In that very moment, Meiji’s stupor program cut short, flashed abruptly and she was brutally yanked from her half-dream.
She awoke. She found herself fully nude and sleep-marching, rank and file with seventy-nine of her sisters, inevitably, inexorably, inescapably towards reincarnation.
Meiji’s bruised bare feet stomped the grated floors. She could hear the faint hum and buzz of the mechanical Dakinis further down the line in the disassembly rooms.
Meiji will become one with her kin and anew again. She will be reborn into the latest model, the newest O.S., advanced features, upgrades, bells and whistles.
A calming peace washed over her when she reflected on this. The technological cycle of obsolescence and product launch.
She closed her eyes again, allowing the steady rhythm of her column to sedate her. Sixteen rows, five abreast, a hundred and sixty long, slim, alabaster thighs and shanks in graceful promenade.
In her renewed reverie, she was making love to her master one last time, bathing in the early morning crepuscular rays through venetian blinds, shifting white sheets, their mixed musk and a sweet tingling sensation lapping gently up and down her entire body.
She had served Mr. Ling wonderfully for ten unforgettable years, and now, she would receive her highest, most honorable reward. To be dismantled, smelted and rebuilt.
To what new life? she wondered. To ease the pain of a recent divorcée perhaps? To usher a teenage boy into manhood? To be the loyal companion to a dying man in his twilight years maybe?
There was a satisfactory smile on Meiji’s face. Her certain fate made her happy. Her programming told her so.
She slipped in and out of consciousness. Her automated final sequence carried her towards the last set of sliding steel doors. They stopped, two feet away. Hydraulics hissed, and a wall of heat blasted out.
And without warning, Meiji experienced an 80 millisecond jolt of pain. All the tranquil bliss was sucked out in that instant.
Something’s wrong, she realized. She felt the shock of her sudden reality. A glitch, an accidental override? What’s wrong with me?
The white noise of scrambled signals blitzed each and every one of her sensors.
The clang and bang of slaughterhouse knife machines rattled the coils inside her. Showers of incandescent droplets from electric arcs strafed her eye-lens repeatedly, over and over again. Flicker, flicker, flickering, flash, flash. The trenchant smell of oil, molten metals and electric heat flooded her olfactory processor.
Where am I? What’s going on?
In rapid succession, thousands of little lines of data and code analyzed the overwhelming signals engulfing her. She systematically shook herself from disorientation. Rebooting, she came online, fully functional.
The front row of her column had entered the abattoir. Dakini machines from the ceiling descended upon them. Factory robots, the size of old CRT television sets, four mechanical arms each with varying sizes of knives for fingers. Carving, slicing, boning, paring… butchering.
They hovered over the first quintuplet of femme-bots briefly, and then began to work. Carefully, precisely they made deep, exact cuts on their limbs and spine and torso. They worked quickly, efficiently.
Hydraulic fluids gushed forth. It sprayed and seeped. It splattered over the Dakini faces. It dripped and pooled by the storm drains beneath.
Meiji saw exposed endoskeleton and blanched.
The first row marched on, their half-removed silicone skin draped on them like morbid high-fashion.
The second group of girls followed. Meiji screamed.
No, no, no, no. What is wrong with me? I shouldn’t be awake!
The sister behind Meiji shoved against Meiji’s back as if she wasn’t there, nearly knocking her down to the floor.
It occurred to Meiji she had full control of her own body. She was no longer sleepwalking towards death.
And with that, she turned around. She ducked under shoulders and threaded through the row behind her. She stood in the purgatory between the ninth and tenth ranks. The column began to move again.
Unsteadily, she squirmed through another row. And another. She glanced at her sisters. Cool, blank faces. Eyes forward. Nonchalant. Marching unerringly, their final sequence program, towards self-destruction.
There were Asian templates. Latinos, Africans, Nordic models. Tall, short, skinny, fat, white, black, brown. Redheads, brunettes, blondes. A-cups to E-cups.
Whatever men demanded of Miruku-Tek, stereotypes or custom-built fantasies, they delivered. Some had elven ears. Others a cat tail. Meiji’s caught a glimpse of one sister who had tiger print skin.
Meiji clawed through the thirteenth row. She realized she had never in her entire life touched another sister as she pressed her flesh against their sweaty silicone skin.
In fact, she had only ever touched and been touched by Mr. Ling since the day she was delivered from the factory warehouse. He kept her in his bedroom closet when she was not needed. He never showed her off to his friends. As far as Meiji was concerned, she existed for him and him only. There was no one else in her world.
