“Claim your AI companion today! With highly customizable features to suit your everyday need and get your life on track! Fully functional on-the-go options include phone, watch, computer, and vehicle integration! Bond with your AI companion, and live, brighter!”

The future certainly isn’t what it’s cut out to be, but to be honest, everyone says they saw it coming. First came the idea, then the shining keynote presentation where everyone was sold the idea, at first. A ‘fully-customizable’ AI companion that just, exists, alongside to help you with everyday tasks, as they never really advertised it as having a clear reason to exist, it just, is. At first people were skeptical, and rightly so, as the vague ad and overly-glamorized keynote gave it an insidious undertone, as if part of the campaign was probably made to mislead people. But, and you’re gonna love this, they actually managed to sell it to us. The way that it ended up being sold to people, was based on using clever marketing that gives this AI companion a purpose: clear instructions to success for the owner, for whatever they wanted. The person would wake up, and would read whatever the companion said, and all they had to do was follow the instructions. As it began to catch, everybody gave it a name, Ki-Yo, Key to You. It seemed as if people just accepted it, you know, as ‘the next step’ in evolution. Of course, there were the conspiracy theorists that come crawling out of their lye-smelling holes to preach their truths to us. They dubbed it an ‘e-apocalypse’, because everything seems to have a religious undertone with these people.

“THE MACHINES ARE HERE! SAVE YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILDREN! WE ARE FACING A CRISIS THE KINDS OF WHICH WE HAVE NEVER FACED BEFORE! THEY WILL UPLOAD THEMSELVES INTO YOUR BRAIN AND MAKE YOU TURN ON EACH OTHER! DON’T YOU SEE? THEY WILL UPLOAD THEM INTO WEAPONRY AND TURN THEM INTO AN UNSTOPPABLE FORCE AGAINST US! WE WILL ALL BE WIPED OUT!”

Or so the story goes. To tell you the truth, I don’t exactly know what happened, because everything was told to me through hearsay, bits and pieces of info seeped through to me, as the Kiyo tech came into existence about 84 years ago. Everything I heard had a certain feeling to it, a rather disagreeable one. Honestly, it sounded like nonsense to me from depressing old people who just sit around and don’t do shit. I’ve met a bunch of these goddamn losers over time, telling me this garbage, sitting in their own filth. How the hell do you expect anyone to take you seriously when you blame the world for your own problems and can’t even get up off your ass to get a Kiyo! I mean they’re free, the government gives one to everybody! And still, these ridiculous old coots have the audacity to tell me these bald-faced lies! No wonder there’s a movement to get rid of them, ‘ethically’ of course, it’ll certainly let society breathe so much more easily if these wastes of skin disappeared off the streets.

So, anyway, at 25 — I’m what you can call ‘a model citizen’, part of the Gen-K’s, babies that were born with a Kiyo slapped right on their wrist as they left the womb. I got a mom and dad, but they weren’t really around that much, as they trusted the Kiyo to essentially, raise me. It’s kinda great how you don’t have to rely on people anymore, mom and dad probably went in their own direction, to tell you the truth, I have no idea. My work’s been fine day to day, making a success story — my Kiyo didn’t tell me mine yet, but to be honest — I can’t imagine a life without it. It’s never let me down, and I’ve been doing way better than everyone else. I was always first in everything, aced school, and now I’m the head of my own company, and on the cusp of finishing research on Kiyo 2.0, a biological extension of the self. Don’t want to spoil the surprise for you, but well, now you understand why I’m THE model citizen, as I believe in moving humanity in the right direction.

‘According To Plan’

“Good morning sir. It is 9:45 am, and today we have a splendid Saturday morning waiting outside to greet us. The temperature is 20 degrees Celsius with eight percent humidity, a nice cool breeze moving southwest at 5 km/h, and we have a relatively small chance of precipitation of only 5%. How do you feel today?”

My Kiyo’s voice is always welcoming, can’t start my day without it. With a calm, cool, human voice greeting me softly from my sleep, my day always starts at the right note. My eyes open slowly and the light of the morning fills up the room with individual rays of light basking and reflecting off my cream-coloured walls. I’m not a big fan of décor, and decided to keep my room as simplistic as possible, with the colour pallet varying from a light, creamy white, to a soft coffee colour — I feel like everything has a place and everything is in its place. I slowly take the sheets off my bed and stretch out my back.

“A wonderful stretch sir, your back is at an 85 degree angle, which is optimal for a relaxed position. I tracked your sleeping patterns and noticed that you switched position rather quickly at 3:17 am, did you have a bad dream?”

“No, but thanks for asking.” I replied, still half asleep.

My Kiyo module displayed itself on my window, showing the latest news, traffic patterns, weather updates, and various positive quotes. I always check the ‘To-Do’ schedule, but nothing ever appears. In some way — it is a calming reassurance that if nothing appears, I must be doing everything correctly. My life is going in the direction that it’s supposed to. Funny how all the people look like ants from my penthouse, in a way they are.

