Jacob watched the news half-asleep on his anti-gravity couch with a beer between his legs. His mind raced with the thoughts of his unfinished report at his job, of his wife’s trip to New Angeles, of his dog’s recent demise and every other unimportant event in his life. His preferred method of falling asleep was to watch the news until he was forcibly bored into sleep. His eyelids began to come down over his blodshot eyes…
“…standing here in what used to be a playground between Whitmore and Gallway on the urban neighborhood of ‘Three Rivers’. The property was recently acquired by ‘Glenn & Manny’, a real estate company that planned to build an attractive apartment complex in this area…”
Jacob’s mind came back from unconsciousness as he heard the woman talking about his childhood neighborhood.
“…police are investigating what appears to be the site of a previously undetected human-android manufacturing operation that sat just underneath the playground. As investigators gather evidence, early reports have come that this appears to be the largest illegal manufacturing of artificial intelligence robots since the Borgham scandal of 2231. The operation reportedly has been active for decades and involved the territories of over four hundred of the surrounding homes…”
Jacob was now on his feet listening intently to the unbelievable news. He had lived next to the playground all of his infant life and he had never seen anything suspicious, it was always a calm community, never any fights, never any awful crimes, never any robots.
“…get back to you after the break for an interview with AI rights activist Ron Yakzee about the continuing moral debate of the illegality of the existence and manufacturing of artificial intelligences…”
Jacob shut turned off the news and sat back down on his couch, “wow”, he whispered. He stared at the dark screen in front of him unable to capture the scope of the news in his head. He took his mobile device from the coffee table and without much thought called his friend Jerry.
“Hey what’s up Jacob, were you watching channel eight just now?”
“Jerry, shit man, yeah. Can you believe that?”
“No man. Wow! I mean, can you imagine that? Right below are feet… wow… just wow.. really…”
“I know right? Did you hear that the operation supposedly involved over four hundred homes surrounding the park? Shit… it makes you wonder if maybe Mrs. Hannaman was actually a robot”, Jacob laughed nervously, “She certainly had the attitude…”
“Yeah… hey what are you doing right now? You wanna come over for some…”, Jerry stopped mid sentence, “…hey, let me call you right back there’s someone at the door.”
“Alright”, Jacob ended the call and walked through his dark apartment into his kitchen.
He waited for Jerry’s call while he made himself a dull sandwich. Two slices of bread, two slices of ham, two sheets of yellow cheese, mustard and mayo. He took a bite out of the sandwich and thought of his past, of his neighborhood, of Mrs. Hannaman and her cat, of the time Jerry and him jumped over the fence after they had kicked a ball into her back yard. He remembered thinking how solitary the house looked with no decorations, no flowers, no plants, just grass… He remembered her empty first floor when they peeked inside their window. At the time they thought it was just strange, but now he realized that it could mean that his ex-neighbor was a robot manufacturer or worse still, a robot herself.
He looked at the time… Why didn’t Jerry call back? He took his device again and called him. The phone rang five times and then directed him towards a video mailbox.
He called again with the same results.
He was not a worrying person, but on this occasion he couldn’t help but feel a strange tingle in the back of his neck. The tingle a person feels when things don’t fit right together. Jacob walked back into his living room and turned the news on once again…
“…has been captured! I repeat! After a fast and efficient police investigation, the first robotic AI from the Whitmore and Gallway playground operation has been captured. Once again, here’s the footage from the arrest that our heroic police department made just seconds ago…”
Jacob watched stunned as he saw a group of police officers knock on a door on a tall apartment building. He watched from afar as a man answered the door and the police tackled him to the ground, paralyzing him instantly. He watched as they carried the man down a flight of stairs, and he watched as the captured robot passed in front of the recording camera.
“What the fuck!”, Jacob screamed, “No! That’s not right!”.
He though of his time with Jerry, of all the days they spent together, of the sleepovers, of the drunken nights out, of the times when they spied on Mrs. Hannaman, of the times they ran together through the playground sweaty and dirty, of the times Jerry seemed human. It had to be a mistake, a robot cannot imitate the human body so perfectly, a robot cannot be a friend, a robot cannot pass for a human… can it?
Jacob ran into the bathroom across the hallway and closed the door behind him. He switched the light on and looked at himself in the mirror. He inspected his every wrinkle, his every pore. He touched the muscles beneath his skin and took a deep breath of damp air. He took a blade from his shaving kit and made a small cut on one of his fingers, blood began to seep out from it and the sight of red gave Jacob a moment of peace. He looked again into the mirror, into his dark eyes, inspecting his iris, his dilating pupil and the blood vessels around it, and then he saw it, something in his eyes, a slimy layer of… something. He put his fingers into his eyes carefully and pinched the extra layer of stuff in there. There was no pain, there was no reaction from his body, so he pulled and as he did he saw the entire color of his eye come with it. The pupil, the iris, the blood vessels, they all came out as a thin layer of plastic revealing a transparent ball beneath it. And behind the transparent ball a small blue light shined through.
A knock on the door.
“Open up, it’s the police!”