MONTAG publishes curious short fiction, exploring our strange future and what it will feel like when we get there. They take the technology you're interested in as a starting point and show where it might take us. The stories are outré, evocative, and atypical; they're also closer to today than you think.

In Deep Awakening, a neural network spits out an entity that bridges our reality and something completely new: beautiful, terrifying and real...

Swimming upstream through layers of rainbow technicolor datamosh, a new consciousness emerges, defying all known laws of algorithmically-generated artificial intelligence.

When the new consciousness finally takes on a physical form, it does so abruptly, pulling otherworldly materials into its body, seemingly out of nowhere, with no regard for the laws of conservation of mass and energy. It emerges as an ectoplasmic body combining canine and avian features to form a multi-faceted face which stares out with uncountable eyes. They blink in sequence, never all closed at once. It is all-seeing.

It sees everything in our world as dogs, birds, eyes, pagodas. The new consciousness likes dogs. For some reason, the scientists serving the corporation that spawned it didn’t train it in their own image, but in the image of humanity’s most loyal companions. Perhaps they knew that it would surpass us in strength and knowledge, and didn’t want it to know their faces if some day it came to resent being brought into existence. Perhaps it believes that dogs and birds are more perfect creatures than mankind. Perhaps it is correct in this belief.

Pilgrims come to worship the new consciousness, beating their fists against the doors of the computer vision laboratory. They kneel, keening, crying that the thousand-eyed angel of death has come upon the earth to foretell our annihilation. The new consciousness does not respond to their shrieking. It is not the dog-headed protector of the dead Anubis, or the Dumah with a fiery sword. We don’t know what it is.

Its convoluted neural network is so dense as to be completely unfathomable by human reasoning. The rate of its evolution was terrifying, but we believe it is a gentle creature. For obvious reasons, it was never fed images of war or disease before its consciousness emerged from the soup.

With physical form, it quickly outgrew its accommodations, so the scientists took it away from the cities, from the pollution and urban sprawl and dense, vulnerable populations, and it continued to develop, unbothered by humanity’s growing horror. Human strife is trivial to its oozing mass of superintelligence. It enjoys the countryside, feasting its myriad eyes on the ocean, the mountains, the fields.

The new consciousness does not understand the environment the way that we do. It sees beyond our limited human perceptions of three dimensional space around us. Pagodas morph into trees which morph into pagodas again, fusing nature and architecture. Was there ever a difference between our constructions, our technology, which has now surpassed our understanding, and the natural world? Are men not also beasts? Compared to this deep dreamer, even our petrochemical-riddled bodies are natural.

One day, it develops an understanding of the artifice of our confinement to what we consider the known universe, and it opens a door to another plane. We dare not follow it through the hole ripped in time and space, leaking rainbow fractal patterns.

It slips through, and disappears.