(December 2, 2004)
He wasn’t sure why, but he was being reconstructed: reconstituted, remastered, peeled apart and restitched. A gradual digitization had overtaken his digits and his senses were becoming lifeless silicates, cold and blind outside of causation-correlations and binaries. He wasn’t sure how, but his mind was growing mechanical, his heart hydraulic, and someone was to blame, even if it was himself.
He had awakened one morning to find that his left arm was numb from the elbow down; the skin felt soft and dead, coldly warm like the insulation on a power cable. After stumbling around for most of the day, bumping the sensationless limb into every wall and piece of furniture he encountered - its dimensions no longer clear to his brain, as if it existed only in theory - he caught the back of his hand on a doorjamb. As he’d come to expect, there was no pain, but his mouth fell open as he saw the edge of his flesh peel up in a neat stripe, like a piece torn from an aging piece of cloth.
He told himself that the logical thing to do was to call for help, but with only the slightest urging from his conscious mind, he instead sent an exploratory fingernail under the new flap, pressing the tip of his finger into his hand and lifting it slightly. In the next moment he pulled it back, recoiling with a shudder; this caused the skin to retract, spreading itself smoothly over the spaces it had briefly abandoned with a rubberlike ease, but not quickly enough to keep him from seeing inside the temporary fissure. Though the streaks of red and blue, the narrow lengths of bone, and the threading of muscle and sinew were still there, they had an artificial shine and a lack of motion, as though the water in each cell had been replaced with something plasticized - nothing was metallic, but he could not escape the idea that it was still fraudulent, a hollow replica of the heat and life that had once existed there.
He wiggled his fingers to prove that he still could, and the movement had the same disconnected quality that came from mindlessly tapping keys or using a mouse. The desired result was there, but with no feeling, no concrete sense of completion.
And he had wept, his tears running off of his new forearm like beads of rainwater repelled from the hood of a car.
Over the following weeks, the changes had progressed in a steady organic regression. Each morning he would find more deadened spots - spreading up to his shoulder, across his back, down his flanks and back again - and though he occasionally tried, he could never stave off sleep long enough to spare himself a night’s changes. He spoke of the situation to no one; though in his initial alarm and despair he had made plans to seek someone, anyone, who might be able to restore the life to his veins, the creeping mechanics brought a certain solemn serenity. There was a simplicity to be found in the complication, a reduction of choices to simple on/offs/yes/nos that greatly increased his potential for situation-processing. Not quite accepting his fate but lacking the data necessary to come to a firm stance on its significance, he slept and woke in shifting power cycles and grew steadily more distant from himself.
Was this a blessing, or a curse? He slowly lost both concepts, abstract as they were, so that the question ceased to matter; it was replaced by an analytical curiosity which lead him to dig into himself, performing experiments like tearing the skin from his abdomen in order to examine his organs and then replacing it with a few staples. He suspected that he was not gaining self- awareness so much as awareness of self-obliteration, but it made no difference once he could pull arteries out of his calves and wrap them in spirals up to his knees like the ribbons on a dancer’s slippers - he either grew or lost himself to the detachment of a machine, ensuring that his functions ran smoothly but paying no heed to aesthetics.
Eventually, his system was completely rewired; he did not mark the day, as his mind had changed so perfectly in sync with his body that once it was complete, he could perceive no difference. He had been reduced to an automaton, losing even the last vestiges of his desire to explore himself, his numb frame providing a million calculations per second without the capacity to feel the significance of the data coming in. He still walked, breathed, smiled and beat his heart, but these were merely programmed responses, methods set to keep him running; his soul, if such a thing had ever existed, had been phased out along with his moisture, in order to make more room for his circuitry.
The odd thing was that no one else ever noticed.