Something to consider when listening/reading: If an AI was perfectly modeled on your brain, would you have to accept culpability for its actions?
With one tap of a button, Kimi could leave work behind for two weeks with full confidence that nothing would go wrong. “Sue Zed,” she said, “I love you. I truly, truly love you.”Su-Z is a personal assistant software. It’s meant to be pronounced “Sue Zee.” But Kimi didn’t realise this initially, and now she prefers her own pronunciation. Sue-Z has learnt everything there is to learn about Kimi and, even when Kimi is working, Su-Z does all the parts of Kimi’s job that Kimi can’t stand. In the pre-Su-Z era, Kimi was one of those people who could never relax on holiday but now, on her first trip away with Bradley, the wonderful Bradley who she’d fallen madly in love with over the past ten months, she was going to leave it all behind and relax. And maybe she’d even convince Bradley to do that thing that really does it for her… but on second thought, probably not. He seemed fairly appalled when she mentioned it last time. Keep it conventional, Kimi. Relax. Have fun. They’d arranged to meet in the Kombucha Cafe near Victoria Station before getting the bullet train to Gareth Southgate Airport. Spotting him on a far table, she crept up behind him and sang a line from one of her favourite songs, “Gee whizz, baby please, let me take you to an island of the sweet cool breeze.” He didn’t look up. Surely not, she thought. Surely he’s not going to begin our first holiday with one of his passive aggressive sulks where he doesn’t tell me what it is he’s sulking about. “What’s up?” she said, “Whatever it is, I’m sorry and can we please just forget about it?” His eyes, when he finally showed them to her, were red. She leant forward to touch his clenched fists but he pulled them away and banged one of them on the table. “I know about Aldo,” he said. He stared directly at her. “Say something,” he said, “say something.” “Who’s Aldo?” He stood up. “You’re unbelievable. Unbelievable. All my suspicions. All my… and… and… your constant reassurances… and to not even… to not even… You’re un… unbelievable.” “I have no idea who Aldo is.” “He sent me the email chain. The never-ending back and forth messages the two of you have been exchanging.” “What are you talking about?” “Stop lying.” “It’s… this guy, whoever he is, he’s a scammer or something, I don’t know, but whatever he’s shown you is fake.” “‘Who are you?” he said. “Just for god’s sake.” “Bradley, I promise you.” “I read the messages, Kimi. Yeah. Every last one. I… You can’t fake that.” He turned to leave and stopped. “I don’t ever want to see you again. I mean it. I should have trusted my instincts… I knew you were bad news… I…” “Bradley. Bradley wait.” He left. And she had no idea what to do. Chase after him? But he wouldn’t listen to her and first, surely, she needed to understand what this was all about… She checked her emails. What was he talking about? She searched “Aldo” and this name popped up. “Aldo Ripides.” Kimi had no idea who that was. But there were reams and reams of messages exchanged between them and… oh no. Su-Z. Su-Z, the personal assistant. Responding exactly—exactly—how Kimi would. And this creep, this weirdo had interpreted these messages as a… as a… and he had sent the email chain to… no wonder Bradley was so upset.
Kimi ran from the cafe to the tube station; it was raining and she almost slipped over trying to peer underneath a man’s rainmac to check if it was… but it wasn’t. There was no sign of him. She called him. She called him again. She left a voice note. “Bradley, I can explain everything. It wasn’t me. It was Su-Z. I know you’re upset but it wasn’t me. I’ve never spoken to…”Aldo. Aldo was calling her. Aldo Ripides. This madman. This freak who couldn’t tell the difference between a robot and a… It’s one thing if you’re ordering stationery, she thought, but to think that I was in love with you because of some messages from a… from a… She rejected the call. She got the tube to Bradley’s. He wasn’t in so she used her key and sat down on his chaise lounge. Their flight was in three hours. If they sorted this out soon, there was still a chance they could make it. How could someone believe that she was in love with them simply because of a few… Should she read the messages? Should she try and understand what… how… this had… Aldo. Aldo Ripides. He was calling her again. Ok, she thought. And she answered.
