The bed covers clung to his legs. He could feel the heat wash over his chest as he lay naked in bed. Underneath him the sheet was ever so slightly damp from his unwillingness to move, exhausted by the muggy air of the room. The green glow from the digital alarm clock cast a faint glow on the night stand. Looking over, he was blinded by the glow in the otherwise pitch black room. The blurry images formed into numbers as he squinted into the LED screen. 2:30.
I have to start getting ready for class in four hours. Shit.
He rolled over, turning away from the clock that now seemed to illuminate the room in a cold eerie glow. His eyes were heavy but he was unable to keep them closed. The bed sheet was clammy, the air was muggy.
Maybe outside it’s slightly cooler.
He threw himself to a sitting position. Sliding off the bed he walked to the window and spread open the heavy curtains. The orange glow of security lights outside illuminated the room. He saw the shadow of a cat, maybe a raccoon, run under a car in the parking lot. The window lock stuck as he pulled out the pin and clenched the latch to allow it to slide open.
Ah, fresh air.
He took a deep breath, and swung the curtains back in place most of the way. The air was slightly more refreshing.
He returned to the bed. A line of light ran up the center, creating an illuminated strip on his pillow. It shone brightly in his eyes. He attempted shifting to either side of it, but neither position was comfortable. Letting out a sigh, he pushed himself out of bed and fixed the curtains to their default position, fully closed. Before returning to bed, a small flash caught his eye. His phone sat on his desk inconspicuously. He stared. A red light appeared again, for a fraction of a second. A message.
It’s so late, who could it be from?
Picking it up, he hit the power button and his background illuminated the screen. He placed his glasses on his face, retrieved from the bedside table. He sat down on the edge of his bed. Unlocking the phone revealed an orange flashing message saying that someone had had a birthday. It was her. She was online.
He quickly went for his laptop, stationed on his desk. As it booted up, he put on a pair of underwear and ran to his kitchen to grab a bottle of water.
His logon icon awaited him as he returned. Muscle memory took over and the long password initiated the desktop view.
Just as he thought, her online icon was lit up, green. His fingers danced atop the keys, attempting to compile his thoughts, what he might say.
Happy birthday? How’s it going? Long time no see?
He decided on a simple ‘hi’ to initiate contact. He pressed enter. Nothing. No dots. He sat. He looked at the clock across the room. 2:42. Maybe she was still asleep. He stared at his fingers, trying to calculate what time she had there, how many hours of difference.
Maybe her site has something.
He opened up the browser and started typing, the first two letters caused the URL to auto complete. No updates. Nothing big for a week or so. He switched back to the chat window. His sole message sat there, in absence of any replies, possible any notice. He stared, hoping for the little ellipsis to appear.
He clicked on her name, bringing up the profile. He imagined the avatar picture making eye contact with him. The online icon beside her face glared as if it was taunting him. The red X removed it from his sight, but not his mind. He crossed his arms, and leaned back in the chair.
Maybe there’s just a delay.
He faced the screen, unwavering, waiting for something to change.
Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep
His alarm wailed at him. He jumped to consciousness, from being slumped over in the chair. The default screensaver looped in front of him. He had fallen asleep. He remembered why he had been her. The desktop reappeared as he shook the mouse violently. The sole message remained unacknowledged by anyone or anything, yet the online icon still had not changed.
He stood up stiffly, and went over to shut off his alarm. 6:44. The sound had been going off for a while.
He quickly threw on clothes and ran out to prepare his breakfast of toast and coffee, then ran to the bathroom to make sure his hair looked slightly okay. His reflection showed off dark circles under his eyes and his mop of hair sufficiently oily.
He quickly forced down a dry piece of toast and followed it with a big gulp of coffee, scalding his throat slightly. He sputtered, and went to grab his book bag and phone. Before leaving, he took one last look at his computer screen. Still nothing. He rushed out the door, locking it, and rushing to make sure he caught his bus.
