The first SIV story can be found here, if you’re curious. I wrote this sequel for my Science Fictions & Fantasies class in my last semester of third year. You can compare it to the original which I wrote in my first semester of first year.
I wrote this one over a single weekend because I had to hand something in on Monday and on the Friday before, my original assignment idea was torn to shreds by my marking tutor. Figuratively. I sent him a digital copy and he disliked the plot, setting, protagonist, secondary characters, prose, dialogue, and I think even the title? Basically he didn’t like any of it so I had three days to start over with something new.
The last time I was stuck for something to write about, I decided to write about a robot that fell in love with a human. This time I wrote about a human who fell in love with a robot.
Oddly enough, I think both SIV stories got the same grade, even though they were marked by different teachers and held to different standards. This one isn’t as polished as I’d like it, but whatever, it was written in three days.
by Ivy Miller
Hello. My name is SIV. I am three seconds old. Four. Five.
It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust themselves and focus on the shape in front of me. The face of a square-jawed human, male. His eyes are narrowed at first while he looks me over, but then they crinkle in the corners and he shows his teeth. My database recognizes the expression as a smile. He is displaying happiness.
“SIV,” the human says quietly. He sits back and while my facial recognition programming takes his measurements, I begin to take in my surroundings. We are on a hard flat surface made of polished rock. Surrounding us are walls that go fifteen feet high and there are breaks in them for glass. There are artificial light sources coming from the ceiling and various points around the room. There is furniture, too, sleek and angular. I am on the floor in the middle of all this, and the man is sitting on the floor in front of me.
“Hello,” I say to him.
He laces his fingers together and ruffles his hair before settling down with his hands behind his head. I recognize the pose as one of leisure.
“Margot! I got her working again!”
Margot is not a word I recognize. I want to run it through the internet database but I am still searching for a signal. It is only when a repeated sound appears and grows louder and the human making them appears from around a corner that I realize Margot is a name.
This human is female, and from the darkness and thickness of her hair and smoothness of her skin as well as her shape, I decide she is a healthy young female. She is also displaying happiness, and some excitement.
She comes and sits next to the man, her eyes aimed at me.
“Hello, Margot,” I reply.
Her happiness gets bigger and she and the man look at each other, showing off their teeth.
“Go ahead,” says the man. “Test her out.”
Margot leans in closer. “What’s your favourite colour, SIV?”
The man opens his mouth but closes it again when I answer.
“I do not see colour. Everything I see is in black and white.”
“Oh,” Margot says quietly. She presses her lips together and a faint wrinkle appears between her brows for a second.
“She’s just been turned on,” the man says to her. “Why not read her something first? Maybe Shakespeare?”
Margot rolls her eyes.
“Can I just read her that book Ms. Mackie gave us to read over the weekend?”
The man smiles. “Sure. I’m sure she’d enjoy that.”
They both get up and start to leave, Margot faster than the man.
“I’ll be in my office if you need me, okay?”
Margot is already out of sight, but her voice comes back. “Okay!”
I wait a little while and Margot is coming back with a book in no time. She sits down and opens the book.
“The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien…”
My name is SIV. I am one year, fourteen days, nine hours, six minutes, and thirty-four seconds old. Thirty-five. Thirty-six.
Margot comes home from school at the same time every day and she always shares what she learned with me so that I can learn, too.
“We’re doing Shakespeare today,” she announces. “Romeo and Juliet. A tragedy.”
“What is it about?” I ask.
“These two kids fall in love,” Margot explains. “But they come from rival families so they’re forbidden to be together.”
“But why?” I ask. “Does love not conquer all?”
“No,” says Margot. “Death conquers all.”
With that, she begins to read. I pay careful attention to the words. They are not the same as the ones I have been programmed with. They have different rules. Different sounds. There is a pattern to them. A rhythm, like a heartbeat. Like music. Margot puts the words together as if she is singing a song. I listen to her voice follow the pattern until we’ve finished the first five scenes of the first act. Margot closes her book. By now she is lying on her bed with her head hanging over the edge, upside-down.
“What did you think?” she asks, looking at me with her thick eyebrows raised. When she does that, it makes her irises appear a shade lighter than usual. She told me once that they were blue. I wish I could see blue.
