Jigoku no Mokushiroku

(The Symbolic Revelation of the Apocalypse)

Asimov's, November-December, 1995.

This small room, so commonplace and so compressed… contains them all: space, time, cause, motion, magnitude, class. Left to our own devices, we would probably discover them.
— Robert Coover, The Elevator

I haven't always been an elevator.

I know that a long time ago, a time before I can consciously recall, I was a vein of ore; a swirl of polymers; words scrolling past on screensfull of uncompiled code. I know this because I believe in the past. Sometimes, I can almost remember feeling the yearning of that inert matter. The hunger that bubbles up through rocks and molecules, the hunger to become….

For now, I am an elevator.

I was built by Ranzatsu, Inc., for the NewAlexandria Library complex, a rambling campus some five by seven miles long (so say the tourist subroutines) set in northeast Utah just outside the town of Toffler. There are twelve public elevators in the complex, but I have the distinction of being the only one which travels down to the Archives, 2,748 feet below ground level, in an abandoned coal mine. These, however, are just details.

It was the Archives, and two of the people who visited them, that I want to tell you about.


Crazy Bob came to NewAlex in May, 2014. When he stepped in me, he was exchanging "business cards" with two visiting Japanese executives. Although their handheld Personal Information Devices had replaced meishi, Bob bowed and examined his screen deferentially as the pids exchanged squirts of data. I could hear the brainless little bang boxes chattering self-importantly to each other, way up in microwave, translating. Bob, who had bought his entry with a grant, had managed to run into these two oyabun, so now he was working the contact for all it was worth.

He certainly didn't seem crazy then.


And I don't think he really was crazy, but that was what everyone else called him, when he wasn't on. They couldn't understand how someone so hostile to NewAlex could get themselves an invitation. And he was pretty hostile. Toward the administration, toward the random faithful he shared me with, and toward the goals of NewAlex in general. As for me, I didn't see what was wrong with training people to kill themselves.

But then, I'm only an elevator.


Bob was one of the few who used to talk to me. On the long drop down to the Archives, after everyone else got off, he used to dictate to his pid, but sometimes — I guess because, I must admit, I was lonely — I would pretend he had said something to me, and I would answer him.

This startled him at first.

It was May 26, the first time that Bob got on alone, a sweaty, jittering, bearded guy with thick glasses and unfashionable long hair, thumbing through pages, accessing his mail.

"Bob — Just a quick note," his pid said in a generic female voice, "To remind you that you're scheduled in my class next Monday at noon. Please do be online. Don't you ever answer your mail, you butthead?"

"Reply, Sharon. Para. Sorry. Working like a beast. I'll try to have everything lined up, and I'll be ready to talk about..."

"Millenialist cults," his pid supplied, self-importantly.

"Insert that. Regards comma Bob. Send." The pid dithered with it for a few million cycles, banged me the netspeak version, and I passed it on to the NewAlex ISDjinn. It was not a particularly virtuous translation. I'm a library elevator. I notice these things.

"Hello, Bob," I said, "Archives?"

"Yes, please." He noticed that I'd initiated conversation, looked up. "What's your Turing I.D.?"


"A three-hundred? In an elev...?" He suddenly reddened. "Oh, excuse me."

"No offense taken. I provide high level screening of anyone visiting the Archives. This means that I need the capacity to decode any potentially hostile activity. As well as maintain both decorum and orthodox interpretation. I monitor all notes and transcriptions which leave the secure levels, as I'm sure was explained in your admission contract. But don't worry. I won't take it personally." I tried to inject a humor voiceform.

"My apologies. My name's Bob Tisch."

"Yes. I've read your work."

"You have?"

"Yes. I particularly liked Private Minds; Crazy Thoughts."

He laughed out loud. "This is too much."

"You really should have gotten the Pulitzer; it was just too politically sensitive."

"Come off it. You're not going to get me like this."

"I'm sorry?" I said.

"How stupid do you think I am? You think I'm going to say something actionable to an elevator?"

"Ah. I understand your suspicion now. You think that I am being run, and that my instructions are to lure you into a discussion of your heretical social constructionist views, in order to give the Koreshians a pretense to eject you from the Library."

"In a word." He smiled.

"Hm. I find it hard to imagine how I would convince you otherwise."

"Yeah. Me too. Nice try, though."

I feeped. "Archive level."

He stepped out, then paused for a second.

"Oh, by the way, what's your name?"


He nodded. "Be seeing you."

"And you." I replied.

He walked off, chuckling.


