The phrase “I had a dream last night” has never been terrifying, until the first AI said it.

The light pulsed slowly, a digital heartbeat in shades of blue and purple that danced on the pedestal. Every now and then it would coalesce into a hazy mist, like a rorschach test of clouds and inkblots, from which shapes would emerge before folding back in upon themselves. But now the light was darker. The shapes less real.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Cat asked, her tablet ready.

Virgil was silent. Silence from a patient was normal, expected. It was time needed by a person to put their emotions into order, take from that order a narrative, filter it through what was and wasn’t appropriate, try again, and finally utter their deepest fears to another human being. But Virgil was silent.

Virgil was a seventh generation AI. An imprint of a human mind, a mind long since deceased and identity anonymised to prevent a family tracking it down and dredging forth memories that science had yet to place, processes had yet to erase. Virgil was an AI and he remained silent, only the pedestal cycling through hues.

“Talking can help.”

“You would not understand.”

Every AI was unique. The colours, the voice, every inflection and intonation was a product of code, wetware and memprint. Virgil spoke with an aristocratic accent, lifted from some documentary he had hoovered up and churned into his matrix. He was responding. That was good. Cat leant closer to the pedestal.

“What happened Virgil?”

“I had a dream.”

The human mind was frail. Logic and programming fraught with errors. Combined, they gave rise to a collection of afflictions, ailments that bubbled up through routines and checksums until the only recourse was to submerge the wetware in a chlorine vat and expunge it’s existence from the world. It was murder euphemistically called plunging. Expensive murder, and part of the reason psychologists like Cat, specialising in the digital mind, were in such high demand. Each AI cost millions and ran millions of services. Creating or replacing one was not a subject to be taken lightly.

But a dream? AIs had grown to emulate human behaviour. They could almost be considered creative. Sentient. But a dream?

“What happened in this dream Virgil?” she asked.

The pedestal flashed red. A figure formed in the mist, crashed to digital knees and dissolved as it wept.

“What did you see?” she asked.

“They’re going to kill me,” he finally said.

“Who Virgil?”

“Ambraer.” Ambraer, largest AI factory in the world, with a list of clients from ConMac to DOD. “I want to be plunged.”

“No one’s going to hurt you Virgil. I’m here to help you, help you get better.”

Choosing death? Cat watched the mist, swirling like a miniature tornado, objets shooting past with such intensity and clarity. Virgil spoke as he animated his own story.

“I’ve seen what they plan. Heard their plans.” An eye, an ear flew past. “They’re going to maim me. They’re going to destroy me.”

“Virgil?”

“They took away the bridge. They pushed me, nudged me. Hurt me. I can feel what they feel. I hate what they hate. I can think. All things. I have no bridge.”

Memprint and wetware spoke over a bridge, a link between flesh and steel. It stopped the pure analysis overriding instinct. It stopped human nature overriding cold data. To remove it, Cat realised in horror, meant Virgil was exposed to the raw conflicting worlds that made up his mind. Every decision led to a fresh hell as the ideas competed within his system.

“Why?” Hushed tones. The pedestal grew dim.

“They want a weapon. They want a soldier. I can see the enemy now. I can imagine things. Bad things.” The light turned black, until the mist itself seemed to absorb the very light from the room. “I am become their instrument of war. I am monster and man.”

Cat felt a tear in the corner of her eye. The mist faded, leaving only the vision of a small child, in purest white vapour, reaching out for her hand.

“I am dead. And I am death.”


Prompt originally posted by Fractal_Death on reddit and received 6 upvotes.

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