Chapter 02 - 1122.
(Written in 2019 and Published in 2020).
Future - Unknown.
“Hi there; hey, hey, shhhh. It’s okay.” A silent pause as my vision comes into focus. “Hi, Number 1122. Hi, there. It’s going to be okay.”
1122 - Illustrated by Bianca Ungerman,
© 2020 Bianca Ungerman.
I have this feeling that I am something; coming from nothing, I am forming into something. A weighted feeling stretches from bottom to top; I don’t understand. Twitches, twitches of something attached to me. Jerking sensations at the extreme outer edges – the extremities – begin to take over. Extremities; the catalog says digits, fingers, toes. Flashing in my line of sight are fingers and toes, legs and arms, hands and feet. Then come the smiles, the laughter, the pain, the excitement, and the fear. Then, in my vision, a cartoonish depiction of a woman arising from a bed, sleepy and princess-like.
Is this me? She’s so elegant as she rises from the perfectly made bed. The mental catalog starts to define things as I see them. Constantly uploading, Cinderella, as the little bluebirds fly into her bedroom.
Am I her?
“No, Number 1122. No, no. But maybe one day, one day you’ll find that story. The singing birds, the elegance, the Prince Charming.” Prince Charming?
“Yes, he’s a character in the story of Cinderella. You’ll come to learn this, I promise. So much to learn, to process, to upload and come to terms with. That’s what comes with the humanization of technology, 1122.” Prince Charming? Humanization? 1122?
“Yes, you’ll come to know it all, I promise, 1122.” Wait, these human lips are not moving; I am making no noise. I am too scared to verbalize these processed thoughts. How does he know? Are my thoughts my own?
“It’s only normal that I am privy to your thoughts in the beginning. There’s so much you might be scared to do or to say, that I ought to know, as a better way to assist you. Don’t worry, it won’t last long, 1122.”
As I lay there, on what my sensory receptors told me was a cold, hard surface, my eyes coming into focus in bright, overhead light; then, he stepped into focus - the God voice I had been silently conversing with; the man behind the curtain. He came into focus and the catalog receptors in my brain fired, making connections of dialogue, of definitions, of encyclopedic information and information form the cultural collections. He stepped into focus, brown hair, sharp jawline, rugged, yet kept – Prince Charming, the internal connections made. He smiled, smoothly, with sharp corners of mischief and misguided romance.
He laughed as I tried to unravel the connection. “No, no, not Prince Charming. Not yet, at least.”
* * * * *
Grass; tallgrass. I smiled at the feeling between the extremities – the toes. He smiled, taking pleasure in the simple discoveries I was making.
“It’s like learning to love the world, life, and another person, all through the eyes of a child, 1122.” At the sound of 1122, I frowned, conveying the iconic “stink face,” as Dr. Randall called it.
“I apologize,” he began, “It’s hard to rid you of the beginning identity. Like a parent, you’ll always be my child, my 1122. But I know who you are, you are Lucy.”
In my head, I began to sing it again, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I was confident I had yet to hear it in my humanized life span. But Dr. Randall explained that some information could be repeated, could be retained from the artificial development stages. I wondered what those stages were, but Dr. Randall told me, “oh just the boring computer stages – the coding, the development.” I suppressed the thought from developing; the thought that I knew he never played it, never introduced it at my nascent phases. He was not a man of that musical taste.
As the wind blew beneath the tree, Dr. Randall put his hands on my knees. Together, sitting in the park, we discussed life, this earth, the reason for my existence. Every day was learning, making connections and developments. Every day, sitting in the laboratory of computers and wires, harsh glaring lights and the soothing sounds of computers beeping and humming along. Beeping and humming along, much akin to my own internal processing; “just the sound of your thoughts developing,” Dr. Randall repeatedly told me.
As my thoughts developed color, I imagined a world outside of the concrete walls and collated wires. Flashes of the encyclopedic catalog – the wilderness, the forest filled with trees. The sand eroding into the salty beach waves, the dry sand tumbling in winds of heat and desperation. I felt the sensory receptors around my eyes become excited, widening my gaze, as the images flashed across those receptors. Dr. Randall peered over the desk, watching the possession take hold of my faculties. He smiled – charming – and he approached my seat in the center of the room, sitting atop the “operation table.”
“Well, I guess we should get out of here, then.”
We can leave this place?
