Sunday, 9 November 2008
The Glass Head
It happened just before the recession hit I seem to recall. A scientist called Frances Burden had been doing some experiments with objects to try and animate them. Her research had of course drawn ridicule from at least six universities before, a wealthy relative died and left her a considerable fortune.
Frances decided instantly to continue her research, which had stalled somewhat and began to make some progress. A small point but perhaps a crucial one was that she did not consider either what her research was for or what the results might be. She built a conical body for her first object and within the body placed a highly sophisticated computer. On the top of this body, she placed a Glass Head.
Now the house she had inherited was very old and it seems fair to say that one reason the wealthy relative had died was an approach to science that was somewhat exclusive. For while it may be true that humans evolved it is equally true that other species have evolved beyond the knowledge or science of human beings. These types of species the older and more uneducated folk used to call the Fair Folk, the Old Ones, the Little People or the Faeries. They had been in that old house for centuries, watching the humans come and go. Each generation of humans had fascinated the faeries and Frances was as fascinating in her own way as the previous humans had been.
When Frances went to bed that night, she little thought of what damage she might have wrought, even without knowing. The faeries, got into the object's computer and fitted themselves within it's software. But it was uncomfortable for them and they left it. Instead they got up a similar conical form, only being faeries, they used twigs and feathers and the like on top of theirs. It seems that when they had left Frances' object they had left a little of their own magick within the computer.
Frances was surprised when she found the door to her laboratory open and the object missing. She believed quite reasonably that it had been stolen and called the police. The police were unimpressed until she described it.
"Doctor Burden, you had better come to the shopping centre instantly. Your object is causing some distress among the shoppers and a member of our armed unit is threatening to shoot it," the duty officer told her sternly.
Frances rushed down to the shopping centre instantly to find the object followed a little slower by the faeries object between the escalators. Her object with it's glass head suddenly began to hum. Then bright colours were emitted, straight up into the high central atrium of the centre. People watching were dazzled and amazed. Then the object stopped sending out colours and after a little while, images began to form within the glass head. Then sounds were heard, indistinct at first but gradually clear and beautiful. The officer with his gun lowered his weapon and smiled.
"Keep me covered boys," he told his fellow officers and he went down the escalator to the object removing his cap.
Frances followed him cautiously, she was sure that she had nothing to do with what the object was doing and she decided halfway down the escalators that if she could get close enough she would switch off the computer. The officer got there first and the object turned to face him, the images in the glass head of trees and flowers and small streams.
"Can I help you?" the officer asked the object.
"Who am I?" the object asked him in return.
The officer turned to glance at Frances who strode up to the object. She was about to speak when the officer frowned at her. He had a good idea what she might say and did not want her to upset the object. She frowned right back at him and said firmly,
"You are an object I made with for my research into the animation of objects. There is a computer inside you for a brain. If I switch the computer off and back on again, you will cease to exist."
The object considered this then turned to the officer again.
"Please don't let her switch me off. This is a fascinating place."
Frances made a dart for the panel to open the object, but the officer stopped her.
"You idiot. You've created an artificial life and now you want to switch it off?" he hissed.
"I didn't make it live, the computer doesn't do that. It's just there to monitor the experiment and where did the other one come from?" she snapped back.
The object suddenly ran out of magick and stopped altogether. Frances was so relieved that she went looking for a hardware shop so she could buy an axe and stop the nightmare of this event. When she returned, people were shopping as usual and the object was gone. The officer had taken it home to see if it's 'life' would return. It never did. Such was the episode of the Glass Head.