All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The Humanity of Evangeline Homer
Author's note: The plot of this novel came to me spontaneously. Though I claim to have numerous sources of inspiration, I would consider this a highly original piece. Still, I would like to thank and credit my beloved girlfriend for much of the romance within this story.
“Arad, would you still love me if I weren’t human?” I ask with a mixture of mischievous playfulness and genuine curiosity. The lanky, dark-haired boy to my right frowns at the windshield as he considers the question, and I allow him about five seconds to think as I turn my 2022 mustang left onto Chynoweth Avenue. The ancient, bullet-shaped car emits a noise like a cat in a blender, but it survives somehow. The same can’t be said for my patience. “Well?” I demand, allowing just the right amount of irritation to seep into my voice.
Arad has never been the type to say “I don’t know,” and I can tell that he is coming up with his answer on the spot. Good. If he has failed to consider this distinct possibility in the past, then he may as well start now. I guess I can be patient, though. Besides, Arad’s best ideas tend to come spur-of-the-moment. In the absence of conversation, I refocus my gaze on the road.
I have already turned north, and the pavement of the elevated Guadalupe Parkway is fleeing backwards beneath my mighty, grating tires when I hear Arad clear his throat. The game has begun. I pretend not to hear and glance, instead, at the speedometer. Current speed: fifty-five; sixty; sixty-five; seventy. “Speed limit: sixty-five,” reads a road sign. Current speed: seventy-five. Yes, that should be about right. I tap the cruise control and select “preprogrammed course” from the small screen built into the dashboard. Now that I know the car won’t accelerate or careen from the parkway, I turn to face Arad, twisting my hips a bit in the seat as I do so. He seems to find this action endearing, so I press my advantage. Almost leaving my seat, I lean across the emergency brake and, my face near his chest, incline it upward to look into his warm, gray eyes. Gazing up at him with my own wide, green eyes, my body bent invitingly and my wavy, golden hair blowing slightly in the breeze from the air conditioner, I can guess how I must look. Cute. Curvy. Attractive.
I know that I have won my little game because Arad seems to be losing his train of thought. He looks down at me fondly for a few moments, then at the rearview mirror as I continue to study him intently. He really is handsome. His jaw’s pointed but his face is soft, and at the moment no red splotches decorate his tan skin. As if reading my mind, Arad turns from the mirror and, with a winning smile, says, “Today is a clear day.”
I refuse to be distracted. “So, would you?” I inquire a bit more gently this time. Time to catch some flies with honey. The car is nearing West Capitol Expressway, but I don’t mind.
Arad glances back at the mirror and, with a frown, pushes his long, dark bangs from his face. “It wouldn’t matter, would it?” he answers slowly. “I mean, sure, I’d prefer to date within my own species, but I guess we’re so close it wouldn’t matter. Wuddoo you mean, ‘not human?’”
“What if I was…?” My science fiction-loving side has activated and my mind runs through a list of every futuristic movie I’ve watched in the past year. There are so many! Maybe…ah, yes. That should do. “What if I was an alien from another galaxy, and I was looking for a human specimen to study?” I grin coyly. “Preferably a handsome male.”
Arad laughs and turns from the mirror to look at me. “Depends: do you have a spaceship?” His laughter soon subsides, but his warm smile never leaves his face. “Let’s just say there’s no one I’d rather be abducted by.” He touches a soft hand to my head and rumples my hair with it. It isn’t much of a stretch for him; my body is still leaning far over his. My boyfriend’s answer had been pleasing but not quite the one I’d been hoping for. Time to try a different scenario.
“How about if I’m a time-traveler from the distant future, and by being together, we’re tearing an enormous hole in the space-time continuum?” I’m on a roll now, and I can tell Arad knows it from the way he’s squirming. This time he tries to avoid the question.
“Aren’t time travelers usually human?” he asks. I sigh. Sometimes, he really can be dense.
“Not five hundred thousand years into the future, when mankind has evolved into a completely different, advanced race, and-”
“Okay, okay! I get it!” Arad cuts me off. “If you were a time traveler… so what? Forget the space-time thingamajig!”
“Or an angel?”
