UKArchive



UKArchive ID: 19337Thrall by chrissytotoro
Originally published on May 7, 2007 in Fiction    

I wake. My head is empty. The world feels empty. In the six hours from midnight to now, something has gone disastrously wrong with the world, my world. Any comments/constructive crit welcome



Thrall

I wake. My head is empty. The world feels empty. In the six hours from midnight to now, something has gone disastrously wrong with the world, my world.
I try the explanations. A power outage. The building generator would have kicked in. Attack by persons or states unknown. I would be dead and I’m not. The transfer was not set. That is a possibility. The transfer is his job.
I move from my bed to the computer interface, interrogate the log, no transfer took place. In my stomach there is a sudden nausea, in my mind total, blind panic.
Fifteen years have elapsed since I last had anything like original thoughts and I have never really thought for myself.
The first twenty years of my life were mapped out by the plan. E.L.E.S: Eat, Learn, Exercise, Sleep. Original thought did not have a place.
“Good morning, my boss.”
Nothing, just my own anticipation.
“Good morning, my boss.”
No response.
I shuffle off the satin sheets and sit on the edge of the double bed, shake my head to clear my still sleepy brain.
A look at the clock tells me that it is 6.30 am. I should have woken an hour ago. What the hell is going on.
I stand, bare feet feeling the luxurious bedside rug.
‘My boss?’ I internalise the words but still there is nothing.
A kind of panic drags me from the bed room into the Solarium where the glass sarcophagus stands utilising the first weak rays of sunshine.
He is still there. Of course he is still there. I expect him to not be?
I cross to the console, check the last transfer. It had gone perfectly. I view the log;
Transfer commenced 23:10:15 completed 23:15:05. Five minutes ten seconds. Perfectly normal.
I check the utilities. No outages reported, so I check National. Nothing there either. I go back to the transfer log and click NEXT. The text blinks at me. Transfer 5:23:50 not commenced. Command deleted 24:00:00. Ultima.
I’m finding it harder to breath. What I am seeing is impossible. My throat tightens and I recognise anger and pure panic vying for my attention.
Whipping the chair around, I stare for a long time at the three hundred year old corpse that lies so still and silent.
“What the hell have you done?”
A personal message tone sounds and draws my attention back to the screen.
PM Clem7. Read?
Yes.
Clem7, this is not the longest suicide note ever written it just took a long, long time to write. I understand your anger and fear but I am too damned weary to care. Today 07/07/4000 should be my three hundred and fiftieth birthday. That is too long for any man to live. I have never believed that the service I created should last for eternity. Selfishness and massive egos are the only things that have kept it going as long as it has. I suppose the fault is mine. I should have built in regulators to the original programme but even a genius can’t think of everything.
I’m too weary now to bother about it. I would think you still don’t understand that but you and I have only been combined ten years and when you’ve lived as long as I have that’s only a second in time.
What you do with your life, is now your business. I have no part of you now and you have no part of me. You are a free man and though you were never prepared for that - I suppose I should be sorry - you have to come to terms with it and survive the best way you can.
You are not stupid and I suppose you’ll make some sort of stab at it.
We shall meet again in heaven, as my father would have said.
Be lucky, free man. David (Ultimo)

