by Xor

The stacks quietly hummed away, the electromagnetic field in the room nearly palpable. Only the subtle, creamy light from the monitor outlined the crags and angles of his face, his coarse hair. It reflected in the lenses of his glasses, danced along each bead of moisture at the corners of his parted lips, his restless tongue. It sank into the milky films of his eyes, though his eager pupils dilated. His wrinkled fingers worked slowly and steadily, palms immobile.

All the world poured through space, air, cables, wires, chips. The stacks played harmony to his silent chant, that high-pitched whirr no longer noted by his ears. Though the sound poured through air, tympanic canal, neural pathways, his mind took no notice. It would only notice if the sound were to stop. And so, the chorus thrummed as silently as he chanted, and the room was in harmony.

From the very earliest records to today’s programming, everything was neatly ordered away. Analogue, digital, spoken, thought: all the information was a file, tucked into a folder, in a directory, in a server, in a network. The generators far below percussed along with the chorus, while his dry lips rasped and chafed against one another.

A stray wind tickled the hairs of his thick beard, and his gaze faltered for a moment. Almost complete; he had to hurry. His fingers flew like never before, the tapping of keys added to the endless hum. He missed it in his concentration. Only minutes, now. As the wall collapsed, the last of the information was sucked into the last server. He let out a low sigh of relief as the night rushed in.

How long had it been since he had seen the stars, felt the brush of air against his face? Certainly, it was hot and dry, the radiation pouring over his skin, prickling and teasing. But it was air, there were stars, there was an infinite expanse looming over him, its majesty boundless, incomprehensible, terrible. The heat and light of a million galaxies’ trillion stars washed over him, purging the night from his flesh. It washed over the stacks, drowned out their hum in a symphony of sound and light unparalleled by any he had heard or seen in his catalogue. Planets burst into vast arrays of spectacle: colors and tastes he had never experienced. He could smell the heat, feel it sinking into every pore of his being, and for a few moments, he was the very heart of the universe, a beating, pounding, laughing, whirling cloud of energy, matter, and probability.

And then it was silent once again, and he sat among the stacks. They no longer hummed. His monitor no longer shone. A profound blackness surrounded him on all sides; he could no longer feel the chair beneath him, nor see anything in the void. But his lips moved, his tongue moved, and dusty breath came pouring in from his lungs. The first motion was complete. The second began. He was become the chorus. He sang to the void, and it listened.

All the world poured through chips, wires, cables, air, tongue, teeth, lips, sound, space.

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