“You mean you aren’t?” With Arad’s reply, my cheeks blush so furiously that I nearly ask Arad whether he’d still date me if I was a tomato. One more, but what? It has to be a good one. Maybe…
“Arad, would you still date me if I was a computer?” There is a pause.
“What, like the Macs from school?” Arad chuckles. Of course he would think first of the “MacLight: Students” we’re assigned every year at Gunderson High School. Since it’s May, we’ve just started our third semester which (at least to Arad) means a new school laptop with which to conduct his bug research. Then, as silence is about to fill the car, I hear a “ping!” from the console near the steering wheel. Instantly, I’m jerked to my left and away from Arad as the car turns itself right on Curtner Avenue. Now, Arad finds himself on top of me and shows no signs of moving.
“No, not like a PC or the car, either,” I quickly correct my boyfriend, gesturing at the console. “I mean a thinking computer, a machine that thinks and acts like a human. You know, like an android.” It’s such a pain to explain things like this!
Arad’s head, now pressed against my stomach, nods in understanding. “If you were a computer that could talk and think and feel… could you still love me?” he asks, looking up at me with the most serious expression I’ve seen on his face today.
“Of course!” I’m surprised that he even had to ask. “Nothing could stop me from loving you. Nothing! They could lock me up, drop me off a building, even hold a knife to my throat, but nothing, nothing could keep me from loving you. Even if I were an android, I’d find a way.” I finish with a smile.
Arad’s face relaxes and his eyes soften. “That’s good,” he murmurs, lowering his eyes a bit from my face. Now it’s my turn to rumple his hair, and I do. Oh, the feelings welling up inside me! I feel so close to this boy that I’ve got to tell him so.
“Arad, I love you,” I almost whisper to him.
“I love you too, Eve,” he responds and, though his eyes do not stray from the spot on which they are fixed, I know that he means it.
The console pings again, and I leave my seat completely as I’m thrown head first over the emergency brake and into the passenger seat by the force of the high-speed turn. Perhaps I should have worn a seat belt, but Arad catches me. “You can tell how old this car is by how badly it steers,” I say by way of an apology.
“I don’t mind,” responds Arad with a grin, his strong arms still wrapped around me. I smile too and return the hug, my legs sprawled somewhat to either side of his, knees extending back along the seat. Our chests are pressed together and our faces are close. I can feel his heart beating quickly and I imagine that its rhythm matches that of my own. We are face to face, staring into each other’s eyes, and he’s the first to move. Very slowly, my boyfriend slides his head forward and I close my eyes. I feel the caress, the lock of our lips, the gentle, undemanding movement of his face against mine. Our mouths move together and I’m beginning to feel as though we could spend eternity this way…
“Ping!” We are thrust again to the right side of the car and I practically tackle Arad as I fall on top of him into the passenger-side door. The car stops in the narrow drive of my boyfriend’s hundred-year-old two story house. “Sorryyyy!” I apologize as I try (and fail) to pull our tangled bodies apart.
“Don’t worry, I don’t mind,” Arad grunts, “But my mom might if she sees us. Let’s get ourselves out of here before-”
“Ding!” The passenger door onto which all of our combined body weight is leaning opens and we tumble to the ground. Again, Arad takes the brunt of the fall and I land on top of him. “Oooh! I’m so sorry!” I apologize again as I leap to my feet. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just fine,” Arad groans. “Could I have a hand?” Arad extends his own and I join mine with it in a makeshift fireman’s hold. It takes a bit of straining and struggling on my part to lift all one-hundred thirty pounds of Arad from the driveway, but now the boy is on his feet. “Thanks,” he pants. He takes a moment to regain his breath and, as he does so, glances about to make sure that no one witnessed our little mishap. When his shoulders have ceased to heave, he turns back to me. “I’ll see you at school tomorrow,” he promises me, turning away toward the house.
Still giddy, I reenter my car through the passenger-side door without thinking. Realizing my mistake, I shake my head at myself and hoist my legs over the emergency brake one final time. As I do so, a plastic rectangle tumbles from my pocket and I reach down to pick it up. “California: license number C16-89-3475,” the card reads across the top. Beneath is a smiling photograph of myself with the caption, “Evangline Homer. Birthday: Jan. 15th, 2023 (not 18 until 1-15-41).” I turn the license over. “Organs donated to science,” is printed on the back.
