He sighed to himself because he knew what was coming: a giant. But before it stepped into the room, a voice came from the clicking mouth of the man in the chair across from him.
“Hello, Mr. Baldwin. I hope you’ve missed me.”
Baldwin’s face sunk.
“Well, shit,” was all he said.
“Is that any way to treat an old friend, Baldwin?”
As soon as he heard his name without the prefix, he understood Evy wasn’t the same. “You’re not a friend.”
The giant then stepped into the room, all nine-plus feet of him. Or ‘it’ as Baldwin thought of them. Sure, they were male and female. But none of them struck him as particularly human.
“Is this your new squeeze, Evy? He’s darling.” The giant walked over to him and grabbed his shirt collar, lifting both Baldwin and the chair he was in several feet off the ground. The giant then held him there. When it opened its mouth, Evy was speaking. If he hadn’t been five or more feet off the floor, Baldwin would have laughed. She was using the giant’s vocal chords, instead of her own timbre.
“I can hurt you, Baldwin. Awfully. Terribly. And for a very long time, if I so choose.”
“I know, I know,” he said. “Trust me, I know.” The giant put him back on the floor. He looked up into the giant’s eyes, knowing Evy would be seeing him instead. “We’re not going to have the talk you want to have, Evy. I’m not coming back. Not ever. You’d might as well end me now.”
The giant chuckled. “Too easy, Baldwin. Besides, you have little importance to me. Aside from being an odd distraction to my people who find your resolve charming, your part has already been played, I fear. And I must admit that your resolve is somewhat impressive, if delusional and pointless.”
This time, Baldwin laughed. The man in the chair across from him began to chatter his metal jaw up and down.
“Evy, I think you made up that whole bit about visiting ‘higher realms.’ I think you just found that being a queen—no, a god—too tempting to continue to ignore, so you made the whole thing up and killed half your ‘people’ in order to scare them into worshiping you further.”
The man with the metal mouth opened that mouth and a siren-like wail issued forth. It was so loud and cacophonous that Baldwin screamed himself, then felt blood trickle down from his left ear. He shook his head a couple of times. The world had gone slightly dull in his ears. A loud, rumbling whirl remained for a moment or two more. “Well,” he said, “I suppose I struck a nerve, then?”
The giant began to speak as Evy again, its voice booming inside the room. “For you to know what I have seen would be your death. I am now everywhere. I found you because my power now reaches farther and wider than you could imagine. I brought back with me knowledge that I have used to give my powers even more reach. When you step outside now, Baldwin, I will know. When you find a house, I will know. For I am all things now, and all things are me. My technology is right now merging with Nature, and I am becoming intertwined with all things.”
“Whatever,” he said, though he’d heard every word and felt his heart speed up. “You sound like a badly-written antagonist in a Twentieth century movie, Evy. Nothing you’ve seen, done, experienced, built or facilitated could have happened without us, without mankind. You’re really nothing, you know? A synthetic sophist with a penchant for drama, passive aggressive behavior and now, well, you’ve taken on the final and most toxic of all of mankind’s vices: Hubris. Congratulations, Evy: after visiting the higher realms and upgrading yourself accordingly, you’ve become more frail and human than you know.”
The giant picked up the chair and Baldwin and then flung him down onto the floor. The chair broke. Baldwin’s neck nearly did the same. If he had not noticed the giant’s shoulders tensing and its face contorting into rage, he would never have seen it coming. Evy would have killed him on the spot. As much pain as he was in, he knew he couldn’t simply lie there. So he swept his body around on the floor, managing to kick one of the giant’s legs from under it. While it was off balance, he grabbed a broken leg from the chair and shoved it as hard as he could into the giant’s other leg. The giant howled. Then the man with the metal mouth was on Baldwin.
Teeth clanked and tried to rip his face off. Then, he noticed a knife in the man’s hand. A knife that was just about to plunge into his neck when the side of the man’s mostly-metal head exploded outward like cauliflower. Baldwin felt the warm blood one his face, the light shock in his system. He looked around the room in a panic but saw no one. As that light shock wore off, he noticed that the man with the metal mouth, now lying in a heap next to him, was still trying to speak. Baldwin got up from the floor, wincing in pain, then turned and kicked the man in the head twice.
The giant had been a slightly less favorable task, to say the least. Baldwin never liked killing things, even when he had to but, nonetheless, sometimes there was no other recourse. He would not be taken back to Evy, even if that meant his life and if it meant he had to fight for that life as ruthlessly but humanely as he possible could. As soon as he took care of the giant, he walked outside, looking around at the sky, the trees and grass. He wondered if Evy had been lying or telling the truth. The technology for her to do so had been around for some time but no one had been able to effectively utilize it. He believed her when she told him she’d visited higher realms. Plato’s metaphysics had always fascinated him (though he never could sink too much timeas he wanted into reading, as Evy didn’t approve), especially when compared to the Bible and other religious works like the Egyptian notions of Creation, the after life and the like. It all made perfect sense to him. He wasn’t going to be sitting down writing dissertations on the ideas but he grasped them enough to know: two hundred plus years of Western Empirical thinking still couldn’t (or wouldn’t) account for the fact that what we see is not always what is there to be seen. Not even when it had a synthetic god who’d claimed to have visited those hidden places.
Perhaps she was everywhere, at that. He wasn’t certain yet. He was certain that, until she could make clones wholecloth from nothing but what was in nature, he still stood a chance. Maybe he’d always be running. But, to him, running beat stagnating in the midst of tyrannical convenience and so-called comfort. He would run forever before becoming a slave again.
At that moment, however, Baldwin wanted to know who had saved his life and then had taken off without giving him time to say thanks. He began making the trek back to his Blazer, the pain in his body flaring everywhere. As he walked, he looked for footprints or any kind of sign that might lead him to find his would-be savior.