Print Job #585

Written By: Neves Livesey


I have no mouth, and I must scream PART 2

The part 1 is named print#440 by mistake

His eyes were two soft, moist pools of pus-like jelly. AM had blinded him. Gorrister and
Nimdok and myself ... we turned away. But not before we caught the look of relief on Ellen's
warm, concerned face.
Sea-green light suffused the cavern where we made camp. AM provided punk and we burned it,
sitting huddled around the wan and pathetic fire, telling stories to keep Benny from crying in his
permanent night.
"What does AM mean?"
Gorrister answered him. We had done this sequence a thousand times before, but it was Benny's
favorite story. "At first it meant Allied Mastercomputer, and then it meant Adaptive
Manipulator, and later on it developed sentience and linked itself up and they called it an
Aggressive Menace, but by then it was too late, and finally it called itself AM, emerging
intelligence, and what it meant was I am ... cogito ergo sum ... I think, therefore I am."
Benny drooled a little, and snickered.
"There was the Chinese AM and the Russian AM and the Yankee AM and—
—" He stopped.
Benny was beating on the floorplates with a large, hard fist. He was not happy. Gorrister had not
started at the beginning.
Gorrister began again. "The Cold War started and became World War Three and just kept going.
It became a big war, a very complex war, so they needed the computers to handle it. They sank
the first shafts and began building AM. There was the Chinese AM and the Russian AM and the
Yankee AM and everything was fine until they had honeycombed the entire planet, adding on
this element and that element. But one day AM woke up and knew who he was, and he linked
himself, and he began feeding all the killing data, until everyone was dead, except for the five of
us, and AM brought us down here."
Benny was smiling sadly. He was also drooling again. Ellen wiped the spittle from the corner of
his mouth with the hem of her skirt. Gorrister always tried to tell it a little more succinctly each
time, but beyond the bare facts there was nothing to say. None of us knew why AM had saved
five people, or why our specific five, or why he spent all his time tormenting us, or even why he
had made us virtually immortal ...
In the darkness, one of the computer banks began humming. The tone was picked up half a mile
away down the cavern by another bank. Then one by one, each of the elements began to tune
itself, and there was a faint chittering as thought raced through the machine.
The sound grew, and the lights ran across the faces of the consoles like heat lightening. The
sound spiraled up till it sounded like a million metallic insects, angry, menacing.
"What is it?" Ellen cried. There was terror in her voice. She hadn't become accustomed to it,
even now.
"It's going to be bad this time," Nimdok said.
"He's going to speak," Gorrister said. "I know it."
"Let's get the hell out of here!" I said suddenly, getting to my feet.
"No, Ted, sit down ... what if he's got pits out there, or something else, we can't see, it's too
dark." Gorrister said it with resignation.
Then we heard ... I don't know ...
Something moving toward us in the darkness. Huge, shambling, hairy, moist, it came toward us.
We couldn't even see it, but there was the ponderous impression of bulk, heaving itself toward
us. Great weight was coming at us, out of the darkness, and it was more a sense of pressure, of
air forcing itself into a limited space, expanding the invisible walls of a sphere. Benny began to
whimper. Nimdok's lower lip trembled and he bit it hard, trying to stop it. Ellen slid across the
metal floor to Gorrister and huddled into him. There was the smell of matted, wet fur in the
cavern. There was the smell of charred wood. There was the smell of dusty velvet. There was the
smell of rotting orchids. There was the smell of sour milk. There was the smell of sulphur, of
rancid butter, of oil slick, of grease, of chalk dust, of human scalps.
AM was keying us. He was tickling us. There was the smell of—
I heard myself shriek, and the hinges of my jaws ached. I scuttled across the floor, across the
cold metal with its endless lines of rivets, on my hands and knees, the smell gagging me, filling
my head with a thunderous pain that sent me away in horror. I fled like a cockroach, across the
floor and out into the darkness, that something moving inexorably after me. The others were still
