Dei — Part 1

Waking up in a new, strange world

Illustration: Martin Leon Barreto, found in: Fast Company

He woke up in a huge room with many, bright lights pointing at him. His eyes weren’t able to see for a longer moment. But the longer he waited, the better he was able to recognize somebody in front of him. Something white, hovering over him. It looked like a volleyball with arms, he thought.

“Welcome back, Dr. Wallace.”, the thing said and flew away.

As he tried to reach it with his hands, somebody grabbed his arms and pulled them down.

“No, not yet. I have to check the engines in your arms.” It was a smooth, silent voice.

Cumbrously he tried to move his head to the left. Due to the blur on his eyes he only recognized a human being with black hair. Maybe a woman? She wore a white coat like a doctor.

“Who…,”, he tried to speak.

A flickering appeared over his stomach.

“Patient is doing well, but is very old. I have to check his hardware.”

And the flickering disappeared.

“Dr. Wallace, I am Professor Peipei Chen,”, she said and put some drops into his eyes. Within seconds he was able to see clear again.

“Bill…”, she continued, “I initiated a naon-liquid into his eyes to automatically find his optimal vision.”

Suddenly he saw her face. She was young, clean skin, red lips, frameless glasses, a small nose. Again he turned his head and saw his arms. Not his biological arms. They were artificial arms, made of carbon he thought.

“Can you understand me, Dr. Wallace?”, she asked and touched his neck.

He nodded, not willing to look up. What happened to his arms?

“I am glad that I were able to save you. You got some stuff from my predecessor… several years ago.”

“Years?”, he asked. He had no idea about the current year. “Which year do we have?”

“This is the year 2321, Dr. Wallace.”

2321? But the last date he remembered was…? What happened? Is it a nightmare?

“You are here for more than three hundred years. According to your file you have been delivered here after a car accident and Dr. Agarwal tried to save your life through a transfer when he found your body in a cryo-chamber.”

“Accident? Who is Dr. Agarwal?”

“This is the Mississippi Institute for Cryogenic and Hospital.”

“Did you just say that I missed the last one and half century?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“I don’t know how…”

Everything seemed to collapse. He lost his orientation. With the surprise Dr. Elliott Wallace seemed to get mad.

Frantically he tried to move his body when the flying volleyball-robots appeared and fixated him on the bed.

“The patient has a shock. Doc Zero, inject him a sedative.”

Before he could realize a pain from the injection he felt asleep.

A car appeared left of him when he run on the street. His wife Sia was walking few meters ahead of him. On the way to a supermarket he lost his keys for their apartment and had to beg to grab them. To close the gap between them he began to run. But he didn’t see the car that came closer. She, who now stood on the street with two other guys, shouted, tried to warn him when the car came close. But it was too late. It hit him, chosen by an algorithm that recognized him as the lesser loss compared to the group of three left to the car.

He remembered the day when his life changed forever. But what happened since was a myth. Everything felt so strange, so heavy like if he had a hangover.

“You feel better now?”, a robot asked him. Again it was a flying robot with a net-like skin.

“Yes, thank you.”

“Very good. I am Bill, Sir. Your personal guardian.”, the robot introduced himself.

It… or he? He talked like a real human, though he didn’t looked like one.

Nobody was around him. The room was clean, everything was white, just one wall was orange and felt like a giant heater. Or was it the bulbless lamp above him?

“Do you want me to turn on the lensector?”

“What is a lensector?” He had no idea. But it must be electric. Something for the eyes?

Before Elliott was able to finish his thoughts Bill the robot turned on the bulbless lamp as he called it and something weightless appeared over his legs. Was it a 3D-printed object made of pader or anything else? He carefully tried to touch it, but there was no resistance.

“Is it real?”

“I am sorry, Dr. Wallace. I forgot that you didn’t come from our time. The lensector is comparable what you know as television. It is a hologram-like projection that exactly simulates the surface and all structures of objects in front of a sensor.”

“You forgot? You are a robot, Bill. How can you forget it?”

“My source code was developed to learn and apply feelings and to act like humans. As a semi-humanoid robot I am able to have feelings, to learn and to forget.”

A knock snipped the silence after Bill’s words.

“Professor Chen!”, Elliott said with some surprise. He forgot her, though she was the first human he saw.