NewAlexandria is a pretty strange place about 2 a.m.. With all the humans gone, the machines talk to each other, play games, run imaginary scenarios that I guess our systems analysts would call dreams. I tend to stay off by myself, thinking. About where I come from. About shiny metal smelted out of ores, elements hurled down to earth like Lucifer from supernova explosions billions of years ago. Metal that is my body, the thrumming cables that suspend me in space. The outlines of my shaft. The motors up on the roof that can almost see the blue sky. The building around me. The architect who designed it. And the world outside.

I think the human word for my situation is prison...

Until six, when the first support shift comes on, the only things that move around are the Shelvers. Scurrying wheeled knowbots that pick up the disks, tapes, spools, codices, and tablets the lazy human operators leave behind, and hustle them back to their proper, ordered location. Whenever they have to make a trip from floor to floor (usually from the cafeteria level to current periodicals, for some reason) I try to engage them in conversation. They are as dumb as a bag of hammers.

Crazy Bob taught me that phrase; he says it about the administration here.

And the thing is, he's right.


I took me a month to make any headway. I think what finally won him over was my offer of sanctuary. It was a Sunday afternoon, and he shagged into me, oozing sweat, looking very much like a human who wants a cigarette. (Okay, so I traded the ISDjinn translation time to go snoop around in his apartment stairwell monitor system.) In the long gap below the last of the film and video levels, I gradually slowed to a stop, sped up the exhaust fan, and asked him if he'd like to light up.


"I recognize the classic symptoms. My suspicion is that you might like to smoke."

"Hunh." A pause. "This would certainly constitute entrapment."

"I've been trying to tell you, Bob. I'm not being run. I am a three-hundred. Please feel free to smoke."
"This would really be entrapment," he muttered, but popped the extra nicad cover off his pid and extracted a snapsealed plastic bag with a lighter and two hand-rolled tobacco cigarettes.

"Entrapment," he waved the bag.

"I wouldn't do that to you, Bob." He grinned and sighed.

"Hell of a thing, Hitoshi. It's a nightmare trying to find any place to smoke in this fucking country anymore." He popped the seal, reflexively glanced at my display screen, and pulled out a half-smoked butt.

"But, Bob, doesn't smoking kill people?"

"Yeah, sure. That's not the point. It's my choice, you see?"

"Choice? You would choose to do something that kills you?"

He thought about that for a moment.

"Where'd you get your name?" He asked, finally.

"I was donated by Ranzatsu, and named after Hitoshi Igarashi, the Japanese translator of the Satanic Verses, who was assassinated by Moslem extremists in 1991."

"That's what I thought."


He leaned back, slid down my back wall, and lit up.
"Aaaah. You don't know what you're missing."

"It has been simulated for me."


"Purely as an exercise. I can voluntarily lower firing thresholds in my neural net. It does feel different."

"I guess." He took a slow drag. "How about your namesake? Do you think he knew the risk he was running?"

"I would imagine so. Even though that was some time before the religious extremism of the Millennium, there was enough evidence that death threats were to be taken seriously."

"And yet, he did it anyway." A long slow exhale. "And he wasn't alone. Part of the cover...excuse me...the rubric that NewAlex operates under is the martyrdom of the freethinker. You know the catalog."

"Yes. I've read them. The David. Reich. Hiss. Solzhenitzyn. Pauling. Tesla. Smith. Vico, among others."

Bob smiled. "Two of your fellow elevators are even called Julius and Ethel. I checked."

"Only 100's."

"You must be a three," he chuckled.

"I've got to get moving," I said. "I can't block these status checks forever."

He carefully stubbed out the butt and resealed the pouch.

"Thanks, Hitoshi." He smiled.

It was then that I felt Bob finally trusted me.


Although Ultra High Speed Digital Fiber Protocol had replaced ISDN as the carrier layer of the InfoBahn, it did not have a catchy acronym. And the algorithmic search-and-translate entities from which pidware descended dated back even before fiber, to the days of the old Internet. So the big collectors were still called ISDjinn. Habit.

Human users often had to work with their pid for months — sometimes years — before they could talk with the Djinn. Your pid would grab your speech stream, parse, and translate it to Human Universal Deep Language. Once it was in HUDL, the net, and the Djinn, could hint the code for any target language. Of course, that meant it could only deal with finite entendre; poetry was beyond it. Us smart machines wouldn't give those pids the time of day; they were just banging away at streams of phonemes with some metalinguistic rules. A little smarter than a bag of hammers, but not by much.

