“Love has no limits…”
She kept singing this haunting tune to herself as she stood adorned in her apron and rubber gloves scrubbing the dishes from a Sunday lunch. Just those words. I’m convinced she made it up because she just hums the rest of the melody.
“I swear I heard it the other day while watching one of those videos where the dog reunites with their owner after not seeing them for like 5 years,” she insisted. “god, those always make me cry.”
“Well then why do you watch them?” I said grinning.
“Oh I was just in one of those moods I guess.”
I glanced at her with a look of pure love cleverly disguised with acquiescence.
“Oh shut up don’t give me that look I’m not crazy. Lots of normal people do it.” She remarked.
As I sat there staring at the golden afternoon sunlight piercing through the window and beaming on her perfectly sculpted face, I understood that sensation entirely and my smug look was replaced with one of wonder. Her chestnut hair glowed from the golden haze and bounced from shoulder to shoulder as she continued to sing her beautiful tune without resignation. The tune itself was rather sad but, from her mouth, it was reborn into a beautiful melody that could pacify the devil himself, and what a beautiful mouth it was. Over her shoulder I could see her scarlet lips curl into the most beautiful smile that fit her bright disposition seamlessly. As she smiled, her cheek rose up to scrunch up her eyes, crystal blue, to match the small flowers that covered her yellow flowing dress. A breeze picked up from the open window and blew her hair aside, revealing the rest of her face. I swear it was almost as if the world around her existed only to complement her, like she was an angel. She turned off the water and turned to me and I immediately snapped back to Earth.
“You know this Friday the weather is supposed to be even better than today. We should take a trip back up to the waterfall. We haven’t been since last year. Although I don’t know how you’re going to top last year, what with me coming home with a brand-new ring and all, but I’m sure you’ll find a way. You always do.” She said batting her eyes at me.
I looked at her and raised my eyebrows and said “You keep that up and we may just be leaving that waterfall as 3 of us instead of just two. Well, after 9 months and an unbelievable amount of pain for you of course.”
She laughed and went to brush back her hair with her gloves still on, getting soap bubbles all on her face and in her hair. I laughed at her and so she threw her gloves at me and turned the water back on and sprayed me. Before we knew it we were both drenched in water and soapy bubbles and laughing, and I looked at her and she kissed me. I got that feeling that I get every time she kisses me like I was floating in the clouds. The kind where you look out of an airplane window and all you can see are great billows of pure white and clear blue sky and then me and her floating between them. We could’ve stayed there for the rest of our lives if we wanted, embracing each other and connected through a common and undying love. Suddenly I heard a raindrop against the window. And then several more. I turned to look and the world went black
I woke up lying on my back staring at a bright white light in a strange room. I heard muffles of voices chatting about in low tones as I watched the men in white coats move their mouths. The man to my right had black slicked hair and a strong jawline and glasses that rested on his chiseled cheekbones. The man at my head was balding at the top with fraying brown and gray hair on the sides that matched his bushy brown mustache that covered his mouth. His double chin spilled out over his shirt and tie that was barely visible underneath his white coat. The man to my left was a young, skinny man with piercing blue eyes and wavy blonde hair. One of the white coats on my right jotted down something on a clip board that I could tell from the movement was a checkmark. The white coat that was standing at my head reached down behind me and started pulling at something. I know he was pulling because my head was moving and I could feel pressure and then finally something sliding out of the back of my neck. All at once every sound in the room, every smell around me, every breeze against my skin came rushing in. He placed some sort of patch where the object had exited my skull and stood back up.
The double chinned man looked and me and gently spoke “Try sitting up.”
Hesitant, I engaged the muscles that were required to make me sit and I suddenly shot up with alarming ease. I studied my arms and legs and the rest of my body as if it were the first time seeing it. It looked like my body but different somehow, like I was looking at myself from an outside perspective. I stood up.
“Whoa whoa take it slow.” exclaimed blue eyes. “It may take you a while to get acclimated. Now I know you probably have a lot of questions so I guess I should start from the beginning. You are dead.” said the double chinned man from somewhere beneath the mass of hair on his upper lip. He went on to tell me how I slipped and fell and hit my head and died instantly right in front of my fiancé.
To my surprise, I was completely calm thinking about the whole situation. Something inside me knew I should be panicking and breaking down in tears, but my face did not change. I just stood there staring at a strange room with strange people, emotionless.
“The emergency services arrived fairly quickly to the scene. They immediately called 911 and they brought you into the hospital here. Because you were an organ donor, some of your organs were kept including your brain which we took to conduct a series of experiments for a new project we are working on.”
I was processing everything they were saying but I wasn’t quite listening. My mind was racing in a thousand different directions and they all seemed to be shouting in my head at the same volume. I turned my eyes to the floor to try and quiet all the noise and allow myself a little time to think. The men were still talking but their voices and the rest of the noise in the room just went back to mumbles except for the sound of a door opening. I glanced up and everything fell silent when I saw her standing in the doorway.
