Artificial Intelligence
A Fan's Novel

Adapted from the film A.I. by Bryan Harrison

 

 

Chapter 9

Death

1.


On the ledge outside of the great window, David sat now; silent and still; a little boy whose shoes were untied, whose face and clothing were soiled as if from play; a little boy who was not a boy, whose invisible heart had been crushed in the pursuit of a dream. Beyond him the lions wept into an apathetic sea. Below him, far below him, the sea accepted their tears and issued them back in an endless cycle. Beside him the Cybertronics statue stood silently, its arms spread wide and hands fanned like a bird awaiting a lifting breeze; its featureless face staring sightless into the grey. His own eyes, old beyond their years, scanned the dismal horizon and saw nothing there too.

He had come here, to the end of the world, to find love, to have his dream made anew. Instead he had found a cold and merciless truth that destroyed his dream and filled him instead with emptiness; filled him so much that it had left room for nothing else. Even the pain was gone now. There was only this great nothing inside. It had weight and depth. It pressed him down further and further into the abyss. When he gazed back up from that darkness only one thing was left there. It glowed from across an expanse of loss and vile memories. Its glow was the last thing that could move him; the last thing that would drive him forward against this relentless entropy of emotions. It would never leave him. He would forever gaze up at it and remember love.

“Mommy,” he said to no one.

Then he leaned forward. And let go.

The fall did not scare him. He actually felt nothing. His alert systems began to initiate reflex responses like any other boy’s, but his new mind told them it was not necessary, that there was nothing to defend against anymore. So he had fallen past the windows of the Cybertronics building like a lifeless mannequin, the wind of his descent in his ears and on his face. He fell past the rooms of parts and designs and the scores of un-imprinted little neuronal boxes from which a new generation of Mecha children would process the world. He fell past the place where anxious men and women were running up staircases to meet him, too late. Then he had hit the water in a shock of impact. The pain of the impact meant nothing to him.

From the amphibicopter the man who was not a man, watched the boy intently. He wanted to understand. He had seen the boy crawl out onto the ledge and wondered what he was doing as he sat there staring up into the endless gray of the clouds above The End of the World. Then the boy had fallen. Jumped? As the boy fell, his image traced a reflection across the glass canopy of the copter. From the angle he watched, the reflection passed over Joe’s cheek like a tear, a tear that Joe would never know for himself. Then David disappeared below the foaming current.

David floated down into the past of his kind. The submerged section of the Cybertronics buildings housed the rusted and deteriorated remains of the earliest of man’s attempts to recreate himself; to make a machine in the image of man and treat it thusly. The result of those early dreams now drifted down into the depths, past the sightless eyes of his ancestors into the old sections of the city at the end of the world, where Orga had lived before his kind were even thought of.

This place was among the first to go, in those early storms. The seas had first made this place uninhabitable. Then they had risen and consumed even more of the world, and Orga had fled inland to the higher ground where they continued their ageless and petty competitions against one another.

David drifted down quickly, not resisting the flow of the current. It was peaceful here. He need not move against the press of gravity. He did not feel the influence of inertia against his limbs. Here he just went wherever the current took him. He could never die, this boy. He was not like the living things. He would learn to live in this emptiness, forever staring at the image burning in his brain. It was all that was left him.

Below him an ancient submerged street where Orga had once rushed to and fro about their business, had broken open at the relentless insistence of underwater rivers, exposing the deep well of the subway in whose depths lay the slumbering rusted hulks of Manhattan’s transit system; something now taught of in history books. David dropped into this hole. Should he hit bottom here, he would never be found. It would be his eternal grave where he would suffer alone.

Was it simple fate that put him in the path of the little swimming things that now dwelled among the empty submerged buildings?

Life still went on without man. This life would not destroy itself or ruin the world, which it habited. They flowed with the balance of the world, moved with its currents. Bourn upon an underwater river, they swarmed from the depths of the tunnels beneath Manhattan and caught David in their stream, whisking him away from the grave towards which he had been falling.

David did not notice the change of direction. He was lost in the abyss inside him, sealed inside a chamber wherein nothing would ever touch him again. His eyes saw only the blur of deep blue around him. They took him far through the waters, the school of fish; past the weeping lions, past the giant buildings where Orga had planned and built a civilization and then ignored the signs of its looming destruction. In the deep below them the remains of Manhattan slumbered for eternity.