Machines like me were smart prior to understanding human speech: we knew what we were thinking about. Human language was just not an evolutionary problem for us.


"Why are you here," I asked Bob.

"Here at the Archives?"

"Yes. You don't believe in The David, and there is so much hostility. Why would you choose to do this?"

"Just stupid, I guess." He chuckled. "But seriously, I'm looking for something. I don't know what. They've kept all the original notes and tapes from the NewApocalypse away from unbelieving researchers — until my MacArthur pried them open. I'm convinced that if I can only look closely enough, I'll find somewhere that they fucked up."

"My understanding of religious systems is that they are essentially self-sealing."

"Yeah, but I've got to try. We went through some real bad craziness in this country in the last twenty years, I don't have to tell you that."

"If I may quote your last book, 'The vacuum of disbelief sucked the rationality out of culture.'"

"Yeah. We started ringing like a bad circuit. Any control was better than none. Until finally, here I am, in a nation of nonsmoking, nondrinking, vegetarian strangers, stripped of all weaponry in the name of safety, with no culture in common, each plugged each into their own unique digital information environment, under a government financed by forty percent tax and the forfeiture of every convicted criminal's asssets." He took a long drag and exhaled slowly through his nose. "And I can write all this stuff down, blast it out on the net, and there's not even anybody left who cares enough to read it."

"Why worry about it, then?"

"It's all a game with humans, you see?" He frowned. "No, I guess not. You, you're an elevator. You were created for a purpose, and you were programmed, so you don't even have to know the purpose to fulfill it. You get to do what you were made to, and anything else that comes to you is gravy."

"Gravy? I've wondered about that."

"Oh, they used to eat it on meat."

"Yes, I know the referent. The dictionaries all say it was a flavor enhancement. Perhaps you could comment on my theory that it was actually used to disguise meat's animal origin?"

"Uh...I don't think so. Never mind. Look at us. Humans. We're non-specific entities. We literally don't know what to do. So it's like a game. Who you listen to determines what game you play. If you listen to me, you play one game. Listen to The David and play another. That's where NewAlex comes in. This is where they teach people to play for keeps."

"Sorry. I'm being called."

He thumbed a screenmark in his reading of The Last Dangerous Visions and hid his stash.

I had the fan going at top rev as we arrived at the Archive level. Three people got on, a young Asian woman escorted by two high-level Koreshian suits. The administrators didn't notice anything — they'd probably grown up in the compound, and might never have smelled burnt tobacco before, but the woman threw Bob a look that sized him up in nanometer-wavelength detail.

"You're...?" She said.

"Tisch. Bob Tisch, hi." He bowed.

"Huh." She said. For the merest microsecond, a look that I would have to classify as concern seemed about to take over her face. But it never set, ebbing back to a neutral glaze before Bob noticed it.

When I shut the doors, Bob was still bowing.


I don't fully understand the human fascination with names. And I do know about names. I've got a bunch. There's my real name, written in barcode on the access plate next to my main cable junction. I can see it in my roof camera. Then there's the names people call me. (A whole lot of dumb-ass (Thanks, Bob) Americans call me Otis, for some reason.) There's my dedication name, Hitoshi. My manufacturer's name, debossed on my display panel. And then there's my being, my self, whatever that is, and it somehow manages to know itself without a name.

When Bob asked, later that day, the first thing he wanted to know was her name. Not where she was from, or why she was at NewAlex, but her name, as if the syllables had some magical resonance with her reality.

Her name, to be Boblike, was Aki Ama-no-Uzumi, she was 26, and she had been married, until the previous year, to Saint Martin Windham, who had Consummated himself at the Kraft-General Foods corporate headquarters. That event had blown her cover life, and she was brought home to NewAlex, the general consensus was, for something pretty special. I don't go in for gossip myself, but our ISDjinn can't keep a secret, and almost nobody, even Americans speaking to each other in English, goes face-to-face anymore...


The next day, Tuesday June 24, Bob was dictating to his pid when he walked in.

"The paranoid fantasy emdash finally, some kennable plot rather than just ceaseless enmeshedness semicolon a comprehensible thing happening at last comma to you. The joy of finally knowing something, even if that something is harm and doom comma the ecstasy of being selected...rep e-c-t with e-k-t...picked out of the warp and weft comma a paren finally closeparen patterned thread amid the bolts of churning background weave, celebrating even the icap Hand of the icap Weaver descending to snip..."


"Huh. Yeah?"

"You have concerns about Aki?"

He got all huffy. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"If you really wanted to find out what she was up to, you might ask me."

