by Guy Hasson
Glynis Hatch never knew her father.
There was something about him. Something big. Maybe something scary.
Her mother would never talk about him. Ron who babysat her and seemed to know her mother from forever ago would never talk about him. One day when Glynis simply insisted on getting an answer, he said, “Ask your mother.” But Glynis knew asking her mother was useless.
“At least tell me his name!” she demanded.
“Ask your mother.”
“Height! The color of his hair! Was he a handsome man? What did he do? What’s the color of his eyes? Is he alive?!”
“Such curiosity. Just like your mother.”
And the tone implied that being like her mother was a good thing. No one ever said anything about her being like her father. For good or bad.
When she was five, Glynis developed theories about how her father was really a spy in the service of his country, how he was pulling the wool over the bad guys’ eyes, and how one day he’ll return and explain that it had to be done and that he loves her and that now he would stay. When she was seven she began to imagine that he had died in a horrible accident a few days before she was born and that her mother had loved him so much that she couldn’t bear to speak of him and that nothing would ever fill the void created by him.
But throughout the years the one explanation that seemed most plausible was the one she didn’t want to face. That maybe her father beat her mother, that maybe he had hurt her, or that maybe he had left her one day with no explanation.
Still, what he had done to her mother was one thing, and a long time has passed since. Who knew what he was like now? Maybe he’s changed. Maybe he hasn’t. Maybe he doesn’t know Glynis exists. Maybe he does. Maybe. The point was: She just wanted to see who he was, to see what he’s like. Even from afar. Even for a second. That can’t be too much to ask, can it?
But for her mother it was too much.
Two months before her thirteenth birthday, Glynis realized her mother would never tell her. So she decided to get one detail about him, from which she would find out everything else by herself. But getting that one detail would not be easy.
The first thing she did was give her mother a month of silence on the subject. She didn’t bug her, she didn’t ask her, she didn’t even mention Him. And then, a month before her birthday, Olivia (that was her mother’s name) watched Glynis tuck herself into bed and sat beside her.
“Thirteen is a tremendously important birthday,” Olivia said, playing with Glynis’ golden hair. “I wonder what I could possibly give you for a birthday present.”
“I know what I want,” Glynis said.
Olivia smiled and caressed Glynis’ cheek. “What?”
“I want to know my father’s name.”
For a split second Olivia froze. Then she withdrew the hand that touched Glynis’ cheek. “I—” She began hesitantly, then became resolute. “Forget it.”
“Did you know your father before he died?”
“Yes, I did.” There was ice in her voice.
“Then you know why it’s so important. I’m not asking where he is. I’m not asking what he’s like or what he did. I just want his name. I just want to know his name.”
Olivia stood up. “Ask for something else. Anything else.”
“I don’t want anything else. I want his name!”
“Well, you won’t get it.” And Olivia stormed out of the room, slammed the door behind her, and left Glynis in darkness.
But Glynis didn’t let the subject drop. She pestered her mother every day. And, five days before the birthday, Olivia finally relented: “Okay. Okay.”
Glynis crouched in front of her mother, her eyes glittering in excitement. “Okay?”
“I’ll tell you his name,” Olivia said, then added in determination: “But not as a birthday gift.”
Glynis wanted to argue the point, but held her tongue. “His name is Jonathan. Jonathan Hatch.”
“You took his name?” Glynis whispered in awe, even as she silently repeated the name in her mind.
Her mother flashed an involuntarily smile, and said, “Yes, I have his name.” Then they’d been married! “He was very handsome when he was young, just a bit taller than me, and had the most beautiful blue eyes you ever saw.” She held her daughter’s chin and looked into her face. “You have his eyes.”
“You have blue eyes.”
“True. But you have his blue eyes. Now that’s all you’re ever going to hear about him. Is that understood?” Glynis understood. But she understood even more. When her mother talked about this Jonathan-Hatch-Jonathan-Hatch-Jonathan-Hatch, she talked about him with love in her voice. There was no hint of hate, resentment, or pain. It didn’t end badly, whatever it was. He was a nice, loving man!
“Oh, thanks, Mom,” she engulfed her mother in a massive hug and inhaled a whiff of that wonderful smell her mom always had. “Thank you! Thank you!”
“Now,” Olivia said, hugging her back, “I have to think of a good gift to get you for your birthday.”
Glynis tore herself away and looked up at the forty-three-year-old face. “You don’t have to. Really!”
Olivia ignored her. “I’ll think of something nice.”
That night, Glynis could hardly sleep. She tossed and turned, rolling the name in her head, trying to attach an image to it. A man called Jonathan Hatch must have black hair and not brown hair. Or he must have big brows. But what took up most of her time was trying to figure why her mother, on the one hand, always tensed up when the subject of Glynis’ father, Olivia’s husband, Jonathan, was broached, and how, on the other hand, she talked about him earlier that day with love and affection. It didn’t make sense.
