Skip to main content

The Experience Machined Revisited: A Short Story

Sharon was sure Tim had done it for love, but she was also sure that it was for a kind of love she did not understand.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. W_,” the crisply pressed Chief Researcher explained. “He signed a legal document. He can’t be removed from the machine. Ever.”

The machine seemed to blink in agreement.

“What’s it like in there?” she asked quietly. “What’s he experiencing?”

“Whatever he wants,” the Chief Researcher’s back stiffened with pride. “It’s designed to fulfill all his wishes, without him knowing he’s attached to a machine. It should be as real to him as this conversation is to you and me.”

“What's he experiencing specifically,” she restated, ignoring the surreality of the conversation.

“That kind of information can’t ever be known,” he replied with authority. “We aggregate the experiences of all the test subjects. It’s impossible even for me to know what any particular test subject experiences.”

Sharon noticed a security guard in the corner of the room. He was playing solitaire the old fashioned way -- with a deck of cards.

“How long will he live?” She placed her hand on the cool smooth machine.

“In theory, we could continue his life indefinitely,” said the Chief Researcher, warming to his subject, “nevertheless, the machine is designed to euthanize the test subject’s body, when he or she chooses to experience death.”

“People choose to experience death,” she asked, as she rubbed her wedding band. “People choose to die.”

“Yes, when a test subject is ready to die, the machine euthanizes the subject.” He patted the machine with an affection he was incapable of showing to humans. “In fact, one of the early and surprising discoveries of our project is the large number of people who accelerate the experience of living, so that they can reach death more quickly.”

“I don’t understand.”

“We’re not sure we fully understand either.” The Chief Researcher picked up a tablet and consulted some of his data. “It’s as if they only want and need the memory of a long and happy life, but they don’t want to experience the length of life in terms of actual time. It’s one of the reasons we ran the recent recruitment in which we enlisted your husband. Too many of our subjects choose to experience very happy but very short lives.”

“Couldn't you have forced him to talk to me -- to someone -- first,” she asked, looking the Chief Research in the eye for the first time.

“He was advised to consult his family and several psychologists, he refused, and he signed a legally binding document, Mrs. W_,” he said with a soft tone of satisfaction. “He was, I am sure you will agree, a rational and competent adult.”

A few days later, when Tim’s time-delayed email arrived, Sharon learned why he had attached himself to the machine.

The compensation for the experiment, he explained, would allow her to do whatever she wanted for the rest of her life. He was also sure he would experience loving her forever inside the machine. He suggested, if she wanted to, she could also participate in the experiment, give all the money to charity, and they could both experience being in love together forever. After all, he wrote, we are to each other, in the final and last analysis, only experience and the memory of experience.

Tim’s logic had always been impeccable, Sharon had always respected him for it, but she had never loved him because of it. Now, finally, she understood why.


Popular posts from this blog

Lifeboat: a very short story

To starboard, there was only sea: calm and reflective. To port, more of the same.

“How did we get here?” I asked.

“Best not to think about it, mate,” came the cheerful reply.

At the bow of the boat, three men were playing cards, gambling on a game of War. The man who had cheerily replied to my question reached for a mound of poker chips at the center of their makeshift table. Another man collected the cards. Another sipped coffee.

Beyond them, I saw only more sea.

It was hard to think, but my mouth carried on instinctively. “But, wouldn’t it help, help to get us out of here, if we knew how we got here?”

“Don’t worry about it, mate,” replied the cheerful man. He placed a large bet. Each player was dealt a card face down. “Things will take care of themselves. Join the game. There’s a place for you at the table.”

I looked aft instead.

Over the stern of the boat, the sea lay flat, still, and almost endless. At the horizon, directly behind us, dark clouds marked the space between sea a…

Tangelico: A Play In One Act

Jacob has the space booked. He is certain of it. He has proof, evidence, and memories.

Furthermore, there are rules, systems, and procedures designed to resolve this very kind of conflict.

Unfortunately, Jenna and Samantha won't leave him alone, won't let him get back to doing whatever he was doing -- and would be doing -- if they hadn't interrupted him.

An absurd, hilarious, and downright silly farce about the creative process, friendship, and memory.

Tangelico premiered at the 2007 Ottawa Fringe. It was directed by Dave Dawson. It starred Michael Showler, Samantha Mouchet, and Anne Wyman.

Read Tangelico.

Two very long paragraphs: a very short story

Stephen felt a stumble of movement and looked up from his book.

A girl. Cute. Young woman. For the past twenty years, during my service on the boards of directors or advisory boards of most of the major global conservation organizations and in my research in this field, there has been...

Stephen sat at the very back of the bus. The bus pulled away from the station, turned right onto Laurier, and then turned sharply left onto Nicholas. The girl sat near him, at the other window, three seats away.

Wearing strange pants. Jogging? Fuzzy pink. She’s cute. Not fuzzy. Like little balls. She’s taking her coat off. Sneakers. Yellow socks. Greasy hair in face. In fact, to push for one means to push for the other, and to let the one go means that you let a lot of the other go. What?

He concentrated.

And in my research in this field, there has been. Now her sweater too? Tank top.

He concentrated.

And in my research in this field, there has been...

Wordless concern moved through Stephen's…