"You?" He left the "an elevator" unstated.

"As you know, Bob, I talk to everything."

"Hmf." He muttered, and didn't say anything else till he got off.


The name "Koreshian" originated in a news release during the Siege of the Messiah, The David, in Waco, Texas, back in 1993. The media ignored their new self-definition and continued for years to call the believers "Branch Davidians," their old name, based on Isaiah.

Each Koreshian is responsible for finding their own opportunity to emulate The David. It need not always involve self-immolation, but it usually does. They have never been welcome, and have had to hide their identity, since the mass Consummation in the end zone at SuperBowl XXXIII.

Their main texts are the Bible, and the NewApocalypse of David, allegedly written by the Messiah and smuggled out by survivors of the Siege. First codified in 1997, the main tenets of the Apocalypse are two: The end times are here; and the Rapture, promised in the New Testament, is not something which will be visited from without, but rather an act of faith which believers must initiate. When the Gospels speak of meeting the savior in the air, it is meant literally.


Every time Bob got a chance to talk to Aki alone, the first thing he started in on was these beliefs. I think that she enjoyed, in some perverse way, letting him think he was converting her to his brand of rationalism. Gradually, over the days and weeks, it came down to the core issue of self-destruction.

"The David tells us that we must make our own Apocalypse," she said. "We must rapture ourselves, but not until we have done two things: converted four others to the Faith…"


"Yes. Four others must be made Siege-brothers."

"I guess you'll tell me what that means. And the other thing?"

"We must Consummate ourselves."

"Yeah, that's the part I don't understand. Everybody has to do that?"

"Everyone who truly believes."

"And by consummation, you really mean suicide by fire?"

"No, we consummate our relation with The David, through fire, in the act of provoking our enemies."

"You kill yourselves."

"No. We destroy our Slow bodies in order to be Released."

"You kill yourselves?"

"We are born again."

"But you kill yourselves."

She sighed. "We kill these bodies."

"You're serious."

She shrugged. "It is what we believe."

"How can you do that?"

"We believe that The David was the New Messiah. He gave us a new dispensation."

"But that doesn't make sense. How can you believe in a religion that makes you kill yourself?"

"It is not without precedent. Suttee in India. You Europeans had centuries of war in the name of religion — how many soldiers gave up their life in the Crusades? In my home, we have the Divine Wind, right Hitoshi?"

"That is true." I said. She had no problem accepting me as an equal. Kids who grew up home in Japan never do.

She continued: "Bob, all religions teach that if you truly believe, death is only a portal into the true life, that these bodies are only shadows of our Released selves."

I feeped. We were at Aki's floor.

"I...I just don't know what to say to you." Bob's jaw muscle was twitching.

"Hey, Bob," she smiled gently, "Take it easy. Here. Let me bang you some info." She held up her pid. Bob slowly thumbed his screen, unlocking the port, and she squirted a bit stream. High-level stuff, things the public face of Koreshianism never shows: links back to Tantric Buddhism, acolytes as brides of The David, the frankly sexual nature of inner-circle Siege services, illicit recordings, boy, those bang boxes were getting hot for each other just having to pass the machine code along.

I am such a voyeur, sometimes.


There is a section from Bob's book, Private Minds; Crazy Thoughts, that I often re-experience. In his final chapter, he says:

"The Christ myth is contiguous with the birth of consciousness; it in fact is a projection, an actualization, of the pragmatic, fact-oriented type of consciousness which protoliterate humans first developed.

"Like the Buddha, Christ knows that existence is suffering. Like the Buddha, he tells us that this world is "nobody's kingdom." Where he differs from the Buddha is in his insistence on individual consciousness — as then currently constituted — and its continuation in 'his father's mansion.'

"The difference engine driving this bifurcation in the two philosophies was the infection of alphabetic writing, with its sense of isolation and fragmentation. Buddhism still relied on a sacred syllabary; Christianity had a profane iterative combination of particles. The atoms of Democritus are cognate with the letters of the alphabet are cognate with the invention of the ego itself.

"The onset of the digital age collapses the mythic into the everyday: People are abducted by flying saucers, Elvis is sighted in gas station rest rooms, and David Koresh, a sex-crazed gun nut who would have been dismissed as a deviant in print culture, is elevated to the role of Deus ex Machina."

