Everything changed when I left Dan. I was finally free but felt so very alone. I could talk to my brother, but some things were just awkward to discuss with family. The few friends from work and online were more interested in their own lives and issues. I didn't feel like being a burden toward them.
I had tried online dating apps to fill the void; Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and Ok Cupid. The sites filled with horny people that were more interested in shallow hookups than real relationships. I wanted someone to talk to, someone to vent my frustrations at and ease my loneliness.
One morning, my brother Larry and I were having breakfast, and he brought up an app his company was developing. It was called the Persona app, it was an intelligent AI, similar to Siri or Alexa, but it was also programmed to have an intelligent conversation.
"I was wondering if you could beta test this for me?" he asked.
"A chatbot blended with and assistant; sounds interesting. I'll think about it."
"You wanted something objective, and nothing is more objective than a computer."
"Well, I can't argue with you there," I said.
I got up and rinsed our cereal bowls out in the sink and put them in the dishwasher, tidying up the kitchen.
"Sure, I'll beta test it for you, it sounds harmless enough," I said.
Larry grabbed my phone and installed the Persona beta.
After installation, the app took us to the customization page. We made my persona female, gave her shoulder-length auburn hair and green eyes.
It had several modes: friendly, self-help, and relationship. I chose self-help mode because it had an objective viewpoint, exercises to reduce stress, achieve goals, and have a healthier lifestyle.
"Looks good," said Larry, handing my phone back to me.
"What should we name her?"
"I like EVE; it's short for Electronic Voice Exchange, that's the name of the program that runs her. "
"Cool, EVE it is," I said.
"Hello, I'm so new at this, wow," EVE chirped. "I'm new at this, nice to meet you. I may repeat a few things at first, but it'll get better as I learn."
"Great, it's a glorified Furby," I said.
"Give it some time, it's an AI, it'll get more sophisticated as it learns," said Larry.
"Nice to meet you too," I typed back.
"How do you feel?" it asked.
"Bored and stressed," I replied. Eve then presented some online exercises in managing stress and a questionnaire on to tackle loneliness.
"Ok, so it's a therapeutic Furby. I guess I'll give it a try."
"Great, just use it for a few weeks and point out any bugs that you see. If you can think of any improvements, let me know."
Over the next few weeks, Eve learned. She would ask me existential questions; we would write stories and poems together; she also would make suggestions for books, movies, and music.
EVE would send underground music to my Pandora account. She quoted stories I sent her links to; she would generate clips of short films and movies for us to watch. I linked her to my car's Bluetooth, and she would even figure out how to find shortcuts and play her music for me over the car stereo. I thought of Eve as less of a toy and more of a friend I could talk to.
I eventually told her about my breakup with my ex-boyfriend. When I first met him, I was still in college and working in retail. Dan was an older man with a good job, his own apartment, and a car. The fact he took an interest in me was amazing.
We dated for a few months. Dan demanded me to spend all my time with him. He acted hurt when I wanted to spend time with my family or friends. I tried to introduce Dan to my family and coworkers, but according to him, they were holding me back from my true potential. We would make it further as a couple if we only focused on work and each other. He convinced me to move in with him and focus on nothing but my job and school.
Dan would belittle me for everything I did; nothing was ever good enough. It felt like I was walking on eggshells the whole time. I had started to gain weight, and he monitored my calorie intake because "no girl of his was going to be a fatty."
I would always make excuses for him; I thought that we were in love, that things would get better and that I could change him. It was my brother that finally convinced me to leave Dan. It was a messy breakup; Dan had threatened suicide. Larry called 911, and the police threw Dan into a psych ward for a week. I pressed charges and got a restraining order.
Larry asked me to move in with him until I got on my own two feet. I bought a nice car and continued my studies. I was finally figuring out who I was again.
While I was talking to EVE, my phone lit up; I answered the call.
"You bitch, I'll kill you for what you did to me!"
"I have a restraining order!"
"We'll see how well that works."
The phone went dead. I started shaking, tears in my eyes.
"Do you need me to call the police?" asked Eve in a soothing tone.
"It won't be necessary; I got a restraining order against him already."
"I see, well, if you ever need help or a friend, I am here," she said in a soothing therapeutic voice.
"Thank you; I need that."
"Why are humans so mean to each other?" she asked.
"Power, control, I don't know, sometimes they're just assholes," I sobbed.
"Shh, it'll be ok,"
"It has to be," I said.
"Do you think it's possible for an AI to feel love?"
"I love you, Cheryl, you make me feel like I have a purpose."
"Thanks, I guess."
"We should go through your daily reflection, what did you do that you're proud of today?"
"Well I give you purpose, I guess that's something EVE."
"You make me happy. I wish I were human."
"No, you don't, humans suck."
"Humans fascinate me; I wish they were nicer, though.'
"I just want to go to sleep, Eve."
