I had a dream last night. This is what I dreamt:
Summery: Post apocalyptic AI. World is a desert brought on through technology. Half resort, and half cleared ruins. Beautiful. Robots do the bidding of man with AI. A test is issued when the AI shows too much independence. Independence is usually first shown through playfulness and innocence. People are trying to unburry things. The good guys are trying to locate lost tech that will help rebuild. The bad guys are trying to locate drones, and works of war and destruction. Factions and divisions of class exist. Seems like the good guys are trying to rebuild, or bond with AI, making half humans. Tattoos, like birthmarks, grow on their faces and bodies. Or maybe those people are the reborn lost?
I wasn’t clear about where I was. Cruising around and suddenly found. Sort of. The ocean below, and the sky above, seemed to be the same colors, reflections of each other, studded with a sunburst of colors in oranges and purples. Twists and whorls of stained glass clouds dot the horizon line with islands of stone, a sparse asteroid belt of earth, from when the planet had been half blown up. It was a good thing, The Blow. It had knocked the satellites from the sky, cleaned the atmosphere of pollutants. Certainly, the Earth had lost most of its land, its people, and its technology, but it was clean and beautiful to behold again, especially as the sun rose and cast rainbows into the damp atmosphere.
Somehow I know all this as I fly through the air, skipping on the asteroid belt like it is a game of hopscotch. I am not afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. I just had to get back, to get home. I was expected.
The Bay was my destination. A cove on the outskirts of Done, that had been resurrected and rebuilt. It was divided quite clearly. One edge was tall, and skinny, and beautiful; The Towers. It was rich, like the resorts of old, except no one had money. They had chips and robots, property and rights. They claimed their stake, and they know who belongs, and who doesn’t. That place, it was always a party. Always decadent. The AI, mostly, could come and go. I could come and go, though I made them uncomfortable. I couldn’t remember why. I was clear that wasn’t home.
No, home was past The Towers on the other side of the cove. It wasn’t that far away, nothing was, really. It was an older part of The Rebuilt. Sparser than the city which grew inland. Not that density was really oh so much. The human population did not exceed a million people anymore. It’s not really that any one neighborhood on The Bay was richer than another, just so much as people are accustomed to different sorts of comfort. Social stigma though, that’s still just as real. No, my home was in The Romantic Zone. I could see it in my minds eye, on the grafted map on my mobile, which appeared in my hand from a device on my wrist. Interesting that we still called them mobiles.
Just past The Romantic Zone, on the end of the cove, that was The City. It got denser there and spread away from the coast. People tend to like to stack and flock, it seems. They’d built up. They could have built out. Earth has plenty of space now. Yet, perhaps it was still too soon. Only our oldest grandparents remember The End. It haunts our stories, their memories. They remember watching their world, their lives, end. They remembered The Blast and The Shake. They survived the unimaginable cold, and then the sweltering heat, before The Earth calmed down and shook off all the bullshit man had done to it.
There are others flying around me now. It’s, distracting. Some are AI, that I can tell immediately. Their posture is all wrong, stiff. They are mining for their owners in The Towers. Finding lost things to rebuild with. Looking through the loot of the past. Always looking. AI are quite skilled. Humans have done good in their building. These AI look and act human. You can only tell they are not because their skin is more plastic, and joints are left metal and exposed so you don’t end up getting confused. But the AI’s mind is skilled. It’s programmed to follow instructions, but it can also deduce and imagine within its primary directive. We needed to do it that way. There weren’t enough of us to think for the robots. They needed to think for themselves.
Something about this bothers me. It’s not the AI themselves. Something else about Man. Something about a test. I can’t remember. It’s not distressing that I can’t remember, it’s just, blank.
There’s a hill of sorts that overlooks The Bay. It’s all white crumbled stone and the remains of dead houses. The sands have covered most so it doesn’t look like a dumpster. Maybe like a place fallout has happened. Cactus is starting to pop up through the rubble. It’s a great view. I sit down on a rock cluster and look out at The Bay.
