A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME
Alon was the last. After thousands of years he had done most things many times. Nothing seemed to get his blood pumping anymore. He was the last and he had begun to doubt he really existed. He longed to see someone’s face. Of course they seemed to see him but it just wasn’t the same. Alon was stronger than the rest. Mentally that is but on the other hand he just couldn’t take the step to end the loneliness. Sometimes he felt he alone sustained the earth holding all reality on his back like Atlas.
There were only two options it seemed. One required faith in the hereafter to make it truly an option in his mind. The other was the choice the others had chosen and he had resisted with all his fortitude reinforced with fear. The robots had taken care of him and they were well educated of course but he always felt they were patronizing him. I wonder sometimes if I create them in my mind due to my isolation he thought.
“You are real aren’t you?”
“I assure you my dear Alon that I am very real indeed and if you doubt it I will pinch you to prove you are not dreaming” the golden robot quipped. “Are you feeling well? Sometimes I worry about you when you are disassociated.”
“I’m not disassociated. I am speculating philosophically”.
“Sorry, if I seem overprotective. I would be disappointed to spend eternity labeled as the one who allowed the last one to descend into madness.”
“ How would you judge human madness.”
“Madness is a human condition statistically determined by radical deviation from the mean.”
“Of course you could detect such a thing?”
“Yes, it is within my power of analysis. But since you are the only one deviation from the mean would be pointless since you are the mean median and mode all in one. You set the standard for normal.”
“Well, I could have drifted pretty far astray over the years.”
“ I have been with you these thousands of years even when others were here.”
“How many thousands?”
The robot turned its back and began to make Alon a martini from the hollow in its chest. “Seven thousand three hundred twenty seven years and two months and three days and fourteen hours and…oh you don’t like or need that much detail do you.” And then presented the martini to Alon
Alon wondered from time to time if the robots lose their patience at talking down to humans. He knew that for them it must be like talking to a grasshopper. They were, of course, connected to the central computer that housed all intelligence in the solar system but his.
The robot continued to stand as Alon leaned back in his rocking chair. “Do I look old ,friend?”
“You look about the same age as all the humans I have ever seen as they reach adulthood and stop aging you know.”
“Yes, I do know but it seems lately I can’t seem to make proper judgments about myself. It would be nice to have another opinion. A human opinion. Does that hurt your feelings?”
“Alon, we have had this particular discussion but I don’t mind the retelling that you are the last real object on earth with sentience and emotions as humans experience them. You are of biology. You needed to feel sexual attraction and loneliness and all the other drives required to assist you in your evolution and competition among your contemporaries. They of course didn’t have your perseverance.”
“Perseverance or stubbornness or just pure fear?”
“That is for you to answer as I cannot see inside your mind.”
“Friend, let us go over to the center. I want to communicate with those who have become “centralized”.
Alon never went far from the center. He was drawn to it more than he feared it now. He could feel the loneliness taking its toll. A decision must be arrived at soon. He went into the terminal. Like always it was like going into a small room but once inside it seemed to be endless garden with mountains in the distance. Heaven was the first word that came to mind. He could smell the orchids and hear the parrots high in the canopy. More and more of his time had been spent in this room. They began to arrive. Some flying, some walking and some just appeared. All had been represented by the central computer as human inhabitants that had made the change. Their avatars were all geometric shapes and sizes and oddly configured animals that somehow vaguely resembled children’s illustrated fairy tales brought to life. This time there were quite a few that were attractive human caricatures.
“Hello Alon, it is wonderful to see you.”
It was almost as if they were strangers to each other watching an exhibit at the zoo. It was almost as if they didn’t notice each other and focused their attention exclusively on Alon.
“I’m glad to be here with you too. I have been giving a lot of thought lately to the prospect of joining you in there.”
They never seemed to interrupt each other even accidently. “Alon, I was Sharon in reality, should we talk it over?”
“Yes, again. We have been discussing this for years now. All of you have been patient and I think I am on the verge of deciding.”
