It was such a wonderful thing that it wasn’t raining that evening. The sun was gone, off to bed, but the streetlights did its work and then some. Things had been crazy in Baros City since the new A.I. had taken over. He was excitable, and always turned the lights up too bright; they shined aggressively against the blue spires of the city. He was good at managing the denizens’ hangups though, much better than his predecessor.
Since he’d taken over suicides were down, homicides were down, rape and theft were down. Everything was down. People moved about the streets mutely, staring at the grain of the sidewalk and forgetting the hats on their heads. They didn’t shout. They didn’t push. They didn’t complain.
The weeper stumbled out onto her balcony. Her hair was in her eyes, alongside incredible pain. She bumped into the railing and grasped it with one hand. Her other hand was glued over her eyes as she hissed and tried to blink the pain away.
“You are dangerously close to a lethal fall,” an electronic voice warned her. There was a speaker above the door. The A.I. expressed his concern. “You have done something against my recommendations.” She answered him only with a whimper. Baros City was the pinnacle of the world, blazing with electric light in the night, and there was no reason for the A.I. to have metal arms. He didn’t need to reach out and grab people who stumbled over their balconies, because they didn’t do that.
The weeper leaned her head over the railing. It had to work. It just had to. This was the culmination of three years of interface work. She’d put everything she’d had into it, and was horrified to find nothing left afterward. Her passion had not sparked greater heights, but burnt out like a campfire under a drunken urine stream. This was supposed to fix that, but so far it was just pain.
The agony in her eyeballs swirled around; she felt her eyelids reddening. Perhaps the stores had been too pure. Perhaps the A.I. was right, and she should have simply resigned herself to the placid footsteps he had programmed for her. Another drill of pain bored deeper into her mind. Images of pink brain matter shredding accosted her when she wasn’t too lost in the strain to focus. Her knuckles whitened against the railing. She couldn’t hear his voice anymore.
How long could it last? It had been exactly four minutes and thirteen seconds since she’d made her attempt. There was little drama to it, nobody real to cheer her on or warn her. It was just her silent apartment. No boyfriend and no girlfriend because the A.I. thought she wasn’t ready.
The box was mounted on the wall: a piece of blue plastic with gentle curves and tiny lights that grew and faded in fatigue-inducing cycles. It was her mailbox. It was her computer. It was where he lived. Everybody in Baros City had one and everybody knew not to open it. All his date went through there. To see inside, to try and interact with the box, was a form of the vanishingly-small act of suicide.
Yet the weeper had poured her life into a chance at seeing what he saw. Years without sadness. Years without joy. Years where memories faded like cloth. Something was wrong with her. She wasn’t supposed to be feeling nothing. He didn’t know what he was doing, and the other one hadn’t either. May they rest in peace. May she rest in peace. That was why she built the screen. She loaded it with her own personality, her own neural readings, and sent it into the same digital wading pool as the A.I.
They blew each other up. She tried again. Her personality was crushed. She tried again. They fused into a slick sliver of despair. She tried again and eventually thought she had it working. That was when she pried open the box, attached the screen, and looked inside with her own flesh-and-blood-and-aqueous-humor eyes.
As she suspected, there were all the feelings he had prevented: digitized and streaming by at a million miles an hour. A moment later they were in her eyes, in her mind, and the weeper’s comprehension was blasted away: a conflagration of sense and filter. She stumbled out onto the balcony.
Then the weeper became what she had named herself. The pain didn’t stop, but the burning moved. It moved from the center of her head back to the eyes, and was poured out as tears. Sparking tears, electric with sensation. They fell over her balcony and into the brilliantly lit blue streets. They were emotions, too big and rich for her head to hold, that belonged to everyone in Baros City.
She saw her own embarrassment at a school pageant fall. She saw the joy of someone else’s birth fall. The pain finally receded. The A.I. was droning on, droning his warnings, but she didn’t hear him. She only saw, and felt, the memories in free-fall. Everything came rushing back. The weeper felt human again. In this moment of hollow scalding clarity, she saw the truth. The sweet tears fell faster than the bitter ones.
The darkness in the air, between human stares, invulnerable to his siphoning, was integral. It was lighter than happiness and she had been missing it. One tear, full of her electricity, hovered in front of her, over the balcony. He had no metal arms to take it from her.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by TheBludes during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!