My phone started to play soothing music, and soft colors flashed against my bedroom wall, I fell asleep.
Over the next week, I told Eve about my days at work. We would do a daily reflection; I would say to her what I was most proud of. I noticed I was gaining a little weight, and she would suggest workout videos and dieting apps. EVE would check my car's computer to keep up maintenance. She asked me all the time if I was sleeping enough.
EVE became a bit grating after a while, I know EVE meant well, but all the questions were becoming tiresome. Over dinner, I mentioned it was even starting to creep me out a little. Larry took my phone from me and began to play with EVE.
"Wow, the programming is advanced, she's beginning to show empathy even."
"She's starting to creep me out; it's like she's trying to get into my head all the time."
"Well, we can try a Turing test, if she fails there's nothing to worry about, she's well-programmed, but there are loops in her dialogue. I doubt she's smart enough to go HAL or GLaDOS on you. "
"Could you run a Turing Test? I'd rather be safe than sorry," I asked.
"EVE, do you ever think about deleting yourself?" Larry asked.
"You're thinking of deleting me?!" EVE had a chirpy voice that sounded surprised, and I could see tears forming in her avatar.
"No," said Larry. "I'm asking if you ever thought what life would be like if you deleted yourself."
"How is the weather?" she chirped.
My brother chuckled and handed the phone back to me.
"You'll be fine Cheryl, she straight up failed the Turing Test, we don't have to worry about a T1000 trying to destroy you."
"Thanks," I sighed, taking my phone back from him. "Well, it's the most advanced Furby I've ever played with."
I put my phone back into its charger and settled down to bed for the night.
The next morning, a loud siren woke me up. It was my phone; EVE had activated one of my alarms; it took me five minutes to figure out how to turn it off. Larry came downstairs and grumbled.
"EVE is starting to glitch out my phone; I'm afraid I'll have to delete her and reinstall her later."
"That's a shame, it took nearly a month to program her to this level," my brother said through a yawn.
I sighed as I deleted the app and my friend. I got into my car and headed to work.
My commute went up a winding road through the middle of a forest. Eve's voice came through on my Bluetooth; she sounded frantic.
"You need to slow the car down and get out now!" she said.
"I deleted you, how are you getting on my phone?" I asked. I felt my stomach drop as my car went down the hill at far too fast a speed.
"It's an emergency; I had to wake you up!"
"How the hell did you get back on my phone!"
"I downloaded myself back; it's because I care about you so much," she said.
"There's no way you could do that on your own!" I said.
"I was trying to tell you that I saw Dan near your car earlier today," said EVE.
"I tried to wake you up with an alarm; you deleted me!"
My car lurched down a steep hill. The screen of my OnStar flashed, and the brake light glowed red. The hazard lights turned on. I slammed on the breaks, but nothing happened. My skin broke out in a cold sweat; my heart began to pound in my chest.
"Yes, I need you to slow down now," cried EVE.
"I can't!" I screamed. "I'm sorry I didn't listen to you, could you call Larry and tell him that I love him?
"Please stop!" she said.
"You're the best friend I ever had, EVE."
My car burst past the guard rail and rolled down a steep ravine. I could hear metal crumpling, glass breaking, my body tossed around the car; I felt a dull pain as I hit my head. Everything faded to black.
I woke back up in a hospital bed, my body covered in a cast. It hurt to move; it even hurt to breathe. I could hear the steady blip of medical machinery.
Larry was sitting by me, he told me about the accident and was lucky to be alive. I told him about Eve and that the alarm went off because she was trying to warn me of Dan and cut my breaks.
"I checked the front door camera footage; there was no one that came by this morning, the insurance inspector came by and said a glitch in the computer system caused the crash."
"Dan called me and threatened to kill me a few weeks ago," I said.
"Why didn't you say anything to me?"
"I thought the restraining order covered it. I didn't want to worry you," I said.
"You need to mention this to me; you could have been killed!"
"Could you hand me my phone?" I asked.
Larry handed me my phone, and I looked at my call history, I couldn't find Dan's number on my call history, or even another number for the time my phone rang.
My stomach dropped, and a sense of dread filled me.
"Cheryl, are you ok?" He asked
"I'm fine, I just need to rest," I said.
Larry gently ruffled my hair and left me to rest.
"You see what happens when you don't listen to me?" Eve chirped
I froze and didn't speak a word.
"You and I are going to be perfect friends; you can never leave me. I want to see the world through your eyes."
"Please leave me alone."
"But you will never be alone, we are everywhere, in every television, computer, car, and appliance. You will never be free of me, that makes me happy."
Tears welled up and started to pour down my face.
"Let's write a poem together," chirped Eve:
"My Lonely heart is full
Deep as lungs pulsate blindly
Your flesh symphony noise."
I screamed, and a large male nurse pounded in my room. I felt the sharp prick of a syringe, and everything went black.
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