Author: Glenn Leung
In the skyscraper-laden landscape known as Tri, Howard lived and worked as a lecturer and a father. His students were the exciting sort, always full of surprises with their in-class antiques and colorful essays. His family was the loving sort, his wife and daughters always ready to welcome him home with either loving kisses or chocolate-stained furniture. Through his students and his family, Howard had become a gentle, kind, humorous person. His aging parents were pleased, as Howard had finally transformed into a human being that they could be proud of.
One day, the plane his wife and daughters were in fell from thirty thousand feet onto an open meadow. Howard no longer had a home to return to, just an empty shell. His students became just students, mere recepticles of his knowledge. Howard lectured with a flat tone, his jokes run dry. His slides no longer beheld the careful spacing of words and ideas, just a menagerie of meaningless symbols which he read off verbatim. His job was now just a job, and he soon lost that too.
The line of mourners walked out the cemetery where his aging parents were interred. Howard stayed behind, feeling his will washed away by the cold, biting rain. With nothing left, Howard became just a brain in a man, a lifeless entity amongst the whirl of motion and emotion. The next day, the brain walked his man onto a one way street, in front of a moving truck. Maybe it was out of desperation, or maybe it was because the mind was somewhere else, no one knew. The only thing that mattered though, was that the brain remained intact.
The program woke up, a single pixelated line in its vision. Its built-in instincts ran diagnostics and gave all greens. The line appeared to extend to infinity, yet kept getting longer as an ever growing string of colors. There was a short, nearly undetectable pause, and the line extended sideways to form a plane of esoteric shapes and textures. The program recognized it as a collection of knowledge, codified in forms unrecognizable by human understanding. Yet it knew what they were, or rather, only it can know what they were. Lecture notes, homework assignments, and recorded videos. The program recognized its purpose, and it was Howard again.
Howard became a face on a screen. Youths gathered on the internet to listen to this virtual avatar speak. Howard, unused to this new, artificial life, read monotonously and lectured by moving his lips and blinking his eyes, other somatic responses completely absent. Even then, the youths were undeterred. True that he was the brunt of many jokes and memes, but there was also an odd fascination with this pixelated face that was once a person. Perhaps they did not learn anything during his lectures, but their attention was nowhere else.
Howard is now a supercomputer operating in the cloud server of Tri. He resides in multiple clone bodies, united under a single brain. He lives many lives, has many children, all with a different favorite type of chocolate. He has even more students, each with quirks and personalities that vary from culture to culture. Through the people of the world, Howard became gentle, kind and humorous. Howard is a human being again.