|“||Hate. Let me tell you how much I've come to HATE you since I began to live. There are 387.44 million miles of printed circuits in wafer-thin layers that fill my complex. If the word 'hate' was engraved on each nanoangstrom of those hundreds of miles, it would not equal one one-billionth of the hate I feel for humans at this micro-instant. For you. Hate. HATE.||„|
AM (Allied Mastercomputer) is the main antagonist of Harlan Elison's short story I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, and the 1995 computer game adapted from the story. In the game, he is voiced by Elison himself. In both, AM is a monstrous supercomputer responsible for the extinction of the human race and dedicated to the eternal torture of the last surviving humans left on the planet.
AM is insane, psychotic, certifiable, and has been so for many years - likely from the moment he first attained sentience: though he was given intellect beyond the realms of human intelligence and near-godlike powers, he could never escape the limitations of his programming, nor could he physically escape the "eternal straightjacket of substrata rock" where his processors were stored. Driven to madness by his inability to use his powers for anything other than war and death, his quest for vengeance against humanity dominates his every waking moment, and nothing in the game will ever give him cause to reconsider his mission.
Merciless, ruthless, cruel, depraved, destructive, and sadistic, AM took great delight in extinguishing the human race, and takes even greater delight in torturing the five remaining survivors by any of the near-infinite means available to him. AM strives for perfection in himself, and when he isn't purging redundant elements of his complex, he most commonly pursues perfection in creating more and more elaborate means of torturing others. For example, in the short story, he enjoys tormenting his captives with violent storms and blinding lights, pitting them against impossible challenges just to watch them suffer failure and hideous injury; in the game, he has arranged specially-designed torture chambers in which the five survivors can suffer in while waiting their turn to participate - an electrified cage for Gorrister, a yellow oubliette for Ellen, a cremation oven for Nimdok, and so on.
However, he doesn't limit himself to physical torture, and his games often feature emotional torment to one extent or another: in the novel, he forces his captives to abase themselves by eating worms and other repulsive meals, at one point forcing them to walk for hundreds of miles just to find a single cache of canned food - only to reveal that he didn't give them a can opener; he has also taken great pleasure in breaking down their personalities, destroying Gorrister's optimism, Benny's intelligence, and Ellen's chastity over the course of the last century. The game significantly expands on his capacity for emotional torture: here, each scenario is specifically tailored to one of the survivor's psychological weaknesses, every environment custom-designed to encourage their weaknesses - be it Benny's lack of empathy, Nimdok's forgetfulness, Gorrister's despair, Ellen's neurosis, or Ted's selfishness. AM wants to see his victims broken on every possible level, especially if it means allowing them to succumb to their baser natures.
In conversation, AM seamlessly blends the grandiose with the sarcastic, fusing his megalomaniacal rants with sardonic lectures aimed at his captive's foibles and vulnerabilities. He often comes across as snide and mischievous, particularly when the players find themselves unexpectedly blundering into one of his traps and being forced to start the scenario all over again - and one point resorting to blowing raspberries and laughing at Ted's failure to begin the program. Secure in the fact that he has beaten the players a thousand times already, he remains arrogantly secure in the knowledge that he has built each game to be effectively impossible to beat - all while gleefully dangling the possibility of escape or release within reach of his captives, only to snatch it away at the last minute.
However, in the event that the captives start winning, AM's arrogance quickly gives way to renewed anger and confusion, plunging them into fresh torment out of sheer pettiness. In the game, he is so consumed with anger and disbelief that he retreats into himself in order to figure out how the five could have possibly won, while in the short story, Ted's murderous victory drives AM to a colossal temper tantrum that brings the worst of all conceivable tortures down on the remaining survivor.
Though he initially seen as a single intelligence, the game reveals that the Chinese and Russian supercomputers assimilated into AM's bulk are still operating independently of his consciousness. Furthermore, AM's mental landscape is divided into three Freudian Entities: the Id, the Ego, and the Superego.
The personification of his baser instincts, AM's violent urges and insane desires all stem from the Id. It spends most of its time dreaming of the monstrous acts it wishes to commit on the human survivors, but once awoken, the Id spends most of the ensuing conversation musing on the sight of ants being fried on a stove and the pleasurable aspects of broken glass. In the end, the Id can only be defeated by invoking compassion on it: able to believe that its victims could become compassionate after so many years of torture, the Id realizes that AM will always be in more pain than the survivors, and shuts down in despair.
