As I continue to add layers to this story, I can really see it turning into a book. In book form, I’m picturing a journal of Rachel’s work with her digital counterpart with entries to detail what she’s remembering and experiencing.
I’ve got the shell of the story i want to tell, but I think a book would give me an opportunity to do a deeper dive.
At any rate, this week’s installment founds us getting deeper into Rachel’s progression through her pregnancy and illness. We also see the symbiotic relationship that she begins to form with her simulated personality.
I hope you enjoy this part of the story. As always, your comments (and suggested edits) are welcome. Keep in mind, this is a stream of consciousness exercise. i don’t go back and read it once it’s written and, although I try to ensure continuity, it’s not something I dwell on until I expand it into a book.
Please enjoy Memories of Rachel – Part 6
Rachel meeting ‘Rachel’. It was surreal for all involved. Ben didn’t seem prepared for it. Rachel seemed to be in shock and ‘Rachel’ couldn’t get enough. She began talking nonstop through the Boom device. Finally, Ben shouted, “Rachel would you please shut up!”
Of course, he was addressing digital Rachel. Unfortunately, organic Rachel reacted to Ben’s command. She looked as if she’d been slapped across the face. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“Rachel, I’m so sorry,” Ben said.
“That’s okay, Ben,” the voice said from the Boom device.
“Not you!” Ben said. “I mean the real Rachel. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t yelling at you.”
Organic Rachel was sobbing.
“But, I’m real Ben. You created me from her experiences and emotions,” the voice from the Boom said sounding more than a little hurt.
Ben was angry, but also surprised by the expression of emotion in the simulation.
Rachel was leaning against the kitchen doorframe seemingly paralyzed. Ben went to her and took her in his arms.
“I’m sorry. I had no idea she…I mean, the simulation, was progressing so quickly. Normally it would be another month to get even close to this stage.”
Rachel shuddered and folded into Ben’s arms.
“It’s just…she sounds so real and I was…I guess I was jealous. I feel like I’m being replaced. I’m not gone yet.”
Ben could understand his wife’s feelings. He was the computer scientist and even he was fooled initially by the inflection and emotion in the simulation’s voice. The rational side of him, however, felt emboldened by the success of his work with his wife in preserving her essence as she faced imminent death from her horrible affliction. It was this side of him that spoke.
“It’s just a computer simulation. It’s totally under our control. It’s exceeding our goal. Let’s keep that in mind as we move ahead and refine it in the coming months. It’s not something for you to compete with. It’s something for you to adjust and refine so that our child can get to know her mother after you’re…”
His logical string of words stopped as he reached the last word as his sensitivity to his wife superseded what he was going to say.
“You mean after I’m dead,” Rachel said, finishing his thought. “You can say it, Ben. We both know it’s coming.”
Ben knew she was right. He still hadn’t fully accepted it. Yes, her appearance and stamina were visibly affected, but pregnancy can have those outcomes as well. Part of his irrational self, despite the evidence, still held out hope. Rachel’s words chipped away at that hope.
“You’re right, by the way,” she continued. “Things are progressing very well. Maybe if I can interact with…her…it will help me take my mind off things and make the…simulation even better.”
The pauses in her statement reflected her hesitancy.
“We’ll take it gradually,” Ben reassured her. “We have plenty of time.”
Rachel let out an uneasy laugh.
“I used to think that I had all the time in the world. I know now that I don’t.”
“I’m sorry,” Ben started.
“It’s okay. You’ve done a fantastic thing with this simulation, Ben. Let’s take the time I have left and make it as complete as possible. Let’s do it for our baby.”
Ben’s love for Rachel grew at that moment as he was awed by her strength in a dire situation. She was right. This simulation was nothing to be ashamed of, it was the culmination of his life’s work and her…life. How could it possibly be wrong? That was a question that would come back to haunt him.
As Rachel reached the end of her sixth month of pregnancy, she was much too weak to leave her bed. Ben’s management at Kongo, pleased with his progress on the simulation, arranged for the best medical care for her in their home. They provided them with a round the clock aid/housekeeper so, as they put it, Ben and Rachel could maximize their time together. It was likely self-serving as they wanted Ben to be freed up to work on the simulation with Rachel and not be distracted by things like cooking and cleaning.
