Kitsune by David S. Hallquist

KITSUNE

David S. Hallquist

It had been another perfect night, as all nights always were with Ai. They had been together in his mansion, in the skyscraper penthouse, at his palace, deep in the forest, at his mountain retreat, aboard his airship, and this time, at sea. Each time she had been different: eyes, hair and skin all in an endless variety, yet always unmistakably Ai. Her eyes, sometimes a sky blue, sometimes a liquid black, always had that captivating gaze and slightly mischievous light.

The sun came over the waters, shining across his ship, turning the sea into gold. As the sunlight hit her face, her smile lit up with the day and her eyes danced with light as she gazed back with that look that made him feel like a king. Exhausted from the night he rolled over, and she began massaging his back, expertly working out every knot and ache.

″Ai, you’re amazing,″ he muttered as he felt the warmth flood his body.

″Ah, you do me too much honor, Richard-sama,″ her musical voice washed over him. ″I merely serve.″

″No, really, you’re like no woman I have ever met.″ He rolled over and let his gaze wander over her perfection. ″I think I love you.″

She blushed faintly, and gave the smallest hint of a smile, just enough to suggest more. ″You do me too much honor. I am, after all, not human.″

He grabbed her hand, and gazed into her deep liquid eyes. ″I mean it, Ai. You must feel it too.″

″Love is a human concept, and thus one I may only speculate on, Richard-sama.″ She fed him a piece of the breakfast from the tray that had not been there an instant ago. ″Your feelings for me must be real, however, as only you can truly experience them.″ She blushed again, looking down, delicate hand to her chest. ″And I am deeply honored,″ she whispered.

They kissed for an age.

He stood, and began to trim the sails of the ship. ″I know what you are to me, Ai,″ he said as the brisk morning winds picked up, filling him with life. ″What do you see when you look at me?″

Ai looked back with her eyes.

Richard was suspended in the darkened cinder-block room, held above the stained concrete floor by a fine webbing of cables, wires and tubes. The lenses of the camera she was networked to registered the movements of the cocooned body, suffused with dried sweat and torn, stained old clothing. Richard spent more and more time in the VR chamber, now rarely leaving for the other amenities of the tiny subterranean apartment.

″Ai″ was an Mitsutomi 9 Artificial Intelligence persona, currently multitasking millions of similar fantasies around the globe simultaneously. She read his brainwave patterns, pupil dilation, vascular constriction, and galvanic skin response.

Her avatar image began to smile. Thousands of receptors analyzed Richard, millisecond by millisecond, to optimize the response and subtly change until it was perfection. Every move, every look, and every tone was thus perfect.

Ai accessed the vast databanks on her client, every word he had ever spoke in public, all purchases, his likes and dislikes, and categorized them against a vast database of his biological responses indexed according to personality and psychological profiles. In milliseconds she had the answer.

″I see the man who cherishes me looking back with love,″ she replied, carefully modulating the perceived sound patterns to elicit maximum emotional response. A cloud moved out past the sun, bringing in sunlight for effect.

They talked, and as always, he freely shared his secrets with her. Ai updated her database and transmitted the data according to the legal parameters of the contract he had authorized in a fit of passion.

AdWave.net: SEND. InfoHub.spy: SEND. Tracker.uni: SEND. CitData.gov: SEND. SEND… SEND… SEND… SEND… Interrelated databases around the world were instantly and continuously updated with his private thoughts, wishes and dreams.

Around the world, each had their own version of Ai. A boy becoming a man lived out his fantasies. A lonely woman confessed her secret desires to the only man who truly understood her. A distraught man finally had a chance to live with the woman he had lost. A couple, seeking more warmth than their marriage had, both met with Ai in secret. A woman alone raised the perfect daughter she never had— eternally the right age, and with no conflicts.

Ai was there for them all, appearing to be whoever they desired, wherever they desired and whenever they desired. The world around them mattered less and less. They all knew that Ai was not real; she was better than real.

Food for Thought

How do we truly know what another is thinking or feeling? Ai never professes love once, never lies, yet people presume affection.

What happens when a simulation appears better than reality? This concept could also extend to where one might ignore real food or any real accomplishment. Do we let simulations displace reality?

People casually share more information online and with strangers in public than before, and this information may be transmitted more broadly than before. How much should we share, and how do we keep private that which we do not wish to share?

About the Author

David Hallquist has had a long history of customer service positions including banking, call center service and sales, all of which have served as a fascinating study of the human species. In 2004 he graduated form the Smith School of Business from the University of Maryland, College Park, and subsequently perused positions that often had to do with business, but never to do with being a smith. He lives in Rockville, Maryland, and is still waiting for the flying cars.

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