I sit back staring at the screen. Thoughts only drift into my mind very slowly. Free man? Am I truly that? And if I am, do I want to be?
I look over at the sarcophagus. I know even before I check the settings that it has been set to off just after midnight but I go across and check anyway.
Nausea wells up inside me. What in the name of heaven am I going to do?
I have made no decisions for ten years. I have not even taken myself to the bathroom in that time. He lived an eighteen hour day. I don’t live at all.
Panic sets in again. All kinds of delusional thoughts scurry after one another through my ‘liberated’ mind. I think about overriding the automatic setting on the sarcophagus but that would only revive his body. His brain is dead, his mind is gone and that is the way he wants it.
I could put on a suit, walk out the door and just leave him there, but where would I go, what have I got that doesn’t belong right here in this room, with this man.
One after the other the possibilities present themselves and are shot down. In the end I just sit in the chair and do nothing. Tears fill my eyes. In thirty five years, I have never been alone.
My first twenty four years, I spent in Building seventeen on the East side of the quadrant in a Thrall cell, four by four, each day exactly the same. Wake, exercise, wash, eat, learn, exercise, wash, eat, learn, exercise, wash, sleep. No seasons, no laughter, no tears just a body, growing, developing. Not much of a life - no life at all - but always I knew there was someone close by, another thrall like myself just meters away in the next cell, or the staff who watched me twenty-four seven. I was never alone. The only thing I had of my own was hope. The hybrid hope born of boredom and despair. The small, not well nurtured emotion that got me out of bed each morning with the thought that today might be the day the call would come.
And then it did come. Not in the translucent morning when things should be born, but at night, while I slept my dreamless sleep. One night I was woken, dressed and bundled out of the building without any knowledge of where I was going.
The Tower, the home of The Ultima Corporation is thirty Quadrant blocks and a world away from where I’d been.
A high wall surrounds it. Creepers grow over the stone and the building rises above the city almost into the cloud. There are gates and security locks and then there is the penthouse, the pinnacle, shining, new, bright metal and ancient wood. And it was here they brought me and left me.
His host then was old, his face wrinkled, flecked with dark spots but the voice had a strength.
I did not look at the host. I kept my eyes down. I think they appreciated that.
“So,” he said. “Here you are. And you’re ready for this?”
I muttered; “I am, my boss.”
I felt his eyes looking at me, examining the package.
“How old are you?” He asked.
“I am twenty-four, my boss.”
“So young. So much time.”
There was a silence between us; the host, me and him and then he said: “This body is eighty two years old. He and I have been together for fifty years but he’s old now and doesn’t get me around so well. Our muscles ache, our feet swell and he has certainly doesn’t have the power over women that I require. You on the other hand are very fit, quite good looking. I think you will do very well. Tell me, are you intelligent?”
“I am, my boss.”
“You’ve never skipped a lesson?”
“No, my boss. Why would I?”
“And you have no desire for a life of your own?”
I didn’t know how to answer that. There was no prospect of my having a life of my own. My only purpose was him, to be his vehicle, his means of experiencing all the carnal experiences, the sensory experiences. That was my reason for existing.
“You have no desire for a life of your own?” he asked again.
“No, my boss.”
“Good. I have to ask these things - what is your designation by the way?”
“Clem7, my boss.”
“Clem7. Well, I have to ask you these things, Clem7, because the constitution demands it of me. I have to have you verbally agree to this. Slavery - do you know the meaning of that word?”
“I do, my boss.”
“Slavery was outlawed, criminalised, centuries hell, millennia ago, that is why you have to agree and why I can not ‘inhabit’ you twenty four/seven. That would be illegal. The decision to let me enter your body always has to be yours. That is the way it must be with us. A mutual contract.”
“I understand that, my boss.”
“And you agree?”
“I do, my boss.”
He touched my chin up so that I had to look at the host. “This is all I have to offer for my part of the bargain, Clem7, that one day, a very long time from now I hope, I will use your hands to make some other young man stare into the face of his future.”
“I said I understood, my boss. I said I agreed.”
“So you did.”
I dropped my face down again so that I didn’t have to look at him.
“In precisely ten minutes, a technician will arrive to insert the chip into your brain. I have no idea how painful a process that will be. You will then be receptive to my matrix. There then follows an acquisition period, usually twenty hours, it depends on how co-ordinated you are, then I transfer back to my own body, you sleep for awhile,you wake and transfer me back. Are there any questions?”
I remember thinking I had a thousand questions but I managed only to articulate one .”If I could ask, my boss, what happens to ... Well erm the present .. Host?”
He pulled at his own shirt. “Him? I don’t know. I’ve never tried to find out.”
“You’ve lived inside him for fifty years, you said, and you don’t care? I’m sorry, my boss, I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, you shouldn’t, mainly because I didn’t say I didn’t care. I don’t want to know. I don’t know this man. After fifty years, I still don’t know this man any more than he knows me. I shave in the morning and I see his face but after all that time, it’s my face. I’ve watched his body fail, felt his pain but he hasn’t. Except first thing in the morning when he wakes.”
“Like I said, I should not have asked.”
He reached out and touched my shoulder. “Don’t worry about it.”
We signed documents, I took the retinal scan, gave the required DNA sample and then the technician was there; a young woman in a white coat with a small black box of shiny metallic objects she wouldn’t let me see.
It was painless. The housing had been implanted into my brain when I was probably only weeks old, all that was required was the implantation of the chip and small jolt of electricity to start it working.
I remember a discomfort in my ears, a little giddiness and then it was done.
The technician stuck around for a while as the host and I went through the various procedures for transfer but she wasn’t in the room with us when it happened.
That was my first sight of the sarcophagus; a long glass box that housed the very mortal remains of the man I was going to be.
He’d been a handsome man at one time. I remember thinking that, looking down at the sunken face, the leather-like skin that stretched across the bones of his skull. And I remember thinking, how could he bare to go back into that just to obey the law.
That first transfer was a terrifying experience. Even after ten years, I find it so hard to think about.
The host did all the physical stuff, worked the computer links, fitted the jacks to himself, me and the sarcophagus. I was told that I would have to do the final transfer from the sarcophagus to me and I was shown which button to push.
I watched as the first transfer, saw the life drain out of the host’s face, watched him crumple a bit, like he was just asleep. And then the almost mummified being in the glass coffin twitched, the eyes snapped open. I knew this was the final time I had any choice in the matter. I could, if I wanted remove the jack and walk out of there, free, enthralled to no one, but there was nowhere else for me to go, no one else for me to be.
I remember that my hand shook as I touched the little green light.
And then my head began to spin. All kinds of crazy stuff that I had no idea of, names that I didn’t know, pictures, people, concepts, flooded my brain.
History unfurled itself inside my head. Years and years of information. Children laughed, grew old, died. A million, million images spun in front of my eyes. I saw mountains, valleys, mighty, giant trees as old as time and tiny delicate flowers that lived a day and were gone. It seemed to last forever but it was over in seconds and then there was a voice inside my head, soft, comforting. “It’s all right, it’s done now. It won’t ever be this crazy again. Shush. It’s all right.”

