Image courtesy of Pixabay user  qimono .

Image courtesy of Pixabay user qimono.

“Hesper, you don’t have a choice.”

Dear Diary,

This is the haphazard tale of what echoed through my mind when I was on the edge of twilight—half sleeping, half waking. As you know, I have been studying computer programming—making my way through The Odin Project. I’ve had some setbacks, which we’ll discuss later, but are beside the point at the moment.

Learning computer programming is by far one of the most challenging endeavors I have ever undertaken; in my humble opinion, becoming a reconstructive surgeon would have been easier for me than programming is. Fixing businesses and resurrecting has-beens comes much more naturally than computer science does. Then again, my mother has always said, “What is difficult for everyone else comes to you with ease, and what is easy for everyone else is difficult for you,”—which is why I’m not very good with things “everyone knows how to do.”

And yet, there is this part of me which struggles to connect everything she’s learning, because it makes perfect sense: linguistics is prevalent throughout programming, because we’re merely looking at another sort of language. Creative writing or the artist’s paintbrush also make an appearance, as we bring our stories to life, or paint on a digital canvas one line of code at a time. My interest in A.I. likely comes from the fact that these electronic machines have their own brains, circuit-based circulatory systems, durable yet fragile chassis…much like our human bodies.

I guess that’s why every version of myself—from 1.0 to those yet to be released—, told me that I had to see this through…no matter what. Failure to complete this programming challenge is not an option. Completion is a necessity—an inevitability. Much like becoming an honors student, attending college early, graduating even if it nearly kills me (which it almost did), learning to program is something which shall be accomplished simply because it must. Still, doubt persists. “What if I can’t do this?” I wonder.

During twilight, the other Hespers didn’t quite present themselves to me in a linear fashion, and yet the order did have a kind of rationale to it:

- First came present day Hesper; she was obviously more centered than I currently am. Calm, with a quiet authority and confidence which I do not yet possess, her body was also longer and leaner than mine. Though I lay supine on the creamy shag rug which takes up the brunt of the living space in my flat, she made her appearance in the mirror of my vanity, “You don’t have a choice,” she said, plainly, touching up her lips and spritzing on perfume.

- Next came a version of myself which was obviously a few years down the road; she wasn’t significantly older, but her hair was longer. Once again, she was fit, and obviously satisfied with her life. On her wedding finger was a beautiful ring, and she was kissing her handsome husband in a sumptuous room.

I felt like a voyeur, but I couldn’t look away. She stopped kissing him, and they both turned to look at me. He never let her go, holding on to her by her nimble waist; she let her hand trail down from his face until it rested upon his chest—no doubt, right over his heart.“You don’t have a choice,” they said in unison.

She looked me up and down, and smirked. “You. Don’t. Have. A. Choice.” she said again, somewhat smugly. Then she went back to kissing her husband.

- Then it was younger Hesper’s turn. She was having a tea party with her stuffed animals and dolls. I watched her with envy. She was still so young, and full of hope—innocent and untouched by the disappointments, betrayals, and heartaches awaiting her. I wanted to scoop her up in my arms and tell her everything she needed to beware, but I couldn’t, of course. I couldn’t move at all, I couldn’t speak, I could only watch.

Instead, she turned to me with a big smile, “You don’t have a choice!” she said brightly. Her toy companions chimed in, giggling in silly child-like sounds, “You don’t have a choice!” they took turns saying. Then it became a sing-song: “You don’t have a choi-ce, you don’t have a choi-ce!” The little girl smiled and laughed, clutching one of her friends, and waving the little creature’s arm at me.

- The next face was a surprise, because it wasn’t mine. There was a familial resemblance present, but this was certainly not me. A well-dressed young woman was scurrying up the the steps of…a law school building, perhaps? Was this Oxford?!

“What is going on?!” I asked aloud to no one.

The young woman turned to me, her long curls swept around her graceful figure. I couldn’t stop staring at her hair and face—what color was that…butterscotch and strawberry, maybe? Chestnut and honey-maple? Is there even a name for hair that color, yet? Her face, her exquisite face…like K.T. Tunstall sang, in "Suddenly I See": “Her face is a map of the world, is a map of the world.” Clearly this was after 2050, when the world shifted to being at its most diverse, because once in a while other students would walk by, oblivious to the two (2) of us, and many were beautifully blended as well—so many pretty healthy people…

“What is this, ‘Gattaca’?” I thought to myself.

“Hello,” she said, in a voice which practically dripped honey. “Hmm…This is rather interesting, I’m not used to seeing you like this. None of us are. Is this what you were like when you were younger? At any rate, I’m supposed to tell you, ‘You don’t have a choice.’ I have to go now, or I’ll be late for class, and you’ll have my head on a pike! See you later; love you!” she said with a wave, before jetting off.

Who was that? A granddaughter, a great-granddaughter? Do I actually manage to find a loving husband and have a family? It’s not enough past and future versions of myself are giving me the what for, now even unborn members of the bloodline are taunting me! But, there was no time for such musings, I knew precisely who was coming next.

- “Oh scheiße…” I said trailing off, as I found myself spun around from the university campus and walking into the crystal palace of The Snow Queen herself. There she sat behind her glass desk, surrounded by floor to ceiling windows. She didn’t look up; she didn’t have to. This was the same young woman who was kissing her adoring husband, except it was about 20 years later, and I caught her in business mode.

She adjusted her legs beneath her desk and continued working; clad in black and white, still sporting the same cat eye and red lip I favour now.

“One moment Darling,” she said holding up a finger without looking up. “Don’t think me rude; you know we have better manners than that. I would offer you a seat, but you won’t be here very long. You’ll be needing to wake up soon.”

She moved from behind her desk and strode up to me, sleek and sophisticated, moving as though she were an overgrown cat. Then she circled me, like a shark, which is something I’ve realized I do as well—particularly at events and conferences when I’m waiting for an opportunity to approach someone. She found a place to perch, paused for a long moment, sighed deeply, and said, “You don’t have a choice.”

“But…” I started to protest.

“Mm-mm!” She interrupted, whilst making a corresponding motion with her finger. “You. Don’t. Have. A. Choice.” she said again.

We stood opposite each other in silence. She stared at me for a long time. She wasn’t unpleasant, but she was clearly all business. There was an air about her which might even prompt Anna Wintour to clear her throat in nervousness.

“I’ll say it for you again: You. Don’t. Have. A. Choice. Do you understand Hesper? You. Don’t. Have. A. Choice.”

She walked toward her desk, and stood in front of it, now flanked by the other Hespers. “You don’t have a choice,” they took turns saying.

The Snow Queen, looked me square in the eye, and closed the show with a patient yet forceful, “Hesper, you don’t have choice.”

My eyes snapped open as I came out of twilight, with a full recollection of the events which had just transpired. I thought of Micheal Jackson’s “Leave Me Alone,” but there was no running away from myself—not now, not ever:

“'Cause there's a time when you're right, and you know you must fight … And there’s the choice that we make, and this choice you will take…”

This may have started by my own volition, but now the situation was out of my hands. I could go back to living in the shadows, or I could fight for a life and not just an existence. If programming is what it’s going to take to secure a real future, then so be it. Technology isn’t going to go away; in fact, like an invasive species, it won’t be satisfied until its tendrils have crept into every industry. The Hespers were all correct: I don’t have a choice.


-Hesper Rose, The Skulking Glamazon