Catching up – Every Sparrow that Falls
The rant was for two weeks ago. Today’s is for last week. I’ll post again on Wednesday and then feel like I’m back on track.
I wanted to share a short, completely unedited piece with you. This blog is all about unedited pieces. I think, I write, I post, I put up with the consequences.
I’ve put together a writing group at my school. At my last school, I had a tight-knit group of writers that were growing and getting involved in the process of writing. By the time I’d left, I’d seen four of my students published in one form or another and one Golden Pen member had won a grant which sent us all to a writers’ retreat for the weekend.
I’m still working with this new bunch. Every fortnight I give them a writing topic. This year, I’ve started with building characters and building worlds. We had to create a world, establish the rules, and then write a story set in that world. Here’s my brainstorm:
Ghost in the Machine:
This world is our own, far into the future. Humanity has evolved beyond the need for a physical form. We created artificial intelligence, downloaded our minds into the AI, and then realised that we didn’t even need the machines themselves. We could function as minds.
No longer truly human, as there is something in the body that gives us our emotions, fears and drives, we are now pure intellect. Nobody dies, but nobody gives birth either. For many generations, new people were created, programmed from the algorithms of two different people, creating a new individual. Some of these people still exist, although the amalgamations weren’t always successful – we don’t emulate nature very well.
Others were created from famous entities from films and TV. These were even harder to control, as they weren’t even fully-formed personalities. The personality traits the grafters could find were inserted into a base personality template. This meant that often the specific behaviours of a star would conflict with the personality type. This is what happens when you let a corporation take over your country.
The world has returned to its natural state. There is still evidence that humanity existed – there are old buildings, now covered with grasses and being crumbled by trees.
And there are still working machines. Older versions of AI exist here. The unevolved. The ancient. The sometimes bitter.
Animals are prolific. Many species thought to be extinct have reappeared. The whales are having a field day. Some specialists have learned to ride along with animal consciousnesses. They can feel the animal’s emotions and to a certain extent, guide them in their choices.
Travel to the stars is possible, but highly dangerous. The radiation in space can disrupt human thought waves, dispersing the consciousness throughout the eternity of space.
Once I had that, I thought the concept of the Rider was a good place to start. It got across some of the basic concepts, gave a hint of what was to come, and allowed me to play with sensation, which I enjoy doing. Here’s the story. Enjoy:
Every sparrow that falls.
Flip spun through the clouds, delighted in feeling the wind beneath her feathers, the thrill of touching the delicate currents of air to change direction. She dipped lower until she could see the treetops below her. Delving into the control centres of her temporary vehicle, she coaxed the sparrow towards the ruins of the city. She focused the tiny but sharp sparrow eyes on a thin trail of smoke rising from between two crumbling city blocks.
Flip felt the sparrow’s heart beat even faster than its regular thrum. She stifled a flow of adrenalin caused by the proximity to the city with its multitude of predators and potential ambush sites. Calm yourself, little sparrow, she told it. All will be well when we reach the smoke. She was still feeling anxious, an unusual sensation for someone who could normally feel no emotion at all. This was the rush of being a Rider – melding her consciousness with that of one of the physical creatures of the country.
Ah, I miss this, she thought, as she guided the sparrow closer to the unusual sign of activity. Immortality was all well and good, but sensation, that was something else entirely!
The sparrow was becoming increasingly nervous. Flip could no longer stem the adrenaline caused by the tiny bird’s fear. She felt herself succumbing to it herself. Be brave, little one, she thought. A little closer. I need to see what this is.
She could, of course, examine the site without the aid of the bird; she could read information from the energy in the area and translate it into useful knowledge. But unlike some of the purebred, she and the other transfers still held great stock in sensual information. Even after a thousand years, the habits of a lifetime were hard to break.
Flip was actively fighting the sparrow’s desire to escape the city now. She felt a twinge of remorse, or the shadow of remorse, but she had to see what was causing the fire. Of course, fires happened naturally, but this did not look natural. She strained the sparrow’s vision, ignoring a desperate urge to check around her for danger.
Finally, the sparrow’s sense of preservation broke through Flip’s tenuous connection with its mind. The tiny bird cried out and broke free of her control, wrenching herself upwards and away. Flip tumbled free of the little form and found herself hovering in the city, back in her natural state.
Around her, the world pulsed with millions of forms of energy. She absorbed the radiant energy of the sun, still slightly dangerous to humans even in this state. She picked up the concussive beats of the sparrow’s wings as molecules of air were thrown about in the maelstrom of its flight. She considered the soundwaves from the impact of the hawk’s claws as it snatched the sparrow out of the air. And intellectually, she felt a twinge of guilt for the life that was taken due to her actions.
The “feeling” was fleeting. Flip’s attention was almost immediately drawn back to the fire below her. Something new had come to Earth. Something alive!