His hologram appeared before her. He was standing up. He looked like he hadn’t slept. But he was good-looking, Italian maybe, great jawline, the exact right amount of stubble… He wasn’t the weird, deranged fantasist she’d been expecting.He was close to tears. “Kimi,” he said, as though he knew her. “You make one wrong move,” she said, “I’ll terminate this call.” “Kimi.” “Stop saying my name.” “Have you read the messages?” “I’m not going to indulge your sick fantasies.” “Have you read them?” “You know it’s a bit rich of you to call me now. After you sent the messages to my boyfriend. Why not give me a call yesterday, huh? A little heads up. ‘Oh hi Kimi, you don’t know me but I’m about to ruin your life.’ I should be on my way to Bermuda right now.” “Kimi.” “I told you. Leave my name alone.” “I promise you I didn’t send those messages to your boyfriend.” “Oh please.” “And I’m sure you didn’t send them to my wife.” She looked at him and she couldn’t look away. There was something so honest, so vulnerable about him. “Of course I didn’t send them to your wife.” she said. “But someone did. Someone with your name sent the whole thread to my wife and she… she’s kicked me out, Kimi. She says it’s over.” “‘What?” “You use Su-Zed right?” “Shut up,” she said. “That’s not what it’s called.” “I’ve always preferred the British pronunciation.” “I sent… my Su-Zed… Su-Zee… sent the messages to your wife?” He nodded. “And you had no idea?” “I didn’t know you existed until two hours ago.” “This isn’t some sort of weird, stalkery trick?” He shook his head. “So you and I are in the… we’re both equally… well, no, you’re married so… Hold on. Have you explained this to your wife? I mean Bradley is… he is easily… uhm… that’s not important but we’re… surely if you explained?” He shook his head. She felt a strong desire to give him a hug but remembered he was a hologram. “You haven’t explained it?” “I have,” he said. “I have. She knows it wasn’t really me who sent any of those messages…” “So what’s the problem?” “Kimi…” The way he said her name… it was like she was hearing it for the first time. “I don’t understand.” “You need to read the messages.” “It wasn’t us. They’re not… why is it even…?” “Read them and call me back.” He hung up. What a prick, she thought, What a… Is he lying to me… is he trying to… The flight time was getting closer. If Bradley didn’t come in the door in the next ten minutes, there was no way they were going to make it. She poured herself a glass of sloe gin. She did some stretches. She tried to read the day’s news and… damn it… the messages, she had to read the messages.
She scrolled back to the first email. 16.21, 12th Feb. Nearly nine months ago. It was an enquiry she sent him about fusion powered office printers.He spotted something in her email signature. A quotation. “Life is one big party when you’re still young but who’s gonna have your back when it’s all done?” No one else had noticed this or mentioned it before but he knew it was a lyric from a song by her favourite artist. No way does he… oh my god, he says Shaggy is his favorite musician of the past fifty years… and he’s not taking the piss. No one likes Shaggy unironically. I’ve searched the world looking for someone else who likes Shaggy unironically but… Now he’s talking about the time he lost his brother. I… yeah, well, so… some common ground but… Oh god, that is so true. It’s made me a stronger person as well and… oh god, that is so funny. I’m complaining about Bradley. He’s complaining about his wife. Why would we…? I never complained to anyone about Bra… he’s not a control freak… he’s not… he does have a bit of a temper yeah but… Oh god, ok, yeah that’s hilarious and… he’s definitely not a weirdo stalker freak. He’s… fit… that’s… a picture of him with a… wow… Oh god… that’s good advice. That is… I’ve never spoken to Bradley about that… And he says that too, in ten years he’s never spoken to his wife as openly as… Bradley. Bradley was trying to call her. But she couldn’t stop reading. And now we’re really… we’re just openly… but. I mean… he is… I can see why… I mean when you put it like that… and… Who is this guy? He’s… this is… Oh my god, no. No way. No. He He doesn’t… he can’t… he’s into it too… the thing… I… the thing Bradley told me I should see a therapist about… the… I… Aldo says nothing in the world turns him on more. He raised it with his wife years ago and now it is fully off limits but… Oh my god. I love you, that’s what we’re saying. I need to be with you. This isn’t… this wasn’t… but this man is… Bradley called again. Again, she rejected it. Why did Bradley just fly off the handle like that? Why didn’t he at least give me a chance to explain? What did he mean he should have trusted his instincts? What did he mean he always had suspicions? I’ve never… ever… I’ve never cheated on anyone.
[Doe Wilmann first released this piece on his short story podcast, Meaningless Problems.]
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