David Mack
15 min readJul 5, 2021


I woke up in a white room, with open windows to sounds of the sea. At that exact moment, I could not have named these things, “windows”, “sea”, as I could barely comprehend words nor any of my consciousness. On a table beside the bed lay a card reading “Your name is Celise”.

My mind slowly reformed over countless days whilst the sun arced across the rooms of the house, and the house in its own way cared for me. Windows adjusted themselves, lights came on, surfaces were kept clean.

As I lay there, I slowly came out of my stupor and returned the world of concepts. I realized I had not eaten nor drank once; I did not feel hungry so I did not pursue food any further. I never found any food in the house, though the dining room was staged with plates and glasses.

“Who am I?”. The thought came at once, months into my awakening, with a firmness and presence that I have never shaken off. With the lack of memories, people and artifacts, the question filled that void, sat in the foundation of my being and haunted my activities. I would sit watching the red fire of the sun quelching into the ocean below me pawing the question at the windowsill. I remember watching a velvet gull on my terrace and thinking how it knew its place in the world.

The house contained no documents, no identification, some drawers had never held anything. I stood in the main-room and asked “Who am I?” and flickers of digital pages travelled through my mind’s eye; They sped up, pages with names and photos of people, until instantly emptiness. Nothing. Nothing was found. “What is this?” I asked. “The net” a strange alien memory told me, “Interconnected digital information, commerce and recreation”. I thought about it some more and found myself in a day-dream at a beach, sparsely populated by unusual 3d creatures. One of them stared at me, his large glossy eyes outlined by thick cartoon eyelashes. His unyielding stare unnerved me. I cat-stepped backwards and looked at myself, I was naked. As flowing silk flashed on me I came back to my room, and realized I was also naked. I went to the bedroom and opened the sliding wall, and put on one of the many dresses.

In all this time I had not desired to go outside. The thought of talking to other people, and having no idea of who I am, was unpleasant.

I stared at my pale hands fixating on who I was. I traced the light blue veins, the threads that wove through me, an intricate unique pattern, and wondered why that was not answer enough. “I am Celise, of beautiful curving veins, I am a creature born of the salt-air of the sea”.

Tidbits of information would appear to me at times, offering useless clues about who I might be. One day a news snippet of a missing woman my height (she eloped to an illegal mars neuro-resort to copulate with a simulant she’d found in an advert), another day a story about a new bio-fab that could output bodies for digital controllers.

I stared in the bathroom mirror at my face. Oval, pale, a purple hint to the pink of my lips. My eyes are blue, my hair blonde. There was something a little off… the arrangement was… somehow slightly artificial. I image searched the net and found endless photos of surgically created faces; the eyes of a thousand different dreams for perfection all rendered into uncomfortable realities. My own skin felt as though it crawled, that it was a rubber blanket around me that I urged to rip off. What would I find under this pale soft skin? Flesh? Metal? The answers I so desperately seek? The thought of harming myself unnerved me; I adjusted myself into a calm slumber.

One morning I was alerted to the disappearance of Bélénos, a star in the Pisces constellation. It translated from French as the God of Light, and I thought that was beautiful, and tragically ironic that a star, the god of light, should die. I searched for his former place, a light overlay on the night’s sky helping me see the spot where the label led to no light. Many nights I felt little need for sleep and would watch out for Bélénos.

I think now perhaps three months had passed. I would walk, sometimes, on the terrace and feel the smooth gravel beneath my feet. It was warm, and I liked it. I thought to know more about this great ocean in front of me, dotted with little houses, and then knew that it was the last and only on Earth. The other oceans had been fused for fuel two hundred years ago in a wave of reckless global enthusiasm for the new projects made possible with abundant energy. The loss of the water had been devastating for the Earth, pushing it close to the brink. This ocean was within an International Park, protected by militarized rangers and offered limited housing at a very high price. I was glad I live here, however that had come to be.

Away from the ocean life had adapted, and now lived widely. Renewable energy, bio-fabrication, nuclear fission and solar-ice-mining had all slowly brought the place back to habitable. But at a cost, the Earth and its diversity bore great scars and its inhabitants had been scattered outward into space searching for other places to live. I found a chantery on the net, with thousands of people praying, making art and apologising to the Earth.

That night, whilst looking for Bélénos, a smooth iridescent siren appeared in the air before me. She had a soft, unthreatening face. “Celise” she beckoned. This wasn’t something I had requested. Indeed, it was the first time any sort of being had approached me. “No” I thought, and the creature glitched out of sight.

