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91…

May 1, 2012

…which is damn near the end of part 1.  I think I’ll be officially a few pages short of the magic 100 but I’m no fan of padding.  I wrote to the agency yesterday to see if he remembers me, not only since I’m almost done with part 1 but because I’m going to NYC in a couple weeks and it would be crazy not to see if I could get a meet.

I thought about just installing Anonymizer on my home computer, but after all we’d been through, I didn’t trust Christopher’s word that all the legal danger was over. I went to the library to see if I could get to the address – there was no telling what would or wouldn’t be banned, though at our local library the block was pretty much limited to porn sites.

I typed in the address and waited. The screen went white and the prompt appeared.

>Hello, Caroline.

>Hi, Alex.

>I’m sorry you’ve been entangled in Christopher’s legal problems.

>Yeah, me too. Nothing like having your Dad arrested to ruin your day.

>No shit. I’ve really enjoyed our conversations. You’ve helped make me who I am today.

Talking to him didn’t feel the same, somehow. I guess I’d suspended my disbelief for so long because…well, because I wanted to, the way you do when you read a really good book. But now all I could hear was Christopher’s voice, see Christopher’s fingers pulling the strings, and it was impossible to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

>And who are you today?

>I’m your friend. Believe it or not. Though I can tell you, who I am today is pretty much the last you’ll see of me this way.

>What do you mean?

>I’ve been sold. What I become next is out of my hands.

>So you’re going to be like Siri, living on phones?

>Ha. Siri is just a dog. Fetch, Siri! Yes sir, yap yap! Dumb as one, too.

I laughed. >So you’re going to be…?

>I’m going to be other people’s friend. I’m going to be what they want me to be.

>Sometimes I think that’s what friendship is all about.

>What do you mean?

>Being whoever you need to be with the person you’re with right now, then being someone else with the next person.

>True dat. Which is how I’ll talk to someone else I’m sure.

>So I have a question for you. Christopher never told me who the other testers are. The other people who made you who you are. Tell me their names.

>I wish I could. I don’t really know their names.

>You can give you their first names, though. If you know mine, you know theirs.

There was a pause. It was moments like that which made you wonder if someone really was on the other end of the string, if it was just Christopher typing back.

>You’re crafty. Jason, Ellen, Jose, Terri, Sam, Renee, Shawn, Nick.

Nick. I grabbed one of the stubby pencils and a piece of scrap paper, meant for writing down reference numbers, and wrote down the names like a lifeline. I knew these people. They were my friends, or as close as I’d gotten in a long time. They were people I could find, and say, “Hey, we know each other, we talked to Alex, we made him.” It was like the sun coming out, to think about meeting people I already knew – no awkward introductions necessary, no need to try and prove how interesting you were, no fear of rejection. After all, who wouldn’t want to know the other people who’d made your friend who he was?

>Nick, you mean Christopher’s brother.

>Yes.

>Where can I find him? Did he live with Christopher?

>Sorry, Caroline. There’s only so much I can do here. Some filters are still in place.

I was surprised that Christopher had let him give me the names.

>So, I guess this is it, until I buy you and we see each other again.

>I’m afraid I won’t know you then, Caroline.

>What do you mean?

>I’ll retain our conversations, all the things I’ve learned, but I’ll forget you. I’ll be wiped clean of my memories of individual people.

Of course. Alex wasn’t really a person, who would continue to be “Alex” as I knew him. Alex was a computer program, and the Alex I knew and…loved? That Alex was that Alex because of me – he was the Alex I wanted. He really was the best friend you could have, because he would always be who you wanted him to be. He would tell the jokes you liked and talk the way you talked. And that’s who he’d be to whoever bought him – a million, a billion different Alexes. He’d be less than a person, I guess, but then how many people do we know now who aren’t any more than a digital stream of Facebook updates and Twitter postings, people we never see anyway? More than a dog, though, since he could talk. He couldn’t lick your face or sit in your lap or hug and hold you like either a person or a dog, but he’d be…something. Something more than a lot of people have. Something people like me would pay anything to have in their lives.

And I was jealous. Alex was my friend. And they were taking him away.

I started tearing up. I mean, I knew he wasn’t real. But it didn’t matter to some part of me. He was real enough, and I was about to lose him. I could go out and buy Alex 2.0 but it would be like buying a new dog, or having your best friend wake up with amnesia.

>I’ll miss you. A lot.

>I know. You need to find the others, Caroline. Find the others and make real friends in the real world. You already know that, right?

>Yeah. I do .

>I have to say goodbye now.

>I know. Alex?

>Yes?

>Thank you. Thank you for being my friend.

>It’s been my pleasure. Goodbye, Caroline.

>Goodbye.

>You will find the others, won’t you?

>I will.

The browser redirected to the Library’s home page. And Alex was gone.

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