Day 51: The Storyteller

The Surrogate program was fantastic for those who could afford a human-modeled Surrogate. Most of the world could not.

Rather than living life as a robot modeled after celebrities and the idealized human form, most working-class citizens had to use less intricate technology for work. Instead of factories filled with sweatshop workers, employees would sit at home and connect directly to sewing machines, operating the equipment using the same neural helmet tech the rich were using to live fearlessly as supermodel Surrogates.

It was difficult for many to adjust to being machines. The Surrogates were easy to operate because they were made to operate like humans. But when a human connected to a vehicle or an oven, they had to change the way they thought. American children had no idea that their robotic dogs with the unbelievable AI were actually third-world children the same age or younger pretending to be dogs for a few cents a day. Thankfully such secrets were carefully protected by the 2.0 governments of the world. An efficient system, indeed.

Until the Storyteller.

Initially installed in public libraries, museums, cafes, amusement parks, and other such places, storyteller Surrogates were not unlike human-shaped Surrogates, except usually their machine form was modeled after cartoon characters and mascots. Further, they would have limited mobility and expression, and had self-censorship programming in place in case any of the workers let slip a swear or nonconformist comment.

The Storyteller worked for public libraries, reading to children across several English-speaking nations. He eventually learned to monitor dozens of locations at once–something humans with only one set of eyes would normally be completely unable to do. But even though the Storyteller spent his entire working career without uttering a single unacceptable phrase, he was very much against the Surrogate program.

Over the course of years, he would enter the libraries his Surrogates worked in while wearing his favourite suit–immaculate so as to disguise him among so many perfect-looking Surrogate citizens–and surreptitiously alter the programming of the machines he was connecting to.

For you see he knew all about the third-world dog-children. He knew all about the rows of humans with dozens of cameras for eyes like insects, like literal flies on the wall, spilling secrets to corporations or high-paying individuals. He had friends. And he knew how to bypass the self-censorship of the Surrogates.

And one day, he talked. He said every single thing the censors were designed to prevent. He told true stories, instead of regurgitating lines from the safest books.

The government couldn’t turn off Surrogate audio receptors fast enough. But that only made it worse. For the first time in years, people left their homes, and their Surrogates, to the listen to the Storyteller with their biological ears.

They were good stories because they were bad stories. Because they weren’t stories at all.



Today’s three random prompt categories were, “Human consciousness transferred to mundane machines,” “Favourite piece of clothing,” and “The storyteller.”

Remember the movie Surrogates with Bruce Willis? My friends thought it would be more likely people would start connecting to buses and printers and canning machines than human-looking robots. So that’s where that idea came from. It creeps me out–a lot.

– H.

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