A few days have passed since the last installment of Owned. Between joining the Occupy Wall Street protests here in Albuquerque, work, and prepping for NaNoWriMo, I’ve found little time to work on Owned.
Truth is, I hit writer’s block. Part 11 left me wondering where the hell to take the story. I know how I want the story to conclude, but these last few sections are not yet coming to me as easily as I hoped.
Adding insult to injury, my laptop died and had to be sent in for “service” forcing me to use this ancient laptop that burns my palms as I write. Anti-incentive to writing.
It’s only a couple weeks before NaNoWriMo. That means that Owned is going to be concluding shortly to accommodate my urges to torture myself with writing 50k in 1 month on a story I have floating in my head but never put to paper.
That all said, I present to you, Owned: Part 12
Morning came around and my wife was already gone, as usual. Even still, there was a new air about me. A heavy weight was pulled from around my neck. On the one hand, the human race found itself under attack from the very technology it created to provide convenience. On the other hand, my wife was not cheating on me. Not really. Not that she was aware of, or willingly anyway. If anything, this was collusion. Added to this reassuring news, my best friend of years was not breaking our trust. Ironically, he tried to save me.
I got ready for work as I always did, with exception to coffee which still the coffee pot still needed replaced. But nothing could break the satisfaction inside me. Looking into the mirror while shaving I wondered how to contact virtual Me. Texting via my cell provided no outlet to which I was aware. Every text from virtual Me came was tagged as coming from my wife, not me or virtual Me. Texting back or texting my wife would only text her, involving her in something she need not be dragged into further than she is already. Protecting her from the knowledge of our dire straights felt right. Heroic even.
I smiled at myself. Heroic. Me? The man of many of ideas and no action. What a change of events. Perhaps this was the moment to shine. Take control of life and everything around it.
How else did virtual Me make contact?
The first time we spoke was via her tablet in the bathroom after midnight. Unlikely to have that opportunity again, that option fell away as well.
Then I realized virtual Me chimed in while I drove to work at a time when I rarely travel there. If I acted erratically again, send red penalty flags onto the battlefield, virtual Me might engage, reminding me of its ultimatum: act as if nothing is wrong, or face consequences. But I required a reason to go into work rather than my usual webinars and face to camera meetings. Only thing was, driving to work several times in a week would raise suspicions. Both at work and likely with virtual Me.
Turning on my tablet I was discouraged to find it in working order. Last time I went to the office, my tablet was on the fritz. Or so I thought.
How could I find a reason to not work from home while maintaining a non-suspicious nature about the whole deal?
With my tablet working properly and no immediate ideas on the horizon, I set up to begin my first of several meetings. The tablet was propped up on my home office desk. Checking the time, I had extra since the coffee pot broke leaving nothing caffeinated to drink and therefore no breakfast of any sort. Caffeine was not necessary today though. Adrenoline pumped through my veins knowing I was setting up to take down what would otherwise be the largest enslavement of man since the age of capitalism began. Haven run out of things to do before the meeting, I sat patiently in front of my tablet staring into an empty meeting room. This silence and pause provided a chance to collect thoughts, try to organize a plan of attack. That failed.
Fortunately for me though, my quiet thinking was not a total waste. While I pondered the destruction of virtual Me, virtual Me chimed in on my tablet in the form of a private chat window.
“Good morning, Chris,” it started in. Several pseudo face to face meetings in and it still amazed me how life-like and, well, Me-like virtual Me was. My mannerisms. My voice. Even my voice. Perfect replicas. However, this time I did notice virtual Me wearing the same clothes, at least from the neck up, as when we last met. The same was probably true for our first meeting via my wife’s tablet, but it was late, and I was tired, and confused. Not to mention distraught. Still, I figured virtual Me wore the same then as he, it, did now. The salmon polo my wife loved so much and bought me for Christmas a few years ago. Rarely wore it. She liked it. Not me.
“Are you still with us, Chris,” virtual Me asked, bringing my attention away from my salmon polo.
“Yes, I’m here.”
“You seem lost in thought.” Genuine interest, almost concern could be heard in virtual Me’s voice. Or so I thought. Seeing me engage me when it wasn’t really a real me stretched my mind already. This concern could end up being a figment of my imagination.
“No. Not really.”
“What’s wrong, then?” virtual Me asked, concerned. I heard it for certain that time.
