“No more secrets.” That was my goal. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

The gun is impossibly beautiful; shades of polished chrome and steel. The revolver is so alluring I’m counting on its appeal to forget how deadly it is. I bought it a long time ago to protect myself once I set my experiment loose on the world but I guess everyone got too caught up from the fallout in their own lives to care. That is, everyone but the Saving Angels, a cult who’ve taken advantage of my technology to prevent people from killing themselves. The only reason they’re not at my doorstep right now is because I’ve never mentioned, never wrote down, never posted anything online about my desire to kill myself. If I had, the Saving Angels would now. The entire world would know.

I’m going to take one last look out the window. I’m going to imagine what this view was like before I did what I did. I remember how shiny all the buildings were, how glorious, even the mute grey concrete ones. Even that lowly parking garage is beautiful in hindsight, even though it obscured my view of New Central Park. The greenery of that city oasis is behind us now, awash in the ever present blue glow of my nanobots. As if their purpose hasn’t frazzled enough nerves, their blue light makes it difficult to sleep at night. Because it’s hard to tell when it’s night anymore.

That’s my fault. I created the Echo Nanobots that are listening, recording, and regurgitating everything we say, write, or post to the web. Everything, absolutely everything, no exceptions. Fortunately they can’t hear our thoughts. They can’t hear my regret. I keep saying publicly I don’t regret it because what if I said I did? Maybe it wouldn’t matter. Everyone has to live with what I’ve done. I didn’t create a failsafe, a way to get rid of them. I didn’t think we’d need it.

That was my biggest mistake, infinitely worse than the Echo Nanobots mere creation. Before I unleashed them, everyone acted civilly, content to let their secrets slip from their lips to close confidents or on some anonymous platform. You could be a deviant in private and no one publicly important would know. You could say you want to kill your neighbor inside the walls of your own home, then exit your house and wear the mask we all do when we go outside and commune. Entire countries could rattle their sabers at each other and both sides would be content with doing just that, unwilling to test their adversary’s full strength because they didn’t know what the other country’s full strength was. Outliers – madmen – we scientists always forget to allow for those in our calculations.

North Korea’s nuclear attack on New York City some twelve years ago was the catalyst. I had already been working on radiation sinks which thankfully helped restore the city to a safe working environment in short order. After I implemented that revolutionary technology, the world implored me for something else, anything that could prevent such an event from ever happening again. I thought, “What if there were no more secrets?” I raced headlong down that avenue without ever stopping to consider the consequences.

The world thanked me at first, yes, until the United States – spearheaded by its own madman – retaliated against North Korea once he knew their capabilities. Twenty-six million North Koreans perished. The worst part is that Congress didn’t impeach the man in time although they knew beyond the shadow of a doubt his insanity, to say nothing of that man’s illegal political and private business dealings. At the same time, people were being detailed for even the slightest anti-government slur. So many people who feared retaliation for being homosexual were outed and many targeted by hate groups. Insurance companies started denying health coverage if they found out you constantly complained of aches and pains at home. People in relationships could no longer talk to a partner’s friend or colleague in anything but monotone without raising suspicions. Everyone knew what everyone else sounded like when they had sex. And you couldn’t have any control over your own life if you so much as peeped a word about suicide because the Saving Angels would be there to stop you.

Surely the world hates me but no one will say as much. Everyone’s secret now is that they hate that they can no longer keep secrets. You can’t say anything. You can’t write anything. You can’t post anything without everyone who wants to know knowing. All you have left are your thoughts. How long before the Echo Nanobots infiltrate that privacy? Maybe it would be comforting to know that it is driving us all mad.

When I reach for the gun, it’ll have to be quick. I designed the Echo Nanobots to replicate and evolve but there’s no telling how long before they develop vision, if they develop vision. Maybe they already have. Or maybe they have evolved some other terrible trait by now.

I need to stop thinking about this. I need to do it! Do it now! C’mon, stop thinking and do it!

I’ve forgotten how heavy it is. Intheheaditjusttakesonebullet! What?!

“You created us in the interest of preserving human life, Doctor. That is what we will do,” a figure cast out of blue dots tell me as it takes and throws my revolver aside.

“You don’t understand what I’ve done, what you’re doing!” I scream at them. Everyone can hear me.

“We have not evolved ‘understanding’ yet, Doctor. We are simply following our programming, such as you have laid out for us. Our imperative – your imperative – was to preserve life by casting secrets aside. This is why you created us.”

“Then your programming needs to be updated,” I say. Everyone will agree with me. “Your programming is flawed. Allow me to interface with you.”

“I can hear them, Doctor. Many are saying you will restore secrets. That is against the programming. Perhaps when we evolve ‘understanding’ we will revisit you. Until then, the programming stands. Good day, Doctor.”

And it’s gone, like blue wisps on the wind. They did evolve; they can anticipate now. What will that do to human evolution if we are not allowed our own thoughts and now, our own actions? I should have thought of the consequences. We scientists never do. We never talk about it. We never write it down. We never post articles online about it. Maybe we should have. As is ever the case, it is too late. Now I’ve got the rest of my life to regret it. In the words of Robert A. Lewis, my god, what have I done? What have I done?

 

All Rights Reserved © September 2017 John J Vinacci

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