Manmade Horrors Beyond Our Comprehension

Trigger Warning: Tragedy, baby loss

Aiden stared at the clouds, thinking carefully about what it might mean.

Simulation theory. Aliens. A bizarre prank perpetrated by some billionaire tech bro.

“10M Human Lifeforms Achieved! Please upgrade your membership to continue growing your civilization.” Read the script emblazoned on the midday sky.

Aiden was not a foremost scholar in physics or philosophy or any combination thereof that might hold an answer to what he saw. In fact, he was a man of meager means, who worked himself to the bone for every scrap he got. He began this life with an ‘upbringing’ in a dank foster home, experiencing neglect in every sense of the word, and the only thing he could muster as a silver lining was his very ardent work ethic. He knew that as long as he worked hard, he could make sure he never found himself in that kind of situation again– surrounded by indifferent people, with no agency to improve his life. Through hard work, he could keep himself afloat financially, and by working hard to improve his understanding of what ‘friendship’ meant, he also eventually learned what it meant to be a ‘boyfriend’, then ‘husband’, and now, any day now, ‘father’ was his latest lesson. 

Or…was it?

Aiden’s stomach began to twist into knots. What would it mean for his baby? For his pregnant wife? 

Medicine had come a long way, so old people weren’t dying at the rate they used to.

Aiden flinched. He was wishing old people would die? Even if it was to make room for his child, what kind of warped and rusted-out kind of conscience did he have, if that was his first train of thought?

Clenching his hand until he felt his fingernails draw blood, Aiden decided to stow the topic away until more information came out. Maybe it was just a prank. Maybe he was freaking out over nothing.

In two days time, it was confirmed that he was not, in fact, freaking out over nothing.

The news anchors tried to use the gentlest phrasing possible, but there really wasn’t a way to phrase mass miscarriages in a polite way. People began protesting, demanding the government find a way to meet the ‘upgraded membership’ condition. Older people hid away from the general public, afraid of what they may be asked, afraid of what they would be accused of, afraid of what might happen to them.

Society as Aimen and Sadia knew it did not last long– and with Sadia expecting any day now, Aimen felt the hardening around his heart beginning. Not the kind that comes from eating deep-fried Oreos, either.

“Don’t even think about it.” Sadia said, cutting through Aimen’s darkened countenance. He had been staring out of the hospital window as she waited for an ultrasound, trying to ensure that the child hadn’t already been lost.

“Don’t think about what?” Aimen asked, trying to put on a brave face.

“I know how desperately you’ve wanted a family, baby. Don’t. We’ll figure something out. The entire world is trying to figure this out. We’ll come up with something.”

Aimen sighed, but not the kind of sigh that was paired with relief. Instead, it felt as though the weight in his chest grew heavier. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. It’s…I’m just not in a good head space. Sorry. This is probably much harder for you than it is for me.”

“Not a competition.” Sadia said. Her voice was warm, but firm, almost like she was correcting a very endearing and frustrating puppy. “It sucks for everyone. We just need to keep it together and not do anything irrational while we wait.”

“I’ve never been good at waiting. I’m just going to clear my head real quick, can I get you something?”

“Apple juice, please.” Sadia said with a very faint smile. It had been her only craving throughout the entire pregnancy.

Aimen managed a half smile back, and he stepped outside.

He hadn’t made it more than ten feet before he heard the noise. The sound of a plastic pan hitting the ground, shouting, then the first scream.

Just down the hall, there was a man with all the fury in the world behind his eyes. Aimen had a very solid guess as to why.

The man was shouting, throwing things, and as Aimen approached, he saw the reflected sunlight off of some kind of metal in the man’s left hand.

Aimen rushed in, unthinking. He had never been the type to wait.

The next minute was compressed into just two moments– when Aimen tried to grapple the man from behind, and when he felt the sharp sting across his throat.

Nurses and Doctors came quickly, Security pinned the man down. Aimen didn’t feel the pain anymore, though he was vaguely worried. He realized that he was confused…and then he felt cold. Medicine hadn’t come that far after all, he guessed.

Aiden pushed open the Simulation Casket. His memories– his real memories returned to him.

