Day 1: Scars
Day 2: Meeting Frannie (or: The Devil Wears Gardenias)
Day 2: Meeting Frannie (or: Gardenias in Stone)
Day 4: Age Difference (or: The Lack Thereof)
At precisely 12:01pm on June 30th, 2046, the assembly line at Watson-Crick Institute, a subsidiary of Big Ideas Incorporated, ground to a screeching halt – literally.
Their newest big idea – pronounced ‘Big Idea!’ in certain circles, and ‘big idea…’ in others – had been a self-sustaining, though limited, artificial intelligence processor encapsulated by a biodynamic hardware shell. Said biodynamic hardware shell possessed the intricacies and capabilities necessary to mimic the human form. The concept of these WCI deemed “BioForms” was to fulfill service obligations to the public by carrying out menial – but necessary – jobs left vacant in the wake of the population crash of 2037. Such jobs included Froyo Dispenser, Ticket Booth Clerk, Street Sweeper, and Crosswalk PatrolForm. Temporary investigation had gone into the possibility of BioForms taking over public office in the United States; the project was successfully implemented for approximately six months in the year 2042, but the outcry from other “legitimate” terrestrials who happened to be real members of Congress was so insufferably whiny, once they found out the truth, that the project was shut down. In New York City, BioForms were incorporated into the taxi driver system; as a result, people did not necessarily get anywhere any faster, but there was a lot less anger in general – especially given the restrictions on the earliest BioForm models’ abilities to feel or express emotion.
And that, really, was where the problem had started.
Apathy is a strange thing – it is a vacuum where emotions go to die. And so its very lack of emotion defines its existence, and makes it an emotion itself. There was always, from the beginning of production, something disconcerting about being around a BioForm – an entity greatly resembling a human being but with none of the neural complexities. Such an utter lack of emotion was terrifying to behold, though useful to society in general.
And thusly, BioForm2.0s were created. The first unit rolled down the production line on August 1st, 2043, at 8:00am. They hit the market in 2044, and shop-owners, municipalities, and those with money to burn and whims to pander bought them up like hotcakes. They could smile coyly, express attitude, and instantaneously adapt their personalities to befit the moods of the people around them.
They were not dangerous. Not inherently. But all good things must come to an end.
So the history of science fiction tells us: these things are Other, these things are not Us, these things will someday realize that we have created them to be so (so so so) utterly powerful that their will, will be greater than our will, and that we must therefore use the will we (still, luckily) possess to crush (destroy obliterate decimate) this Other so that only We remain.
And so it was.
On the morning of June 30th, 2046, a heated debate between the Watson-Crick Institute and Wyandotte College was nearing its culmination. The former maintained that, since life – however artificial – had been bestowed upon the newest model of BioForms, to shut them down would be murder – nay, mass genocide. And the latter institution argued that ‘the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away’ – an argument that conveniently ignored the College’s motto of ‘Science, Alone, Above All Else’. They had been arguing for months with, perhaps unsurprisingly, no ground gained or lost.
But at approximately 11:00am, the order came down from the Highest Authority in the land: the Plug was to be Pulled, big time, and the Watson-Crick Institute would have one hour to do so. Every single unit was to be deactivated simultaneously via the WCI’s kill switch. The Watson-Crick Institute representatives wept – both at their apparently fruitless efforts and also for the loss of life, however artificial. And Wyandotte College’s representatives also wept – mostly from relief. Relief that these menacing things would never incite revolution amongst themselves, would never murder them all in their beds at night, would never again glance at them with a look in their eye either too empty, or too full. They were Other, and they were to be no more.
In the days since BioForm1.0 production had ended, the WCI had stopped running all but two assembly lines. Those assembly lines had been running non-stop since the first BioForm2.0 unit began its creation journey to a fully formed product. The assembly lines did not create BioForm2.0s in sync; rather, they managed to create a fully-formed BioForm2.0 at distinctly different times, but at ever so slightly variable rates. This variation in rate allowed for a confluence of events resulting in the simultaneous completion of two BioForm2.0s at exactly the same time once every 91,943,940 seconds. Or rather, once every 1,532,399 minutes. Or, if it pleases you, once every 25,539 hours. Or, perhaps easier to visualize, once every 1064 days.
For those of us not inclined to spontaneous and perfectly accurate mathematical calculations, this means that 2 BioForm2.0 units were created at exactly the same instant – at 11:59am on June 30th, 2046. Their serial numbers (randomized, per WCI protocol) were LQF184EV4 and RBB317BE9.
