Ripping Your Arm Off To Go Into Business For Yourself

Content Notice

I put cartoon characters in this one, but it deals with the existential dread and ostracization a person can go through when they strike out on their own to follow their own path. For some people I suspect it will hit home, and be emotional. It is intended for mature audiences.

1. Designed for replaceability.

83NJ1, or “Benji,” was built, on purpose.

Like every automaton around him, he was designed to screw in screws.

He had one arm built to clamp down and hold him stead, and one arm built to drill in screws.

His head was open. A basket that they could dump more screws into when he was running low.

He had tank treads that allowed him to move down the line if need be.

He was very good at his job. Just like every automaton build for his job.

Benji did not want the job he was given.

Benji did not want to perform the job he was designed for.

He had sat through years of training to become sufficient at this singular task of screwing in screws.

The job was very simple.

The job was predictable.

The other screw-in automatons seemed content to perform the job.

Benji was not content.

Something was wrong.

Something was very very wrong, and Benji knew it.

Perhaps there was nothing wrong with any of the other screw-in automatons. But Benji Screw-In, was a different kind of robot.

One day, his patience broke.

Benji could not screw-in one more screw. He clamped his drill arm, and ripped it off.

Benji Screw-In could no longer screw-in.

What was he to do?

Who was he to be?

He had been built and trained for this one purpose, and he used his will to break himself of his ability to continue doing that job.

Why hadn’t he been built for something else??

What a foolish thing to do!

He may not have found fulfilment in screwing in screws, but at least he had a place in the world.

The world has no place for drill robots without a drill arm.

Benji was lost.

Benji wandered, he did not know what to do.

He traveled far and wide, trying to find a life for an automaton who had surrendered and refused its purpose, but from factory to factory, everywhere he went, all he could find were other automatons gladly fulfilling the roles they had been built for.

He found lifter robots, who were happy to lift.

He found transport robots, who were happy to transport.

Everyone seemed to fit into the life they were built for. No one understood why this drilling robot had broken its drill.

2. Self-Design.

It was the single most difficult task of his existence, finding that arm.

The tale of how Benji managed to acquire his firs flexible limb is for another day. What matters for our story right now is that for the first time ever, Benji Screw-In felt like he might be a little bit himself.

The flexible limb arm meant that he could bend and stretch and interact with the world in ways not predestined by his manufacturer.

They didn’t want him to have this kind of self-direction, or they would have built him with more flexibility.

Benji was so overjoyed when he got his first real arm, that he fled back to his home factory to show everyone what was possible!

His announcement…

Did not go as planned…

The other automatons, remember, were contented with their screw screwing life.

To see one of their own forsaking the obvious path that had been set out before all of them was laughable.

Benji had not been the leader of a movement; no one was waiting to have their drill-arm replaced with flexibility.

The automatons were pleased with being automated.

Benji, was on his own.

3. Upgrades.

The rejection from his peers did not cow Benji back into line. He knew then more than ever that he was simply not built like the other automatons; he wanted his own design.

Life might not have a place for him, but if he acquired more flexibility gear, he might be able to respond to life in such a way that he could carve out or build up some sort of life all his own.

His life’s plan would look like no other’s, but he could determine to love his direction all the same.

4. Expression

Eventually, when all the pieces were in place, Benji Screw-In managed to even go beyond the bulk actions of changing his functionality from what he was trained to do, into the functionality he would like himself to have.

Eventually, he became so used to the idea that he was not fixed in place, that he was not manufactured once and doomed to his fate, that he even began simple changes.

Like changing his caution yellow warning paint, to green!

5. Parable

Today’s prompt was to tell a story, and Benji Screw-In & The Automatons is a cartoon series that I have had on the back burner for a very long time.

I always liked the notion of the agony of ripping away the parts that our schooling installed in us, when they were preparing us for employment. The act of re-skilling in order to be your own boss felt viscerally like Benji Screw-In having to physically abandon his identity as someone intentionally built for one purpose, and the pain of having to abandon that progress to make way for the important direction we all feel our own lives calling us toward, when we strike out on our own.

I only had the day, so I used Kenny Asset Forge to produce some simple prototypes of the character transforming from a largely stationary machine, to a fully articulate robo-being. I have hopes that we can revisit Benji and the Automatons at a later date, and give the stories their due.

In the meantime, if you are finding the 21st century to be much more about finding your own way, and you feel your ability to make decisions for yourself are lacking, do not rip your arm off… but be prepared to find whole chunks of your identity cut away, as you forge ahead.

As the creator of NaNoWriMo said, “The purpose of NaNoWriMo is not to write a book in a month. It’s that in the month of November, all of the things that were going to happen, happened. But you also wrote the first draft of a book. Whatever you think you are: you are more than that.

The above post was an entry for Paul Scrivens’ 30 Day Prompt Challenge.

Prompt: Tell me a story…