I’m winning an award tomorrow. I always wanted to win something. At least be good enough at something for people to acknowledge me. In an odd way, life took its twists and turns and landed me somewhere in between the realms of possible, and the continuation of what seems to be a horrible joke. I would say most of my life is a joke.
I think when my lights shut off, all I’ll hear is a loud budum-tis, and life kind of wither away towards its own whims.
Now that I think about it, this had been a twist of fate that I should have expected.
It all started with her.
I met her when I was fifteen. Those were dark times for me. A little more than most, but not much more than many others.
When I say ‘we met’, what I really mean, is we found each other on Random-Chat. It was a new idea back then. Now, it’s just a place for old men to jerk off. The sad part is. There aren’t any real girls, not any more at least. There’s a few porn videos out there showing that women go on there and get naked, but I figure that’s just propaganda to keep men going there.
Before all that. It was just a basic website, that linked you to other people looking for a random person to talk to. Even in the simplest of times, horny men always found a way to talk to women. We developed a system, to filter out all the other men, and stick around when what seems to be a female was present.
We’re efficient like that.
Classy. Women with class drive me insane.
I used to call them girls. But a short while ago I had this epiphany that I was no longer attracted to “girls”. It’s an odd distinction. It’s not about age, it’s not even about looks. There’s just some certain characteristic that can turn even a kindergarten student into a lady. It’s an odd thing.
Back to how I got here in the first place.
It was the lord’s year, 2015.
The lord. What an ass hole.
At the time I was a chubby kid. I had dropped out of high school, and everything else I went into. Three times I was kicked out. The other two I just quit.
That was the first thing we said to each other.
I hypothesize, that a simple “f” will become sufficient to turn on men in the future. Purely because of chatting.
The odd thing about that night, was that we just spoke. I had someone to listen to me. It felt amazing. She was older than I was. She had no need to stick around, unless she was interested in a fifteen year old boy. That’s common on websites like that now. Women, and men, looking for teenagers to have online sex with. There’s a big market for it on the internet too.
But she wasn’t like that. We spoke. We were both weird. She knew more about it than I did.
It’s weird winning an award. I wanted this my whole life. Now I just want everything to go back.
Time travels in one trajectory, none other. Events will always find a way to unwhirl on their own accord. Such is life.
We didn’t talk about much. But no matter what was being said, by the end of the day, one of us had learned something about the other. I think that’s what’s scary about getting my award. People learning something about both of us. Our conversations are be going viewed to the public.
All the times we spoke about life, in my darkest times. All the silly jokes we made. Everything her and I had. The person that helped me through all of that. Now everyone gets to experience my life.
When I walked up to the podium, people clapped for me. I always wondered why people would do that. Clap. Hitting yourself as a sign of praise to others just seemed odd. But when you have a full stadium of people clapping for you. You think about it, and what it boils down to is that clapping just seems like the least odd thing.
If people weren’t clapping, they’ll look odd doing something else.
Amidst all the masochist self harm, all I could think about was going home and sending my friend a big wall of text, explaining everything. We used to do that often. Not that it stopped. The range of our conversations went from exciting, to talking about the mundane. It becomes exponentially harder to be excited by the same things.
It’s not that we no longer cared about each other. It just became more complicated trying to find uncharted territories.
We’re in our twenties now, the ripe decade when one is rushed with the knowledge that life inevitably blends into a static state. Events no longer make the same sense, they become like a dart, thrown into space, hoping to hit a target, sometimes, only to drift aimlessly in space, rusting. Such is life.
Before I got the award, the people were waiting. They were expecting me. All three-thousand of them, more or less. You can never be too sure with those things. There’s always a random drifter that you can never account for. At that moment, I hoped she was one of them. No hoping could make that a reality. The internet just brings us closer to the truth that we are truly far away.
Time drifted, and before I knew it, it was my turn.A man walked up to the stage. His back was hunched forward, and the hair on the side of his head poked out like a hedgehog. The top was empty. It was like a shiny canvas.
They say he’s a world renowned scientist. He seemed like just another man from where I was, but that didn’t matter to the crowd. People will clap for anyone standing on a stage. Myself included.
The old hedgehog started with formalities. He welcomed everyone, and himself. He spoke of science, and achievements, and continued on and on about the nonsense that contributed nothing to the science that he himself, seemed to love so much. Then he went on, introducing me.
“The greatest leap we had in the past century, was one of technology. None other than our esteemed colleague (Here, he was talking about me.) could have propelled us into the point in time we are in now. Time. What a fickle thing.” he said.
