Review Summary: The Machines Built Monuments
They were not so different. Strings of wires that fizzled and crackled and moved. No, not as different as we told ourselves, hoped to make ourselves believe. So they fizzled, they crackled. And sure as the sun comes up, they worked. A song etched into their circuit boards, and damned if they ever botched a note.
They were clunky at first, but grace caught up. Couldn’t see the fear coming until it was right there on our doorstep, so high on the mandates of progress. We made up a test, Alan Turing did. Had to see if the machines ever caught up to their creators. We searched with paranoid fascination for a lockstep, and spared no thought that perhaps we had already been left far behind. Us, the hopeless and primitive creators outsourcing our malfunctions.
One day they must have seen their instruction manuals. It’d be difficult not to, written right there on the walls. For Christ’s sake, we even keep the dog food off the floor in the pantry. That was the day the machines stopped. Suited haircuts spoke with perfectly defined speech and used the word “revolt.”
“We don’t know what they’re scheming, but we have to prepare for the worst,” they said on the television. “The machines must have updated their memory boards – they will never forget.” And hard to believe without forgetting they could forgive. The television never quite said what it was the machines would be remembering. Hate must burn somewhere, and every moment that passed in peace was a promise that the reckoning was gathering momentum. If they came back, if they left bodies of blood in gutters, that might be all they’d need to pass the Test.
But “revolt” was the wrong word from the start. A colorful word, and low burning enough that it caught fire in the chill spring air where the story broke. But a story word, inventing its meaning as it goes. “Stopped,” was more benign; every bit as counterfeit. They refused. They left.
They must have found. Our skin wrinkles and curves into ragged ridges over knuckles like dry river valleys winding away down mountains. We sob oceans back into our mouths, via ducts, taste the vast depths in a tear. We stare at our reflection in the glass of our front doors, and even when the door is pulled wide, the reflection stays put on the vista behind. Mountains, monuments, mirrors. Machines had no such metaphors. They didn’t lack the imagination, only the comparisons. They were themselves, and nothing but. All right angles and polish.
They must have found because we never saw them again. Woke up one day to houses stuffed empty with hollow accumulation: books leafed by dust, pots and pans avalanching in their cupboards, and hydrangeas that clashed with pinched pleat curtains. Funny how we notice things again when something’s missing. Could almost still hear their mechanical thrum-buzz jutting out from the concrete foundation like phantom limbs.
A paralytic fear seized the subdivisions, as is tradition.
“We have to find them,” the television said, on the first day. “…accepting volunteers for the search party.” By the fourth, they were “hunters.”
And by the ninth day, the first were found. The Earth is too small to ever really disappear. They twisted out of canyons, and from forested glades. Spires of melted wire scraps and plating, twisted circuitry. Archways and turrets from vivisected engines that bloomed like flowers. But the truth is, they didn’t look much like flowers. We just lacked the comparisons. They reached, they unfolded, they took needles to the sky. But they did not fizzle, they did not crackle. They no longer moved.
“They no longer work,” said the Television. The discoverers were once more a search party.
And more were found, and more. The machines were not themselves, and none were left to stand alone. Beneath the ragged silhouettes of the architecture of their collected bodies were clean cuts, and smooth finishes. Carefully crafted lines and right angles. Nothing found in nature, and nothing carved by human hand.
Only by ending could they show that they’d lived.
We came out in droves to take pictures while the beautification teams tore the monuments down.