I don’t know why, I wanted to write about a love story for some time. Surely a consequence of the sentimental desert in which I have been wandering for some time now! 😅
I promise I didn’t write a touching romantic story and I think the ending might surprise you.
Good reading guys.
What sets them apart has always been sentiment. Some simulate them, others live them. For 137 years now that the android and Man have shared the same planet, their relations have evolved considerably. From docile and submissive servants, they became confidants, sometimes even friends, then even more so for some. But the feeling will inevitably remain this irremediable difference, this gap separating the room made of nuts and bolts from a living heart.
Robots, by definition, are predictable. Their simulacra of emotions are designed, programmed by humans, and if the physical difference is less and less perceptible, the robots gradually becoming androids, then humanoids, perfectly imitating the appearance of a man, their emotions are predictable. In fact, their behavior is reassuring, comforting. They don’t rebel. Unless they are designed for that. They don’t surprise us. Unless we program them for. They carry out orders. And to perfection. They don’t balk, ever. They exist. For us.
This state of affairs was what Margot was looking for. Like others before her, like many before her, she had suffered the pangs of bad relationships. She had been heartbroken by the unpredictability of men. The idea initially seemed crazy to her – how can you fall in love with a machine? – but in 2315, this kind of questioning was rare. Humanoid/human relations, if they were not yet the norm, were much more tolerated than during the last century. Mentalities had evolved since the generation of his parents.
Moreover, with the latest updates, humanoids now even simulated the vital needs of humans, they fed themselves and went so far as to imitate sleep to recharge themselves. The very existence of these couples, unable to procreate, had also helped save humanity from overpopulation, ending centuries of deprivation.
Also, when her friend Constance told her about a dating hologram site (impossible to find true love? Schedule it to measure! Satisfaction guaranteed!), she didn’t hesitate for long. She had thus quickly made contact with a holographic secretary who, following a long series of questions and personality tests, had presented her with the ideal humanoid, Henri.
Henri wasn’t just perfect for her, Henri was literally made for her. She hadn’t had to play games, hadn’t had to seduce him. She hadn’t had to force herself, hadn’t had to lie. She was herself, and he accepted her, he was designed for that, for her. He responded to all her requests, he executed each of her desires. After the chaos that her romantic life had been, Margot was reborn. And thanks to a humanoid, a robot, an artificial being.
During the first times, this thought did not leave her. How can one love a fictional being? Is it even possible? Madame Bovary would certainly approve. But according to the snippets of memories Margot had of her ancient literature lessons, the story had not ended very well for her.
Despite everything, Margot gradually began to surrender to this relationship. It started with small things: she took pleasure in no longer waking up alone in her bed. She liked to take his hand when they walked down the street. She found herself thinking of him when she was working. She surprised herself because she missed him.
The relationship was just like what Margot had always been looking for. Simple, without complications, without this undeniable phase that every couple goes through where one tries to hurt the other. They didn’t argue, or at least enough so that, as Margot had requested during Henri’s programming, their relationship remained credible on a day-to-day basis. Henri was there, his very existence was dedicated to him. She was happy, finally.
Having children had never interested him. She wanted to live for herself, not to be at the service of another being who would deform her body and cost her all her time and energy by even coming into the world. So being with Henri was the perfect solution, and Love at First Contact guaranteed to schedule it without her ever having to. The illusion had to be perfect, never show any flaws.
She managed to forget that he wasn’t human. His reactions, his attentions, what he seemed to desire, everything in him breathed life, and if Margot had been afraid, from her previous contacts with humanoids, that carnal contact was not natural and broke the imposture, Henri’s skin, his eyes, his hair, his mouth, everything seemed authentic, everything felt authentic. The simulacrum was perfect, the lie became a reality, a utopia.
The years passed. Quiet, sweet, peaceful years.
If his friends were surprised at first by this choice of life, they quickly understood. Men remained far too complex mysterious beings and Henri made Margot happy, that’s all they asked for, that was enough for them, they accepted it.
It was less simple for her parents, who however ended up getting used to it over time when they saw their daughter blooming. The subject was only brought up during a few jokes from his brother during Sunday family meals.
Margot was aging well, her hair didn’t stand white, and the wrinkles didn’t seem to find a hold on her face. Henri meanwhile was getting older, and it showed. His laughter was now written in the corner of his eyes, his hair had taken on a salt and pepper hue, his hands were becoming more gnarled. Margot had probably asked for real-time aging, but with her time she forgot about it.
But after a few decades of relationship, she came to consider changing the model. Henri’s programmed nature still appealed to her on a day-to-day basis – which she could always keep afterwards – but the physical aspect became less attractive over time. If her holographic interview was now far in her past, she was convinced that she would never have asked for it with a belly for her old age, as small as she was. The illusion was becoming too perfect and she preferred to stay in her simulation.
As a courtesy, a strange thing when you’re talking to a machine, which she considered almost like a human now, she warned him one morning in April that she was going to contact the agency again to do what she called in her mind a “youthful update”, but which she formulated in front of Henri as an “improvement in their relationship” (could the humanoids be offended?):
— You will not be able to get what you want my dear, Henri replied calmly.
— We have the means. I know humanoids earn less than humans, but I’ve been saving up for a while, I’ve inquired about prices. I still want you, your spirit, everything we’ve been through together, I’ll only ask for a physical change.
— Honey, how old are you?
— 48 years old in three months, you know it well, we’ve been together for more than 20 years!”
Margot did not understand where Henri was coming from. He remained oddly calm but his answers made no sense to her. Was his programming starting to have flaws? Bugs?
— And how are you physically?” Henri continued to question her.
— Well…I’m lucky, my mother is still very well preserved for her age, we have good genes in the family.
— Margot, you don’t have any wrinkles or gray hairs. You are never sick, never exhausted. You always sleep well. You are always happy.
— Yes, thanks to you! What do you want to tell me ?!
Henri walked over to her, made her sit down on one of the chairs in their dining room and took her hands in his. He looked her straight in the eye:
— Margot, you can’t get what you want because I’m not a robot. You are you. You are a model humanoid designed not to know that he is a robot. How can we best simulate a feeling? Quite simply by being persuaded to live it. The illusion became perfect because the subject would not be aware of lying. The lie is no longer a lie when it is unconscious.
— But… well… it’s impossible,” she mumbled, “so you would have spent your life pretending to be a robot?”
— Yes, because like so many others, I sought ease. My life did not suit me, I was alone, I had no one. A new experimental program promised to sustain me all my life, I had only to play the game of perfect love to develop their new technology… you. What would you have done in my place?
— No, you’re playing a bad joke on me and I don’t like it, I have a family! Friends ! All these people exist!
— They are also humanoids, Love at first contact has prepared for all eventualities, the illusion had to be perfect. You’re a Margot machine, but a machine I’ve come to love.
Margot’s eyes widened, she stammered, unable to make complete sentences. She had a spasm. His eyes closed. His neck relaxed. His body sagged in his chair, his head falling back on the table.
Henri, still calmly, took out of his pocket a latest model holographic telephone, paid for by the organization. He pressed the third number among his favorites. After two rings, a familiar voice answered:
— Hello welcome to Love at first contact, what can I do for you?
— Hello Diane, this is Henri. The last model did like the others, he did not accept his condition. Do you reprogram a new one with yesterday’s backup and send me the next one?