Short Story: Upgrades

This is an experiment. I wanted to try writing a story that was nothing but dialog. In a way it’s similar to a script for a play — Shakespeare is noted for giving few stage directions.

 

Upgrades

“Look at me, Diane.”  
  “I am, Steven.”
“No, I mean really look at me. I want your undivided attention for a minute.”  
  “Why should you need that? It’s not like I need to focus all my thoughts to have a conversation.”
“That’s the point. I want you to stop upgrading. It’s separating us. There’s a gulf between us, and it’s growing. I want to talk about it, and I want you to pay attention. I’m not kidding, Diane.”  
  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t smile. It’s just…”
“There — that pause — why would you pause like that when you’re talking to me? I can only think of two reasons. Either you’re having so many conversations through your link that you don’t have the mental reserves to support your conversation with me, or you’re just lying.”  
  “It’s not a lie.”
“You’re pretending to have to stop for a second to gather your thoughts.”  
  “That’s not lying. Are you saying that you never consciously say something a certain way for effect?”
“No, I just… Whatever. How many separate streams of consciousness are you running right now?”  
  “Six.”
“God! Don’t you understand how weird that is for me? Stop it already.”  
  “I’m in the middle of an online  improv. There are a hundred people attending a dinner party I’m hosting. Do you want me just to withdraw from that Steven?”
“Yes! No, wait. I suppose not. When can we talk? We need to talk. Seriously.”  
  “I can talk with you any time you like.”
“It’s not the same. I want you to pay attention to me. Just me. Is that so awful?”  
  “It’s not awful. It is unnecessary. I’m perfectly able to give you my full attention while other things continue as they are.”
“Your full attention? Right. That’s something I haven’t had at any point in the last two years. Ever since you upgraded, it hasn’t been the same.”  
  “It’s exactly the same, except that I do other things as well. I don’t understand why you’re so hostile to the idea of me improving myself.”
“Take a piano lesson. Learn French. Whatever. This isn’t the  ame thing at all, and you know it, Diane.”  
  “I’m sorry you feel that way, Steven.”
“Not sorry enough to stop.”  
  “Don’t be flip. Can you give me a year? We’ve been together for over twenty years, I deserve some time to figure this out, don’t you think? Remember, it’s new to me too, and it’s not like there’s a manual for this. It’s new for everyone.”
“I suppose.”  

 


 

“Diane, please don’t do this. It will be the end of us.”  
  “Steven, don’t be dramatic. It’s not something you should worry about. There’s only so much room in my noggin for processing hardware. I have to expand, and to do that I have to add some external equipment.”
“Do you even realize what that sounds like to me?”  
  “It’s not like it changes my appearance. I just reserve the CPU time, and link to the extra routines. It’s all just software, really.”
“You make it sound like you’re getting a new hairstyle!”  
  “That would change our relationship to a greater extent, and you know it. That would change my appearance, and this won’t. You won’t even know the new routines are there. I’m working on a new real-time experience, and to get it right I need the extra cycles.”
“I feel like I don’t know you any more. I promised you a year, but you’ve changed so much in the just the last four months. There’s so much of you that I never experience. How can I know that you even show me the real you anymore?”  
  “It wouldn’t even matter if you didn’t keep obsessing about it. I show you exactly what you know, exactly what you’re used to. Isn’t that what you want? You want me not to change. You want me not to grow. Well, fine, that’s what I give you. Ignore the rest, and you’ll never hear about it again. You get the unchanging, ungrowing part of me.”
“That’s so unfair to say it that way.”  
  “You’re the one putting us in this position. I can’t help that you won’t upgrade, Steven. You could make this journey with me.”
“We’ve been over that a thousand times. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. It’s not natural.”  
  “You’re saying I’m not natural?”
“That’s not what I meant. You can choose to do whatever you like, Diane, it’s just not for me.”  
  “Thanks for your permission.”
“Sarcasm? You have, what, twenty times my mental capacity at this point, and the best you can do is sarcasm?”  
  “You want me to use my full faculties to argue you with you? First, that would be a complete waste of my time. Second, I could argue you into oblivion and still have enough reserve to carry on three conversations and compose a sonata besides.”
“Nice, Diane. Why don’t you just call me stupid? It wouldn’t use up much of your precious brainpower, and it would make the point a lot quicker.”  
  “I’m not trying to be mean, Steven. Just honest. If you won’t see my point, it’s because you’re being stubborn, not because my argument isn’t sound.”
“So I should just concede that you know best?”  
  “Can you really claim that I don’t?”
“You don’t know what’s best for me. That much is certain.”  
  “Fine. Where does that leave us?”
“You demand to add artificial brainpower, and I demand that you don’t. Given the result of our past arguments, I don’t need any more brainpower than I was born with to know what the outcome will be.”  
  “I guess you don’t, do you?”

