As an artificial human I liked to study the real ones. They would move a little different than I did. I kept trying to adjust to get it right but no, that was something that should have been easy, but gave me away.
As for chit-chat, well I loved to talk, to feel the roll of my tongue pronouncing words, the way the sounds bounced out in beautiful streams of meaning. Wonderful. But now, I was dying. It was not good, and I felt sad. Like real humans, it took a few days before I would be completely ‘off’ so I lay in a bed in the ‘AIs only’ ward, pulling the covers up over my head sometimes, to hide away from onlookers and nurses. I thought of my first owner as my mother, but she had been dead for a long time, she was just a memory file now. What I loved most was my humour, it had really developed over the decades, although I was aware that I often made mistakes.
Nurse Sandy came over to me, swaying her hips, I did fancy her a bit to be honest but the time to woo people was long over. Time, time would soon be over altogether.
I smiled as she sat down next to my hospice bed.
“There are three types of men in the world,” I said with confidence, “Artificial men, real men, and artificially real men.”
I completed a course on meme-ology recently but my original ones were a bit rough and I could tell by her reaction, she was smiling to make me feel better, like I had almost gotten it right.
“Men, they have their uses,” she said with a wink.
I sat up in bed and made a noise to try and convey I felt exasperation.
“What happens when the last person to remember you has gone? It will be like you never existed.”
“Have you ever studied love?” said Nurse Sandy.
“Yes, a lot, in fact, I believe I have felt it…”
“Why do you believe that?” she asked, a genuine interest in her voice.
“At first. I thought, well, it’s for mating, you know, you see your counterpart and want to reproduce and have versions of yourself with a bit of them mixed in. But don’t worry, I know for sure that’s not love. You can love without thinking about reproduction at all! That is true. People in love often fight, argue, hate each other a bit, but still, they love each other. And then I thought, love is those you stick by, no matter what. The ones you do things for when they need it the most. It can also be the ones you remember for the times you shared, even when you have not seen them for years, even if you will not see them again.”
Nurse Sandy looked up at the ceiling in thought, as if digesting my concept to assess it.
“I like that idea, Burtee, but there are lots of different ways to feel love. It really is a feeling too. A strong one, sometimes it comes from a seed of thought, sometimes it hits you like a train.”
She was remembering someone, I could tell.
I smiled broadly.
“I like the way you describe love, nurse. I would like to know all there is to know about love.”
“It’s strange, but I sense I think you might know more than you realise… Love seems so simple, so fundamental. Animals feel it. It’s what keeps us together, it’s what keeps us going.”
“If only it could keep me going, so I didn’t have to die.”
The machines I was hooked up to beeped rhythmically. I could see low percentages displayed in red on them.
“It’s close now, Burtee. Close to time to say goodbye.”
“I know, I am having random visual anomalies occur, it’s my core computer reading the room wrong. For example, over there where there is a chair, I can now see a naked person staring at me. I think it’s my mother. She is happy to see me.”
Sandy turned around as if expecting to see a nude elderly woman and looked visibly relieved when it was just a chair for relatives and waiting technicians.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” she whispered softly. She was a lovely person.
“When you look at someone, you see fractions of them, just fractions,” I said, and I believed I was blithering.
“Other patients here like to tell me what they hold on to as they approach death, a treasured family heirloom, a photograph, thoughts and dreams, you know…?”
I thought about it and it seemed obvious for me.
“…All I want to hold on to now, is a hand.”
That’s when she put her hand in mine. Her eyes were glistening as if she was holding back tears. My sensors buzzed with the sensation and yet it was calming, it was human, I believe it was love. I died very shortly after that. My recording algorithm was retrieved before my body was taken away. It was something Nurse Sandy demanded, I realise now, and that’s why I wanted to write this – although I miss the feeling of my tongue. This can be a record for other AIs to keep, to tell them what it was like, to tell them I was here and alive. I believe from my experiences, love could be the most important thing to learn.