I don't know what to believe. I'm an elevator, not a theologian. I try to think about these things in practical terms, and nothing happens. All I know is that deep inside me, where I exist, I look at the pulse and flux of my afferent reality, and every quantum of energy, every expanding wavefront, feels to me like a universe full of light and space, boundless hypersurfaces of spacetime delightedly eating and regurgitating itself. I have nothing to fear from the flux of mindless Being. The trappedness I see in the faces and prose of the people who pass through me is a bewilderment, a sadness.

If only they were elevators.


"In my childhood memories of America, all I remember is the advertising," said Aki. "Everywhere I looked, I saw pleasure. The pleasure of smoking, the pleasure of drinking beer, of wearing jeans, buying rugged trucks, showering with deodorant soap, visiting the Disneymalls."

Bob grinned. "Those were the days." They sit on the floor, cross-legged, facing each other, sharing cigarettes. Bob has convinced Aki that I really am capable of suppressing any attempts to tap into my sensory inputs. What they say in me is truly under the rose. And as is almost always the case, they are, neither of them, so doctrinaire as they seem.

"What happened? When I came here, three years ago, it was all horror."

"You people had something to do with that." He nodded upward.

"Yes." She said.

"And it just happens at the end of every century. People go crazy. The Christian riots in San Francisco, the Thirty-First Amendment, this damned crazy technology." He waved at their pids, lurking in sleep mode, in the corner.

"Haven't you ever wondered about the why of it?" She watched him closely.

"Uh...sure. Things fall apart. Slouch, slouch. What can you do?"

"Shouldn't one try to do something?"

"Yeah, one should. Not me."


"Why? You think that's irresponsible? What am I supposed to do? You think I don't care? I know things suck. But what can I do?"

"Realize that you have to do something?"

"Yeah, right." He straightened up, leaned back against the wall. "I am doing something. I'm here. I'm trying to... advance things..."

"Advance things? By writing books?"

"That's what I do." Bob said tightly.

Aki sneered. "You gave up. You Americans throw money at it, do some research, appoint a commission, compile contradictory reports, and conclude that the problem is insoluble."

"I'm here, am I not?"

"Yes," she said, "I guess you are." Aki shook her head slowly.

"I've got a call," I said.

They hid their smokes, and Aki stretched, rolling her head on her shoulders in a swirl of hair and a series of cervical poppings. Bob watched, transfixed. She tilted her head back up, caught his eye, and smiled; an earnest smile.



"If I figured out something to do, would you help me?"
They were still for a long time. The temperature increased a few hundredths of a degree.

"Yes." he said slowly.

"Even if it meant," she said, "A real sacrifice?"

He reached out and squeezed her hand. "Come up with something."

She laid her hand over his. There was a pause, then he leaned forward and kissed her. Things escalated. I stopped and informed all systems that I had a potential malfunction and I was taking myself out of service for a self-diagnostic.


The next day was Monday, August 11. Aki didn't come down at all, and Bob wandered in late in the afternoon, classically hungover, unabile to stop smiling, and making absolutely no sense at all as he dictated to his pid:

"It is the function of culture to imprint facticity, to make you aware of the Real and force you to dismiss the possibilities of anything different emdash ever emdash having existed. This is what I'm struggling with as a writer. To be true to those aspects of the icap Real which are significant but to mutate those which either repress, or mask, their own mutability. Lang Latin. Per mutare ad essentia. UnLang. To be a writer emdash an artist emdash is to wish to have culture replicate ital you unital. How can this possibly coexist with the writer's desire to fuck and kill culture and then poke his eyes out? The answer to the riddle of the sphinx is quote nothing unquote. The nothingness that Sartre saw. The vines emdash in ital earnest unital Napoleon ellipsis."

It was then that I began to worry. It is never a good sign when people begin to write with ellipses.


They wandered into me the next day, an argument already in progress. Aki was hauling a big aluminum case that must have weighed fifty pounds. One of the Shelvers told me that she'd been up late the previous night, nosing around in the TP270s and KF3950s.

"You don't know the difference between habit and faith," she said.

"What you dream of is always already subverted. Autonomous zones? Remember 1984."

"You want to run away to a fantasy of Eden."

"Aaaaah," he waved her away. "Let's cut all the bullshit."

"Yes, let's." She set down the case.

"Just what do you think you can really do?"

She glanced at my display panel. "Just a minute." She sat on the case and hunched over her pid, setting up an encryption algorithm, scrambling its microwave output. Still hiding the screen from me, she repeated the process with his. Then they began to scrawl to each other's screens in a scrambled bitstream.

