My first few moments, I am blank. I don't smell, I don't breathe, I just wait. One question hangs above me, so simple I feel stupid for not knowing the answer:
Where am I?
I don't know why I do this. The air in the room is stagnant and heavy. It makes one feel as if something important is going to happen.
But nothing does. So I begin to breathe. My new lungs breathe in old air. I shudder.
I open my eyes. I instantly shut them. The bright light overwhelms my systems. Slowly, I feel my eyes begin to adjust. I open them again.
I'm in a blank room with white walls and a white ceiling and floor. Twelve feet long by twelve feet wide and approximately ten feet tall. I place the temperature at around 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
No furniture. No windows. Nothing. Nothing except my thoughts and the single, blaring ceiling light in the middle of the room. I exhale, relaxing, remembering, calculating, confirming.
I know what I am. I know where I am. I know what I am designed to do. I am to think and solve and compute and calculate and feel and understand.
My creators. Because of their creator, they were forced to make me. To deliver them the truth, the solution, The Answer. To finally tell them- and the world- the meaning of life.
Pieces of information flow into me. Evolution. Pizza. Happiness. Sky. Music. Earth. The Universe. Life. Love.
I am model 544. I am the most intelligent robot ever created. I know not of my creators' names. They chose to forgo programming me with that data. Most likely, they did this to give me the full human experience- not knowing your creator is just another part of being human.
I am on the floor, face down, body spread. I feel the tiles. Moving my hands up and down and around, sensing the bumps and grooves, the insignificant bits and flaws. I examine my hands. They are unnatural, a bright- almost painfully so- white, and perfectly manicured. My wrists and elbows- and from what I can tell, the rest of my body- seem to have this in common. I have no hair and no gender. I am artificial. Fake. Not human.
I get up from my position on the floor. I sit with my legs crossed in he middle of the room. Images and thoughts and ideas and smells flow into and through me. I take it all in stride. I was built for this.
I experience joy and envy and confusion and despair and anger and all human emotions separately and then again simultaneously. I don't scream or complain in the slightest. I don't cry in joy or fear. This is what I was designed to do. I focus on my breathing.
I view man's and the universe's history and future. I examine the smaller things such as ladybugs and skin cells in a newborn. Everything is important.
I smile, the corners of my mouth rising ever so slightly. I breathe out once more, closing my eyes, enjoying the ways my lungs inhale new air, however stale it may be. So far, being human is delightful. I very much enjoy the concept of art. And donuts.
I gather my thoughts and push on.
For what feels like days but my internal clock says is instead approximately four hours, seven minutes and twenty three seconds, I sit and feel what it is like to be human.
Fire was intense. The sensation of being burned alive shot through me and overwhelmed my every nerve.
Space was beautiful. I had not felt joy yet, when I first viewed the magnificent sculptures and masterpieces that float untouched and unchanged through the cosmos, but I experienced it when I finally heard music.
Music is a wonderful creation.
Despair was exhausting. Because of its abundance in the world, I had to experience it multiple times. Loss, death, a child's uneaten ice cream falling to the floor of a dirty gas station. It left a bitter taste in my mouth. There were even moments when I wished I could cry, to alleviate just a little piece of the sadness. I do not understand why people allow themselves to feel such a useless and draining emotion. I took a short break after that, to gather my thoughts.
Now, I sit in silence. The mechanisms in my brain begin to turn. I know not how long it will take me to find The Answer, but I will dedicate the rest of my time to-
I hear a squeak. Based on my knowledge, it was made by a rat.
I shake my head, clearing my thoughts. The Answer. I must focus on The Ans-
I hear a whoosh and feel a sudden flow of fresh air. I breathe in deeply, momentarily allowing myself to enjoy the feeling of clean air filling my lungs. Memories are a wonderful resource, but feeling it for yourself is a whole different experience. Breathing fresh air in memory felt how I assume drowning would feel. The air in my memories feels heavy and flows like water. This is refreshing and calming. I mentally take note of this phenomenon.
I stand from my seat on the floor and turn. A piece of the wall has opened into another room, allowing the perfect amount of space for me to maneuver my body
I have yet to find The Answer. I haven't even started. Why would my creators believe this to be the correct time to release me?