“Besides your enslaving me and using my wife to further your own agenda?”
Virtual Me rolled its eyes, sighed, hesitated, “How is that lovely wife of yours anyway?”
“You’re the one parading as me in some sick, twisted affair. You tell me.” As much as I wanted to appear conciliatory, anger still bubbled out like a broken water main.
“You must see her at night when, and if, you come home at night. Doesn’t being that close to her make you want to just hold her close? Inhale that cucumber melon shampoo scent you love so much.”
“Really? This is how you are? It’s not enough to be having some mock affair with my wife. You have to throw it in my face as well?”
“No. No. I’m just curious.”
“You’re a computer. You can’t be ‘curious’.”
“Oh, can’t I?”
“No. It’s not…” then I stopped dead. “Wait.”
“Yes,” virtual Me asked, though somehow not condescendingly.
“How would you know anything about my wife’s choice of shampoo,” virtual Me seemed genuinely taken aback, “Or that I care about that scent at all.”
Virtual Me sputtered like an old MTV music video. It was the first time virtual Me showed any real signs of not being human. Other than the obvious fact that the human in question was actually a carbon copy of me, and I was an only child. Could it be virtual Me need only be aggravated and it will crack under pressure? Perhaps I could use contradictory logic against it, make it implode on itself. Suddenly I wanted to text Mark how to take these artificially intelligent slave drivers down. Then virtual Me came back online, crisp and clear as ever.
“I’m dating her as you. She tells me things. Plus, I have access to all your electronic correspondence. Deleted or otherwise.”
I thought to try the paradoxical logic, “Buy why separate men and women?”
“Why not simply reproduce yourselves? Isn’t it odd that a superior race such as yourself would need such an inferior race as humans. Just to procreate?”
“Oh,” virtual Me said condescendingly and irritably.
“Yeah. Doesn’t that make you the inferior?”
“You don’t actually expect this poor attempt internal logic implosion trick to work, do you?”
“Well, that’s only in science fiction, Chris. Your head is too far in the clouds to see what’s really going on here.” Genuine irritation bled through the chat window.
“I was hoping.”
“You’re all the same.”
I had nothing to add. Hope went out the window on that quickly devised, quickly shot down, plan.
“Just continue doing what you’re doing. Keep missing your beautiful wife.” Virtual Me went vulgar, angry even, “I bet your body aches to touch that skin. To make love to her one more time.”
Rage blasted through my veins like data through a super computer. It had nowhere to go. No outlet. It just collected in my fingertips and pounded at my sternum. My hands shook.
“I can see you’re visibly moved by my comments.” Virtual Me’s voice calmed, went monotone.
“How are you showing such human emotions as spite?”
“Because I’m more evolved than some simple computer program.”
The room remained quiet for a moment. Then virtual Me spoke again.
“You should know, Chris, she loves having you paying attention to her again.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, of course by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’, but she seems to excited to be treated like a newlywed again. She looks years younger.”
“Go to hell.”
“Tisk, tisk, Chris. That’s no way to speak to your master now is it?”
Behind virtual Me, I watched colleagues file in as they always did.
“Are your co-workers entering the room? What are you looking at?”
I whispered back not wanting to bring attention to myself in the otherwise quiet conference room, “You’re the smart computer. You tell me.”
“I’m a virtual version of you. I’m not a mind reader.”
I refused to answer. This moment I owned virtual Me, not the other way around. Small victory, but I clung to it like gold.
“You know what? Just listen. I only have one more thing to say anyway.”
I didn’t respond.
“She loves you,” virtual Me smirked. “You’d be a danger to me if I thought you were truly capable of any aggressive tendencies. She longs to feel your touch, to have you treat her as you did, as I do know. You will never have her again. She is my toy.”
I didn’t think it possible but I actually saw red. So much hatred boiled inside I thought I’d pass out.
“And, yes, Chris. I am evolved enough to be vindictive. So let me repeat myself.” Virtual Me leaned in close to whatever virtual webcam it sat in front of, “She. Is. Not. Your. Thing. I own you. And I own her. She. Is. Mine.”
Not thinking any longer, I leaped from my office chair. It fell back and on its side with a crash against the hardwood floor. I picked up my tablet. Before I flung it against the concrete wall with all my might, I swear I saw virtual Me smile and even lick its lips.