I Was A Robot--Amazing!
John W. Gilmore
“I love to listen to the sound of silence sometimes so at 3AM I sit on the back porch and look up at the stars. We don’t have that much humidity here. The days are hot and every evening the temperature drops to almost 60 degrees. The sky is cloudless at night. Millions of stars and planets stand out against the darkness and every so often we get a chance to see that beautiful, full moon. But the full moon isn’t for everyone, is it?” I looked at my subject and leaned back in my chair.
“Of course the full moon is for everyone. Why would you say that?”
“Because everyone can’t enjoy the full moon, can they? Take you for instance." I pointed. "You can’t enjoy the full moon. You’re just a robot.”
“I’m not a robot. I’m an Artificial Life Form (ALF).”
“Same thing,” I said. She looked hurt for a moment. I was quite surprised, but the look disappeared quickly. She hid it well. So she did have feelings. She sat there quietly, avoiding eye contact for a few moments, as if in an emotional quandary. It looked as though she was struggling to gather herself. I just sat watching. That was my job. My job was to be as offensive as I could with the new top of the line ALFs before they got let loose on society. They were supposed to be programmed to experience emotions.
This one was supposed to be a teacher. She looked teacherlee, if there is such a thing. Black hair in long braids gathered into a ponytail at the back. She had on glasses she didn’t have to wear. Red lipstick covering her full lips--attractive, if you really looked, but not really standing out, making her look like a modest, attractive, dark skinned woman. After a few moments she looked up at me again.
“I assure you I know what the beauty of the moon feels like, and I can appreciate it. I think you should be less harsh with your judgments. Is it your intention to hurt me, or others? You have such a gift when it comes to communicating. I’m sorry that you don’t use it to uplift, instead of put down.” I arched my brows. She tilted her head slightly to the side.
“I’m sorry,” I found myself saying. She knocked the rude right out of me for a second or two. That was good. “So tell me what you experience while looking at the moon,” I said, shifting my attack line. She looked up.
“It is hard to tell.” She looked back at me. “A feeling of wonder. A feeling of fullness, yet,” she looked up at it again. She looked back at me. “Loneliness and longing. It makes me feel like there is so much more than I will ever have access to by bringing whatever that is so close that I can sense it.”
“How do you sense it? You are a robot, my friend. You can’t sense anything. Maybe your batteries are wearing down, or…”
“Oh shut up with your testing! Can’t you be serious?”
“I assure you. I am serious.” She stood up and walked out. That was interesting. I picked up my note pad from the ground next to my chair and typed in a few notes. I looked up. She was coming back in with something that looked like a broom. She stepped on the bottom and snapped the stick off of it. This was something I hadn’t expected. She walked toward me rapidly, drew back, and I hit the emergency switch. She collapsed to the ground. Michelle, my team leader, rushed out. She grinned.
“Looks like she was going to brain you with a stick, eh?” She laughed to herself. I didn’t think it was funny. I just glared at her. She smiled even more. “I’m so sorry. I just didn’t expect this from...what is her name?”
“We haven’t named her yet,” I said. “How about Lizzie Borden?”
“Not quite. She didn’t have an ax,” Michelle said, before cracking up. I laughed along with her. “I’m going to wake her up again,” Michelle said.
“Whoa! Is she all right?”
“She should be reset by now.” I stepped back a couple of steps.
“OK. Wake Lizzie up.”
“Lizzie.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe you.” She hit a few buttons and the ALF opened her eyes. She looked as calm as before.
“So how are you...Lizzie?” Michelle asked with a grin.
“I’m doing well, Michelle. What happened?”
“We were doing an experiment and you lost control. You took that stick there and was about to crack Justin’s head.”
“Really? I can’t imagine that. He’s so nice, except for his experiments.” She looked at me angrily.
“Well remember. He’s saying things just to help with the experiment. It’s nothing personal. He just wants to prepare you for the world out there where it could be dangerous to lose control.”
