Saturday, 9 February 2013

Welcome to my Utopia

“Welcome to my utopia!” the disembodied voice said. It was neither male nor female, but was musical with a slight lilt to it that none of my kind possessed. I hesitated, the doorway before me was merely a computer screen, I reassured myself. It is just a virtual world with a virtual voice greeting program meant to show virtual memories to educate me. A niggling doubt about the truth of my words had begun to worm its way into my conscious mind, but the voice of the man I called Father quelled it. He was the one who invented this program. In fact, he was the one who created me. Father was everything to me and I craved his praise above everything else. Father was always right…or so I thought. He always repeated the same lines ever since the day I was created, even as I lay on his table, a weak, uneducated and very much disorientated child robot.

“You must be brave to try new things, for without courage how can we progress? Did you think we made it this far with the spirit of cowardice? I do not think so,” those were the very words I had heard often from him.

Taking a deep breath I squared my shoulders, and thrust myself forward into the unknown. And suddenly I was falling, falling through a spiral of images, pictures of strange and wonderful creatures, ever changing landscapes of verdant fields and lush forests whirling past my eyes, a fall through time itself I believed. 

I saw the creatures my electronic books told me about, the kings of the jungle, a pride of lions basking in the warmth of the buttery sunlight. A giraffe lifted a gentle head with liquid brown eyes in my direction and instinctively I reached out a hand for it. The image disappeared to be replaced by a bird, an eagle, soaring in all its glorious majesty in an azure sky. Its cry pierced deep into my bones, a cry of loneliness, and loss. The eagle knew of the destruction that was soon to come. A shot rang through my head and I cried out involuntarily. For a moment I was stunned, it had felt as if I was the one being shot. The king of the crags plummeted from the sky leaving a trail of scarlet that arched above its body. A single word forced itself into my mind. Poaching. The word, though familiar and often found in my history books sent a sharp rending pain along my circuit. “Is this Utopia? It cannot be if such things are happening”, I whispered to myself with my eyes clenched shut. I refused to acknowledge the fact that maybe this was the truth that I was meant to see. I tried to convince myself that the program had been corrupted. I refused to see the destruction, the decimation.

Utopia was destroyed long ago in a great massacre of the earth. We now live in another solar system, on a planet where nothing grows without a circuit and nature does not thrive. Even real human children are sickly and implanted with circuits in their brains at birth. Tiny microchips dot the surface of our silicon coated forearms, and without them, we are damaged by the poisonous air, our mechanical lungs would shrivel and we would eventually die. Even with them, we do not live past sixty years old. The human children have even fewer years to survive. The scene had changed again while I was deep in my own reflections, and the voice spoke again.

You see what became of the earth? Our earth? The voice penetrated my mind and yet it was not intrusive. However it was no longer the voice from the computer program. Now it sounded almost feminine, ageless and warm, yet infinitely sad. There was a sigh like the sound of wind on the sand dunes. Like the howl of a she-wolf mourning the loss of her pups. It had to be Mother Earth, my heart told me although I had been told that no such being existed. The earth is not a living creature, Father once told me. It has no voice; it has no spirit or soul. But yet, here I am, in a spiral of memories not my own with a voice I now know, does not belong in the program.

Can you see what they have done to me? My children, my poor, poor children, slaughtered for the whims and fancies of fickle minded humans! But you, you are not human, the voice softened. What are you? Your flesh is like none I have ever seen or known. You are a made human, yes? I bowed my head, my fists curling and leaving the crescent moon indents of my fingernails on the soft silicon of my palm. “No, indeed I am not human,” I replied softly. I was not even sure whether I spoke aloud to the creature in the program but she seemed to hear me anyway. The flashes of pictures were still coiling around me and I glimpsed a gazelle springing into the air in graceful leaps. “I am a creation of Father. He made me to replace the child he lost. I am merely a duplicate, a robot clone,” I explained. He is mad! It is an abomination to make creatures! The voice became shriller and filled with rage. I dipped my head, for the umpteenth time, ashamed that I was being called an abomination. I am sorry; I did not mean to hurt you. He must have made you very well to be able to feel pain and sorrow. I nodded, not trusting my voice. Watch then and I shall show you the true meaning of Utopia even though you are not of this world. Welcome to my Utopia…made-child. The images swirling around me came to a stop and a particular image began to grow larger and larger, until it was all that filled my vision.

I thought it was heaven. There was no word to describe the exquisite beauty of the landscape before my eyes. Green rolling hills swathed with multi coloured blooms and skies of cerulean blue dotted with the minute shapes of birds flying in a v-formation. Migration, the voice said, vaguely amused at the fact that I did not know why the birds were flying south. Flash. Another landscape, this time it was a marshland. The waters rippled with activity, the love songs of bull frogs and crickets filling the air. A fish leaped up with a splash of crystal water droplets, its scales shining bronze and red in the glow of the setting sun. Trees dipped their boughs into the water as if thirsty and the squawks of birds joined in the symphony of nature. This is nature at its best, the voice chimed in, a note of pride in its words. At that moment, robot clone or child, I did not care. I felt full to bursting with the sheer beauty of it all. Then suddenly the voice spoke again in a tone that was now full of a boundless, immeasurable sadness.

This is what happened when humans decided that they no longer cared for me. A feeling of sorrow overwhelmed me to the point of suffocation. If I could cry I would have. Right before my eyes a dark cloud gathered in the distance of all three scenes, swallowing up the light. It began to rain. As the drops fell, the grass withered and the bark of the slender trees peeled off and became shriveled. Acid rain, the voice whispered. The water turned grey and the fish floated up, dead open eyes unseeing and glazed over. Water pollution, came the weary answer. A gasp of horror escaped before I could clamp down on it. Yes this is what they did to me, the voice sighed. They poisoned my soil and burned my trees, polluted my water and killed the beasts, flooded the valleys and leveled the hills, built cement forests and metal animals.

The voice had taken on a sing song quality that lulled me into a trance like state even as it spoke. The last thing I heard was that maternal voice telling me, whispering to me. Do not let this happen again, it must never come to pass. Save your planet and make it the way it was before, you have the power to create your own utopia…or destroy it.

When I awoke, the voice and all the images were gone. Only the softly humming doorway and Father’s face looking concernedly at me as he crouched over my still body.  “We must bring back nature. You were wrong about the earth. She has a spirit and a soul. She is in every one of you, humans. She must be brought back,” I cried hysterically. Wetness trickled from my glass eyes. “What?” I whispered as my fingers came away drenched. “What is this liquid?” my voice wavered. “You are crying, daughter,” my Father said. His voice was mingled with another voice more familiar to me than his. Hands gently touched my artificial silicon covered cheek as the world turned dark before my eyes.

Wake up.  Wake up, it’s time to go home. My lashes fluttered open and my eyes widened as I saw my mother and the line of trees behind her. My mother wore a perplexed look on her face as I lurched forward to hug and caress the rough bark. “Girl! Come away, you will stain your dress!” she yelled after me. I was not a robot child and the world was not dead yet. I was me, a living, breathing human child. The word struck me. Human. And I swear I heard Mother Nature’s voice again. Remember child…take care of me before it is too late. You hold the future of your own utopia in your hands.        

~Rei Shiori

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