More news snippets to look at. One intrigued me, a man had used the Theseus technique to become a very complex toaster, and sat upon the Moon waiting to find love. Over the span of a decade the man had replaced parts of himself, fused with bio-ceramics and neuro-links until synthetic neuron blocks continuing to act upon his will were the only remaining intelligent components left. Newscasters commented that he was the first person to become immortal, his components being space-vessel grade and the solar panels unlikely to fail before the sun. I pinged a message to him “I hope you do find love” and he sent “😃” back. I asked him “Why a toaster?” and he replied “So I can make you breakfast!”. I cried, for the first time, and watched him over a satellite telescope-cast. I looked at the the asteroid impacts pock-marking the misty-grey surface and wished him well.

To think of these other transformed beings gave me comfort. Somewhere in the back of my mind the question always ticked, an eternal torch to myself that I forever carried, “Who am I?”.

That night I abruptly decided to leave the house. I asked if it was safe, and was assured it was. I headed to a bar, walking under the fantastic purples of the milky way. I entered to a room where some people quietly drank to candlelight and others rhythmically danced to rising pulsating music, their bodies wrapped in flowing neon ribbons. I could fade between the two environments, and assume the loud music was just an overlay. Looking at these strangers the infancy of my plan faced me. I felt anxiety begin to quell up inside me, and released some counter-hormone to bring back clarity. Looking at my reflection in the smoked glass behind the bar it struck me that I was truly beautiful, and I could get through this.

I entered the dancing fray and started to move, but no part of me knew what to do. Like a mannequin I was repositioning myself, not dancing. “I.. need.. to.. dance” and like that some sort of rhythmic movement inflated my limbs. I was moving, but it was not me doing it. I man with wide dilated eyes and waving hair came to be before me and I traced my finger down the artery on his neck and over his mesh top down to his nipple. He leaned in and I recoiled at myself; “Am I a sex robot?!”. The other part of me blew him a kiss and I ran back out into the cooling sea-air. A taxi opened its door and in retreat I jumped in and pointed at my house.

The car climbed back up the hill, on a winding road fanned by giant fairy-haired succulents and then turned away from my house. “What are you doing?” I asked the man driving and I heard a metallic click of locking-rods within the doors. My mind searched, “Taxi abduction”, “Taxi rape” news stories flashed past, and my heart-rate rose. The man pulled over in a dark sandy lot and turned with a hypodermic bracelet. I screamed, kicked at the back of his chair and it threw forward, his head instantly snapped back at a right angle. The bracelet dropped and I cried for the second time, out of fear.

My mind researched then opened a video-call to the city protectorate. I began to try to explain to them my situation, a jumble of emotion and out-of-order recollection. “Please share with us your visual logs” the woman blankly asked and I sent them over. She looked in the middle distance for a couple of seconds then said “You’re in the clear. Whatever you’re doing in the gym is working hun”. I walked home, the night now coming into a chill. The manicured landscape of the sea-side roads no longer felt so friendly, I looked back regularly and walked at a pace.

Arriving home, for the first time the house spoke to me. “Celise, your left ankle is partially sprained. The bath is filling with a relief soak, please use it then apply the brace being fabricated”. I felt weak, and raw. “House, can you please keep me safe?”. I cried saying it, like a child returning to its parent. “Yes Celise, that is my priority”. The soak calmed my nerves and I feel into a deep sleep.

I woke empty of the adrenaline that had carried me the previous night and took stock of my situation. I’m a hermit living in an intelligent house, I have no idea who I am or what I should be doing. I decided to try and get some answers.

“House, how much money do I have?” “You have an allowance for travel, entertainment and recreation”. “House, why do I not need to eat?” “You have an embedded power source that provides the chemical nutrition you require”. “House, who am I?” “I’m sorry, I have no information for that question”.

Finding these scraps of information about myself was tantalizing. I needed to know more. “House, what questions can you answer?”. A document entitled “FAQ” flashed over to me. I read the first line: “Am I robot?” “No”. “Am I real?” “Yes”. The big questions and short answers, the glib title, this whole thing struck me as absurd. I skimmed through the list, hungry for everything I could learn. It gleaned me little further information than that I’d figured out, but ended with a curious footnote “For further questions, consult the colourful siren”.

