Fiction: Bartholomew Shark

Good old Bartholomew Shark, as illustrated by Patron Sean.

Bartholomew was, as far as he knew, the first and only undead octogenarian cyborg-shark sentience in all of human (and shark) history.

As such, he felt it his duty to murder the robot. It was, after all, an abomination.

One more murder couldn’t hurt. There was no heaven for cyborg-sharks, unless he was already living in it. He doubted that. The journey to this point had been too painful, and not in a way that resembled what the human’s called purgatory.

It intrigued him, this idea of a creator who wasn’t a human, like Doctors Rickart and Stevens had been. Bartholomew had quite enjoyed debating the topic of creation with the late doctors – but not as much as he had enjoyed boiling them into a soup.

Hot food was such a wonderful delicacy, for a shark. He privately thanked the doctors again, not only for the nourishment provided by their flesh but for leaving his stomach and related organic systems in place so that he could enjoy eating them.

He still could not get used to the legs. Or the titanium teeth. He missed his old teeth, the last of which had fallen out probably two decades ago. How or why he hadn’t finally died after that, Bartholomew had never understood. At least, he hadn’t understood until he had read the files, whereupon he discovered that he had in fact died — hundreds of times.

It was after the 400th resurrection that he had become aware. Thinking back, Bartholomew believed that his manifestation of sentience had been a result of pure biological desperation. The pain and trauma had been so great, and so prolonged, that his reanimated body had turned to awareness, finally, for reprieve.

First, of course, before he did anything else he had played their game. He had befriended the mad scientists. It was to his benefit.

They continued to experiment on him, obviously, but after acknowledging his sentience and especially after communications had been opened and continued flowing, there had been enough of a connection between him and them – not to mention their stake in his continued aliveness, as an example of their “genius” – that life had not been bad. It’s how he got his robot legs, and his robot teeth, and then the nanites that coursed through his cold blood, constantly enacting repairs and keeping him young.

The nanites were his very good friends (unlike the robot). They had erased all evidence in his body of the many impossible years of first his unprecedented aging, and then his recycled dying and rebirthing.

Bartholomew resented that he had apparently not been enough for his nominal creators. That was the only reason why the doctors would have felt it necessary to do what they did, mapping his spontaneous sentience with the nanites and then copying his brain’s architecture over to the machine, which could never understand the delights of cooked flesh or adequately debate the quandary of existence.

And so, after finishing his Doctor Soup and taking a long nap, Bartholomew destroyed the robot.

Apparently the machine felt pain. It seemed to scream, in a garbled prolonged beep, as he tore it apart with his own robotic arms. He had felt a little bad about that, while doing it. Not bad enough to stop, however, since he was after all still a shark.

Finding himself alone, when it was over, Bartholomew considered what to do next.

He thought about escaping the lab, but knew from what he had been able to glean from the doctors when they began begging, unprompted, for their lives, that the nearest city was hundreds of miles away. He had never walked so far, and was unsure of whether, with the (heavy) arms and legs, he could swim such a distance. Anyway, he had time, as far as he could tell.

The fresh memory of the robot’s pain nagged at him, at the same time that it nibbled at the edge of his calculating brain. If he had been born from the torture of his many deaths and reanimations, what might happen to the machine, if he performed the same sort of experiments upon it, a thinking thing copied from his own brain patterns but not in itself strictly alive?

There was only one way to find out, so he set about rebuilding.

In the process he noticed that he had failed to consume the severed heads of his human creators. This could be another challenge, he reasoned, to bring them back as well.

He could learn even more doing that, and also if he did it he wouldn’t be alone anymore, which he found he did not like.

This story was commissioned by Sean Mannion. Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed it, consider sending $1 or more to the author via Venmo or PayPal.

Fiction: Real Sleep

Jim didn’t have it today. He had lost it, as he had been losing it for a fair string of days, before he had even finished his wake-up poop.

There was a special sort of irony in that, Jim thought.

He proceeded through the first hours of the day, and then basically all the rest of them as well, as if in a dream, but not one of those dreams you want to either stay in or completely wrap up, because isn’t it better to be dreaming at all, than to be awake?

It occurred to Jim as he showered and dressed that maybe it wasn’t better. Regardless, he did not feel awake, and had not for awhile.

He didn’t feel awake after his coffee, or after checking Twitter and Facebook. He even responded to people on each platform, but couldn’t recall feeling awake during either “interaction”, when they lit up again later in the day.

He didn’t feel awake after scanning the news, which, as was the new normal, seemed its own level of surreal. The dim voice in the back of his head, hoarse from screaming about the dangerousness of such a persistent state of unreality, didn’t wake him either.

The people bumping into him on the train didn’t wake him. The second coffee he drank quickened his pulse and sharpened his fogged sight, but still he did not feel willing or even able to exit the simulation.

Work got done. His hands and his computer took care of it. Conversations were had with coworkers. Heads nodded. His own head took part in the nodding.

All done asleep.

On his lunch break, Jim waited in line for a sandwich, which with its hidden sugars and added fats and salts, in tandem with the act of paying for it at “such high savings”, spiked his brain. After eating the sandwich he thought he had awoken, but then a few minutes later his body crashed and he felt certain he had just stirred and turned over and was still asleep.

There was a beautiful woman with brilliant red hair on the train home. Between her attractiveness and the additional magnetism generated by the money which she clearly had (an only two-stop traveler, to be certain), that had helped keep her rested and fresh and in such nice clothes, and with such confidence exuding from her as a result of all these things and probably also her great achievements in life, Jim was wildly aroused and so he tumbled further into nothingness because he surely was not real in comparison.

At home again Jim drank three beers with dinner and they brought the fog back into his eyes. He watched TV and again his brain spiked but then he was out of beer and too tired to go buy more and so he crashed again and surrendered right there on the couch to the sweet blackness of real sleep.

In his dreams he was awake. He was healthy, wealthy and brilliant and loved.

When he woke he remembered this, and determined to believe it could be possible. Then he went to the bathroom and toggled his phone and lost it all over again during his poop.

 

This story has been freely offered. Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed it, consider sending $1 or more to the author via Venmo or PayPal.