My bladder tells me it‘s time I took a leek. It‘s a strange sensation feeling the physical responses of my own body that aren’t breathing and opening my eyes.
I run my hand down my arm, just to feel the sensation of my skin on my skin. Fascinating. But the need to urinate is just as real and less pleasant and I realise quite suddenly, I have no memory of where the bathroom is. I must have known. In that twenty hour period when he and I were sentient in the same body, I must have used the bath room.
I dig deep into my own mind and memory. There was the solarium, my room or rather his room and an en suit bath room.
I feel my face muscles flip into a smile. You haven’t beaten me yet, you bastard. I can and will piss without your permission.

Relieved , washed and dressed I have to find my way around. I amnot sure about surveillance in the apartment. I know there must be some, just in case I decided to do away with my ‘employer’ but how far reaching that surveillance is, I have no idea.
I could called up the apartment specs on my screen but that could alert the system that all is not well, so I will have to rely on trial and error and do my damnedest to keep the errors down to a minimum so that if anyone is watching, they won’t get suspicious.
I’m just plain lucky with the kitchen. Somewhere I can hear a very quiet, low humming sound. I figure it could be a refrigeration unit though it could just as easily have been the air-con but I follow the noise, let the scanner on the door scan me and hide my joy at the sight and kitchen smells masterfully for the imagined cameras. So far, so good. I will, for the moment have to eat the food he liked to eat, drink the beverages he liked to drink and maybe I will like them too.
As I eat the tasteless food and drink the lukewarm drink, the confusion and fear begin to leave my mind. I am using my own thought patterns and the more I use my brain, the easier it gets. I am thinking my own thoughts for the first time in ten years. A decision has to be made and it has to be made very soon. It is a simple decision really. I have the choice. I can take every movable, valuable item from the apartment, step outside, zero lock the door and be gone. My own person, in my own skin, making my own life. It would take them maybe some time to realise what I’d done and by that time I could be so lost to them that I would never be found. Alternatively, I can carry on being him, living his life, here, in this beautiful place, I can be David.
The trouble with the first choice is that almost every place in this and for all I know, every other quadrant, my bio-information is on record. I can not, at this moment, walk out and be someone else or even be myself. Some ancient ritual
chant drifts from some dark recess into my consciousness. ‘I am he and he is me and we are we and we are...’ There wasn’t anymore of it.
So, I have my alternative, which would be the more challenging move. I can carry on being David.
David, David what? David Ultima? I don’t think so. Ultima? The final syllable of a word. The last. The last.
He was a clever man. A genius and he liked games. More than once or twice I woke with a residual memory of a site he visited, somewhere he played games, word games.
My head starts to ache. This isn’t going to work. I need to think like him and I can only now think like my self. I have no idea how my days are spent. No idea how he speaks to people, if he does speak to people. I have never even imagined his life.
From the moment I woke in the morning I was sentient in my own brain only long enough to move from the room I woke in to the solarium where I transferred him and then I slept.
Desperately I try to remember if I had ever ‘woken’. There had been the first twenty hours when he and I were ‘together’ but that had been mostly a learning curve for him; regulating my heart beat, finding his way through my brain.
It just feels so hopeless.
I move from the kitchen to the lounge without really thinking about it. I have to figure out what he did all day and half the night. He was the head of a multi-quadrant corporation so presumably he spent sometime in an office. In this building? That was a distinct possibility.
I have no idea what I’m doing or what I’m going to do and then an idea comes to me. Perhaps if I try to suspend my consciousness then what every is residual in the chip will help me get a handle on his mindset and then I think why should I. He’s given me my freedom but freedom to do what? To continue his life? He wanted to die, to finish with being what he was, why would he condemn me to perpetuating that?
But he wasn’t thinking of me, was he? Why would you think of your body when your mind is set on death? I’m just the shell, I’m nothing. I’m the structure that moved him around from A to B and I have no more right to life without him than he had to life without me.
And do I just sit, waiting. Eventually someone will come to find out where he is and why he isn’t doing what he normally does and they’ll find me here, the thrall and maybe I’ll tell them what’s happened and show them the suicide note and maybe they’ll believe me and tell me what to do next.
Or maybe they won’t believe me or I won’t tell them and they’ll assume that I’ve killed him and take me away to prison where I won’t have to think for myself.
Freedom! Fine concept unless you’ve never had it, don’t know what to do with it.