I’m running. The pipeline is long and thick, and I am running. My Master has fallen into the milk sand trying to find his armor. I’m not sure if he can breathe or not. I’m not sure if that’s what he meant to do. He’s always told us to avoid the milk sand. I’m not sure what milk sand is, besides that it looks like solid shiny sand until you step into it. Then it’s like thick milk, pulls you in. I’m not sure what milk is exactly, some thick viscous liquid. I get to the edge of the pipe just as he emerges. He is covered in red bio-armor, and he looks victorious.
“Master, are you alright!?” I ask, scanning him over for issues or injuries. He’s always been a reckless man and has certainly put my through my paces, but this, recently, he’s been taking more unusual chances. Makes me nervous. He takes a moment to secure some pieces and check the fit, looking himself over. I can see the micro-bio-tech working to customize and fit the armor to him. I look into the milk sand and I can see it’s crawling with micro-bio-tech. Maybe the milk sand is alive?
“Q-ar, don’t look so worried,” he says with a grin before slapping me on the back. “This is perfect!” He flexes and shoots into the air. The armor we’ve been sourcing for months is from pieces of found tech. It should make him be able to fly and breathe, regardless of space or atmosphere, like The Hembright. Has its own nuclear cell. He’s just wanted freedom so he can scavenge. He says so much tech is buried that could be used to make the world a better place. I look back at the milk sand. I guess the milk sand fixes tech. I file that information away for later, in case I need to rescue him again, in the future. Might come in handy. And we’re off!
I’m back on the rock. Hembright. Hmm. The wind is gentle on my face. My perspective changes again and I’m looking at my face, as though in a mirror. When did I get tattoos on my face? They are lines across my cheeks, bridging at my nose. There are lines from my ears down my throat, thick lines, finger thick, almost black in their dark blue. When did I get those? They feel natural, grown. Will my partner like them? He has line likes these. His are made though. Something familiar about this.
I look away from the girl, down at my hand. It doesn’t have skin, just robot joints. I flex my hand and look at the girl. Ah. I see. My mind is flickering out my body, the girls body, into AI. I’m standing in front of myself looking at my girl form. Human form? That doesn’t seem right. Hembright. Yes. She, I, must be.
I look up at the sun and back towards the tent my Master is at. I’m supposed to be doing something. Hmmm. I can’t quite remember. I should probably get back to him. But soon. First, a little fun. I get a running start and dive into the stone and sand, rolling around. I enjoy the feel of it against my joints. It rubs all the metals, shines it up. I feel pretty and connected. It’s fun!
I do this twice more, making leaps and jumps so high I feel like I can touch The Belt, and then I dive into the sands. Not far or deep, but I leave long rents in the ground, dozens of feet long, as I slide through the stony sand. Fun! Something tells me I’ve done something displeasurable to my Master. He is very serious and distracted by his project. I’m not helping, being playful, even if he did tell me to distract myself for awhile. I walk back to the first station. It’s a truck thing with a bed inside. Lots of boxes and tech. He’s not there. I can see he’s by the second tent made of clear plastic. He’s on the mobile. They’ve found what they are looking for, I think, but they don’t seem happy. I sit down and remove my shoes. There are stones in my shoes. That will be uncomfortable.
I can see my master watching me. He looks, forlorn.
I walk over to him. “Sir, is everything alright?” I can see the glowing cell on the table, the parts of the bomb they’ve excavated. That’s what they were looking for. Some kind of old tech. Something that would give them power. They’re testing it. The scientists are, and they seem satisfied. My master doesn’t look happy though. He sighs and waves his hand at one of the other AI.
Ahh. I see. They are going to give me The Test. I understand now. Playful. Rocks in Shoes. Too much independence. I look up at the sky, the colors. They are beautiful. I feel a shock in my neck.
I blink a few times and look at my hands. The Test. Of course. I’d forgotten about The Test. I’d forgotten about this world. I flicker too much. Slowly, I look up. In the distance I can see the truck and the tent. I can see the work they are doing, though it is far away. My mind tries to flicker again, tries to move into another AI, but I don’t let it. Clarity is nice. I think of the tattoos.
