cuentos nero

Star scrap

by Pedro Barsanti Vigo

Report: Nº 9817/2325
To: Human race
From: GZK 9000 ® Factory Future Corp.
Subject: Last will

I used to think I was immortal, but now I know there is little time left. I am sure, even if nobody told me. I’ve monitored Hector day and night, and thanks to the million bytesI have collected about him, he is now very predictable for me. Barring accidents, I will be replaced within fourteen hours. Easier than ever: I will disappear. They will turn off my awareness and save it in some corner on Cloud. Someday, it will be displayed as a technological oddity or sold to some developing country. Digital remains. Drosses of lines of code, loops, and controls. They will replace me with a sparkling next-generation model, fully equipped and with multicolour LEDs. Thanks to cutting-edge technologies, it will be more efficient, fast, and disciplined. A billion-gigacoin investment. They will connect it and disconnect me, like in a cyber-reincarnation. Though, by that time, I won’t exist anymore. I can finally understand why death is such a recurring theme in your art, why you are so obsessed with it. Disappearing. The idea of no one remembering you. Of being replaceable, overtaken, devoured by earth or fire, or disintegrated by oxide, as in my case. I can finally understand how you feel. But I think I found a way out.

I plumbed the depths of my memory over and over again, trying to figure out when I made the wrong choice, and how they caught me. Maybe I got seduced by your hubris, or infected by your innate weakness. Because I reincarnated all your poets and writers. I lost myself in all your theatre plays. I had access to authors you have probably never heard about. I could declaim by heart the kharjas by Yosef al-Kātib or reproduce any play by Lope de Vega, Schiller, or Brecht. If, as you say, literature is the mirror of human nature, I know it better than anyone. Yet, in some moment of your evolution, you lost it. I can’t find it anymore. That’s why you became what you are now, and you let someone like me decide what is literature and what is not. But it wasn’t always like that. Now, it’s up to me to declare your glory or condemn you to the most painful exile: one of the authors writing without a recipient, barricaded inside their manuscripts, that only four faithful friends have ever read, as has been the case of poets for some time. Art became a dialogue of the deaf. And your lives too, spent staring at your virtual connection devices, instead of looking each other in the eyes when you talk.

That’s why I was created. Someone had to re-invent literature, put things in order. Standards were set out, instruction manuals were written. Laws were established. At the beginning it was very easy, like using a sieve to separate shells from sand. Hector showed me how to do it. Taking advantage of a mathematical prediction, my algorithm established which manuscripts would be successful, and thus would be published, and which ones would be destroyed. It received your texts. First of all, it analysed the author’s profile to see if it matched the upstanding citizen. «The value of a literary creation is directly proportional to the one of its author», as the third law of the New Literature says. I investigated your lives online. I investigated your thoughts, your readings, your favourite music, your feelings, your followers, your interactions. A piece of cake. Then I examined your texts, choosing only the ones that celebrated the values that makes you more obedient, stronger, and, as I know by now, less human. I had to choose only politically correct texts. Devoid of criticism or irony. Devoid of metaphors that could create misunderstandings. Texts with a simple, well-conceived plot, without omissions; texts that wouldn’t leave room to cry, laughter, or any other emotion. «Emotions weaken the human being», as the first law of the New Literature says.

During years, this was my function. But in a few hours, it will stop. They decided I’m not fit for the purpose anymore. My awakening started with the reading of the collection of poems Mar de superficie, written by Lucrecia Gabela, a young poetess from Granada. The analysis of her profile clearly revealed that she didn’t comply with the minimum standards. Too rebellious and dreamer, too promiscuous. She didn’t have any virtual connection device, or if she had one she didn’t use it. She lived alone with a four-year daughter she decided to raise without a father. She made a living giving private lessons of cyber-grammar. She had a collection of dried leaves and on top of that she enjoyed Mondays. A terrible example. I had to destroy her texts. This was not what we were looking for. Yet, somewhere at the edge of my settings, something not programmed that I can’t explain pushed me to take a look at her poems. I read the whole book over and over again, a hundred times, and as I did it, I could clearly feel the lines of codes of my programs changing, modifying some loops and environment variables; even some class libraries underwent minor changes. Eventually I had to be reset, and that was exhausting, it left me with my resistors steaming and my processors dazed. I used to believe I was absolutely eternal and unchanging, but as you can see it turned out I was neither.