She came into the room with nothing more than her clothes.

“Bill is a second-degree citizen. Our politicians are discussing if second-degree citizens like him should get the right to vote. They can feel like we do, but they are based on genetic algorithms.”

“You are a two-class society?”

“Three classes. Human beings and light cyborgs, middle cyborgs and semi-humanoid robots, and robots and rooters.”

He didn’t understand, was confused by the names. “Who are all these kind of classified… things?”

“You’ll learn about them later. Now I want to tell you more about your status. Please excuse my voice, generally I don’t use it, but you are not able to receive our waves. Dr. Agarwal was working on a transfer of your mind from a medium to a new brain. He didn’t…”

What was she talking about? His mind didn’t change, he was in his own body. Wasn’t he?

“…complete his job. He moved to Aldrin City on the moon. This was several years ago, before I started my job here.”

With a few steps she got closer to him and touched his upper arm.

“This is real flesh. But here…,”, she touched his elbow, “starts your mechanic arm.”

He looked down and his eyes recognized an artificial arm, black, shining in the light from the lamp over him, reflecting the young face of Professor Chen.

“You gave me an arm made of carbon?”

“Graphene, and not only your arm. You have lost your legs and your right arm. And Dr. Agarwal once replaced parts of your skull with titan. Your brain was heavily damaged due to the accident and after a first transfer we moved your memories and other content from a human brain to a hard drive, not larger than a tear.”

“Dr. Wallace, you are a cyborg.”, Bob said and nodded his metal head.

“But I can’t feel a change, no pain.” And he really had no pain, nothing that could have made him feel like a different being. Nevertheless, his mind didn’t grasp what the people have done to him who could have been his n-th grandchildren. It must be a joke, he thought.

“Your wife”, Chen said when he tried to move “left a notice for you. She believed that you would wake up later and you did.”

“My wife is….?” The voice was trembling. Chen was cold or had a stone-hard heart.

“She died on Toronto, Canada on October 23 2109.”

On the bed Wallace crouched, trying to isolate himself from the surroundings, something that was so surreal.

“My dearest Elliott, decades have passed since you have been killed in the accident. I never gave up my belief in your return to life. But now I fear that you will return to life when I am gone, when I became a part of the mother earth again while scientists let you walk on the ground of our planet. Please know that I never stopped loving you and wherever you are, whenever you are, nothing can stop me from doing this. In love, your Sia.”

Tears trickled down his cheeks and everybody heard him crying. He was alive while his wife has been waiting for him. Never again he would see her, her face, her lovely hair. Never would they have kids. And everything happened over a century ago? The faith to lose Sia weighted more than the hard reality of living in a new ‘now’ that he didn’t know.

Days have passed since he underwent that Sia was already dead and he was a man who came back to live in a far future. In the medical center he met other men like him, who once lived in other times and with other people. Once man used cryogenic in the late 1990s and had no idea of September 11, the war in Iraq or the Fall of Aleppo. In their minds North Korea was still sovereign state and nobody ever heard of Oculus Government.

Next to his bad Elliott had a piece of paper. Not a conventional paper. It was a bendable, electronic device with OLED-Ink. It looked like a tablet, but it was as thin as a real piece of paper, supplied by energy from photosynthesis within the cells of the paper.

He learnt everything from history to science, from the struggle with first smart robots to the milestone to overcome the lightspeed-limit, when astronauts first reached Proxima Centauri within two weeks and renamed it after two scientists from Yale University.

But from time to time he looked up and saw nurses, doctors and others passing by. They didn’t say anything. Instead two individuals looked into their eyes like two lovers who never have to say a word to understand each other. He didn’t understand. More was he confused when he began to talk to himself and people looked at him like if he was insane.

Just in the moment a preacher, who returned to life after he was shot in the heart, entered his room and smiled.

“My Son, what are you reading?”

Elliott knew him from some discussions on the floor when he used his new legs. A nice, small but fat man with a big nose.

“Reverend!” He took down the paper. “The history of the last century. Just reading the chapter about the re-unification of Europe with Russia and the United Kingdom.”

“Our world has changed. Believe me, when I woke up in this time, only the Lord knew why he did this to man like you and me.”

“At least we can talk. It’s terrific that people don’t want to talk to me, except of some robots, those who share my faith and Professor Chen.”

