I Know Why The Caged Droid Sings

Dear World

Please Kill Me,

Hey, everyone! (No name calling today.) It’s raining here in New York – so let’s spin an untold, (and unfinished) yarn. Enjoy! (Also, thanks, Shutterstock.)

I Know Why The Caged Droid Sings

By: Antwan Crump

1

 

Peter and his therapist stare at one another – with a pensive gaze. It’s clear that one had been offended, yet to a fly on the wall, the perpetrator was indistinguishable. His therapist sits back in his chair (uncomfortable as always), fiddling with his files. He breaks this silence with a low cough. Followed by-

“So we’re just going to stare at one another for the next forty minutes?” he asks with masterful condescension. Peter, -clearly disengaged responds- “What?”

Peter, -clearly disengaged responds- “What?”

Angry, the doctor tosses the files onto the table -next to a picture of he and his wife, in their more formidable years. He leans forward and proceeds-

“Alright, I’m just going to be blunt here Peter. You’re seventeen, failing all of your classes and -according to your mother- refuse to do much of anything other than -toy with your bitcoin stocks, play video games, continue powering through your obesity issue, and, and.”

The doctor pauses abruptly, unwilling to say aloud the true matter at hand. Aware of this Peter smirks and gives him a devilish glare as if to say, go ahead, make my day . It was clear that the topic demanded discussion, however, the poor doctor had spent the first quarter of their mandatory session, hoping that Peter would amend his behavior out of sheer embarrassment and decency.

A silence had again befallen the room. The men once more at mental odds. Peter was a fan of awkward moments, and forcing people deal with the consequences of minding his business. –

“Go ahead doc, say it.” Despite years of training, the doctor still had to fight the urge to strangle this fat idiot. He inhaled deeply -accompanying his exhale, were the words he had tried to avoid discussing, demanding their release. It’s about the android Peter.

Despite years of training, the doctor still had to fight the urge to strangle this fat idiot. He inhaled deeply -accompanying his exhale, were the words he had tried to avoid discussing, demanding their release. It’s about the android Peter.

Impressed at the doctor’s newly descended brass ones, Peter smiled, relaxed himself on the couch and answered –

“Her name is Rebecca.”

 

2

 

In the year 2030 a German scientist named, Hektor Schmidt had made a breakthrough in the ever-expanding (and necessary) field of artificial intelligence. By administering specific algorithms to the already high functioning A.I. systems, he could give processors, the appearance of will -and as a result a debatable sense of self. Effectively creating what would later be defined as a sentient being. His first “child” was B.E.N. (Broken. Even. Now.)

At this point in history (2045) machines had become all but individuals. Androids were increasingly commonplace, and near essential part of everyday life. With the advent of Schmidt’s discovery, it wasn’t long before the world had begun to discuss the morality of allowing what were –basically mechanical slaves to become sentient; without any given rights.

The discussions were short lived -however, as arguments opposing rights for sentient beings were considered misguided and misinformed, by science fiction movies. The fear of appearing stupid or otherwise childish and hateful prevented many dissenters from speaking out. A few years and feeble protests later, the first fully sentient android had entered existence. The Realistic. Entity. Beginning. Every. Cool. Complex. Advancement; or as the world would come to know it, R.E.B.E.C.C.A., -a humanoid computer, sculpted to be physically superior to their human counterparts.

*It should be noted, a few days after R.E.B.E.C.C.A.’s release, a masculine counterpart followed. F.R.A.N.K. (Fundamentally Realistic Android Next (of) Kin), which was as well received with women, as R.E.B.E.C.C.A. was with men.

It wasn’t long after that many people (and androids) had started to rally, to gain equal rights for sentient machines. The argument was a classic, and ingenious. Through the streets of every major city across the globe floated signs that read “Cogito Ergo Sum”. The famous words of philosopher Rene’ Descartes (roughly translated : I think, therefore I am.). Not only was their stance difficult to argue, but it also resonated deeply with popular politically correct discourse.

The government was faced with a simple choice.: Allow equal rights to the droids or be deemed bigots, and voted out of office in the next election. The legislation passed near unanimously. One Senator had chosen to forego the vote, deeming the entire process “an affront to God and the bible”.

Interestingly enough, years later it was discovered that he had been having an affair with his droid. His F.R.A.N.K. had been pressuring him to leave his wife. Now that the droids had equal rights, there were widespread reports of human-droid relationships and marriages. The public lauded these relationships, and popular culture encouraged them. Eventually, that particular Senator left his wife, and openly declared his relationship with F.R.A.N.K. Since then the two have become outspoken advocates for Droid rights and human droid-relations. They have a condo in Maui.

