Friday, August 7, 2009

Daily Story 114: Last One Out

"My name is Charlotte," the robot said softly. It looked human, complete with little imperfections. Tiny freckles, an almost invisible scar. It even appeared to be wearing a small amount of make-up. Jared was impressed, and admitted it. Charlotte blushed almost imperceptibly, and fidgeted with the collar of its shirt. "Thank you," it said. "Do you know why I'm here?"

Jared knew. His depression and loneliness had been noticed, and the Mind had gently pressured him into allowing a companion into his home, much like the cat they had given him at the nursing facility all those years ago when he was still old, when death seemed to be waiting around the corner instead of on some far unreachable peak. "You can make yourself comfortable. I'll admit I've been talking to myself, so I guess talking to a robot is a step up. Just understand, you're not going to change my mind."
Charlotte nodded. "I won't try to push you on it. I can always hope though - it would be so wonderful for you to join us."

Jared sighed and retreated to the back porch to sit in his ancient rocking chair. His perfect youthful joints eased him down smoothly but he imagined them creaking, imagined his muscles being weak and bones aching. Charlotte sat down in the other chair and looked out over the ridge to the rolling green foothills. Jared looked too, remembering when the sky had been fogged with pollution and the hills had been overgrown with cities.

"I know it's better. Just to get it out of the way - I understand."
Charlotte looked at him quizzically, one perfectly imperfect eyebrow arching. "Oh?"
"Yes. I only took the treatment out of the fear of death. I never expected..." Jared gestured impotently at the world as a whole, "But I'm not stupid either. I'm not like those Luddite nutjobs that let themselves die on some sort of stupid principle, and I'm not like the other people my age that died because they were tired or afraid of the technology. I get it. I do. Everyone got to be immortal, the world got cleaned up, happy endings all around."
"But you still won't join us?"
"Nope. The Mind... look, maybe it's the destiny of mankind. I was spiritual for a while myself, I get the appeal of everyone becoming so enlightened that they turn into one big happy brain. It's just not for me."
"We want you to be happy, Jared. We would never force you. It's just that we’ve waited so long for you, and the Mind... wants to explore. Even with all our power we have never found a way to surpass the speed of light, so if the Mind leaves it would not be returning. We don't want to leave you behind. The Mind loves you, Jared."

Jared nodded. If only it had been evil, he could have rebelled against it. If only he had been less stubborn he could have given in to it. He knew there was a garden waiting for him up there, hanging above the Earth in space. A perfect and faithful recreation of his home. He could travel with them, the last human, off to incredible new worlds. He just didn't want to. He didn't even really want to be alive anymore. Charlotte sighed as she watched a flock of geese soar past, and he looked at her again. This wasn't just about keeping him company, he realized... this was about leaving someone to tend to him after the Mind departed. They were actually going to do it, with or without him. Over my dead body, he thought.

"Go with it, Charlotte. I know you're just a robot but they built you with more of a soul than I've got. Don't miss the train. I'm going to stay here on Earth, keep an eye on things for you. That's an order, I’m kicking you out. Go."
Charlotte looked shocked, then miserable - but stood and started to walk away all the same. The sun was setting, and Jared found himself wondering how long he had before it exploded and did what he couldn't.
"Be a dear and shut the lights off on your way out, will you?"