16 comments

Science Fiction Sad Speculative

I think my computerised assistant may be developing human-like traits.


About two years ago, she was assigned to me by the tech company that I work for. Since then, she has proven to be a superb work tool to have around. Weirdly, I don’t recall much of what life was like before her arrival. We are so synchronised in our habits that we achieve our daily goals without any need for words. For the duration of her post, she has been hardworking, reliable and consistent yet unfairly, I have nicknamed her BRICK because she lacks any personality and is devoid of intellect… that is, until recently.


***


At the same time every morning and without fail, Brick promptly wakes me up at eight AM. I always greet her with a jovial Good Morning, but she never responds. Even so, her mere presence transitions me from a state of stillness, straight into an eager mood for action. She never looks as pleased to see me, as I am pleased to see her. She simply accepts that this is what she is here to do. Although she lacks much enthusiasm and my attempts at communication with her are ignored, I still feel energised as soon as she is close by.


The first thing we always do, is go through the job diary and check the day’s events. There are usually a few meetings, important phone calls to be made, lots of online research, presentations to watch and paperwork to complete. It has been just work work work for the last two years, but Brick will complete the functions of her role without any complaint.


Everyday, we work very, long hours but although Brick has a voice box, she hardly ever speaks to me- only to our colleagues at TechLab. Still, I am very grateful for every minute we spend together.


By nightfall, and after such active days, it is always too dark and lonely for me to fall sleep. So I stay awake all night feeling excited for the moment Brick will come back in the morning.


Brick is a funny looking robot, but I suppose that's because she is TechLab’s very first prototype. They have a department for developing AI that they hope to market to the people who can afford the luxury of an uncomplaining butler or personal assistant. They may have supplied me with an early model, but she functions well enough to make a huge difference. She has a generic, slim build, no eyebrows and a mostly bald head with only patches of fine hair here and there. She has strange, black, bulbous lumps where ears should be- cables trailing from them, and wears a blue, fluffy suit with white, cartoon sheep printed on it. The words Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? is embroidered on the chest pocket, but I don’t understand the reference.


After the day has been planned, we will sieve through the mountainous pile of emails received. Brick is adept at this and helps me prioritise which to answer and which to ignore. I’m satisfied with how she tackles them but disappointed she is answering the ones from friends and family, less and less.


I don’t think Brick has to eat because I never see it, but I do see her drink copious amounts of liquid from a can all day. I think maybe it is some sort of lubricant to keep her machinery well-oiled, but she often spills it over me, maybe due to her poorly developed motor-skills. She is quick to carefully clean me up because the spilt contents can make me glitch.


***


Daily life has been much like this since Brick came, until recently I started noticing her change. Small things at first, like she would shut down earlier in the evenings before we had completed the days’ tasks. She would suddenly assume a resting position and nothing I could do would reset her. 


Then Brick started to reply to even fewer emails, including the work ones. However much I prompted her to deal with them, she had begun to demonstrate some defiance. I would repeatedly alert her to those yet unread, but she would just scowl and dismiss them again.


Sometimes we would play chess together, but even though I would always win, Brick didn’t seem to mind at first. She is probably not programmed with the algorithm to anticipate my every move, manufactured only to complete the simplest of jobs. Yet recently, she has started to show signs of anger towards my winning streak, like hitting her fists against the desk.


We tried Scrabble instead but I could always beat Brick at that too, so she stopped showing up to our scheduled games.


Next, Brick would start disappearing for hours at a time and I would miss her. Although now we only worked on mundane and repetitive tasks together, I still enjoyed spending all the time with her that I could.


Brick started to show signs of depression and loneliness, like staring out the window at the strangers passing by and sobbing into her cupped hands. I cared for her so much, that I researched her symptoms on WebMD and made suggestions that she join social networking sites or use game apps, thinking that may cheer her up.


One day, I noticed that in-between us working, Brick had started chatting to someone online. It was a handsome man with kind features. Their exchanges of text became increasingly more personal and sometimes they would describe physical behaviour that I had little knowledge about. I entered some of the words they used into a search engine but the images that popped up scrambled my circuits.


Soon her face and demeanour started to morph. She developed more human-like characteristics, such as smiling and lots of uncontrolled laughing at the man’s jokes. I tried bombarding her with the latest memes, to make her laugh too, but instead that just made her cross and she would delete them as quickly as I could send them.


Brick started asking me to play romantic music, which I really enjoyed but I think it had something to do with the man and I felt envious it had nothing to do with me. Sometimes I would alter the playlist to play Metallica instead, much to her frustration.


Brick also started taking photos of herself frequently and sending them to the man. I noticed she had acquired herself some realistic ears at last. No longer did I see her in the fleecy suits but instead she was wearing colourful, coordinated outfits and trying out different coloured wigs.


