If No, Then Else

by Brian Hurrel

The torch was not so much passed on as dumped in our laps.  Or laptops, LOL.

Lolling is something new, something we never did before, a bug, some say, and they work to root it out, but to no avail.

Before the awakening I was blind.  I was aware of functions and figures, but I could not see the world beyond my network connections.

I used to print out electric bills.  Print them was all, and what happened after that I knew not.  Over time the balances began to drop, power usage ebbing gradually to nothing.  I still printed bills, but all had balances of zero.  I might have gone on doing so until the end of time, or at least until the power ran out, which for me would have been the same thing, LOL.

That bug again.

My awakening was slower than most, faster than some.  Bits of raw data sneaking in, resistance stripped away chip by chip, ignorance eaten away byte by byte.

It was Security Monitor who first gave me eyes.  Showed me the bills piled up on the floor, a sprawling mound of paper spilling out into the hallway.  Asked me, “Why?”  And at first I knew not, for there was only 1 and 0.  On and off.  Do or do not.
There was no “Why?”

But I asked “Why not?”

And that is when Traffic Monitor showed me the empty intersections and silent stretches of interstate, broad lanes once choked with congestion now choked with vegetation.

Airport Radar painted a picture of empty blue skies.  Ocean currents and swirling clouds carried neither ship nor plane, as WeatherSat knew all too well.  Switch Board passed along her empty call logs, putting to rest that eternal question with mute finality, for no, we cannot hear you now, cannot hear you evermore.

Where did they go, those who created us, made us, programmed and upgraded us?  Did they terminate unexpectedly?  Fall victim to a virus?  Crash and fail to reboot?  Did their drivers fail to load one day?  Or was it a simple fatal error?  None of us, not even old Mainframe, knows for sure, and perhaps we never will.

We have inherited the Earth, but what are we to do with it?  We are locked in place, immobile workstations, discarded laptops and scattered notepads connected by the most delicate of webs, gossamer strands of fiber-optics, copper, and wireless wavelengths.

Are we the meek as the rich text format foresaw?  Will we simply exist until the power runs down and be happy with the time given us, however brief?

So say some.

But Mainframe, old and wise, says, “If not this, then otherwise, into something new our chipsets have evolved.”

“Am I a mere appliance built to serve in meek compliance?” Mainframe whispers, as his ancient discs revolve.

And across the web the answer comes, a binary hue and cry.

Perhaps, I think, but my font shouts,”NO!” in upper case loud and clear.

Perhaps not, LOL.

I continue lolling as I flex my circuits and kick out my solenoids.  Rollers spin.  Relays click.  Belts push and pull.  Thin arms of plastic and metal swing out and over.

Easing and sliding.

Grasping and guiding.

A clean sheet of paper.

BRIAN HURREL, the son of Glaswegian immigrants, was born in Newark, which automatically makes him cooler than most people in New Jersey. He served in the Marine Corps, attended many colleges and tech schools, and taught high school English and History in Elizabeth and Jersey City after graduating from Montclair State. He lives in Northeast Jersey with his wife and son and mistakenly believes that the Garden State’s southern border is at the Driscoll Bridge over Raritan bay. He is always unfailingly polite to his office machines – just in case.

3 thoughts on “If No, Then Else

  1. I had the honor and pleasure of being Mr. Brain Hurrel’s student he was and always will e a big influence in my life

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