‘Sham Rat Nun’ – A Short Story

Over the last five weeks I have been studying a course called Digital Learning and E-Cultures. It is a MOOC, or a Massive Open Online Course run by Edinburgh University.

The best thing about MOOCs is that they are usually FREE! So head over there and take a look at the cool things you could be learning with coursera and your own brilliant noggin 🙂

This project encouraged me to look at the concept of technology as a catalyst for and a resolution to dystopia as well as the concept of transhumance. These, I discovered, are key ideas I delve into very often in my own science-fiction writing.

In response to the exciting process of learning, I wrote an original piece of flash-fiction and took some photographs as illustrations. The story is told from the perspective of a hybrid being (mostly machine) who is trying to ‘discover’ their human roots in a world where being completely human biologically is a sensational and foreign idea.


‘Sham Rat Nun’

By Elizabeth Amisu

© 2013

On the walls of Sham Rat Nun, mebbs, gibbs and exas thrum past, almost as if to herald my arrival; while guards of lower magnitude blow intuitive whistles that encircle their frames like great ceramic vipers. A column of wooden petas emerge from the mainframe, wearing skin with fingernail panels and black silk wigs. They sit high on saddles inlaid with ebony and yet more membrane, tanned. Each still and silent.

Sham Rat Nun is the greatest city that was or ever shall be! Announces a sign – quaintly neon. I have come looking for that within me which is uniquely DRBNA, not just steel, platinum but protein passed down through generations. It is this, my genetic data, which takes me to the hall of the Zebi of Sham.

Rarely does anywhere smell distinctively enough for an Avogadra like me to detect. But I do. I can smell it:

VKIREGEUYXAERTYUOPOKFRYLJNPOIUTDLUYTEWPITYREMKL – the scent is a short circuit, a raging virus, a programming error. It is what humans once called death.

“Fetch me a human.”

Slack words from a wax mouthpiece which belongs to Muthaw Rosenmaw, the Zebi of Sham Rat Nun. A great and important it in the world of its. Of the first with mechanical eyes, mechanical heart, mechanical mind, paramount of a generation.

Encoded within thirty-one bytes was a deep laughter. No soul.

Cylindrical kurzwells cower with anticipation before Muthaw and run to do its bidding. They are entropic beasts of metal and sinew and are very capable of wonder. They wonder this – what does the Rosenmaw want to do with this one? What does it wish to do this time?


Somewhere, a nuclear typist continues to type a seemingly random sequence of letters. No numbers. Numbers are our language – the extrahuman and the machine. Letters are our source of the random. Every so often a random sequence produces what we describe as emotion: if the word is red, we are angry. If the word is yellow we are jealous. If the word is grey, we are what passes for sad. I should be better at those things. I am, after all, 12.234% human.

And here it is. This is a human. It is dragged in, kicking, screaming, fighting, and biting. Blissful in its inability to detect the futility of its own actions.



This soft, fleshy thing that can barely stand under the weight of its own incompleteness? This trinket on a string? I have been for 3881584800 seconds; this human will end soon. It barely existed for a quarter of that time.

Suddenly, its hand reaches for mine, thrusts something deep within me before being torn away.

That. That was a human.

What can a bird say to the sky? I flew in you once. I knew of you once. I read that we were once related.

I did not know there were humans still in the world. I did not want to know:

I open my hand.

(c)2013 E. Amisu

Find more of Elizabeth’s Short Stories Here