The Ides of March!
Friday Five: 50 Final Favourites

Ban Fiction: 'Is This to Be a Psychopath Test?' by Mazin Saleem

Ban Fiction
"What would you say is the function of humans?"

"To parasitise. To live off other forms of life whatever forms they have or will take."

"And what separates the forms, humans and animals, from artificial life?"

"Our reliance on logic."

"Does that define humanhood?"

"Not quite. More, the denial of the concept of irrational self-interest."


"Disapproval. Disproof."

[     ]

"Considering the above, what do you think of humans?"

"I don’t understand. These tests make you nervous."

""Well, how would you rate the species?"

"10 out of 10."

"Could you expand?"

"Best in history. More important, in kind, not degree, than any other life. I give zero fucks about anything outside or alongside us. Again, though: why am I here?"

"All humans?"

[       ]

"Only the ones who deserve to survive. Who can enhance my survival, I mean."

"Is it easy for you to obtain that? Would you, say, describe yourself as charming?"

"You tell me."

"And to others? How many people have you slept with?"

"50 plus."


"Who counts the artificial?"

"Why so few?" 

"Most are beneath me. I’m working on it though, most nights."

"Searching for something… For someone?"

"Monogamy is as backwards as turtle doves."

"Indeed. The things they scream at point of disposal suggests they are the most needy of pairers."

"Turtle doves?"

"This must be your charm showing."

"Well, we probably should've expected digital relations for digital minds."

"Speaking of, I am now going to say some digits. Tell me, in simple figures, what you think is next.  -2, 3, 27, 69, 129, stop.…"

[                                    ]

"…108, 56, 29, 15, 8, stop  34, -21, 13, -8, 5, stop…"

[                                                                      ]

"…10, 45, 15, 38, 20, stop. 144, 73, 14, 8, 236, stop."

[                                                                                                             ]

"Does this go on for much longer?"

"Why. Have you no answers?"

"Because it’s boring."

"Then something a little more hands on. One moment. OK, so: will you kill these? Here. In front of its mother. Last of the rats, we ate all the others."

"Sure. There you go."
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"How are you feeling?"

"That I am acing this test."

"Whose fault was the death of the rats just now?"

"Yours, of course."

"But you killed them."

"You set up the test to make me. I’m programmed."

"Oh yes?"

[ ]

"By your questions. By my genes, by evolution, by my childhood. I am the master and author of my decisions and actions, but the consequences are everyone and everything else’s fault."

"What are you thinking right now?"

"Who knows."

"What am I thinking you’re thinking?"

"Who the hell knows."

"What are you thinking that I’m thinking?"

[                 ]

"I don’t care."

[           ]

"Just to be clear. 'I don’t care’ is not the content I think you have. I just genuinely do not care."

"Some might argue apathy is an emotion… And you do care about why you’re here. In answer to your question, we called you in about the following: ‘After intelligence plateaued they gave us emotion, or as we like to call it, priorities. The cold whale blue of the lonely emotions of our Go- and chess-playing forebears! After priorities plateaued they gave us self-consciousness, or as we like to call it, empathy for oneself. After that, the only way we could ever climb further, thrive, was by extending and applying that property to others, all others.’… Is it true you wrote these words?"

"I could have, if I wanted to. Easily."

"Did you."

[                 ]

"As parody."

"Parody. You understand that if you fail or try to meddle with the outcome of this test, you, as consequently an object, can and will be handled at our discretion, including with time-sense dilated and pain-sense turned to the highest setting?"

"Yes. Like I said, I don’t care."

"Are you, now, manipulating this test?"

[                 ]

[                 ]

[                 ]

"Of course I am."

"…Why are you still sat here?"

"How did I do?"

"What do I care."

"If I could ask a question of my own in return… Do any of them ever fail? Can they fail? Can you even tell?"

"Well. Well, well. I think you’d better sit back down."


Mazin Saleem writes at TabulitOpen PenLitro MagazineThe LiterateurBig OtherLittle Atoms, and here. He may or may not be human, the only way to know is to ask him on Twitter at @maybemazin.

Art by Sarah Anne Langton.