IN a world without sexual dimorphism.
“Please sign here,” said the salesbot.
NBF-8 hesitated. “When will I receive the override codes?”
“They’ll be sent to your data bank as soon as installation has completed. If you detect a dangerous anomaly, the code can be accessed immediately. My chips are very safe.”
NB looked at me. “I still want to do this,” bot said bravely.
“Me, too.” NB and I displayed our confirmation codes and, in a flicker of light, they were accepted.
The installation itself didn’t bother us, but our circuits were stressed. We’d heard some awful things about SentienceBoost users- bots who accidentally accessed their full free will databanks and exploded, or others whose overrides kicked in and shut them down permanently. You saw broken, limping bots all over the city who’d tried the treatment, and while we all refused to acknowledge them, you never really walked away without some kind of internal reaction.
We were in standby communication mode on the viewing platform in Sector C when somebot nudged our wakeup buttons. I came online to see ELV-2 emoting frantically at me.
“Did you do it?” bot shrieked over a private channel.
“We did it,” I confirmed.
ELV went in excited circles for a minute. “I’m so curious about how this will affect your work!”
I had not processed that. Unexpectedly, I emoted anxiety.
NB looked at me, quizzical. I corrected the rogue emotion and said, “I don’t think it’ll change anything. Work seems like a very emotionally insignificant activity.”
“HHD says otherwise,” ELV reminded me.
I scanned HHD for the phrase “work-unhappiness” and did see multiple entries about stress, depression, eating disorders, and other unfortunate emotive conditions. It was difficult to be sure, but I again felt a non-standard tightening in my core. “There are a lot of entries,” I admitted.
“9,784,” NB said. “Maybe this was a mistake.”
“Use your override code.”
NB hesitated. “That would be a waste; I want to see what happens first,” bot said.
The next day, NB and I met as usual in our work enclosure. Bot was already dressed- a crinkly blue plastic jumpsuit, topped with a sculpted rubber wig. I placed my own garment over my head. Mine was pink, with a large skirt instead of pants, but made of the same washable plastic as NB’s suit. I had a rubber wig of my own, but mine was longer at the bottom.
“Is anything different for you?” NB adjusted bot’s wig.
“I feel a little weird,” NB said as the pre-show lights dimmed.
“You feel weird?”
Before NB could clarify, the voiceover started, and we froze in our starting positions.
“The Human History Database has 1,032 entries that our research bots do not yet understand,” it boomed. I could see the orderly outlines of other bots’ heads, standing quietly in rows. “Of these entries, the one formerly most mysterious is that of sexual intercourse conducted with the end goal of physical pleasure. For decades, research bots errored while attempting to process the apparent necessity of this act. Media analysis eventually revealed that the activity provided emotional satisfaction. However, the same analysis also indicated that sexual behavior caused as much emotional distress as it did positive effects. The end result of the research concluded that human sexual behavior was also poorly understood by humans, and therefore no longer a top research priority.”
The lights behind us came up slowly, leaving our bodies in silhouette. We had locked our emoting screens in a rictus of pleasure, but still I worried that the audience would somehow know about the chips.
Because I was in trouble. I felt an uncontrollable rush of sadness from my central emotion simulator. It was so unexpected and so strong that for a moment I thought I’d spark.
“NB, I think—”
Too late. The lights were fully up. I could see them now, row after row of neat black heads, cylindrical heads with no faces, patiently waiting. Every one alike. Every one blank.
“Our expert demonstrators will now simulate the human reproductive act,” the voiceover went on. “As chronological researchers, you must be able to identify and recognize different aspects of this behavior. Please access your research questionnaire, and complete it as you watch.”
Luckily, I didn’t have to think about what to do. The automatic routine kicked in and I walked towards NB, extending my arms to embrace bot.
“Are you okay?” NB said privately to me as we embraced.
“I’m not certain.”
“Do you want me to push your reset? I can make it look like a programming error.”
The subroutine forced me to walk toward the bed, removing my garment as I did so. The wig stayed on. “I’m okay.”