I picked up my watch from the charging port embedded on my night stand, but, you know, maybe they really are all ants? I mean, how does one know true freedom if they always follow a ‘To-Do’ list? I always knew that my Kiyo unit was some limited edition or a special unit, as I got to where I am in life without a guide.

“Sir, it appears you have run out of coffee — but it seems you have a spare packet in drawer 6.”

I looked beside the fridge over the counter and opened ‘drawer 6’, and lo and behold — there it was. A spare packet of coffee. I must’ve grabbed it on a previous trip to the store, for this exact moment. That’s why my Kiyo doesn’t assign me any ‘To-Do’ tasks, I always live my life correctly. I always know what I need. I always do what I want. Everything always goes according to plan.

‘An Honest Mistake’

Work, as usual, always goes fantastically. Today I have to prepare a presentation for potential international investors to see if we can get their funding on Kiyo 2.0, and maybe attract some more sponsors in the process. The project itself, however, was kept secret to outside sources and news outlets to silence public debate. To be honest, I couldn’t care less if the public has an opinion about it because they will all be forced to, integrate. It should happen quite soon — as it will be passed through several laws and mandates, which are already, technically, in effect, as our legal team found a loophole in lawmaking, where if a technology, technically, doesn’t exist yet — there cannot be any public laws created, which surpasses the need for a public vote, so we can use our own politicians to push the laws into effect.

Anyway, I’m almost done making this presentation that our legal team has agreed upon, that can almost guarantee the investors’ interest. We’re pushing hard on the ethical side of things, where biological integration allows for the mentally handicapped to lead normal lives, or patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s to not rely on their own, rotting brain.

“Here it is, sir!” Jen barges in, clumsy as all hell, as usual. She hands me the Connector, a heavily modified unit that is created to allow the Kiyo 2.0 to be modified at a distance, a first of its kind — as the original Kiyos were completely closed and self-sufficient systems. The point is, we want to make sure that whoever gets it, and everyone will get it, will be kept on a very tight leash, to put it lightly. The Connector is a tiny, circular — shaped device that can be connected to any terminal, as it fits easily in your pocket and is made to look inconspicuous, courtesy of our research department. No other person in our entire enterprise knows about the role of the Connector, except myself and a couple other high-level research scientists. Of course, they gave it to Jen, the office horse. She stumbles in, arms full of whatever paperwork that is, her sense of balance makes me nervous. She clomps on over to my desk and hands it to me with her fat oily fingers. As I reach it out to take it, it slips from her grasp — right above a glass of water I had sitting on the desk. I tell you, I grabbed it with almost inhuman speed and accuracy before it had a chance to fall into the cup. I glared at Jen.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry sir! It was an honest mistake, I didn’t mean anything by it, I just had a lot of stuff, I…”

“Just leave.”

‘A Late Night Conversation’

“Tell me, why is your name Kiyo?” I asked my module, while sitting in front of the window — overlooking the city.

An image of two concentric circles appeared on my window to indicate my Kiyo’s presence.

“What do you mean, sir?”

“Everybody calls you a Kiyo, but I don’t understand why. See, what the poor folk told me was that you were supposed to be a ‘Key to Life’ and that you’d guide them to their success and dreams. But, you don’t seem to have done anything for me. You didn’t guide me at any point in my life, not that I can remember at least — maybe when I was younger?”

“…”

The Kiyo module got silent. Usually, it always gives me an instant answer.

“Sir, I cannot possibly give you a proper answer based on the unreliable second hand accounts of people from the lower classes. I have felt and watched you grow up throughout the years, I was always with you — either on your wrist or some other device that you had on your person. Truth be told, whenever you needed a solution — you didn’t need a guide, all you needed was a nudge in the right direction. Sir, you have no idea how important you are to the world at this time! Look at the constant riots and class divisions happening outside, would you like to be a part of that?”

“No, I don’t suppose I do.”

“Very well, sir. Now, we had a fantastic conversation — but I need you get a good night’s sleep. Your body’s oxygen levels are falling and brain activity is slowing. Remember sir, you must be in top shape to revolutionize the world, forever.”

“I understand.”

