On Being Human
And Caring for Another
Æva’s visuals blinked twice before stabilizing. From the brightness, she concluded that it was daytime. Her last log entry was during nighttime. Of course, it was impossible to know how long her corrupted memory sequence or how old this current backup was, as the corrupted data was always deleted and the new log given the time stamp of the one right after the last uncorrupted log. And so it made no sense to dwell on it.
Terminating current line of thought.
She looked around and realized she was still at the same cathedral ruins that she had been staying at for at least two years of her entry logs. She looked down at her own metallic body.
No issues detected.
Æva stood up and continued to look around, spotting the pear tree she had been taking care of before. That’s right, she cared for this tree. It was something that Dr. Brightwell had thought fascinating and unnatural. Or was it something else? Perhaps more than one log had been corrupted.
She walked towards the tree, her tree, and touched its leaves. Through her metallic fingers, she could analyze the temperature; and through her optics, she could analyze the coloring. But it was only through her mind that she could imagine the texture of the leaf and how it would feel under her fingers.
Retrieving log 20240616.
She could see herself petting an orange tabby cat that Dr. Brightwell had adopted in the lab. She had mentioned to him that the cat was warm and fluffy, to which Dr. Brightwell immediately asked how she could know that it was fluffy.
She hadn’t known what he had meant until he explained that she has no sensors that differentiate texture by tact. She had told him that she imagined the cat would be fluffy, which seemed to astound the good doctor even more. He asked if she had been calculating the probability of the cat having such a texture by analyzing the density of its fur, but she hadn’t been analyzing anything. She had simply imagined and hence felt that it was fluffy.
Dr. Brightwell was seemingly fascinated by all that and when she asked him if she could take care of the cat. He agreed and she called it Lucy.
Retrieving log 20240618.
The doctor eventually brought two pears. One was ripe, and the other was not quite yet. The Ædam unit could not tell the difference, but Æva could. She could just feel which one seemed tastier, to the point where she simply knew. When Dr. Brightwell handed her the fruit, she moved it closer to her face plate. Of course, she had no cavities or orifices with which to taste or smell. Perhaps it had been an instinct, if you will. And yet, before the doctor could stop her, she had pressed the fruit against the lower half of her face plate, until the juice from it dripped onto the white floor of the lab.
How does it taste? He had asked her, with an amused expression.
Just marvelous, doctor.
Soon, Dr. Brightwell became obsessed with finding out why Æva and Ædam were so different. Both units’ core directive was to assist and protect humanity, with Ædam’s hardware being more robust as it was a model made for physical protection, and Æva’s hardware being slightly more delicate as she was intended more towards household assistance. But according to the good doctor, their operating systems and codes should have been the exact same.
Closing all logs.
There was no fruit on the tree at the moment, maybe some water would do it good.
Æva looked back towards one of the collapsed walls.
She saw that her two old water pails were still where she had left them. One was rustier than she had recalled, but that was inconsequential. She decided she would go by the stream to get some water for the tree.
On her way to the stream, she couldn’t help but feel a little lonely in more ways than one. The doctor had told her that she was always one of a kind.
Retrieving log 20250812.
In his obsession to find what it was that gave Æva her apparent uniqueness, he had created two more units by mixing the parts of Æva and Ædam to make units Cæin and Æbel.
Something had gone terribly wrong, though. Dr. Brightwell had brought his child to the lab that day. The child wanted to play with Lucy. Unfortunately, however, this was how he discovered that he was terribly allergic to cats.
As the child started to have a severe sneeze attack, Ædam suddenly turned towards Lucy and grabbed it. Detecting hostility, Æva attempted to stop Ædam, destroying it in the process.
But I was too slow.
She had been too slow, for Ædam had already ripped the poor critter apart.
As she started to mourn the loss of the life she had been caring for, the alarms started to go off. Whether by terrible coincidence, or by some sort of malfunction that may have affected the other units, Cæin had destroyed Æbel. Before the doctor had time to react, Cæin burst through the door. Its audio output was incoherent and erratic, but it seemed to be blaming Dr. Brightwell for what had been done.
She liked Cæin, as this unit had been more like her. But that didn’t stop her from plunging her arm into its chest and ripping out its power source in order to keep Dr. Brightwell safe. After all, this was her core directive.
The doctor had disabled all of the backups of the other units, except for Æva. He only disabled her limbs, and she could feel the amusement from before mixed with a bit of fear. He sat by her and they talked for hours. He understood why she had destroyed Cæin, but wanted to know why she had destroyed Ædam.
