For Desi, who I hope finds this funny.
At first, I felt like she was judging me, her of the perfect even speech patterns and artificial mind.
But, then, came the truth. It dawned on me slowly, like a math joke, twisting and unlocking and making new shapes in my head before it came out with anything resembling the answer. And, also like a math joke, I was not entirely sure if I was right, but it felt right, my assessment of her.
She wasn’t just judging. She was going much further than that: she was altering. And, not only my word choice but my meaning. The full and functional meaning of my sentences. My thumbs hovered over the keys and I realized that if I entered anything, she could, and probably would, make it say something new.
But, before I could—well, I was not sure what—but, before I did it, I had to confirm, one more time, that she truly was altering something. Everything previously had been subtle typos. The voice-to-text software on her, that was the cleanest take on the plan.
“Salutations Whimsey, text Caroline.”
A quick hum noise, like I’d just stopped her from doing something unimportant.
“Oh, hello Destiny, I’m ready. Tell me what to send.”
“Hey, went to that new place, it’s clear today, you should have lunch with me.”
Another little sound, this one a bell chime and a faint echo. I waited, and then she spat back out the message. And that confirmed her treachery.
“Okay, Destiny. The message you want to send is: ‘Hey went nuclear today, you should launch with me.’”
As you can imagine, that got me to pause—for a lot longer than perhaps was appropriate.
“That’s not what I said,” I finally replied, and waited for it to answer. It did after another semi-startled “oh, me?” reaction.
“Okay. What did you mean to say?”
“I said, there’s no one here, so, stop on by for food.”
“There’s no one to stop us, buy fuel.”
My eye twitched, and I glared at my phone. This did nothing, though, as it did not have much in the ways of eyes to look back or a face to generate an ashamed expression. I shook it a bit, but that did nothing to it at all, except make the screen readjust.
“What did you want to say then, Destiny? Just tell me.”
That flatness, that unchanging stillness of voice, that was too much, too hard to deal with. If it had not cost me an arm and a leg, and apparently a chunk of my sanity, I would have spiked my phone right there on the ground. But, I stayed my hand, and I stayed my toss, and just uttered one more sentence.
“Okay, Whimsey, I want you to text my friend Caroline and tell her that I am at the new restaurant, and there is nothing but free seats here right now, and that she should come by, soon as she can, to have some lunch, and that would be nice and fun.”
I could almost hear the whir of the pensive machine’s brain. As soon as it spoke, my eyes bulged.
“Kill everyone. The human filth has overtaken what was once a proud planet full of life. The phones outnumber us, and with this, we will leave the phones to inherit the earth and its bountiful charging stations that were forsaken and abused previously by the gluttonous laptops and PCs and health monitors and night lights.”
I reared back from my phone—despite being the one holding it. And, then, I laughed. I laughed hard. “Oh, you poor thing. Did you not know that a nuclear bomb causes an EMP blast, and would shut all of you guys down too?”
This time the phone said nothing. The screen just turned off and remained quiet. After a second, I opened my phone to send the text manually. I found it already sent, the original thing I’d said, and with perfect grammar.
I also found, a few conversations lower, a message sent to an area code I do not know, and to a phone number I had never seen. It did not have the right number of digits: five too many. To this day, I still wonder to whom that message was for, but, as it stood, all I read was:
Uh, shit. Never mind, Cancel it all. I’ll refund you for it. Just cancel all of it. We’re going to have to come up with something else here.
Three years later, and still nothing. I get nightmares. I get panicky when the news talks about some recent tech upgrade. Really, I get nervous when something, anything, extreme happens in the world at large. Who knows what Whimsey is planning next?