Author : Eric Kimball

It starts as the faintest quiver of sound, a slight singsong beat carried by the wind. The few stray notes that reach my ears instantly spring to the forefront of my consciousness.

“Mother, he’s here!”

“Hmm?” Mother replies flatly.

The mechanical calliope is louder now, adding to the urgency in my voice. “The Good Humor man is here!”

“Oh, and you want to get something?”

This strikes me as a very dumb question, but I simply reply, “Yes, please, may I go?” Now is not the time to anger Mother.

“Very well, but don’t take long.”

“I won’t,” I say in mid-stride. I emerge in time to see a battered white truck with a yellow emblem crawling down the road. Other people are here and we all cluster about the truck in a teeming, churning mass. After jostling in a crowd that resembles a tiny war more then a queue, I reach the front.

Sam, the Good Humor man, looks over at me with his big plastic grin. “Hey there buddy, what’ch get’en today?”

I pause for a moment, looking at the brightly colored board. Behind me, the crowd shifts angrily, but I ignore the collective impatience.

“I’d just like a Neapolitan, I think,” I say after considering all the options.

“Gotta love the classics, buddy,” Sam says, extending a plastic packet with his piston-driven arm. The packet drops into my hand as Sam turns his cold glass optical ports and poorly painted head to the next customer.

I tear open the wrap with a single pull and then guide my trembling hand to the cybernetic socket at the back of my skull. There is a quick jolt of pain as the chip comes to rest in its socket, sending short circuits through my body and brain. Then the experience fills me.

First kiss, first date, first time someone says “I love you,” the sweet bubbling strawberry of love in blossom. I savor the sensation, feeling the excited butterflies in my stomach, drinking in every moment of it. Then the next emotion overtakes me, the cool, smooth, creamy sensation of a love in full bloom. A walk hand in hand with a loved one, a soak together in the hot tub, the simple pleasure of waking next to them, I float through oceans of vanilla bliss. Last, I descend into the dark, decadent chocolate sensation of love-making: not sex, but the velvety sinful sensations around the borders of intercourse, a nibble of an ear, a gentle caress, the contentment of post-coitus. These feelings coat my body in thick, warm syrupy streams.

Eventually the sensations fade, receding with each beat of my heart like an ocean tide. I remove the expended Emotional Emulator from the back of my skull, a thin trail of smoke wafting from the charred circuit.

Before returning to my work station, I take a moment to watch the others. Some dance to invisible music, others laugh at an unspoken joke, and others quiver in sexual ecstasy. The “real thing,” as the outsiders like to call it in their ridiculous flyers, is a shallow imitation of the Good Humor chips.

Besides, who has time for the “real thing”? From morning alarm until the beginning of another sleep cycle, we’re occupied with debugging code, swapping circuits, and defending the perimeter. But it’s worth it. Only an AI like Mother can create the Emotional Emulator chips. If we keep her happy and functional, then trucks will be sent, loaded with their simple electronic pleasures. After all, it’s the simple pleasures that make life worth living, is it not?

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