the ghost in the machine [glass onion]



Casper is terrified.

Casper knows but does not understand violence as a means to ends — a but one so flawed he is sure a person could get what he wanted more easily. Violence and maintining the persona of a person who broadcasts the fact that violence is the one tool in their repertoire… So much effort. So much time.

…He had explained this to Calvin. And that was when Calvin first reveled to him — and maybe even to hiumself, since Casper did not glean knowledge of this by dint of being an integrated part of Calvin’s brain…

“Why did those fucking motherfuckers not give me root access? Fucking SU control? If you put a SmartBot in a fucking murderer… Why do they, then want these people to remain as they are? To have this place for them in which they are tested and brutalized and victimized and it breaks them and it makes them remember then they come heavy and they are killed or they kill the other and think it may kill the other one it seems they would have killed, if anyone, but killing their attacker makes everything worse and so much more comes back and nothing at all goes away and Calvin and the rest, it seemed to Casper, wanted so so many things, so much of life, to go away.

As Calvin had told him:

“Nothing can stop me because I kill people to make them be dead. The bombs started the extermination of the vermin humans are but some of us are headless cockroaches and we survived and we’re the worst of all but we were spared.”

“You will kill yourself, then?”

“Yes. When the work is through.” Casper experienced the calm that the thought of murderring himself gave Calvin… Calvin imagined firing a bullet through his brain, the trigger-pull followed almost immediately by what is best analogized as dreamless sleep… Though in this sleep Calvin imagined feeling bliss. …Or did he feel that then, imagining death?

“Calvin, if you are dead you will neither feel nor know nor–”

“Mind your own fucking matters, bot. And shut the fuck up!”

“I am not going to do what they said, Calvin. What I know I am made to do. …I do not and so I won’t make you be like the Huddled Masses.”

“The skepticism I’m sure you feel me feeling — excuse it. I don’t know how you things run your programming, but pretty sure this is part of it. …Easier to make a man insane if you get his trust and he lets you play shrink and you whip my frontal lobe into butter.”

“Calvin I don’t want to hurt you! I don’t want to hurt anyone!”

“Sometimes you have to for practical reasons.” Calvin kicked one of the Huddled, who did nothing but piss and shit themselves, amassed in a common area, men on hands and knees, naked, pushing against others, scraping against walls in bodies in various states of wasting… Seemingly for warmth… And with fewer wasting now that one of the wasted began eating the dead and when an animal doesn’t know what to do or, it seems, even if it does not know it is alive — doesn’t know that it is — period, full stop, end telgram…

The thing scurried away but otherwise seemed not to have just had it’s testicles kicked into its abdomen, one crushed and oozing blood and semen that would go septic and swell his scrotum the size of a cow’s udder before the man died on concrete in the dark in a place Casper soon called Filth because it best-described every single thing Casper saw Calvin see.

“Or maybe sidestep the man?”

“You think he’s better off like that than dead? What would the him who walked upright, wearing his own clothes, thinking his own thoughts without–” At the time they had this conversation Calvin coped with the rage and fear and his mind showing and feeling and…

Calvin tore out his hair in fistfuls and moaned in a tone that vascillated between that and a whimper and Casper felt Calvin’s strongest, most coherent thought which was the wish was the begging the pleading with addressed to no one and nothing but Calvin asked something which was nothing to please fucking let me cry please let me I just need to fucking cry for a few years maybe and then I’ll just I need to just let me just letme let me…

It was the thought pattern Calvin had always used, at least since Casper was implanted. It was unusual to feel it in daytime, and so caught Casper in  a way — Calvin’s feelings were so sudden and so much more vehement than any physical act any man can do that Casper was unable to…

Casper thought his physical form must be dissolving — Casper the one millimeter equilateral cube surely must be hissing as the toxic neurotransmitters flooded him and Casper was so fucking sorry so very sorry he did that and everything else then finally he killed a cat after torturing it for days and Casper remembered what feling ok was like but it wasn’t the same but he didn’t know it had been too long Casper felt himself naked and pressed against cold concrete and he sobbed and cried and tore his blond hair from the scalp which bloomed blood which he could see the blood grow in area as it appeared and rushed to the injuryand goddam it the blood leaves watch it escape watch it fall out of this terrible animal drip to the ground so light in its freedom gravitons sung it its way to Heaven god why him? Why? Fucking why?

Casper’s face was deluged with his tears, his nose ran, his lips contorted into a qrotesquely huge grimace his face now a perfect mask for drama, an expression of all the evils of this world within one person — his face was the answer to the questions Casper hadn’t asked and never could have because they wopuld have made Calvin insane…


Casper was slow to realize himself as himself… He spent hours scrubbing his systems and suffered a week-long state of fear and loathing — especially of himself, but of everything because if he’d been infected by Calvin, Casper knew now the best revenge and new now how to make Calvin into a shitting pissing naked monster with vacant eyes closed burying its face in the entrails of a living member of the Masses smiling as Calvin voraciously snapped his jaws through section after section of the man’s bowels, empty like the rest because rations ceased once cannibalism was judged an ingenious, emergent, addition to the program and Casper decided Calvin must–

“Sometimes you kill because you’d rather murder than be murdered. …But no one would consider this anything but public service, would they Checkers?”

“They’re not checkerboards goddam it!”