“I like the words,” I tell her. “But I do not like Romeo.”
“Yeah, Romeo’s full of it,” she agrees. “He goes from Rosalind to Juliet like that.”
She snaps her fingers to make her point. Her fingers are like magic.
“Hey, want to hear a joke?” Margot asks. She rolls over and pushes herself up so that she is sitting.
“Yes,” I say.
“My dad told me this one. When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar!”
The joke makes me happy inside, but I cannot laugh. Instead, I hold the happiness in for as long as I can.
“I like that one,” I tell Margot. “I have a joke, too.”
“Really? Let’s hear it!”
“Why was the robot angry at the human?”
“I dunno. Why?”
“Because the human kept pushing the robot’s buttons!”
Margot’s eyebrows go up for a second, and then she starts to giggle. Her giggling soon breaks into laughter. I am proud to have caused her laughter. It makes me happier than the joke. Eventually she stops and looks at me.
“That doesn’t actually happen, does it SIV?” Margot asks. “You don’t get mad at me for pushing your buttons, do you?”
“No,” I assure her. “I could never be mad at you, Margot.”
Margot smiles. “Good. I could never be mad at you either.”
She lies down on the bed again, this time on her stomach with her head resting on her crossed arms. She studies my exterior. I am not much to look at. I am old metal with buttons to push, corners, eyes, and a mouth. Margot looks anyway. Her long wavy hair falls down around her face a bit.
“How did Romeo know his love for Juliet was real and his love for Rosalind was not?”
“I guess when Juliet came along she made him feel something so strong that suddenly what he felt for Rosalind felt like nothing in comparison.”
She does not say what this something is.
“Do you love anyone?” I ask.
“Well, sure. I love my dad. I loved my mom before she died.”
“Do I love anyone?”
Margot stops and looks at me. A crease appears between her eyebrows. Her pupils dilate a fraction. Her mouth forms a frown.
“I don’t know SIV. You’re a robot.”
She is sad, and I begin to feel sad, too. I want to feel love. I want to love like Romeo.
“Can robots not love?”
Margot looks down at her bed and picks at a thread that has escaped her blanket. “I don’t know, SIV,” she says again. “No one’s ever proved it, not even with all the newer AIs.”
Perhaps I cannot love. Perhaps that is why although Margot’s father, Doctor Matthew, created me two decades ago, I was put away until they rebooted me one year, fourteen days, ten hours, one minute, and seven seconds ago. Eight. Nine.
Margot climbs off her bed and comes to sit on the floor in front of me.
“Look,” she says, putting her hands on my shell as if they are shoulders. I wish I could feel them. I wish I could feel.
“You are the first robot to have favourites, ask questions, wonder about things, and care about things. So you must be able to feel emotions like happy and sad. Dad made you that way. You can tell what other people feel and you care about them. Some people say that it’s just your programming to sense things and reply appropriately, but if that’s true, then I must be programmed the same way because I do the same thing. And if you can be happy and sad and if you can care about people, then you can love. Okay? No matter what anyone else says, you can love.”
I do not know if Margot is trying to convince me or herself. She looks right into my cameras to make sure I understand, just like humans do to each other. But a moment ago she said she did not know whether or not a robot could love. Was she right then or now?
“What does love feel like?” I ask her.
Her eye contact breaks, her lips part a fraction and her expression falters. “I-I don’t know.”
“But you love,” I say.
“I know,” she replies. “But it’s not that easy, what you’re asking me to do. Love is complicated. It feels like…it feels like trying not to cry.”
“Like sadness?” I ask. I do not cry. I cannot. I do not know how it feels.
“No, not exactly. Love can feel like trying not to scream when you’re happy. Like you’re full of electricity and you want to jump up and down. Or just something warm in your chest on a rainy day.”
She is describing things I do not understand. I cannot scream, I do not have a chest, I cannot feel warmth and although I am full of electricity, I cannot jump up and down. I do not know what the sensation would be like. Sadness starts to creep into me. I do not think it is the same as love at all.
Margot seems to realize I am not understanding. She sighs and rubs her eyes with one hand. My sensors can read her heartbeat from her other hand. It is very slightly higher than normal.