Finally the current that the fish had followed was disrupted and they changed direction. The disruption was from a change of depth below them. They had come to a place where the shoreline had begun in history. When the fish scattered in the twisting currents, David began to descend into the depths again. But it didn’t matter to him where he fell. He was drifting without thought or concern for life. This was as close to death as he knew how to get. Gently, buffered by the density of water, he set finally on the bottom. This was good. He was getting better at living in the void. He was even beginning to like the way he was buffeted back and forth by the caressing tide. He didn’t know there were limits to his casing. He didn’t know the water would eventually seep through and obliterate his life support systems. But if he had known, he would not have cared. The silence would be a good thing.

Duration made no sense to David. He did not know how long he sat at the bottom. He cared not for his life so there was no need to consult his inner clock, which was the closest he got to understanding the passage of time. But soon there was a light about him, a glow of some sort. Even in his self-imposed ‘death’, David’s curiosity was piqued by this occurrence.

The light suddenly grew as if it had focused on him. What was this? He picked his head up. The dark floor of the ocean was slowly being revealed. There were old rusted things; cans, bottles, tires, corroded televisions, the simple wreckage of man. The light was growing quickly now, washing over the ocean floor. David realized that it was coming from behind him. Somehow there was light coming into the depths of his mausoleum. What was it? He was turning to find out when something, revealed in the light, caught his eye. David’s mind did the procedural equivalent of a double take.

Then electricity rushed through him

David screamed out, but his cry was lost in the depths. He tried to stand, a new excitement driving him up from the abyss of his disillusion, but he was grasped up quickly from behind, wrapped in strong metal talons and yanked rudely away from the vision that had awakened him from death’s awaiting slumber. The ocean floor receded and he saw the vision standing still, disappearing into the gloom of the sea as whatever stole him away moved swiftly towards the surface.

-2-

He should have left. David had done a bad thing. It was surely trouble and Joe had not understood it at all. He had seen duplications before, though they weren’t exactly common. But he had never seen a Mecha act like the boy had. ‘Check’ that! When he had seen David fall from the building he had further been astounded. It appeared that the boy had done so intentionally...but why? Only Orga were known to try and silence the life of their bodies.

Something about David was slowly making itself more available to Joe.

David wasn’t entirely Mecha. ‘Check’ that! Modify profile, indeed!

And whatever David was, it was affecting him. He looked at the silent Teddy at his side. Had it affected the toy as well?

Teddy had not understood what happened to David. But he could not let him be hurt further. When he saw his charge fall from the building, Teddy was sure that he would break. “We must find him!” Teddy said over and over. But Joe had noticed the copter’s display was logging a detector. They were being scanned. Someone was looking for them, getting closer. He should leave, shouldn’t he?

But he didn’t. Couldn’t. Inside new things were happening, and once again the call to his own protection was ignored. He turned the steering bar and headed for the waters. He submerged and started to look for his fallen friend.

Now he was dragging David back to the surface. He had found the little Mecha sitting some miles away from where he had fallen. Joe did not know currents and tides, but he did know distance. How had the boy ever moved so far in the deep? David was sitting at the bottom when he spotted him. His little head was hanging between his shoulders. But he had lifted his head and jumped up as Joe caught him in the spotlight. Joe then used the extended arm of the craft to catch him and move him to safety. David had saved Joe’s life twice. And now he had finally had the opportunity to repay the favor.

When they surfaced at the foot of the Cybertronics building, Joe had jumped out and wrested the drenched and excited boy from the grasp of the claw. What had happened? David had let himself fall to the floor of the ocean from where he could not have returned by his own devices, and now he was yapping excitedly about something. His face was once again full of wonder and purpose. Joe was perplexed as usual, but glad to see it. He lifted the soaking Mecha and carried him to the open door of the copter. He sat him down and wiped the salt water from his face and neck. It would corrode him if he weren’t careful. And David should be careful. He was... special.

“I saw it Joe! I saw it!” the boy said. ”The place where she lives! She’s right down there!” Joe was amazed. So that’s what he had been doing at the bottom of the water! Joe wondered how he’d found out! Maybe Professor Hobby had told him.

“We’ve got to go Joe!” David sputtered like a child: ”She’s waiting for me! We’ve got to...” but David stopped mid-sentence. The pager that hung round Joe’s neck was suddenly poking straight up into the air. That was not right. Joe finally noticed it too. Then they both noticed the large shadow that had engulfed them. They looked up as one. Above them another police copter hovered. A large magnetic tractor device hung from beneath the belly of the thing. It was aimed at Joe.

Uh oh.

