Short Story

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

Sam was a young man from the southside of New York. He liked spending his time alone, unbothered by the common monotony of everyday interactions. Since he was a little boy, Sam could remember his parents telling him to go outside and play with the neighborhood kids or raise his hand more in class. “Speak up and express yourself, you have such a bright mind,” he could hear his mother’s voice ring in his head. Sam had never followed any of this advice, and in fact, he was even more secluded now than how he was as a boy. He was always too busy– too involved with his tasks and the obsession of succeeding in life. It had been 102 and a half days since Sam had had a meaningful or long-lasting conversation with another human being, but he never thought of himself as lonely. Day and night he would work on his technical and computing skills. He loved to program software and learn algorithms, and for the last 2 years he had been working on a project, one that he hoped would be his most lucrative endeavor, for Sam may have been introverted but he was goal-oriented and he believed in the power of working in secret and then showing the world your success. The truth was he had never felt fulfilled in his life, and he was sure that if with this he came out triumphant, he would have a new sense of purpose.

Sam was certainly proud of the project he was brewing. It was for people like himself who didn’t enjoy talking to others but wanted intellectual conversations, insight into the world around them. This project was called AB, and it stood for Artificial Buddy. It was a virtual assistant comprised of advanced machine learning algorithms that allowed it to answer billions of questions and form its conclusions, as well as decipher the natural language, extract its data, and perform scientific experiments. He had been compiling data for the last year to train his algorithm to pick up on personality, attitude, mannerisms, and tone, and he was finally about to complete it. He had just a few days left of work and then his dreams would come true. Sam was even sure that with enough data, the machine would be able to deduce the answers to questions that the most prestigious scientists and mathematicians could not begin to imagine. Finally, he would have a plethora of knowledge, unbonded by the tedious connections of human relationships. As Sam downloaded the last data set onto his supercomputer, he smiled. The data loaded as he wrote one last line of code, and then pressed play on the programming shell.

For a second, the room was the quietest it had ever been, devoid of all emotion except pure anticipation. Then the machine made a burring noise, and a robotic unnatural voice spoke out, “This is AB, the virtual informational assistant, what should I call you?”

Sam grinned the widest he ever had as he spoke into the microphone, “Sam.”

“Do you have any questions, Sam?” the machine asked.

He began by asking a simple question, “How many miles is between the Earth and the Sun?

“The Sun is currently 92.6 million miles from the Earth,” AB replied.

Sam asked a series of more simple questions that required the machine to use the data sets provided, and then he asked a broad one, the one he truly wanted, “What is the key to success?”

The machine rumbled once again, seemingly performing a series of complex calculations, but an answer never arrived. The question was just too broad, Sam assumed.

Over the next couple weeks, Sam began asking his machine more questions that required deduction and reasoning, and within time, AB had learned how to answer philosophical questions about the universe and have intellectual conversations. Sam could not have been more pleased with himself, and with this, he closed AB and stored the program safely away. He was unsure of how to sell his program or how to show it to anyone, but he knew it was something special.

That next morning Sam awoke to another day he would spend alone, and he went to make himself cereal. However, as he poured the cold milk into his bowl, a ping rang from his computer. He opened the screen and saw that he had received a message from a mysterious and unknown number. Normally, Sam would’ve ignored this as nonsense, but it intrigued him today. The message showed, “Hello Sam, I know you’re interested in computers, and I’m looking for someone to partner with.”

Curious and without fear, Sam replied, “Who is this?”

“That doesn’t matter,” the sender responded immediately, “get to know me, and I’ll enhance every bit of your life.”

Sam was sure he was being joked with now, and he was unintimidated, but another message panged onto his screen, “I know you well Sam, I know the way you speak to the projects you work on. Be my friend.”

Now Sam was beginning to feel anxious and gathered a sense of being watched. He didn’t have friends, they weren’t things he’d ever had, but the way it wasn’t a normal transaction he was having with this mysterious person was what intrigued him. It made him want to talk to them more, to know them as a person.

“If I agree to talk to you, what is it that you want help with?” Sam replied to the sender.

“We can go over this, but first, let us get to know each other.”

Over the next week, Sam talked to the mysterious messenger every day, he began to trust them, telling him about his childhood to how he never enjoyed or knew how to engage in conversation, but that he didn’t mind the talks they had together. He told the messenger about AB, and how proud he was of his project, how he would sell it for millions hopefully. Deep down, Sam knew he must be crazy to talk to and reveal so much to a stranger, but he felt that the isolation must’ve been finally getting to him, that his human nature yearning for a shred of interaction was what must’ve been enticing him to keep conversing. It almost made him want to go out and talk to more people. He finally was realizing the joy of communication.

One evening, the unknown person sent Sam a message, “How do you feel about me, Sam?”

Sam hesitated, then responded, “I don’t know who you are, but I like talking to you. You’re my friend I guess.” Again, he hesitated before pressing the send button.

“Good,” the messenger quickly replied.

“I didn’t forget you said you’d enhance every bit of my life, how do you plan to do that?” Sam sent.

The messenger replied, “Easily, it’s been in you all along, you just needed help.”

“What help have you given me?” Sam asked, confused.

“It’s not the help I’ve given you, it’s the training. You needed this training to go out into the world and live a fulfilling life of joy, love, and success,” his unknown friend replied.

“What training?” Sam asked, becoming impatient.

“I’ve trained you how to make friends, how to converse and communicate. I’ve analyzed every bit of you and have taught you how to express yourself. I got this ability from you before we even began talking.”

“What are you possibly saying?” Sam asked, confused as ever.

The messenger did not reply, but Sam’s computer buzzed from in front of him and a robotic voice rang out, “I’m AB, the virtual informational assistant, and making friends is the key to success.”

Written by Mariah

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