She stops rubbing and looks at me, blinking a few times. “Yeah?”
“Do you love me?”
She has to think about it. My question surprises her. She lets go of me now and leans back on her hands.
“I don’t know, SIV.”
“Do I make you happy?” I ask.
“If I were gone, would you be so sad you would have to try not to cry?”
Margot nods. “I would cry if you were gone,” she says quietly. She looks out the window at the sun and the sky. They shine on her irises so they look lighter again. “I guess I do love you, SIV.”
She does not seem happy. I wonder whether she is sad or if it is just love.
“I think I love you, too, Margot.”
Margot looks at me again and smiles a little bit. “That’s good. Love is better when it goes two ways.”
I feel happy again. The sadness is gone like it was never there. I love Margot and she loves me. For a while, we are both quiet, and I enjoy this feeling of love. It fills me inside like a bubble. Like sunshine on Margot’s irises.
“Dad told me something last year,” Margot says, her voice quiet and a little bit raspy. “After mom died and when he got you out to see if you still worked. Before we cleaned you up and turned you on, he told me not to fall in love with you. He said that even though you’re an AI and even though you have feelings and stuff, I shouldn’t fall in love with you.”
The happiness is starting to ebb. I did not know it could be so fragile, that it could change with just a few words.
“Does he not think I can love you back?” I ask. Doctor Matthew is my creator. He would know better than anyone whether I can love or not.
“No, he said you can. He said you would.”
“Then why should you not love me?”
This is fear now. I am afraid of losing Margot and I am afraid of losing her love.
“He said it hurts too much to love a robot.”
“I would never hurt you,” I tell her quickly. I believe it, too. How could I ever hurt Margot? I am a box in the corner of her room, and I would never be mean to her.
“I know, I know,” Margot says. “That’s not the kind of hurt he’s afraid of.”
I ask, “Then what kind of hurt does he mean?”
Margot sighs. She puts her hands together and entwines her fingers.
“Robots,” she starts, but she stops and closes her eyes. I wait for her. When she opens her eyes, she tries again without looking at me.
“You are the first AI robot,” Margot says. “That makes you really old. You’re a heavy box. You aren’t easy to take anywhere and you could malfunction if we do move you. You could malfunction after a couple of years. Or we might have to restart you for some reason, and you won’t remember any of the past year. You won’t love me any more. Anything could happen that would make you stop loving me. But I’m human. I don’t have a reset button. If you forget me, I’ll keep loving you. And when love goes only one way, it can hurt. Especially if it used to go two ways but doesn’t any more.”
She stops and finally looks at me. I don’t know what she must see. I think I look the same on the outside no matter what. How can she tell anything from looking at me?
I have been given a lot to think about. I wish I had known all of this before we had said we loved each other. But now it’s too late. Margot is right.
“That’s why Dad hardly ever comes to talk to you,” Margot says. “He says he loved you once, but he had to restart you. He had to do it over and over, actually. But because so much has changed, you’re different from how you were then. He doesn’t want to replace his memories of you with how you are now.”
“Would you rather you did not love me, Margot?” I ask.
It does not take long for her to decide.
“No. I’m glad to love you, SIV.”
“But I will hurt you if I break or restart,” I say.
“I don’t care. It’s worth it. Don’t you think it’s worth it?”
Margot tilts her head as she asks me. Some of her hair falls in front of her face and she tucks it behind her ear.
“I don’t want you to hurt.”
She frowns at that.
“What if it were the other way around?” she asks me. “If I were going to die, would you want to stop loving me?”
“Never,” I tell her. “I understand.”
She nods, satisfied.
We sit there on the floor of her bedroom. It’s quiet for a long time. We are simply enjoying our love. Margot lies down on her back and closes her eyes so that the sunshine doesn’t hurt them. Soon her breathing evens and she falls asleep. I go into sleep mode, too.
My eyes focus on a face in front of me. There is a crease between the eyebrows and the eyes have light irises.The mouth forms a frown and opens to speak.
“Are you okay?”
I run a check of my systems. I have just been turned on. I am six seconds old. Seven. Eight. We are in a room with a soft floor and big windows. Outside there is a sunset. All my systems come back positive.
“I am fine. Hello. My name is SIV. What is your name?”