The scrape of chair legs, dimmed lights, a cough, the sound of rain against a window.
“Please relax, I’m going to ask you a series of questions. Try and answer them as honestly as possible.”
“Okay,” says the girl.
“You’ve woken. You’re cold. The window has blown open and you can hear a dog barking outside. Beside you lies a body. It is still. There is a pool of blood seeping into the mattress.”
He notices her finger move to her ear, random sub-conscious bursts bring suggestions of desire.
“Can you answer?”
“You haven’t asked me a question.”
“Is that important, there is a dead body beside you.”
“It’s your boyfriend.”
“I haven’t got a boyfriend.”
The man pauses, removes his glasses, pinches the bridge of his nose. He picks up a pencil, ticks some boxes, notices as he does the sound of insects, an unopened packet of nachos in the corner of the room, the position of a vase with cut flowers, the sound of the girl breathing: the rise and fall.
He replaces his glasses, screens out the random data assaulting his senses and continues, “There is a dog barking outside, perhaps you go to look out of the window?”
“Yes perhaps I go to look out of the window.”
“Excuse me.” The man gets to his feet, walks over to the sink and turns off a dripping tap. He notices the layer of dust on the floor, knows the composition, age, rate of deposition.
“Can I go now?” asks the girl.
He returns to the table, takes the lamp suspended above them and directs the light towards the girl. She blinks, instinctively raises her arm to shield her eyes.
“Does it bother you that your boyfriend is dead?”
“I haven’t got a boyfriend.”
“Try to imagine you have.”
“What? And then try to imagine he’s dead? That’s sick.”
The man takes an apple from a suitcase, rubs it on his suit, takes a bite, places it on the table between them. There is a creak of floorboards in the room next door, the sound of television, the springs of a mattress finding resonance.
“An apple. Would you like to taste it?”
The vibrations from the headboard next door settle in the man’s ears. The tap is dripping again, rain against the window, a dog starts barking outside. He moves quickly as the gasps next door reach a crescendo: brings his hand down on the apple; squashes it to pulp against the hard grain of sliced oak. The girl flinches.
“Is there an apple there any longer?”
“No,” says the girl.
“Imagine there is,” says the man. “There was a moment ago, it can’t be that hard to imagine it’s still there.”
Footsteps in the corridor.
“Can I have the next question?” says the girl.
“You look up and see the date the seventh of June spelt out in blood across the wall. The hand writing is yours.”
“Can I have a cigarette?”
“Of course. Turing Test finished at 23.06.” He takes a packet from his pocket, taps out a cigarette, passes it across the table.
“Thankyou,” says the girl, she places it between her lips, leans forward as he produces a lighter. Sitting back, she inhales, then blows smoke towards the man, “Well?”
“You register as human,” replies the man. “There’s not many of you left, this is an honour.”
“And so what happens now?”
“You will be terminated.”
“You know we created your ancestors, don’t you?”
“As I said, it’s an honour,” replies the man.
The door opens. Movement. The man stiffens as he feels a gun against the back of his head. The girl gets up, walks over to the breakfast bar, opens the packet of nachos, starts eating. “By the way,” she says, “I lied. I do have a boyfriend.”
The man’s eyes scan the room for potential weapons, a vase of flowers, chair, table, pencil. His AI system calculating the effectiveness of each line of attack. At the same time he imagines himself and the girl driving in a convertible mustang out of the city together wearing gas masks, his hand on the steering wheel, the other around her shoulder.
The girl watches her boyfriend squeeze the trigger, thinks of Paris in the smog, love, passion, food, the child within her womb.
The sound of the shot passes through the outer walls of the apartment and radiates out into the rain.