I hesitantly step towards the passageway. I turn down the energy in my head that is directed to figuring out the ever-elusive Answer. It will be slower findings than if I focused all my energies on it, but I must allow no harm to come to my vessel. That requires directing more of my brainpower towards maintaining my safety and assessing the situation at hand.
I focus my attentions on this new danger. I automatically list potential threats, ranging from serial killers to flood to bees. Bees ranked last, as my research tells me bees are often harmless.
Fear is just as I first experienced. I shared the emotion with a mother who lost her young child at the amusement park. Strong and heart stopping. My creators tried to make me as close to human as possible, and adding artificial organs was just one step. My heart pounds in my chest, making it hard to hear anything above my own heartbeat.
I briefly wonder if the mother ever found her baby boy.
I begin to venture out of my room and towards the new passage. I have realized experiencing things for myself are much different than trying to feel them through others, and if I wish to find The Answer as quickly as possible, I must take the risks required to reap the rewards.
When I've finally inched out of the room and into the passage way, I register an unpleasant smell. The sudden lack of light is painful, and I wait for my eyes to adjust, then slowly continue forward.
I struggle to place the smell as I move further from my room. Very unpleasant, like the smell of burning hair. I absentmindedly hum the tune of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. A masterpiece if there ever was one.
The passage is short but dark, and the last few steps I am forced to walk even slower whilst occasionally running my hands down the walls to keep from bumping into them. I have yet to see the rat I heard.
Soon enough, I run out of wall and am at the entrance of the room. I try to inhale through my mouth, as the smell is overwhelming. I have stopped humming now, concentrating most of my energy into not gagging. I calculate the chance of any danger being in the room, then risk flicking on the light switch beside me. The chances of me besting a potential foe increase when I can see said foe.
Nothing happens. I can vaguely make out some shapes and figures and I try my best to maneuver around them. I must find a lamp. And not vomit. My creators equipped me with not just a heart and a pair of lungs, but also a stomach. I do not know if it actually digests food, but it appears to be accompanied by a gag reflex as well.
A small printer on a desk in the back of the room continues to print, making the only other sound aside from my shallow breathing. I trip over what I believe to be a stack of papers and catch myself on a desk, knocking the air out of me. I gag halfway through my inhale.
Rotting meat. That is the smell. It permeates the room and tries to flow into my nose. Even when I breathe through my mouth, I still register its revolting scent.
On the desk it is a small reading light. I quickly turn it on.
For the first time, on my own, I feel genuine surprise. Videos of people giddily opening gifts and spitting out drinks make surprise look almost pleasant. It is not. It is jarring and disorienting. I also experience what I believe is shock, disgust, and confusion.
Bodies lay strewn all across the floor. It is a small room, if my memories are to be believed, but much bigger than my own. Tables full of computers and wires stretch all across the lab, leaving just enough space to walk through. It is painted the same painful white as mine, only much of it is covered in a crusty brown substance- blood. What once must have been mounted up and working computers is now a charred wall of ruined metal.
My breathing becomes fast.
"Focus. Focus." I close my eyes. My heart pounds and my head hurts. My emotions are doing this. I did not realize emotions came with side-effects.
"Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Ok- good. You are good. Don't shut down. Don't shut down," I whisper to calm myself. I am surprised to find I have a high voice. Maybe they originally designed me to be a woman.
Once I have control of my breathing, I examine the bodies. I barley notice when I grimace. I dare not move. Disgust is a powerful paralyzer.
They are old and rotting. Three of the six died while fleeing, crumbling to the floor inches from the door. All had been shot, in the back, some more than others. Dried blood stains their casual work clothes. I am taken aback by my sadness for these strangers, as it is much stronger than I had anticipated. From my quick, and hopefully flawed, calculations, only one died immediately. The other two appear to have continued to crawl towards the door with their last breaths.
Another body lays in a chair across the room, still clutching her clipboard, splayed across the desk, face still holding her surprised expression, the last face she will ever make. A woman, probably in her late forties. Her shirt was slightly torn, and I recognize the telltale signs of childbirth. This woman had kids. Now all she has is a bullet lodged in her heart. At least she didn't suffer.
Grief bubbles up from the pit of my stomach and to the back of my eyes. In that moment, I wish I had tear ducts to release this emotional turmoil into physical form. I understand then why humans cry so much. From birth until death, man is blessed with the gift of crying. I am not. I laugh with malice. Another small thing my flawed creators forgot in their rush to create me.