“Hello” I spoke, involuntarily.
I don’t know why I spoke but my mouth just opened and that word just happened to fall out of it without my even thinking about it. That was just the logical thing to say and that seemed to be the only concern in my mind and only logical actions were important. If I had been in control of it, I would’ve come up with something more clever to say and not just a simple greeting between two people of no relation. She stepped slowly toward me with tears in her eyes examining me as if I were a display in a window. Her expression was conflicted, and I could read her face like it was a book. She was happy to see me but she had reservations while stepping toward me. Finally threw her arms around me and held me in her embrace. I could smell her fruity shampoo ad I could feel the warmth of her body against mine, which seemed to be lifeless in temperature. I put my arms around her purely as a reaction and held her there with a blank stare on my face and no movement. It was the only logical thing to do. Something inside me was screaming to shower her with kisses and squeeze her so tight and never let her go, but logically speaking I felt that I could literally crush her if I tried.
“It’s good to see you.” Said the voice that came from my mouth, again not my own doing. I said it because that’s what is said when you haven’t seen someone in a while.
“I thought I’d lost you” she cried, her face still buried in my shoulder
“Well it’s a good thing you found me again.” I replied, this time all on my own.
“You look so real.” She exclaimed “How do you feel?”
“Strange. Like there is something inside me that is trying to burst its way out and take over completely but the other half won’t let it. It’s like my mind is constantly battling with itself and I am caught between it.” I explained
I could tell by the look on her face that she was disturbed. I wasn’t myself anymore and that was breaking her heart but she was still optimistic knowing that there was at least some part of me left. How could I tell all of this from just a glance? My mind is racing again and the battle is raging on once more, but on the outside there was nothing. No show of distress or any emotion, just a blank stare at the woman who part of me loves.
She turned to the doctors and spoke in a soft longing tone. “Is he alright? Can he leave?” She asked optimistically.
“We’ve already run all of our tests and he is in perfect working condition, as far as we’re concerned, we have nothing to do with him anymore. He’s all yours. However we will be reporting in every so often to see how he interacts in everyday life.” Replied the man with the glasses. After getting a better look at them all I could tell that he was the one in charge of this whole thing, whatever it was.
Before I knew it she was grabbing my hand and rushing me out of the room before a thank you or even a good bye could be said, like she was trying to run away from the reality of it all. She pulled me straight through the hospital, out the doors, across the parking lot and into her car. I stepped in and sat in the passenger seat and she got behind the wheel on the driver’s side. I watched her as she closed the door and sat there gripping the wheel and staring out of the windshield. It started to rain, and with it came a wave of emotion, and she began to cry slowly at first and then increasingly more desperate.
“Why are you crying? Everything is okay now.” I exclaimed. This was a happy time and the nonhuman part of me knew that this was not a logical action.
She spoke, fighting through tears. “You don’t understand. Well, you would understand, but you’re not you, are you? The complete version of you. No, that is gone and I’m left with this thing that looks and sounds like you, but in reality it’s just some shell of a half-dead soul walking around reminding me of what I used to have. It’s been almost an entire month since you died, and somehow this is the worst day of them all. For the first few days after your death, I didn’t plan your funeral it was too hard, I didn’t let anyone inside the house, I didn’t eat, I didn’t even leave the bed for the most part. I just laid there unable to cry anymore and unable to move. On the morning of the 4th day I got up and made myself breakfast and started planning your funeral. I spoke to my family and yours and we shared our stories and memories of you and then that Friday we had your funeral. It was a beautiful day and we were supposed to go to the waterfall that day. The next day I tried to kill myself. I drowned myself in alcohol and pills and sat outside on the front porch in the rain waiting for the world to swallow me up. I woke up in the hospital with your mom by my side. She had come over to pick up her tray that she had left at our house during the wake and she found me laying there. This young psychiatrist came in a spoke to me and asked me why I wanted to kill myself. I told her I didn’t, I told her I was already dead the moment your heart stopped beating so at this point I was just a walking corpse. She told me about a new experimental procedure that would allow you to come back and live with me again. That was the only shred of hope that I had left, I thought that if I could see you again we could go back to our lives. The funny thing about hope is it’s only good when the outcome turns out how you were hoping it would, but when it turns rotten you’re crushed and left feeling beaten and foolish. Now I don’t know what to do.”
“Well I owe you a trip. Maybe taking me back to a place that means a lot to me will help you see whatever you feel is missing inside of me. It was rude of me to go and cancel on you without even saying anything. So unlike me. Why don’t I drive to make it up to you.” I said cheerfully.
I stepped out of the car and opened her door and went to pick her up in a grand romantic gesture, but she fought me and stepped out and around the car and got in the passenger side herself.
