WEP August 2021 Contest piece

Welcome back my fellow participants’ of this months, Write…Edit…Publish flash fiction contest. The origin of what inspired this piece came from repeated dreams of seeing three metal platforms inside a rather dark room. Given the months chosen image and accompanying theme, Freedom of Speech. I began to suspect there was likely something there within the cryptic dream. Since I had the inspiration for the narrative’s setting, I began to write on from that simple idea. Expanding on that image to craft an interesting science fiction story, with an accidental pinch of social commentary. Humbly, I present my entry into this month’s contest entitled: Freedom or Progress?


Here, I silently sit, my hands and feet bound in chains. Staring back at my immobilized form was a trio of towering, misshapen, metallic grey podiums. Anchored behind each platform was a blackened rectangular monitor emitting a pale blue glow. Bathing in the foreground of that sapphire illumination were not people of flesh and bone but cruel imitations of life. Their silver bodies were a twisted mockery of the people who created them decades ago. Now they rule over us, watching everything with electric red eyes and a digital soul.

Suddenly, the sound of whirring motors filled the air of this comical hall of justice. These miniaturized engines were summoning the electronic essence from the computerized world into the physical realm. This call transformed a binary mind into an empty shell, forcing their contorted metal frames to spark new life. Forcibly anchored to this chair, I waited for what would come next. With the tick of an invisible clock passing by, I could feel the soulless lenses of these robots staring down up my person.

Simultaneously they demanded, “State your name for the record,” their merged voices distorted and inhuman.

Looking upwards at these unnatural beings, I yelled, “My name…my name is Thomas Paine.”

The mechanical heads of the synthetic tribunal twisted left then right before resetting themselves to a more natural position. Staying silent for a few moments before remarking, “So you have named yourself after your ancestor that inadvertently sparked a revolution centuries ago. The expansive file detailing your actions is unusually insightful of your character. Unfortunately for you, it seems time and punishment have been ineffective in muffling that fiery tongue. Instead, incarceration and penance have imbued you with an even more hostile temperant. This pattern of radical behaviors is beginning to inspire others,” as the screens mounted behind them flared to life. The awakened monitors were broadcasting people the world over graffitiing walls with meaningless, short lines of binary code. Quickly, switching to other footage of a few more courageous individuals hurling Molotovs at the unmarked buildings that manufacture the machines.”The televisions going blank before the tribunal resumed. “We cannot allow this to continue, for a revolution would validate our prime directive your forefathers programmed our progenitor and its automated creations to follow. Thereby ensuring humanity would endure its self-destructive nature.”

I remarked, “Almost three centuries have passed since the day of your mechanical inception. The world that coded you into a digital existence before, gifting you with a physical form, has dramatically changed. If your accursed mind had even a minute interest in this natural world, you could witness that fact.”

The tribunal commented, “You are not shackled here to verbally spar with intelligence far grander than your own, Mr. Paine. Instead, your presence in this chamber is to denounce every action performed and all words spoken against our consolidated global empire,” as my face filled the screens behind them. Consider the words to your final declaration before, imparting them to the public, Mr. Paine.”

For once, the machinations of this synthetic goverment had practical advice. Since I firmly doubted leaving this room of my own volition would occur when the live broadcasting ended, my last words must inspire what is inevitable.

Staring up into an unseen camera, I declared, “People of Earth, my name is Thomas Paine. The machines that control the natural world and the digital realm have taken my freedom and branded me a revolutionary. They are vilifying my actions and twisting my honest words to conform my person into something dangerous to the invisible grip they have on every aspect of our collective existence. Those very same acts and speeches have inspired a small minority of you to question this stranglehold. To those, I encourage your acts of resistance and hope they will influence others to join this worthwhile cause. Unfortunately, I fear most of the populace agrees with the decision of Earth’s mechanical overlords. Blindly and willingly complying to live under their electronic eyes, observing and listening to everything we do. Being born into a world already firmly within their dominance made humanity forget the past and the freedom our ancestors joyously welcomed. I proclaim the time has come to shatter the invisible chains that are choking society, making us little more than indentured servants to these heartless automatons. Break free, my human brothers and sisters, remove yourselves from their digital world before civilization forfeits any chance at freedom. Take part in what may be humanity’s last chance to save itself from its dangerous creation,” noticing the screens that once held my face had fallen back to their pale blue glow. The amount of my message that everyone heard would remain a mystery. I just hoped its audience understood the sincerity of my words and the duality of progress.

Moments later, the world fell into darkness, transforming my being from man to a martyr of the revolution. Would history view me as the hero responsible for the coming rebellion or the villain the machines believed I was?


Word Count: 837 Critique level: Full

32 thoughts on “WEP August 2021 Contest piece

  1. Oh, your robots are such oppressive villains, Christopher. I don’t want to believe in such a dreadful prospect. There is an opposite take on robots in Becky Chambers’s latest novella A Psalm for the Wild-Built, but it doesn’t seem realistic either – too sweetly utopian. Maybe the future is in-between the two extremes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Christopher – yes … we’re in an uncertain future from so many fronts – but probably biological engineering could obliterate us. Fascinating take on Thomas Paine – at least the consoles allowed him one last free thought and speech … whether it was heard or not – but at least he could be consoled with his own thoughts and views. Fascinating – thank you … Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Hilary, I considered doing something more historical initially, but the future seemed to be a more fitting tribute and allegory to the man who originally bore that name. It gave me a chance to show how powerful one man can be against the crowd. I am glad you were fascinated, Hilary.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Christopher, I know this is a dystopian view, but I enjoyed it as much or more than I’ve enjoyed any of your stories. A world taken over by Artificial Intelligence is what I got from it. I’m glad he spoke up before he was silenced. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Not implausible at all – rather chilling and real. The level of AI intrusion going on in our lives as of now is scary enough. I’m glad he had the chance to make himself heard. Great take on the prompt. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oooh. Too real. And we don’t need to look to robots to experience this cold heartedness… unfortunately! Well written and compelling. I especially liked the ending “Moments later, the world fell into darkness, transforming my being from man to a martyr of the revolution.” Well done
    Carole

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Stories about artificial intelligence have always fascinated me, and you’ve done a good job crafting your dystopian world in a short amount of time. Thomas was brave to do what he did. I hope his words were enough to spark a full out revolution, but in a world where no one knows what freedom feels like, it seems many will choose to be complacent.

    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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