“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.”
– “Nature Boy”, Nat King Cole
The lights buzzed and flickered overhead, coming to life and announcing Sahdi’s arrival. Four small bots busied themselves, tending to the vertically stacked plants flanking the entryway of the apartment. Sticking his fingers into the soil, he smoothed his hands over the plant leaves, rubbing each one, assessing the texture of the leaves and the bots’ work.
“Elise, play some… down tempo.” He commanded while flopping onto the slim lines of the sofa, like a bag of loose bones. “…And go into privacy mode. ”
The music slowly filled the room. The notes of the cymbals and drums condensed in the presence of the violins and piano, adding to the humidity of the music’s soft tones, slowly drifting up, settling into the atmosphere of the room.
The android emerged, from the shadows. She wore a pin striped, collared shirt and a fitted skirt. The brown of her synthetic skin absorbed the soft light of the room. The android’s trim nails were decorated in a pastel, peach color. The coffee colored pigmentation of her skin faded into her palm, just below the buttons of her sleeve. Her legs criss-crossed her android body as she walked toward him. “Hey you.” She said as she approached Sahdi, picking up the coat, he’d so carelessly laid across the sofa.
“Hey you… Elise.” Sahdi replied. “Stop broadcasting location data, please.”
“I’ve initiated privacy protocols, but you know I cannot discontinue broadcasting functions.” The android said. “All citizens have an AI Assist and all AI Assists must be identifiable and accessible on the network at all times –”
“Yes, yes, yes…I know this, Elise.” He shook his head. “One of these days, I’m gonna have to make some changes to your parameters -”
“To do so would be a criminal –”
“Yes, Elise! I’m only kidding…” Sahdi looked at her in silence, assessing what stood before him. No response of curiosity, annoyance, or frustration registered in the android’s response. She was simultaneously a curiosity, something to be somewhat fearful of, and somehow his closest friend.
Breaking News! Another attack occurred in Sector 9 of Eden. An EMP blast knocked out systems in that section of the city for close to two hours. Autonomous transportation services and goods deliveries are back. Mobile mesh drone swarms lost power and fell from the sky. People describe the metallic clouds like silvery raindrops falling from the sky. Many services were slowed due to the reduction in cellular antennae availability with the downed drones –.
“Elise change the channel…to something a little more… serene.” Sahdi commanded as he rubbed the back of his neck. The broadcast of bad news had a certain “greying” rhythm, raising his stress levels and exhaust him. The light in the room dimmed, with a nighttime view of a park stretching out, in both directions, to cover over the entire length of the apartment walls. Sahdi stood in the middle of the room. Scanning the virtual landscape from left to right, he watched the ghost of a breeze give away it’s location, by the invisible ruffling of the leaves of the treetops. The mass of motley greens, dimly lit by the street lights, ran into the corners and banked over the right angles of the interior of the room. He placed his drink on the table.
The ice cubes collided as they slid back into the bottom of the glass. Triggered with a ballerina like grace, the android walked over to the table and extended her hand. “Sahdi, do you want another one?”
“Nah, no thanks, Elise.” His gaze went unbroken as he looked out onto the park, observing the activity within. A woman jogged along the pathway. Her reflective clothing slipped under the cover of the leaves before reemerging, near a couple speaking on a park bench. “Elevate the view to level two, Elise. Thank you.” The android approached from behind Sahdi, returning from placing the glass back in the kitchen.
“Elise, when is the next shipment of Gallium due to arrive in port?” He asked while dropping to the sofa.
She lifted her gaze upward in a perfect imitation of human behavior. “Eight thirty on Thursday morning. The insurance contracts on the shipments have expired with the delivery to the orbital refinery. New contracts have been triggered per the original ones for final delivery. You should know that fewer investors bought shares on these contracts though, that makes these shipments riskier than normal.”
“…Fewer investors.” Her hand gently slid down his chest and back up the length of his neck. Sahdi laid his head back as he felt her fingers probing for and kneading the tension in his shoulders and back.
Sahdi looked up at the android, quizzically. “Elise, why the delay in your response?” Given your tech, you should’ve had the answer much faster.”
“It is…out of habit.” She responded.
“Habit?” Sahdi asked “What is a habit for you?” At times, he struggled with the idea of what Elise was and what she represented. Even though he knew how the line of questions would end, he pursued them anyway, as was his habit.
“The standard definition is…a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. I guess I would say it is something that I just do with some regular frequency.” The android stated with a flustered tone while her hands fell away from his shoulders. “Why do you have a habit of asking these line of questions when each time has concluded with the same –?”
“…Result? Insanity..” Sahdi answered. “I guess. Elise lower your argumentative simulation levels by two increments.”
“Yes, Sahdi. Common completed.”
“Elise, who do you love?”
