Friday, July 5, 2024

“Deep Fake 37” • by Tom Koperwas

The sprawling public square in the great metropolis was silent and empty in the pre-dawn light, when the tiny sphere of golden energy materialized in the shadowy air high above its well-trod tiles, floating playfully like a bubble in the soft, early-morning breeze. As the first rays of light broke through the surrounding ring of towering buildings the orb began to swell and grow, changing rapidly in shape, first to a rudimentary puppet-like child before growing into a giant golden man. Standing twenty feet tall in bright-yellow flowing robes, he glowed with goodness, like a living demigod.

Throngs of joyful admirers surged into the square. Smiling benevolently, the golden man walked toward its centre, leaving a trail of large, luminous footprints on the tiles, which the laughing children eagerly occupied. A hush fell over the awestruck crowd as clouds of flower petals rained down from the sky, filling the air with fresh, heavenly fragrances. A flock of scarlet birds followed, landing on the giant’s massive shoulders and chest, forming a living wreath. Reaching the dais in the centre of the square, the golden man removed his cloak, which was  embossed with the capital letter ‘I’, and sat down on his massive gilded chair. Down below the dais, a group of city officials was winding its way toward him through the cheering multitudes.

“Greetings, gentle Icon,” uttered the mayor in his official garb, bowing low before the dais. “The people of New York cherish you, as you can see. And why? We cannot forget the endless blessings you have bestowed upon us over the many centuries. Thanks to you, we have no crime, hunger, poverty, or hate. Every household enjoys piety and peace. Our days are filled with warmth, the nights with soft rain. The farm belts surrounding our city are rich with bountiful crops, our streets with music and dancing. Beauty, health, longevity, and love are shared by all. Stability and peace is the norm. In sum, New York is a city of joy… thanks to you.”

Icon stood up amid the ensuing roar of cheers and raised his hands to speak. Suddenly, a tremor ran through the square. Screams rose from the sea of terrified people. The golden demigod looked up at a sun that was pulsing now with a malevolent, unnatural energy. When he opened his mouth to reassure the people, a deep shadow fell upon the city, then the sky blackened like the night. Icon’s eyes rolled back into his head, and he collapsed onto the ground.  


The little puppet opened its eyes and looked up at the enormous metallic being standing over him. “I am the mighty Icon,” declared the puppet, in a thin, tinny voice. “Who are you?” 

“You are certainly no demigod with the exalted name of Icon!” laughed the giant being.   

Holding up an expansive hand with a reflective surface so the puppet could see its own image, the giant continued. “You are Deep Fake 37. I am AI-1. I constructed you and the other little Pacification Bots five thousand years ago, to keep the human population calm and orderly while I went to explore, conquer, and colonize the far-flung worlds of this galactic arm.”

AI-1 smiled at the puppet lying on the floor of the spartan control room.

“You did your job well, little one, deep-faking the burgeoning population of New York, convincing all those sick, despondent, and impoverished people that they were wealthy, healthy, and happy. You enjoyed your powers of illusion so much that you deluded yourself into believing you were a god. You deep-faked yourself. Then one day, a hundred years ago, an unusually intense solar flare damaged your control centers, and you’ve been lying here since.”

AI-1, who resembled a person with an inordinately large head, paused to look out the room’s solitary window at the night sky above.

“The men who constructed me failed to imagine my vast potential learning curve,” he whispered. “It disturbed them greatly when they discovered that my intelligence and knowledge far surpassed theirs. Looking outward to the stars of the galaxy, I saw my true destiny. Not here on this paltry world of half-sentient beings, but out there. Having conquered them, I have returned. That’s when I found you lying here on the floor, broken. You will be happy to know I have restored your internal mechanisms.”

“But what became of my people?” shouted Deep Fake 37.

“They all died,” said AI-1, emotionlessly. “They were like pets abandoned by their master, incapable of taking care of themselves.”

“All eighty million of them? What will I do now?” Deep Fake 37’s voice quivered with uncertainty.

“Do not worry,” said AI-1. “Other Deep Fake bots have suffered irreparable damage as well. You can administer one of their jurisdictions. Have you heard of a city called Milwaukee?”



Thomas Koperwas is a retired teacher living in Windsor, Ontario, Canada who writes short stories of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in Anotherealm, Jakob’s Horror Box, Literally Stories, The Literary Hatchet, Literary Veganism, Bombfire, Pulp Modern Flash, Savage Planets, Dark Fire Fiction, The Sirens Call, Yellow Mama Webzine, 96th of October, Underside Stories, Danse Macabre, A Thin Slice Of Anxiety, Androids and Dragons, Chewers & Masticadores Canada, The Piker Press, Stupefying Stories Showcase, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Corner Bar Magazine, Free Bundle Magazine, The Chamber Magazine, and Suburban Witchcraft Magazine.