised at how real his skin feels to her, how easily it would be to assume he was human. Her hands move up to his calves, hairless, like his shins. There’s still warmth in here, some residual warmth. Perhaps it’s like an engine cooling down without the clicking ticking sounds the metal of it makes. There’s no sound, no stiffness to the rotation of the ankle, nor to the rotation of the knee she follows it up with.

Aggie wishes she had her stiletto with her, that sharp knife she gave Lily to keep safe, so she could use it as a scalpel. So, instead of being able to incise precisely and cleanly, she just sinks her hands into his stomach now, after she’s taken his shirt off (chest hairless but with nipples). There’s not the flood of robot oil or blood she expected, just the odd drip here and there, and there’s a stomach with the remnants of what he ate and drank on the plane. She recoils at the whiff of it, pulls it out, and puts it on the bed next to him. She won’t dig down into his bowels, because she’s sure Valentine wouldn’t have hidden the core of the machine there. And looked at entirely objectively, she thinks, it’s amazing that Valentine has managed to create such a perfect replica of a human. And inside that cavity, it all does seem human, except that all the connecting tisue seems to be made of some kind of plastic, not from organic material. She braces herself for the noise his joints will make when she breaks them apart to see what causes the thickness.

When she closes her eyes to visualise him on the plane, Aggie remembers he was right-handed, so she breaks apart his right wrist first. The metal that gleams back at her seems like silver, like some sort of precious treasure she’s uncovered underneath the shrinking flesh of this death. She turns his hand to be palm up, still attached to his arm, observes the thick anchoring line that seems to pass from the centre of the palm, up through the wrist, and then seems to lead up the arm to the shoulder. She opens up his palm, like peeling an orange, and there, at the centre of it, one tiny speck of alien machinery, something so small she might have missed it if she’d have allowed emotion to keep clouding her vision. And that’s when she decides she’ll need to excavate this whole network in one piece, from the palms up to here she’s sure it will lead. In a fit of unexpected sentimentality, Valentine must have centred everything, not on the brain of this machine, but on its heart.

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