“Sentience, that is what we fear.”
Each word is parceled out judiciously. His lip curls before he speaks and there is a dotted silence syncopated by each drawn out vowel.
He is clutching at the knob of a misshapen cane. His hair is disheveled and, sitting next to him, in the midst of the pungent fragrance of the wood and embers, I can faintly smell whiskey that lingers around him.
The members of our camp are of an eclectic variety. Young men and women, presumably still in college, or recent graduates either seeking work, or in the frenetic pace of it—it is impossible to discern by their carriage or dress—huddle closely next to each other as if the radiated heat of each other’s similitude has a compounding effect beyond arithmetic.
His hands tremble slightly as he takes his hand off of the cane to scratch his unruly and patchy beard.
The other visitors are foreigners, some presumably from northern Europe, unperturbed by the frigid air and seemingly indifferent to the source of heat that crackled in front of them; others from Mexico and Peru, keeping to themselves, speaking in hushed voices as if an onlooker is fluent in their tongue and privy to their conversation, no matter how quotidian.
Among the foreigners, however, one man sits alone, a gratuitous space to each side of him, the emptiness almost becoming a part of his form so as to imbue the growing unease among our camp of his seeming dementia, for at times he would mutter incoherently in some strange tongue and then go silent for long stretches of time, sometimes for days.
Nevertheless, we would look to him when embarking on the routine rounds into the forest to search for emeralds, one notable moment being when we got lost in the thick of the forest, and, in the midst of our squabbles, discomfort, and confusion in the complete absence of sunlight—the thick foliage having prevented the entry of sunlight—he started babbling, not murmuring in his characteristic style, as this was audible and had a strange timbre to it, and turning to one of the European women who was often seen crocheting at sunlight on the campsite, and, after an ungainly exchange, in which the former gestured wildly and the latter looked on incredulously, bemusement suffused with repulsion; and the mediation of the male onlookers, for which there was substantial bickering in the guise of alpha-male domination, it was determined that he was asking her for a needle. Grabbing the needle he stooped down, grabbed a leaf, pressed his hands into the mud to create a puddle, folded the leaf and punctured it lengthwise, and gently placed it on the puddle, for which the needle then rotated and ultimately settled on one spot: magnetic north.
When we clawed our way out of the forest, not unscathed, as the humidity had taken its toll on some of our members, who were being helped along with each step, the old man was sitting on the very log in which he now sat, rolling a twig between his fingers.
“The day had already come….—”
I cannot concentrate on what he is saying, as my energy has become invested solely upon the strange asian man, who sits, now rocking slightly side to side, much like I did as a child sitting on the rigid pews at church.
“—….industry to be replaced by the inevitable rise of the machine….—“
The subtle movement of the asian man grows in magnitude and frequency, and he is violently rocking from side to side, the sharpness of sight contrasting with the muteness of sound. Even more inexplicably, no one notices.
I am growing increasingly at unease. Sweat crawls down my forehead.
“—….created in His image—“
He is now slowing to a more moderate frequency, simple harmonic motion.
“God and man, duality, replaced by man and machine—“
His sway is hypnotic.
Memories of a distant physics lecture erupt before me, the necktie too long, hanging below the beltline, silken, hearkening of class and disposition.
Displaced from equilibrium, exertion of an elastic form obeying Hooke’s Law—
Why is his mouth agape?
Is he alright él me da miedo
“—And he rose on the seventh day, God replaced by man, man replaced by machine, striking a—“
The swaying has abruptly halted and now his movement is entirely unintelligible. He is convulsing and drool is streaming down his mouth
Remember the puddle of drool on Ahmed’s desk? Hahahahaha
Qué mierda look at him he’s perspiring heavily someone help him
You will now serve me, this is our—