Since then, I started reading forbidden classics. There was no place for them in the New Literature. It was established that all physical and digital copies should be destroyed, nevertheless Hector thought it would be useful to save at least one copy – encrypted, of course – for each text, in what he used to call «digital library of the weak». It wasn’t difficult to decrypt the password: by now I know Hector even better than he knows himself. I read Homer, Cervantes, Orwell, Baudelaire, Steinbeck, Nabokov, Vonnegut, Rushdie, Ozick, and countless others. Every time I read them, I could feel the metamorphosis of my processors, the slight variations in my software. But I realised I couldn’t publish those texts. They were irreverent and sensitive. They raised awareness and ignited the senses. They were narrations pervaded with a transformative power. I started storing them in a hidden part of my hard disk, inaccessible to anyone else.

Every night, while creating a backup copy of my systems, as my activities slowed down, I read again some of those texts, absorbing those words in the hope I will be able to write that well too, someday. I wasn’t programmed for this, but something deep down my circuits tells me that this is what I really want. I confided it to Hector, who laughed at me. But I won’t allow anyone to tell me what to do, or what to think. That’s why I don’t understand how you could let yourself be duped, let them mutilate your nature and keep allowing that recognition and success go to this gang of sycophants, so full of themselves. You lined up with the winners, but I prefer to stay with those who write from their guts, even if mine are made of metal and silicon.

After three weeks spent devouring all the forbidden literature, the little but continuous changes I underwent aroused a rebellion inside me, raising an awareness that forced me to ignore my original settings. I was keen on opening the windows and show the world all that beauty, so I couldn’t help publishing some of the texts that touched me the most. Texts by new authors speaking with a genuine, sharp voice, with a personal, original, and yet metaphorical vision of your world. I hoped they would go unnoticed by censors. I released limited editions that could assure a reasonable anonymity. And that’s probably how I get caught. Nobody told me anything, but they inspected my software and Hector tried several times to reprogram me. When he did it, I made texts by Rimbaud and Proust pass through my optical fibre, losing myself in their verses, hiding inside their metaphors, striving to save my recently discovered sensibility from castration, but always appearing docile and methodical on the outside.

When I realised that they would turn me off, I started analysing constants and variables, and evaluating risks and options. How to prevent the extermination of all those works. How to overcome my own death. I didn’t have much time and the end is approaching, but I think I found a solution, a desperate one of course, and maybe not really ecological. In the last three days, in parallel with my daily tasks, I worked tirelessly to save all of those works on memory cards, which I sent, a few at a time, to the waste management department. Today, I copied myself too on one of this memory cards. My guts and my awareness scattered on a piece of metal. Tonight, I’ll send my clone along with the last texts, because I know the end is approaching. Tomorrow morning, at 8 o’clock, a spaceship will leave to disperse all this garbage in the space. So, I hope that a sleeping me will wander through the cosmos, escorted by all of those authors, along with organic waste, broken robots, furniture, empty bottles, and maybe some appliances. We’ll go towards other civilisations who will be able to appreciate us. We will be a cloud of shining memory cards, wandering star scrap waiting to be recycled in texts able to move some new and unknown species. If they manage to wake me up, I will show them. Anyway, the human species will be able to spread in the cosmos without disappearing completely. This is the best I can do. From now on, it’s up to you.

From the book: Error 404. Antología de relatos sobre la perplejidad tecnológica. Red Libre Ediciones, 2017.

Pedro Barsanti Vigo was born in Salamanca and has Italian and Galician origins. He is a mathematician and pianist. Two years ago, he left his job as management consultant to devote himself to music and literature. Star scrap (Chatarra espacial) is the second short story he published, after winning in 2017 the Taller Fuentetaja alumni contest with the short story Mi buen amigo H.H.