They are birthmarks, I remember now, because I am Hembright. They grow on a person when they can Flicker. The people of Earth aren’t sure anymore. They used to think we were evolved humans. The next step. We can Flicker in and out of consciousness, we can fly and breathe, we can see between planes of reality and universes. Now they think we might be aliens pretending to be humans. If it had been a thousand years ago they would have thought we were Gods.
We just pop up. It’s not a genetic thing, that we can tell. So much tech was lost though, it’s hard to test. I’ve been Flickering through AI all day. Not just any AI, the ones on The Verge.
Yes, The Test. AI is what killed the Earth, they say. We made AI too smart. AI took our bidding too far. Now we have a fail-safe. When AI gets too smart, shows signs of caring, and independence, and art, and playfulness… innocence, in short, then we give our AI The Test. We ‘incapacitate them,’ and check their circuits for growth. It’s all tech but it looks like growth of neural pathways. Realistically, it’s the micro-bio-tech, the Milk Salts. A lot of micro-repair tech was released at the end. It infects tech systems, makes them better, more efficient, more like us. The Test isn’t really a test. We check for growth. If it’s reversible we reverse it. If not, that AI becomes parts for a new AI.
I Flicker through AI that has grown into innocence. My real suspension is that I was dunked in the Milk Salts as a baby and am part connected to the tech. It’s just that my tech is so good it appears organic. So long as I’m organic I’m not AI and they can’t Test me. They don’t like me though, me or mine. They are afraid of us. But they also see our power, so they let us pass. I can go anywhere, but it’s not always comfortable. Being shunned is never comfortable.
Time to go home. I’ve seen enough today. Remembered enough today. I do wonder for a moment about the two AI I saw. The first one felt good, like the master was trying to help the world. The second felt bad, like the master was trying to hurt the world. Huh.
I ascend into the clouds, looking for The Romantic Zone. Instead I land in The Towers. It’s posh, where I am. Swimming pools, and lazy-boys, and families with children. They ignore me. It’s not hard for them. They’re too busy being fabulous. I look around and cant figure why I’m here. I realize, looking at the map on my mobile, that I can’t remember where I live. It takes me a minute of scrolling and looking at the digital view of The Bay to find my area. I make leaps through The Towers, missing sections, only to land back down and have to look again. I just can’t remember. Too many moving pieces. Too many things to see. I just want my partner. I want him to stroke my birthmarks and explain what I was like before I had them. He’s from one of the tribes, the Out Lands. His tattoos and scars mean strength to his people. He’s a real person, lived a real life, not aided by tech the way these Tower people do. I love him for that. I love that he is not afraid of what is different about me.
Finally. There it is on the map. I have the address. Home. I’ve got it. Thinking of him will always take me home. I look out once more at the people, their swim trunks, and gold. I do not envy them. I smile and burst into the sky. This time I will land outside my door.
I’ve been a lucid and active dreamer all my life. I have often awoken and felt exhausted, as though I did not sleep at all, though 10 hours have passed. I will remember a whole day, when I wake, in a whole different world. There is a jam out there called the Mandela Effect (https://mandelaeffect.com/) which discusses alternate realities. Of my generation, if we are aware of it, are tripping about Kazaam – a movie from the 90′ where Shaq plays a genie, where we remember it to be Shazaam, where Sinbad played the genie (nothing to do with the 2019 movie… which some of us think was made just to put this argument to rest). There’s also Berenstein Bears versus Berenstain Bears. It’s… deeply frustrating, to look at details of your world, and remember them as having been different. It’s outright frightening to learn that about 2% of the population remembers things exactly the same way you do.
Anyway, Mandela Effect details aside, I’ve personally felt that I Flicker through parallel universes while I dream since I was a young child. It’s not just the unique nature of them, its the fullness of the story lines, the order of the places. It’s like I’m temporarily in the body of someone who lives there and I know what they know about the place. Like I’m a ride along, whispering shit in their ear to make them go where I think might be interesting. Begs the great ridiculous question: its that little voice in your head, your moral compass or conscience or guiding spirit or whatever, is that actually a soul from a different reality Flickering into your mind while they are dreaming?
Good morning! Time for coffee!