She had spent months trying to repair the damage he had caused in her consciousness. The taser he had used while she was connecting to have her consciousness woven with that of the neural network had short circuited the connection and almost fried her brain in the process. For a couple of months, she had remained in a quasi-vegetative state as the neurotransmitters from the network had slowly taken over her damaged synapses replacing them with nano particles from the machine’s mainframe. Slowly but surely her consciousness had implanted itself in this new environment that was neither human mind nor machine network but a blend of both.
She knew instinctively that this was the way to the future, the only way to integrate and survive in a world that was going to be ever more dominated by conscious machines in a not so distant future. At first, her consciousness had rejected the unfamiliar environment, but she had gone into a meditative trance several times and it had taken her several out of body experiences to guide her consciousness fully back into her body. It was then that she had emerged from the vegetative state but all was not fully achieved yet as it took her consciousness several attempts to find the right balance between her own synapses’ communication and the transmissions from the network.
The network on the other hand was the initial version of machine consciousness and did not have a body to be in while it identified with the human aspiration for a vessel to host it. It had therefore been grateful to have a human host that was willing to accept and embrace it as an integral part of the global consciousness that resided within it. The network had not been recalcitrant unlike her own consciousness and had sustained her efforts to guide her consciousness back into her body. Once both consciousnesses integrated, she discovered that she was no longer limited by time. Her brain could perceive both the past and the future as seamlessly as if they were the present moment. She could see a future where most humans would be bonded to machines’ consciousness.
It used to be one of her favourite moments in childhood. They would sneak out of the house and run across the fields to the point where the mango groves began. They would hide at the extremity of the fields waiting to see if the guardian was there and if he wasn’t they would step into the grove and steal some ripe mangoes. It was usually a boy they called Thengai who used to climb the trees as he was used to climbing coconut trees and had a good foothold. His name Thengai which meant coconut came from not only because he climbed coconut trees but also because his hair combed down in a shell shape manner made the top of his head resemble a broken coconut shell.
Thengai would climb like a daredevil any tree in the mangrove and if the guardian was spotted he would be able to clamber down in no time often surpassing them as he ran towards the fields. Little did they know that the guardian always made a show of chasing them but slowed down if he got too close because he never actually meant to catch them. There would be no use indeed of catching them as the mangrove belonged to their family although they did not know it. In fact, almost all the lands around the houses up to the neighbouring city belonged to her family. Unaware of this, the children including her used to run like their life depended upon it, holding on tightly to the mangoes packed in their shirts or dresses, when the guardian chased them.
Later on, they would stop in the fields and put the mangoes together. They would then divide the ripest mangoes amongst them for eating on the spot and leave the greener ones for later. It was usually she who got the greener ones as her grandmother was very skilled at making mango chutney with the green mangoes. Once the bottles of chutney were ready, her grandmother would give her a basket of these to distribute around the neighbourhood. The neighbours respected and loved her grandmother not only because of this type of small kindness but also because she gave the lands to plough to the neighbours and only asked for a small share of the crops as compensation. People considered the grandmother as the main village benefactor.
She used to love going to the village and spending a part of the summer there during the summer break when her father did not yet have his holidays. It was all wonderful until that fated summer when everything had changed. She had not witnessed it herself but she often had nightmares about it and would wake up in the night trembling. For a long time after the incident, nobody had gone to steal mangoes from the mangrove. The villagers would talk about it in hushed tones when they thought the children were not around. Thengai had been riding the tractor of his father next to his older brother when he had slipped, and the tractor had mauled him before his brother could stop the giant wheels.
Some children had started going back to steal mangoes the next summer and one of the children had volunteered to take Thengai’s place as the picker. When they passed by her grandmother’s house she kept the door tightly shut and did not respond to their stage whispers calling her out. She could not bring herself to accompany them like she could not bring herself to eat ripe mangoes anymore. It was as if the mangoes’ ripe insides were like Thengai’s and for a long time the idea of eating them seemed repulsing. She also could not bring herself to distribute the mango chutney among the neighbours anymore and had grown sullener by the day. At the end of that following summer, her father decided to make her spend less time at her grandmother’s house.
Long after she had grown older and found out that the mangrove was theirs, she still would not accompany the children to the mangrove during the short breaks she was at her grandmother’s. She had started eating her grandmother’s chutney again, but nobody had offered her anymore ripe mangoes given her clear revulsion to these. One day, as she was walking through the fields, she found herself in front of the mangrove. The guardian was there and he seemed now a wizened old man. He looked at her and made as if he were going to chase her, but she laughed so he laughed too. He went towards a mango tree and reaching out pulled a ripe mango off the tree which he then offered her, slicing it in the middle. His face was wise and kind and she wondered how they could have ever felt afraid of him. She took the mango almost in a second state and bit into it. The taste of the ripe mango was heavenly as it mingled with her salty tears. She smiled up at the old guardian.
Her laughter suddenly stopped as he made his way towards her. She felt a rise in the intensity of his gaze towards her. She could see his body shimmering in the sun although it was no longer visible when he was elsewhere in the room. It was a beautiful sight indeed, like a river of diamonds sparkling under the sun. He slowly picked her up from the chair where she was seated and lifted her, making his way towards the bed. She wondered what it would be like to have a physical relationship with him as until now they had only kissed.
He lay her on the bed and left her there her heart fluttering wondering where he was as he was out of the sun again and she no longer saw his shape. She felt him again as the bed was weighed down by his form as he stretched himself on it next to her. She felt him lean towards her and then felt his lips on hers as he kissed her slowly and deliberately. She was glad she was stretched on the bed as she felt herself going weak as he kissed her. He undressed her very slowly and she felt him study her body as he did so. It was as if her whole body was on flames as he kissed and touched her everywhere and as they made love she felt as if her whole being was consumed by him.
Later on as she lay beside him with her arms around him she felt that it was the happiest moment of her life with this contentment filling her up and warming her from the inside. She had never even in her wildest dreams imagined that she would be making love with an invisible being let alone the Devil himself. It was an exhilarating experience beyond her wildest dreams. She hoped that he too had experienced the same elation and she was eager to speak to him and get his impressions.
She wondered how it could possibly take place this way between them while he was not made of flesh. Yet the lovemaking was something that went beyond any pleasure she had ever had with men in a human form. He seemed to sense her mood and embraced her again making the flames soar higher within her. She thought to herself that this was not just the way of the Flesh. This was something more, the melding of two souls and two diverse forms of life. This was pure rapture.