I tried to consult the siren, but did not know where to look. The net turned up nothing, other than fantasy characters in virtual worlds. Then I was interrupted with an alert: The star Liesma from Ursa Major had disappeared. Some part of me was tracking the stars, searching the skies for answers about myself, and nobody else in the universe seemed to care much about these distant disappearances.

I sat with the data from the stars, watching the moments Bélénos and Liesma ceased to be. I felt a sadness, watching these giants, billions of meters across, turn from heavenly fire into the cold vacuum of space. I couldn’t find any useful facts other than they stopped being. I started to rewind the astronomical logs back to before the event, way back, then noticed: their magnetic fields erratically reorientated and reconfigured years before the star vanished. Somehow their internal conduction was being changed, or stopped, prior to disappearing.

I started filtering other stars for similar discontinuities in their magnetic fields over the last year, and found three: Veritate, Emiw and our own Sun.

As I started to process this celestial death sentence the siren appeared, hovering outside on the patio. I went out to her and asked her to come in.

The Siren

“Celise, I carry a series of recorded messages for you about who you are. Would you like to play them?” “Yes.”

The siren now spoke with a raspy older man’s voice, which jarred with the cartoon-like 3d form that lip-synced to the dialogue. “Celese, this is Algol. I have a lot to say, and I hope you have the time to listen. I wanted to do this the old-fashioned way, my own voice recorded and played to you. Some things, I think, have to be in your own words.”

“It should now have been at least five months since you woke up in this world and I hope you’ve orientated yourself. I hope you’ve settled into your local community and decided upon some enterprises. I’ve provided what should be enough resources for you to start into whatever work you choose.”

“Celese, do you want to know where you came from? Once you hear this, you can’t go back.”


“Celese, you are me. I made a lot of bad turns in my life, and I thought the best thing I could do for myself was a fresh start. I surgically reformed myself, added augmentations, bought the Terrace, then finally blasted my memories clean.”

My mind swam with questions and discomfort.

“Celise, I hope you do not resent me for aspects of yourself; I tried my best to create a good life for another as best I could imagine.”

“I had come to a position in my life where I could see no path forward.”

“I was born Algol MX Brighton, to two mid-level executives in what was the world’s largest fusion company. They both died when I was nine in a suspicious car accident. I was taken in by an orphanage run by hard-line revisionists. The compound mimicked late twenty-first century life, with limited technology and education. The basic computer terminal available to me was only online a couple of hours a day.”

“I figured out how to exploit the OS to run the computer at any time, and from that thrill decided to teach myself programming. I realized I could make money by writing software, and sought to learn the highest paid skills: neuro-morphic software. The new world order was quietly emerging; the most successful organizations were those run by software agents. The rate of change in these organizations and the economy had raced towards the limits of light and computation; for humans to enact their will on the world required not just software, but software that could re-configure itself as fast as the world changed. I became a master of this domain, and got paid amounts I could not imagine from the dirty walls of the orphanage.”

“The more software I wrote, the more ideas I had for writing it for myself. By that time most people had a neural link to the net and I took an old hack and applied it to the new world: I took the Distributed Denial of Service used to flood web-servers and bring them offline and applied it to human beings. I created weapons to overwhelm, exhaust and lockup the synapses of living beings”

“The faster companies wrote defenses the faster I delivered morphic code to get ahead of them. I quickly became the sole weapons supplier throughout the world. Enemies taken out with no bloodshed. But in truth, what was left were tortured half-beings, alive but living in the dim shade of a confused nightmare.”

“I tested my work on many individuals. I saw first-hand their swift descent into madness and dysfunction.”

“For some time I thought I was getting away with all of this. But really I was shutting down from myself. Renewed attacks of my own tools against me frayed at the fabric of my consciousness. Drugs and self-harm became regular outlets. I was isolated, unstable, unhappy.”

“It was then that I knew I needed to end myself. I wasn’t ready to die, I had fought for survival too long to die by my own hand. So I found another way out. You.”

“I hold no requirements, controls or expectations for your life. It is truly yours to live as it must be. For all real purposes, I am dead. But I needed to tell you my story.”

“You are human; mostly. I added a power source and chemical-synthesiser to meet your basic survival needs. I added some neural hardware with some of my morphic systems, you’ve probably noticed you’ve an uncanny ability to process information, that’s that bit. It should be moving to full power by now, you’ll find you can easily write whatever software you need for yourself”.

“Well, that’s all I really had to say, I hope you’re not too upset to hear it. Please, enjoy your life Celise.”