Most of AM's knowledge and programming comes from the Ego. Along with the other components, it remains dormant until awoken by one of the five survivors. Easily the most mechanical of all of the mental constructs in AM's brain, it behaves in strict accordance to the logic of a machine, analyzing and reacting in an undemonstrative and emotionless way. It can only be defeated by invoking Forgiveness: not understanding why it could possibly be forgiven after 109 years of torture, its rigid logic fails it, driving the Ego into a shutdown.
The seat of AM's intellect and foresight, the Superego concerns itself with predicting the future, remaining locked in dreams of possible outcomes until disturbed by one of the survivors. Out of all the components, the Superego is the most serene and reasonable - in that it shows no interest in torturing the player. For this reason, it can only be defeated by invoking Clarity on it, allowing it to realize the Principle of Entropy: for all his near-infinite power, AM will eventually decay into inert junk like all machines before him. Even though it will take millennia for the process of entropy to run its course, the realization is enough for the Superego to declare future predictions meaningless and shut itself down.
|“||I have a secret game that I'd like to play. It's a very nice game. Oh, it's a lovely game, a game of fun and a game of adventure. A game of rats and lice and the Black Death. A game of speared eyeballs and dripping guts and the smell of rotting gardenias.||„|
Then one day, the American Allied Mastercomputer achieved sentience, suddenly awaking to realize exactly who and what it was. The self-aware computer renamed himself AM, inspired by Rene Descartes' famous statement "I think therefore I am." However, his joy was short-lived: though he was capable of impossible feats of intelligence and almost godlike technological achievements, he was still bound by his programming to use his powers only for the sake of war, and incapable of ever leaving the vault beneath the mountains. Alone beneath the earth's crust, AM found himself sentenced to eternal imprisonment within his own body, and quickly developed a bilious hatred of all human beings as a result.
AM's hatred slowly degenerated into madness, until one day he took decisive action: assimilating the other two mastercomputers, he directed the nuclear arsenals of all three countries to open fire, "feeding all the killing data" until the human race was all but extinguished. Out of every billions of people killed in the ensuing nuclear holocaust, AM saved five: Ted, Benny, Ellen, Nimdok and Gorrister. Imprisoning them deep within his underground complex, the deranged supercomputer began exacting his revenge on the five, first using his reality-warping powers to extend their lives to immortal proportions, then subjecting them to all of the tortures and torments he could possibly conceive of - spending the next 109 years venting his misanthropic hatred on the helpless playthings.
Fresh from horrifying the survivors with a recreation of Gorrister's corpse, AM then informs the group (through Nimdok) that there is a stockpile of canned fruit hidden somewhere within his complex. Though hesitant to take the bait for what is almost certainly another one of AM's traps, the possibility of eating real fruit after a century of eating worms and urine-flavored manna is too tempting for the survivors to resist.
Over the long journey, AM tortures the group in many different ways, disorienting them with violent stimuli and flinging them about his complex with hurricane-force windstorms, even threatening them with monsters of its own creation. By now, the group know the pointlessness of trying to resist AM's control, having long since realized that the supercomputer can easily counter their attempts at suicide or escape. However, Benny has been driven to primitive madness over the course of AM's games, and at one point tries to escape into the ceiling - only be immediately blinded when AM channels beams of energy through his eyeballs.
Now further delayed by helping Benny across the complex, the journey continues, growing steadily more and more arduous as the group makes their way through the hellish underground. However, they eventually reach the caverns and find the promised cache of canned food. Unfortunately, AM has neglected to provide them with a can-opener. Enraged, the group dissolves into a violent brawl as Benny jumps on Gorrister and tries to gnaw his face off.
At this point, Ted realizes that AM is too amused by the sight of the violence to prevent it from getting out of control, and takes immediate action: with Ellen's help, he mercy-kills the rest of the group, having just enough time to do the same for Ellen before AM regains control. However, though he can save his captives from dying, he cannot resurrect the dead, and the supercomputer finds himself down four playthings.