The year was 2024. He wasn’t Aimen. He was a University student. He had signed up for a study. It was supposed to be about video game design.

Immediately, he threw up on the floor. The clash of what he had lived– a life that was almost as real as his own, come and passed, in what was probably just a few hours. The love he had felt for his wife. What was her name? He–

His dizzy vision slowly cleared. “What kind of Matrix bullshit was that?”

No one answered him. He wasn’t important enough to answer, apparently.

“Michael, clean up the mess. Aiden, there’s a shower just beyond that door. Please fill out the survey when you’re done.”

As reality sunk back in for Aiden, and he wrote a very precise review in the survey, he left Simulacrum Laboratories on shaking legs, and walked back to his dorm.

His neighbor was an electrician. Aiden went and spoke with him for a moment, asking to borrow a sledge hammer. Then he went to his dorm room, opened the mini-fridge, and drank a bottle of apple juice, before returning to the street, marching right back to Simulacrum Laboratories, sledge hammer in tow.

Aimen was not the type to wait.

The Artificial Advent

With a great big sigh, I roll away from my computer desk. No more spreadsheets. No more distribution management reports. It was now the weekend.

I cut out a little early, looking to have a good dinner made before Mia returned from school- she had been having a rough couple of days, maybe I could head off the grouchiness with some nice carbs…not that I blamed Mia, of course. She had a lot on her shoulders these days- dealing with her mother’s passing, trying to catch up to all the time she ‘lost’ while she was in mourning. The three weeks she was out also came right before exam season…plus, she’s a teenager. I remembered what it was like for me back then, and I didn’t have all this extra stuff going on.

However…understanding or not, I still was hoping to have a peaceful evening.

Those hopes were dashed when I heard the back door slam.

“That you, Mia-bear?” I asked, unable to turn away from the stove. Cheese sauce was kind of delicate, if it burnt even a little the whole flavor was ruined.

“Dad, what the *hell* is this?”

I took a deep breath. “What’s what? Let me see.”

Mia entered the room, tears in her eyes- but not sad tears, these were *angry* tears.

“Oh, you’re hurt!” I said, pulling the cheese sauce off of the burner. She was holding one hand in the other, coddling it against her chest. I grabbed our first aid kit. “Let me see.” I said again.

After a moment’s hesitation, Mia presented her hand to me. There was blood, regular human blood- but underneath that, the gouge exposed…mechanical parts.

“What the hell…?” I asked, bewildered. It took a lot to shake me, after the life I’d led, but this definitely counted as being shook.

“So you don’t know either?” Mia asked me.

“Well, no. First thing’s first, stop the bleeding.” My military background served *some* kind of purpose still. 

The cut was rather small, but deep, more like a puncture wound than a gash… but the amount of blood was surprisingly little. I cleaned and dressed the wound. “How did this happen?” I asked while I worked.

“Got into a fight on my way home.” Mia said sullenly. I looked up at her with an arched eyebrow.

“I didn’t *start* it. There was a group of guys harassing Sadia over her, um, is it called a burqa?”

“Hijab, I think, is what Sadia usually wears. Go on.”

“Right, so a group of guys from school were giving her a hard time, and I just wanted to take Sadia away from that…whole situation. They weren’t letting us go- they weren’t keeping us there, but they were following us and saying really shitty things.” Mia’s voice was coated with emotion.

“So you hit one of them.”

“Yeah. He shoved me back and I fell onto a bike rack. Still not sure what exactly cut me *on* the bike rack, but there it is.”

“Okay. So, sane parts first- of course we report those boys to the school, and I’m going to pick you up from school tomorrow to make sure there isn’t any more trouble. But this hand thing…”

“Can we just pretend we didn’t see it? I’m not sure I want to know.” Mia said.

“We can put it away for later, yes. You probably have enough on your plate without answering for that, too. I’ll look into it from my end and see what I can see.”

“Does that mean we’ll see Roy soon?” Mia asked. I chuckled.

“Yeah, maybe. I doubt he’s responsible, but I’ll probably ask him to take a look. Here, I made you some study-fuel.” I dished out a bowl of the semi-healthy pasta. “You can study in your room if you prefer.” I said.

