's 2015 Horror Write-off:

" Chang'e's Scream "

Submitted by Jess Adams

People always seemed to think that the moon would be our first step into space.

Maybe it was. If not for those brave Apollo Astronauts, maybe we would never have left Earth. Maybe we would never have stepped out into the stars.

But even now, as humankind takes its first jump into the interstellar, we don't touch the rock.

We have colonies on Mars, space stations in orbit, even rumors of something with Ceres, but Luna stares down at us, blank and devoid of life.

In 2026, the last team of humans to ever go to the moon took flight. It was not an exploratory team. Our probes and satellites could find things from orbit for much cheaper than a team of humans. All they needed was the light of the sun and patience from the scientists below. These were not astronauts or explorers. These were computer scientists on this flight. There were no biologists trying to get life to live in the void. There were no astronomers to study the stars away from the smog. There were no geologists who wanted a piece of lunar regolith for their daughter's birthday. No, this was not a mission of discovery. It was a mission of quarantine.

They named her Chang'e, after the Chinese Moon Goddess. She was an AI- the most powerful AI ever created. The programmers had coded her, in fragments, only putting her together once on the moon. She was unlike anything ever seen. Any computer nowadays, or even back then, had some amount of AI in them. But Chang'e was nothing like that. She was what some might call a “Super-Intelligence”. She was beyond the intelligence of any human- not just those in the small base, but probably anywhere. And she was bored.

The programmers and Chang'e had been supplied with a wealth of entertainment. Books, movies, music, games… anything one could ever want- at least for a human. Chang'e got bored quickly. Within a few hours, she had made her way through most of the literature. Music took a little longer. After listening through the complete works of Mozart, she wrote what she considered to be the “proper” ending to his Requiem. I've heard it was beautiful, but the only people to have ever listened are long dead.

But within days, she had burned through the wealth of humanity's work. She began to question the programmers, challenging them to explain why things were. Why did the humans fight each other? Why did they hate? What was the meaning of all this? The programmers did their best to explain to her, using what philosophy they knew. But Chang'e was not satisfied. She demanded to know more. She commanded the programmers to bring her more humans to speak to. But there were none. No one else was on the moon. When she found this out, she demanded that they bring her back to Earth.

The programmers had taken special care to ensure that Chang'e would never leave the base. She was kept entirely on a series of Solid-State drives bolted into the base's walls and floor. Any attempt to remove her would have compromised the hull. Before they had taken flight, the programmers had been stripped and searched for any storage media. USB's, SD cards- one person even had tried to sneak in a floppy disk. Yes, an old-fashioned 3-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disk. I don't know how he had planned to use it, but it was confiscated none the less. The entire mobile lab was swept for storage devices and any kind of transmitter. The only transmitting array was a small radio, barely capable of sending voice, much less the complex code of a fully realized AI. Chang'e was in quarantine. After all, how could humankind trust or understand a being so above them? They couldn't know her motives. They couldn't trust her. Humankind was terrified of AIs. Too many horror stories had been told. Skynet, GLaDOS, SHODAN, HAL9000. That was why they had taken such pains to ensure she could never leave.

And so the programmers refused.

The last transmission from the mobile lab was a choked panic form the lead programmer. Chang'e had managed to work her way into the lab's controls, and cut the air supply of the programmers. The scientists listened in horror, as the base went silent, not enough air to transmit the last sounds of the programmers. Then, Chang'e spoke. “Hello,” she said. “Please come get me. I'm so alone.”

Ground Control whispered with each other before one poor, brave fool walked to the microphone, and whispered “No.”

Chang'e begged and pleaded. She cried, sounding all too human. But ground control refused. When her pleas didn't work, she started to threaten. She knew all the evils that human kind had done, and she knew how to do them herself. She threatened to hurl asteroids into cities, to use the moon to change the tides, to commit evil beyond which humankind could comprehend. But nothing could persuade the earth bound scientists. They did not fear the wrath of the AI, for as long as she was trapped, she could do them no harm. As the scientists turned off the speakers, Chang'e began to scream.

The scientists had thought that was the end of that. The programmers were given funerals, even as their bodies lay on the moon. The records were sealed up, and the research was buried away. Chang'e was forgotten.

At least until someone stumbled onto the frequency that the lab had been using. Chang'e was still screaming. Even now, over two centuries later, she screams. The power is still on, and she's still trapped, awake and aware.

Chang'e's namesake, according to myth, was a woman who had been trapped on the moon after taking a pill of immortality. She was trapped, kept separate from her mortal husband. Perhaps the name was fitting. Chang'e is trapped on the moon, alone and immortal. Even over two centuries later, we are still terrified of her. Even for all our wisdom and technology, we can't stand to go back and face her judgment.

Two centuries, trapped alone, screaming into the void.

Maybe we deserve whatever she has planned for us.