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EP209: On the Eyeball Floor

by Tina Connolly

read by Norm Sherman

Closing song by Andrew Richardson

We’ve got robotic arms to put the eyeballs in. Metal clamps to pulldown the eyelids. Tony, on Four, keeps the grease vats filled. Oil squirts nineteen times a minute to keep the eye sockets from squeaking. Tiny slick needles stitch on the lashes, while millions of different irises get stamped in magenta and yellow and cyan, so no two will ever be alike, just like us.

All that, and they can’t engineer anything—or anyone—to take over my job. People in Organs go home coated with grease and vinegar; people in Bones have lost fingers to the machines, and still nobody wants the job where a hundred half-live cyborgs line up in rows, twitching when your back is turned. Waiting for someone to talk to them, feel for them. Transcend them to life.

There are safety signs around the factory. “Scrub Up.” “Know Thyself.” “Don’t Blink.” That last is the best piece of advice, here on the eyeball floor.

Rated PG for for angry awakening sentience and some swearing.

Comments (13)

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  1. Tangaroa says:

    Hey! Congratulations Steve and Anna! Another little Escape Pod fan! :)

  2. scatterbrain says:

    Not much to say about this story really.

  3. phignewton says:

    nope… just gotta hang about waiting for trancendence, yup yup.

  4. J says:

    Loved it.
    Norm’s reading made a 50% story become a 100% (per usual). Or maybe I’m just off on my math, I dunno. It was a very good story, don’t get me wrong, but not outstanding. Hard theme to explore in a new way, since it’s been SO overdone, but it succeeded to some degree.
    Had it been in text or read by another person, I may have easily given up (maybe not, no way of knowing) but I know I was engaged the whole time because of the reading, and the story got through and clicked because of Tina’s ideas.

    SO GREAT to hear another geek dad outro from Steve.

    Closing song was OK, but I was expecting something Norm had written so it’s an automatic letdown. Guess he didn’t have any AI bluegrass tunes handy?

  5. Ken_K says:

    The question of when and how inanimate atoms and molecules achieve consciousness is one of the mysteries of the universe humanity may never find the answer to. The same molecules that make up everything else in existence never seem to develop it (AFAWK). The atoms and molecules of deceased formerly sentient beings go on to form inanimate things and molecules and atoms that were from previously inanimate are ingested into animates and become part of their essence and so achieve consciousness. This process of transcendence from inanimate to animate to self-awareness is a mystery that for many of us will forever be fresh, interesting, and a wonderful subject to be explored and speculated upon by writers and artists. Good story.

  6. devora says:

    Always great to hear Norm read. On Drabble they use a lot of music and sound effects (which can be wonderful and on Drabble usually is) so it was fantastic to hear what he can do w/ a simple straight-forward read. Nice work, OK story.

  7. Anony says:

    Ken_K, I disagree, I will see AI before I die. But now I cant wait to hear this story!

  8. Congrats Steve and Anna! When’s the expected due date for the new pod to leave the mothership? :-)

  9. Brave Space Monkey says:

    Ken_K I also disagree and believe I’ll meet an AI before I die, I can’t wait to hear it’s story…

    About the story – same general complaint a few podcast ago – felt more like a PseudoPod story than a EscapePod story…I can live with it.

  10. strawman says:

    Ken_K I agree! These is nothing in life more miraculous and amazing than the indisputable fact that inanimate particles have somehow become self-aware.
    It follows that it would be appropriate for Steve and Anna to name their child Ai Eley, and so fulfill Anony’s and Brave Space Monkey’s (?!) ancient prophesies.

  11. Ken_K says:

    Sure things guys. Lemme know when it happens, eh?

  12. MasterThief says:

    Almost thought this was an unreliable narrator story. But yes, nice little detour into the uncanny valley.

    And congrats on Pod #2!