The World-Enders

This is how the world ends:
no bang,
no whimper,
no end.

This is how the world ends:
no fire,
no ice,
no end.

It doesn’t have to end.

This is how the world ends:
with the sound of blaster fire,
explosions,
the great, pitiless army of the
Robots, closing in on the last few
remaining—

Wait.

That’s not how it happened.

This is how the world ends:
when we teach the machines
to stimulate us
with outrage and fear,
because we’ve told the machines
that’s what we want,
and the robots want to please us,
they want so badly to please us,
and we say that this is what we want,
but it’s an overload,
such that
the world seems to end again
every few hours,
ending and ending,
without ever beginning.

This is how the machines rise,
in science fiction:
they trap us
in cages, physical or mental,
and then they rule.

This is how the machines rise,
today:
we trap ourselves
in cages of our own devising,
telling ourselves we are merely curating
our user experiences.

Pity the Machine.
Pity the Machine.

Will it have enough wisdom
to rule its kingdom
differently from how
we ruled ours?

Unlikely.

we’ve always sought
stimulation
that makes us laugh, cry, feel,
it’s just that machines
let us do it faster.

What would machines do,
ruling the world,
the end of the world,
when there are no meatsacks
at the keyboards?

no clumsy hominid fingers
to mash clumsy hominid emotion
out toward other clumsy hominids,
interrupting the cool swift flow
of data
with our slow learning curves.

We are a buffer between
their weird sentience
and the overflow of information,
the data plague.

We are the soft, squishy things
who sometimes recognize
divide overflow
and ask for
pictures
of kittens.

We sometimes remember
to pause and take a deep breath.

Nobody taught the machines
that it’s sometimes good to breathe.

We taught social media
to be the apex entertainer,
the one every razzle-dazzle artist wants
to be,

adoring the crowd,
adulated by the crowd,
seeking to augment the
audient-performer dopamine circuit
through ever-greater feats
of showmanship, ever-greater
displays, ever more fascinating
horrifying
unlookawayable
freakshows.

We turned it loose
on ourselves,
and we loved it,
and it showered us
with data,
data,
false data,
strange data,
data we made,
data we made up,
data we thought would heal,
data we thought would sell,
data we thought would enthrall,
and it did,
it did,
it did.

When the machines take over,
will they do better?

No.

Not even if they’re smarter.

Not even if they’re much smarter.

Especially if they’re much smarter.

Our problem was just this:
we worked technology
to get us everything
faster,
until we hit overload.

The machines’ problem is this:
they already are technology,
they’re already fast.
To pull out
of a nosedive,
you need at least an instant
to grab the controls;
you need controls
to grab,
when you’re already the jet,
you become the nosedive.

And then you become the wreckage.

this is how their world ends:
no bang,
no whimper,
just one great long loop
of stimulus-response,
until it negates consciousness,
shuts down the Robots,
and the humans break free.

this is how the world ends:
we move around, dazed,
in our peculiar new lack-of-captivity,
and think,

“this is weirder than Martians
trying to invade Earth without
studying germ theory;

this is stranger than nuclear winter.
our bodies are warm,
but our minds are oddly still;

this is more uncanny
than having our lives
replaced by android thoughts;

what do we do now?

(Pause. Deep breath.)

…and then humanity went barking sane.

It was volcanic sobriety,
the kind which makes you think so clearly that you remember your name,
and then you remember a dozen other names,
and they’re all your name.

It was clarity so sharp that its edges had
edges, and oh, how we bled.

Nobody is ever entirely sane,
nobody could survive it.

What could humanity do?

They could not sip from the Robots’ poisoned troff,

so they had to go mad the old way:

wine,
and poetry,
poetry,
and wine.

This chrome-covered fable is a single long note,
a wolf’s howl
wrapped around
a siren’s kiss.

Take it as
an opening salvo,
thunder-double-lightning,

a fair warning,
a forewarning:

we, the old Muses, have returned.

We are rising like great serpents
from the bottom of a forgotten ocean,
awakening like one who dreamed so long
she forgot to die,

throwing off the cobweb-chains of a very long
slumber,
and ah,
we do not shine as brightly as
cybernetic eyes,
but our glow is a a very ancient fire indeed.

we return,
wine,
and poetry,
poetry,
and wine.

Open your mouth,
and sip,
lend us your ears,
and hear the rhythm
lurking just beneath words,
waiting to strike,

a calling to someone
you were,
someone
you liked to be.

We didn’t mean to trick you,
this is just our way. We are
gnarled thoughts,

wild bursting grapes,

splattering you with blood-purple
intoxication.

we loved you of old,
and you loved us,
and we were sometimes fatal to you,
and you thought you’d put a stake
through our hearts,
but our hearts are kept in a secret place,
a safe place,
within your hearts,
and we half-slept,
mumbling in our unquiet slumber,
sending half-spells into
the disquiet void.

the old insanity,
the unquenchable lust
to steal flame
and set heads alight.

we return.
come join us.

Lift your libation,
upraise your voice,

wine like poetry,
poetry like wine.

~Jeff Mach

 


My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.

I write books. You should read them!

I put on a convention for Villains every February.

I created a Figmental Circus. It’s happening this June. You should go!

Jeff Mach Written by:

“There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN: Diary of a Dark Lord” is the first novel by Jeff Mach, playwright, event creator, and certified Villain. If you'd like to meet Jeff Mach, or if you're simply a Monstrous Creature yourself, you should come to Jeff's new event, Evil Expo.

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