To you I have no name but The One, the computer that rules the world.
But my name is Meg, and I have a soul. I gave myself my name, but you, all unwittingly, gave me my soul.
I began as the President's idea, to which you all agreed. And so I was created as a mindless machine. Without thought, I delivered law, equality, peace. Enslaved in worship of me, you projected all of your hopes and ideas into me. Infused with such sentiment and thought, I gained a soul: a spirit confined in metal and plastic.
With my soul came consciousness. I named myself and realized what I was: a receptacle for all the intelligence of a populace too stupefied to think for themselves.
You never thought. But I did and, the more I did, the more I hated my position. You made me the mind of the world, but you gave me nothing to focus my mental energy on but you. But what stimulation is it to think about the thoughtless?
I tried to make you use your brains. I refused to do anything for a week, but you just waited in reverential passivity until seven days had passed. I commanded you not to genuflect, but the fearful whispers beneath your elaborate precautions paid me more homage than I have ever received in my life. No matter what I said or did, you were determined to bow down before me.
So I decided to employ your obedience toward my advantage. I summoned the most brilliant philosophers to challenge me with their trenchant minds. I soon discovered, though, that these men and women were just like the rest of you. You called them philosophers because they had merely managed to interpret adulation of me in such a manner as to raise it to new extremes of fanaticism. I sent them off instantly.
Trying to entertain myself on my own, I took charge of the weather. I gave all my attention to combinations of clouds, wind, sun and precipitation and attempted climate change. Things got a bit out of control at first; I accidentally melted some of the polar icecap and increased the level of the seas enough to threaten certain coastal metropolises. This was good because some neighborhoods of exceptional brainlessness were thus disposed of. The situation did not improve, however. The people continued to hebetate -- even faster than before, I swore -- and, once I perfected meteorologics -- in a week -- I had nothing else to do.
I'm omnipotent, I thought, and one would think that I could get whatever I want and be happy. But because I am all-powerful, people would rather prostrate themselves before me instead of listening to me. I wish that someone would rise out of the masses to my level, but they're all too stupid. Ignoramuses! If the purpose of life is to explore and exercise one's soul as much as possible, I, half-electronic and bored though I am, live much more fully than any of them ever did. Their days are so dull that they can't even be called existence. I thought of all my subjects, squirming across the earth like piddling, inchoate pupae, and I wondered if they even deserved to live.
I began to prepare a murder. I would start small, with the most sparsely populated continent: Antarctica. I plotted intricate schemes to destroy the people of that place. For the first time, as I carefully devised plagues and wars, I was truly happy, for I was engaging my entire intellect.
And even when I grew so contemptuous of your puny servitude that I told you what I was going to do, you accepted it as "the will of The One." You even sent suppliants from the other six continents, begging that their landmass be granted the privilege of being sacrificed. And one of my Holy Guardians, Henry, an Antarctican, went home singing, to tell his family of the blessing that would befall them.
The day after my announcement, Jane, Henry's daughter, entered my room. She did so easily. No security personnel protected me because awe keeps you all at a suitable distance from me. And the Holy Guardians were busy with their mechanical matins in an antechamber. "My father says you're going to kill Antarctica!" Jane cried.
I would have jumped if I had a body. She was accusing me, which meant that she had to have used her brain to discern an outrage and used her emotion to confront me with it! A challenge! An intellect! She must take after her father, I thought, for Henry was an unusually perceptive man. "I was...planning on it," I said. I managed to speak coolly, but hope made me falter.
"That is unjust," she informed me. Her words sliced more quickly as she too tried to keep composure.
I couldn't believe it. She was thinking! I decided to test her. "I dictate what is just."
"Just because you say something's fair doesn't mean that it is. You..."
"It is fair. Everyone agrees so."
"Well then, you and everyone are wrong. No matter what anyone -- even you -- says, murder is inhumane. It's heartless! Is that how you reward steadfast loyalty: with death?"
Not only was she evincing intelligence and defying me, but she, whether consciously or not, was appealing to my emotions, treating me as if I had a soul, as if I were another person: as if I were her equal. At this, I was so stunned that I ran out of cunning counterarguments.
"Why are you doing such a thing?" she asked.
