Where “Evil Robot Monkey” touched my heart, “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang engaged my brain. No, wait. It stole my brain and turned it inside out in one long thought experiment. The reading on Escape Pod perfectly matches the dry tone of the narration. Opening with the jarring image of exchanging lungs for freshly charged ones as a daily routine, the narrator steadily discloses a strange world with familiar concerns.
They appear to be some kind of machine intelligence living in an enclosed universe, who are just as mystified the nature of their own existence as we fleshy mortals. Since the narrator is a machine, the cold tone of the story is fitting, though it drives the reader to sit at a distance. Maybe you do need some distance to contemplate the details of existence, even as you admire the intricacy of its inventions. Still, this is more a story I admire than love.
Very cool, in several ways.