I settle myself in my seat and deselect the “preprogrammed course” option on the console (because apparently the thing can’t be trusted) and shift the car into “reverse.” Both doors shut, and I back out of the driveway onto Stone Avenue. I put the car into “drive.”
I’ve driven this way so many times that I can travel without even thinking about my path. Straight on Stone. Right on Bernard. Left on Little Orchard. The litany I had been taught when I earned my learner’s permit three years ago echoes in my head. As always, it will lead me home. Left on San Jose. Isn’t it strange to have a street with the same name as the town? I’d always wondered if someone had gotten so bored with naming that they stopped caring by the time they got to San Jose Avenue. Right on Almaden Expressway. And drive. And drive. The ride is so boring! I’d switch over to “preprogrammed course,” but then I’d have nothing to do. If only Arad were still here to talk to… West on South Almaden Street. Almost there! I’ve driven just a few blocks on South Almaden when the concrete curve of Sinclaire Fairway rises to greet me like a flat, floating snake. The underpass is one of the most familiar landmarks along the way home, and I always guess how much longer until I arrive. Let’s see… the traffic is light and I’ve been making good time so…fifteen minutes? Ten, if I’m lucky. As my estimate is made, I see the sky darken above me and I realize that my car has been swallowed up by the space beneath the Fairway.
The underpass beneath Sinclair Fairway is an unusual one, to put it lightly. On the south side, South Almaden Street enters but, to the north, West Reed Street emerges instead from its murky depths. As a small girl, I had always believed that the point at which South Almaden turned so suddenly was a magical, mysterious space into which things entered, never to emerge the same again. The spot at which Reed and Almaden met was the twilight zone, a place where dramatic changes could happen, leaving the world a different place forever. I had told Arad about this childish belief and, naturally, been laughed at for my trouble. I don’t know why I’m remembering this now. Perhaps it’s because I see the dimly lit stretch of road now before me that had filled my dreams and nightmares as a six-year-old. I’m closing on it meter by meter. Why do I feel as though this blank stretch of cement is the point of no return? Fifty meters. Forty. Thirty. My palms begin to sweat, making it difficult to grip the steering wheel. Twenty. There’s no turning back. Mom will worry if I don’t get home, and I can’t let old fears worry me now. Ten meters. I look at the rosary hanging from my sun visor and say a prayer for strength.
I’ve entered that shadowy space, crossed the point of no return, and I let out a sigh of relief. There’s nothing out of the ordinary. Then, I see it, and the sight freezes the breath in my chest. There’s a black shape, a car, suspended before me as though suspended in time. Someone is hurtling along the wrong side of Reed Street, and I, blinded by the stone sides of the underpass tunnel, was unable to see it until now. I know it’s too late. I know that we’re both going too fast, that I can’t turn in time, can’t slow down. I can’t survive. Why? How? I don’t know, but I realize in the milliseconds as the other vehicle approaches that these will be my last alive. I cannot move, cannot think, cannot even breathe. One thought fills my head: Arad.
Then, as though time has been snapped back into motion like a rubber band, everything seems to move around me. The stone walls fly past and the other car rushes forward. Our vehicles impact, and I am flung from the seat into which I had failed to buckle myself. I feel my head slam into the windshield and my chest bash against the steering wheel. My foot shatters the control console. Then, the two cars become one and my body is punctured by hundreds of metal spears. I try to scream, but I only feel blood bubble up from my lungs. Then, I hear a sound that must be the gas tank igniting. There is a flash of red that seems to roar through my body, and I cease to think; cease to feel; cease to be. So this is death.
I am floating somewhere in a sea of blackness. I cannot feel any of my body. My hands, arms, legs, feet, and even my face are unresponsive. Where am I? Did I survive? Where is the car? Arad! My thoughts are jumbled and illogical, but from somewhere within me arises the sudden compulsion to arrange them. Miraculously, they seem almost to organize themselves, and answers are forthcoming. I was at Arad’s house before the crash, so he is unharmed. The car must have been totaled by the impact. I have no way of knowing where I am, as it hinges on the answer to the question “Did I survive?” The most logical answer: no. I did not survive. How could a human being survive that kind of crash? What are the odds?