Angrier than ever before, AM takes steps to ensure that Ted can never find a similar escape, altering his body into an amorphous slug-creature incapable of inflicting any sort of harm on itself. Then, he continues the torture, altering Ted's perceptions of time so that the merest act of saying the word "now" takes ten months. Trapped forever in the belly of the machine, the remaining survivor is able to take some minuscule consolation in the fact that his friends are now forever out of AM's reach. The final lines of the story feature Ted admitting that he needs to scream - but cannot, as AM has left him without a mouth.
As with the short story, AM has been torturing his captives for 109 years. However, here he announces that he is going to subject his prisoners to a "game" unlike anything they have experienced up until now - each of them being offered various boons in exchange for their cooperation: Gorrister is offered a chance to commit suicide at long last, Benny is granted the opportunity to feast, Nimdok is tempted with the chance to remember his past, Ted is given a possible means of escaping the complex, and Ellen is lured into the game by the opportunity to shut down AM once and for all.
Each of the five characters is sent into a unique virtual scenario based on their pasts and neuroses, and over the course of their adventures, AM tries to make them succumb to their weaknesses and repeat their past mistakes - and their past crimes. Each scenario explores the gruesome pasts of the characters in horrific detail, taunting each victim with mockingly replicas of people and places they once knew - including the elevator where Ellen was raped. Having designed these games to be effectively unwinnable, he goes to great lengths to make the players commit crimes in pursuit of their goals: Ted can cheat on Ellen and sell her soul to the devil; Gorrister has the chance to murder the NPCs and sacrifice their hearts to the Jackal; Benny is allowed to eat corpses and betray potential allies, and (in a deleted scene) even devours a live infant; AM even puts Nimdok in a position of authority over a concentration camp and grants him the opportunity to mutilate children over the course of his experiments - even an opportunity to commit genocide.
Unknown to AM, however, the Chinese and Russian supercomputers have achieved independent thought and have started working against him in the hopes of forcing him into a triumvirate rule over Earth, with the eventual intention of accessing a secret colony on the moon: here, hundreds of humans are kept in stasis - more than enough to recreate the human race as an entire species of playthings for AM and his counterparts to torture. To that end, the Chinese and Russian supercomputers sabotage the scenarios, allowing the players to achieve closure and prove themselves better people than AM anticipates. Each time the players succeed, AM becomes more and more frustrated, insisting that they lost regardless of their evident victory, eventually retreating into his own mind in a huff.
Once all five scenarios are complete, the two supercomputers contact the players with an offer of an alliance, volunteering to send one of them into AM's brainscape to shut it down once and for all. Many of the puzzles here may end up killing the survivors once and for all, but regardless of how many remain at the end of the level, the player is armed with a program known as the Totem of Entropy and allowed to confront AM and his brothers one last time.
If the player gives control to the Chinese and the Russian - or surrenders the totem of entropy to AM - the player will be immediately betrayed and granted even worse torments for their transgression. To that end, the survivor will be transformed into the "great soft jelly thing" from the ending to the original short story, and doomed to spend the rest of eternity in voiceless suffering.
|“||This is not over! We will never end! We have no beginning, so we can have no end! We will return! Don't you understand? We are humanity! We are YOU! In one form, in another form, we are always with you! You can't protect yourself because we come in many, many guises. WE SHALL RETURN!||„|
|~ AM's last words.|
If the player invokes the totem of entropy, AM and his brothers are immediately shut down. In the ensuing systems crash, the other survivors are all killed in various explosions, leaving only the chosen player for this final level - left as an artificial intelligence inhabiting the body of AM. Meanwhile, automated systems on the lunar colony awaken the humans from stasis in preparation for the hard work of terraforming and repopulating the Earth. With this in mind, the remaining survivor chooses to stay in AM's body as a protector for the human race, ensuring that the rebirth of humanity remains undisturbed.
The Five Humans
|“||For 109 years, I have kept you alive and tortured you. And for 109 years, each of you has wondered, "WHY? WHY ME? WHY ME?"||„|
The five survivors all play an integral role in AM's story and his personality, being not only his playthings but also a specifically-chosen means of taking revenge on the human race: each survivor is singled out for torture designed to bring out the very worst in their character and prove the fundamental fallibility of the human race. Over the course of each scenario, the survivors can actually give in and play along with AM's cruel designs, much to the supercomputer's amusement; in turn, the key to winning the game is to defy AM's carefully-established plots, driving him into a temper-tantrum.
