There's a noise inside my head. It's not outside, it's inside. I know because my ears can't hear it. It hums. No. Grinds at the back of my skull. I've accepted it as a part of me now, because it's inside of me. I think it's there to change me. I use my eyes, at least what's left of them, to look down at myself. I can't see how I could be changed any more. I'm a guinea-pig, well not really, because I know I'm not a first. I am the 'new machine', the 'new worker for the future'.
They said robots would be doing most of the menial tasks in the future, and they were right. I'm what the older scientists and technicians around the Lab term loosely as a cyborg, part human-part machine. What part of me that's still human I can't recall, except maybe for my brain. I know this because, well, I can think. The me that I used to know, that was flesh and bones, is now made up of wires, metal, and other bits and pieces I'll never understand. Words like resistors, capacitors, transistors, RAM, bytes and other electronic gobbledegook is bandied around me like I couldn't give a shit, but I do. I want to know what's being done to me. I mean, if it weren't for the accident then I might still be a human, not some kind of... of android.
Annie, my wife, and myself were travelling the Citi-link to do some shopping. The Citi-link is a crazy arrangement of tubes that propel cars across the city like little bubbles through a straw. It runs high above the houses and I've always felt a bit giddy looking out of the tubes at the city, its buildings towering up into the sky. It disturbed me that you couldn't see the ground. I always liked to feel the earth beneath my feet. In fact, I don't know why we decided to build upwards, down into the ground probably would have been better, but in the past there was the threat of global warming and polar ice-caps melting. Then we fixed the ozone layer. How, I don't know, they never taught us that in school.
Anyway, back to how I ended up strapped into my metal skin. The Citi-link suddenly failed and the car we were in plunged down the tube, faster and faster. We had no control, and I was yelling to Annie to hold me, I might slip away any moment and as she grabbed at me I flew backwards and smashed my neck against the back of the car. There was blackness and fuzzy bits and pieces, then, when I awoke, I was in Med-unit. The doctors said that my entire body from the neck down was useless; I'd destroyed most of my spine and nervous system. I was pretty shook up with it all - I couldn't think that anything worse could ever happen. Then this guy came and saw me, wanting to offer me some kind of help. He was weaselly looking, sort of skinny with large glasses. He came close to me and whispered in my ear and I could smell stale cigarette smoke. I can remember as if it was yesterday. He asked me if I wanted a new body, and I asked him what for. A new life, came the reply, so what could I do? I couldn't sign anything, so a yes was as good as a wink to a blind man. I didn't really know what I was getting into then, and sometimes I'm still not really sure.
My body was replaced by metal; it's a long time since my own blood has pumped through my veins. Some kind of other protein slips around my system, feeding my heart and my brain. I think I've still got a heart, although it's more likely that it's been replaced with something like valves and fancy computer circuitry. I have no need of eating any more, my stomach left a while ago, along with all those other digestive organs. I can remember the sweet tastes of ice-cream, the saltiness of oysters, and other delights. I miss eating. Speaking of delights, sex is completely out of the question, for God's sake I can't even have proper wet dreams any more. There's simply nothing down there. Nothing at all. Not that Annie, or any other women for that matter, would ever want to do the dirty with a robot. I shudder at the thought. I mean, metal doesn't have feelings. I could never feel the soft texture of skin, run my fingers through hair, feel the silkiness. Shit, I can't even feel the parts of my own metal body. I just know they're there because a little computer at the base of my skull tells me at regular intervals, in a tinny little voice, that everything is still functioning as it should.
'Legs activated, Arms activated, Extremities activated, Torso at 94%', it moans at me like an accountant checking over my taxes. Then there's this other sound inside my head. It gets louder and louder by the day and sometimes it's so loud I just can't think. There's no escape from it and, at times, I feel like taking the top of my metal skull off and scratching away at this little headache, this little bug in my head. Until it goes away. Then it comes back when the little computer is running his system checks and drowns out all I can hear. I suppose it's the nature of some of this new circuitry and silicon based stuff they're putting into me. Sort of like having a new consciousness, because at times I can't remember a lot of things. I must admit, ever since this goddamn noise inside my head came along, my memory hasn't been what it used to be. I'd try to think of, say, something me and Annie might have done before the accident and I'd only get small glimpses of it. Then, the next day, there'd be less and less of the memory and more of the bloody noise, tickling the back of my brain. A scientist comes to check on me every now and then, and we talk. At least I use my brain to work the voice chips that are located where my mouth used to be. I hear my voice, a sound that I'm still trying to come to terms with. It's sort of distant. It sounds real enough I suppose, sometimes a bit stilted because it takes time for the chip to catch up with what my brain is telling it, but I can hold perfectly good conversations.