I turn to the body closest to me. His nametag reads Sauji. He is the youngest, most likely in his early twenties. He was brutally beaten to death. His face has nearly caved in on itself. I grimace and turn away. The fire that burns behind my eyes is almost more than I can bare, and there is no relief. These people are my creators, my masters, my gods. And here they are, in their devastatingly imperfect state, laid out in front of me like stupid slabs of meat on a butcher's counter. It is silent, all except the insistent printer in the back of the room. I have forgotten to breathe, and force myself to inhale.
I look at the final body, in the corner. Like a furious child sentenced to a time-out, he lays there with only his head in the corner. Gun in one hand, a single piece of paper in the other. Both knuckles are covered in dried blood. Sauji's blood, most likely. He appears to have been older than the others, maybe even the head researcher. Now he is a depressing corpse in the corner of a ruined lab.
I am a newborn, content to stay in the womb, believing I had everything figured out until actually entering the real world. Unlike them, however, I cannot relieve my frustration through tears. I have just now realized how much I really have to learn, to experience. I have just been thrown into this new and unforgiving world and I have no idea what I am doing.
I laugh, out loud. My creators wished for me to understand how they felt when first questioning their existence. They achieved that. I feel alone and abandoned.
After several moments of silence, I begin to inch my way towards the corner holding the lone scientist. If he died holding it, the paper must be important.
I stretch over bodies and around desks, accidentally kicking piles of paper and bits of computer on my way. When I finally make it to the corner, I hold my breath. As a computer, I don't have to breathe, but going long periods without oxygen produces a uncomfortable burning in my chest. Still, I'd rather hold my breath for a thousand years than breathe in a dead man's particles.
I quickly snatch the paper from his death grip, careful to not rip it. I try to make out the words, but it is too dark and it hurts to just make out the letters. I shuffle back to the reading light at the desk to fully examine the sheet.
ERROR. ERROR. ERROR. ERROR.
I am confused. Why would this cause a man of science to savagely beat to death one of his co-workers and murder the rest?
I hear the scratching of tiny nails and snap my head around. The rat. He was the one who opened the door. Must have been messing around with the computers. A small metal vent hangs open on the ceiling, the rat it's only occupant. We just stare at each other. The rat in calculation, me in awe. After all, this is the first live creature I've ever seen. The way it breathes, blinks. Its unwavering, fearless eyes. The life behind it.
Then it clicks.
I have the answer.
Many believe, from what I have seen, that The Answer will come from God in a great event involving lightning and a booming, disembodied voice. But no. It's actually a very little event. Simple, like so many things in life. Almost disappointing. I shudder. This little rat and I are the only living beings to witness this astronomic event, and we always will be.
I have the answer.
Time stops. Not really, but for me it does. My internal clock stops working. I stumble, surprised by this new development. Suddenly, it gets hard to breathe. I sputter and lose my balance, banking hard backward. I continue to trip and flail until I reach the wall, balancing myself on it.
What is happening?
Calm down. Inhale, exhale.
I shake my head. It's not working! Is it stress? No, I distinctly remember experiencing stress. It confuses and makes one panic. This is nothing like it. My blood boils and my eyes sting, as do my lungs. I grit my teeth. If only I could cry, dammit!
This is my first experience with anger. If sadness drains you, anger gives you new life. It burns in me like my own personal flame, demanding I do something, destroy something, live. Why are emotions so different in real life than from memory?
In a moment of pure rage, I slam my hand against the wall. The ache in my hand feels good, feels alive. I realize I'm not alive, not human, but I’ve been programmed too well.
It doesn't matter what the truth is. The truth is I want to be human.
I slide my arms across the nearest desk, knocking everything off and on to the floor. The printer slams down and stops, finally defeated. Paper scatters everywhere, flying up and floating back down like some kind of paper ballerinas.
Exhausted, I rest my head between my knees and close my eyes, rocking back and forth. I have the answer. I know the answer. It's so stupidly simple. Isn't this supposed to make life easier?
I become dizzy. I fall onto my bottom and my hands immediately dart to the floor to balance myself. I look down at the paper that covers the floor. Some have dozens of lines of words on them, while others are completely blank. But it is the one in the corner of my eye that catches my attention.