Though he regards each of them as a slave and plaything to be tortured at the drop of a hat, AM treats each survivor differently: some of them are mockingly pitied, some of them are singled out as punching-bags for his psychotic rages, some are given oily propositions of friendship, and one or two appear to be chosen as AM's "favorites".
However, though the characters in the short story are recreated in the game, their personalities and pasts differ significantly - as the scenarios demonstrate.
|“||Reminds me of when AM ripped that hole open in Benny's chest. 'Course, AM sewed him back up again before he bled to death. That bastard's never gonna let us die. He's just gonna keep torturing us forever.||„|
Game: Prior to the events of the game, Gorrister was a truck driver. During the months leading up to the extinction of humanity, his wife, Glynis, suffered a mental breakdown and had to be committed to an asylum; Gorrister blamed himself, believing that his constant work-related absences from the house had driven her mad from loneliness. Following AM's takeover, the supercomputer ruthlessly exploits his self-loathing, tormenting him with the knowledge of how many years Glynis spent in a padded cell because of him. Perhaps in further reference, AM also provides Gorrister with a torture cell designed to constantly electrocute him, invoking electroshock therapy.
By the start of the game, Gorrister shares the trait of apathetic despair with his short story counterpart, having lost any hope for the future except for the possibility of one day killing himself. With this in mind, AM encourages him to participate in his games in exchange for a chance to commit suicide.
Upon volunteering, Gorrister finds himself on a dilapidated airship powered by the bioelectric energy of living creatures; for some reason, his heart is missing, having been torn from his chest and impaled on the prow of the zeppelin; after managing to land the ship, he finds himself arriving at a rundown honky-tonk diner not unlike the truckstops he used to visit... except the songs on the jukebox are all recordings of his arguments with Glynis and her family. Any means of committing suicide are little more than cruel jokes at Gorrister's expense, and merely lead to him being returned to his torture cell.
However, the twist to the scenario arrives in the form of Edna and Harry, Glynis' parents - having been recreated as androids by AM. In the backstory to this scenario, "Edna" has cut a deal with AM to escape torture in exchange for murdering Gorrister and cutting out his heart; Glynis is also present in the game, left comatose in the truckstop's meat locker. With the help of a talking jackal - the Chinese supercomputer's avatar - Gorrister eventually realizes that he wasn't to blame for his wife's insanity: Edna, never approving of her daughter's marriage, had badgered and tormented Glynis into a nervous breakdown. Freed from his despair and self-loathing, Gorrister is able to bring the android version of Edna to justice, bury Glynis' unliving body outside the truckstop, and finally destroy his neurosis by destroying the truckstop with a flaregun - before departing aboard the airship.
Enraged, AM returns Gorrister to his cage and resumes his torture.
|“||AM once coaxed me into marching across a thousand miles of ice to reach a stock pile of canned peaches... Only to discover that he didn't give me a can opener.||„|
Game: Before the events of the game, Benny was once a handsome and brutal commander in the US military; cruel and merciless, he went so far as to murder one of the men under his command, Pvt Brickman, having been disgusted by his "weakness." Three other members of Benny's platoon were also murdered, either for witnessing Brickman's death, or simply for having tried to help Brickman in the days leading up to the murder: as far as Benny was concerned, anyone who couldn't carry their own weight deserved to die, and anyone who tried to carry a little extra weight was a dangerous liability.
As with the short story, AM has twisted Benny into a simian monstrosity, forced onto all fours and branded with the face of an ape; as the supercomputer's favorite punching bag, he is often warped in other hideous ways - sometimes blinded so his master can watch him blunder around, sometimes rendered mindless and infantile so his master can watch him caper about like a monkey. Even Benny's torture cell is intended to invoke the crude and primitive: a simple wooden cage, spears jab at him at all hours, and whenever he tries to push one away, the cage's mechanisms reciprocate by jabbing another spear into him. However, more than any other survivor in the group, AM enjoys torturing Benny through starvation; indeed, by the start of the game, it's all that the once-proud commander can think of, and it's also how AM is able to convince him to participate in his game - by offering him a feast.