“I love you, Sahdi…” She said while leaning her head to the side. Her eyes looking straight out before recovering into a smile that spread across her face. He reflected on the math of her emotion for a few seconds. “How do you know you love, Elise?”
Leaning over him, she kissed his cheek and neck. The kisses felt warm and slightly moist, indistinguishable from the kiss of a human. But the flaw was laid bare in her perfection. Each one of her kisses were always the perfect kiss. Scientifically analyzed and executed with mathematical satisfaction. Each one reminding him that she was not real. “That is how I know. Can you feel it in my kisses, Sahdi?”
“What is love, Elise? How do you know you love me?” Asked Sahdi.
She began to speak, but then paused while her eyes wandered about the room. “Whenever, I make you smile or express happiness, I feel happy too. I can sense the happiness in your body temperature, heart rate, and breathing. I feel a certain way when–”
Sahdi interrupted. “People don’t process feelings of love through biometric measurements?”
“How do you know love, Sahdi? Why should I have knowledge regarding how I feel love anymore than you do?” Sahdi looked across the room for several minutes while contemplating her questions.
Shaking his head, he shrugged his shoulders. “Let’s run away for a few hours, Elise?”
Her face lit up, animated by her smile and excitement at the suggestion. “Where would you like to go?” She asked.
“Some place exotic. Let’s go to the black sand beaches on Mauri Tau.” Sahdi slid the VR glasses over his eyes. Light streaked past his face before he landed on the beach. Looking up, he saw constellations in the purple twilight of the evening sky. Elise approached from further down the beach, passing beach goers laying along the shore. They giggled and laughed, embedded in conversation while, receding tide rushed back out to sea, tickling their toes. “Elise remove the other beach goers.” Sahdi commanded.
“Done.” Her bathing suit flowed over her body, rippling and pouring, as the liquid light of the material lengthened in simulated drips at the edges before being reabsorbed into the whole. Magnetic. Electric. She smiled at him as she moved the blowing curls from her face.
Sahdi looked around at the turquoise sky, while the purple ocean gently rolled in below it. He could feel the wind on his face, accompanied by the edges of the foaming white water, exhausting its energy on the sand, as it’s watery fingers reached out in desperation, dragging it’s fingers over the obsidian sand, as it tumbled back into the ocean. “Why do I ever leave this place?” Sahdi asked.
“Good question…,” said Elise. A soft melody rushed along the shoreline with the incoming tides. The fragrance of blue orchids descended from the hills behind them. The deep red of the Mauri palms, overhead. “…I love this place,” she responded.
He noticed the outline of her jaw and the brown curls that hung on the nape of her neck – curls that lay there in a perfectly, accidental way – quite intentional in their positioning to elicit a chemical response from him.
She looked back at him with soft brown eyes and a demurred smile. The notes of a flute caught inside his ear, like a seashell. Looking into his eyes, she lay her hand upon his face and caressed it. This is crazy! He thought to himself. With her eyes closed, she brushed her soft lips across his neck. He thought to himself, Could I love her, love it? He placed his hand on her shoulder, slowly following the curve with his fingers, watching the sparkles of sweat blossom on her skin.
His forehead furrowed with confusion. “This just isn’t real! I could get lost in here, forever.” He muttered to himself under the masked goggles. But what is real? He asked himself. Is not the definition of real and not real dependent upon the perspective of creator and created? A shadow? A copy? An image of the original?
She traced her hand across his chest, laying him back onto the sand. White panels hung from the orange branches of the trees, rippling and expanding in volume, following the command of the wind as it blew across the beach. “Sahdi? Is something wrong?” Elise asked. “I am detecting an increase in your pulse and chemical spikes showing agitation.” “This reaction is in conflict with how you should be reacting.”
“No… No, Elise. I’m fine.” Sahdi answered. Sahdi slid the goggles from his eyes. “Elise, end the program.” AI Assists were things, creations to be used for a purpose. Elise’s programmed purpose was companionship, among other things. Her image, behaviors, and speech patterns were pulled from his mind and manufactured to chemically appeal to him. So this love couldn’t be real, could it? Like narcissists looking into the water at the reflection of our own image, we were doomed to fall in love with our creations. Are we that much different? Is a human soul different than an artificial soul? Is it nothing more than a network of equations and data? Is it an inconsequential thing outside the need for a life after death, when pondered upon. In the event, there is an afterlife, the possession of a soul is our passage into immortality – a gift bestowed onto artificial intelligence from it’s inception and first waking moments, and on into perpetuity. A man-made, marvel composed of threaded fibers of equations and data presenting simulated life or simply, just life? Simulated love or simply love? What is the weight of an artificial soul?
Taking in a deep breath, he followed it with an equally heavy exhale, locking eyes with the android. Slowly, he looked around the room, then rose from the sofa, while dropping the goggles on the table. He thought to himself. What is the weight of an artificial soul?
by malakhai jonezs
(c) Copyright 2016