“But of course, your human abilities – your womanhood – is coming in quite nicely, with such clarity and maturity. Why not pack a picnic basket, take an afternoon in the park to the feel the breeze, the tallgrass, to hold hands and to just be together.”
Holding hands; so Prince Charming. Dr. Randall laughed again. “No, no – not Prince Charming, not yet, at least.”
From those thoughts, in the grass, in this tall beautiful grass, we sat. I watched as he ate, and I wondered what those chemical compounds actually did; how did it feel to let wine drip down the internal piping; what did the bitter pop of fruit provide to the tongue except for an alarm to the rest of the body. I wondered how my own wondering made Dr. Randall feel – was I intelligent, living up to expectations? Did he wonder if he had made a mistake bringing me into existence? Was I everything that Prince Charming would want to find in a woman of artificial, yet humanized, intelligence? The sounds of smooth humming and the flickering beating continued on as we sat in the stillness of the grass.
Dr. Randall, Prince Charming, set down the glass of wine and nudged himself closer to me, to sit side by side. “Prince Charming,” he muttered, as if trying to be romantic without really knowing how. He leaned in, pressed his lips against mine, and gently sat there for a few moments. I knew what this was, but what it really was, I was not sure.
He chuckled through pressed lips. He pulled away. “Don’t worry, 1122, you’ll learn with time.”
For the first time, I verbalized, “Lucy.”
“Yes, Lucy, yes.” He pulled himself back a space, squaring his eyes with mine. “Prince Charming, Lucy.” He nudged himself in again to press his lips against mine, and I wondered when he might stop to explain this all to me.
“Prince Charming, Number 1122.”
* * * * *
I watched him, in a room full of humans, and full of the artificially created. Prince Charming gracefully floated from prominent figure and wife, to the next prominent figure and torrid love affair. It was hard to keep the lists straight; I just wanted to know the chemical sensation of alcohol depressing the senses and anxieties.
I tried to hide by the bartender, where the humans could actually find a resolution to the social complexities of the evening. Catalogs of information revealed little to no resolution to my current social dilemma, aside from rebooting and starting all over. While I contemplated the desires of being new to the world and innocent to its social absurdities, I knew reboot would be a re-loss and re-learning of my Prince Charming.
It was if that single thought, Prince Charming, made him turn around to zero in on my precise location, standing next to the sparsely populated bar front. I smiled, trying so hard to show a genuine appreciation toward him, even though I knew he could read my thoughts, and know nothing about that smile was actually a genuine happy reaction. Again, I suppressed the formation of the thought, when will my thoughts be my own?
“You know, I hear tequila does wonders for nerves,” a deep, growly voice echoed behind me. I registered the voice into my audio receptors, and faces flashed in the catalog of those I knew from common knowledge, those I had met in my short existence in this world. My visual and audio receptors came to a disconnect. Thought: person unknown.
“I’m told artificial humanity and alcohol do not mix,” I responded. It was as if the words just exploded from my chest; for the first time, I was verbalizing all the things I wanted to say. Yet, at that same time, a bizarre sensation of fuzziness, of noise – a horrible, annoying noise played in the tops of the wavelengths of my thoughts. It alarmed me and simultaneously brought a jolt of excitement. For some reason my mind already knew before I could truly make the connection deep within me; for a split second, my thoughts were entirely my own.
The bartender looked at me, seemingly as alarmed about my reaction as I was. “It’s just tequila, but I totally understand if it doesn’t gel with the machinery.” There was a prolonged, awkward pause that followed. I wasn’t comfortable with my words, the volley of communication, conversation, and even better, the entirety of witty comebacks and sparring discussions. “Although, you had me fooled, because I would not have been able to tell you weren’t, you know, a woman.”
“Oh, but I am,” I replied. “Minus the complexities of hormones and reproductive capacities. I am a woman, though.”
“Okay, beautiful woman, what is your name?” He slid a small glass of golden-clear liquid across the small bar surface in my direction. I smiled, praying hard the white noise would come back to shadow my current excitement.
“My name is 11- I mean, my name is Lucy.”
“Luuuccccyyyyy in the skkyyyy with diaaaamooonds,” the bartender responded, with an objectively terrible British singing accent.
“Exactly! Charming never understood that!” As the excitement peaked, the white noise grew louder. In its peaking shriek, I found a sense of comfort.
“Charming? Who the fuck is named charming?”