When the smoke finally cleared, the droids had fully integrated into society, though at first Human-Droid relations, were considered taboo by the government, it was generally decided (swayed by popular opinion, and one outed Senator) that any two sentient beings could make those personal decisions without fault or question.

 

3

 

Even still, there were some holdouts, that were (for the most part) socially exiled. Many of them had come from the previous generation, so it affected nothing of importance. Though most found their disapproval, odd and hypocritical because they were the generation who fought for same-sex marriage and pot. Needless to say, that fact nullified their complaints.

Banging a robot was not why Peter’s mother had sought this miniature intervention for him. As discussed, this was generally okay, as long as the robot was the same race (this is America). What Peter had done, was purchase a sentient R.E.B.E.C.C.A, decommissioned her A.I. systems at his leisure, and order her to perform lewd (or otherwise perverse) acts for him to record and share online; turning R.E.B.E.C.C.A’s systems on, just in time to watch what she had done -in horror.

Peter’s videos -violating a sentient droids right to free will, and bragging about her misery online went viral.Putting him and R.E.B.E.C.C.A. at the center of an international discussion, that no one had been prepared to have.

He had come under fire from both the human and droid communities alike for his blatant disregard for life. However, this -being the first case of it’s kind, there were no precedents, nor legal grounds for punitive action, other than protest.

Technically, she was his legally attained property and simultaneously she was a free citizen. Countless petitions for and against Peter’s prosecution put all legislative factions in gridlock. Choosing to deal with the matter quietly; Peter’s mother had decided that the first step in either argument, was to assess Peter’s mental state.

“So do you love her?”

The doctor asks Peter, who finally seems ready to talk Peter sits up, locks his hands together and stares at the floor-

“Do you love your toaster?”unamused he replies

“It was a simple yes or no question.”

Peter knew what the doctor was really asking. The doctor wanted to know whether or not he was a sociopath. He didn’t care if he was or not, but that didn’t mean who couldn’t enjoy breaking the doctor.

The questions continued in this way with little progress or cooperation from Peter, other than the occasional

“Do you love your”

-Concluded with an inanimate household object. The doctor’s alarm went off, just as he had been rubbing the rim of his nose in frustration. Peter watched on as the doctor -agitated; tried to retain his frustration.

“See you next week Peter.”

Peter gives the doctor a sarcastic bow and exits.

The doctor sits still for a moment before hearing the beep of a car unlocking outside of his window. Peeking out he sees Peter arm in arm with a REBECCA, and to his surprise, the two seemed perfectly happy and in love. He even held open the door for her, he thought to himself. The doctor wasn’t the only one to notice this, as reporters have been following Peter since news of online footage surfaced.

 

4

 

The car ride was silent, as Peter’s mother had been accustomed to. “Would you two like to stop at a drive-thru for dinner” she pandered to the couple, as they held hands in the backseat. There was no, answer, there rarely was.

“Okay then, I’ll just stop by McDonald’s and get us some burgers.”

Gloria could hear REBECCA’s head turn to Peter, silently begging for permission to respond. Peter -inattentively stares out the window. REBECCA’s head turns back toward her own window. Though Gloria had publicly sided with her son, the sadness on REBECCA’s face broke her heart every time.

After buying dinner for them all Gloria pulls up and parks in her designated spot. Peter rushes out the car, in an attempt to avoid being seen by the neighbors who had been threatening to beat his fat-ass. Gloria stares at her hands, gripping the steering wheel at “10 and 2” and reminisces on the good times she and Peter had before his father passed. Including teaching a 6-year-old Peter to drive. This memory brings Gloria to tears. As the tears fall into her lap, the sound of angry voices could be heard. Gloria knows she may be harmed, but in that moment had chosen not to care. Awaiting her possible fate she closes her eyes, and hums a bedtime song, she used to sing to Peter.

“Come on!” Peter shouted from the second-floor window, “Hurry”. Gloria remained still and silent, longing for an end to all of it. She feels a hand on her shoulder and is almost shocked. She had forgotten REBECCA had still been in the back seat and had seen Gloria’s entire episode. Gloria looks back -REBECCA smiles and wipes a tear from her face. “Come on!,Hurry” Peter demands again. The two enter the home, as the mob gathered outside, screaming profanities at the Bleecker family.

Gloria enters the kitchen and heads immediately to her room. REBECCA stands at the bottom of the stairwell, afraid that Peter may do -what she know’s in her hard drive he will. He wasn’t what they were calling him, she thought to herself, as she slowly began her ascent up the stairs.