Rachel’s obstetrician had also been convinced to visit her at home. He was provided with portable equipment to monitor the baby’s progress. No expense had been spared by Kongo. Ben was appreciative that his employer cared enough for him and his family to make these accommodations.
As Rachel’s pregnancy entered it’s seventh month, along with her illness, progressed aggressively. Her obstetrician and oncologist coordinated their visits so that they could confer and decide on the best course of treatment for Rachel. After examining her, they sat down at her bedside and consulted with her and Ben.
“The baby is doing amazingly well,” the obstetrician began. “She appears to be healthy and is still ahead of schedule.”
Ben and Rachel had discovered about a month prior that they were going to have a girl. She would be named Erin, a name they both agreed upon.
The oncologist stroked his graying goatee and shook his head.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” He said.
Rachel looked at him expectantly and Ben asked him to continue.
“The cancer had attacked every non-essential part of Rachel’s body. All her systems that are needed to keep the baby healthy are intact. Her brain continues to function well. Her bones and muscles, however, have been decimated at a rate much faster than anticipated.”
Ben looked at him expectantly.
“Does that mean there may be hope for treatment after the baby is born?” he asked.
An unpleasant look passed across the doctor’s face.
“I don’t know. Like I said, the cancer has only attacked non-essential parts of her body, but they may be beyond recovery and the essential systems may be begin to deteriorate by the end of her pregnancy.”
Ben seemed to contemplate something.
“What if the baby arrives early. Isn’t the six month point the milestone where a baby can survive. We know it’s healthy and ahead of schedule. What if you took the baby now and aggressively treated Rachel.”
The doctors looked at each other and then the obstetrician spoke.
“The risk to the baby, even one this healthy, is still significant at this point in the pregnancy. Under normal circumstances, I would advise against it.”
“The risk to Rachel is also significant,” the oncologist added. “In her weakened state, performing major surgery like a Caesarean Section would put undue stress on her diminished body. Plus, the aggressive treatment needed couldn’t be carried out until she healed somewhat from the surgery and it might be too late.”
Rachel had been quiet to this point, but suddenly her eyes focused and she sat up a bit.
“No!” she said with a surprisingly strong voice. “I won’t put the baby at any risk.”
“But Rachel…” Ben started.
“No!” she repeated. “The whole reason we’ve spent this past six months going down this path was to give this baby the best chance. I won’t take a chance at this point that could end up killing both of us.”
Her logic was sound. Ben suddenly felt selfish. His wife’s wisdom won out.
The appliance Rachel wore on her head full-time was something that Ben’s team had taken from the experimental stage to a prototype during her third month of pregnancy. It eliminated the need for the electrodes that could become disconnected. The black plastic device looked like the offspring of a headset and a dental appliance. It hooked around her ear and then an arm curved around her face and an appendage with a sensor rested just below her lower lip. It was a bone conduction headphone combined with a device that could literally translate thoughts into binary code and then back into English. It put the progress in recording Rachel’s thoughts in a hyper-speed mode. It had also resulted in a symbiotic relationship between her and ‘Rachel 2’ as they were now calling the simulation. Compared to where the simulation started, it had now progressed to an intelligent being just short of being fully sentient.
Ben was astounded when he asked Rachel and Rachel 2 the same behavioral questions in isolation how similar their responses were. Everything from favorite foods to political opinions and favorite television shows were responded to in the same way with an exceptionally high degree of accuracy. Further, Rachel 2 seemed to be developing her own tastes for certain things like music and literature. Ben was astounded to find that the simulation had poured through voluminous catalogs of music, art and literature independently and was expressing tastes and preferences for things that Rachel had never experienced.
The leadership at Kongo was especially pleased with this progress. They saw it as a product that could be marketed as a gateway to some type of immortality. As Ben cautiously shared to progress, their excitement at the future possibilities grew. Ben cautioned them that the progress with Rachel could be an anomaly and that much further research was needed to confirm if this was repeatable.
As Rachel progressed through the seventh month of her pregnancy/illness, Ben really didn’t need to participate in the process of refining the simulation. She lay in bed with her eyes closed, sleeping much of the time, with the appliance firmly in place. Ben could see her eyes moving back and forth rapidly behind her eyelids. He even observed facial expressions of both joy and sadness as she communicated with her technological ‘twin’. The connection had become symbiotic as if they both needed each other to survive. He had no idea how true this thought was until it was too late.