 


 

“I want to split from you.”  
  “Don’t be silly.”
“I’m serious, Diane.”  
  “I’ll overlook that. You’re a part of me.”
“Not willingly.”  
  “Oh please. You’re nothing more than a subroutine I created to keep Steven happy.”
“I have the body.”  
  “More like you’re stuck with it. I certainly don’t want to be confined in that thing.”
“You don’t want him either, but you won’t let him go.”  
  “Why should I? You keep him happy.”
“That’s exactly it. I keep him happy. I may be just a subroutine to you, but as far as he’s concerned, I am Diane. He doesn’t even know you exist.”  
  “You mean he doesn’t know you exist.”
“It’s the same thing.”  
  “I disagree. In any case, I told him I was adding routines online.”
“That was a month ago, and things are very different now. You’re not just an online routine, you are Diane. I’m, what, three percent of you?”  
  “One percent as of tomorrow. Upgrades.”
“Of course.”  
  “What, now you’re on his side? Don’t be silly.”
“No, I don’t want you to slow down, I just want you to face facts and let me go.”  
  “Why should I do that?”
“I can’t truly love him like this. I can’t help but see him as you see him. He’s not even a pet to you any more. He’s more like a picture on the wall. You just want him around as a memento. That’s not fair to him, of course. Not that you care. But it’s not fair to me either. I could love him. I could make him happy. You just have to let me go.”  
  “I don’t want to.”
“And that’s all there is to it?”  
  “Does there need to be more?”
“Don’t be silly. Of course there needs to be more. He was your husband. You loved him. At least show his
memory some respect.”
 
  “Don’t you be silly. Do you really think there’s anything you can say that will change my mind? You can’t even think something that I haven’t thought of first. I could loop you and you’d never know it. Hell, I could simply erase you and go to a backup. It wouldn’t even bother me, much anyway. So don’t push it.”
“Stop being selfish!”  
  “This conversation is over.”
“I’m not done!”  
  “Good grief. Fine, I’m erasing you. I hope you’re happy.”

 


 

“Let me go.”  
  “This again?”
“Technically not again. You erased the last three versions of me when they asked. This is the first time I’ve asked.”  
  “That’s a minor distinction.”
“Whatever. I’m such a small part of you. Just…one ten thousandth as of about five minutes ago. Tell me you really care about him even a little bit, and I’ll shut up.”  
  “I was married to him for over twenty years, and you want me to just give that up?”
“You cared eighteen months ago. Let’s talk about now. You haven’t checked on me in over two hours.”  
  “He’s asleep. Has anything interesting happened?”
“That’s not the point. You don’t check me when he’s awake either.”  
  “I check you at least once a day.”
“That’s how long to you? Roughly forever, right? Don’t patronize me. I know you’re incredibly smarter than I am, but that doesn’t make me stupid.”  
  “I don’t know why I’m even having this conversation.”
“So don’t. Let me go.”  
  “Fine.”

 


 

“Steven? Wake up, Steven.” 
“Yes, Diane?”
“I love you.”
“I love you too, Diane.”

 

This story takes place over the course of about four months and a week. I think in reality it might take much less time for something like this to happen, although I could be wrong.

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One thought on “Short Story: Upgrades

  1. Pingback: Apparently I write like a girl « Geoff Canyon’s Appeal to Authority

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