Cover image: Alex Iby on Unsplash.

For You!’

My 25th birthday fell exactly two years after our second wedding anniversary. Garath had told me that there would be no anniversary treats; he was saving up for a ‘very special Birthday surprise.’

I was a bit disappointed, but made sure we still celebrated in style. Bubbly drinks did not have to break the bank, and pizza by candle-light, we found, could be very romantic. Instead of the roses, I gathered wild flowers, and judging by what happened after, I did a good enough job in creating that seductive ambience.

I could not help wondering what the birthday gift would be. Maybe tickets for a long luxurious cruise, or a trade-in of my current car to a luxury version. It could, of course, be jewellery, or maybe a shopping spree at one of the more exclusive boutiques.

In my wildest dreams, I would never have guessed the truth. My own AI, an android that promised assistance in any way, shape or form. I was delighted, of course. Who would not have been, given the extravagance?

Does she have a name?”, I’d asked Garath.

Ask her,” he replied, his excitement evident.

I felt a bit stupid; self-conscious about talking to what I knew to be a machine. Clearly, if she was going to become my companion, it was a feeling I would have to get over.

Erm, hello,” I said, feeling myself blush. “What’s your name? Do you have one?”

"Hello, mistress. Yes I have a name. It is Wanda.“Her speech was quite remarkable. Slightly stilted, but otherwise sounding so natural. Perhaps it was just that she was shy with me too, for her reddened cheeks mirrored my own.

Please, call me Grace. Mistress is way too formal.” I had laughed, and just like that, the tension seemed to disappear.

It did not take long for me to learn at least part of the reason for Wanda’s presence. Garath was going to be spending increasing amounts of time away from home. He did not want me to become lonely, so he had provided me with a companion.

Wherever I went, Wanda was there. For a few weeks I found this delightful, but sometimes I did like to spend some quiet time alone. Wanda would comply with the quiet, but she would not leave me alone.

See what I did? I was already humanizing her, even though I knew she was a machine. Very sophisticated, state-of-the-art, and unavailable to members of the public, but nevertheless, a machine.

I think she had been programmed to learn from me, to adapt to my own personal needs. I was a lonely person, isolated; the nature of Garath’s job and the secrecy behind it, necessitated me staying apart, not making friends. Wanda was going to fix that.

As the weeks passed, we watched films together, read the same books, listened to the same music. We learned to chatter, to laugh and to gossip. She was the female friend that I had not had since I was a very young child.

Or so I thought. She even did the chores for me. Sometimes I found myself feeling redundant, but then Garath would come home, and Wanda’s presence would allow us to take full advantage of those precious moments.

He never seemed to pay Wanda much attention. I knew that she was so much cleverer than me; physically perfect in his eyes, too. That did not matter. My husband knew she was not real, for had he not played an integral part in her development. Sometimes it was hard for me to remember that. I would find myself scrutinizing their interactions, looking for a closeness that should not have been there.

I never saw one, not even the slightest bit of flirtation. My unease, although mounting, was groundless.

Waking with a thunderous headache, I reached in to the drawer of my bedside locker, but there were no painkillers to be found. I turned over to ask Garath if he had any, only to find his side of the bed empty. I would have to go to the kitchen, get some from there.

I padded my way silently down the stairs, all my sense attuned. Where was my husband? I knew he was not working. Unless he had got called away, and being sick, the phone had not wakened me.

But that still left the question of Wanda. Where was she?

The door was not completely closed. I would not have been surprised to find them embraced in each other’s arms; sickened, maybe, but not surprized. Instead, I saw Garath hand Wanda a gun.

Forgetting the tablets, I raced as fast as stealth would allow and climbed back in to my bed. It was only about five minutes later that I heard Garath return too. He could not have noticed me, for without so much as a glance or word, he turned on his side and went to sleep.

I lay there all night. What did it mean? Why did Wanda need a gun? I needed time on my own to think.

Where are you going Grace?” Where she came from I didn’t have a clue, but there she was between me and the door.

I... I just want to pop out for a few minutes,” I stuttered. “I... I forgot something.”

Then I will come with you,” Wanda said, placing her hand on the door.

No!” I hoped she had not picked up on the urgency of that word. “It’s just down the road. I’ll only be gone for a few minutes.”

I have to accompany you,” Wanda insisted.

Why?” I asked, desperate to escape.

Grace must not leave on her own.” Wanda was showing her robotic personality. Especially when she drew out the gun, pointed it in my direction.

And that was when the reality hit me. Garath's extravagant gift had been the installation of my jailer.

 

 


Submitted: September 03, 2019

© Copyright 2022 hullabaloo22. All rights reserved.

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Comments

Mike S.

"I can't do that, Dave!" Excellent AI tale, Hull!

Tue, September 3rd, 2019 6:20pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, Mike!

Tue, September 3rd, 2019 12:19pm

AdamCarlton

Good twist. All routes lead to jail.

Tue, September 3rd, 2019 6:26pm

Author
Reply

Yep, sure seems that way sometimes. Thanks, Adam.

Tue, September 3rd, 2019 12:19pm

D. Thurmond / JEF

One possible ending was overtaken by another, then another, then the beginning thought resurfaced. What a ride! Nice twists Hul.

Tue, September 3rd, 2019 6:49pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, JE.

Tue, September 3rd, 2019 12:21pm

Sue Harris

A gripping, unpredictable story, Hully, hooked me in and kept me riveted from start to finish. Excellent writing!

Tue, September 3rd, 2019 8:51pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, Sue. This was quite a challenge, way out of my comfort zone.

Wed, September 4th, 2019 11:20am

Vance Currie

This is a really good story, Hully. As I was reading it, I wondered where I could get myself a Wanda, but the ending convinced me that I should stick to my stuffed bear. He doesn't carry a gun.

Tue, September 3rd, 2019 9:33pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much, Joe. It was quite a challenge to write.

Wed, September 4th, 2019 11:23am

Robert Helliger

A good science fiction AI short story.
It is dramatically written.

Tue, September 3rd, 2019 11:01pm

Author
Reply

Thank you so much for giving it a read, Robert!

Wed, September 4th, 2019 11:23am

moa rider

That's the thing with AI Mama Hullabaloo, you've got to watch the programmer! Usianguke

Wed, September 4th, 2019 2:28am

Author
Reply

Isn't that the truth! Thanks, Moa!

Wed, September 4th, 2019 11:25am

Derina Peng

Wow. This somehow echoed the idea I have for AI in a short story I wrote recently. The Body Making Factory. I really think this kind of occurrence would happen in the future. Even pets and plants can be made into AI and control or monitor us. This was a very well written thriller.

Wed, September 4th, 2019 1:50pm

Author
Reply

Thanks so much for the wonderful comment, Derina. It's not something I'd often write about.

Wed, September 4th, 2019 11:28am

Sharief Hendricks

Very good story Hully...

I thought Wanda might turn against Garath because she is becoming too possessive over Grace and would want Grace all to herself...

Cool twist at the end...

Thu, July 16th, 2020 5:57pm

Author
Reply

Thanks, Sharief. Glad you enjoyed it.

Fri, July 17th, 2020 3:28am

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