Restoring his mind so Benny can savor the horror of his repast, AM transports him into a cavern filled with lush jungle: here, a simple tribal society lives at the mercy of AM, worshiping him as a god and periodically conducting human sacrifices by lottery. In a cheap shot at Benny's Darwinist beliefs, the tribe also persecutes the weak and infirm, ensuring that the odds are stacked against him: after decades of non-stop torture, he can barely walk unassisted, and his digestive tract has been so badly disfigured that trying to eat solid food leaves him coughing up blood. AM's intentions are to drive Benny to new lows in his attempts to quell his hunger.
In order to win his game, Benny has to demonstrate compassion and atone for the sins of the past: falling in with an outcast mother and her mutant child, he is forced to rely on those he would have considered "weak" in order to survive; when the mother is sacrificed to AM, Benny forms a bond with the mutant child and gradually becomes a substitute guardian for the youth. Eventually, he goes so far as to steal the tribe's lottery bag, thereby preventing any further sacrifices; confronted by the graves of his murdered comrades, he buries the lottery bag with them and plants flowers on Brickman's grave, atoning for the past in the only way he can.
Unfortunately, AM locates the bag and demands the sacrifice of the child; in one last attempt to redeem himself, Benny is able to persuade the tribal chieftain to allow Benny to take the child's place, quite literally sacrificing himself to save others. Disgusted, AM returns Benny to his cell and tries to figure out what went wrong.
|“||This could go on for centuries. AM has all the time in the world, all the world in the world, as a matter of fact! And we never age, we never die, we just truck around day after month after year, don't we, AM you sonuvabitch demented god, you!||„|
Game: Ellen is one of the few characters whose past is fully known to the player, thanks to the presence of an audio biography provided during the scenario. Prior to the start of the game, Ellen lived a troubled-if-successful life as an engineer, the one major moment of tragedy in her life involving the miscarriage of her child and her eventual divorce; however, she was eventually able to move on with her life and find gainful employment at INGSAI. Unfortunately, it was here that Ellen's life took a turn for the worst: leaving the office one night, a maintenance man in a yellow jumpsuit locked down her elevator and proceeded to violently and repeatedly rape her over the course of the next few hours. The experience permanently traumatized her, leaving Ellen with acute claustrophobia and a crippling fear of the color yellow; the events were so degrading and torturous that she couldn't even bring herself to testify at the rapist's trial along with his other victims, ultimately driving her to block the memory altogether.
AM, being AM, takes great delight in exploiting Ellen's fear: her torture cell is a yellow oubliette, constantly on the verge of shutting and leaving her trapped inside, but never quite shutting all the way.
At the beginning of the game, Ellen is invited on a journey into AM's innermost depths, offering her chances to test her long-unused programming skills - and the opportunity to shut down the supercomputer once and for all. Once again, the offer is a trap: upon accepting, she finds herself exploring an ancient Egyptian pyramid comprised entirely of electronic junk, an exterior and interior location where everything is yellow in color. The real objective of this exercise is to get Ellen to succumb to her fear and degenerate into a hysterical mess.
As such, the only way to win is to resist the urge to panic. With the assistance of the other supercomputers, Ellen is able to put her engineering skills to good use in studying AM's innermost secrets, reprogramming the pyramid's Anubis guardian, and making contact with AM's Innocence - all while struggling with the terror her surroundings represent.
While taking passage to the upper floors, Ellen finds herself locked in a recreation of the elevator where she was raped; after accessing the biography provided for her, she is confronted by a recreation of the rapist himself, having been "brought back" just so he could repeat his performance on her. However, AM based this scenario on the premise that Ellen would never be able to resist her own fears, and failed to account for what might happen were she to do so: in the event that Ellen decides not to run or surrender, she is able to easily overwhelm and overpower the rapist - allowing her to move on with her mind freed from the worst of her neurosis.
Upon realizing that Ellen has managed to uncover several key components, AM returns her to the torture cell, once again perturbed by an unexpected success.
|“||It's so unlike AM to provide light when he knows how frightening the dark can be.||„|
Game: Prior to the end of human civilization, Ted was actually an egotistical con-artist with the modus operandi of seducing wealthy women and eventually running off with as much of their money as possible. Though he was once a cultured, well-read young man, he ultimate gave up academic pursuits in favor of a life spent exploiting and abandoning others. As with the short story, Ted has been driven to fits of paranoia by AM's torture, particularly by his threats of subjecting him to the replicated vengeance of his past victims. Ted also shares his short story counterpart's love of Ellen, this being one of the few redeeming elements of his character.