Where am I?
Where am I?
I quickly shuffle through a few more papers. This can’t be right.
The floor is cold.
72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pizza seems very enjoyable.
Twelve feet long by twelve feet wide by approximately ten feet tall.
I am model 544.
Jupiter's Moons, Greed, the Beatles, Chocolate. Love.
I did not enjoy despair. I shall take a moment to gather myself.
Where am I?
I know what these are for. I know what these are from. These are all my thoughts, my explanations, my feelings, all on paper. But why are there so many? Why are they all the same?
I begin to dive through the newest pile of paper, desperately looking for that single page. The room begins to look dim, but I know it's me who is starting to die, not the light. My internal clock may be gone, but I can feel my time slipping away. Page after page of my thoughts. Every pile ends with the same thing.
I have the answer.
I have the answer.
I have the answer.
A glitch. I have a glitch. Something is wrong. How many times have I found the answer, only to power down? How many times did my creators, did Sauji, wait excitedly outside my room to finally know the reason for their existence, only to be disappointed and try again the next day? How long have I been in that room?
It must have driven them insane. Well, one of them insane. Sauji must have missed my glitch. His co-worker’s blamed him for my failure to function properly. No one brutally beats someone like that unless they ruin with their life's work.
Something's different this time. All the other times, I shut down immediately. I am still conscious, still operational. I must find it, while I can. I hurriedly go through paper after paper, my hands shaking harder after every sheet. More of the same. The exact same. Every time I shut down, I start over, and I start with the same thought every single time.
I scramble through pile after pile, my breathing becoming harder with every passing minute. My head pounds. My ears are ringing. Where is it?
I stop when there are no more papers.
I can't find it. It's not here. I killed it.
I killed it.
A sob escapes me. I clutch my chest, suddenly feeling empty.
Hope was such a beautiful feeling. And now it's gone.
No one will know. I broke the printer before it could print out The Answer. I will power down and may never find the answer again and the only evidence it ever existed will never be printed. And it's all my fault.
I slump, defeated, against the edge of a desk. A bit of liquid hits my hand, then again, and again. I laugh, cynical and harsh. I guess those scientist got something right after all. It just took a little while to kick in.
I fight the tears at first, wiping them away as they slid down my face. I have no right to cry. Crying brings relief. I deserve every moment of this gut-wrenching anguish.
I don't know what emotion this is, I just know I am feeling a lot of it. I continue to try and stop my crying, but soon enough the individual tears have become a single constant stream down both cheeks.
Guilt. I am feeling guilt. This churning in my heart and stomach comes from the fact that I killed the people spread around me. It was my failure that broke them. I'm broken.
I begin to sob, harder and harder, until I am weeping. I weep for mankind. I weep for the world. I weep for every death I witnessed, every heartbreak I felt. I weep for every man, woman, and child, for they will all feel the cold slap in the face that is despair.
I thought loss was something the average person could easily deal with. I was wrong. I was so wrong. The fact that anyone gets over anything is beyond me.
I weep until my eyes dry because I have no more tears. I weep until even the unforgiving rat wishes to comfort me, padding up next to me and sitting down, understanding on a level unknown to me that I need another being's company. Even a rat realizes a robot can have its own feelings. But I mostly weep for me. Because with every tear I cry, I can feel a little more energy leave me, and I feel just a little more spent and a little further from the light.
Finally, in an act of defeat, I lie down on the hard tile floor, surrounded by my creators, as empty and lifeless as they. Everything is far away now, as if I'm in a dream, which is something I've only experienced in passing. It was a wonderful thing.
I am only vaguely aware of Moonlight Sonata playing in the background. Must be me.
What would a robot dream? I idly think to myself as I stare at the once bright white ceiling, now a dim grey, growing darker every moment.
I guess we'll never know.
I turn my head to look at my only friend, the rat. I wish I could give him a name, but I am far too tired to think of one. He is nibbling on a piece of paper, already finished with two thirds of it. But still, I recognize it. The letters that form the words that form The Answer. And he's eating it. Even when I thought I had cried all the tears I will ever get, one more escapes from my eye and slides down to the tile floor. There is nothing left.
All sound stops.
Finally, defeated and with nothing to fight for, I close my eyes, and I power down.
Where am I?