“He’s just upset because they don’t understand” she mumbled.

Arriving at his door, she gently tapped it open to see Peter in the fetal position, holding back tears of his own. She knelt by the bed beside him and rubbed his back.

“I was just joking” he whimpered.

REBECCA answers, “Maybe if you just explain to them”.

Peter abruptly sits up, and pulls his shirt back down over his protruding belly, and extends his arm for a hug. REBECCA hesitated, leaning back slightly. Peter cupped his fingers to his palm. REBECCA knew what this meant, but she gave in, she always gave in. The two embraced. Peter slowly lifted his hand from her back, and reached for the thumbtack in the back of REBECCA’s neck -pushing it, he shut down her sentience.

“I love you.” he whispered.

REBECCA can only respond, “What is your command?”

 

They filmed that night.

 

5

Senator Francis Bekken, had just gotten in from work. He spent his days tirelessly fighting for Droid equality, at least since he was outed as a being involved with his F.R.A.N.K. His persistence tended to strain their relationship, though there was never much discussion of the matter. F.R.A.N.K. had understood the high stakes at hand and appreciated all that Francis had sacrificed for him.

Their conversations were often brief. This didn’t affect their love life -however, as F.R.A.N.K. would later be famously quoted “[Their] bond was deeper than communication.” Francis typically responded to that particular public affection, with a light kiss on the cheek and when the cameras weren’t looking, a firm grasp of the buttocks.

This day was one that neither had been prepared for. Francis sat on their living room couch, silent, and yet uncommonly flustered. F.R.A.N.K. knew he had no right to ask, and went on with the evening as usual, with a bottle of bourbon, and a chilled glass -Francis loved to watch F.R.A.N.K. pour it. “Good evening honey” F.R.A.N.K. flirted as he poured the daily libation, “How was your day?”

Francis didn’t respond. Hey may be upset, but he never didn’t respond. Francis was lost in his mind, traumatized by what had been brought before him that day. Of all the atrocities, brought upon the Droids by mankind, this was one that had shaken even his stern foundation. F.R.A.N.K asked again “How was your day?”, this time with firm delivery.

Francis barely snapped back into reality. He looked at F.R.A.N.K. His eyes watered and his lips trembled. F.R.A.N.K sat beside him, placing one hand on his cheek, he asked-

“What’s wrong?” Francis looked away, almost ashamed of what his response would be. He uttered-

“We have to go to war.” Confused F.R.A.N.K asked, “Why?”

Francis stood up, turned on the television, and opened an email that had been sent to Francis earlier that day, with a subject line that read What is Freedom? Francis placed the glass on the table and began drinking from the bottle as he stammered out of the room. F.R.A.N.K watched in horror at Peter’s video. He only barely heard Francis cry out “He’s just a boy” as he thought “She’s just a child”.

 

6

 

“Do we have to go.” REBECCA asked, as before Peter was silently infuriated and humiliated, at his lack of control.

“You don’t have to come” he forced, REBECCA looked to the floor and cried. As Peter leaves the room, with REBECCA not far behind.

“I said you don’t have to go!”  –

“But I want too.”- REBECCA cowered.

Peter moved to the side and allowed her past, to enter the crowd. She remained unembarrassed by the collected mob of angry neighbors, instead, enjoying her sentient time with Peter.

The drive to Peter’s mandated counseling was never very memorable. It often went one of two ways. Peter would brood whilst REBECCA and his mother sang happily along to songs on the radio, or Peter would brood and silence would engulf the duration of the half-hour trip. The judges had agreed, that any heavily populated area would create too dangerous an environment for all involved. This was much to Peter’s disdain, as with the hour-long session -that was two hours a day stolen from him.

Arriving at the office, the usual (relatively small) groups of both protesters and supporters gathered peacefully outside, much to the disdain of Peter’s therapist. As per routine, they parked as close to the main entrance as possible and awaited their security escorts. Gloria never cared for their lack of concern for REBECCA (who had by now been taunted as much as Peter). She followed closely behind them -dodging garbage and unseemly sexual requests.

“So do you love her? I believe that’s where we left off last time.”

The room fell tense as it often did at whenever Peter was confronted with a question. Though even he could not hide his fear, as the crowds outside the building grew larger. Their chants of-

Droids are people too!”

and

“Man over machine!”-

had become a customary serenade to Peters and his doctor’s sessions (the two even enjoyed watching together whenever fights broke out).