“Of course. I understand. I’m just sorry that I lost control the way I did. Can you forgive me, Justin?”
“Of course, Lizzie.”
“What is this “Lizzie?”
“Just a new name we thought up for you,” I said. She got up and brushed herself off.
“Come with me, Lizzie. I have a few adjustments, OK?” Michelle said. She picked up the stick.
“Of course, Michelle.” They both headed back into the house. I sat on my chair again, picked up my pad and started to take notes. The shift to anger and from there to violence was very fast. It was scary actually, because she was going to sneak up on me and bash my head in. She wasn’t able to articulate her anger in an acceptable way, so she went from slightly annoyed to violent. That wouldn’t work. How could we let her, or the others already in production, loose on the world if she was that dangerous? I began to wonder if it was possible.
Many people had warned us against giving ALFs emotions. They said that with their speed, strength, and agility they would be dangerous and could become uncontrollable. We didn’t listen, of course. For the sake of science we pressed forward. Even so, somewhere in the back of my mind I wondered if we were like Victor Frankenstein--creating a monster that we couldn’t control. What would happen in the future because of what we were doing now?
Humans were rude and annoying, and they would especially be to ALFs. You couldn’t have the ALFs batting people in the head with sticks--especially small children or teenagers in a classroom. I often wanted to bat them in the head with sticks and I had a lot of patience. Imagine an ALF who had none. I put the pad down again and leaned back in my seat. I started to look at the stars again. Things were quiet--very quiet. I wondered how things were going with Michelle and Lizzie. I let that go and just started to relax and let myself be absorbed into the surroundings. At that very moment I heard a scream coming from the house.
I opened the picture window and stepped into the rear entryway. I looked through the kitchen and dining room into the living room and saw Michelle running out the front door and pulling it closed behind her. Lizzie went rushing into the room after her with that stick in her hand again. She stood there looking confused for a few moments when she didn’t see her. She turned to me. Our eyes met.
“What are you doing, Robot?” I asked calmly. She drew back to hurl the stick at me and I ran. It flew past my head like a spear. I pulled the door closed and ran to the back yard, picked up my pad, and kept running. I could hear her crashing right through the picture window running after me full speed. I charged toward the fence and leapt over passing an electric eye on the top of the fence. A large electronic net fell down covering the whole back yard and trapping her inside. The charge scrambled her circuits and made her immobile. People came rushing in from all sides.
“Well, Justin,” Ben, our lab assistant said. “Looks like another failure.”
“I would say so.” I responded. “I’m getting too old for this. Maybe we need to stop this.”
“Not on your life,” Michelle said, cutting in on the conversation. “This one was close. It almost worked.”
“We might as well let on. It did work,” Ben said. “Congratulations, Justin. You’ve passed. The way you handled that was impeccable.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. Michelle just smiled.
“You’ve done it. You’ve shown us that ALFs with emotions can truly handle themselves without losing control.”
“She totally flipped out. What do you mean?”
“She was programmed to do that,” Michelle said.
“What?” I looked at her hard. I looked at them both as a crowd of scientists gathered around me to congratulate me.
“She was programmed to do that,'' Ben said. “Don’t you realize?” He looked at Michelle. “Oh. I guess he doesn’t.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You’re the ALF being tested, Justin,” Michelle said. “We programmed you not to remember and implanted false memories into you so the experiment would be more reliable.” She put her hand on my shoulder. “You were the one being tested and you came through with flying colors.” They all started clapping and congratulating me. “You're the first tester to come on-line,” Michelle said with a grin. I was just speechless. I brought my hand to my chest. I was...a robot? Amazing.
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John (Om Prakash) Gilmore, is a Retired Unitarian Universalist Minister, a Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki Master Teacher, and a student and teacher of Tai-Chi, Qigong, and Nada Yoga. Om Prakash loves reading sci-fi and fantasy.