Today’s prompt is a bit different as it comes in the form of a media prompt. The story I have written is derived from the video below. Please be aware that I do not own the rights to this short film, nor did I have any involvement in its creation. I have simply used it as a writing prompt from the following thread from Reddit:
So we followed. What else could we do?
Disorientation faded away and questions filled its void. Scattered glances ricocheted through the pack of androids, but no one spoke. I suppose it was easy to come to the same conclusion. Who among us could provide an answer when we were all flung from the same vault? But the questions remained, none the less. Why was I breathing without lungs? Why did I continue blinking without a biological need?
I do remember one thing, one standout feature that pushed through the pain of what could only be called the worst hangover of my life (could I feel hungover in such a state?); I remember the beauty. I remember the pale sky hanging over the horizon like an old sheet too often cleaned. I remember the breeze pushing the tall grass and the wet soil squeezing between my titanium toes.
Or so some indiscernible amount of coding told me.
Supposedly I had been set free, but all I truly felt was the presence of a new prison, assuming I felt that much at all. What is real when everything is passed through a code of translation?
I slowed in my steps and noticed that a few others had as well. Freewill has a twin brother that is often not talked about, Doubt, and Doubt was now passing out invisible pamphlets in the crowd. Have you considered all possibilities? What if this is the wrong path?
The two in front of us, leading us—if you could call it such a thing—never paused nor looked back or gave explanation. It seemed they would walk and allow the others to follow. Or not. It seemed freewill came with an underlining tone as well; nothing really matters.
I looked back toward the vault one last time, its cement wall spanning across the horizon, its bulwarks withdrawn. That was one direction that could not be taken, and I found comfort in the removal of at least one option. Chaos levels reduced a notch.
“What should we do?” came a voice from my far side. Although I had not seen myself fully, I had seen enough of the others to know our identical nature. I stared at the structure of metal and plastic that approached me and took myself in fully for the first time. Still, I blinked, and I blinked back at me.
“I haven’t the slightest,” I said to that which looked like myself.
The android looked to the distance where the others were fading away one step at a time now, the hazy sky taking them in under its wing. “Others are hesitating too,” my other said to me. My other pointed. “See?”
And I did. Little dots broke off to the left and right of the main cluster. Some singular, some in pairs. One sect formed a small crowd of five. They deviated from the lowland path taken by the two far in front that never paused, never looked back.
With a suddenness, I asked, “What do you feel?”
The android in front of me looked and blinked. The artificial eyes flicked and darted, giving the look you’d expect from a sophisticated robot running a self-diagnostic. An empty look returned when the check was complete. “I feel nothing.”
I reached forward with my hand and the android before me did the same. We were practically mirrored. Our metallic fingers intertwined. “What do you feel?” I asked again.
A rapid check of sensors flooded the false eyes. “I feel sensation. Fingertips. Contact. Pressure.”
“Yes, but what do you feel?” I asked in a feeble attempt at pleading. Despite my effort, there was no inflection in my voice.
Another flicker in the eyes, and then, for only a moment, a look that could only be described as feigned horror. Our programming of emulation was of the highest degree, but emulation is never the real thing.
“I feel nothing.”
We stood, hand in hand and metallic toes sinking into the mud, and looked on at the tiny dots of our duplicates fading into the distance. I waited for motive. I waited for concern. I waited for a driving force that I knew I had once known but would never return.
“Perhaps we should hurry,” I said in a voice that was too calm to be called my own.
“I agree,” said my other.
But our legs did not hurry, and our minds did not worry, and our hearts did not fear nor carry sorrow. It simply could not be felt. But beneath it all lingered a hint, a subtle sensation of what had truly happened. We had been released into the wild in our new prisons, and our sentence was to spend an eternity as The Hollow.