He showed up to the classroom just as the first bell sounded. He sat down and pushed his hair out of his eyes, pulling his bag up onto his desk. He double checked that he indeed had everything he needed for the day, letting out a sigh of relief. The late bell rang, followed by the grunt and groan of another student pulling up the seat next to him.
“Whew, I just made it.” He said, exasperated.
“I just got here too.”
“Alarm clocks can only do so much.” The other student said, splaying his arms out on the desk. “Sometimes my phone dies and I don’t even get woken up.”
“I use an old fashioned-alarm that you plug into the wall. It never fails.”
“But a phone is so much easier! You can set alarms for each day, like if you have a class at a different time.” The guy pulled out his phone and presented the screen to him.
“I can’t use something like that. It’s too distracting.”
The student pulled the phone away. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I sometimes stay up too late reading forums or whatnot.”
The professor had appeared at the podium and cleared his throat loudly. The two directed their attention ahead of them.
The professor carried on long-windedly like usual. The class dragged on, and any trace of interest waned slowly into nothingness. Her face appeared in his mind. He felt a trembling in his thigh.
Is that my imagination?
He put his hand to the rectangular bulge on his thigh. It was indeed vibrating. His eyes darted back and forth to the other students around him, hoping nobody noticed the buzzing sound. Everyone seemed just as zoned out as him regarding the lesson. He looked down at the opening of his pocket, and back to the professor who was scanning the room, slowly realizing that he was slowly losing the majority of people in the room.
The lecture seemed to die down and full attention was given to the professor, waiting for the word of dismissal to be given. With a soft clap, the notebook on his podium was closed and he gave his finishing statement, to keep reading the material or what it may have been. No time was wasted as he ran out of the room and into the hall, pulling out his phone. There was a text.
“Mom: Let me know if you’re coming by for the holidays.”
He sighed, and left a brief response; yes, not sure when, love you. He closed the phone with a click. He returned it to his pocket and headed to his next class.
Half paying attention to the professor, he held his hand over his jean pocket, just incase another message came through. The class passed by with no movement from his phone this time.
After finishing the class he pulled out the phone anyways and checked the screen, completely blank from any notifications. A feeling of dejection came over him as he walked to the bus stop.
Finally arriving home, he dropped his things by the door and immediately headed to his desk where the computer was located. He furiously tapped the spacebar to wake the computer up from sleep. The same single message remained in the chat window. There was one last thing to check.
He pulled up command prompt. The small black window appeared before him, a blank screen with a cursor blinking, awaiting a command. Ping. The string of numbers he knew by heart. The IP address to the server. Once again, he awaited a response. Once again, nothing. The ping returned with a timeout message.
Returning to the browser he inputted a familiar but rarely used URL. His heart jumped as it loaded successfully, albeit not with the message he hoped for.
“Our hosting service is down for maintenance at the moment. We apologize for any inconvenience.”
She didn’t respond because she couldn’t. She could have responded, should the web service hosting her AI be active.
Once upon a time she was more than just an AI. She was real. She was that beautiful native girl in his class that he had met studying abroad. She didn’t make fun of his accent. He always tried his best to speak to her in her language. You see, love can surpass language barriers. As soon as he finished school, he would return for her. However, even before he left, she was killed in a car accident, breaking his heart.
What a horrible story to tell at home. His girlfriend he met abroad had died in some tragic clichéd accident. Nobody would believe such a thing. So he created a program that could talk to him- as her. It was hosted on a server that he made there. However, as everyone’s interest in this girl was lost, his was reinvigorated. It was like she was alive again. She was programmed to be active during the day there, and sleep during the night. She was like a real person. However, unlike a real person, after being shut down, she could be restarted.
The chat window flashed. Ellipsis appeared.
“Hi! I’ve missed you!”
Song for the night:
Drink for the night: Gin and Tonic. Forgive me for any sepellimg errors.