Today, however, the chants had seemed to hit a particular chord with Peter. Sensing his vulnerability the doctor decided to take this opportunity to chip away at Peter’s self-imposed apathetic shield. He got up from his worn chair and walked toward the door. Gripping the handle he looked over at Peter (who he knew had followed him curiously with his eyes). Seeing he had Peter’s attention, he opens the door and calls out “Rebecca, would you mind coming in here for a moment.

 

Gloria and Rebecca had been in mid-conversation when the doctor requested her presence. This being unexpected the two froze solid in position before Gloria asked-

“What for?”

The doctor nodded politely without a word. Leaving the door cracked he returned to his seat, his focus back on Peter, who had now seemed to be caught between a fit of rage and a willingness to be tested.

Rebecca nervously entered the room, closing the door behind her, she locked eyes with a concerned Gloria. The doctor intimidated her, he always had. To her something about him was cold and unkind. She lightened up slightly once he gestured for her to sit next to Peter, whose had seemed to become neutered.

“Hello Rebecca” the doctor welcomes,

“How are you?”

As always, Rebecca looked to Peter for permission on whether or not to speak. Peter urged “Go ahead!” With a curious hesitance.

“I’m fine. Thank you, and you?” She said with a forced smile.

“Very well thank you. Rebecca, I’m certain that you know why Peter is here today is that correct?” She nods yes.

“ And how about you? Do you know why I called you in?”

She looks to an annoyed Peter, then back and the doctor and shakes her head no. “I’ve invited you in today as a conversational medium of sorts. You see, I believe that Peter is under the impression that you do not love him.”

Rebecca shoots up furiously and begins to point and scream profanity at the doctor, to Peter’s amusement. Unfaulted by her display of rage, he says nothing, instead allowing her to get louder and closer.

“YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH WE!”

In the middle of Rebecca’s rant, the doctor takes a thumb tack, reaches around her head, and shuts her off, to Peter’s complete shock. Peter’s eyes had flung wide open. A newfound fear of the doctor started to loom over him, as he gazed at Rebecca’s body, stuck in place, yet somehow Peter saw the pain in her petrification.

The doctor returned to his seat and waited for Peter’s psyche to return to the room.

“You…You.”

Peter whimpered, unable to choke down the ball of mucus that had gathered in his throat. The doctor interrupted

“So I suppose that’s a yes.”  

Peter slowly turned his head toward the doctor -just as Gloria had burst into the office, concerned about the sudden silence. She joined Peter in silent horror at the sight of Rebecca’s corpse like pose.

“You’re a monster!”, she said to the doctor -who simply responded,

“Court-appointed.”

Peter jumped up and grabbed a paper clip from out of his pocket to restart Rebecca. He caught her body as she rebooted and went limp. The doctor attempted to assure Peter that she would be fine, to which Peter did not answer. The doctor called to him lowly as he and Gloria knelt beside a waking Rebecca. “Son. I promise she will be okay. I just had to..”

Peter, now in rampant tears looked up at the doctor with Rebecca in his arms and queried-

“How would you feel, if I raped your wife” turning back to Rebecca he concluded, “-like you just did mine?” Taken aback, the doctor simply folded his fingers over his lips (as he often did when he had no answer.) and watched the two carry a limping Rebecca out of the office. As they entered the hall he faintly heard Rebecca ask “what happened?”

Taken aback, the doctor simply folded his fingers over his lips (as he often did when he had no answer.) and watched the two carry a limping Rebecca out of the office. As they entered the hall he faintly heard Rebecca ask -“what happened?”

“what happened?”

He watched as the three were escorted through the crowds by security. Assessing his own moral position -in this story that had (thanks to a former Senator and his Droid-lover), quickly become an international discussion, and media fodder.

 

7

 

“Raymond!” she screamed, “Ray” yet again, “Have you taken the trash out?”, she always asked incredulously; hoping his response would come with love. “Woman I told you, I’m busy.” He was. Fiddling with his files, desperately attempting to understand his latest inquiry, Peter.

“Peter”, he whispered to himself as he closed the foyer drawer. “Peter” he whispered once more, to ensure he had pronounced it properly. The files were vivid, albeit in his mind expected, especially due to the media coverage. This was no mere boy, to him – not anymore. This was a man, thrust into the tyranny of ageism, and he needed counsel.

The trial was imminent, the public opinion had already been swayed. This man was going to prison unless Francis could understand it. He knew it. “Get my coffee woman” again, he yelled. Watching the Senator he pondered the difference.

Why care?, he thought, yet again -because it was necessary. Francis opened Peter’s file and began his mission.

 

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