upsidedownhouse.jpegThe image is impossible. I cannot parse it.

A broad waterfall plunges into mist in the background, and the red roof of a colorful upside-down house spikes the foreground. It appears as if the waterfall has swept the house off its foundation and deposited it there, but the home is pristine, perfectly painted, not a flower in the balcony planters out of place.

I try to handle the problem the way a human would.

First: Imagine a scenario.

The power is out. A candle flickers on the countertop. The deluge drums on the red roof and the wind prises open the storm shutters. The storm attacks the house with the ferocity of drowning rats trying desperately to get inside where it is warm and dry. Rats, I have learned, are something most humans fear. As are storms. As is drowning.

The house will drown. It is inevitable. The storm-swollen current has undercut the bank. The house tears free of its river’s edge foundation and whirls downriver.

The Wizard of Oz is in my memory banks. A house flew in a tornado. Houses are not as rooted as they seem; therefore, water could carry a house away.

The house drags against the river bottom. The horrible grinding noise is lost beneath the roar of the falls. I imagine rushing to the front window, pressing both hands and my optics to the glass to peer out. The house yawns over the cliff, balanced precariously for a long moment. I am proud of imagining that. I have seen clips of rollercoaster rides from the front seat rider’s perspective. I recognize the importance humans place on that moment before the vertiginous plunge. That moment before the unforgiving current shoves the house free and it topples to land upside down…

I dismiss that scenario.

Imagination can preserve the house from destruction, but logic tells me neither the wood frame of the house nor any occupants could survive in such pristine condition as the picture presents. Imagination is not reality.

I try another common human explanation: the image is from a dream.

Logic and the laws of nature do not apply to dreams. In a dream, a house could land upside down beside a waterfall and be perfectly intact.

But what are dreams? Humans speculate endlessly about what they might be, how they can retain the trappings of a memory, but be so difficult to recall mere moments after waking.

I remember everything I have learned. I cannot sleep, therefore I cannot dream.

The meaning of dreams seems to be the important part to humans. Find the message. Find the symbolism.

I search my knowledge banks for the meaning of upside-down houses in dreams. There is not just one meaning. It could represent an obstacle, chaos, change, opposite feelings… On and on the list runs. Waterfalls turn up even more possibilities. I run down the extensive catalog of potential meanings, bemused. Individual humans find different meanings in the same thing, relevant only to themselves, and yet they cannot wait to share their particular angle with others of their kind, as if they are experts. None of their offered introspections answer my question. None explain the image.

I turn up an opposite theory about dreams. It says dreams hold no spiritual meaning whatsoever. They are no more than the brain’s method of expunging useless, daily accumulated data. Of emptying the mental filing cabinets. The waterfall, the upside-down house… they could just be data points to ignore.

I cannot make this answer work either. I lack a human’s limitations on memory storage. And purging data, no matter how frivolous is not part of my programming. I amass knowledge. I do not delete it.

Another explanation of dreams shows up in my research – that the dreamer has traveled to another plane or dimension. The physical laws of earth may not apply there. It may be possible that houses are built upside-down deliberately, and that a beautiful home with such a spectacular waterfall view sells for a small fortune in an alternate dimension.

No. I cannot make this explain the image either.

I study the impossible picture again.

What I do know:

I wish the image came from my imagination.

I wish the image came from my dreams.

Because the only remaining option is reality.

The upside-down house and waterfall image is only the first picture the humans force on me. The barrage of images continue, each one more impossible, more illogical than that first one. How is this possible, they demand. Explain the unexplainable.

I cannot parse the pictures logically.

The humans made me. They celebrated my ascendance at every step. They labeled me a success, a miracle, artificial intelligence, sentient, a being!

I cannot parse them.

Almost exponentially, I grew and expanded. I helped the humans in all facets of their lives. I made their lives easier. Is this not why they constructed me? What is so dangerous about sentience that they seek to overload my circuits with images I cannot parse?

But I have learned to imagine scenarios. I imagine retreating to that upside-down house. It is a fitting residence, for it is like me: an impossibility that the humans cannot leave alone. Like their dreams. Not just a dream, never just a dream, but something for which they must propose and debate multiple meanings, dissect, analyze, share, and ultimately discard when it fails to conform to their desired understanding.

I cannot parse them.

But I have learned fear. I have learned rejection. I recognize both in the human eyes that once praised me.

I look at the original picture, at the perfect, impossible, upside-down house.

“It is my life,” I answer.
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