THE FUTURE IS LAUGHING • by Ruby Zehnder

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

I do.  

Please state your full legal name, social security access code, and the nature of the crime or crimes committed against you. You will notice a momentary processing pause after your response. Please do not be disturbed by this pause. Please proceed.

My name is Herbert Tyler Morling, 285-88-9432-665-7999-02-05. The hospital’s automated inventory supervisor is trying to murder me, and I am levying malpractice and attempted murder charges.

(LONG PAUSE)

Please clarify. Please explain, did the hospital in question attempt to murder you, or is it attempting to murder you at present?

Both!

(LONG PAUSE)

This is not an acceptable response. Please clarify.

Well, I realize that I’m speaking to a machine, and machines always require neat, concise answers with a minimal amount of words and no emotion. I get this, but I’m afraid that my problem is not easily summarized, and it has had a tremendous emotional—

 Please try to make your responses more concise. This hearing is scheduled for ten minutes, and we have reached the halfway mark—

See what I mean. You tin cans have no respect for your creators. My highly emotional problem is that the city hospital inventory system needs repair. Because the system is malfunctioning, I’m dying right here, right now as we speak.

(LONG PAUSE)

It is not necessary to raise the pitch of your voice, as my sensors are quite capable of capturing the entire audio spectrum. You must be in error. Artificial Intelligence systems, such as myself, never malfunction. Please relate the details of your charges, and I will determine your mistake in reasoning.

My error! My ass!

(LONG PAUSE)

Please lower the intensity of your voice and clarify the problem.

Please lower your voice?  That’s your response? Okay. I’ll calm down. Just give me a sec.

Please be advised that four minutes remain in this proceeding.                                                       

Okay, okay. Let me get on with it. It all began two months ago. I was scheduled for a routine heart replacement. I called the hospital and made the arrangements. I went in, and they prepped me. I’m lying on the table about to be put under when a problem arises. The nurses can’t find the heart. They check the inventory, it is listed, plain as day, one heart to be transplanted into H. T. Morling. That’s me.  Only, it’s missing. It isn’t there. They send me home. They tell me to call back in a week. I call back, and the same inventory system lists a heart ready for transplant. Okay, I go back. Again, they prep me and are prepared to begin the procedure when the nurses go to retrieve my new heart — and it still isn’t there. I am furious. I demand: ORDER ME A NEW HEART.  The nurses inform me that the hospital cannot order an additional heart because there is already one available. Hearts can’t be ordered until the inventory of hearts reaches zero. It’s protocol.  I MAY BE DEAD BY THEN, I point out in a non-pleasant way. They understand and are very sorry, but this is how the inventory system functions. CHANGE THE SYSTEM! OVERRIDE IT! THIS IS A LIFE OR DEATH SITUATION, I insist with passion.

Please try to make your answer more concise. Unfortunately, we have only 2.5 minutes remaining in this session.                                                    

The nurses reply, “Oh no,” we couldn’t do that. Overriding the inventory system might undermine the hospital’s artificial intelligence supervisor. Our A.I.s have feelings. They are incredibly sophisticated.  BUT, I AM DYING, I scream. I NEED A NEW HEART, NOW! No luck. I go home empty-hearted, so to speak. Then it comes to me. If the hospital treats their automated artificial supervisor like a real person, then maybe I can get it fired if I file a malpractice suit against it. So here I am.

(LONG PAUSE)

No malpractice has been committed. The hospital records indicate that no heart transplant was performed on H. T. Morling, and thus no malpractice is possible. A heart is waiting to be transplanted. This virtual court strongly recommends that you contact the hospital immediately and arrange for this procedure. Your medical records indicate that your condition is approaching critical. A fatal heart failure is likely in two days, plus or minus sixteen hours.

I know, you moron. Haven’t I clarified this point enough? The inventory system is wrong, and there is no heart waiting for me. It’s a glitch.   

(LONG PAUSE)

I am processing the data. Please calm yourself.

CALM MYSELF? I AM DYING, AND IT’S BECAUSE OF A STUPID, STINKING MACHINE JUST LIKE YOU! I’M A HUMAN BEING WITH HUMAN RIGHTS. I WILL NOT BE INTIMIDATED BY A LOUSY HUNK OF TWO-BIT CIRCUITRY!

(SHORT PAUSE)

Please, Mr. Morling. Cease and desist in this unruly behavior. My sensors indicate that you are moving toward me. Please be advised that the physical assault of an automated judge such as myself is punishable with a first-degree assault and battery charge with a mandatory sentence of between two and four years and an additional fiiiiiiiiiiiiiii…

***

Please state your full legal name and social security access code before the criminal charges brought against you are read. You will notice a momentary pause after your response. Please do not be disturbed by this pause. Please proceed.  

My name is Herbert Tyler Morling, 285-88-9432-665-7999-02-05,

(LONG PAUSE)

Do you, Herbert Tyler Morling, swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?

I do.

(LONG PAUSE)

You, Herbert Tyler Morling, are charged with malicious assault and battery on a virtual courtroom judge. How do you plead?

Help!

(LONG PAUSE)

 Please clarify.


Ruby Zehnder is a sham. She’s the disincarnate human version of Schrödinger’s cat. Her existence depends on the actions of a reader. When her words are read — she exists. When her words are ignored — she’s disappointed. Existing in multiple states of superposition gives Ruby the freedom to choose who she is. She may be a Lemurian Starseed with a telepathic cat. Or, she may be young, stunningly beautiful, carefree, debt-free, and socially woke. While technically not alive, she’s been writing stories for most of your life. Some of them are even good.


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Every Day Fiction