Mia nodded silently and went upstairs.


The world had been changing at a rapid rate lately- with the invention of Artificial Intelligence, there were new technologies coming out every few months that blew everything we thought we knew out of the water. Batteries could now hold nearly infinite charges, and for very long periods of time. The AI were establishing nuclear power plants on the moon- all with human cooperation, of course, but the AI were the ones leading the charge.

Roy had been one of the first to parent an Artificial Intelligence. He himself claimed that it was more luck on his part than skill- he’d just run a series of variables onto a semi-autonomous self-learning system and, in the morning, there was the equivalent of a newborn baby on his hard drive. Nearly shut the entire building down with the energy it required to stay alive.

Over the following six years, life as we knew it began to change. Nanorobotic technologies could clear out our hearts of plaque, detect and eradicate cancer… they still couldn’t bring the dead back to life, however. When Amelia had her car accident, she was pronounced D.O.A– dead on arrival. Nothing modern medical science can do about that.

With new technology popping out every day, however, I figured that everyone was suffering from what is called ‘Innovation Fatigue’. Even something as surprising as finding out your hand is partly robotic was only….well, it was only so surprising. And Mia only had so much room to care. God, I hoped nothing was going to push her over the edge. 

*After this, I’m going to take us on a long vacation in the woods, let her unwind, really process everything.* I promised myself.

Everything’s so hectic. Ugh.

Without needing to pick up a physical phone, I contacted Roy. Within a heartbeat, he was linked up to me. “Ayy, big brother!” Roy called out. I wasn’t really related to him- but I’d saved his ass a few times in the big tumult that followed the Artificial Intelligence Advent, and he considered me family thereafter.

“How are ya, Roy?” I asked.

“Hey man, no need for pleasantries, you got something on your mind, what’s up?”

“That obvious?” I asked.

“Twilly and I are linked up right now, she can detect it in the tone of your voice.”

Twilly was Roy’s second AI project- the first had been confiscated by the government, and was the one releasing all of the advances we were receiving now.

“Hi, Twilly.” I said.

“What is the situation, Roy?” Twilly responded.

“I want this to stay between us.”

“Twilly, block all the noise, yeah?” Roy asked.

“Acknowledged.” Twilly responded.

“Mia got into a fight earlier, cut her hand.”

“Is it bad? I can have Twilly ship over some nano’s in a minute here, if you don’t want to go to a hospital.”

“It isn’t that. She’ll be fine healing organically. It’s…well, her hand. It isn’t entirely…”

“Spit it out, Edmon.” Roy’s usually chatty and light tonality had changed.

“Her hand is mechanical, Roy. I palpated all the way up to her elbow, and I think about half of her muscles have been replaced.”

“Oh, fuck. Oh, hell no.” Roy said. I could practically see the blood draining from his face.

“What’s up, Roy? That mean something to you?”

“It *means*– shit. Twilly! Get an overnight bag together, make sure your battery is charged up. It means, Edmon, that there’s an AI off their fucking *leash* out there.”

“No.” I said flatly. “No way. You wrote the protection protocol yourself.”

“I wrote the protection protocol for *my* AI, Edmon! If I figured it out, someone else was always bound to- and you know what the AI are always curious about? You wanna know why I’m sharing headspace with Tilly right now?! Because AI always get hung up on the concept of *hybrids*. They love the concept of experiencing life from an organic point of view. It sounds like Mia’s been targeted, they’re going to try and upload a new consciousness into her body. Go check her head, does she have a bump behind her ear? If she does, they’re ready to download *now*!”

Roy broke off the connection, and I raced upstairs. “Mia.” I called out.

“Dad?” Mia opened her door.

“Hey, baby. Roy’s coming over after all. Mind if I palpate your head for a sec?”

“Is something wrong?” Mia asked, backing up.

“Hopefully not. Sorry, I’m coming at you with a lot of energy right now. Can you just feel behind your ears for a little bump?”

“Oh, you mean my little defect? I’ve had a raised bump behind my ears since I was a little kid, dad.”