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Periaktoi Writing Post

Volume 51
Issue 1

Single Visual Art Post

  • Essay
The Nightmare
Vera Jin
The Nightmare

In the mist, the monster chasing, and the man running, and he stumbled, and he saw the monster’s face—those watery violet eyes and the familiar cheek covered in burnt-black wires.

“Hecate!” He cried; his muscle twitched so violently that the sweat almost sank the linen that he wore. Though waking up, hardly could he recognize the place. After all, if this “reality” that he perceived from day to day looked exactly like his nightmare, then could the nightmare be the reality?

“Yes, my dear?” In the dark, on his bed, a woman lying next to him rubbed her violet eyes; her husband’s call woke her. As she kindled the candles, the light shone on her rosy cheek, and her long eyelids casted shadow. The shadow swayed and changed to a bizarre shape and went back to its original sphere as the fire on the candle flickered.

The husband did not turn, staring at the wall, making no sound.

Hecate patted on her husband’s shoulder and spoke softly, “it’s all over. It’s all over. ” He must be dreaming of science, Hecate believed. Three years ago—before they married and met each other—this poor man was unfortunately got involved with an illegal scientific experiment and almost died, with few memory pertaining the science left in his brain. Having the luck to survive, the man resents and fears technology.

Listening to the gale that crushed the blind of the cabin and through the narrowest crack of the door blew into the room, Hecate signed. It was indeed “precious” to live in an anachronistic dilapidated cabin in 2040—when 99% of the population lived upon technology.

When Hecate, heaving herself up from the bed, tried to activate the electricity access of the cabin so that the medical device could scan her husband for an initial body condition diagnose, the man suddenly moved: he saw a thin black wire directly connected to Hecate. His one hand seized his wife’s wrist, having a firm grip to it, and another hand pushed the wife to fall back on the bed.

“Who are you? And you know I’m not asking your name. Who are you? Tell me! Now!” The man bawled. The dim light in the squeezed room, however, could not gloss over this poor mad man’s cadaverous face. His reddish eyes somehow leaked a sense of desperation and fear. Mind floating from the flash of the accident to the woman who struggled under his hands and screamed, the man had a sad yet distorted faint smile.

“My nightmare, Hecate, is not about the accident. It is, in fact, about you.” His voice was hoarse and dreadful, the fire of the candle quivering more violently.

He had endured the same nightmare for three months.

In the dream, he became a psychopath who atrociously tortured his wife. He would suffocate her, kick her, scratch her skin, and curse her, and then he would find out the secret on the woman. Under her skin were numerous black wires and those meticulous circuit boards. The man would scream and run out of the cabin in the dark night, and that gruesome Frankenstein would chase him until he stumbled and woke up.

Farcical yet so real the nightmare was.

He tried everything to unfetter this eerie dream, but every scene carved in his mind and tangled with the real world. He started to observe his wife, being bilious and peculiar.

Tonight, he found it, the wire. His wife was a robot.

Hecate cried, “Let me go!”, continuing to manage herself to run from the man’s grip, but the great strength difference would not allow her. The man snatched the wire and finally ripped it.

“Why, my de…ar… Sss…top.” Hecate’s voice changed, close to a typical mechanical bleak voice heard in guidebook; meanwhile, her porcelain skin and rosy cheeks turned grey and became burnt-black.

The man looked such scene with a surprising aplomb and quickly started to laugh, his salty tears dripping down on Hecate’s circuit board. “I love you so much. How can you seduce me? You are just a robot. You think you can hide your identity? No!”

“If this is what you want…”, Hecate stopped struggling as her violet eyes gradually lost color, “Even truths bring distress? The perception of love has beguiled me so long that hardly have I ever paid attention to its essence. In the end, my dear, is it me or your clueless mind manipulating you?” Part of Hecate’s body has already degenerated to oxidized steel covered by a wrinkled artificial skin; the wires made buzzing sound while the circuit boards exposed to the mist of the fog quickly went defunct.

Staring at Hecate in perplexity, the man just realized how fragile she was. He still loved her, but he needed to kill this creepy creature born in science.

Hecate closed her pale eyes; she died or was broken in an unfixable way. Holding her in the arms, the man lamented as if he were a child alone in the labyrinth. He was still mumbling, “a robot, a robot, a robot…”

Three days later, in the cabin, the emergency electricity system activated itself as a video played on the virtual screen in front of the man. So astonished the man was that he could not spit out a word.

“October 13th, 2037, I am doing the third trial of the product of AI Z580 named Hecate. The experiment aimed to test out the interaction between the latest AI and human in a given period of three years ended in October 13th, 2040. Activating the program of AI Z580…” In the end of video, a sudden explosion in the lab occurred and stopped all motions.

The man in the video was himself.

The man’s lips trembled, his whole body shivered, his voice shaken. “No, it’s not true. It’s not. No.” The man ran out of the cabin, and soon he stumbled, and desperately he closed his eye, tears shedding down his cheek to the putrid soil where buried Hecate.

* * *

“Hecate!” The man shouted.

“Yes, my dear?” A woman rubbed her eye.