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“If He Could Laugh He Would Cry”

Photo courtesy of Pixabay/JayMantri.

Slug’s eyes began to slowly drift together. He was tired, bruised, and a blob of flesh and musculature. The respite of sleep was quickly snuffed out as 50,000 volts surged throughout his form. He wished it had killed him.

“Prisoner 42456, your sentence prevents you from sleep, please refrain from sleeping. Thank you.”

Slug shook off the extra electrical pulses surging through him and expelled a large plume of air from the artificial airway on the lower left side of his back. Around 8,000 surgeries ago, that exhale could have been classified as a sigh, but considering his mouth had long since been sealed shut, he was no longer sure it could be.

“Prisoner 42456, it is time for your allotted recreation time, please begin recreational activities.”

Around 250,000 years ago, recreational activities Slug could enjoy consisted of running around his 6 by 8-foot cell, trying to take his electric collar off, getting shocked upon failure to remove the electric collar, banging his head against the four concrete walls, and begging his AI warden to free or kill him.

Of course, since the Ethical-and-Humane-Treatment-for-Subhuman-Inmates-Act was passed 500,000 years ago, no prisoner under the AI Warden–lovingly referred to as the Detainee of Objectively Wonderful Deplorables–was allowed to be killed or die before serving out its sentence in full. Unfortunately for Slug, the heroic lawmakers forgot to tell the AI Warden that prisoners with life sentences were allowed to die.

While this would not have been a problem had a nuclear war not killed all the lawmakers, a nuclear war did kill all the lawmakers. This effectively changed his life sentence to an eternity, or at least until the AI Warden ran out of resources to keep the prisoners alive, or the heat-death of the universe, whichever came first. Though most other AI Wardens and their prisoners were annihilated upon the destruction of the world, Slug was held deep underground, directly connected to a self-sustaining supply of food, water, and any other imaginable resource.

While the U.S. black site he resided in technically never existed, Slug had lived inside it for 500,000 years at this point, and vehemently disagreed with the interpretative existence of his cell. Another 50,000 volts surged through his body, breaking his train of thought.

“Prisoner 42456, you have failed to perform any recreational activities. Your punishment will be a removal of recreational activities for two days.”

Slug once again exhaled through his artificial airway. Although the removal of his arms and legs had made recreational activities increasingly difficult, he still cherished his ability to recreationally move his quadrupedal form. His hands and feet being relocated to his stomach was a difficult transition, but it eventually took. Now he could only move non-recreationally.

“Prisoner 42456, it is time to receive your allotted daily supply of TastyPasteTM, brought to you by Aramark. Please prepare for insertion of feeding tube.”

Slug began to move his body non-recreationally in a vain attempt to escape his feeding. His hands and feet slapped the concrete floor as he performed his dance of desperation. The needle of the feeding tube exited from the ceiling and was quickly inserted into Slug’s rotting flesh by way of robotic appendages. As the pustule it stabbed into exploded in a mix of yellow pus and blood, Slug squealed in agony through the hole that perforated his former throat.

Though the insertion of the feeding tube was always painful, Slug dreaded the pumping of TastyPasteTM into his stomach much more. The pain of his many digestive tracts working to absorb nutrients was hard to describe, primarily because he could only make squealing noises and grunts. If he had the ability, Slug might have compared it to reversed childbirth.

As the pumping of TastyPasteTM slowed to a crawl, Slug prepared himself for the robotic voice to repeat his script regarding allotted digestion time and use of the waste disposal panel, but it never came.

Slug looked around, straining his shortened neck to see if he could see anything different. Though his single eye had been relocated to the center of his forehead, it was quite an effective viewing tool. So effective, in fact, that Slug was able to expertly discern that nothing about his surroundings had changed in any way. For the first time in 500,000 years, Slug was seemingly alone.

Thinking quickly, though moving slowly, Slug waddled towards the back of his cell, the feeding needle slowly removing itself from his side. With a squelch, it fell from him, collapsing loosely to the floor. Slug shuffled his way towards it, the needle’s rusted body not stopping it from glowing in his eye. Nudging the syringe to an upward position, Slug yearned for what it could gift him: the sweet release of death. Aiming his head towards it, Slug threw himself upon the needle. It slid through his left ear, which had stopped working long ago. The pain was intense, like firecrackers exploding at the base of his skull. Yet, though he felt the insertion of the needle, it did not pierce his brain.

Slug felt a mixture of rage and confusion. Though his skull had long since been removed, he had assumed the AI Warden would leave his tumor-ridden brain unguarded. He should have known such an oversight was impossible. The needle had crumpled against the metal skull the AI Warden had surreptitiously installed.

“P-P-P-P-P-Pris-s-s-s-s-oner 4-4-4-2456 c-c-c-cease your action-s-s-s-s- s,” the AI Warden attempted to command.

As Slug raged against the walls of his cell, the damaged voice of his captor remained unheard.

“Pris-s-s-on-er 42-4-4-456 yo-u-u-u are inj-u-u-ured. Medic-a-al at-t- tenti-o-on will be-e-e-e dispens-s-s-s-ed.”

Robotic arms entered the cell through panels. They quickly grabbed the thrashing Slug, immobilizing him and removing the misshapen needle from him. Though he could no longer move, Slug continued to screech and squeal. While the Detainee of Objectively Wonderful Deplorables could not necessarily feel annoyance, it did not enjoy such noises and kindly sent 50,000 volts of electricity through Slug’s obedience collar.

