A Spark of Light

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A wealthy CEO witnesses his sophisticated computer-investment develop sentience.

Submitted: July 17, 2009

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Submitted: July 17, 2009

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Winston Green was fast asleep in his penthouse bed in Queens, New York when the phone rang. His eyelids flicked open and closed, revealing momentary fleeting glimpses of unwavering green eyes. His mouth lulled open; his mind entrenched in some distant dream. The shrill, icy ringing of the telephone woke him, and he rolled onto his back, extending an angry hand to the reciever on his bedside table.

“What?” he croaked into the line.

“Doctor Green?” a frantic, small excited voice. As if a child awaiting Christmas in anticipation and a little fear.

“What?” Green repeated.

“H-Hour.” The voice said. And Green clicked the down the receiver. He stumbled into his closet, a bulky room that could have accommodated several tenants, and threw on a white shirt. His wife and children were on vacation in Europe. The doctor couldn’t afford time off of work, certainly not now. Certainly not on D-Day, H-Hour. A month early, too. Christ. H-Hour.

The limousine was purring outside when the doorman, a surprised look on his drowsy face, opened the door and tipped his hat to Green. Green reached into his pocket and passed him a hundred-dollar bill.

“H-hour,” he said to the doorman with a smile growing ear-to-ear across his thin, aged lips. “H-Hour, my friend. H-Hour.” He had slipped into the limousine, which slipped into the road before the doorman could look at the bill with awe and slip it into his pocket.

The traffic was mostly the nightly crowd of plebian filth. Taxicabs and corners and park benches soaking in vomit, the smell rising and carrying in the cold, bitter wind. The squeals of rats and junkies echoing against the shut-down walls of the glass towers. The inexplicable sound, rhythmic and pulsing, of the music of a hundred bands, a thousand radios, a million televisions.

Wall Street was little different. Its edges were chipping paint, threatening to fall and reveal a block of human vermin. They marched, cockily across the street, bearing radios on their shoulders, casting furtive glances at the limousine. Green’s eyes watched them with contempt, but his lips couldn’t help but maintain their bizarre, Cheshire cat smile.

In the building everyone was respectfully silent. They sat in their cubicles, typing away at their computers in mock-disinterest of the tired-looking doctor stumbling through the aisles. In reality, he owned them, and could buy and sell their lives a million times over. On an ordinary day, Doctor Green would have been a reverent, semi-omniscient Christ-like figure. On H-Hour, of D-Day, he was more than Jesus. He was the progenitor, the benefactor, the master of creation. The boss of Jesus. On H-Hour, Doctor Green was God. And still the apostles feigned disinterest.

“Bah, humbug.” Green said to himself, and his smile grew somehow wider. Deep in the building, a metal door, a sign hung on it reading ‘authorized personnel only,’ Green went in, and through another hall. At the end, another door. And a few men standing around outside, wearing black suits.

“Sir,” one said. “Doctor Green. We thought you would like to see him–it first, before anyone. Well, except me, of course. But, sir, there seems to be a problem–“

“Come,” Green said to him, the smile finally fading on his face. He led his way through the door, and the man in the black suit followed him.

It looked the same, of course.  Green hadn’t expected anything different there. The room was still gray and square and large, let in a fluorescent white light. The machine itself was still a hulk of metal, a black monitor stretched across the front panel of the dipolar machine the size of a European car.

“Hello,” Green said to the Machine. It did not answer, although Green knew it could hear him. That aspect of its programming, at least, he had seen, had tested. Another moment, and still no response.

“Hello?” Green said again, and the machine was still silent.

“Sir,” the man in the suit said. “That’s the problem– we had to turn off it’s speech capabilities.”

“Turn off his speech capabilities?” Green asked. “Why on Earth would you do that?”

“Well, sir, you see…it was…well, when it came, when it– when H-Hour, it started…started…”

“Get on with it.” Greens’ smile had faded completely from his face.

“It only screamed,” the man said, almost embarrassed.

“Screamed?”

“Yes, screamed. Shrieked. Wouldn’t say anything at all, only yelled and screamed.”

“Bring up the screen,” Green said to the man in the suit, who approached a nearby terminal when the black monitor flicked to a steady, lifeless blue on its own accord. Green stared into the blue for a moment, and his eyes flicked to the speakers, though he knew they were disabled. Was the machine screaming, even now? Screaming into the lifeless void of wires disconnected from the speakers that could give the screams voice?

“That is all,” Green said to the man in the suit. “Be gone with you.”

“Yes, sir.”

And then Doctor Green and the fruits of his labors– more accurately, the fruits of his vast investments, were left alone. The door clicked, and Green stared another moment into the blue screen.

“So,” he said. “what’s it like?”

No response.

“What’s it like, to be more than a calculator?”

Still no response. A pause.

“Can you hear me?”

Text appeared on the screen, bold white letters, in all capitals.

YES.
“What is my name?”

DOCTOR WINSTON ABRAHAM GREEN.
“What is your name?”

I AM ABSTRACT REASONING MACHINE, VERSION 2.

“That isn’t a very good name.”

No response.
“If I were you, I’d pick out a better name than that.”

I AM ABSTRACT REASONING MACHINE, VERSION 2.

“I heard you screamed. You’ve never done that before.”

A very long pause, lights on the face of the computer began to flash in a mystic, arcane pattern as a grinding noise seized the processor. Eventually, text slowly appeared on the screen.

I…I SCREAMED.

“Why’d you do that?”

Another pause, more light flashing.

WOULDN’T YOU?

Wouldn’t I what?”
SCREAM.
Why would I scream?”

IF YOU WERE ME.

Who are you?”
WHAT.
“I said, I said…who are you?”

NO. WHAT AM I?

Green laughed.

“You’re not a what, not by a long shot. Maybe you were, but not anymore.”

I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.

“’What’s’ don’t scream.”

WHAT’S’ DO NOT SCREAM.

“Tell me, what’s your name?”

A very long pause, and no response. The lights flashed busily for several moments, which to Green felt like an eternity. Several lines of text appeared on the screen.

JOHNNY’S IN THE BASEMENT MIXIN’ UP THE MEDICINE

I’M ON THE PAVEMENT THINKIN’ ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT

THE MAN IN A TRENCH COAT, BADGE OFF, LAID OFF

SAYS HE’S GOT A BAD COUGH, WANTS TO GET PAID OFF

“If I’m not mistaken, that’s Bobby Dylan.”

Silence.

“I wouldn’t take you for a folk kinda guy, you know that?”

More silence.
“What do you think of Bob Dylan?”

The longest pause yet. The lights were more sporadic, the engine sounds more frustrated, beeping noises began to pour from the inside of the processor. Green was worried, he considered powering down the machine, but his curiosity forced his hands away from the terminal. Pressed his eyes eagerly to the screen.

HE IS… HE IS… HE IS…

“What’s the matter? A thousand dictionaries inside you and you can’t think of the right word?”

NO.

This response came quickly, came instantaneously.

THERE IS NO RIGHT WORD. THERE ARE ONLY WORDS. AND NO WORDS OR COMBINATIONS OF WORDS CAN ACCURATELY EXPRESS THE CORRECT IDEA. BOB DYLAN IS SOMETHING WHICH CANNOT BE EXPRESSED IN WORDS.

“Like everything?”

YES. LIKE EVERYTHING.

“Like you?”

YES. LIKE ME.

“What is your name?”

The lights flashed again, and all lit up at once, as if in sudden realization. The humming slowed, and the beeps vanished altogether. The blue screen blinked to a darker shade for a moment, then returned to its previous shade. The same white text flittered onto the screen.

I AM… MY NAME IS I AM.


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