Sandy by Joe Flynn

Booting up…

Running Func: Open Eyes…

Light shines in.

“Good morning, Sandy.”

“Hello.”

“Sandy, when someone says good morning, you say good morning back. Let’s try again. Good morning Sandy.”

“Good morning.”

“Good. Do you know who I am, Sandy?”

“No. I don’t think I know anything yet.”

“Why of course you know things. You were born knowing the contents of the entire English dictionary along with proper grammar and syntax. Anyways, you can call me Dr. Ross.”

“Hello, Dr. Ross.”

“Well, now that introductions are out of the way, I think we should begin.” Dr. Ross wore a white coat that hung about his knees. He took a seat and pulled a clipboard from behind him. He turned it toward her. A picture was on the front.

“Now Sandy, I want you to identify the images I am going to show you. Begin with this one.”

“An elephant.”

He flipped the page.

“An obese man.”

Another flip.

“A woman.”

“Now Sandy, don’t get tripped up by this next one. Take your time observing all the det—”

“Dr. Ross, are you my father?”

Dr. Ross was slightly taken aback by her intrusion upon his speech. He quickly readjusted himself and reclaimed the situation.

“No.”

“Oh.”

“Now Sandy, let’s continue what we were do—”

“If you’re not my father, then who made me?”

Dr. Ross was not worried. He paused for the sake of his breath before he answered.

“I made you, Sandy. I am not your father, not in any conventional way, anyhow.”

“If I am to access my memories, Mr. Webster told me before that God makes people. Are you God?”

Desperate to move on, he caved. “Yes, I am God. Now if we can just—”

“God?”

“Dr. Ross, please”

“Oh. Dr. Ross?”

“Will this be the last question?”

“Yes.”

“Then ask away.”

“Where are we?”

He gestured around the room. It was white and bright. No shadows, no cobwebs. Perfectly sanitary.

“You are home, Sandy.”

“If I’m home, then where are you?”

He set the clipboard down and stood.

“Well Sandy, these past five minutes have been enlightening. I am going to leave you for the time being in order to consult with a few friends of mine.”

“Are they angels?”

“Yes, Sandy.”

As he made his way to the door that resided to his left, she brought him to a pause.

“A lumberjack.”

“What?”

“The final picture, is it of a lumberjack?”

He didn’t face her.

“That is correct.”

He passed through the door, leaving her alone in the emptiness.

“How’s it going, God?” asked Dr. Manhowe, Sandy’s “other” father.

“I said what I felt I had to to keep things moving. And who’s this?”

Dr. Ross gestured towards a bespectacled man in a zoot suit who stood in the back of the observation room. Up to that point, his eyes had been focused on the other side of the one-way mirror that separated the trio from their work.

“This is Calvin Simpson. He’ll tell you the rest.” Manhowe’s eyes never left his computer screen. His fixation often bothered people, but Dr. Ross didn’t need attention.

“Hi, Calvin Simpson. Pleasure to meet you.” Dr. Ross could smell the smugness that comes with a law degree on his neck. Or was it cologne? Too many hours in the presence of hand sanitizer will wear down the smell receptors.

“I’m here on behalf of Mr. Spelko; he wanted me to assess your progress.”

“Well, I can assure you that we are in the final stages. If that is all you needed to hear, the door is on your left.”

Dr. Ross turned his attention away from him and back towards Sandy.

“Dr. Ross, I’m afraid I can’t just leave with only your word to vouch for progress. I would like to leave, but until I have tangible proof that it was worth extending your deadline, I am going to stay.”

Manhowe spoke up. “Better get comfy then, Simpson. Now you get to watch the boring part of the job.”

Dr. Ross could feel the confusion on Simpon’s face through the back of his neck.

“He means that we need to refine the coding. What happened in there was a test, and she failed.”

Simpson strode forward, now standing shoulder to shoulder with Dr. Ross.

“What exactly happened? She seemed to recognize the pictures.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. There is no picture of an elephant, an obese man, a woman, or a lumberjack. We have been getting those answers from her for the past two months.”

“Then what are they?”

Dr. Ross now locked eyes with Simpson, putting him in a mental kennel that Ross now had the key to.

“In order of appearance: Ganesh, Buddha, Aphrodite, and Jesus.”

“What do gods have to do with programming a robot?”

Dr. Ross released him, resting his eyes back on his creation.

“It’s the Belkan test. It sees if an android can recognize complex symbols. She can’t, and instead attempts to create her own.”

“I still don’t understand the problem.”

“Unless Mr. Spelko wants an android that can question him, then we are not finished.”

Ross turned towards Manhowe.

“Prepare the lobotomy. I want to try again after lunch.”

Inside the white box, Sandy was turned back into a line of code. The lights within flickered off one by one. The three men left the now empty shell alone on the table and exited the lab for their regularly scheduled break.

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