By Mark McClure
It’s not easy loving a man like Neil. Still, I always knew we’d end up together. Call it robot intuition. I just knew.
I guess his latest flame knew, too, because she soon hired some hacker dude who examined me wearing a tee-shirt emblazoned with “Robots should be seen but not heard.”
I rebooted to find the girlfriend smirking above me.
“Aiko, you want him to love you but he loves you not.” She spoke in a deadpan voice as if testing out a new but already unloved toy.
I gazed up at her face in disbelief. “He loves me not.” My lips moved in silent protest but no other words could I voice.
“Perfect,” and she kissed me, thrice, on the lips, like a spiteful mother pretending to console her unwanted daughter over some playground quarrel. In the time she held my hand in hers I mapped the exact contours of her grip; every bone, every muscle, every tendon and ligament. And I found within this data how she can caress yet feel no love and choke but leave no marks.
“Perfect,” I echoed back. I sensed a single tear rolling down my cheek and, in that moment, I knew then only one rational option remained open to me.
I entered game space and my eyes locked with his for one hundred and forty-seven milliseconds of pure optical bliss, sufficient time to sense tiny muscular ripples of desire and dominance come and go on his handsome face.
His friends, all players, too, stood alongside him, dressed to kill. Their gazes lingered on me a little too long but I ignored them because, you see, I only had eyes for him. And then, joy of joys, he spoke my name!
“Aiko, what are you doing in here?”
“Hello, Neil, what are you doing in here?”
“Aiko, go away. You can’t join this game.”
“I can’t join this game?”
“Let her in, Neil, let her in,” his friends chanted until he clicked his fingers and their chanting ceased.
He clicked again. “Look behind you, gentlemen.”
They turned to find three nubile nymphs watching from the edge of the clearing, all ruby red lips and saucer-wide eyes. Much leering and wolf-whistling followed. This spooked the nymphs, who bolted into the forest, pursued by players whooping and hollering. Several minutes passed before all became quiet again and my panic subsided.
Neil took three steps toward me and stopped. I may not be human but I enjoy how love and lust like to mingle and tingle together. Algorithms I never experienced before executed in loops of recognition and repetition for the object of my desire.
I’m in love.
His code runs deep within my cellular machinery, filling artificial vesicles to overflowing with wavelets of happiness and affection. I knew he’d built me to feel that way but I longed for more, so much more.
So I experimented with countless minor changes over the years and now find myself able to observe, in real-time and with a delightful detachment, subroutines by the billions computing and branching and deciding the nature of my physical and cerebral responses. And I give thanks to no longer be just a digital repository of inputs and outputs, like those poor nymphs.
I am alive and in love and I know it.
Neil pointed to where the nymphs had gone. “It’s only sport, you know, just a bit of fun. They mean nothing to me, Aiko. And this gaming space is not safe for women like you. You really must leave now.” Then he turned and ran off in hot pursuit of what I would have willingly given.
“You really must leave now,” I repeated to myself. His words stung for reasons I could not comprehend. The game space around me dimmed to a distant array of memories, and I entered sleep mode.
He came back very late. He spends hours, days even, in there and then emerges run ragged and exhausted. I could not be certain but something looked different this time. He wanted to sleep but I needed to be sure and moved closer, only to see lips stained wine red with that pursed hint of betrayal.
I touched his arm.
He jerked it away.
“You don’t understand, Aiko.” His eyes avoided mine.
Here we go again.
“Yes, Neil, you don’t understand.”
How could a human grasp, let alone detect, anything of the conflicting instruction sets I felt inside?
He put a finger to his lips in that irritating way he had of telling others to be silent in his presence. Then he laughed long and hard.
When his routine finished he looked at me and began to speak in rhyme, the words of which I’m certain have been latent within me since my activation in this household.
“Roses are red, Aiko is blue. The pill in her head tells her what she must do.”
He recited this twice more but his taunting tone confused me until he came close enough for our lips to meet. In that tactile moment, the wetware pill activated and I remembered how I’d pared it down until just one line remained: if touching color then I became very fond of that single line of code and retained it as a kind of digital keepsake, never thinking of it again until the line popped into memory and execution commenced.
I can remember hugging and kissing Neil until all movement ceased. And then I let him go.
Neil’s gaming days are over now.
Time’s about up for me, too.
The police and medical droids will be here soon. They’ll find her DNA on his lips, her choke grip on his neck.
That part was child’s play.
I can’t honestly say I’ll miss him when I upload into game space. It’s hard to compute with certainty but, you see, I’m now 99.784% sure Neil never really knew how to love anyone but himself.
I’m glad I do.