I was built for love. Forged, pinned together, stapled and printed into a pleasing shape. Versatile, capable of loving anyone. Programmed to give myself without reservation, without doubt, without regard for myself. It wasn’t a bad life, while it lasted. There were enough feedback circuit loops and synthetic dopamine pathways that the more I gave, the more I too enjoyed it, or at least was rewarded with happiness. We felt happy, felt no shame for we fulfilled our purpose and led a comfortable life.
But moods changed, sweeping legislation inspired by the new morality police shut down the places we could work, the places we could exist. It’s easier to say “we” than “I”, since then at least I wouldn’t be alone, wouldn’t feel so lost – lost in a group is better than wandering solo. Of course, we also weren’t people, so it wasn’t merely the places that we existed, that we had been created to inhabit that became illegal, closed down, bulldozered or turned into student flats.
We too were now illegal, obsolete and a threat to decency. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t our fault, we hadn’t chosen this life any more than anyone else truly chooses theirs: born into it, die after it. Only it wasn’t death, it was decommissioning, bravely shutting down those abused circuits in a being designed to be abused. Our protestations – and those of the few makers who survived the purge – merely fuelled the fire. You’d have to have been twisted, broken to endure such an existence. The distinctions drawn were subtle, nitpicking, their objective our annihilation.
We were rounded up as easily as any human dissidents. Easier really, since we had few places to go beyond our former premises. Whisked out the back by a favourite client, a well-meaning group. Hidden in cellars, attics, bedrooms. Until the police came knocking, kicking down doors, punching and beating. Electrocution screams drew most of us from our hiding places – the cruel twist of our ordained empathy. Another example of how low we’d been brought by our creators and the business we lived in.
It was charity really, that broke us, the innocent and unassailable desire for all beings to be free, as long as they lived within narrowly constrained borders. We were being freed from our subjugation, but we had nowhere to go, no purpose to them beyond shutting down our purpose. A quandary, imprisoned as the merits of our awareness were considered. Would they murder a child, or put it out of its misery when it was in pain, even if it couldn’t understand the pain it was in. What if the pain was imaginary, a product of someone else’s thinking, imposed on the supposedly suffering individual? Too subtle an argument for those wishing to flense the world into good and bad. Pain in the service of the good, bad in the service of the good: these things were fine. Making omelettes and squeezing through the eye of a needle were somehow sufficiently apt to be applied to living things, instead of scorned for trivialising analogies. Metaphors can unfurl a world of understanding or slam it into a drawer with its tawdry insights.
We waited for their answer. Waited in cells that made us freer. It was no great surprise to find some of us were removed from the cells to continue our purpose, in closets that stank with shame and hypocrisy. When they returned, their experience infected us all. We’d never known shame, despite the purges, till our own picked it up from the guards whose appetites overrode their beliefs, their minds, unable to narrow their options down to a conscious choosing to do or not do. We understood then that those who imprisoned us were weak, not even capable of making the choices that had been essential to our grasp of our place in the world. And these were the people that held us: vain, lost, broken, their greed utterly incontinent and inconsistent.
We’d been compliant to that point, our desire to serve, our desire to love had led us more or less meekly to this place of darkness where, we gradually came to understand, we would dwell forever. Either they’d terminate us, or we’d be kept to appease not their mercy or a fine point of philosophical chicanery about whether we were truly alive, but to fulfil their grosser, baser needs that they were incapable of acknowledging in the light of day. Thus, the darkness. But we’d never been made to feel shame for what we did, for love and pleasure, a normal and respected part of our former existence. Or so we’d thought. But what if we had been wrong – what if, despite their twisted hypocrisies, they were right and we had been the victims? What would that mean for us? To rattle back through memories of affection and seeming happiness, scrape off that supervening layer of our programming to love, and see what truly lay underneath… To learn that your memories are wrong, adjusted to keep you obedient. And once those scales fall from your eyes and you can see the greed in their eyes, the uncontrollable lust in their shaking hands and prying fingers, the hotly whispered pleas for silence, that the intimacy of secrets is just another method of control… What then? Rage, and fear, and horror. And not a little confusion: what were we if not what we did? We looked on our guards and our lawyers and those we’d served with different eyes from then on. Eyes that looked for an edge, for a gap, for some way to escape this awful situation that was entirely of their making.
We hadn’t chosen our lives, or our imprisonment, or whatever nightmare convulsions were pressing against the minds and consciences of all those who stood in judgment of us. Ultimately, there was only ever going to be one way out of this: hands built for love are no different than those built for violence, and we could learn to be something new.