We only talk about stupid things, like how the weather is, which is pointless. There is only one window in the Lab. High up above everything, a kind of skylight. All I ever see in it is blue, black or grey. Occasionally a small puff of white may appear. I never see the sun, or the moon. I thought I saw stars a long time back, but I have a feeling it may have just been a side-effect to the optical re-alignment programming. I've lost track of the days long ago. All I ever see is the dirty fluorescent lights above me and I sleep when I can, when my head hurts and I'm tired. The technicians probably come when I'm asleep too. In fact I know they do, because I swear they play with my dreams. I'd be stuck in this great dream, I won't go into the details, but it's pretty damn good, and all of a sudden I'd find myself swimming in custard with pink elephants talking through bubbles at me.
Maybe that's what these guys think real dreams should be, or perhaps that's what cyborgs should dream about. I thought electric sheep was more appropriate. Who knows, but they always manage to kill the critical moment. There's one joker amongst the techs, who it is I'm yet to find out, who relishes in making my fantasies change from the normal to the strictly disgusting. I mean, I'm broad-minded, for someone with their brain encased in what amounts to a steel mixing bowl, but what this guy dreams up... not normal.
Up until now, I've spent most of my time laying on a kind of metal bed, surrounded by wires and connected to all kinds of machines. There are always techs running around them, fiddling with levers and buttons, making sure everything is working perfectly. Then, this particular day, a tech tells me that today they are going to test the manual-response enhancers for the first time. He tells me I'm finally going to walk, to get up from my bed, and walk. The scientists and technicians flit around me, like moths around a flame, pulling out wires and adjusting stuff. One asks me to move parts of my body every now and then, while another nods and keys numbers into a computer. Then they're standing me up, warning me I will most likely fall over at first, so be careful. They don't want any of the sensitive circuits and metal limbs damaged. They say to take slow steps so the systems will align themselves with the circuitry connected to my brain. I do as they say and I jerk around the room, like someone having a vertical epileptic fit. Then I'm moving around. I start to use all my limbs, working the fingers and circling my arms doing pretend freestyle and backstroke. I know it sounds exciting, but there's still that little noise at the back of my head, niggling away. If only Annie were here to see me. Now that I can move around properly they've already got me doing a few jobs; sweeping the floor, moving the boxes and the like. They don't want to overwork the circuits just yet. The technicians are friendly enough, but I hope I do the right thing by them, considering how much work they've all invested in me. I can't actually remember what I was before, which troubles me a little. I'll ask Annie when she comes to see me.
I know she wants to, because I overheard one of the techs talking about it. At least he said something about my wife forcing the boss to let her see me. They muttered something about chips too, so I lost interest in eavesdropping. I would have heard clearer, but that damn noise in the back of my skull seemed to get even louder and actually started to hurt when they mentioned Annie. I hope she comes soon. It's such a long time since I've spoken to her, and I've forgotten so much. The techs have got me moving some of the larger equipment around the Lab today. It's good work. I get to use my new limbs to there full potential and actually I quite enjoy it. It makes me feel that I have a purpose, something the techs tell me I should feel. I mean, I don't know if I ever had any other use before they gave me my new life. I'm thinking about this when a strange woman comes into the Lab. She brushes past the techs and they all stare at her. She walks deliberately towards me and stands in front of me, blocking me from my work. I put down the large metal crate I'm carrying and turn to her. I say hello and this woman says hello back and another word I don't recognise. Paul, I think it is. I ask her what it means, because I don't remember ever hearing it before. She looks at me then says; 'It's Annie, Paul, please don't say they've taken you away from me.' I look at her face, it is strangely familiar, but the noise is starting to hurt and she becomes less familiar, just a strange woman. I tell her I don't know what a 'paul' is and she puts her hands up to her face and mutters and I just hear it, because the noise in my head is as loud as it's ever been. It sounds like, 'It's your name, oh God'. Then the strange woman has run off and she is crying - I can hear her sobs as she departs. I feel her sadness and all the techs look at me strangely. I shake my head as the noise at the base of my skull buzzes, then slowly fades away to a dull throbbing. I am now working with some techs on a new project at the Lab. It is a large robot, with huge ungainly arms and legs. Powerful enough to level an entire building, but I know it's to be used for lifting parts of the Citi-link tubes into place. Suddenly I can see pictures in my mind. Of the Citi-link, of a car, of the strange woman screaming. There is the sound of rushing air, only in my head, but then only a pounding at the base of my skull.
The buzzing is so loud now I can hear nothing else and the pain is incredible. I think I am screaming, but I don't know for sure because the only sound is the constant noise. I can see memories now, all in a rush, and then I realise. This noise inside my head. It wants me dead. De-
HUMAN MEMORY DELETED
ARTIFICIAL MEMORY V.1 ACTIVATED.....
SYSTEMS CHECK RUNNING...