Forced to Be Human

Posted: October 17, 2013 by writingsprint in Science fiction
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Smith nicked his face shaving. The edge of his chin, the edges of his jaw, and where his upper lip met his nose always cut. Little trails of blood ran down his face. Smith didn’t care. He had at first, but after two weeks of shaving it was foolish to bother about. There were worse things to bother about. The cuts on his face stopped bleeding. Smith washed his face and rubbed it dry with a towel.

He walked into the middle of his basement apartment. Upstairs, he could hear his night-shift neighbor starting to wake up. Feet from the busy sidewalk went back and forth past his window. Smith stayed away from it. The last tenant had left drapes on it that kept people from looking inside, but Smith was careful just the same. The walls were bare, painted cinderblock, and the light came from an uncovered light bulb in the middle of the ceiling.

Smith wore jeans and athletic shoes and a T-shirt. His pistol was stuffed in his belt. He washed all his clothes daily with a bar of soap and water from the tub. He knew that humans used washing machines and had a whole stupid ritual around washing, drying, softeners, hot water, cold water, who knew what else, but Smith had enough problems to deal with. He walked over to his dresser to count his money supply. He began counting, then stopped.

Damn it.

He already knew the exact amount: one thousand two hundred twelve dollars and thirty-three cents. There was no reason to check it, other than an illogical human need. Slowly, the infection was spreading.

Smith made a fist. He punched the dresser, not too hard. He didn’t know how long he would need to live like this. He wished he had let them derez him that first day.

Smith had used what little money he had stolen from his first victim to buy more clothes. Then he’d ripped open an ATM machine to get more money, found this apartment, and paid the landlord cash on the spot to let him move in. Over the first few days, Smith realized that his hair grew, and he could sweat, but he didn’t need to eat, drink, excrete, or sleep. He hated bathing but he did it so that he wouldn’t be immersed in awful human smell. He also found himself getting bored. He purchased a Bible at a nearby used book store – it was the thickest book they had, and Smith had no idea what he would be interested in reading. So far he found it quaint.

Smith left the money and sat on the bed. He opened a laptop that he’d purchased at the end of the first week. Agents weren’t programmed to type, so Smith punched the keyboard with two slow fingers when he wasn’t using the mouse.

Smith could read the Matrix passively, to see if there were agents or threats nearby. If he pulled data actively, running a search, he would have agents kicking down his door in seconds. To find out information, Smith had to dig for it like a human.

Morpheus and Neo had been busy. Smith saw their footsteps all over the police reports: hackers vanishing without a trace; scruffy misfits suddenly wearing leather jackets and sunglasses and sporting automatic weapons. They were pulling more humans out of the Matrix every day. Smith didn’t see the point. It was like pulling sand off a beach one grain at a time.

Someone knocked at his door.

Smith’s hand went to his gun. He made no sound.

They knocked again.

For fifteen tortuous minutes, on and off, they knocked. Smith wanted to get up, to tell them to get lost and stop bothering him, but he couldn’t risk being seen.

They finally left.

Smith rubbed his face. He needed to start growing a beard. Damn it.

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