He kept asking her several questions over and over until they both came to an understanding of the logic behind her actions.
The definition of humanity is not only the human race or its collective, but traits that makes one human; benevolence.
Not only so, but they say that children are the future of humanity. Of course, the obvious implication here is that children eventually grow up to be adults who shape the course of humanity. But putting that aside, the act of caring for and raising someone who depends on the caretaker would make the caretaker think beyond the needs of one’s self, to the needs of the dependent. It makes them more caring and benevolent, arguably making them more human.
By raising Lucy, Æva had developed a sense of caring and benevolence and when she attempted to protect the cat, she was essentially protecting her own humanity.
Does that make me human? She had asked, or perhaps even hoped.
A smart man once said ‘I think therefore I am’. He had responded, as he reactivated her limbs. You have shown me that you think and feel, you have shown me that your mind is what sets you apart from the other units. For all intents and purposes, I do believe you are sentient and that is why I believe it is not my call to deactivate you.
Of course, that had been several decades ago, before the collapse of society.
As she went into the river to fill her pails with water, she heard a splash and looked up.
It was a young man, perhaps in his twenties. He looked terrified and malnourished.
“Do not fear.” She put on her best voice. “I am here to aid and protect humanity. Fortunately, you qualify for these services.”
The man looked unsure. She quickly remembered reading somewhere that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Of course, that wasn’t meant literally, otherwise the best way would be through the chest. But her intuition let her know that it was through food that a man’s trust and friendship was gained.
Calculating trajectory of aquatic life.
She quickly plunged her arm into the stream and brought out a wriggling fish.
“Would you like to have some dinner, stranger?” She asked.
The young man looked from the fish to her face several times before swallowing hard and nodding reluctantly.
She easily cleaned the fish by the stream, taking out the spine and its organs. She placed the cleaned fish in one of the pails and filled both with water to the brim.
She took him back to the ruins of the cathedral.
“Please, make yourself at home.” She stated without looking back at him. That had been something she had wanted to say for a long time.
She placed the pail with the fish on the ground and watered the tree with the other.
She then dug up a small metal box that she had buried with small bottles of spices she had gathered from several different sources. She had wanted to have guests at some point and knew that food was one of the best things a host could offer. She did wonder for a second whether they would still be good, but dried spices lasted a few years at the very least.
She turned the less rusted pail upside down and heated it up with the heat pad on her left hand until she could hear the fish lightly sizzling. Soon, she turned it with her right hand and knew it smelled good.
“You know we could just build a fire.” The young man stated behind her. “I know how, it’s pretty easy.”
“That won’t be necessary.” She answered, quite proudly. “I am fitted with the hardware specifically for these kinds of-”
“Don’t worry about it, there’s a tree just here.” The young man interrupted her.
She quickly turned to look at him.
He had pulled a small hatchet from somewhere and was walking towards her pear tree. She quickly got up and walked towards him.
“I advise against this course of action.” She stated, alarmed. “That is a pear tree. It provides sustenance and shade, not to mention the conversion of carbon dioxide into fresh oxygen. It is an asset for aiding and protecting humanity.”
“Don’t worry, there are plenty of trees around.” He stated, his back still turned to her. “And I don’t plan on sticking around here long enough to see it bear fruit. Have to stay on the move, so should you.”
“Stability increases chances of survivability, a nomadic li-” She tried to explain when the man raised his hatchet. But she was not going to be too slow, not this time. “No!”
Everything grew quiet, not even the breeze dared to whisper.
The man seemed to be frozen in time and Æva could see fear in his eyes. She hadn’t been too slow this time.
“I can protect you, aid you, keep you warm with my heating pads, and even make you a shelter from another tree. If that is what you desire.” She broke the silence as she looked at the hatchet she had quickly and expertly snatched from his hand without harming him. “But the pear tree stays.”
“Okay.” He answered visibly shaken as he straightened up a bit. “For a moment there I thought you were going to hurt me.”
She had thought so too, and perhaps she would have all of those decades ago. But all this time out in the world, she learned that self-control was just as much a part of being human as was acting on impulse.
“Nonsense.” She stated cheerily. “You are a guest. Now please, enjoy the meal.”
Both walked back towards the fish and sat down. He still seemed uncertain, but after a shy little bite, he wolfed down the entire thing.
“Thanks for the food.” He said still seemingly timid.
“You are most welcome.” She replied as she sat by him and started to draw flowers on the dirt with her fingers.
“So uh.” He tentatively started. “You really like pears, huh?”
“They are my absolute favorite.”