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A couple of major charges and a bored personomancer do not make for happy bed fellows.
This is inspired by a chapter “The Self and the Future” from the book “Problems of the Self” written by the Philosopher Bernard Williams.
I just pissed myself. It is warm and wet and it is trickling down my thigh. It isn’t from terror (although I am terrified) that I pissed myself. I did it because I couldn’t hold on any longer. I just couldn’t stop it, it was burning in me, I just had to let it go.
It is going cold, it is soaking into my filthy jeans and it is getting cold. I am sitting on a chair with my hands tied behind my back, my legs tied to the chair and I am shivering because my piss is slowly losing its own heat and instead it is leeching mine from my skin.
At least it shows that I can’t have been here for more than a day or so. It is so difficult to tell the time in the dark, when you are tied to a chair, when your throat hurts from sobbing and when your head aches and throbs with pain. And the fright, the unimaginable terror at being all alone in the dark, that doesn’t help. But I’ve only just pissed myself, so it can’t be all that long then.
I didn’t see who took me, I was just walking back to my studio, back from Safeways with my shopping. I remember I was grabbed from behind and someone hit me on the head. There is a certain stickiness in my hair which I feel when I move my head, I think it is blood. Dried blood at least.
I don’t understand what has happened to me, why it has happened to me. I am no one. Is it terrorists like they keep talking about on the news? The man who talked to me when I came round didn’t look like a terrorist (I’ve seen what terrorists look like on the news) and he didn’t sound like one. He was … weird. Shit I don’t know. He was like some … JESUS, I want to be somewhere else.
I am sobbing again, even though my throat hurts and I know it won’t do any good. It is kind of weird this, I can kind of see myself crying, snivelling like some fucking kid, but from the outside. It is kind of like I am someone else watching me.
Why am I here? I still don’t know. The guy, the one who talked to me, he didn’t make any sense. He pressed a button on the wall and two panels lifted showing me two white rooms through two sets of glass. I think they was like those one-way mirrors the police have in interrogation rooms. There were two people in one of the white rooms, a man and a woman and a man alone in the other. Alone like me. Both men were tied up like me too.
The guy began talking to me. He said stuff. I don’t remember exactly.
“So, Mr Brown… no stop snivelling, that won’t do you any good. You are here because I want you to see this and understand. In that room is my assistant Mary. She is explaining something very similar to the person we shall, for the purposes of this exercise, call Abp. You look confused Mr Brown”
I didn’t, he wasn’t even looking at me
“Abp stands for A-body-person. We shall call him that because we do not want to confuse the person’s body for the person now do we.”
I have no idea what he meant.
“In the other room we have Bbp, which of course will stand for B-body-person. At the moment Mary is explaining to Abp that he will undergo an experiment tomorrow and that he must make a decision relating to this.”
What did all of this have to do with me?
“The same has already been explained to Bbp. What is it that is going to be explained you ask.”
I hadn’t, I was still sobbing quietly.
“Well it is simply that tomorrow morning we shall, by such ways and means as are at our disposal, remove all those memories, aspirations and quirks of character which belong to Abp and give them to Bbp after having removed all of his memories, aspirations and quirks of character, which themselves shall be given to Abp. So the memories etc. of Abp shall end up in Bbp and the memories of Bbp shall end up in Abp.”
By this time I had stopped weeping, but still none of this made any sense to me.
“Of course the clever part comes now. See how Mary has just asked Abp a question”
I was looking and I could see Abp’s face become twist with the agony of decision tinged with horror.
“Abp has just been told that after the operation one of the two people, Abp (with Bbp’s memories) or Bbp (with Abp’s memories), will be tortured to death and the other will be released back into the world. The question is who is to be tortured and who is to be released. Bbp has of course already been asked this and eventually decided that Abp ought to be released and Bbp ought to be tortured. Aaaaah, and Mary has just given me the sign to show that Abp has chosen that Abp be tortured and Bbp be released. Excellent, that will work most admirably”
And then he went and he left me here. Alone and knowing that someone is going to be tortured. What is going to happen to me though? Why is it important that I know all of this?
The piss has dried. I am so thirsty and so tired, though I think I did sleep at some point. Oh God, the door is opening, oh God. It is him again. He is opening the panels.
