Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Key For Souls

(Friday flash fiction, random title from )

Jamie stared at a screen, data streaming across it. He snacked from a bag of chips sitting in his lap. Electronica played, bouncing in the dark background. The only light came from the three computer screens and neon glows reflected in the large windows. He wore a labcoat streaked with food stains, orange 'cheese' he'd brushed on them, ketchup from his lunchtime burger and fries, the list went on.

A green light came on in the corner of the computer screen.

Jamie sighed and tapped a button. The program minimized and Jaen's face showed up, looking worried.

"What's up, giiiiirl?" he asked with a smile, leaning back in his chair.

"They still haven't found him," she said. "36 hours and counting."

Jamie shrugged. "It, Jaen. They'll find it, don't you worry."

"I'm not so sure. Did you hear about Greg?"

Jamie frowned. On another screen, he brought up a recent news article. "Killed on the street by a bum, Jaen, that's all."

"Don't you think that's a pretty big freakin' coincidence? Anima goes missing and Greg ends up dead not 24 hours later?"

"Anima is just an app, Jaen, an apparatus, remember? It couldn't do...that. It wouldn't. It just got confused and wandered off, that's all. We shouldn't have given it a body."

She sighed. "We gave it a body because the logic puzzle required it. That's why Anima is different. He...seemed to actually think. To process."

"Jesus, Jaen, that's what they all do. Machines made to think. We create limited artificial intelligences and give them logic puzzles."

"And give them access to information."

"Limited access, you know that. All they can do is look, not interact." Jamie shook his head. "You're not thinking straight. We lost Greg and that's...that's messed up. But random shit like that happens all the time. You don't imagine it will happen to you or your friends, but it can. I'm sorry, Jaen, he was my friend too."

The communication cut out, screen going dark.

"Jaen?" Jamie asked. No connection. He cursed out internet companies as he stood up and threw out the empty bag of chips. Jaen was probably freaking out now. He headed downstairs, electronica still flowing, lights turning on in the rooms he entered and shutting off after he left. He opened a panel in the wall. "We can create artificial intelligence but we still gotta reset the goddamn router every other day," he muttered, flipping a switch and then flipping it back. He pulled out his phone and waited until the wifi signal came back. He closed the panel and walked back upstairs.

The screen caught his eye as he walked back into the room, the words 're-connecting' scrawling across. He sat back in his chair just as the connection was restored.

Jaen's face appeared, looking frightened. "Jamie?"

"Just shitty wifi, Jaen, that's all."

Her eyes widened. "What's that?" She was looking past him.

He turned in his chair. Something metal clamped his throat. He gasped for air.

"Anima!" Jaen screamed. "Stop! Shut down!"

The metal being stood over Jamie's chair. They'd given it a humanoid body, two legs, two arms, two finger 'claws' for grasping. They thought if it had a body of sorts, it might approach the logic problem in a different way, more similar to a human way of thinking. A single horizontal line with a blue sensor constituted Anima's face. It appeared to be staring at Jamie.

"The soul is in the human body," Anima said in a synthetic voice. It shoved its other appendage into Jamie's stomach, piercing skin.

"No!" Jaen shouted. "Anima! There is no soul! It doesn't exist!"

Anima stopped, inner machinations whirling and rotating, clicking. "Anima directed to discover if human soul exists. Anima has discovered information that soul is within human body. Information is unverified. Anima must verify information. Anima must perform test. Must test hypothesis. Anima has performed one test. Results were...inconclusive. More tests needed."

Blood splattered across the computer screens.

Jaen screamed before disconnecting.

Anima searched for a soul.

"Results: inconclusive. More tests needed."

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