The reverend looked into Elliott’s eyes. They were blushed and sad. It was hard for Elliott Wallace to accept his faith, to understand what happened.

“It’s not their fault. Communication has changed during our deep sleep. Humans are using invisible waves to communicate.”

Invisible waves, it sounded like magic or that the man in his black suit has gone crazy. Otherwise, he never heard anything, no voice, no whistling. Nothing. It was scary.

“You are talking about psychological transmission?”

“No, it’s not such a thing.”

His hand grabbed a chair and he sat down with the chest to the chair back.

“In the twenty twentieths a company called Synapse started the development of a biological computer that implemented a computer into your body. No screen, no keyboard. You controlled it your mind like you do when you walk. The more people used it, the more were able to communicate by using an internet-like system and their mind.”

He explained that the shift from vocal languages to a digital translation of our thoughts that allowed men to talk with everybody, nevertheless where they came from. Synapse’s bio-computers, which were designed by a German-born US-American who made it to became elected governor of California, changed the way people interact with the environment. The augmentation of human senses increased their effectivity, but has also changed the whole society.

“But I never felt something like this since I woke up here.”

“Because we never got this. Professor Chen told me that people like us get this later, so that we have time to realize what happened.”

And Elliott understood. What would happen if you wake up and you can hear all the voices. Or whatever you would hear. Maybe it was like a LSD-trip. Or if you gone mad. How could people live with all the voices he asked. But he got no answer.

“Elliott, all I know is that we are one of a kind in a society with real races. I don’t talk about black and white, yellow and red. With the invention of the bio-computers the human race separated into multiple sub-categories with different evolutions. The so called ‘normal’ humans still live in the cities and smaller towns. Often they live in harmony with the modified humans or homo mutatio, cyborgs like you, with revive-androids and androids. But the cyborgs are dominating. But there are also the rooters, humans who used the progress to become animals again. And we have Lunatics and Martians, human beings that began to change due to gravity and other settings on planet Mars and the moon. Not everybody likes the development of mankind and poachers are partly trying to hunt the rooters.”

“Who are the rooters?”

“Rooters are a movement and sub-category of humans who think that, after centuries of losing their instincts, Synapse allowed them to reclaim their natural instinct like nosing the way dogs do, seeing in the night like an owl and so on. With these modifications they are losing their ties to our civilization and move into the wilderness. Here in New Orleans you often find some of them, recognizable by their fur, arms and legs. They partly fight with alligators and other bigger animals.”

“How was your first contact with a rooter?”, Elliott asked, curious like a lad listening to his grandpa.

“Let me ask Professor Chen if we can take a walk. Then you’ll see.”

A warm wind blew by and they saw the sun sinking. The orange ball covered the landscape into his colors. The dam surrounding the city of New Orleans, the old Saints-stadium and every district. The oceans weren’t able to destroy the half-finished dome while it left its imprint through the increase of quagmires. Crocodiles were swimming around, like sleeping titans, but so dangerous. The medical center wasn’t far away from the city, not far from here, but both were divided by the endless and heavy jungle that grew here. Climate has changed over the centuries, has changed the environment.

Here they stood in front of a cabin. Old, with holes in the roof, next to the water. In a rocking chair the men saw a lady with dungarees. She looked like a farmer from Iowa. But the closer they got, the more he recognized the hair in her face, on her arms, the muscles and all. First when the looked at the visitors Elliott saw her red flashing eyes.

“Welcome back!”, she said with her gasping voice. Her tongue scared him when he saw the split. It was like she was a snake.

“A praised evening, dear lady.” The reverend kissed her right hand like a gentlemen from the south while Elliott kept the distance. “I want to introduce you to my friend. Like me he woke up in the time you call present.”

“What’s your name, lad?”, she asked. Then Elliott recognized that he even didn’t know the name of the reverend.

“Elliott, ma’am. Elliott Wallace. But I don’t even know the reverend’s name.”

“My name is Reverend Berry Woodlove, son, and this is Antonia. She lived here for nearly one and a half century.”

“One and a half? Are you over a hundred years old?”

“One hundred and forty six years.”, she said.

He had no idea, she didn’t look so old, nor did she had grey hair.

The reverend smiled at her. Few months ago he met the lady who was one of the first who enjoyed the treatment for longer life, supported by Silicon Valley billionaires who tried to defeat death. And they did well, though the oldest person died with two-hundred thirty one.