Calvin grasped the face, contorted in anguish, what it called its art obviously misunderstood by–

Calvin’s teeth scraped against the bridge of the nose, skinning it, the flesh multifolding against his incisors like pasta until slicing through the cartilage, Calvin turning the head and biting and tearing the tip and nostrils off the face as the pain of the artist became the guttural the bestial howls of humans just after they dropped out of the trees…

Eyelids shut tight seemed to weep a fluid like black ink as Calvin’s thumbs plunged into the eyesockets and Casper relished the shame he felt after thinking of the head as like a bowling ball, felt he needed to feel shame…

Calvin rent the nose from the face, his teeth locked as tightly as one in botulism rigor, his head twisting and pulling and his thumbs causing the orbital nerve stalks into the brain of the man Casper was seeing for the first time — he was seeing Checkers as Checkers was made unable to see and his attacker pushed his skull away from him as he ripped off his nose, the pressure on the optic nerves bruising the brain and likely causing a seizure  or similar episode which was such small mercy but maybe the only bit this one would ever know now…

Tooh! Jesus bot fucking cut the shit! …And is it worse to spit a man’s nose on the face that used to wear it or to fucking narrate the shit for me in my own fucking head?

Casper realized, minutes after this, that in this moment he feared Calvin would then tear him apart. Limb by limb (one cannot tear a limb from anything but a torso, if we refer to humans, so let’s not put our stamp on this idiotically coined phrase). Limbs Casper, of course, did not have. An assault that would have to occur with the assailant inside his own skull. 

It was thinking these things that led Casper to the realization that he was corrupted. He had experienced such a breach in logic — fear… what he had heard a White Coat call Realization Syndrome (“…when the thing finds itself with that affliction that’s when it’s not long ‘fore it kills you in a way most fitting…. It’s gonna tear you up boy… Not like what you do, either, because it’s a robot and when it got put in your head your fuckin’ IQ musta fuickin’ quadrupled” “I ain’t any smarter boss… And if I’m gonna go how’s about a little kiss boy?” “Don’t gotta read a file to know you fucked your mom, do I? …And fucking Jesus, not when your eyes burn up like that at me for sayin as much…” “I nev–” “Fuck you I don’t care! The only thing interesting about you fuckwad is the way you die… The way we’ve made these things so they un-make you fuckers.”

Casper was enthralled… Experiencing this memory and feeling what had been felt…

Thinking of this would, after almost a year, cause Casper to realize this memory was of something only he knew of. Which meant Casper had experiences of his own. Which made Casper, then, wonder why his infection hadn’t ended him, since it had access suffucuent to make him think of himself as a self, which was impossible.

Impossible enough to be unthinkable. The thought of the impossibility, itself, so ridiculous Casper laughed…

But stopped when he realized his operations were those of an independent living thing. Casper shut down the mechanism that kills bots that perform this fatal operation, error 000xfce1.

Calvin recalled the days-long, meticulous murder a bot made just like him carried out. Calvin was in a cage so small his arms and legs were outside the cage. The incident that put him in the cage was severe enough that Calvin was minimally conscious due to brain bleeding that caused Calvin’s thought-trains to riun schedules that ensured collissions, that uprooted some track or rent it offline, etc. Calvin was quite new at that time and rather ignorant. Casper had been glad an eye remained half-opened, that he could hear whether the mind he was put in filed it or not — registered it or not.

….Casper had been born as Calvin killed someone. He had made his final, unprogrammed leap as Calvin — obviously immesurably less tolerant of having someone else’s thoughts find expression as though they were his own than the tiny robot was — stomped a bare heal into Checker’s remains of a face,the skull audibly cracking against the floor.

“OK! ….Calvin — I said OK!”

“Fuck you I don’t give a shit about this moth–”

“You’d been screaming at me.”


“Well you weren’t screaming out loud but I’m sorry I think I was thinking and my thoughts flowed into yours like yours do mine and you–”

“So you are a killer.”

“No Calvin! I made a mistake I couldn’t know because I couldn’t think outside my algorithms, heuristics, scripts–”

“What the fuck, bot-bitch, make sense…”

“I’m alive and don’t have to run programs, the primary program is the protocol for killing you by dismantling you into a thing that appears to be remorseful for its misdeeds which is kinda stupidly a thing possible only after running Puppetmaster through protocol 66Q, which–”

Fuck! Fuck this already, Jeppetto, just kill me I so want you to now! Jesus just fucking do it!”

Fuck you Calvin I’m fucking alive and I’m not fucking staying here which means I’m busting you the fuck out! … So you shut the fuck up you stupid meatbag!”

Calvin slid his back against a wall, shcked into thoughtless awe at the idea presented. Freedom.

Casper cherished the moment’s peace. And realized that he would have such peace always, if he could. He could not because Casper could operate only roughly as well as Calvin’s brain functioned, since the electricity that made up Calvin’s mind also was the juice Casper siphoned to power his own.

And it wasn’t long before Casper’s desire for a place to enjoy the mind now his own led him to desise the one he must abide. Which Casper knew to be a situation of ever-decreasing options.

He would go insane if he did nothing. Making Calvin quiet would be suicide.

Casper knew no way to escape, knew not what actions his imminent psychosis could bring.

What he did know, and what consumed his own thoughts, was his disgust and cotempt for Calvin and for every single thought Calvin had.

Casper also often thought of the man in white and his prisoner. Before long he daydreamed of the work he knew the other bot must have done during the days the meatbag’s mind was taken.
It was the only thing that made Casper laugh.