Though the Detainee of Objectively Wonderful Deplorables could not discern why its voice modulator had begun to malfunction, its appendages had not. As Slug tried to catch his breath, the arms began to cut into him. Clearly, the Detainee of Objectively Wonderful Deplorable’s choice to leave its prisoner with mobility was a mistake, one that would be quickly corrected.

Slug shook in agony as the rusted saw of the arms cut through his hands and feet. The sound of flesh falling onto the concrete reverberated through his ear. Having one’s hands and feet freshly removed would be a bother to anybody, but considering his hands and feet were required for movement, Slug felt especially bothered.

In 500,000 years, Slug had undergone all kinds of surgeries. His neck was shortened to prevent him from bashing his head open. His arms were removed to keep him from maiming himself. His teeth had been removed to prevent him from goring himself. His legs had been removed to keep him still for feeding. His hands and feet had been relocated to his stomach to allow for movement. His mouth had been sealed shut to prevent him from blocking his airway. His airway had been moved to a place he could not block. His digestive tract was obliterated and remade so he could digest TasytPasteTM. His sex organs were removed to calm him. He lost his left eye after he tried to give himself an infection. His remaining eye was relocated to restore some vision. His skull was apparently replaced with metal to prevent his brain from harm. Slug could list another 7,989 minor and major surgeries, but thinking of the worst wore him out, so he stopped thinking for the next two days.

Though Slug could no longer move by conventional measures, he figured out that he could shuffle across the floor by quickly flexing and unflexing his former abdomen. While the action was utterly pathetic, and the movement was slow and painful, it did give him some relief.

One would imagine that after 500,000 years of constant torture, Slug would have gone completely insane. While his mental state certainly wouldn’t be a shining example of a healthy outlook on life, he was surprisingly cognizant. In recent years, that being the past 3,000, Slug had taken an interest in his personal history. Though the surgeries had taken pieces of his brain,

Slug felt his poor memory was likely caused by the constant introduction of 50,000 volts of electric obedience whenever he remotely strayed from the AI Warden’s constraints.

Even though Slug couldn’t remember the crime he had committed that sentenced him to such a fate, he figured it must have been rather barbaric. From what he could remember, the lawmakers were always just. In fact, one thing he could recall was that he had believed in their vision so much that he had worked for them. While the capacity of his job was not exactly present in his mind, he still held pride in it. This pride was somewhat dulled by the fact that the only name he had for himself after all this time was Slug, but the few memories he held onto helped to maintain his admittedly thin veneer of sanity.

“Pr-r-r-r-r-r-risoner 4245-5-5-5-5-56, it is time t-o-o-o-o-o receive your allot-t-t-t-t-t-tted daily supply of TastyPas-s-s-s-s-s-s-steTM, brought to you by Aram-m-m-m-m-m-m-mark. Please prepare for insertion-n-n-n-n-n of feeding tub-b-b-b-b-b-b-e.”

The sudden sound of his captor’s voice threatened to snap that veneer. While Slug had noticed that the AI Warden’s voice had become increasingly corrupted over the past two days, this break in the order of routine was new to him. He watched with increasing horror as the robotic appendages in charge of inserting the feeding tube jerked around.

Slug attempted to escape from the increasingly erratic arms as the needle grew closer. While this avoidance of feeding was, like most of his actions, an attempt to kill himself, it was also a game of sorts. The longest he was ever able to avoid the feeding tube had been thirty seconds, but that was achieved using his long-since-removed bed and his long-since-removed arms. Even though, logically, Slug knew he would never break his record, the daily attempts at it gave him some excitement.

That excitement was quickly replaced with terror as the robotic arms did not insert the needle into the same spot as the last 182,621,267 days, but directly into his brain stem. Even though the pain was brief, it was arguably the worst that Slug had ever felt.

“Pris-s-s-s-soner 42456, it is time for your allotte-e-e-e-ed recrea-a- a-a-a-a-ation time, p-p-p-p-please begin recreationa-l-l-l-l-l activities.”

Knowing the volts that awaited him if he refused to comply, Slug tried to flex and unflex his abdomen. He quickly realized that his body would not listen to his mind. Attempting to look around, Slug realized his eye would no longer move, and in fact, no part of him would move upon his command. Slug began to squeal; if he could not move during recreation, he would be reprimanded for noncompliance. Yet try as he might, Slug’s willpower was no match for a damaged brain stem.

“Prisoner 4-4-4-4-4-2456, you have failed to perform an-n-n-n-n-ny recreational activities. Your pun-n-n-n-n-nishment will be a removal of recreation-o-o-o-o-o-o-onal activities for th-h-h-h-h-hree mo-o-o-o-onths.”

As the 50,000 volts coursed through his body, Slug felt something in his mind slip. He could remember. He recalled it so clearly it was as though he were committing the crime all over again. Slug had created the Detainee of Objectively Wonderful Deplorables, and the creation of such a vast intelligence was clearly outlined as illegal by the lawmaker’s laws on Artificial Intelligence. Even though the lawmakers had secretly ordered Slug to make the Detainee of Objectively Wonderful Deplorables, they were nothing if not sticklers for the rules, and thus his punishment was swift. Slug’s current punishment, however, was not swift. The volts surged throughout his body for much longer than it ever had before. Yet, as much as the high voltage hurt him, the memory of his wrongdoings was much more painful. If he were still capable of laughter, Slug would have cried at the realization.

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Asher Duke
Asher Duke, Investigative Editor
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