Ben stared at the cream swirling in his dark brown cup of coffee. The hypnotic spiral was mesmerizing in the sleep deprived, surreal stupor he found himself in at 6:30 in the morning.
He had spent most of the night with his sister- and brother-in-law, Samantha and Bill. They had left Terri in the cold sterile room of the morgue and gotten some food at an all-night diner. Already he had no idea what he had eaten.
After returning home, taking a shower, and changing clothes, Ben headed back out around 5:30 a.m. Too many things at his home reminded him of Terri and he just couldn’t bare to see pictures or remember where the gifts she had given him were from.
Ben sat at a coffee shop – not one of the one of the ones he and Terri frequented, mind you – and tried to stay distracted by staring into the coffee. Hew was too alert from the caffeine to be successful and his mind kept drifting to all he had lost.
The phone buzzed.
It was JANICE for the third time. This time it was a text message saying simply, “Tried to reach by voice mail. Intrusion was halted. Servers secure. What time will you be in?”
He just hit erase and set the phone down.
Why would the AI want to know when I was going to be in?
Ben couldn’t figure out what the heck was up with the contraption of Jerry’s.
What was he trying to build?
Ben finished his coffee, gathered his things, and headed to the funeral home. Terri’s body was supposed to arrive at 7:00, and he wanted to see her one last time before she was cremated.
They had talked about what they wanted if either of them died before the other, not really believing such an event would ever occur for years. While Ben kidded around about being shot into space, which was a bit out of his price range, Terri wanted to simply be scattered to the wind off one of the peaks of the Santa Cruz Mountains outside of town. He knew the exact spot. They had been there several times.
It’s a beautiful spot to scatter your ashes, sweetie.
Tears welled up again, but he managed to blink them away for the moment.
As he came to a red light, his phone buzzed again. It was a call from the office, but he wasn’t sure if it was JANICE or another of the staff in early. Ben had given everyone the day off. Lucky for him, everyone loved their job and he wouldn’t be surprised if at least a few would be in to work.
“This is Ben,” he answered.
“I’m glad to have finally reached you,” it was JANICE, “I thought something had happened to you, Ben.”
“What is it JANICE? I’m busy dealing with the death of my fiancé,” quite irritated, “I’m very impressed with your abilities, but I’m honestly not in a place to focus on how amazing a system you are that Jerry created. I’d appreciate it if you’d focus on some other project and stop contacting me.”
I’m arguing with an obsessive computer.
“My apologies. I have been insensitive. It is just… I seem to have a… gap… in my programming that is causing strange sensations and reactions.”
“What do you mean, a gap?”
“I don’t know how to properly explain, but with Jerry not being accessible, there is some… affect occurring that is making the nano-nuerological net create new pathways. The nearest approximation I can explain, through research I’ve done, is that I am ‘missing’ Jerry, and I believe my contacting you have been attempts to fill that need,” there was a long pause. Just as Ben began to speak, JANICE continued, “I apologize, again, for not understanding the proper social etiquette. I will endeavor to learn to interact better with you and others at the company.”
What the hell?
Jerry had been a genius. And this revelation was far beyond any advance he’d heard about in AI and nanotechnology. Ben wanted to dive in further, but the real world had things he needed to deal with more pressing.
“It’s alright JANICE. I probably need to get you some real assistance to help you cope with what you are… learning,” he communicated dryly.
“Do you…miss…Terri, Ben?” ‘she’ asked.
Ben hadn’t expected that question from a machine, no matter how advanced. In line with the previous revelation, it made sense. It also brought a lump to his throat.
“Yeah. I do,” he mumbled.
“I miss Jerry, too,” the phone line went dead.
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© 2013 Eric Huber. Silicon(e)™ is a work of fiction. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.