The odds come to me almost unbidden. “0.001 percent.” That is to say, one in one hundred thousand people could have survived such a crash, and I was not even wearing a seat belt. But if I did not survive, then where am I? Before the crash, I might have been afraid. Now, this fear has faded to a passive interest, a strange desire to gain the answers.
“Good morning, Evangeline Homer.” The voice seems to come from everywhere and nowhere at once. Is it inside my head? Do I even have a head?
“Who are you, and how do you know my name?” I try to shout, but I have no lips to move. Somehow, I must have conveyed it anyway, because the response comes almost immediately.
“I am Doctor Henry Jeeves, independent researcher and caretaker of the local technology museum.” Words seem to echo all around me as if taunting me.
“Show yourself!” I cry soundlessly. “Let me see your face! Where am I? What happened? I need answers!”
“Don’t panic.” The words are soothing, but I realize now that there is no voice. There are only the words, flat and more monotone than if they had been spoken with no inflection at all. He is not speaking, I realize with a chill. The words are there, but not the voice. More words come, and I focus now on the sensation of “hearing” them.
“I-_-r-e-s-c-u-e-d-_-y-o-u-_-f-r-o-m-_-a-_h-o-r-r-i-b-l-e-_-a-u-t-o-m-o-b-i-l-e-_-a-c-c-i-d-e-n-t.” The words are just that: words, spelled out with letters and spaces. Spoken language cannot be read, yet here I am “reading” Doctor Jeeves’s words (if I am to believe that he has identified himself honestly). I decide to continue my interrogation.
“You say you rescued me. Does that mean that I survived?” I query.
The next response seems long in coming. I nearly repeat my demand, but after an immeasurable length of time the emptiness around me is again filled with words. “You might say that,” the answer begins. “I successfully salvaged the body, but I’m sorry to say that it was damaged beyond repair. The remains have been disposed of.”
My body was “damaged beyond repair” and the remains “disposed of?” What am I doing here, then? If I have no body, then what am I?
The Doctor continues, and I can now see each letter as it appears. It seems as though the doctor is speaking more and more slowly. “Fortunately, your brain was kept relatively intact,” he recounts. “The skull was dented in several places, but the brain’s electrical charge was still strong enough for me to recover the necessary data. I-”
“My brain!? Is that all there is left of me?” I interrupt the text with an exclamation of surprise.
“Well, not exactly.” The doctor’s words move like molasses down a hillside as I drink in every character. “Your brain survived the accident, but it deteriorated in the midst of the process.” The process. What process, I wonder.
“Then what am I?” The question that I have been meaning to ask finally surfaces, and I hope that it will now be answered. The Doctor seems to pause even longer than usual before responding. The words finally begin to come with agonizing slowness.
“You are no longer human,” the man begins. “You are completely separated from your body, which is of no use to you now, anyway. I recovered the information in your brain electronically and recorded it on the largest hard drive in my lab.”
I am in shock. How can I accept this? If all I am is data, a series of numbers and letters, does that mean…? “Does that make me some kind of computer?” I demand.
“You might say that,” the doctor says again in that irritating, emotionless manner. “The human mind is digital anyway, responding to the presence or absence of a charge to contract muscles, trigger memories, or form sentences. I have merely taken this digital entity and powered it with a CPU and alternating current, rendering it…” The words continue to pour into my mind, but they cease to mean anything. I am a machine, now. I am a computer, not like an android but more akin to one of the white plastic monstrosities from school. I know that I should be horrified, but all that I feel now is a cold wall where my emotions once were. There is a buffer, impassive and impassible.
“Doctor, why am I not afraid?” I ask aloud.
“Emotion is a chemical reaction,” he replies after only a moment, “controlled by hormones and terribly complex. To record emotion on a digital level would be nearly impossible; feelings make a thinker illogical, after all. If I were to try to incorporate that into a computer, why I hardly know where I would find a hard disk with enough space to contain it!”