“Alon, we have never tried to convince you of anything. We are all here together and you are a very interesting reminder of how we were. We enjoy your company as things are now. Would you mind reviewing your day so we could get a feel for what it is like back there?”
Alon always thought it was a little bit odd that in this large group inside the computer only one of them spoke and none accidently interrupted.
“I am a very boring guy. I woke up and cooked some sausage and eggs and toast and …”
“Where did the sausage and eggs and toast come from? Did you kill a pig? Did you collect the eggs? Who made the bread you made the toast from?”
“I rely on the robots to produce the raw ingredients and I fry the sausage and eggs and the other day I made bread in my oven from scratch.”
“Did anything taste even slightly different today than they normally have?”
“No, well yes, the sausage must have been from a pig that was a little different.” Alon thought this was an odd question of course.
Describing his day was going to be a lot more involved than it needed to be but that was the way the insiders wanted it and they indulged him on the descriptions of life inside.
“It is a subjective thing. I don’t think I could explain the difference in words between todays sausage and last weeks sausage.”
“That is acceptable. When you cooked the bread did the aroma fill the house and did you put butter or margarine on the bread?”
“Yes the bread was aromatic and I made whole wheat bread instead of white bread this time.”
A collective “aaaahhh” was like a sigh coming from the screen.
“Do you have smells inside?”
“We do but they seem standardized. We simulate eating and tasting and smelling but they are many times not as we remember them or if they are like we remember them they are always pretty much the same. And another thing is that we all seem to perceive our senses differently. While I might smell hot bread Mr. Triangle here might smell a crawdad.”
“That seems confusing. I have noticed that you seem to ask questions put to you by others but I never see you communicate with the others.”
“There is nothing hidden between us anymore. I know what all the other citizens on the inside know and they know what I know. The concept of privacy was not well understood by the central computer but there are always going to be problems in any endeavor so it is not really surprising.”
“That sounds annoying. Do you find it annoying?”
“If there is an annoying aspect of a lack of partitioning it is that in a way we seem to be one entity. The borders between us seem, well I think this is like your sausages, a little hard to put into words. I will say this though a description of being one is somehow a lot like you describing being alone with yourself.”
“I am considering uploading to the inside because your condition seems very social and since there is no one left outside but me the loneliness has become oppressive. It is something I have been considering for hundreds of years. There must be something about me that is different allowing me to tolerate being alone with these robots. My one salvation is coming here to talk to you.”
“When you upload you will certainly not be without input but in here there is nothing unexpected. We know each other completely and the central computer knows us and we know it. There can be no surprises.”
“I digress. So after breakfast I went out and fed my animals. They are always excited to see me in the morning and even if it is just because I bring their nourishment their grateful exuberance is uplifting.”
“What are the animals thinking?”
Alon laughed, “I am not sure if they think but it seems they do. I am not privy to their secrets.”
“So you are not really alone?”
“In a sense that is correct but somehow I am programmed to need the sight of another human face to verify my existence. After that I walked the beach and did some beachcombing and then rowed my boat along the shore for a few miles without going into the breakers.”
“Why did you beachcomb?”
“There is an odd thing about beachcombing. You never know what will come from the sea. There might be strange creatures or shells or just driftwood. Do you have experiences like that?”
“We can walk beaches and fly and run and soar into space but there is nothing unexpected because we see the origin of the thought that makes it so.” It is as if you can read the mind of god. We could not walk a virtual beach and come upon something that would surprise us.
Alon tried to put himself in this frame but it was difficult. It made him think of a Mandelbrot video that kept repeating the same thing over and over no matter how close you look it was the same thing over and over.
“I think I will go for another row in my boat.”
He left the central control area with its video connection to the inside and headed down to the beach where his boat was kept. His robot warned him of an approaching storm but Alon did not respond. He got into his tiny boat and rowed in the direction of the blackest cloud. He asked himself aloud, “ Maybe it wasn’t stubbornness but some intuition.” He smiled and rowed.