Me and Machine

The train poured out of the tunnel, and endless stream of boxcars and flat empty carriage holders, on and on and on, the engines roaring in a crescendo of deafening sound, yet the pull of the train too slow to warrant such a noise so it made it seem like a weak, outdated machine.

Maybe the train was just too heavy, and so the engines had to work extra hard. I counted forty boxcars and then I lost count, as more kept spilling out of the gaping hole of the tunnel at the furthest end of the station; the mouth of this huge cavern of a station echoing with humanity drowned in the noise of the machine. Boxcars filled by robots, operated by robots, stacked by robots and sent off by robots to factories run by artificial intelligence.

So much power created, and the world carried on pretending to be the humdrum efficient system humans had created it to be.

And still it kept coming, more and more, vomiting out boxcars as they trundled along to the ends of the earth. I watched them glide past, too fast to jump on without serious injury or even fatality, and too slow to not contemplate doing the latter.

In the end, when the noise faded after the last boxcar holder, devoid of its box, melted into the wavy distance of burning horizon, the station sat in silence. Hunched over after the hefty belch it had just expelled from its gut.

I looked around me. Emptiness. Stillness. The laughter and chatter I imagined beneath the roaring noise of firing pistons had disappeared with the train, and I was left alone.

Was it my imagination, there there were people around me? The heat blazed outside the gaping lips of the station, where trains go after they have surfaced from its gut. The sky was brilliantly blue, deliciously deceiving, for I knew my skin would burn and curl up into brown flakiness the minute I stepped out of the shadow. I was alone. Sitting on a bench. Clutching my canvas bag close to me, feeling my sweaty thighs meld together under the soft cotton of my dress, which felt a little damp from the sweat I imagined pooled there.

My throat was dry, but the shops were closed. I sat and waited for the next train, the next glimpse of humanity to cure my aching loneliness. I would imagine human chatter under the noise of mechanical efficiency. After all, machines were created by humans.

I can’t be the only one left in the aftershock of viral destruction. It can’t be just me and the machines. Me and the remnants of man.

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Modern Safety

In this modern world, it is hard to be safe. Completely safe, I mean.

Look at it this way; the people you meet are not all going to be stable and sane. In fact, you yourself might not be stable and sane. That is a fact. So, let us say you meet a human who is completely unrelated to you, and form a relationship. It could be friendship, it could be romance, it could even be a bizarre attachment. Relationships come in all shapes and sizes, and the way humans connect is strange and surreal and fascinating, so it’s hard to put a label on anything.

Anyway. Say you met the person, and for reasons unknown the relationship turned sour. I don’t know, maybe the other party decided you were too bossy and called the friendship quits. Maybe you realised the other party was a manipulative psychopath so you decided to get out of the situation sharpish. Maybe the other party thought you smelled bad. Maybe you thought they smelled bad. There is such a variety of reasons, you get the picture.

So you decided to move on in life. Sever ties. Goodbye, and good luck. Or leave me the heck alone and don’t contact me. Or see you around (but not really).

Well, if that person (or, indeed, you) decided that actually they didn’t want to sever ties, and wanted to keep in contact, would it be so hard? We have Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and we check into places almost unconsciously because there is always that option.

Instagram: Hey, social media person, would you like to tell everybody where you are eating this delicious cinnamon roll? Here are some options based on the location your phone is giving me!

Social Media person: Urrrrmmm. Noooo. Wait what, I didn’t click anything!

Instagram: Congratulations, now everybody knows you were eating at Cinnabon in the Bull Ring, Birmingham City Centre at 2:30PM. HEAR THAT EVERYBODY? SHE’S RIGHT HERE. COME GET HER.

See what I mean? Even if your location services are switched on in your phone settings you could be unconsciously sending out signals to the interwebs about where you are.

It’s not even just that. People are so innocently putting in where they work and how many languages they speak and where their pet dog likes to go walkies, and they don’t realise that ANYBODY can find them. ANYBODY.

Remember that smelly girl who was clingy and weird? Well, hullo, she is now at the reception desk at work asking for you by the name only your mother uses when she is pretty mad.

Or that manipulative psychopath you desperately want out of human existence? Well, he knows your name by heart and has created a google account in your name (I mean, what the heck is your problem, man) and is now emailing you relentlessly.

Well, folks. We are not safe. I guess we never were, and stalkers have a way of finding out where you live out of pure will and drive. We all know lots of things are possible out of pure will and drive.

It’s all this data, though, that we have everywhere. All these different databases with different aspects of our lives stored on their systems. If they all pooled their information about us collectively, they would have a complete picture of our lives down to a (reasonably accurate) prediction of our deepest fears and desires. Banks, medical records, dental records, school records, job records etc.

The technology is there, you see?

I don’t have Facebook and I really, honestly, don’t put any personal details about myself on the internet, but I feel so vulnerable all the time.

Do any of you feel this way? Do you feel safe using Apple, Google Play etc? I mean, for example, the other day my phone suggested that I could go ‘home’ instead of Shropshire, despite the fact that I entered Shropshire into Google Maps. What was that about? How the heck did it even know where ‘home’ was? I sure as heck never told it. Also what is with the cheek of suggesting I go home?

Um, no, smartphone, I will decide where I want to go. I am still capable of doing that. See? They’re savvy.