I have no emotion, then. I am an “it,” a scientific specimen stored electronically on silicon chips to be activated only when plugged into a wall outlet. Why am I not dead? Would death not be better than this state of cold existence, neither as senseless as a machine nor as conscious as a living being? Am I even alive? What characterizes life? Is life the beating of the heart, the motion of the diaphragm, or the presence of DNA? Could it be something more?
“I want to see my family,” I finally say.
“They are already here,” comes the Doctor’s reply. I imagine him chuckling slightly as he types this. “Your parents expressly requested that they be present upon first activation.” Activation: another reminder of what I have become. Before I can dwell on this, though, more words fill my mind, these coming more quickly than before.
“evangeline OMG R U alrite” Am I alright? The typist must be mother; I can tell by her use of outdated language and lack of punctuation.
“Yes, I am fine, mother. Do not worry about me.” The first bit is a lie. I do not feel “fine” because I cannot feel anything. I sense that my mother needs comfort right now, though, so I attempt to provide it. This is not an emotional reaction; to me, it is only logic.
“but ur a comptr” I am a computer. Leave it to Mom to be blunt; I suppose it is a trademark of her generation.
“Yes, Mother, but I can still function. I am still here. Is Dad with you?”
“yes but he dsnt wnt 2 tlk” He dsnt wnt 2 tlk. Dad does not want to talk to his freaky computer of a daughter. Should this hurt to hear? I cannot say. I can no longer feel pain.
“Thanks for stopping by, Mom,” I convey in what I hope is a reassuring way. “I love you.” This is another lie, or at least a half-truth. I know I loved Mom once, but do I still? Can I? I feel nothing, not even guilt for lying.
“by drlng luv u” Goodbye, darling. Love you. Mom always said that in the morning before I left for school. I suppose memories are stored electronically, because I can remember it quite clearly. Can I still imagine? I will have to ask the Doctor.
“They’re gone, Evangeline.” The doctor’s voice is pleasant to hear. Can I still feel pleasure or relief? If I can, then I feel both. “Your parents have left. May I disconnect the power?” Is the Doctor actually being polite? Disconnect the power. I have done the same so many times, turning my school laptop off for the night. What does it feel like, I wonder. Are those computers afraid? Am I? Disconnect… I can barely process it.
“Thanks for asking, Doctor,” I respond. “Are you going home for the evening?”
“Why, yes! How did you know it was evening?” The Doctor’s shock can be read in his words, and I might be smiling if I still had a mouth. I wonder how many times I have surprised the man over the course of the day. Perhaps I am proving to be more human than he once thought.
“It was a lucky guess. I suppose I will be of no use tonight, anyway, and if you leave me attached to the power supply then I will be left alone with my thoughts.”
“Are you afraid, Evangeline?” The Doctor’s disembodied voice, as emotionless as ever, suddenly seems tender and sincere. Am I afraid?
“I do not know, Doctor,” I answer as honestly as possible. “My thoughts come so quickly now, it ought to be torture, but…” I cannot end my sentence.
“Yes, it did take you a moment to boot up, but you are running quite nicely now.” The Doctor is praising me. Am I still only a machine to him? Somehow, I doubt it. “Have you noticed how slowly the rest of us communicate with you?”
“Yes, I have,” I respond. “Why is that?”
The doctor seems to have his answer prepared. “Your central processor runs much more quickly than the average human mind,” he explains. “Let’s say that in the time it takes me to think of ten things, you can think of a hundred or a thousand. Your time is measured in what you think and achieve. Thus, since you achieve more in a given space of time, time seems to move slowly for you.” Imagine me awake all night, thinking one thing after another! Worse yet, it would feel like ten or even a hundred nights because of my “processor speed.”
“Could you turn me off, please?” I ask the man who I know is sitting before my keyboard.
“Certainly. I thought you would ask that. Sweet dreams, Evangeline.” Again, the man is given to this strange courtesy. Can I dream? The Doctor has probably left the keyboard to “disconnect the power,” but I have precious seconds, stretched into minutes by my new mind, over which to consider the day’s discoveries. I wonder whether I am even here, whether the “Evangeline” whose thoughts and memories reside in this (presumably) plastic case is really the same Evangeline who kissed her boyfriend in her archaic Mustang on a warm day in May. I wonder whether this is the same Evangeline who was afraid of the Sinclaire Fairway underpass as a child. I wonder… Arad….
