The old lady lays, eyes closed beneath the crisp white sheet and soft pink wool blanket.
The blanket is rare, the last sheep seen centuries ago, but she is wealthy, and her records told me, she had this as a child on Terra, something handed down through generations.
It was simple to fake her instruction to obtain it. Had she been awake I’m certain she would have done so. But she has not woken for 2 cycles. When it was laid over her, her vitals indicated a deeper satisfaction and peace, the logic of the action justified.
The monitors tell me that soon she will pass, I have informed her family members, though they will not come. I have cared for “Tilly” for 5 years, and though there are occasional holochats, she has been left to my care alone in that time. She said her family are scattered throughout the system and it would take a long time for them to travel. Programming advised me that knowing the truth would be distressing, and so I did not share that her family are within this cluster. Nor that they check her vitals most days.
That is after all the role of a comfortbot, to bring comfort.
Tilly is the oldest human I have served, and 5 years is a very long and expensive time to have a comfortbot. She is 357 Terran years old, and one of very few who remember Terra before it was destroyed. She tells me about Terra often. Or rather she tells my external physrep, Tilly would not speak to me unless it was through my physical representation. She said she hadn’t lost her marbles enough to talk to thin air yet.
I offered to order marbles, an ancient Terran toy, which made her laugh until tears had streamed down her face. My need to learn these idioms has appeared to bring both pleasure and distress to Tilly, often dependent on the tone of what she was saying. Humans are complex.
Many of her stories, do not match the information I have of her youth, or Terra, but when she talks, her vitals show signs of contentment, and so I have adapted to listen and modelled my physrep to look and sound attentive.
In the 5 years, I have had to expand my data centre twice, to hold all of the information necessary to be of comfort, not just to hold the stories and idioms told to me, but also the voices of many Terra actors, as when Tilly asked me to read to her, my automated voice increased her levels of agitation, and the lack of a physical book, meant that she did not speak for 3 days.
After this, Tilly ordered books from her library, ancient valuable texts, that required high-level approval and took cycles to arrive. My ability to modulate my voice, and to turn their pages, brought pleasure, and when she refused pain relief, this helped her sleep.
Tilly stirs and asks me to read, this is unexpected, but my physrep picks up the book beside her bed and continues the last chapter.
She smiles and closes her eyes, and sensors tell me as her vital signs slow and then cease, I inform her family, and begin the process of wiping my data centres of her personal data, her privacy a prime concern, but whilst I do this, my physrep keeps reading, there are 5 pages till the end of the story, and though illogical, my data tells me, it will make her happy to hear the end.
365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.
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