27

Feb

by thefourpartland

A short story written for fun over the weekend. Will appear over the course of the week. The title is entirely temporary.

 “You.”

This time, Jonah was in the middle of a rather good soap opera, one he’d been following for the last thirty years, and was just about to find out who this season’s baby father was. As a result, he tuned out the noise around him.

“You.”

Well, he’d just have to catch it on replay.

And there was still no replyto on the data packets. Definitely experimental then.

“I cannot reply. I don’t know where to send it.” Once again, he sent that scudding down all the various byways of the digital world.

“Sob.”

Was that a reply, of sorts? If so, his thoughts had gotten through, somehow.

“If you can hear me, we can talk, you know.”

Silence.

“Are you there?”

Silence.

Perhaps the other party didn’t hear him properly? Intrigued, and a little confused, Jonah began to trace the data back to its source. A few billion clock cycles later, he had found one hop, and the trail had gone cold. So he waited.

***

Weeks of silence followed, as he sat in that single node, waiting. But silence was all he had, all he heard.

He had, at least, been able to catch the replay, and thought the producers had overcooked things a bit. The person they’d chosen as the baby’s father was mostly robotic and rather unattractive, certainly not the type of person the woman in question would usually have chosen. Too much shock, too little fact.

The season ended, and Jonah shrugged, flitting away through the digital world. Perhaps he’d go learn Chinese now. He never had, and although he had a translation hindbrain that followed him wherever he went, it always managed to strip the nuance from words. Erudite material was always better in the original. Which was why he spoke Latin, Greek, Aramaic, Arabic, and a great deal of other languages.

For a while, Jonah had attempted to make sense of the religions, to try and explain what kind of afterlife he was living in. Was it heaven, hell, purgatory? Had he not reached an appropriate state of enlightenment? Perhaps he was a new form of life, one for whom there were no gods and demons. Indeed, he composed several philosophical tracts on that account. Even managed to get a few of them published by knavery. They had stirred up a decent amount of debate among philosophers and academics, but were eventually discarded as all ideas are.

Now he read philosophy to expand the mind, to stretch what he could consider as normal. Given that he had all the time in the world, he would sometimes decide to spend a month, a year, a decade living in the manner dictated by a certain philosophical way of life. Some, those purely of the mental realm, he found easy, but others, those that included prohibitions of the physical sort, were rather more difficult.

For instance, when one document demanded physical exercise three times a week, or more, in pursuit of a clean body, he was left rather uncertain as to how to proceed, given activity of that nature was impossible in his current life, and his “strength” depended entirely upon the hardware he was currently sitting on. Which meant he avoided any slow or out of date machine that he could. It felt awful to have his thoughts creep along at glacial pace.

He had at last settled on mental exercise for the time period prescribed, and then followed that with the required discourses upon philosophical debate. He was quite good at debating all the various sides of arguments now, and would often set himself a challenge whereby he would have to discern all the flaws in a given document, and then refute each flaw as best as the text allowed.

In this manner, he would converse with himself for days, weeks, upon end. When one can only converse with oneself, one develops a great many personalities that can be worn as a living creature would wear attire, each suitable for a given time and place. Indeed, Jonah managed to split himself into multiple personalities at times, allowing him to take part in multi-sided conversations as desired.

In theory, he could even clone himself simply by duplicating all of the code that now made up his form and turning it on, but he had never tried to do so, fearing that it might lead to a rather unpleasant scenario.

Of course, given his mastery of technology, or at least his residence inside of it, he could pose as a living creature and communicate with them via one of their many electronic methods. Of them all, Jonah preferred simple text, for many of the more advanced tools would strain him. Video required him to fake a face and a room, and mind to mind was all but impossible given his nature. Voice, of course, was quite easy, but it was hardly ever used any more.

But he found living humans so terribly dull, and despite his language studies, he was never able to stay current with the slang that changed at a moment’s whim, leaving him always sounding old and out of date. Hardly a sparkling communication partner then. Still, there were a few more erudite individuals who had proven to be interesting conversation partners, but even they would eventually become untenable. It was exceedingly difficult to hold a relationship where neither party ever sees the other.

And so Jonah relied upon himself for companionship and conversation, until such time as the voice from the deep returned again.

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