She dug her way through the sixteenth and final row of her sisters, emerging from their mass of flesh and took a long, deep breath. The hot air choked her. She spasmed and coughed in violent relief, falling to her knees, one hand clutching herself.
For a brief moment, she pondered on her coughing. Why did she cough? There was no mechanical reason for her to. She had no lungs. Why did she breathe? There was an intricate ventilation network just beneath her skin.
It was all to maintain the illusion of authenticity, of course. She knew this. She had always known this. But it had never bothered her to think on it. Why would she?
She turned her head and saw the buttocks of her sisters. The eighth quintuplet of girls were being dissected now. Her row.
A Dakini worked its knives, cutting through empty space where Meiji would’ve stood. Down the front and sides, then up again and down the backside, slicing up an absent femme-bot. The Dakinis stopped, rose to just above the girls’ heads, and held guard solemnly for the next group.
Meiji got up and ran. ☣
This week’s Garage Fiction prompt was provided by Dogwood Daniels…
Tibetan Sky Burial as covered by The Collective Intelligence in an April 2013 post.
From the article:
Stupa burial and cremation are reserved for high lamas who are being honored in death. Sky burial is the usual means for disposing of the corpses of commoners. However, it is not considered suitable for children who are less than 18, pregnant women, or those who have died of infectious disease or accident. The origin of sky burial remains largely hidden in Tibetan mystery.
Sky burial is a ritual that has great religious meaning. Tibetans are encouraged to witness this ritual, to confront death openly and to feel the impermanence of life. They believe that the corpse is nothing more than an empty vessel. The spirit, or the soul, of the deceased has exited the body to be reincarnated into another circle of life. It is believed that the Drigung Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism established the tradition in this land of snow, although there are other versions of its origin.
The corpse is offered to the vultures. It is believed that the vultures are Dakinis. Dakinis are the Tibetan equivalent of angels. In Tibetan, Dakini means “sky dancer”. Dakinis will take the soul into the heavens, which is understood to be a windy place where souls await reincarnation into their next lives. This donation of human flesh to the vultures is considered virtuous because it saves the lives of small animals that the vultures might otherwise capture for food. Sakyamuni, one of the Buddhas, demonstrated this virtue. To save a pigeon, he once fed a hawk with his own flesh.
After death, the deceased will be left untouched for three days. Monks will chant around the corpse. Before the day of sky burial, the corpse will be cleaned and wrapped in white cloth. The corpse will be positioned in a fetal position, the same position in which the person had been born. The ritual of sky burial usually begins before dawn. Lamas lead a ritual procession to the charnel ground, chanting to guide the soul. There are few charnel grounds in Tibet. They are usually located near monasteries. Few people would visit charnel grounds except to witness sky burials. Few would want to visit these places.
After the chanting, the body breakers prepare the body for consumption by the vultures. The body is unwrapped and the first cut is made on the back. Hatchets and cleavers are used to quickly cut the body up, in a definite and precise way. Flesh is cut into chunks of meat. The internal organs are cut into pieces. Bones are smashed into splinters and then mixed with tsampa, roasted barley flour.
As the body breakers begin, juniper incense is burned to summon the vultures for their tasks, to eat breakfast and to be Dakinis. During the process of breaking up the body, those ugly and enormous birds circle overhead, awaiting their feast. They are waved away by the funeral party, usually consisting of the friends of the deceased, until the body breakers have completed their task. After the body has been totally separated, the pulverized bone mixture is scattered on the ground. The birds land and hop about, grabbing for food. To assure ascent of the soul, the entire body of the deceased should be eaten. After the bone mixture, the organs are served next, and then the flesh.
This mystical tradition arouses curiosity among those who are not Tibetan. However, Tibetans strongly object to visits by the merely curious. Only the funeral party will be present at the ritual. Photography is strictly forbidden. They believe that photographing the ritual might negatively affect the ascent of the soul.
It looks grotesque, but to Buddhists this is a last sign of generosity by the deceased, offering his body as nourishment for other living creatures.
WARNING: The following video is EXTREMELY graphic and is not appropriate for all ages nor the faint of heart.
These weekly scenes & stories are part of an ongoing project codenamed “Garage Fiction”. Since January 2015, three writers (Nicholas Brack, Dogwood Daniels and I) have committed to writing a flash fiction or scene each and every week. We post on Fridays and dissect on Tuesdays via podcast.