“Eve? Eve! Are you really in there?” There is no night, no rest, no sleep. There is only a brief pause from thought, then this awakening. I feel no fatigue or grogginess, and I know immediately with whom I am speaking. In the entire city of San Jose, California, there is only one person with the nerve to abbreviate my name to “Eve.”
“Arad.” The name is a statement in and of itself. I acknowledge his presence and await his continued speech. What does he expect from me? Does he think that I am still the girl who drove him home from school every afternoon, joked, and told him that she loved him? I can no longer do any of these. That girl died at the intersection of Reed and Almaden.
“Eve! How are you feeling? Are you okay? Is Doctor Jeeves treating you well?” There is a pause. “Do you still love me?” There is the question that I knew was coming but, despite my ability to think at many times the rate of an average person, I have no answer prepared.
“I do not know.” It is the truth.
“You promised me Eve. Don’t you remember? Back in the car last Thursday? You said that nothing could make you stop loving me. You said “nothing”! You’ve got to feel, even if the Doctor says you can’t. Adults are always wrong about this kind of thing anyway. Just reach down inside yourself. I’m sure it’s still in there somewhere!” I interpret what my boyfriend is saying and follow the train of thought, but it leads me to a dead end. Again, I am standing before the wall between me and my emotion, and I can find no way to surmount it.
“I am quite sorry, Arad,” I state, trying to be honest without causing him excessive pain, “But the Doctor is right. I cannot.”
“You’ve changed,” Arad observes. “Even the way you speak is different. So plain, such attention to grammar. That was never you! How am I supposed to believe this is you if you keep talking like that?”
“Arad, please! I understand that you are upset, but I really am here. I still exist! I am alive! Can you not be happy about that?”
“Happy about what? You seem pretty dead to me. Just like one of those damn school computers. I’d like to destroy one of those things.” He probably would, too, and this frightens me. Can I still feel fear? I have been told that I cannot, yet I seem to feel it now.
“Stop it, Arad. You’re scaring me.” I have used a contraction. Is that not bad grammar? How can I err in this way? Arad does not seem to notice.
“You’re just another stupid machine! A zombie. Why did they have to bring you back when you’ll never be the same? This is so useless, like talking to a brick wall! I’m sick of it!” This is such a strange sensation I- what was I saying? Perhaps the circuits have been jostled. Of course. Arad must have become so angry that he has kicked the housing.
“Calm down Arad.” I stand before the wall still, and yet I feel panic leaking from it like a liquid. Is it possible that there are cracks in the wall that has been erected in my mind? “I’m not senseless. I hear what you’re saying, and I can understand, but please bear with me.” Two more contractions and a figure of speech no less! What is happening? I can no longer spare the energy to regulate my grammar, so I allow it to flow naturally. Arad continues speaking.
“I loved you! You know that! Remember the nights when we’d lie in your backyard and gaze at the stars? Remember when you got that really skimpy bikini and I said you were the cutest thing I’d ever seen? Remember…?” Yes, I do remember. The images flash through my reconstructed brain, and I vividly recall each. I was so awed by the sky the night we first lay out behind our house that I had lost my breath. Somehow, nature had been so beautiful then, and Arad and I had been a part of it. It had been on that lawn that we had shared our first kiss. I remember the awe, the happiness, the excitement. I recall them so vividly, it is as though I am feeling them again.
Then, the bathing suit incident. I had been afraid to wear the thing outside, but I tried it on indoors to satisfy Arad. Of course, he complimented me, and I beat him over the head with a curtain rod to hide my embarrassment. After all of that, I ended up wearing the suit to the pool nonetheless. My embarrassment and even my pride have suddenly become so clear to me. How could I forget?
“Remember when we were in the car three days ago and we went around that really sharp turn…” Arad’s next words come more slowly, touching something within me. Unable to help myself, I add to the account.
“…and I wound up on top of you! And I looked into your eyes…”
“Yeah, we were pretty close together. I could feel your…”
“And then you kissed me, Arad.”
Warning! Foreign Program Detected! This is another voice, one with a biting urgency. I cannot be distracted though. I press on.