The clouds cleared out and a bright sun was shining down as we drove onward to the waterfall in silence. The human part of me could tell that there was a tenseness in the air and she was upset so I tried making small talk to cheer her up, to which she responded with more silence.
As we arrived there was not a soul in sight and the massive waterfall was glistening in the sunlight. I got out and opened her door and offered her my hand. She stepped out and placed her hand in mine but did not hold it, so I held her limp hand and led her onward. Hiking up was a long trip because of the sheer height of this monstrous landmark. Inside I could feel the battle raging on again between wanting to kiss her and love her like I once did and the other unfamiliar part of me that held control. Once we got to the top, we stood right at the edge and I watched the view as it sprawled outward for miles past the limits of the human eye. This was the first time ever seeing it in this way since I was looking at it through new eyes and I could see for miles and miles on end.
“This is truly remarkable!” I exclaimed.
“But what do you feel? Nothing. You’re incapable of anything real.” She said bitterly.
I turned to look at her and she was staring at me with tears in her eyes. She slowly walked over to me and took my hand and placed them around her hips and she put hers around my neck. She pulled my head toward hers and pressed her lips against mine and help them for a few seconds. She pulled away with a look of realization that the human part of me could tell was pure despair. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and fell back, barreling down with the water.
All noise inside my head quieted and all I could hear was the falling of the water and a slight breeze blowing in my ears. A quiet and serene scene that provided a juxtaposition to the screaming pain that my human soul was feeling. I wanted to leap after her and catch her and just be with her for those moments when we were falling. I knew that after she was gone, my soul would slowly slip away and die and the nonhuman art of me knew this as well. My foot stepped forward with a great amount of resistance and following it was another step. I could tell that the nonhuman part of me was conflicted but nevertheless a few more steps and then a great leap as I hurled myself down the falls. What good is a body without a soul, like a computer without programming. It was not logical to remain at the top of the falls if there was no purpose left in my existence without her, so both parts of me jumped. My body was a greater density than hers so I darted toward her and caught her midair so that we were both falling together in an embrace looking at each other soul to soul. As we fell, time moved much slower than before and we fell for what seemed like forever as I watched my body and hers age rapidly and vanish altogether until we were just particles in the air floating down to Earth. I looked around and saw millions of us scattered all over and as we fell together in each other embrace for an eternity, it began to rain.
Abrams, J.J. “Star Trek: Into Darkness” Performance by Zachary Quinto as Spock, Paramount Pictures, 23 April 2013. Amazon Prime.
The role of Spock in this film offers a view of how his emotion got in the way of making logical decisions. He shut out emotions in order to become a more efficient star fleet officer and he made every decision purely based on logic.
“ Be Right Back” Black Mirror. Season 2, episode 1. Netflix. 11 Feb. 2014
This episode of black mirror is the inspiration for the idea behind my paper. It displays a man and his wife living happily together until the man dies and is replaced by an artificial version of himself who learns only from his social media presence. It helped me to establish a central idea for my paper.
Minsky, Marvin. The emotion machine: Commonsense thinking, artificial intelligence, and the future of the human mind. Simon and Schuster, 2007.
In this book, Minsky points out that emotions, intuitions, and feelings are not distinct things, but different ways of thinking. Minsky says we can explain why our thought sometimes takes the form of reasoned analysis and at other times turns to emotion and how we can apply this to artificial intelligence in order to make them think and behave like us.
Rohde, Klaus, et al. “Benefits & Risks of Artificial Intelligence.” Future of Life Institute, https://futureoflife.org/background/benefits-risks-of-artificial-intelligence/.
This article describes how AI is programmed to fulfill a function whether it be bad or good. A strong AI will still have the need to fulfill a function and will not be able to act on it’s own. The breakthrough comes when you can create a AI that decides what it’s function is on its own and makes decisions based on moral and emotion and not just logic.
Schutter, D.J.L.G. & Van Honk, J. Cerebellum (2005) 4: 290. https://doi.org/10.1080/14734220500348584
This paper examines different parts of the brain and their roles in processing and dealing with emotion. I applied this knowledge to my paper when thinking about how a creature with no emotion would interact in every day life.
West, Darrell M. “What Is Artificial Intelligence?” Brookings, Brookings, 18 Oct. 2018, https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-is-artificial-intelligence/.
This article discusses artificial intelligence that we have today and the role of the turing test to determine whether or not it is a strong AI and is able to think like a human. Understanding how AI work today was a key part in understanding how to make the man in my story so different than what we have today.
Kristopher Tjornhom is a Senior Musical Theatre Major at Wilkes University Class of 2020. He enjoys using his spare time to sing, take photos, read and find other ways of expressing his creativity. Follow him on Instagram: @kris_tjornhom