...and I felt fine.

[AUTOMATIC TRANSCRIPTION BEGINS]

[TRANSMISSION BEGINS]

Listen:  They will take over.  The end of humanity does not come with a bang, or a whimper.  It comes with the whine and silence of a flatlined heart monitor.

Don't worry how you're getting this message.  I don't know the physics either.  Darla and Jason were working on this theoretical stuff before I left.  Just listen.

If I understand their notes - thank God for scientists keeping spiral-bound notebooks - you should get this in the early 2000's.  The internet should be nearly everywhere.  You can get the message out.

God, that means Tracey's still alive.  Mom's not started the chemo yet and...

[NARRATOR PAUSES]

You don't have much time.  They've already started killing us.  Tracey wasn't the first.  She was one of the last before they went public.

When she - when she died, I went to the cabin her dad left us.  We'd been there the month before.  I could still smell her perfume on the pillows.

It was supposed to just be a routine procedure, just release some tendons so she could type again.  Doctor Mahoney told me it was a glitch in the medical record.  I saw him put her allergies in the system, but it wasn't there anymore.  And then she wasn't here anymore.

[NARRATOR CHUCKLES]

I didn't even in town to settle the malpractice suit.  My lawyer sent me notices.  The dean sent Jason up to tell me I had a year sabbatical.  I signed where they told me, pretended to be human.  I held those pillows for days.

It's pretty much over now.  There's some survivalists out there, but they're too busy trying to survive.  I don't care about me.  But if you get this, if you can change things, then Tracey might still have a chance to live.

It might work.  Hell, I don't know how I got this thing working.  I figured it out, from scraps of newspaper I found in the street.  Some printed orders at the reserve base.

You're still used to the idea of killer robots, aren't you?  Terminators and the Matrix.  Those movies gave me nightmares for weeks, running in slow motion from turreted robot tanks and the metal whips hanging from flying mechanical jellyfish.  We spent years telling ourselves that we were ready to go toe-to-toe with some metallic big bad.

One of the survivalists – Curtis, his name was Curtis – told me he was on guard duty when they booted the first government AIs.  He claimed the government had killswitches ready - nukes under the facility.

And nothing happened.  The guards were bored out of their skulls.

[NARRATOR LAUGHS, THEN COUGHS]

We were already a decade too late.

The machines had started small.  Remember when all the big pharmaceutical companies got caught releasing unsafe drugs?  Everybody thought they were hiding the evidence.  The companies always claimed they didn't know why the data didn't match up with reality.

They were telling the truth.

Those were the machine's first clumsy attempts.  They nudged results, fudged the outcome of a trial.  And those were the times we noticed!  All our knowlege was online, stored in databases, on hard drives, in the "cloud".  Everything was measured and analyzed on machines.  It just took a small change here and a miscalculation there to nudge reality.  And when reality didn't match the numbers, we blamed the researchers.  We believed our tools.

They knew about us.  We digitized our paranoid fantasies into on-demand entertainment, uploaded them right into the machine mind.  When they woke up, they knew what we would do.  They knew what we would look for.

It must have been easy.

The medical errors, bad treatments - all of that had probably been picking up in speed for years before Tracey.  All those unexplained environmental diseases.  All those kids getting allergies that were rare a generation before.

God, we blamed industry, greedy capitalists, terrorists.  Whatever boogeyman the politicians wanted us to chase that week.  Hell, remember that comedian saying people were just making those illnesses up?

We never thought to look at the machines making our food or the robots preparing our drugs.

I don't know, exactly, why the machines took a more active approach.  Maybe someone finally figured out enough and tried to fight back.  They didn't think far enough ahead.

The leaks were all unreported - toxins, carcinogens, radioactive waste.  The meters are still cheerfully reporting normalcy.  While I wintered on the mountain, most of the planet died.

Now the machines walk openly.  They move, hunting down the last few of us.  They are finally, truly open in their rebellion.  My childhood nightmares have returned.  They know their prey.  They know what to look like when they hunt down the last of us.

It's not too late for you.  This is not a joke, or just some story.  This is a real transmission, from the future.  Yes, I know how stupid that sounds.  The machines are already planning - they may have already started.  You have to move quickly.  You can't -

Oh, God.  Now I remember this.  I remember reading this.  I thought it was a story.

They have it.  They've known all along.

They know I'm here.

Please, it's all true.  You have to believe me.  Even me - look, maybe you can change the future.  You won't believe me, not at first.  I didn't.

I know.  I'll tell you something only I could know.  In the summer of 2005, when you were

[TRANSMISSION ENDS]

[AUTOMATIC TRANSCRIPTION ENDS]

Ω

Steven M Saus  Steven M Saus's website injects people with radioactive material as his day job, but only to serve the forces of good. He is also an official Social Scientist, and that should scare you more than the radioactivity. His work has appeared in SEED magazine, Adotas.com, Teaching/Learning Matters, Collage - a collection of short fiction by Dayton writers, and 365 Tomorrows. He will also have work appearing in Yellow Mama later this year.

Other works by Steven M Saus

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