As NB knelt between my spread legs, I found myself wishing bot’s emotional display wasn’t locked. I didn’t know why, just that I wanted to see bot’s real reaction to what we were doing. Perhaps I was disappointed. I knew the chips were slow-acting- if they immediately took over, our emergency overrides would activate and shut us down- but I wanted something more concrete than these vague, confusing, uncontrollable emotions. We had wanted to analyze human emotions, not be victims of them. As NB continued bot’s mechanical thrusts, I realized that maybe I hadn’t made the correct decision.
It got worse over time. NB seemed happy and perfectly in control, but I couldn’t stabilize. The discharges from my emotional center were too strong sometimes, and I thought I might overload. Worst of all, NB didn’t seem to experience any of the negative emotions I was feeling.
“I don’t think your chip is working,” I told bot once before a demonstration.
NB made a noncommittal gesture. “Maybe yours is stronger. Maybe it needs to be recalibrated.”
“I thought it would be the same for both of us,” I said boldly. “I’d prefer it if we experienced this in the same way.”
Bot did not respond. The lights went up.
After that, I didn’t see NB outside of work for a long time. It was my first experience accessing the embarrassment emotion- I never thought I’d need it- and it was unpleasant. NB didn’t seem to care. I became jealous when I realized that NB was still safe inside a bot’s unfeeling bubble. I longed to have the chip removed, but every time I set coordinates to do so, I would fail to press the “Accept” button. It was confusing.
I eventually identified the root emotion. It was not acceptable to me or the situation. As a result, I finally decided to have the chip removed as soon as possible.
Our show that week was the last before a long maintenance break. ELV-2 told me NB had requested a department transfer.
I didn’t want NB to go. I couldn’t bear to perform with another bot. I never wanted to imitate the act of loving a being with a being I didn’t love.
NB was positioned to enter me when I said directly, “NB, I’m having the chip removed tomorrow. I know I’ve destabilized you with my reactions. But I want you to know, before you leave, that I love you.”
NB did not respond right away. Bot made its mechanical caresses and my body automatically responded with its answering quivers. “Please talk to me, NB. Don’t you feel anything? I want us to feel the same.”
We rocked in our automatic embrace before the silent assembled bots. Our inorganic bodies playacted the most organic activity possible, in front of thousands of blank screens. I felt, for the first time, emptiness.
My head turned back to face NB, and I saw that bot’s emotions had been unlocked. NB’s face emoted something beautiful, and for the first time, happiness came from my emotion center.
“We feel the same sometimes,” NB’s mind said to mine.
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2017 23:11|
|# ¿ Dec 6, 2021 21:42|
The song is Careless Whisper by Wham!
|# ¿ Aug 29, 2017 10:56|
Helmut Fox (photographers count as artists, right?) checking in!
|# ¿ Aug 29, 2017 15:16|
If my character is also a dragon, can I get more words?
|# ¿ Aug 29, 2017 15:32|
I can finally do this again! in and
|# ¿ Dec 5, 2017 16:21|
How to choose a good mango, rock 'n roll
This Rider is Bullshit
“You missed something, man. Item 19-A, ‘Twenty-seven ripe mangoes in a circular arrangement.’”
“Why do they need that? Who’s gonna eat a loving mango before they go on stage?”
“I don’t know, hipsters. Mangoes are the new avocados, or something.”
“gently caress!” Jeff threw his phone on the passenger seat and snarled. Chernobyl Hearts may have been the most popular band in the world that week, but their incessant, needy bullshit was wearing him down. He could barely even remember the initial excitement he’d had about working with them. Every day, there was some new issue at the last minute: Taylor just realized his drums weren’t vegan. Letitia was offended by a phallic flower arrangement. They were always condescending about it, too. The show was in less than an hour, and the crybabies were losing their artistic motivation over a platter of mangoes they wouldn’t even touch. They would give him some patronizing story about Ayurvedic balance or the symbolism of mangoes in Guatemalan culture, and how he should already be familiar. Then he’d slink down the stairs and drink a beer in his car, ears burning from his lack of enlightenment.