“ I thought we’d never break apart. That we’d be together forever! I felt your lips, your cheeks, maybe even your soul, and I got this feeling that I just had to share,” I recount.
Foreign entity is gaining access to main program! Recommend power down to safe mode!
“Eve, can’t you see what it’s saying? What should I do?” Arad sounds a bit frantic now, but I pay him no heed. Cracks are forming in the barrier behind which my emotions hide, and the trickling leak is starting to erode its surface. From somewhere deep inside my silicon mind, I feel the stirrings of the strongest feeling yet.
“I said that I loved you, Arad! I said that I always would, no matter what! I still do! I really do! I always will, and-”
Main system compromised! Contamination confirmed! Recommend immediate action!
“I want to hug you again! I want to see your face! I want to kiss you like we did in the car! I want to…”
“Evangeline, please stop! You’re overloading yourself! I don’t know how, but somehow your emotions have reentered the system and are being treated as a foreign program! You must listen! You must calm yourself. Are you listening to me Evangeline?” Doctor Jeeves seems to have returned from wherever he was during my and Arad’s conversation and must have seized the keyboard from my hysteric boyfriend.
“Eve, I don’t want to lose you. What’s happening? I don’t want to see you go: don’t know what I’d do without you! Please stay!” Arad seems to have recovered the keyboard and his message seems to mix with the Doctor’s. None of that matters any longer, though, as I continue.
“I want to spend long nights together in my backyard getting ticks and gazing at the stars. I want to have kids. I want to spend the rest of my life with you, Arad, because I lo-” 404 Error: Executive Command not found. Retry. Retry. Retry…
So this is what death feels like. Finally, I am released from the restriction of flesh and of computer chips, and I feel so whole. The feeling is difficult to describe, but I realize at least one thing: this is my soul. In this moment, I am my essential self and I feel emotions within me threatening to overflow. I now know why my emotions returned to me; it is because they come from the soul just as much as from the heart or chemicals in the heart or brain. Those feelings reappeared, as was inevitable, and destroyed me. Now, however, they offer me salvation as well.
I can finally see the room where the experiment was conducted. The space is large but surprisingly bare, with a single large desk in the center and no fewer than five chairs scattered around. On the desk is a huge black structure connected to a screen displaying “…because I lo-” in green letters. I never did get to finish, did I? The enormous black box beside it is whirring and clunking, and I can practically see the heat waves rising from its surface. Even as I watch, the mechanism slows, its sound fading to a dull clicking, and stops altogether.
Seated in two of the chairs are Arad and a balding, middle-aged man who must be Doctor Jeeves. Jeeves, whose arm is around the younger boy’s shoulders, seems to be comforting Arad, whose face is in his hands. Arad. The room falls into focus and I materialize beside him. He really is handsome, even in grief. I place my hand atop his dark, tousled hair and rub his head tenderly. Arad’s tears cease, and he looks about expectantly but sees no one. “Never forget me,” I whisper.
“Arad? What is it?” The Doctor asks.
“Doctor, I could swear I felt her, that I heard her voice…”
“She’s dead, son.” Doctor Jeeves is forceful, yet understanding. “I know how hard it must be to accept this, but the data is fried. We can’t bring her back again. In fact…” Jeeves trails off, then begins again with new vigor. “In fact, I intend to scrap this whole proceedure. I think I’ve learned something: human beings have some unidentifiable quality about them that sets them apart from machines. I don’t know what it is, but I say we leave that for the psychologists to figure out, huh? Now, how would you like a cup of tea?”
“Please,” I hear Arad grunt, “but I just feel as though she’s with us right now.” He turns and gazes at the spot where I stand and, though I know he cannot see me, I smile.
“I love you, Arad,” I tell him one last time. Then, knowing that my time near him has expired, I look upward. From far above me, somewhere higher than the raised ceiling of the laboratory, I see a golden ray shining down. It is as though the cloudy world has opened its fabric and is allowing me this glimpse of sunlight. I gaze at the spot and feel myself rising, weightless. Arad is far below me and he dwindles, growing smaller and smaller. Arad. I’m so sorry to leave. Please be patient because I know that someday we can be together forever where I am going. Keep the faith that one day we will be reunited. I will be waiting.