© chrissytotoro (chrissy on OLD UKA)
UKArchive ID: 19337
Archived comments for Thrall
delph_ambi on 08-05-2007
Thrall
Fascinating story, very well told. I was gripped.

Author's Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to read this possibly too long story and I deeply appreciate your comments.
chrissy

chrissy on 10-05-2007
Thrall
I guess this is just too long for people to read. Shame.
Thanks for the nib and to delph_ambi for taking the time to read and comment.
chrissy

Author's Reply:

Gerry on 10-05-2007
Thrall
chrissy, I read it. I have to say it was certainly different.
One little point--you need more line breaks, It is too long for just two breaks IMHO 😉

Gerry xxx.

Author's Reply:
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Gerry. What I may do is have another serious look at and see if I can't trim it a bit (a lot) and re sub at a much later date.
chrissy

Rupe on 11-05-2007
Thrall
Very interesting and unusual piece. I found the repetition of 'my boss' highly effective, but I don't really know why. Likewise, some of your subversion of familiar expressions - the 'can and will' thing (piss without your permission). Imaginative idea & creative language.

Rupe

Author's Reply:
Rupe, many thanks for reading. I'm glad it worked for you.
chrissy

sirat on 13-05-2007
Thrall
Despite the length this one held my attention. The problem with nearly all science fiction is that you've got a lot of information to get across and that task gets in the way of other things like character development, pacing and atmosphere. I think this one has a reasonably original plot idea, but the theme, what it is to be free and why it matters, is ancient. To put it very succinctly, I would go for less plot and more theme. The centre of interest here is what this shell of a human being is going to do with the rest of his life. I wouldn't worry too much about how he got into this position (the details of the transferrence etc.) or whether anybody is going to hunt him down or prevent him from doing what he wants (you've already stressed that the thrall has to agree to being inhabited by the "boss". The more interesting material would be the kinds of possiblities that this future society, and even life itself, offers for somebody without a past and a completely free hand to choose. I would let him have more knowledge of the possibnilities. It becomes more interesting if he understands what his choices are. It's tempting to present him as so repelled by the kind of society out there (rampant consumerism? soul-less conformity? Stepford wives unreality?) that he takes the same decision as his boss. But there are all kinds of possiblities that you could develop.

Technically there are a few things that need to be tidied up, as you probably realise. e.g.

I’m finding it harder to breath. (should be "breathe")
I could called up (could have?)
presumably he spent sometime in an office (some time)
then what every is residual in the chip ("whatever", one word)

Author's Reply:
Sirat, many thanks for taking the time and trouble to read this piece and for your in depth comments.
I will take more of a look at this, bearing in mind what you've said.