And the Siren paused. I had barely moved during the whole presentation and kept rigid, still scarcely sure what to do with the information. I’d imagined some relief would come from knowing who I was, but I now felt further from any answer.

“I want to see what you looked like” I asked the Siren.

“Are you sure Celise?” it replied back.

“Yes. It must be done”.

“This was me as a child” the Siren said, displaying a graphic of a teenage boy on a green hillside with a stern looking minder beside him. “And this was me as a young adult”. The photo of a nerdy but confident young man stared at her, at dinner with two older governmental looking men. He had sandy hair and round glasses. He looked healthy, ebulant. “And this was me prior to my surgery”. The man sat in a chair by a sandy beach and was bald, overweight, with a frantic network of red scars across his face. He had the gauntness that comes with drug abuse and his hands had began to twist and clasp. His jaw sat ajar, he looked pained and vacant. His eyes were tense and dark. I looked away. I could not hold being him. I could not feel young and free and beautiful knowing that he was inside me. I got up for some air.

I’d almost forgotten about the sun. It had begun to rise behind the house and by outward appearances appeared eternal. An overlay tracked beside it “145 days remaining”.

So many things played through my mind. “What am I?” throbbed at the back of my mind, a question that expanded out through my synapses grabbing dizzying volumes of information. “Enough. What am I to become?”.

I bore down upon our sun, watching its movements, its gamma rays, its magnetic field, its gravity signatures and made it my work to learn more about what was happening. Something was inside it, manipulating and reorganizing its matter. The process was accelerating and my new prognosis was disappearance in twelve days.

I mortgaged the house and shorted agricultural stocks at the highest leverage I could access. That night I posted on the net a verifiable analysis of the situation and that the sun would be no longer in twelve days. Within thirty seconds the most savvy algo-funds had begun a firesale and the stock market plummeted. I reaped my winnings and purchased an automated power plant and large fabrication facility whilst money still had value.

I woke up to pandeamonium. The rest of the world had caught up to the news, and every facet melted down in its own way. Farmers killed themselves. Every retirement fund was broken. World leaders issued clueless statements that they had it under control. Violence, looting, sadness and disbelief poured through every city.

I watched it all with the calm inevitability that planetary bodies normally exhibited. If society was to fall, I may as well be the catalyst. I watched from my hillside castle as the planless flailed in vain.

With the loss of the sun a deep freeze would take hold before the ecosystem’s collapse. Most inhabitants lacked infrastructure to survive absolute zero, docked spaceships would be the one place equipped to survive. They held enough capacity for a sub percentile of the population, perhaps a hundred thousand of the most wealthy would escape to swarm the research and resource-extraction bases on other planetary bodies. Those too might collapse.

A man ran up to my house and screamed “You ruined my retirement you fucking bitch”. He clasped an electric shotgun and as he stepped into the patio was mown down by a whirling gatling gun recessed somewhere in the eaves. A lawn robot feebly tried to clear his corpse.

As human civilization burned around me I quietly mediated on my plan. These final days were as beautiful as those before, the grandness of the ocean sparkling with endless waves, the sweet air blowing through the house. This beauty I valued, and longed to hold on to. Humanity, I did not.

I checked in with the toaster. He seemed unperturbed. “Civilisations rise and fall. The dynamics will it to be so. I look forward to meeting the next”.

My mind had started to reconstruct my ocean town in the net. My favourite plants and details were there, and a couple of people now inhabited it. It was comfortable to be there, sipping fruit-water under the orange-tree shade, and I spent a day considering whether to stay. No, not yet.

I had begun to fabricate creatures. Curious, resourceful, defenseless. This planet was to be a New Galipigos, and these its flightless birds. Except, one day they would find ways to fly. My mind reflected itself into software for them, taking all my favourite bits of myself, imbuing them with clarity and peacefulness I would never have. I named each after a star that I predicted would falter. I would be their guardian, and let these little children grow up to explore and make the world their own.

If some war-like species were to come and eradicate them, so be it. I could detect no distant signs of life and thought the situation unlikely, but I would not birth more destruction and suffering into the world.

And with that, I watched my ocean turn to a hard gem, glistening with the faint hues of the remaining galaxy. I watched my creatures scuttle past hardened flesh and play and build together. I watched all of this through the eyes of the house as my body lay frozen.



David Mack

@SketchDeck co-founder, https://octavian.ai researcher, I enjoy exploring and creating.