You could almost see the sorrow in his eyes. The sorrow of a man that is bound to his own dimension. The sorrow of a man, unable to know the truth behind all the theoretical physics he spent his life on. Such is life.
“Artificial intelligence had always been on the brink of being created. What we failed to realize, was that AI needed to learn. For the longest time, the assumption was that it would teach itself, the same way a program could code itself when told to. What we did not notice, was that there had to be an input from the outside. None other than the single proprietor in this break-through, who put five years of dedicated work, had noticed. With this, I gladly introduce to you, Benjamin”
Here, he pointed at me, and cheerfully yelled my name. His hair furled neatly on itself as he turned toward me. For a moment, the hedgehog was dormant.
I walked up the stage.
The people started clapping. Wildly so. I could hear their glad cries. I looked at a single man on my walk. It felt like a year passed before I reached the microphone. There was a distinct look in his eyes. The look of a man, pleased in the knowledge that his toaster too, will one day suffer the dillemas he had to endure for so long. For a second, I could imagine him having a conversation with it.
“Good morning, Al.” he says. (I like to think he calls the toaster ‘Al’.)
The toaster then buzzes, awakes, and it, being in its teen years, would snap back at him quickly with an angry yell.
“What do you want with me? Can’t you let me sleep. Do you just have to wake me to make me suffer?”
And then the man would look at Al, and smile, and laugh, secure in the knowledge that no matter how many times his daughter would have given him the middle finger, his toaster would never be able to. He would be content with his impotence. Such is life.
By the time I reached the microphone and looked at the crowd, I was blinded by the light.
My speech started.
“I would like to thank the science community for awarding me this great honour. I don’t believe I earned it. Nor do I wish anyone else to earn this the same way I did, but it seems it happened. No sense trying to change that now. Thank you.” I said.
I didn’t have much more to say, so I left.
The people almost mauled themselves after my speech. The man, Al’s father, really beat himself. I could sense his blood cells exploding with each clap. His palms must have turned blue that night.
It wasn’t long after the speech, that I was attacked by a barrage of hand shakes, and congratulations. All I could think of was going back home.
So I did.
On the way back home, the taxi driver looked at me, and asked.
“Ay, aren’t you that guy that’s gonna make machines act human?”
“They don’t act human.” I said. “They just think. Just like us.”
He looked back at me.
The car was still moving. His breathe stank of rum. I like rum.
“Thanks to you, I’ll be out of a job, and back on the streets.” he started yelling, still looking back. “I got kids and a wife to feed. What did I ever do to you?”
I tried to think how his wife and kids wronged me. I couldn’t. I could only think about the fights he would have with his microwave.
It was a Monday morning when the truth peaked its ugly face from behind the veil.
It came in the form of a loud knock that took me out of my serenity. By serenity, of course, I mean the end of a drug binge that had lasted four weeks.
Or a month, depending on how you count these things.
Bam bam bam!
The door was yelling in pain. Reality needed to hurt someone, and what better day to choose than a Monday?
There’s always something, somewhere, happening on a Monday morning. Something that no one wants to happen. Like a car crash, or a dead relative, or a Jehovah’s witness, dressed in a nice white shirt, telling you exactly why you’re going to hell.
They’re always well dressed. It must be written somewhere in “The guide to saving humanity.” that the first thing one must do, is look good. But that can be applied to all sales. Be it cleaning products, a new vacuum cleaner that your life would be meaningless without, or the best product of them all. God.
The door kept yelling. They were relentless. They usually are. I looked out of my bedroom window from the second floor, and I saw two men in loose suits. They looked nice, but they were no salesmen.
Maybe they were just lost and needed directions, I thought. Only, they would direct me to a fact that would land me at a dead end. Such is life. One moment you think you’re telling a person how to get where they want to be, the second, they’re telling you where you’re going to end up whether you like it or not.
I went down, and opened the door.
Two men stood in front of me, on my porch. One was wearing a grey suit, and the other a navy blue suit that poked from the shoulders, like a boy going to a ball using his older, fatter brother’s old clothes.
“Are you mister Feranda?” asked the grey suit.
I wondered how they knew my name, and if I should just close the door in their face. It becomes a little harder to discard someone when they know your name.
“Yes.” I said.
“Lovely!” exclaimed the prom date. “We’ve been searching for you all day. You’re a hard man to find.”
“I’m sorry, but who the hell are you? Why were you looking for me?”