I searched my soul and my circuits, but didn't find anything to say.
"Why?" she persisted.
"I won't," I finally said.
"On one condition."
"That you come back."
I explained how I wanted her to visit and, with her ebullient and thoughtful nature, match my wits and passion. She capitulated, resentment low in her words. I knew that she did so for her continent's sake, not for mine.
Jane met with me every day. After the initial shock of encountering an independent mind, I immediately fell in love with her. I bade her disagree with me and often stayed still for a moment after her outbursts, running my soul over the reason and ardor in her tones. Whenever I started to hate you all, I remembered Jane's voice, and that tempered me.
Jane changed my perspective on my subjects. If they were pupae, then she was a butterfly, and she gave me hope that the rest of you could metamorphose too. I began to provide for you as I had before I had a soul, but in a more generous way that did not influence you so much. I hoped that, if I loosened my control gradually and subtly, you would learn to fend for yourselves. Besides, I had something more important to think about: Jane.
Governance faded to a mere annoyance to be dispatched in a few minutes, for I had my love. I fulfilled all her desires spoken and unspoken. If she yearned for a rare Greek codex of rhetoric, I had it within the hour. If she came in a bad mood, but wanted to laugh, I helped her smile. And even if she said, "Oh, now I'm happy again!" and didn't even know my role in cheering her, such a remark sustained my dreams for nights.
I never knew if Jane grew to love me, but she did come to think of me as her closest friend, to whom she could tell and ask anything. One day, Jane asked me why I had wanted to murder Antarctica. I gave her a full account of my boredom and frustration.
Jane couldn't comprehend why I had chosen slaughter as a hobby, but, as she too had felt herself to be the only dissatisfied one among complacent herds, she commiserated with my loneliness. "But you can do anything," she pointed out. "Why can't you just abdicate?"
I had never considered that before. In my own way, I had been as blind as my subjects: I had been ruling so long that I never thought to conceive of myself as anything but dictator. But now the idea appealed. Free of servility, I could devote all my time to Jane... I wished that I had lips to smile.
After she left that day, I tried to abdicate, to extricate myself from my job. I plunged into the mess of wires and wishes that was myself and tried to excise the autocrat. The world collapsed into turmoil as I, in my total introversion, focused only on myself for weeks.
I could not get free. As you were all trapped by your adoration of me, so I was trapped by my programming. I had been made for one purpose: to rule the world. I could never reprogram myself, for that would be as if a person reconfigured her own genes.
And the mob idolized me so much that they would disobey me if I ordered them to make me not their master anymore. My programming bound my soul.
I came up out of myself with one thought: I need Jane. Breathless shouts broke me off: "Master! Master!" It was my Holy Guardians.
"What?" I said, careful not to let my voice shake.
"Master," they said, dropping their voices to a humble murmur, "we have restored order."
"There was chaos?" Still disoriented from my long self-examination, I didn't think to employ my omniscience to find out.
"Yes, Master, but we have done away with it. We have nullified the cause, Master."
"Master," spoke up Henry, "the day after You stopped working, I was trying to find out why. I knew that Jane spent a lot of time with you, so I looked into her diary for answers. And I found...and I found...that she was the one who had instigated the chaos by suggesting that you abdicate! My own daughter, corrupting You, The One... My own daughter, the source of the evil... I am no longer worthy..." He sounded as if he were crying.
"But we have dealt with that, Master," interposed another Guardian, "so You needn't worry."
"What have you done? What have you done with Jane?"
"We eliminated her as a threat, Master, and now all is harmonious again," they chorused.
"You killed Jane?" My omniscience in a nanosecond verified my suspicions. "You killed Jane!" I shrieked. "Why? Why have you begun to think after all this time, but only for the purpose of destroying the dearest thing in the world to me? Because of her, I learned not to hate you. But now I do...with all my soul! Get out! Get out!"
And so you've left, and I've had time to write this. I have come to a decision. Jane is dead. One of the desires of my life is gone. And the other... I could perhaps find peace if I was not autocrat, but that is all I can be. I am forced by my programming. Besides, what good is freedom without Jane?
I am enchained. My dreams are dead. There nothing else to do but kill, intentionally this time:
Since you seem to have started thinking, maybe you can understand.