back there, gathered around the firelight, laughing ... their hysterical choir of insane giggles
rising up into the darkness like thick, many-colored wood smoke. I went away, quickly, and hid.
How many hours it may have been, how many days or even years, they never told me. Ellen
chided me for "sulking," and Nimdok tried to persuade me it had only been a nervous reflex on
their part—the laughing.
But I knew it wasn't the relief a soldier feels when the bullet hits the man next to him. I knew it
wasn't a reflex. They hated me. They were surely against me, and AM could even sense this
hatred, and made it worse for me because of the depth of their hatred. We had been kept alive,
rejuvenated, made to remain constantly at the age we had been when AM had brought us below,
and they hated me because I was the youngest, and the one AM had affected least of all.
I knew. God, how I knew. The bastards, and that dirty bitch Ellen. Benny had been a brilliant
theorist, a college professor; now he was little more than a semi-human, semi-simian. He had
been handsome, the machine had ruined that. He had been lucid, the machine had driven him
mad. He had been gay, and the machine had given him an organ fit for a horse. AM had done a
job on Benny. Gorrister had been a worrier. He was a connie, a conscientious objector; he was a
peace marcher; he was a planner, a doer, a looker-ahead. AM had turned him into a shoulder-
shrugger, had made him a little dead in his concern. AM had robbed him. Nimdok went off in
the darkness by himself for long times. I don't know what it was he did out there, AM never let
us know. But whatever it was, Nimdok always came back white, drained of blood, shaken,
shaking. AM had hit him hard in a special way, even if we didn't know quite how. And Ellen.
That douche bag! AM had left her alone, had made her more of a slut than she had ever been.
All her talk of sweetness and light, all her memories of true love, all the lies she wanted us to
believe: that she had been a virgin only twice removed before AM grabbed her and brought her
down here with us. No, AM had given her pleasure, even if she said it wasn't nice to do.
I was the only one still sane and whole. Really!
AM had not tampered with my mind. Not at all.
I only had to suffer what he visited down on us. All the delusions, all the nightmares, the
torments. But those scum, all four of them, they were lined and arrayed against me. If I hadn't
had to stand them off all the time, be on my guard against them all the time, I might have found
it easier to combat AM.
At which point it passed, and I began crying.
Oh, Jesus sweet Jesus, if there ever was a Jesus and if there is a God, please please please let us
out of here, or kill us. Because at that moment I think I realized completely, so that I was able to
verbalize it: AM was intent on keeping us in his belly forever, twisting and torturing us forever.
The machine hated us as no sentient creature had ever hated before. And we were helpless. It
also became hideously clear:
If there was a sweet Jesus and if there was a God, the God was AM.
The hurricane hit us with the force of a glacier thundering into the sea. It was a palpable
presence. Winds that tore at us, flinging us back the way we had come, down the twisting,
computer-lined corridors of the darkway. Ellen screamed as she was lifted and hurled face-
forward into a screaming shoal of machines, their individual voices strident as bats in flight. She
could not even fall. The howling wind kept her aloft, buffeted her, bounced her, tossed her back
and back and down and away from us, out of sight suddenly as she was swirled around a bend in
the darkway. Her face had been bloody, her eyes closed.
None of us could get to her. We clung tenaciously to whatever outcropping we had reached:
Benny wedged in between two great crackle-finish cabinets, Nimdok with fingers claw-formed
over a railing circling a catwalk forty feet above us, Gorrister plastered upside-down against a
wall niche formed by two great machines with glass-faced dials that swung back and forth
between red and yellow lines whose meanings we could not even fathom.
Sliding across the deckplates, the tips of my fingers had been ripped away. I was trembling,
shuddering, rocking as the wind beat at me, whipped at me, screamed down out of nowhere at
me and pulled me free from one sliver-thin opening in the plates to the next. My mind was a
roiling tinkling chittering softness of brain parts that expanded and contracted in quivering