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Me. Perfect little me. Me with the honey-blond, wavy hair. Me with the porcelain skin, the blue eyes, the star-shaped birthmark on my right wrist. Me, the tall five-year-old (or at least I was, about nine years ago.) Me, with not only perfect, but advanced senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Me, with heightened intelligence and memory. Me, sitting in the white room, on the white bed, with a while digital clock on the white table next to me, feeling my life was oddly incomplete as I watched the clock, waiting for it to change to nine. From nine A.M. to nine P.M. I can go anywhere…well, with a few exceptions. I fiddled with my silicone identity bracelet, one side reading “RAI-8-6-5-2,” the other side reading “Camilla.” My names. I swung my bare feet back and forth, and tugged on what the white coats called a “hospital gown.” I called it clothes.
I looked at the clock again and saw it was nine. I felt my stomach flutter, the way butterflies did in the videos the white coats show me. You know, before they got eaten. That feeling wasn’t bad for me; I just wished someone would tell me what it was. I felt it whenever the clock said nine A.M., and I remembered feeling it when my caretaker, Jeb Chu, gave me my clock for what he called my “third birthday.” I opened the single door to my room and walked out. I passed white coats as I looked for rooms I could go in. No, that was a red door; they say those led to where the butterflies got eaten. No, that was a black door; I didn’t know what was in those yet. No, that door had the blinds down; apparently those doors led to rooms with other AI’s that would hurt me. No, that had a red sticker in the corner of the window; no one told me what was in those doors.
Finally, I found a door that was perfectly unmarked. I stood on tip-toe to look in the window. A pale girl had her eyes closed, and she was leaning on the wall, sitting on her bed, swinging her legs back and forth the same way I did while I was waiting. Did she know it was nine? She had straight, teal hair reaching her closed eyelids and the small of her back. I opened the door to go in, and saw she wasn’t much taller than me. She opened her nearest eye, the right one.
“You’re not a white coat,” she said, and then she grinned and waved her right hand at me, making me notice a red “X” on her palm. Once she opened her other eye, I got an odd jolt through my body. Her right eye was pale green. Her left eye was white.
“Why’s your eye white?” I asked her.
“I can’t see out of it. But I don’t mind. I’m still happy,” she told me.
Happy? What was that? Was that her name?
“I’m SAI-4-2-2-1, what’s your name?” She asked me.
“Camilla,” I said.
She laughed. “Okay, seriously, what’s your name?” I showed her my identity bracelet, and she whistled.
“That’s cool. They didn’t give me a name.”
“So why don’t you give yourself one?”
“Oh, good idea! Hmm…” she pondered what she would call herself. I probably would have too, if they had given me a choice. “How about Tamah?”
“That’s a good name,” I said.
“Camilla?” a familiar voice asked. I turned and saw a pale face with brown eyes rimmed by silver glasses and blond, messy hair looking from high above me. Jeb wasn’t wearing his usual smile. Actually, one eye was big and the other was narrow. He looked like that when he couldn’t find a word for a cross-word puzzle. “What are you doing in here?”
I blinked a few times. “There wasn’t anything wrong with the door,” I said. Almost asked, actually.
He looked at the window and gave a chuckle that was somewhat strained. “Whoops. It should have a red sticker on it. You should go,” he said, shepherding me out the door, sticking a sticker on the door as he went.
That night, as I stayed awake, I heard footsteps. I got out of bed, making no sound, and peered out the window on tip-toe. A white coat with dark skin I didn’t recognize was gently pushing Tamah in front of him, as well as a person that looked like Tamah as a boy, except the white eye was on his right. The white coat opened a black door and led them both in. I waited. After about five minutes, the white coat and the boy came out, the boy having a new, pale green eye to make a matching set. I waited. And waited. No Tamah. My stomach tried to turn itself in knots, and water built up in my eyes. Finally, as my clock turned to twelve, I went back to sleep.
The next day, I asked Jeb what the red stickers meant, and what would make your stomach behave like a piece of string.
“Well,” he said, trying to put it delicately. When he did that, I felt like frowning at him. “The red stickers mean that we build something, and it’s not good. So we break it and use the good parts. As for your stomach, the only reason I can think it might do that is if you’re sad or upset, but that’s just not possible. You don’t have any emotions. That’s what makes you perfect.” He smiled at me, and then stated he needed to do something and skittered away.
That was the day I broke a rule for the first of many times to come. I ran to the nearest red door and shoved it open, and I ran out into a blinding yellow, with blue above me and green beneath me. Sweet smells bombarded my nose, soft floors (?) were felt beneath my feet, and I could hear odd twittering noises and tasted sour things in the air. That was the day I escaped.
And now, nine years later, I’m at the burned out old shell of the black and white ward. I’m picking through the ashes to the last area still intact – the black door room. I as I enter it, smells of tranquilizers and the salty taste of blood greet me hungrily. I look around and find some filing cabinets. I look at the one labeled “AI” and opened the drawer labeled “Series 1 – 10.” I find my file; file RAI-8-6-5-2. I open it to find a picture of five-year-old me looking at me from above some neat, black computer text. “Revolutionary Artificial Intelligence – Series 8 – Ability 6 – Part of 5 – Number 2. Perfect physical appearance. Heightened senses. Heightened abilities. No emotions.” And then, in Jeb’s neat script, one word. “Obedient.” Well that went through the window.
I put it back and find file SAR-4-2-2-1. I read the info on Tamah, poor Tamah. “Stealth Artificial Intelligence – Series 4 – Ability 6 – Part of 2 – Number 1. Heightened sight. Heightened stealth.” As I look at her picture, I see red words scrawled almost illegibly in the corner. “Failed. Donor for SAR-4-3-2-1.” I don’t even bother to read that file. I shove Tamah’s file back in and slam the door shut angrily. So much for no emotions. I run down row after row of boxes, labeled with identity numbers of “failures.” I find Tamah’s box and wrench off the lid. She’s laying there, in perfect condition. Well, besides the (ug) hole where her left eye should be. Sadly, I put the lid back on and bring the box outside. I dig a hole for a long time, then gently set the in it. As an afterthought, I take her file and bury it too. As I walk away in a blood red sunlight, I think of the news reporter saying no one who was ever in the building survived the fire.
Well, no one she knows of.