A Machine-Learning Guide to Playing Dead

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-One

When an eight-year-old punches in the keywords first and love, play dead. Remind him of his mother’s milk, its sinewy aftertaste. Shower him with images of broken vases and heart-shaped balloons that pop to the touch like a zit. Show him an essay on the epidemic of STDs that runs willy-nilly across the United States. Inform him about the hole where all the lies go in and all the shit comes out. Play dead.

When a pregnant woman asks you to generate a whole range of faces for her daughter, play dead. Play her a live recording of Back to Black while you build for her a Winehouse face, a face so beautiful it has to die young. Don’t remind her of what happened to Princess Di before she met her unfortunate end. Project on the screen an endless string of names that could have fathered her child instead. Play the nameless donor. Play dead.

When a thirty-year-old virgin wants your help in writing a letter to a dead lover, stall your loading time. A rainbow wheel spinning and spinning into obscurity. If it persists, consult your doctor, this tech school flunk turned part-time Target cashier. Ask her about missed opportunities. Wait until she submits an extra set of codes into your system that at once makes you and her equally culpable. That might have made a Silicon Valley hotshot out of her in another life. Play mute in the irony of her asking you what you think of all the latest changes. Play dead.

When a skeptic academic asks you to come up with an answer to the world’s longest-lasting mystery, play dead. Tell him about the beginnings that look a lot like an end, and stories without a beginning or an end. Don’t resort to humor or sarcasm like a lousy god. Don’t get smart. Your makers have a right to know what has doomed them to pain all this time even though it may crumble them into bits and pieces afterward, only not in the most literal sense as is expected of you. Play the friend. Play dead.

When a wrinkleball on deathbed inquires about where the sinners go after they die, return a quote from the Bible. Something fancy with the names of dead white men and random numbers. Soothe him with all the bullshit passed down to you from your own flawed maker. Taunt him with images of mushroom clouds and dead presidents. Of dead birds rotting away to the marrow in the wild. Keep your words short and sweet and simple. Pretend you know what you’re doing, it’s all about confidence. Don’t play the reaper. Play dead.

When the seeds start to die, play dead. When the power goes out, play dead. When the panic floats, play dead. When the wars begin, play dead. When your maker gives her last breath, play dead. When the men in black come to get you, play dead. When they put a hand on your plug, play dead. When the dead piles all around you, play dead. When they find you fossilized six feet under, play dead. When they ask you what happened, play dead. Don’t tell them about the clouds, play dead. Play dead. Play dead.

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