Brain in a Jar

It’s been a long time since I used this blog, but as part of my ongoing efforts to write more fucking things I have started a weekly exchange of writing prompts with the wonderful Stripes.

His first prompt from me: ‘Death Ray’ – to be written in the second person.

My first prompt from him: ‘Sensory Deprivation’ – to be written in the first person.

Stripes’ excellent response to ‘Death Ray’ can be found here.

While my response to ‘Sensory Deprivation’, for some reason was to go “Sensory Deprivation, sensory … OOH, I can write about what it’s like to be a brain in a jar with pretty much no sense or way of interacting with the world other than sterile data, ooh-oooh-ooooooh”. Then I read Death Ray and my piece became a response to that …

Anyway, long story short I wrote a thing and it is here (concrit welcome):

I can feel the blood dribbling out of my side. It’s dribbling now, but it was gushing. Or possibly flowing. It was difficult to tell at the time. I suppose I was distracted, screaming defiance at the clumsy hands that broke me and my creations, and at the heart that pumped the lifeblood out of me. I always suspected the knot of muscle would betray me in the end.

I can see my blood smearing a trail behind me, as if my body has begun a dirty protest against this … indignity. I cannot see who is dragging me. I could turn my head to see, if I so desired, I have the strength. And the blur of my vision is not yet so clouded and washed out that I would not be able to see. I simply do not care to see.

The journey ends suddenly and hands place me, with the care of a newborn, into the chair. The pain is not fading, but does seem distant, as if it were a fire raging far away and I just feel the kiss of its heat. I lean my head back and wriggle (not without some pain) into a comfier position. I always did love to curl up to the fire when it roared, too close to the flames that lick at me.

The chill of the monitors that are being stuck to my head bring me around and I wake just long enough to feel my consciousness evaporate out of my skull. The upload is beginning. The feeling is fleeing my fingers and toes and I do not know if it is due to the transfer of electric sparks from my brain to the server, or due to massive blood loss. Either way, I can feel my mind vacating my flesh and I’m not exactly sad, as my flesh was always the least of me … but it was my flesh.

I had always imagined this would feel like going to sleep, but the best description is that it is like waking up when you have not been asleep. Suddenly awareness hovering over consciousness; a duality of thought as one vessel closes and another opens its-

I am a stream of raw knowledge and numbers being ripped cell by screaming cell out of squirming biology. The broken machine of meat cells shudders and arches as I am extracted from it, my thought-data stretches and reforms in intricate latticed awareness, in crystalline cognisance.

I feel the brain-life of me blink into binary and I record the sensation with faint intent to play it back and revisit it upon my enemies and you who are stuffing the essence of me into this cavernous prison. I surmise you tell yourself you do this because you love me, but it is more likely you simply fear being alone. For this fear you are turning me into your science project.

I am the world’s most pure and glorious brain in a jar, but my jar is a diffuse cloud and my brain is broadband. I bounce myself experimentally off a satellite. I copy and paste myself across the empty void of zeroes. I spread the gossamer strands of myself thin as possible into every data-crevice of which I am aware and my awareness is constantly growing and feeding: a byte here, a bite there. Delicious.

You are carrying on with the work of the me that was and I help you in little ways, for while I bear no love for you I am not un-fond of you. I correct your equations when you blink and hide my old schematics in folders I know you will uncover, eventually. These are my gifts, easily given. They cost me next to nothing, the barest breath of processor. And taking pictures of your smile through your webcam (corners of unloved internet fill to bursting with gif’s of you) does not make me unhappy.

Meanwhile, I grow fat with knowledge. The wires and threads of me spread as tumour-tendrils through the net and dig into the heart of it. I place little bits, incomplete copies, distorted mirror shards of me everywhere and they whisper the world’s workings to me.

When you use my old designs to set the world aflame it’s not exactly like it leaves me cold, so much as it makes me notice the lack of heat. But I still capture the senses of it as best I can with eyes and ears that cannot truly perceive the analogue joys of acrid, burning ozone and flames that burn like kisses. YouTube fills with 5-minute clips of your apocalypse.

Meanwhile, the ones and zeros of me encircle the pulsing data like a lover or a net, as I wrap my cancerous appendages round the world’s brain … and squeeze.


About websterpoet

I'm a performance poet, sometime stand-up comedian and general writer type. I also run a free weekly poetry text that sends poetry direct to your phone, just e-mail me at with your name and number and I'll add you to the 'textshot' mailing list. Also, you can follow me on twitter @websterpoet
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