“Mr Brown, still awake I hope. The experiment has been performed and now we come to he crunch. See there Abp, who now has all the memories of Bbp, and there Bbp who has all the memories of Abp. I can tell you that I have decided to follow the choice made by Abp last night, so Abp shall now be tortured and Bbp will be released.”
This can’t really be happening, I am looking on and someone is going to be tortured to death. The last dead person I saw was my grandmother at her funeral. I want to shout and scream at the poor men in the rooms, scream at them to run and yet I am paralysed with fear and can’t.
“Mary is now going to inform Bbp that he is free to go. Watch Bbp’s face now, watch closely.”
Against my will I watch and I see relief flood his face. I watch as the man in my room walks across to an intercom and switches it on. I can make out the words of Mary from the next door room.
“Now, perhaps you could tell me, do you remember taking this decision? Do you remember asking that that person designated as Bbp be the man released? Do you remember asking that the man designated as Abp be the one to be tortured?”
To which Bbp answered
“Yes, yes, thank God. I am not going to be tortured. Oh thank you merciful Lord!”
Mary shoots him. She shoots him in the head with a silenced pistol and I can see the blood splatter the wall. The room is no longer white. Mary shoots him again and again for good measure. The man in my room says
“Of course we could not really let him go. Good work Mary” and he clicks off the intercom. “So, it would appear that Bbp remembered [i]his[i/] deciding as Abp decided last night, and identified with that decision. Interesting isn’t it. But before we draw any conclusions we should first consider what Abp has to say at being tortured”
I feel sick, I want to vomit, but there is no food to bring up. Instead I gag and the acid burns the back of my throat. Oh God, Mary is in the other room now. I want to be somewhere else. PLEASE GOD LET ME BE SOMEWHERE ELSE. The man opens the intercom to the other room and I hear Mary speaking again.
“You are going to be tortured to death. Please tell me what you think of that”
I can see Abp’s face, it begins with shock and slides slowly into abject terror. He begins to wail. A thin tinny sound coming through the intercom, almost comic. He begs and pleads.
“No, please Jesus, please no. I didn’t ask for this. I asked for the other body the be tortured, I asked for this body to be released, you have made a mistake. Please GOD you have made a mist[click]”
The intercom is switched off. The panels begin to slide down.
“So Mr Brown, what must we conclude from this little experiment?”
He is not asking me a question.
“Bbp before his demise thought that the decision made by Abp before the experiment was the one [i]he[i/] had chosen, just because he had the memories of Abp making the decision to the effect that Bbp would be released after the experiment. Abp on the other hand thought that Abp’s being tortured was not what [i]he[i/] had decided, rather [i]he[i/] believed that Abp should have been released, as per Bbp’s decision before the experiment. From this we can conclude one thing and one thing only, namely that personal identity relies upon memories, aspirations and character quirks and not upon bodily continuity. In this experiment A (we may now dispense with this unwieldy Abp and Bbp terminology) has been transferred into B’s body and B into A, nothing more and nothing less.”
I haven’t even followed what he is saying, he might as well be speaking German to me.
“Of course you must now be wondering just what it is your role is here. I shall explain…”
To be continued (if people think it worthwhile)
pedant | profile | Dec 08, 05 | 12:51 pm
damn straight continue!!!!!!
ervae | profile | Dec 08, 05 | 3:23 pm
damn straight continue!!!!!!
ervae | profile | Dec 08, 05 | 3:24 pm
Man... my metaphysics lectures would've been even more interesting if things had been explained like this! More please!
Hmmmmm, having gone over my essay notes for this topic I now realise that I could have made this rather a lot simpler by referring to Abp before the experiment as A and only as Abp after (same with Bbp and B). Oh well. Apologies if it makes this unecessarily obscure.
pedant | profile | Dec 09, 05 | 10:04 am
...except that, you know, if someone locks me up in a cell, messes with my mind (in a completely unmagical way) by those questions and answers, comes back the day after and say you're free to go, oh, by the way, do you remember your desicion last night, HELL YEAH I'd play along with the lunatic.
Mattias | profile | Dec 09, 05 | 4:03 pm