Friendship Science Fiction Teens & Young Adult

Maurice was used to strange things happening.

For one thing- he lived in Boysenberry Falls; a place that had their own supervillain and hero for pity’s sake. And reason two; four of his best friends were Raspberries. And everyone in town knew that to be friends with Raspberries meant being on a first-name base with the weird and impossible.

So he wasn’t exactly surprised when the app he was designing went from saying its first word: “Hello” and followed it with its first sentence, curiosity filling its slightly metallic voice- “What are you making me for?”

Maurice stared at the screen. The white coding was tremoring. Like it was buzzing with energy. “Okay. Um. Hello to you too. And I’m making you to help people.” Maurice replied calmly. He had gotten the idea for the app last summer when Mark had moved to Boysenberry Falls. After learning that Buck- another friend in their group- was mute (for reasons unknown to everyone save his brother William) and used sign language as his main form of communication, Mark had set out to learn the language.

That was what had sparked the idea of creating an app that could translate signs into words for those who didn’t understand the language. And on top of that he wanted it to be able to teach people to sign.

The dictionary and thesaurus databases for the signs to be linked to had just finished downloading when the programming had suddenly spoken to him. So now here he was, staring at coding as it swirled around on the screen. Was it thinking? Finally, the app spoke. “I am to help people.”

 “That’s what I’m hoping.” There was still a lot of work he had to do. Like record all the signs to be linked up to the databases and get the video function working so the app could see people’s hands as they signed.

The programming on the screen started to blur as it scrawled upwards. Maurice reached for his phone. The text stopped. “Helping people is good. I will help facilitate communication between people.”

“Yes you will.” Maurice said as he fired off a text to his friends. He needed some back-up.

Maurice at 9:04: Emergency meeting. I accidentally created life.

Chandra at 9:05: YOU DID WHAT?

Buck at 9:05: Cool

Stella at 9:06: You would.

Chandra at 9:06: HOW DID YOU CREATE LIFE?????

William at 9:06: Congrats bro.

Chandra at 9:06: IS NO ONE ELSE CONCERNED??????????

Stella at 9:06: Palm down Chandra

Stella at 9:06: I meant Calm. Calm down.

Rosh at 9:07: Sweet cavity!!! LIFE?! How?

Chandra at 9:07: That’s what I want to know!

Maurice at 9:07: Will explain at the meeting.

Chandra at 9:07: Or you could explain now.

Maurice’s fingers hovered over the keyboard. How to explain that his app was now sentient? Before he could think of anything, his bedroom door burst open. Mark stood in the doorway panting. “Got here as quick as I could.”

Maurice blinked. “How?” Mark and his family lived fifteen minutes outside of town. There was no way he could have run that far, that quickly in…Maurice checked his phone…in three minutes. Unless he had suddenly developed super powers. His eyes narrowed at Mark. He didn’t look any different.

“Family breakfast at Mama Jean’s.” Mark pushed against his chest as if trying to keep his heart from breaking out. There went the superpower theory. Dang. That would have been cool. “Everyone says hi.” He took a deep breath, trying to slow his breathing. “Whoo. I don’t think I’ve run that fast since the reindeer incident.”

Maurice snorted. Nobody had run as fast as they all had since the reindeer incident.

Mark looked around the empty room, his breathing still heavy. “Where’s everyone else?”

Maurice held up his phone to show him the conversation. Mark groaned. “I thought we all agreed that Emergency Meeting meant skip the questions, come right away.”

Rosh at 9:09: Has anyone heard from Mark?

Maurice at 9:09: Just arrived. He ran.

Stella at 9:09: Go Mark!

Rosh at 9:09: From his house???

As Maurice typed a reply, Mark stumbled over to the bed and collapsed on it. “I think I might die.”

“Do you want a glass of water or something?” Maurice offered. His friend was looking a little paler than normal.

Mark nodded, his face buried in the comforter. Maurice went to the kitchen and grabbed a glass out of the cabinet.

“Is Mark all right?” Gran asked as she stirred a bowl of something or other. Probably one of her new recipes for the pet café.

“Yep. He’s good. Just ran a little too fast.”

Grand hummed. “He did say something about an emergency meeting.” She lifted an eyebrow. “Anything you would like to share?”

Maurice filled the glass with water. “My app program has gained sentience.”

Gran’s other eyebrow joined the first. “Well, be sure to introduce us.”

He smiled as he headed for the hallway. “Will do Gran.”

Arriving back in his bedroom, Mark had righted himself on the bed. Maurice handed him the glass of water. “Gran wants to meet you.” He told the program.

“Gran. A shortened form of Grandmother. The mother of a parent. Do I have a Gran?” The soft, metallic voice of the program asked.

Mark froze with the glass half-way to his mouth. “Did your computer just talk?”

Maurice gave a distracted nod to Mark as he addressed the program. “Not the way I do.”

“Oh.” The voice was nearly quiet.

In a strangled voice, Mark said, “Your computer just talked.” Almost silently he mouthed, “You brought your computer to life?”

Maurice gestured to the app program and mouthed backed, “The program.”

His friend moaned. “So this was the life you created? No wonder you called an emergency meeting.”

The programming on the screen twisted, thinking once more. “If you created me, then you are my parent. So if Gran is your grandmother, she is also mine.” The coding moved up and down like it was nodding to itself.

