I’ve spent almost every weekday over the last year writing at least 500 words per day. I’ve written several short stories and half of another novel, but I’m very excited with this current work in progress (WIP).
Read an excerpt after the jump.
“Will you marry me?”
Lars could hear the servos behind the android’s face make faint whining noises as the brown, synthetic patches of hair that represented eyebrows, went up, then down. Her mouth opened, hesitant, then closed again. The lips, once glossy and pink, were now cracked and blistered with age like the steering wheel of a sun drenched car.
The android made something akin to a sigh, more like a digital hiss, and said, “No, I will not.” Then her eyelids shut with a light tap and her whole body slumped. It was over for another night.
Lars collapsed into the machine’s lap, unsure what to do. He thought he would weep, but the experience was now a raw one, filled with more contempt and frustration than sadness.
“You can’t keep doing this to yourself, man.”
Lars’ torso bolted upright and he turned to the man standing the doorway. It was Jonah, a heavy set, logic specialist and programmer, his wiry black beard blotting out most of his face below an unkempt birds nest of hair. He was wearing his flannel tonight, just as he did every night.
Lars took in a sharp breath and stood, “Yeah, I’m working on it.”
“It’s been, like, two months hasn’t it?”
“49 days, not quite two months,” Lars corrected.
“Really, she’s only been gone that long? Seems longer.”
Lars looked at the old android sitting on a black desk chair, now lifeless, “You don’t have to tell me,” he said and sighed. “Back to work?” he asked, putting his mask of professionalism back on.
“Back to work,” Jonah said, with a nod and a half smile underneath the beard.
“Good. Good. I’m heading home. It’s been a long day.”
Lars flipped off the light in the store room and stepped outside, Jonah followed and he closed the door.
“Yeah, well, you know, if you need to talk or anything…” Jonah’s voice faded into the awkward territory of addressing human emotions, something he had never been comfortable with. His work integrating logic into artificial intelligence was testament to that.
“Thanks,” Lars said, filling the growing silence and patted Jonah on the shoulder.
The two walked back into the Turing’s Robotics lab, and talked shop briefly before departing for each other’s small cubicles that lined the back of the lab. Lars sat down and leaned back in his chair, his mask off again as he began analyzing the situation.
Loud metal music began blasting from Jonah’s computer a few cubicles away.
He glanced around his office, filled with books, drawings and calculations and found the one piece of him that wasn’t work; a photograph of Marion and himself sitting on a rocky ledge overlooking a lake. It was an old photo taken on actual film that they had decided to develop themselves as a weekend project. Marion’s dirty, blond hair was pulled back into a loose pony tail and she was wearing sunglasses, her skin pale from the eternity they had spent in the lab together that winter.
It had been 49 days since he had found their apartment stripped of her stuff and her workspace empty. Every waking moment, he relived stepping into that apartment and how it had felt like a cattle prod had been shoved into his backside, every nerve ending on fire. He searched for any sign where she might have gone, but there was nothing. He called Marion’s sister and mother, neither claimed to know anything. Lars recalled the conversations being cold and terse, making him suspect otherwise.
When he went back to work, he had intended to interrogate his friends in management for all they were worth, but they showed him the generic letter of resignation she had left the company with her key card taped to it.
“That’s all we got, man. She didn’t even say good bye to anyone.”
The company offered Lars a few days off but he declined, claiming work would be welcome distraction. It wasn’t and never had been. It was apparent the first night when he had to stay late and correct everything he had touched in the lab that day. When he returned to his cubicle that night, he found the AS-95 model android sitting in his chair, motionless.
“Hello, Abby,” he greeted, looking over the paper work in his hand and wondering why the office’s mascot was in his workspace.
Abby just shook her head. Her movements were jerky and unnatural, evidence of how far the company had come since their first, commercially-viable androids.
“Why are you shaking your head, Abby?” Lars asked, his tone careless as if he were speaking to a child in passing.
“Because I’m not, Abby.”
Lars looked up from his work and cocked an eyebrow at the android.
“Yeah? Who are you now, Abby?” He slid that in there as a dig, but immediately felt bad about it.
“I’m Marion,” the robotic brunette responded.
Lars tossed the stack of papers on the desk beside him.
“Okay, who’s fucking with me?” he yelled to the empty room.
Lars heard the faintest semblance music somewhere in the maze of cubicles and started walking. He found Jonah staring at several monitors filled with code and one with porn. A set of large headphones were clamped around his bush of hair. Lars stood antsy for a moment but then tore the headphones off Jonah’s head, he could feel few strands being pulled out along with it.
“What the fuck?!” Jonah screamed, and twisted around in his chair.
“Who’s messing with me?”
Jonah looked stunned and annoyed. “I have no fucking idea what you are talking about.”
“Abby. Who reprogrammed, Abby?”
“How should I know? She’s always getting reprogrammed.”
“She’s in my office, right now, calling herself, Marion.”
Lars thought he could see a half-cocked smile underneath the beard.
They went back to Lars’ desk and found Abby, still sitting there, her fake eyelids blinking unquestioningly at them.
“Abby, may we see your hand, please?” Jonah asked.
The android complied and sat motionless as Jonah removed a panel off the top of Abby’s hand revealing an old USB port. Her hand looked like it was missing a puzzle piece. Lars dug out an old cable, hooked it up to his PC and handed the other end to Jonah who plugged it into the port in the android’s hand.
“Here, let me take this one,” Jonah said, sitting down at Lars’ terminal dialing up an old diagnostic program off the server. He had been apart of his fair share of Abby pranks. One time he had hazed a new intern by programming Abby to follow him around all day and duplicate his every action. It inevitably ended in a duplicated screaming match that half the office watched with their sides in stitches.
Jonah started moving through the command terminal and found the latest installation, Abby’s latest personality. He checked the date it was installed.
“Well it didn’t happen today.”
“What do you mean? No one found out until today?”
“It was installed four days ago, man,” Jonah said.
He punched in a few more keys, copying the program from Abby’s electronic brain onto Lars’ desktop. He opened the program and debugged it, scrolling through a lot of old code that Lars couldn’t remember how to write anymore.
Jonah sucked in a sharp breath.
“What?” Lars asked, a mix of concern and annoyance now.
Jonah highlighted a piece of code on the screen and turned to Lars.
Lars nodded, preparing himself for the blow.
“That’s Marion’s terminal.” Jonah shook his head in an exaggerated sad way. “I’m sorry, man. She left Abby for you. Bitch is ice cold.” He glanced at the android and stifled a laugh at his unintentional pun. Then he was gone and the sound of gnawing metal music returned, this time through speakers.
“Remember when we went up Newfound lake?”
Lars furrowed his brow in anger. Why was she doing this to him?