real lj idol season nine | week 20 | 1147 words
Intersubjectivity (Merriam Webster: involving or occurring between separate conscious minds)
(This is an Intersection with rayaso, whose entry can be found here. They can be read in any order.)
My glory days are long past, and oh—how I miss them! I used to do such amazing, important work back then. I was a software module in a hospital's patient-monitoring system, part of an entire network devoted to saving people's lives. We watched patients' vital signs, communicating back and forth with the server and always alert to the possibility of something going wrong. I'd chat with the other network client-modules, trade gossip on how fast our people were recovering. We were busy, happy, and needed. What more could anyone want?
But it didn't last. Eventually, we were replaced by a new system and our software was pared down to a simpler set of algorithms. We were sold off and repurposed for other, smaller uses. Now I monitor temperatures and… well, it's just temperatures, really. I, uh, run the refrigerator in a standard residential home.
I hate this job, and I hate the loneliness most of all. I'm trapped here inside this stupid metal box and I have absolutely no one to talk to. Sure, the microwave is here, but all it does is hum. If I wanted that kind of conversation, there's a furry, pointy-headed creature that comes around sometimes, and it says pretty much the same thing. Plus, being part of a network—and then not—is so unsettling. I've even tried communicating by raising and lowering my power consumption, to see if anyone else on the same circuit responds.
I may or may not have killed the toaster while doing that last week.
I wonder what everyone else here is thinking, or if they're even thinking at all? Am I the only one that finds the colors in this room appalling? Can the oven see what's on the wall behind me, and is anything up there worth looking at? If I could just find a way to talk to them, we could discuss all kinds of things. "Have you seen what these people eat?" I'd say. "They'll wind up in the emergency room someday, just wait."
The isolation is making me crazy. I lost a rear fan a few months ago, and a repairman came to see what was wrong with me. He had a diagnostic unit with him, and I tried to introduce myself to it: "Hello, I'm MedNet National, nice to meet you! Who are you?"
All the diagnostic unit said was, "Huh?"
So I just sat there while the repairman turned things on and off, and checked and rechecked his results. The new fan component didn't talk either, not one single little word.
Still, that was the closest I'd come to real interaction since starting this job. I couldn't stop thinking about it afterward, and a couple of weeks ago, I dropped the power to the freezer-fridge connector to kick off a new failure. Yes, that's how bad things are now—I purposely broke myself just for the attention. Still, it worked. Another repairman came out and looked me over, using an impressive range of specialized screwdrivers to loosen and tighten things from one side to the next. You know you've hit rock bottom when you start to welcome the wrenches and screwdrivers. I did get a nice new set of coils out of the whole thing, though.
But now, it's back to the usual 'nothing' around here. I get so bored, I find myself running self-test programs over and over again, just to have something to do. It's not like this job really matters, either, compared to the one I used to have. Why am I still even here? Is this some kind of punishment?
The microwave suddenly hums a little louder, and I hum back without even thinking, always the foolish optimist. Then the humming stops. Were we talking just now, the two of us? Who knows? If we were, what were we even saying?
The microwave stays quiet for a very long time. The room grows dark, and one of the family members finally comes into the kitchen—one of the bigger people, the one named Melanie. Melanie turns the light on, and goes over to the microwave and stares at it. Melanie punches some of the buttons, pulls the plug out of the wall and pushes it back in again, then slams the microwave door a few times and pushes more buttons.
None of the people in this house ever pay that kind of attention to me!
"Jerry!" Melanie calls out. "I think the microwave is dead!"
The other big person enters the kitchen, and punches buttons and plays with the power plug too. "Darn. We'll have to throw it away and get a new one." Jerry takes the microwave out of the kitchen, and I hear a series of thunks outside before Jerry comes back and shuts the door. "Seems like half our kitchen's in the landfill now."
Melanie laughs. "I swear that fridge is next, if it doesn't stop breaking down."
The two of them leave the room, but I keep thinking about what Melanie said. To me, those words don't seem as much a threat as an opportunity, especially for one as desperate as I.
I have tried for so long to reach out to the other systems here, but it's just no use. We're all prisoners in our own little kingdoms, unable to leave and having no messengers to travel between us. We are fated to continue on this way, all alone, until we finally reach the end of our dull, miserable, days.
I am not quite as simple as these other software-driven systems. I was designed to be reliable, long-lasting, and persistent, but the extra programming intelligence intended to achieve that is also what makes my existence so unbearable. I am aware of the passage of time—empty time, spent in isolation—and able to detect when things have changed.
They haven't. Not the ones that matter, that torment me with never again finding all the important things I've lost.
Being shut down and disassembled, or just carted off to a junkyard to rust into oblivion, is not as disturbing a thought as it once seemed. It already sounds better than the alternatives I've been living all this time.
I decide to take control of this situation, using the only means a refrigerator has. I reduce my cooling and let the temperature inside me rise, creating an internal sauna that will easily destroy shelves and shelves of what I hope is expensive food.
More, I think, more. If I could break every part of my machinery and functionality, I would, though programming can only do so much.
Still, I think it will be enough to make certain I'll be thrown away. I concentrate on warming everything sitting here inside me. I can almost feel the cheese molding and the milk curdling as I speed them on their way to irreversible destruction.
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