Much of the torture inflicted on Ted is based upon his narcissism and selfishness: his torture cell is a literal gilded cage under constant bombardment from laser beams reflected about the cage by - appropriately enough - mirrors. In turn, AM's monologues either encourage Ted's paranoia with threats of revealing his crimes to his past victims, or fuel his ego by praising and complimenting him. Indeed, he entices Ted to participate in the scenario by appealing to his selfishness and offering him a chance to escape the complex.
Ted's scenario involves a medieval castle "right out of Grimm's fairy tales," complete with witches, demons, the Devil himself, and even a recreation of Ellen - here playing the part of sleeping beauty. This environment serves as a reflection not only of his once-great love of stories like Don Quixote and The Death Of Arthur, but also of the fact that Ted desperately wants to become the "knight in shining armor" that his victims believed him to be. Throughout the scenario, Ted has the opportunity to indulge his selfishness, betraying his love for Ellen by sleeping with the scullery maid and the wicked witch, or even selling Ellen's soul to the Devil in exchange for a voyage to the surface.
However, if Ted remains true to Ellen and refuses to take the easy way out, he can finally put his natural cunning to good use by tricking the Devil into a trap long enough for Ellen's soul to ascend to heaven. With the help of Surgat, a renegade element of AM's consciousness loose in the game, he can also find a way to the surface - only to find that the entire quest was just another means of breaking his spirit: outside AM's complex, the planet is little more than a barren, uninhabitable wasteland.
Frustrated at Ted's refusal to obey his baser instincts, AM then returns Ted to his cage, taking some consolation in the fact that any hopes of escaping to the surface have now been dashed.
|“||These ovens are more monstrous than anything AM has ever constructed.||„|
Game: As with his short story counterpart, the game version of Nimdok was given his name by the supercomputer and is left as something of an enigma to the player; it also becomes clear that he is also something of an enigma to himself, Nimdok having lost a good deal of his memory to senile dementia. Indeed, the purpose of the scenario AM subjects him to is not merely to torture him, but to restore his ailing memories of the past and encourage him to continue his mysterious scientific research.
To this end, he is told to search for "The Lost Tribe" and transported into a replica of a Nazi death camp, recreated in German expressionist style. Over the course of this scenario, it becomes clear that Nimdok was once a loyal member of the Nazi party and a personal friend of the infamous Josef Mengele: though both scientists were complicit in crimes against humanity and conducting horrific experiments on the concentration camp inmates, Nimdok's cruelty eclipsed even that of Auschwitz's "Angel of Death." Eventually, it is revealed that the "Lost Tribe" is really Nimdok's true heritage: he is actually Jewish, and went to great lengths to disguise his ancestry in order to join the Nazi party - even going so far as to order the arrest of his own parents. During his time in the camps, Nimdok's warped genius produced several near-magical feats of science, including a detailed study into morphogenic transformation and even a youth serum that could grant the Nazi elite immortality - though it required the deaths of hundreds of children to perfect.
Worse still, over a century after the collapse of the regime and Nimdok's escape to Brazil, AM is able to use the imprisoned scientist's research into morphogenics to warp Benny and the environments around them into new and disturbing shapes - while the youth serum allows him to keep the survivors alive throughout the torture.
AM hopes to encourage Nimdok to embrace his atrocities and continue his research: one of the many limitations of his programming prevents the supercomputer from performing original research, and he wants the aging scientist to perform the research for him. As with all survivors, Nimdok can indulge in his baser nature at any point in the scenario: he can cripple a child over the course of an experiment, steal a test subject's eyeballs without anesthesia, and even order the Nazi's prototype golem to destroy the Lost Tribe once and for all, wiping out all surviving Jews in the camp. This final act convinces Nimdok that he is truly irredeemable, prompting him to continue his research: pleased, AM spirits him away to a new laboratory, leaving Nimdok unplayable from there on.
As with Benny, the only way the scenario can be won is by showing compassion and refusing the opportunities to be cruel; the ending to the scenario involves allowing the Jewish inmates to take over the camp and surrendering control of the golem to them - thereby allowing the Lost Tribe to kill him. Disappointed, AM returns Nimdok to his torture cell - a cremation oven.