“Have you got the thing yet?” My brother asked as he flipped on his smart watch trying to get some information.
I did not respond. My head ached like someone hacked it in half with a samurai.
“It’s painless and effective,” he said. “Plus, it’s super cool.” He was lying. The truth is, it was extremely painful. They advertised it as painless. Bullshit.
I absorbed the whole thing. I heard the loud buzz of the drill motor as it came closer to the back of my head . I felt the cold spinning screw drill a hole in the back of my skull, which made my jaw lock(I bit so hard my molars cracked). An automatic reflex action when trauma hits a body part close to the brain. My nose bled. My ears rang. My extremities convulsed as the tiny silicon chips were connected to my occipital and temporal lobes.
My brother didn’t know. But I already had the brain implants that promised people like me who suffer from extreme depression a lifetime of support and yes, companionship. I just wasn't in the right mood to tell him. So I just let him talk.
He tried to kill himself last year. He didn’t have the proper equipment to get through life. I wouldn’t be surprised if his disdain for the world began the moment he drew his first breath. Even when we were little, life didn’t interest him. He kept to himself all the time and always seemed to just go through the motions without any plans, goals or motivations. It was like he was dead all along.
Once he told me during a big Thanksgiving party at home that even though we were in a house full of people celebrating, he felt so alone. And that this loneliness had been with him since he was old enough to remember. Eternal Solitude.
It all changed when my father saw and advertisement on the subway about a procedure that offered permanent cure for my brother’s condition. “Forever Friends” was the name of the company that administered the procedure. They advertised it as painless, effective, and affordable. You can get it for only $35,000.
The idea was that the two bio chips that will be implanted into the temporal and occipital lobes of the brain both carried sophisticated software that simulates a real life friend or person of your choosing. It could be your real best friend, an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, a parent, a celebrity, or a random person you never met. These simulated friends have advanced artificial intelligence and they could anticipate full human responses, emotions, and motives. They have extremely developed machine learning capabilities that they can completely map out a machine and identify its make up in a matter of seconds. And of course, that machine is your brain. So in simple terms, these ‘friends’ in your head will be, in theory, ‘perfect’ since they know everything about you.
Did it work? Well, my brother’s life changed. He was a new person after the procedure. He, with the help of his ‘friend' found a way to make sense of the life he once detested. Although never told us whom he chose to be his friend, he once slipped and said he was playing game with ‘her’ when he came him home late one night.
I was the exact opposite of my brother. I was the happy kid. I had so much energy when I was a young that I regularly twitched in my sleep. My small body could barely contain and use the abundant life that permeated through my veins. I was excited all time. I sang. I drew. I played. I mingled. I was the ultimate embodiment of Joie de vivre.
And then came Marie Cris.
I thought I had reached the ceiling of what a happy life could ever be. But when I met her, it was like a secret door in the ceiling opened and revealed the boundless blue sky. She made me live beyond what I would ever know.
It was love in its purest and most profound form. We were always there for each other. After my brother's suicide attempt, she was there to give him and all of us much needed support. She was tireless and selfless in her mission to help my long suffering sibling. She brought him treats and kept him company in his days of recovery. She sacrificed her time and energy to see all of us through. She was an angel.
So for us, marriage was just a matter of time. We dreamed of having a small cabin by the lake, light a bonfire every night, cuddle, and stare at the night sky. “I am the night sky,” Marie Cris used to say. “And you are the morning sky. We may be different, but we’re also one and the same."
But then one day, she was gone. She just disappeared without even saying goodbye. Just gone without a trace. I was devastated. Her family and friends were as clueless as I was.
It was then when I spiraled down the deep hole of eternal solitude. I did not want to go on.
And then I remembered, "Forever Friends." So the other day, they implanted the chips in my head and I was told to come back for programming. For me, the only way to live was to live with Marie Cris and I didn’t care if it was just a phantasm of Marie Cris as long as it was some form of her. So I lay in the gurney as they attached the connectors to my head. The faint sound of the machines hummed and its occasional bleeps cut through the otherwise quiet lab. Not long after, the technician came over with a glass tablet-like device in his hand.
“Good morning, Sir,” he asked. “Have you decided on your AI companion yet?”
“Yes,” I said. “I want my ex-girlfriend Marie Cris to be my AI companion.”
“Very well,” he said. “Let me retrieve her life data.”
The technician pressed a few buttons on his glass tablet and waited for the data he queried to be retrieved. When he got it, he approached me.
“I am sorry sir but that person had already been retrieved and used,” he said.
I thought I misheard.
“Excuse me?” I said. “ I thought I could choose whoever I want?”
“Well, of course sir as long as the person is available. In this case, your choice is not available.”
“What do you mean she’s not available?”
“Sir, she had already been retrieved by another client.” I sat up from the gurney and grabbed the glass tablet from the technician’s hand. He tried to resist but he was too late. I looked at the screen:
Marie Cris - Life Data Number 34CG677 RETRIEVED + IN USE + PERMANENTLY UNAVAILABLE
I scrolled down and found something else.
I saw my brother’s name.