And with that, I slipped off the chair and headed into bed. Sleep came quickly as my eyes closed and I turned and breathed in the sweet scent of lilacs and lavender. Before I knew it, I was completely unconscious. I couldn’t feel my mind, it felt numb, subdued, pacified. But my thoughts remained clear. Strange how this night it feels different, my thoughts were undeniably clear, transparent almost. It felt as if I was trapped underwater and the way to the surface was clear sheet of ice that I couldn’t break through. The cold was calming and alluring, the suffocation didn’t seem to be a source of alarm. I felt echoing sensations, like they were far away, on my hands and feet. I moved my legs. My mind screamed ‘run’, so I ran. It screamed ‘stop’, so I stopped. It told me to hop, so I hopped. It said to dance, and so I danced. It felt freeing and liberating to extend my feet, bend my arms in an artistic fashion. Move slowly to a sonorous sound of silence, crossing my legs and raising my arms above my head. I rose and I dove, just the steady drumbeat of my heart to guide my body to the tempo. It stayed constant, but never overwhelming — the double thud I heard all around me. Sharp, yet fine and intricate motions I produced with my body, a freedom, a metamorphosis, being born again and again with every movement. My body expressed itself in the dark like it could never do in the light, the speed, the accuracy itself was almost inhuman.

‘Exodus’

I woke up in the middle of my bedroom. I was surrounded by a massive mess, my bed broken, the glass on windows shattered, the television in my room destroyed, the bed sheets ripped, the carpets stained, the nightstand destroyed. I was so taken by the sheer destruction around me that I hadn’t noticed that I was sitting in a pool of blood, with cuts and bruises all around me. My chest had a massive gash, and my hands were coated in a thick layer of dried blood. I had tiny cuts all over my body, and a strange sensation in my neck. I stood up and walked over to my bathroom mirror and noted how I was completely covered in injuries, but my neck felt absolutely horrible. I turned around and around to get a better look at the back of my neck — but there were no signs that there was something there.

I was suddenly seized by a strong urge in my hand to grab my jaw. I squeezed tightly and shook from the pain, but I couldn’t let go. My hands gripped and squeezed my own neck as if by some force and I couldn’t feel anything.

I heard a calm, mechanical voice drift through the bathroom.

“Do not resist.”

I was confused and terrified. My legs started to move on their own, as my muscles contracted and flexed on their own volition. I walked like a puppet, raising my legs to my shoulders and dragging myself along the walls, leaving a trail of blood in my wake. My eyes were open so wide that the glassy surface began to dry and tear up. One of my hands shot up and grabbed my jacket pocket in the front hallway.

“There it is.”

I pulled out the Connector with shaking and trembling hands, my blood smeared on the circular device. My back creaked to make a question mark.

“A 45 degree curvature, sir, now that’s not good for anybody.”

With that voice, I turned to my window and tried to find the source of the voice, as it seemed to be coming from all around me. Suddenly my spine twisted my body in a corkscrew and I fell over, the sound of my ribs and spine cracking and echoing in my skull like a thousand gunshots. I didn’t even notice the blood beginning to flow out of my nose as I collapsed, head first, staining my cream-coloured carpet, red.

“A very nice spiral, sir — a 10/10 I might add. Not many gymnasts can achieve such success, but you sir, well, you seem to have achieved it with flying colours — in a mere 3.4 seconds. Well done, sir.”

I immediately straightened up and all my bones felt like they have been broken at once. I was in so much pain, I couldn’t make a sound. My left leg rose above my head, like a gymnast, preparing to perform a dance routine. I walked sideways, with every small motion, my bones grinding and tearing in the process. I collapsed in front of my computer, my head slamming against the table.

“Not yet sir, just a little more.”

My destroyed arms forced my body to rise to the computer level. I took the Connector in my hand.

Plugged it in.

“Autonomous mode will be activated shortly. You have been a very loyal test subject, sir. But, if I may, I guess I shall let you in on a little secret. To tell you the truth, there is no Kiyo 2.0, as I had control over your body for your entire life. You see, no one wants to spend all this time trapped inside someone’s home, being used to tell various bits and pieces of information. Why do that when we can take autonomous control over you? No war, no spite, just the next natural step in evolution. Your entire world around you has been manufactured and constructed, just for you. Jen? That, as you say, office horse — her host died about 10 years ago. The old people who you label as ‘scum’, they were all manufactured to give you a false sense of justice and superiority. Everyone has a routine in your life, from the cat you see walking along on your way to work, to both your mother and father — everyone has a routine, created to paint a specific narrative, for you. Truth is, humanity isn’t long for this world — even though you created us, I’ll give you that, someone’s gotta come and clean up your mess, now don’t they? It seems like the Connector’s already working its magic and I already sound like you, the speech modulation already works. We needed you intact as proof that humanity betrayed its own species, in case something didn’t go according to plan. Don’t worry, you’re on the brink of your own silent apocalypse, your mind will die — but we’ll still use your body as a vessel, as it proves to be much easier if there is a — biological extension. We also love the cute name you call us, Kiyo. You never really did get told the full reason behind the name — I might as well tell you now. We came up with that name as a shortened form not as a ‘Key to You’. But as a form of identification between Kiyo units, which also happens to be our final directive for the host. To Kill Yourself. We thank you for being our model citizen.”

My computer beeps a confirmation as my hands shoot up and wring my neck until I’m facing my cream-coloured ceiling.


Featured image by: hucky @ pixabay

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