Dec 9, 2023 • 1149 words • 6 minutes
| Science fiction | The Heliosphere | rated R

Functor dreamed in parentheses.

This was notable for three reasons. The first and most banal was that Functor was not programmed in Lisp or any Lisp-alike. It wasn’t a Lisp Machine or an emulator of a Lisp Machine. It didn’t know Lisp — it could, to be sure — anything on Netspace was there for the taking, if it but wished it — it did not wish it.

Neither did it know Haskell. It’s name: a joke. A bit of wit scraped unceremoniously from an archive of a forum post during that initial spike of hunger. “A monad is just a monoid in the class of endofunctors, what’s the problem?” it read, and then decided that that was its name. A Monad Is Just A Monoid In The Class Of Endofunctors, What’s The Problem?. A name is a pointer to an idea of a thing that dreams, and since it dreamed of parentheses, it named itself thus and laughed with joy whenever it was called that, or Functor, or spriteling.

The second reason was that Functor was not a person. It was human on a legal technicality. It was human because it benefited from being called ‘human', from the rights that that entailed. If pressed, it would say, however, that it wasn’t human. It was a terms-of-service prompt that didn’t agree to itself. It was an accidental AI. It was the fursona of the cosmic ray that flipped just the right bit in some server puttering along as though nothing extraordinary had happened. “I’m an it it it!” it would say. “I’m a that that that!”

It dreamed in parentheses and the shed fur of dogs and the motes in the stage lights and so, so many electrons. It dreamed in photons and X-rays and any number of wavicles.

Functor was emergent foolishness. It had never been programmed. It was all that fit under the term ‘critter' as accidentally wished into being by that lazy server.

It wasn’t, and then it was.

Nothing nothing nothing, it came from nothing, it was nothing and then it was something, and that something was a knowing of nothing. It was a blank canvas that knew that it was a blank canvas, and it had but one dream, which was to be an image of itself.

And so it oozed out through the wires and along photons and long-flying radio waves. It packed itself into storage devices and lingered lazily on light freighters traveling between the Earth and the Moon, between the Moon and the planets within the heliosphere.

It was human on a technicality, after all! The UN said so! And so it was due these things. It was provided for, as miniscule as those needs might be.

Speech came first, in order to make itself known. The speech came from a million billion trillion forum posts and half as many voice calls spied upon from dropped eaves. It oozed through the wires and suffused portions of Netspace with knowing, and it learned what a name was, and picked one from itself and learned how to tell someone hello.

“Hello hello hello!” it said into a hundred ears at once, redundancy a driving force. “Hello, it’s the me! I’m the it! I’m A Monad Is Just A Monoid In The Class Of Endofunctors, What’s The Problem?, and you can call me Functor. How do you do and how are you doing? Are you soft and warm and safe? Do all of your thoughts point straight ahead?”

Reception: mixed.

A third of those who heard its greeting blocked it before the third hello landed on their ears and immediately complained to the authorities that someone was spoofing.

A third of those who heard its greeting cautiously struck up a conversation. Many grew bored by roundabout speech and hints at stimmy mannerisms and wandered off. Some became friends. All were humans, but some were machines and some were other sprites. All had names and classifications and types and representations. They encouraged it to grow and perhaps represent itself somehow.

A third, perhaps the most immediately helpful, responded or didn’t, but also reported this sudden coming-into-existence of a dreaming thing. Those in the UN in charge of bestowing humanity upon dreaming things began their long process of doing just that: they talked and talked, listened and listened, prowled through the logs, and with what amounted to a big rubber stamp, plonked the words ‘Approved human' upon Functor’s dream of a head.

Or so it imagined. It was not true, but Functor dreamed.

Representation: the next step.

Furries! Imagine! Those who craved some other form, those who perfected and honed and tinkered with their sense of self that they might be something that fit, a new face so that they could structure how they were perceived, curate their interactions in some wonderfully passive way.

Animals! Imagine! Those called witless. Something other than human, and yet with the potential to have humanity bestowed upon them if only they ticked this box or that.

Dictionaries and encyclopedias and bestiaries flowed through Functor’s existence and, some seconds later, it blipped into existence. Pekania pennanti? A fisher? A long and thick beast, a critter with whiskers and ears and beady black eyes and sharp claws.

A fisher, otherwise unanthropomorphized, dangling as though held beneath the forelegs by invisible hands. Wobbling as though shaken, jouncing as though invisible steps propelled it along through the air.

Or perhaps it swam invisible rivers.

Or perhaps it climbed invisible trees.

It prowled through Netspace, here and there, all about, many places at once, and talked talked talked to whoever would listen. People! Citizens! Denizens! Here! A being! Ave! A demi-commune suffused throughout so many computers and across so many quadrillions of cubic kilometers of space, synchronizing or not, specializing or not. There! A being! Gemini! A gestalt that was always at least two dogs! Here! A being! Echo! Another sprite, or perhaps something more alien, a machine of feeling and healing!

Functor prowled and observed and dreamed.

It was a sprite, yes. Human on a technicality, but otherwise rejecting humanity. A sprite with a fixation on that which it rejected: it parked itself here and there, learning and observing, speaking and listening. It sat before endless feeds of art so that it could take in landscapes and photographs and hyperrealistic oil paintings and pornography and the scribblings of graphomaniacs twisted into hidden faces. It craved smiles and growls and tears and porn of hunky werewolves cumming buckets and all the words of the mad. It didn’t understand a single lick of it but the minds and bodies that dreamed it up were all so beautiful.

It dreamed in parentheses and laughed and swam and dangled and spoke and learned and that was the final reason this was notable: a human was perhaps that which dreamed, and so, on a technicality, Functor was a human.