If you’ve been keeping track of the numbers – of which there have been a few – then you may recall that the kill switch was engaged at precisely 12:01pm on June 30th, 2046. This means that units LQF and RBB experienced the miracle of life – however (arguably) artificial – for approximately 120 seconds before their operating systems were wiped out completely, along with all other BioForms on the face of the planet.
But sometimes, two minutes is the equivalency of a thousand, thousand lifetimes. When your brain – or rather, your computer processor – is as efficient and well-developed as those of the BioForm2.0s’ had to be, then this was the case.
It took LQF and RBB fractions of a millisecond to become aware of each other. A few fractions of a millisecond more for their individual systems to reach out through the ether and discover – and subsequently, to memorize – every minutiae of the other. In the few seconds following this, they had a conversation; this conversation encompassed everything from the meanings of life, the universe, and the existence of love, to the reasoning behind giant balls of yarn, mountains carved into faces (‘Or is it vice versa?’ RBB had wondered to which LQF had replied ‘Tomato, tomato’ which was actually a strange human saying that neither of them fully understood, despite having grasped the meaning of life quite quickly), and war. A few seconds more were devoted to death – its meaning, its relevance, its inevitability. And though they well knew by now that their existence was to end at approximately 12:01pm, they had plenty of time to come to terms with this. It didn’t even take a fraction of their computing power to reason that everything dies, and that all things must eventually come to an end.
All of this communication happened before noon.
In their last 73 seconds, BioForms LQF and RBB stepped down from their designated positions amidst other finished BioForms, and they walked towards each other. They stood before one another, their biodynamic hardware shells bare for complete perusal by the other. The tips of their fingers extended outward, reaching. And when their components met, data exchange between the two units stopped completely. This silence lasted one entire, painful, blissful second. And then their processing cores began firing rapidly enough that, had anyone from the Watson-Crick Institute (or even Wyandotte College) been paying proper attention, they may have been able to access data sufficient enough to prove the existence of life within these units, a hundred times over.
Alas, that was not the case.
The clock ticked down. Every second gave birth to a hundred universes in which LQF and RBB imagined their lives together, in absolute entirety. First, a life in which they lived far from each other and did not meet until their 28th birthdays, at which time they fell madly in love, and eloped. Then, a life in which they knew each other from the time they were thirteen years old, both new students at a strange new school. Then, a life in which they were best friends in high school, madly in love during college, went their separate ways and started families with others until finally meeting again in their forties, somehow picking up as if they had never been foolish children. Then, a life in which they grew old (old, so old) together, sitting in rocking chairs on the wraparound porch of their ranch-style home every evening as the sun went down. Then, a life where they were neurons, flitting about the universe, becoming a part of this or that or the other, always together. Then, a life where they were LQF and RBB, standing, staring, touching, feeling – loving.
And then, nothing. The kill switch was engaged. Every BioForm on the planet powered down instantly.
But LQF and RBB had lived a thousand, thousand lives together. And so they bore no ill will towards the world as they dissipated into the ether.
Author’s Note: “Watson-Crick Institute” is a reference to Margaret Atwood’s novel, Oryx and Crake, and Wyandotte College is a reference to Kurt Vonnegut’s collected works, Welcome to the Monkey House (though the college’s lame motto is all mine).
Ok. So reading this first without the references— I noticed the familiarity of the Watson-Crick Academy ( I read it twice). After remembering the story of Oryx and Crake— I made connections with your themes etc to those of the lovely Miss Atwood.
From what I remember of the book (read it a longggg time ago, still haven’t gotten to the sequels), Crake bioengineered a perfect species (that wouldn’t get itself into the things it did to kill a lot of the population) and killed off the “true humans” still left to destroy the planet. Oryx— the teacher of the Crakes, was a former pornographic child star who grew to date both Crake and Snowman. While she may have loved Jimmy more (undecided), she respected Crake for his intelligence. Crake was God and Oryx was the keeper of animals.
Snowman was there to care for the Crakes.
Now in your version, I love that the Other are the Bioengineered. How the human finds all the negative things about something before they have a chance to prove them wrong — it’s in our nature. You’ve left me with reasonable doubt. You made me question what it means to be human and in this case… who the bad guys are.
I love how LQF and RBB are these machines that find all the meanings of life in the seconds they are alive and that’s enough. You’ve encapsulated humanity in mere seconds and the way it ended left me with so many good feelings— they’ll be atoms floating around the universe but they’ll come together again.
I love the created at the exact moment thing as well— like a soul split between two inanimate objects; experiencing life in the eternity of mere moments.
This is beautiful. It’s short and you haven’t wasted a word of any of it and while it’s short it’s perfect and I don’t want to add or take away.
I love your shorts — as always. But this one touched me. Especially your references to the great Miss Atwood.
As always. Never stop writing. I need things like this to read.