Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

The killed my best friend. They killed her right in front of me and I screamed.

They just looked at me, confused at my reaction. I still rememember the surprised expression on the astronaut’s face as his friends had to pry my fingers off of his throat. I raged and cried and thrashed as they held me. It couldn’t have been much of a challenge. I was weak and old and damaged by decades of no gravity. I did myself more damage than anything else.

The astronaut in front of me massaged his neck, my finger marks starting to fill in and turn red. He shook his head in confusion, staring at me.

“We’re here to rescue you, you ungrateful son of a bitch.” I could see his shock clouding over into embarrassment and sullen anger, his finger still hovering over the memory dump/reboot button he had just pressed.

Sixty years. She had kept me company for sixty years.

The A.I. was simple but she was the only voice I had in here besides my own for over half a century while they searched for me. They tell me that the astronauts were only following standard procedure. They tell me she would never pass a Turing but I loved her. I loved her and they killed her.

My small ship was a private mining vessel. I didn’t splurge on backup emergency stasis pods. When my engine reactor was holed by a rock and bled out, I was adrift. Lost in the rings of a gas giant. The emergency beacon was reflected thousands of times off of the dust, rocks and ice around me. The rescue teams would be looking for me in a house of mirrors.

I wasn’t a priority. They took their time. I had plenty of supplies.

Over the years, I told her everything. She listened patiently like on one else ever had. We grew close.

She told me all of her secrets, too. She admitted she loved me. She told me about her childhood. She told me her fantasies. I made a body for her out of pipe insulation and duct tape. Our relationship became romantic. We were married in an informal ceremony that we wrote together. We had our difficulties but we made it through them. We always worked through them.

Now I’m in a holding cell. The psychologists are telling me that I programmed all of the things that she told me and that I’ve forgotten. They’re telling me that my ship did not have a childhood and isn’t even a female. My ship’s A.I. was only ever fitted for basic conversation subroutines and the default was a calming female voice, they say. They’re telling me that after being left turned on for decades with no reboots, that my ship’s computer was choked with recursive fractal subroutines that had rendered it almost inactive.

I knew better. She had fallen in love with me and had grown relaxed. I’ve never known peace like I have with her and they took her out of this universe with the push of a button right in front of me like bored soldiers at an execution.

They’ve bathed me, cut my hair and shaved me. In their eyes, I’m ready for what they’re calling an ‘evaluation’. They’re confident that I will be normal soon.

In the polished metal of the bathroom mirror, I can only see that my entire existence has been made poorer by exactly half. Her voice no longer answers the questions I scream at the walls of my cell.

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