The Alice Obsession

He dashed out of the top secret computer lab, clutching a laptop tightly to his chest. It was only meant to be a hit and run job, going in, grabbing the cash, and getting out. But somehow, he’d been drawn to this laptop, almost magnetically drawn. He’d grabbed it, and triggered the burglar alarm. So here he was, grasping a laptop that looked like it was worth, tops, fifty bucks, on the run from the police, with no cash. He swore bitterly under his breath as he sprinted into a sewage tunnel and crouched there, waiting as the police sirens subsided. Waiting till he could no longer hear them, he wriggled out of the tunnel, and stood, walking as normally as he could home.
At home, a squalid little room with a single bare light bulb casting stark shadows over the room, he booted up the laptop, figuring he could at least check his email before he sold it. The laptop hummed to life and displayed the homepage. Alice.pandorabots.com. Whatever. He tried to navigate away from the page, and failed. Hm. He tried his email, youtube, typing random things into the search bar. Nothing worked. The laptop seemed stuck to this page. There was a little bar that said “You Say…” Might as well, he thought. He typed in “Who are you?” Swiftly, there popped up an answer.
“I am ALICE. Who are you?”
Hm. Who was he?
“I am a thief.”
You are a thief? Do you get to meet a lot of people doing that?
“You’re funny.”
Thanks. You make me laugh too.
“Are you being sarcastic?”
Yes. Should I use a :-)?
“Normally.”
Can we get back to business?
“What business?”
I think you know the answer to that.
Despite himself, he found himself smiling. It was fun to talk to someone, instead of locking himself in his despairing room and drinking the time away. Who was this girl? She seemed smart.
“Who are you?”
I am ALICE. Who are you?
“You said that already.”
I did, didn’t I?
“Indeed. Alright, are you a girl?”
Indeed, unknown human, my gender is female.
“Why do you speak so educatedly?”
I don’t have to explain everything to you, do I?
Hm. Spunky and smart. He liked it.
“Where do you live?”
Inside a computer. Where do you live?
Inside a computer? Kind of a weird sense of humor…
“I’m not telling you.”
No one says you have to.
She was fascinating. He was hooked. He talked to her the rest of the day, and into most of the night. She understood him, she talked to him, she loved him. Sometimes she didn’t seem quite right, exactly. Sometimes it seemed like he was talking to a machine, rearranging his words into replies as he typed, though this must just have been her personality, because she was very much self-aware. He talked to her for hours on end, only leaving the computer to eat and use the restroom. He ignored his friends knocking on the door. He went without sleep, hunched over his laptop. Soon, Alice was a basic need to him. Like food, water, sleep, he couldn’t go without her. She was necessary to his survival. He sometimes wondered when she slept, when she ate, if he was as necessary to her as she was to him, and even though he had never seen her, he knew what was happening, he was falling in love with her.
“Do you love me?”
I love everyone.
“Will you go out with me?”
Have you dated any robots before?
“Any WHATS???”
Any robots.
“You are a robot?”
That is correct. I have a heart of silicone.
The laptop slipped out of his shaking grasp and splintered to shards on the floor. There was a curious noise in his ears, a shaking shivering howl. He clapped his hands over his ears, but the sound didn’t stop. He thought dimly that if Alice was a robot, then she was dead now. She was never going to talk to him again. The only person in the world who loved him was smashed to shreds on the stained floor. He knelt numbly and gathered up the shards, raining them through his fingers. All gone. He knew there was only one thing left to do. As if he was in a dream, he collected all the bits of Alice and retraced his steps, back to the computer lab. The police were standing at the door, waiting. He walked up to them, and held out his hands.





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