Joe was suddenly yanked up from behind. He grasped the edge of the canopy door as he felt the tractor pulling him to his doom. It was his time. He took a last glance at the little Mecha who had saved him. He would cherish for the rest of his days, however brief, the special innocence of this strange little robot.

David knew that his friend’s fate was well out of his hands “Goodbye Joe,” he said, gently.

“Goodbye David,” Joe replied. “When you become a real boy, remember me to the ladies when you grow up,” he smiled. His time was up. But he had done something important; he knew it. As he looked into David’s eyes for the last time he was sure that whatever had driven this most peculiar creature had affected him too. He was better for it. This mysterious element had transcended him, woke him out of his programming and somehow made him anew. He was more than built specific wasn’t he? In some way he had become... He had become.

“I am.” Joe said in an attempt to tell his young friend of his new understanding. Then he struggled against the pull of the tractor and reached into the canopy to press the button that initiated the submerge sequence. David would be safely on his way now. He let go of the canopy and was sucked up into the air by the pull of the police tractor.

“I was!” he finished his thought as he was yanked away from David.

It was the last thing David heard him say before the copter door closed and the thing began to dive beneath the surface.

“Goodbye Joe,” David said again as the water quickly rose around the glass. He felt a new loss at his friend’s capture, but it was tempered by his growing excitement at what lay ahead. He had a new life to think of now. Dr. Know hadn’t been lying at all! Whatever Professor Hobby had been trying to do by fooling him didn’t matter right now, nor would it ever! He was on his way to see the Blue Fairy; She whose home was as prophesied, at The End of the World where the lions wept.

It was submerged deep beneath the water of their tears.

-3-

The copter moved silently through the waters. David took the steering bar and adjusted it gently. This was much easier in the water than it had been in Rouge City, and he had learned from watching Joe fly the craft when they’d made their escape. He wished Joe were here now. He had to remember where he’d seen the Blue Fairy’s house. He trusted his judgments and did the best he could. It was better than he would have imagined, for he was unconsciously tapping into programmed responses that allowed him to map directions in his head. The waters grew dark around them as they descended, and the spotlights came on by themselves. Down, down they went.

David saw large fish and strange looking creatures in the lights. They moved away quickly as he approached. Then he saw the sign. It arched over some type of pathway that was overgrown with the plant-life of the sea. It was brown and faded but the words were still visible. They read:

David steered carefully underneath the arch, and followed the ancient broken path that led to the Blue Fairy’s home. He passed all manner of strange things as he glided through the darkness of Her world. There were little statues of short fat looking people. They didn’t seem to represent Mecha or Orga, but some other form of being. They were all covered with the green and tangled growth of the deep. There was a giant wheel. It was held up by long spokes within it, and on the end of the wheel there were carriages. David did not know what these were for, but he felt that he was going the right way. As he manuvered slowly under the wheel he felt the copter strike something. It made a low grumbling sound in their wake.

“Be careful David,” Teddy said, and David realized that he had almost forgotten about the little bear. He slowed the craft and steered more carefully. In his excitement it was not easy to be cautious.

As they floated away, the ancient Ferris wheel’s rusted support cable, which David had struck, toppled and began to fall. It was only kept from pinning the copter at the bottom of the ocean by the tail of ‘Monstro’ the whale; the decrepit rendering of the fantasy beast. The atrophied structure broke under the weight of the wheel, but kept it from striking them.

Now they were getting closer. Ahead there was a sign shaped like a book open to read. David caught the words in the spotlight.

Once upon a time...

...it said. David’s invisible heart jumped. His body began to sing again. That was how the story Mommy read had began. He was here. She could not be far away. He followed the path that went underneath another sign. When he read this sign, he no longer had any doubts. Mommy’s face glowed brightly again.

Pinocchio

... is what it said. Atop the sign was the little wooden boy’s face. His nose was not extended, so he could not be lying to David. Let there be no more lies. The path became a small bridge now, and David glided slowly over it. He saw a house and was almost disappointed to see the aged and tarnished statues of Pinocchio and Geppetto sitting together in their cabin. The man was holding a mallet and chisel. He seemed to be working on Pinocchio. Was he making him real? Yes. Yes, he must be doing that! David understood the hidden meaning in the display.

She had to be close now!

Beyond the house, framed in the bright spotlights, he saw the bottom of a staircase. He guided the craft towards the stairs and then floated up their length. Slowly ,as he ascended, a form took shape out of the darkness. At first it was just an undefined ghost. A featureless figure standing in the distance. Then he saw the folds of Her blue dress; then the wings that protruded over Her shoulders. Time and entropy had had their way with Her, but She remained in spite of their insistent demands.

