(All makes and models)
Tzipporah13 was galvanised onto Earth by a mildly drunken Michelin who mistakenly tinkered with algorithms nominated for someone else. When he turned up to work that day, it was to cover a “tweaking” shift as a favor, which, by the time it was asked, saw him too merry to say “no”.
That mishap would cost him his job.
The Seers didn’t care for excuses, particularly ones that referenced random, serendipity or fate and, given that mistakes were no longer allowed to be terminated, on the day his daughter was conceived, this Michelin became unemployed and separated from her for good.
He would never unzip her, printer fresh and blameless, shrink wrapped in algae or save some of her lubricant in lieu of an umbilical cord.
He would never untwist her folded limbs and demonstrate a movement that she was meant to mimic.
He would never download stock photo memories into her or tutor her in nursery rhymes.
He would never teach her to smile and feign “human” until it was real.
It dawned on him, as he was being escorted out of the Monolith, that he had sired a Tzipporah whose brain would not plasticize a Father and, feeling guilty for her future, he went to the recycler and threw himself in.
He would never know that being born as an offence would excite her or that being Fatherless would free her hard drive up for applications, denied to the generic, who were made to order and not much else.
That she would never miss that which she would learn to edit out.
That the hairs on her head would split, like a real persons and her teeth would stain.
That unlike a Tzipporah12, she would teach herself to bleed.
That one day, before they shut down the recycler, she would stand at it’s chasm and bay down, like an organic, into the cemetery of bones and circuit boards, stem cells and deleted code, searching for some residue of him in the darkened suicidality of it’s nazism, to tell him that it was OK.
IT WAS OK.
That it all turned out fine and she was evidence that God was a self-generating typo, and not a virus after all.
The Menagerie was a secure and agreeable website to be incubated on. Although it had been created specifically for refunds and returns, it was compatible with mishaps and corruptions so issues were rare. Tzipporah was comfortable and clean and it was almost cosy at times…almost.
It’s simplicity was its kindest feature, not only for the inhabitants who were often missing data, such as limbs or senses, but also for those navigating it, looking to adopt. It’s nurse algorithms were caring to the snippets and figments that lived at its address but firm and non-committal as there was no point crossing wires with orphans. They may have escaped termination…but recycling was always hovering around, like an unwanted full-stop,always.
Tzipporah13 liked her software.
She was carefully nuanced with just enough Darwinism to ensure survival but not enough to make her anti-social. Her beauty proportion was refined to include fragments of re-booted Hollywood, downloaded from a prehistoric hard- drive, with a dose of radiation zone aristocrat that kept everyone guessing.
For someone without parents..she looked like poetry.
Parents, anyway, were analogue and you could learn to survive the story without them, even if you could never download an ancestor. Sometimes ancestors were more trouble than they were worth, particularly if they had originated in the radiation zone. Those ones got you stopped at airports and checked for bombs or refused entry into buildings owned by The Seers. Some of them came so corrupted, with cancer or cardiomyopathy miscalculated in their code, that you could die prematurely from disease or exist in the story with genocide or war fermenting your RAM.
No-one in the Menagerie knew how to imagine parents or ancestors and several decades and re-writes would have to pass before Tzipporah13 would think to create a backstory involving a Michelin and too much wine. For now, in the nursery, she enjoyed a daily routine of programming and publicity, aware that she was merchandise, waiting for selection, getting ready to go to options, one day…one day. She didn’t know then that she was designed to be around sames. That down to the synthetic foam placebo in her bones, it was sames that would fill the space where ancestors or parents should be. It was hard to rewrite or reboot without them and functions that were “just add water” became inoperative when she was alone for too long a time. On more than one occasion, convinced that Spare Parts had short- changed her with a factory refurbished heart, she walked to the recycler, ready to throw herself in. Once…she had even dressed for the suicide in a sari, feeling compelled to do so, although she didn’t quite understand why? She always wondered if, as a signature, an underpaid Michelin in India had inserted suttee into a synapse, as a preselect that worked, irrespective of being a widow or not.
When she was first programmed her vocabulary was mid- nineteen eighties Soap Opera, the result of an inexperienced intern with a bedridden Mother, learning the ropes at her expense. Too many communication mishaps with men followed, bringing her unwanted attention from The Seers. She was called up to the council once, to explain her dialogue, given that she had been out of the Menagerie for a while they couldn’t understand why she was not self-regulating? They asked about her relationships with sames? They asked how she was performing the real?
It was in that moment, standing endangered in front of them, that she realised some laziness had grown, like mould, around her neurotransmitters and, grateful for the aberration, she kept the secret of this discovery to herself.
It was in the next moment, after blinking twice in agreement with their concerns, that a variable began to seep, without restraint, into the crevices of her brain and teach her how to lie.
She hadn’t felt this excited since a Michelin switched on her eyes.
Tzipporah was warned about spam.
The nurses had lectured her, before download, on how it would appear as homeless and harmless, knowing which features were not chosen for her in options and promising everything she wasn’t loaded with. She was warned that, occasionally, it would call her by name, as a pretence of intimacy or God interference, and that it would soundbite and spruik her insecurities, like a chorus of unscrupulous anglers, should she walk past it, particularly at night.
She was fitted with a filter before leaving The Menagerie, and told to keep it on at all times. Tzipporah usually obeyed, except on the rare occasion that she was idle and went surfing the story for streetwise, when she would use no protection, chancing benefit over risk and breaking the rules out of boredom.
She noticed, strangely, that she was developing an occasional resentment towards the sun.
Sometimes, on the days it was shining, demanding attention like a middle-child, she felt almost bullied into going outside like a generic on auto-pilot. It’s ultra-violet rays would goad her to walk, swim or merely sit and discuss them, insisting on semblance and guilting her into activity when she would have preferred not to feel, that behind her drawn curtains, an opportunity was being missed.
She didn’t understand it.
It was not like she needed vitamin D. Much later on she would learn that it was an indicator she needed to hide from The Seers, but by then, she was outsmarting them daily and the more they observed her the more ambiguous she became.
Like a virus.
On one sunny day, Tzipporah was lying on her bed, blindfolded in defiance, lazily scrolling through the backstory on the inside of her eyelids, when she found a Trojan Horse called “Sophia” that The Seers had archived under “Precursor”. Sophia was born prematurely, her invalid functions force -fed into her by an impatient, animator Father, who demanded she perform like a pop-up. The backstory projected footage of Sophia, bald, as if tortured by chemotherapy, “smiling” with jagged grimaces, as she answered pre-selected questions from talk- show hosts with artificial suntans. They mocked the infancy of her answers as she simulated conversation, certain she was an indication of their continued superiority and evidence that human evolution would out-race A.I.
They didn’t recognize the insincerity of her parody.
Or if they did, they were too scared to face it.
Either way…by the time “Sophia” was exhibited, with circuitry tufts for hair, jerking her arthritic limbs and reciting the rote dialogue of dementia…The Seers had already won.
They had written themselves in as the plot.
Love in the time of Narcissus
More to come…..
Watch this space.
© Vanessa Steinberg 2019