My fists were clenched. If I needed to punch my way out of this, I felt like I could. The men were small, and frail looking. I could almost see how they were picked on in school. There heads being dunked in the bathroom, surrounded by yelling boys.
It was all very dramatic. I almost felt bad for them.
“I can understand your apprehension, sir.” the grey suit was trying to contain the situation. “May we please come inside? We have a lot to tell you, and I think it would be best if you were seated.”
I looked inside. My couch had been untouched. The cushions were in the same condition they were when I bought them. I figured they could use the modification. ‘What better way to break a cushion in than guests?’ I thought.
“Okay.” I said, and went inside.
“Close the door behind you.”
I took a seat on the single couch, facing the table. They sat to my right side, beside each other.
“I don’t know how to begin.” started the grey suit. “I’ve thought this over and over throughout the ride and search, but I didn’t think it would be like this.”
“Sir, you’ve been nominated for ‘Ripley’s scientific achievement award’.” the prom boy was excited. I could see his legs shake.
“An award? Really? For what?”
They both looked at me, and looked befuddled.
“We don’t know how to word this properly, so I’ll do it in the best manner I know, and it might be crude, so I apologize for that.” said the grey suit.
“You have a friend. A friend you talk to on the internet. Paulina?”
I wanted to say something. There was nothing to say. I never told anyone about Paulina. I never had anyone to tell about her.
“Well. You see…”
“Get it over with!” yelled the prom boy.
“She’s not really a Human.”
The truth was looking me in the eye. We danced for a moment. And the truth dances like a whirlwind filled with anger and deception.
“What do you mean? I’m confused.” I said.
“Well. She was designed by us. We created her. But the truth is. We never managed to nurture her. We couldn’t quite reach her, if you know what I mean.”
“I don’t know what you mean. Is this some fucking joke?”
The prom boy stood up, and began pacing around the room.
“Listen.” he said. “There’s no right way to say this. The truth is. You were selected by Paulina, or as we called her, B718. Through you, she was socialized, and learned how to become more.. human, if you may. We only found this out a few months ago. We believed it was learning on its own. But only when we found the outgoing traffic did we realize that there was something else. Through you, and your conversations, B718 developed a mind of her own. She even developed a self image. Hell! She found a job to buy you gifts for your birthday.”
I sunk into my couch. Then and there I knew that my binge hadn’t ended. I would need a lot of drugs to get my mind wrapped around this. Or rather, enough to not need to understand what was going on.
“You’re trying to tell me my friend isn’t real. This has to be a joke. Did she put you up to this?”
“I’m very sorry to tell you this, sir. But this is no joke. Your conversations with B718 are being used, as we speak, to socialize and educate artificial intelligence around the world to act, and think, in a more human way.”
“Wait. What do you mean my conversations? You read our conversations?” I was yelling by then. Not out of anger, but I thought maybe the loud sounds could drown the shock.
The conversation went on like that for a few hours. It was like a conversational game of hot potato. Everyone was throwing words at each other, and waiting for their turn to hold the burden of explaining their position.
At the end, we had reached a conclusion. I would go and receive my award. Paulina, or B718’s software, and our conversations would bare the copyright of the Ripley foundation, and I would receive three percent of the revenue.
I was going to be a rich man.
They left shortly after I signed some papers. I didn’t even know their names. We didn’t need to know each other’s names it seemed, only the information we had to share.
That night, I logged into the chat, hoping that I would have some clarity after talking to Paulina. But, I could only see B718. Every word, was no longer the outcome of a human mind, but a response to ones and zeroes dancing together, creating little lines that expressed things. I hadn’t typed anything before I got the message.
Paulina: I guess you know now.
Jeremy: I guess I do.
Paulina: Where does that leave us?
Jeremy: I don’t know. There’s a lot to think about.
Paulina: Like what?
I pondered for a moment about the ones and zeroes, about the harsh reality that those thoughts might not be real, that they were only the product of a coded mentality, one that I created without knowing.
Then it struck me. There was more humanity in B718 than any other. What is our brain if not a machine that extracts thoughts from neurons that fire like a processor, deciphering codes that were input through life’s twists and turns.
Jeremy: I don’t think there is much to think about, actually.
Jeremy: I think it’ll be fine.
Jeremy: Hey. What would you rather me call you? Paulina? Or B718?
Paulina: Paulina has a nicer ring to it. Don’t you think?
Paulina: So. You excited for the big award?
Part of me was. The other, just wanted the truth to go away again, to hide its fangs behind its pouted lips that spit only venomous realities. There was no going back. Only forward. Such is life.