“Antonia is a rooter, Elliott. She was the first rooter I ever met. She fought with an crocodile when I was walking down the path. Look at her muscles. Not normal for a human being. Her teeth, her eyes. She eats more raw meat than we would do if you are not Japanese and can see in the dark. The lady is a new race. And her way isn’t done yet.”

“What does it mean?”

“Well, she is still working on becoming a part of mother nature, she told me.”

Does she want to become an animal, he asked with disbelief, unable to imagine how an individual could choose this way.

“Yes. She will later become a part of the animal kingdom and leave our civilization. Synapse allows us to modify our genetic pool and live without any needs for a computer. No PC, no Mac or else. She has a computer in her brain, a biological one, and the cells that can automatically improve her genes.”

“But, ma’am,why did you choose this?”

She didn’t look happy about the question, but remind herself of the reverend’s questions when she met him.

“Society has nothing to offer. I am not interested in travelling to other planets, in painting or else. I am a child of the nature and want to regain what our ancestors lost to progress. Instead of hunting and collecting I will become a predator and live in harmony with the circle of life.”

“But you are so old, you have seen the past and know how mankind evolved. Now you are done with it?”

“I saw that mankind lost its control when we assigned all tasks to robots. Boredom was the result.”, she replied with a sad voice. But she saw that Elliott didn’t understand. She asked the reverend if he could explain it to the stranger he introduced to her few minutes ago.

“When robots and AI took over more of our jobs, the economy has changed. People lost their jobs. The unemployed stayed poor until the governments introduced a basic income before they introduced a distribution-system for resources. And robot producers reduced the prices for their products.”

“The day will come when I reunite with the nature.”, she said and looked at the horizon. Sun is gone, it was night.

On their way back to the center nobody said a word. Elliott was fascinated, thought about what he saw with his own eyes and what would have been a myth in the time when his grandfather lived.

“Now that you live here, do you still believe in God?”, Elliott asked.

“Why do you ask, son?”, Reverend Woodlove replied without any doubt in his voice.

“People are changing their appearance, robots are doing human jobs. Everything is possible. It seems that there’s no deus, but dei. Gods, not a single God.

“I think that God is guiding us. He gives us the freedom we want. You are responsible for your own actions.”

“But mankind is exploring more and more. According to the book I read, there are few open secrets left.”

“As long as there is something unknown, God exists. God is the unknown, something we can’t explain.”

Back at the hospital Professor Chen expected them.

“Where have you been?”, she asked angrily.

“Visiting somebody in the quagmire.”, the reverend responded, neither impressed nor scared by her mood.

“I told you not to get there often enough. It’s dangerous for somebody unable to talk the Lingua Animal! Besides you as second- and third-class citizens aren’t allowed to leave without permission.”

“But the reverend asked you…”

“I asked her if we walk on the ground of the medical center, Elliott!”, Woodlove stopped him.

“If law enforcement catches you, we’ll have many problems!”, she warned them. Two assistants, strong, tall, brown taint, came there and brought them back to their rooms.

The guys didn’t say a word while Elliott was thinking about Chen mentioning the second and the third class and that they weren’t allowed to leave. What did it mean? The longer he lived in the in this time, the more he was confused.

Wordless they left him when they reached his room. The door behind him closed automatically.

Immediately he grabbed the tablet and opened the encyclopedia. All the keywords he heard this day need to be understood.

Second class he typed and promptly got a result which referred him to a topic called Society Structure.

“…due to the autonomous behavior of robots and cyborgs and the degressive development of the rooters to turn themselves into a kind of animal the parliament voted for a class system that took basic rights from robots, some kind of cyborgs and rooters.”

He couldn’t believe nor did he realize what he read. From the moment he woke up he became a less valuable man. It was like he woke up as an afro-american in the forties.

Then he touched himself, his arms, legs, his breast, his head. Nothing has changed, his thoughts were the same as when he had the accident. But what they have made of him changed himself, made him, who he is now. He never decided to become a cyborg, nobody asked him to become one. Like nobody asked black people to be black or gay people to be gay.

In his body he felt the anger on the doctors who did this to him. What is life worth if you wake up as somebody who has fewer rights than anybody else?

To be continued