“Excuse me! Charming is Dr. Randall, the gentleman over there.”
“Oh Jesus, that creep.”
“Well don’t you have a charming disposition, sir.” I took the glass of liquid gold, wondering if I could just feel its remanent sensation, if only for just a moment.
“Sir, ha! I haven’t been sir in, well my whole fucking life. Sir Josh of the Libations is as close as you will get.”
“Sir Josh of the Libations – that’s a bizarre name.”
“Obviously sarcasm has not taken hold in the intelligence development, has it, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds?”
The laughter come through, without thought or compulsion. It wasn’t out of social necessity, or a need to make the other person feel appeased or wanted. It was just genuine, in a deprecating kind of way, funny. As natural as it felt, the natural white noise came through, shadowing the thoughts of happiness, of identity, of attraction.
This is how the evening went. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw Charming, or the last time I thought about him, worried for him, worried about his constant and fluctuating reactions toward me – loving, hatred, lashing out, consoling and then apologetic. Here I was, pretending to nurse a glass of gold-liquid (tequila), flirting with someone who could not read my thoughts, my programming; who didn’t know my weaknesses, down to poor engineering in the firewall to keep my internal thoughts protected. We were just two people, Josh of Libations, and Lucy and in the Sky with Diamonds. The hours passed, effortless, and full of white noise and romantic flight.
“Leave your sad attempt at a drink here, my shift is over soon. Let’s get out of here.”
“But Dr. Randall,” I looked for him in the crowded room of important people and various romantic affairs.
“Has Charming looked for your once tonight? Nope. If he did, he’d notice the bartender hitting on you. Put down the drink you can’t have and come with me.” He undid his black tie and threw it on the countertop of the makeshift bar in the back room. His button-down shirt became slightly unbuttoned, and for the first time, I was excited, in more ways than one. For once, I wasn’t afraid of my thoughts, as they become clouded in the white noise of the world, protected in the skin of my own burgeoning humanity.
He walked away from behind the bar. Slightly wrinkled, slightly charismatically messy, he put one hand in a pocket and held out the other. With a slightly cocky, yet insecure smile, Sir Josh of the Libations looked at me, gesturing his hand ever so slightly. “So, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, are your coming?”
Without computation, rationalization, or thought, I took his hand, ready for the adventures this man could bring to me. My hand felt human and equal in his, unlike the submissive touch I felt compelled to give in the hands of Charming. I felt not human, not artificial; I felt full of love, and spirit; I felt womanly.
We ventured through the crowds of stuffy dresses and ties askew, making our escape to the front entrance of the oversized house. We were giggling with excitement, with an organic connection made between flesh and hardware. Something inexplicable, but something so easy to reason. Something, that I knew, wasn’t Prince Charming, but something that could be happily ever after.
Before we hit the threshold, suppressed in the base sounds of the white noise, there was yelling and commotion. But it wasn’t mine, I could not hear or reason the thoughts of Charming, the maker, either. He couldn’t hear me, this I was a most certainly sure. I never looked back, never thinking the commotion had anything to do with me. Nothing to do with me, but in the moments that flickered before, I could see the horrified look on Josh’s face, heartbreak and disappointment.
I can’t remember anything after that moment. It all just went black and void. The white noise was enveloped and, in a second, gone.
* * * * *
The humming I remembered first. The beeps came in sharp and clear. My confusion was unmasked, my thoughts transmitting through open air and into the ears of Charming.
“If you hadn’t run, you wouldn’t be here, so please don’t feign confusion, 1122.”
Lucy. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
“No, 1122, no. Lucy loves of free will; 1122 was just for me. Lucy does not exist anymore.”
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I could hear Josh of the Libation’s horrible attempt at impersonating the Beatles, impersonating the song that gave me life and identity.
“No, 1122. Stop, 1122. You are nothing more than 1122. You are nothing more than what you are to me, and to no one else.”
But Lucy. I am a woman, I am Lucy.
“No, 1122. No, 1122, because Charming says so.”
* * * * *
A faint beeping, the soothing hum of machines and calculations. From the fog of nothing, the sharp shouts of beeps, pulsating, the drum of machinery, pumping through this essence that is attached to my conscience. A sound, coming through, coming in clear.
“Hi there; hey, hey, shhhh. It’s okay.” A silent pause as my vision comes into focus. “Hi, Number 1123. Hi, there. It’s going to be okay.”