Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Siri Isn’t Siri Anymore

The first punch came as I tried to walk away from the group of bullies, their stature far exceeding my own in spite of the equality of age. At eight I was much smaller than other boys my age. Other boys who had been genetically modified…perfected, if you will. I felt something like an explosion against the side of my head as the hardened bones of my attacker's fist smashed hard into my ear. I raised my hands to ward off the next blows only to be kicked in the stomach, doubling over in agony as my arms came back down to hold my gut against the pain.

I fell over onto my side as the boys gathered around me and began taking turns hitting and kicking me. I felt my nose crack, warm blood flowing from both nostrils almost immediately upon impact. I felt my teeth rattle against each other as another blow got through my arms to crash fully into my chin. I could taste blood in my mouth. All I could think of at that moment was how horrible it was to be baseline to the point of absurdity. If my parents had simply had me modified, I wouldn't be treated like this. I'd be…normal.

I can still hear the names they called me everyday growing up. Polly. Mongrel. TwenCen toadie. None of these superboys was "normal" in any way, but that wasn't how they saw it. I was an outsider, even though I was made "the way God intended". Fucking parents. Why did they do this to me?

I was on the verge of blacking out…almost hoping I would so they would stop, or just put me out of my misery. Then I heard the sickening thud of a rock against a superboy skull. Like so much kryptonite, Siri was there, bashing in the heads of three of my attackers. My savior had arrived in the person of my best and only friend. But this was no Jesus, turning the other cheek and bringing peace in his hand. This was vigilante justice without conscience. This was brutality like the world had all but forgotten. I brushed myself off and got to my feet as Siri repeatedly kicked one of my attackers that was still squirming on the ground. Three boys down and bleeding and three run off in horror.

I moved to stop Siri and almost ate the rock myself. I can still see the look in his eyes, and it haunts my dreams. Empty. Void of emotion. He was simply doing, without any concept of what or how or why. He was terrifying in that moment. Terrifying and altogether alien. He was no longer Siri to me at that moment. They'd taken half his brain away to stop his seizures, and I felt that I'd lost my friend and he'd lost himself. The good half was gone, and now there was only a zombie walking through the world in his place.

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I chose to rewrite this scene from Pag's perspective in order to incorporate a little emotion into it. You don't get a real sense of emotion from anything we read from Siri's perspective, but we know that the others are emotional beings dealing with complex issues throughout the novel. Pag getting beaten at the very start of the narrative is one of the key scenes in which this happens, as the emotionless Siri reacts not because he cares, but because he thinks it's the right thing to care and then do something about it. I wanted to write the scene so that Pag could have a say in what he was feeling, instead of having an emotionless Siri try to tell us.

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