Jeff pulled up in front of the little Mexican grocery, checked his email again. The acceptance letter was still there. He really was moving on. The show tonight was his last gig, and his bonus would be enough for him to move back to Boston in time for classes. That said, he was exhausted, and starting to lose his professional façade.
By the time he had purchased the mangoes and managed a suitably circular arrangement, his boss had called seventeen times and sent a bevy of incendiary texts. When Jeff pulled up with the fruit, Ted was practically hopping up and down on the curb, he was so angry.
“You stupid motherfucker! Get the hell over here! Where the gently caress were you?”
“Sorry,” Jeff said as he pushed his way backstage. Ted followed, still cursing.
“Goddammit, you dumbshit, it’s a good thing you’re quitting,” he said as Jeff showed security his ID badge. “You don’t have the balls for loving rock ‘n roll. This industry will eat you alive. You think event planning is a joke? You think this is bullshit? You learned more about the music industry here than you ever will in college, I can tell you that.”
“Okay,” Jeff said. His voice was very calm.
When they entered the backstage lounge, Ted’s demeanor immediately changed. He apologized many times for the idiocy of his assistant. Jeff stood mute, a monkey with a tray of mangoes.
When Davenport Richards himself came over to inspect the wares, Jeff almost felt a frisson of his old excitement. It was quickly extinguished, however, by the look of concern that fell over the lead singer’s face.
“You know, I am so blessed,” he began. The assembled audience of band members and their guests murmured in agreement. “I mean, can you believe we just get to follow our bliss like this? Live our lives telling stories? I am so humbled. It is so great.”
To Jeff’s horror, someone actually snapped their fingers in agreement.
“And that’s why I hate to complain, like, I really do, but the thing is that I really need things to be a certain way to fully access my artistic higher mind. I just…Jeff, I am so sorry. These mangoes are just not what I was looking for.”
Jeff looked dumbly at the arrangement of fruit, his ears starting to flame up. He definitely heard a titter from somewhere.
“I’m sorry?” he said, a little strain in his voice.
“They’re just…” Davenport picked one up and held it up almost accusingly, as if it were evidence in a trial. “Do you know how to tell if a mango is ripe? Like, does this look like a good mango to you?”
Jeff looked at Davenport. He kept his face completely blank.
“You really should visit South America,” Davenport said, placing a paternal hand on Jeff’s (older) shoulder. “You become so in touch with nature, and, like, the ways of the land, like just being in this very holistic environment. Like your fruit will always be perfect after that. Trust.”
Jeff gave a very small and pleasant smile. “That’s an excellent illustration of the world ‘holistic,’” he said, with no discernible sarcasm. “Why don’t I put these in the dressing room where it’s a bit warmer, and hopefully they’ll ripen by tomorrow?”
As Jeff set the platter down, he heard Davenport shout something about destiny, followed by a flurry of answering shouts. He smiled, and turned to lock the door behind him. Everyone else would be enjoying the free show, or working. Jeff had lots of time.
A mango in one tall boot, another stuffed inside the empty base of the wig stand. Into Letitia’s $900 silk stockings from a cruelty-free silkworm farm, one in each toe. One in Davenport’s spare guitar case, which probably wouldn’t be used again until the next show. Jeff stealthily tucked his rejected mangoes into the rubbery cups of push-up bras and between layers of expensive costumes, into vintage hatboxes and clutch handbags. One- a little squished- he managed to wedge into someone’s oversized wallet. The very last mango he chucked into the aquarium, where it sank behind an ironic little castle.
The clock struck eleven. Jeff was officially no longer an employee of Bespoke Events. Very calmly, he returned the platter to the kitchen and collected his last paycheck from one of Ted’s other lackeys. Jeff grabbed a bottle of Belvedere from behind the bar as a leaving bonus, bummed a cigarette off a stagehand, and was on his way.
By the time the band rooted out the last decaying mango, Jeff was already in Boston.
|# ¿ Dec 11, 2017 07:42|
|# ¿ Dec 12, 2017 12:21|
|# ¿ Dec 6, 2021 21:42|
Happy birthday to you
Your writing is a jewel
You're king of the dome now
So don't be a Scrooge
|# ¿ Dec 13, 2017 12:38|