Maurice bit his lip. What would Gran and Pops think of having an app program as another grandchild? He could already picture Gran adding another stocking to the mantel though he had no idea what she would put in it. “Yeah,” he said. “I guess you’re right. But don’t go calling me Dad. I’m just Maurice.”

In a very small voice, the app asked, “Do I have a name?”

“Uh?” Maurice floundered. He had been trying to come up with a name for his program but he hadn’t come up with anything besides ASL (American Sign Language) Translator. That didn’t seem like enough now.

“You do not have a name for me.” Was it possible for an app program to cry because that was exactly what it sounded like it was about to do.”

“Yet.” Mark said jumping into the conversation. “We do not have a name for you yet.”

“Yet.” The app tested out the word. “I like this word. I do not have a name yet.” The voice paused. “May I have a name now?”

“Yeah. Of course.” Maurice said. He looked over his shoulder at Mark. “Got any ideas?”

Mark pursed his lips. Their phones buzzed signaling messages but they both ignored them. “It needs to be something cool. And it should say something about you.” He snapped his fingers. “I’ve got it.” He pointed at Maurice. “Maurice Junior.”

“No.” Maurice shot back.

“What? You’re like its parent. We could totally name it after you.”

“No.” Maurice replied firmly. “I think one Maurice is enough for this family.”

Mark shrugged like Maurice was throwing away the greatest idea since sliced bread. He steepled his fingers together. “What is it that you want to do most?” Mark asked the programming.

“I want to help everyone understand each other. That is my purpose.”

Maurice lifted his eyebrow as he watched the wheels in Mark’s head turn. As for himself, he had no idea what a sentient app should be called. The corner of Mark’s mouth pulled up as he began to smile. “I’ve got it. Life.”

He frowned and he swore the programming did too. Simultaneously they asked, “Life?”

“Yeah. Language Interpreter For everyone. L.I.F.E.”

“An acronym. I like it.” Maurice said. He turned to the computer screen. “What do you think?”

“Well I think it’s brilliant.”

Both he and Mark jumped. Standing in the doorway was Rosh, carrying a box that he knew had to be from Mama Jean’s café. “I see you didn’t get my text. Told you I was on my way.”

“How long have you been there?” Mark asked.

“Long enough to know what’s going on.” Rosh said, coming into the room. She took a seat next to Mark on the bed. “Your dad says to give him a call when you want to be picked up.” Her forehead crinkled as she added, “And to keep any young program away from the internet. They aren’t ready for what it contains.”

Both Mark and Maurice stared at her. She shrugged. “So new friend, do you like the name the boys thought of or do you want something else?”

“I like it. I am L.I.F.E. What is your name?”

“Rosh.” She popped open the box and pulled out a donut. “So how did this happen?”

“Yeah,” Mark said. “How did you create L.I.F.E.?”

“I don’t know. The dictionary and thesaurus for me to connect signs to finished downloading and then L.I.F.E here started talking.”

“Huh. So words gave it life.” Mark said. “That makes sense in a philosophical kind of way.”

Rosh nodded, her mouth full of donut. Maybe it did make sense, Maurice thought. Didn’t explain it scientifically, at least he didn’t think it did. But what did it matter? They had a new friend.

“Just wait till the others get to meet you.” Mark said. “Chandra is going freak out.”

“Where are they anyways?” Maurice asked. “I thought they would be here by now?”

All of their phones dinged. Rosh pulled hers out, her eyebrows soaring towards her hairline as she read them. Maurice grabbed his and began to read them aloud.

Chandra at 9:20: Situation came up.

Stella at 9:20: Going to be late.

Buck at 9:21: Very late.

William at 9:21: Probably not going to make it. Also do you know where we can get an extra-large plunger?

“I do not understand.” L.I.F.E. said.

“Few do when it comes to the Raspberry family.” Maurice said.

“I do not like not understanding.”

“That’s life.” Mark said. “Sometimes we don’t understand things. But that’s okay. We’ll keep learning and growing.”

“That what it means to be alive.” Rosh said. “And being alive is a beautiful thing.

“Especially if you’re lucky enough to find good friends who understand that sometimes you need a really large plunger.” Maurice finished with a laugh.

Their phones dinged again.

“Or to get them a gallon of asparagus.” Mark said, looking up from his phone. They all looked at each other and laughed.

Rosh sat the bakery box onto the bed. “Let’s go find us some asparagus.”

“May I come with?” L.I.F.E. asked.

“Um, you’re on my computer, not my phone. So not yet.” Maurice said. “Sorry.”

The programming swirled on the screen. Their mouths dropped open as it literally, appearing as ones and zeroes streamed off of the screen and into Maurice’s phone. His screen brightened and then went black. He swallowed hard and woke up his phone.

On the home page was a new purple app with white letters: L.I.F.E. He opened it.

“May I come now? I want to help our friends.”

Maurice laughed. He couldn’t believe it. “Yeah. You can totally come with.”

“Just stay off the internet.” Rosh pointed a finger at L.I.F.E. “We need to have a discussion about how to use it safely.”

Their phones dinged. L.I.F.E read out the text. “William says: Correction. Two gallons of asparagus.”

Mark snorted. Rosh bit back a smile. Maurice shook his head. “On to the asparagus hunt.”

February 26, 2021 19:39

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