by Tejal Pendekanti
Time: 3:50 p.m.
Date: September 16, 2137
Name: Fera Pertinax
“Grandma, Grandma, you have another message!” my grandkids screeched,
yanking me off my rocking chair.
“Another one?” I laughed. “I’m too old to get another one! What’s going to
happen to an old person like me?”
But deep down, I knew what message the Machine had for me.
“You’re not that old,” my husband comforted. “You’re in your prime,” he
chuckled, kissing my forehead.
“Very funny,” I replied dryly, struggling to arise from the chair. With the aid of
Joey pushing me from behind and the kids practically ripping my arms off, I stood up
and activated my exoskeleton. Relaxing, I let my outer skeleton guide me through the
house to a separate room to view my message.
As I closed the door, I shut out the clamor of my family, and PICTL took the
form of a person; the new nanotechnology combined with better software could
morphed my PICTL into anything and still retain his artificial intelligence programming.
Taking my hand, he guided me toward my bed. I sat down and relaxed in a
comfortable position. His grim eyes prompted me to ask the inevitable.
“PICTL,” I asked the wall, “when is it?”
“So you know, ma’am,” he replied, his voice filled with regret and grief. I knew
that he couldn’t bear to give this message to me. Over the decades, he became a
close friend. His old computerized, monotonous voice gradually evolved to actually
show emotion. Advanced technology made him into a humanoid, a true artificial
intelligence companion. By giving him these traits, his engineers provided me with a
Tears swelled up in my eyes and I nodded. I didn’t bother to wipe them away
as I asked for a second time. “When?” my voice nothing more than a whisper.
“Tomorrow,” he sighed, his voice hushed.
I drew back. My eyes expanded and my mouth stretched agape. The sorrow of
leaving everyone behind in hours soon replaced my shock. The expression of defeat
mixed with despair settled in the room.
“I’m going to miss you,” he said, stroking my hand to comfort me.
I grinned and snuck back into the room, leaving PICTL. I whispered the news
into Joey’s ear. His eyes traveled downward as he squeezed my hand.
“Are you going to tell them?” he muttered, helplessly.
“No,” I answered. “Let them enjoy our time together. I want them to remember
these moments as happy memories.”
I smiled nostalgically as I watched the twins chase each other around,
squealing in joy. I sidled to my daughter who was making tea for the family and kissed
her on the cheek gently. Startled by my sudden show of affection, she asked me what
“Nothing,” I replied. “I just wanted to say that if it weren’t for Tueri telling you to
come over, my family wouldn’t be here. So I guess I’m thankful for the machine.”