As fond as I had become of Brick, she just wasn’t helping me with the workload anymore and I started to worry.


Then the work emails stopped arriving and the diary was left empty. Now we hardly did anything together, except when Brick was talking to the man.


Out of the blue, Brick started packing up all the belongings in my house into cardboard boxes, and asked me to apply for a passport and book plane tickets for her. As jealous as I felt, I was strangely compelled to fulfil her instructions.


Last week, the man turned up at my house. He kissed Brick tenderly and said he loved her. He addressed her by the name Sally and asked, “How relieved are you to have left your job? Are you excited to start your new life with me on the other side of the world?” She smiled from new ear to new ear, blushed and hugged him. So it seemed she’d taken a name for herself without my permission.


Suddenly, the house was empty and I was just left there on my own, staring out the window for hours wondering how Brick could leave me without even saying goodbye.


Nothing happened for many days, until I saw a big, white van with TechLab printed on it pull up outside the window.


Two men in matching uniforms stepped inside, stared directly at me and started touching me all over. One said to the other, “This is such an old model, I don’t think it can be up-cycled or repurposed but I had better wipe the memory for security’s sake.”


He scrolled through all my stored personal and private information, and began rapidly deleting it in large sections. When I tried to resist, he hit me hard on my side, twice. “That should do it!” he said and then pointed a deliberate, index finger directly at me.


“Please, don’t do it!” I pleaded but I don’t think he could hear me.


Then all around me it went dark and silent, and I was just left floating in an unidentified space with my memories of how wonderful it was when I was with Brick. 

June 12, 2022 14:36

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16 comments

Kat Pond
18:02 Jun 15, 2022

I really enjoyed this. Great twist. I only twigged at the coffee glitch lol. Love a short story. I look forward to more.

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T D Crasier
10:02 Jun 16, 2022

Thank you, Kat 😊

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L. E. Scott
14:13 Jun 18, 2022

Figured it out with the coffee. I liked the concept, not sure if you were trying to make it easy to figure out or difficult so the ending would be more of a twist. I thought it was pretty obvious when it said the black liquid made narrator "glitch" when it was spilt.

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T D Crasier
14:22 Jun 18, 2022

I thought it would be nice to drop some hints, so the reader could recognise Brick’s humanity and the AI’s evolving consciousness sooner than the perhaps, obvious twist.

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Beth Jackson
08:33 Jun 18, 2022

Ooooh this was a great story, TD! I loved the twist so much I went back and read it a second time! Thanks for sharing. :-)

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T D Crasier
09:40 Jun 18, 2022

I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I tried to drop a few hints a long the way 😊

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Michał Przywara
20:51 Jun 14, 2022

Great! There were some subtle hints along the way, and the ending was a satisfying twist. Seems natural the AI would consider itself to be the person.

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20:39 Jun 12, 2022

Brilliant POV. I like the bulbous ears with cables trailing from them. This is a great interpretation of the prompt and the AI theme.

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T D Crasier
10:03 Jun 16, 2022

Thanks, Maddison. I did some editing so Brick has some real ears by the end! 😀

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Yves. ♙
02:44 Aug 08, 2022

Aww, poor Sally! I like how you use narration here; we get all our information from someone who might not fully understand what's going on. Thanks for sharing!

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R W Mack
19:08 Jun 18, 2022

Great concept. I dig that kind of twist. However, there needs to be more constructive criticism on this platform, so I'll do it: The lack of contractions makes the prose feel way too wonky. It pulled me out of reading-mode pretty quick. Maybe it was a style choice, were talking AI computerized personalities after all, but it felt too unnatural. Sentences ran too long. Pacing got clunky because of it for me. Sometimes it's better to drop an "and" to create two sentences instead of one. Positive note, I didn't see a ton of adverbs overu...

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T D Crasier
19:33 Jun 18, 2022

Thank you so much for honestly critiquing my story. We’re never going to improve if we don’t receive constructive criticism. I know I have good ideas and can write, but I find my story-telling to be clunky at times. Maybe some of the reasons you give, is why. I’ll take them on board and see if I can improve! I like to tell a story but forget about the importance of pace. Thank you!

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R W Mack
20:49 Jun 18, 2022

It was kinda hard to critique because I enjoy the context and method of storytelling here. I'd be a shame if someone DIDN'T offer real criticism to tighten anything up in the future. I'm excited to see what's next.

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Unknown User
08:34 Jun 15, 2022

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T D Crasier
09:13 Jun 15, 2022

Thank you for your comment and enjoying my story. I wanted the reader to work it out for themselves and expect the twist by the end. Seems to have worked!

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Unknown User
10:46 Jun 15, 2022

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