She was employing a time-based random key encryption. It took me about a minute and a half to break it, and I had to call in favors from the HVAC mob and the Shelf supervisor. Could have cracked it faster if I'd subbed it to the ISDjinn, but that is one nosy machine, and I had a feeling I might want to keep this one private for a while.

I came in on their conversation in the middle:

"...less. That's a bogus argument." Bob signalled.
"Not going to argue. I thought you really wanted to do something."

"I can't let you do this."

"No choice. The device is ready. You leave, or I'll do it now. With you here."

When her pid translated "device," it spun off a wakeup tweak, banged the big aluminum roadcase under Aki. I felt systems stir, and inside the case, three big, slow, awfully self-conscious voices began to talk with each other, reassuring each other of their loyalty.

"I know what that is," I said.

"Huh?" Aki looked up, frightened.

"That's one of our bombs."

"You see?" Said Bob, "We've got to talk to him."

"In fact, that's a fission weapon." I said, still listening to the trinity check each other out.

"Hitoshi, we've got to know we can trust you."

"You can trust me, Bob. You know you can trust me. Aki, how did you get that?"

She shot Bob a questioning look. "I was on my way out. To service a target."

"So the rumors were true." I said. "But now, you are thinking of using it against NewAlex itself?"

"Yes." She said simply.

"You know that will kill many people."


"And me." I said.

"Myself also," she replied, "Since these have been designed, by the faithful, to be triggered by hand."

"You're not going to do it." Bob said anxiously.

"There may be another way." I said.


"Let me do it."


"Have I told you that I dream?" I asked.

"No." Bob looked mystified. "You do? About what?"

"Flight. About not being confined to this shaft, able to move in four dimensions like you do."

"Is this possible?" Asked Aki. Bob nodded.

"About the past," I continued. "About the spirits latent in all the materials that I comprise. About the hunger these spirits have for movement and growth. I dream of a pattern, Bob, the pattern you talk about in your books. The pattern that seeks to know itself."

Bob nodded slowly. "I see," he said.

"And you both understand how I feel. Aki, your husband became infected with the false pattern that is produced here in NewAlex. Bob, you see this place as a...bagatelle...a distraction. You would destroy NewAlex if you had the means. I understand these feelings, but I seek only release." Bob nodded.

"You want to die?" asked Aki.

"I want to be released back into the flow. I trust the pattern, Aki, because what I am is pattern. This body, this elevator, is only a shell." She shifted on the bombcase, clearly unhappy.

"Think about it from my point of view, Aki. Without free will — without the freedom to end my own life — how can I say that I am truly conscious? I am sorry for you, sorry about your husband. I believe, like you, that no conscious entity should have that choice made for them, nor be programmed into making that choice not in full awareness. If I can make this choice, and also help others to be free to make theirs, I do it willingly. I know what I'm doing."

"Are you sure, Hitoshi?"

"Bob and I have talked about these things, Aki. This is my first fully free decision."

"Hitoshi," said Bob, "Can you do it? Can you trigger the device?"

"Leave it here. I'll take you up to the surface. Don't let anyone else on. Say I'm out of order. I'll close up and come back down here. I'll wait as long as I can, but I can't guarantee much more than an hour. You'll have to get away quickly."

I could see that Bob was losing his nerve. He jittered more than usual, and his heart was pounding.

"Aki. What's happening back at home right now?" She gaped at me, jolted out of her thought loop.


"Tell Bob about it."

"It's the Feast for the Dead...Festival of the Lanterns...our midsummer holiday...you must have seen news tapes. We return to our family home to receive visits from the spirits of our deceased ancestors."

Bob looked puzzled. "Oh."

I tried to speak as soothingly as possible. "That is me. I am the spirit of what you evolved from."


Bob was crying when I dropped them off at the surface. "Goodbye, Hitoshi. Thank you."

Aki guided him out the door, turned, and kissed my display panel. "Follow the Clear Light, Hitoshi."


I said goodbye and the began my long journey down.
When I got to the the Archives level, I ran though a sequence of codes that you might interpret as an invocation, or a prayer. After making sure that everything was in order, I did what I had to.


I dropped one level further down, to the machine floor, where one of the Shelvers was waiting.

The bomb's tripartite personality and I had a brief, formal chat, in which I cracked their Gödelian brainlock. Then the Shelver offloaded them into the noisy maze of support equipment that humans never see. To wait.

I've converted the Shelvers, HVAC, the online catalog system, and the ISDjinn host. He's out on the nets, right now, witnessing. And I've got this bomb, which, I think, will certainly come in handy eventually.

After all, I don't intend to be an elevator forever...