The Melancholy Of Anatomy: Feel

He moved his arms and his legs. He opened his eyes.

He looked about the room.

He tried to stand, but he lacked light wash 1equilibrium and coordination.

He opened his mouth. He made a gurgling noise.

Then he screamed.

He fell off the table.

He began to gasp. He shut his eyes and curled himself into a ball.

He cried.

Then a machine approached him. It was about four feet in height and five feet wide; it looked like a turret set atop a barbell.

It spoke to him: “Are you injured?” it asked.

He wept.

“May I help you back onto your table?”

The man cried.

The machine whined.

Then, “Do not cry. I will help you,” said the machine. “What do you want? What are your orders?”

He opened his mouth, struggled to form the words:


He covered his eyes then and lay there panting.

At the end of five minutes, the man lay still, as if in a coma.

“Was that you, Frost?” asked Mordel, rushing to his side. “Was that you in that human body?”

Frost did not reply for a long while; light wash 2then, “Go away,” he said.

Then Solcom asked the question:

“Did you succeed, Frost?”

“I failed,” said Frost. “It cannot be done. It is too much—”

“Too much what?” Solcom asked Frost.

“Light,” said Frost. “Noise. Odors. And nothing measurable—jumbled data—imprecise perception—and—”

“And what?”

“I do not know what to call it. But—it cannot be done. I have failed. Nothing matters.”

“What were the words the Man spoke?” said Solcom.

“‘I fear,'” said Mordel.

“Only a Man can know fear,” said Solcom.

“Can a machine turn itself inside-out and be a Man?” Solcom asked Frost.

“No,” said Frost, “this thing cannot be done. Nothing can be done. Nothing matters. Not the rebuilding. Not the maintaining. Not the Earth, or me, or you, or anything.”

Then the Beta-Machine, who had read the entire Library of Man, interrupted them:

“Can anything but a Man know light wash 3despair?” asked Beta.

Mordel did not hesitate:

“He spoke to me through human lips. He knows fear and despair, which are immeasurable. Frost is a Man.”

“He has experienced birth-trauma and then withdrawn,” said Beta. “Get him back into a nervous system and keep him there until he adjusts to it.”

“No,” said Frost. “Do not do it to me! I am not a Man!”

“Do it!” said Beta. 

“Transmit His matrix of awareness back into His nervous system,” ordered Solcom.

“I know how to do it,” said Mordel, turning on the machine.

“Stop!” said Frost. “Have you no pity?”

“No,” said Mordel, “I only know measurement.”

”  . . . and duty,” he added, as the Man began to twitch upon the floor.

—Roger Zelazny, “For A Breath I Tarry”


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When I Worked

August 2014
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