by Tejal Pendekanti

Time: 3:50 p.m.

Date: September 16, 2137

Name: Fera Pertinax

Age: 81

“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

reliable confidant.

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

was wrong.

“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.”