It was She. The Blue Fairy! He had arrived.

Upon Her face was the gentle gaze of eternal compassion. Her lips, even in deterioration, still held the tender smile that spoke of dreams that come true. Her image was reflected in the glass of the copter. From where he gazed on Her the reflection covered his own face and in that magic moment their secret hearts became one. The dream and the dreamer were together now.

But Monstro’s decayed tail could no longer support the weight of the fallen Ferris wheel, and it crumbled into dust, allowing the wheel to continue its descent. David heard the whining of the old metal support bars as they bent from the weight of the falling wheel. But he did not care. He had come to see Her and She was here now.

He had a request to make.

Then there was a great crash, and the ocean boomed and quaked all around them. The Ferris wheel had crashed over the copter and the Blue Fairy, encasing them in an underwater prison.

Sediment from the bottom of the ocean rose, obscuring David’s vision for minutes. He gazed intently out the window of the copter till the sediment settled again. Then he could see Her. She was still there, standing in the light of the copter. The impact of the Ferris wheel had knocked much of the debris off of her and she was even more beautiful than before.

“She’s alright,” David said to himself.

“What happened?” Teddy asked. But David did not know. He did not care. “We are in a cage,” Teddy pointed out. David looked away from the Blue Fairy for just an instant, just long enough to verify that what Teddy had told him was true, then turned his eyes back to Her.

He had a request to make.

Above them, in another world, frustrated policemen argued with one another. The copter had been there, for crissakes! Why hadn’t the other tagged it or something? Now they’d never find it. The beacon had been broken. The stolen craft could be miles inland by now. So what, the other pointed out, they had the rogue Mecha. The copter would turn up eventually! But the rogue was being strangely silent. And for a Mecha in ‘bad trouble’ it sure had an odd smile on its face.

The Professor was using less than visionary language with the uniformed men who had docked in his bay. How could they let it get away?! They had no idea how special a device they had let elude them. He cursed and waved his arms in frustrated resignation. Far beyond the place where the men argued and the lions wept, Rouge City was still jumping. The City that never blinked continued to feed a thousand unnamed Orga vices. It would do so until the last battery died from exhaustion. And farther out than the City, father inland, where struggling Orga, who could not afford the services of the City dwelled, the man who built an empire destroying Mecha was beginning to destroy himself. A little nip here, a swig now and then; Eventually drink would consume him as casually as he consumed it. Another man would survive the demise of the Flesh Fair and start a new life with his daughter. He would never again take the blank face of a Mecha for granted. And farther beyond them, back into David’s past, back in the place he had once called home, the woman who had awakened his love found her own love dying slowly; just a hint of times ahead. They still had Martin, yes, but that was all. And soon he would grow and leave the nest. What then? Inside her mind, an image of an abandoned little boy would curse her with shame and regret for the rest of her years.

But David was not aware of these occurrences. They did not and never would affect him. He had come here for a reason. He had found Her after what seemed an impossible search. After he’d seen and learned about the world from those who had come to love him and those who had looked on him with hate. He had seen death and come close to death himself. Now he must make the next step.

“Blue Fairy,” he started. Could She hear him? Of course She could. She was magic. The stuff of dreams, “Please, please... make me into a real live boy.”

She looked out at the ocean, at nothing it seemed. Her gaze seemed to go beyond him out into the vast blue. Was something happening? He felt no different. He must try again.

“Blue Fairy... please...pleeease... make me real!” he whispered, as not to offend Her. Still she made no movement. Was it a game? Was there something he wasn’t saying correctly? He was being polite and obeying his manners. He had come to the place where he was told She would be and She had been here. He had come so very far.

“Please...please... Blue Fairy. Make me real,” he said again…

And again…

And again…

-4-

And David continued to pray to the Blue Fairy there before him.She who smiled softly, forever.
She who welcomed, forever.
Eventually the floodlights dimmed and died,
but David could still see Her, palely by day,
and he still addressed Her in hope.
He prayed until all the sea anemones had shriveled and died.
He prayed as the ocean froze and the ice encased the caged
amphibicopter and the Blue Fairy too.
Locking them together where he could still make her out.
A blue ghost in ice.
Always there.
Always smiling.
Always awaiting him.


Eventually he never moved at all.
But his eyes always stayed open.
Staring ahead forever under the darkness of each night.
And the next day,
And the next day.
And the next.
Thus, two thousand years passed by.


 

 

 

 

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