There was something there. Something big. But no longer something scary.
At last, she had a clue; she could begin to investigate.
The next day when Glynis woke up, her mother, as usual, had already gone to work. Glynis fixed herself a sandwich, brought it with her, and sat in front of the computer in her room. Finally there was an advantage to her physical affliction. She had a rare and congenital calcium deficiency that made her bones brittle and easily broken – enough so that her mother never risked taking Glynis out of the house not even to school. Ron and the computer taught her everything. Over the years, the grownups had learned that she gets her lessons done even when left alone. Well, it was time to play hooky.
She accessed the Net, and as she did so, she involuntarily mimicked her mother’s smile. For some reason, Olivia was amused each and every time she saw Glynis surfing the Net. That, in turn, always seemed absurd to Glynis. For god’s sakes, it was 2019; who didn’t surf the Net?
Glynis began with a rudimentary search for the name Jonathan Hatch. She turned up three people – a twenty-year-old student in Oxford, a newborn whose pictures and name were put there by the proud parents, and a forty-year-old man in Los Angeles looking for a male companion. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy.
She had to widen the search. Maybe he wasn’t an American like his wife and daughter. Maybe he wasn’t even in the States. So she couldn’t search for his name in a certain city or a specific country. But if her father was not a natural citizen or did not die here – then he must have either arrived or left, and all visas and passports were documented, as well.
She accessed the government’s records. Birth certificates, death certificates, records of visas and passports were all on the Net.
There were five names in the entire United States. Jonathan was a common name; Hatch was not. Two were dead. Four were born after the year 2000, which would make them around her age. Way too young. The last one was born in 1944, which would make him, if he hadn’t died ten years ago, 75. Way too old.
Maybe she missed something. Maybe there were glitches in the system. Maybe the records were mistyped or something.
To prove to herself that her idea was supposed to work, she typed her own name. The search came up empty. Glynis stared at the screen for a second, and typed her name again. Empty. The government had no record of her birth, nor did it have a record of her coming into the country. Speaking of glitches...
This time she typed her mother’s name, Olivia Hatch. There! Born in Wisconsin in 1976. No death certificate. At the time of birth, she’d had a big brother, Thomas Hatch. (Really?! Glynis had an uncle and never knew it?!) Mother: Margaret Hatch. Father: Jonathan Hatch.
Glynis’ throat constricted, and for a second she couldn’t breathe.
The icon with Jonathan Hatch’s name was red – meaning she’d already accessed it. She accessed it again. This was the same way-too-old Jonathan Hatch, born 1944.
Glynis cupped her head in her hands and waited until she calmed down. God, that first instant, a scenario worse than anything she’d ever imagined had flashed through her mind.
But who said he was too old? He was sixty-two when Glynis was born. That’s not too old for a man.
No! Absolutely not! It could not possibly be true!
But the name... The coincidence...
The coincidence was just a coincidence. Just one hell of a coincidence.
But something in the back of her mind wouldn’t let go. Something her mother had said yesterday...
She’d said... She’d said... What was it?
She’d said: “He was very handsome when he was young.” It was an odd way to put things, wasn’t it? Certainly an odd way to phrase a compliment. What exactly did she mean? What does the sentence mean? He was handsome when he was young meant... meant... It meant that she knew him when he was old!
No, no, no, no, no! It meant she knew him when he was young and saw him get old!
But then where was he today? Where did she keep seeing him today, in his older state? Why did mom keep him away from his daughter?
There had to be another explanation. She’ll try something else. She’ll find the real Jonathan Hatch if it takes her— Just before she pressed the link that would bring her back to the search engine, something caught her eye, and her hand froze. Her grandfather’s birth and death certificates were still onscreen, and among the data it was clearly stated: ‘Eye-color: Blue’.
Glynis’ world spun. Although she had the same color eyes as her mother – the color belonged to Glynis’ father – to Olivia’s father. The color was actually Jonathan Hatch’s!
But it couldn’t be. It couldn’t. It just couldn’t.
Glynis searched all day and found nothing new. As soon as her mother came home, she disconnected from the Net. The rest of the evening, Glynis spent sulking on the sofa, watching her mother from the corner of her eye, searching for a hint of her having been raped or abused.
She saw nothing, but what did she expect? If it happened, it happened thirteen – no, almost fourteen – years ago. What sign could her mother give now? Of rape, nothing. Of abuse? Abused children become abused parents, don’t they? Her mother never beat her, not even once. So what did that mean? It meant nothing. It meant that tomorrow she’ll have to search for clues in a totally different direction. And this time, she’ll find something.
That night, Glynis had an even harder time falling asleep. And in the middle of the night, she woke with a start: Her mother had been born with the name ‘Hatch’! And if her husband had had the same last name, it was either one heck of a coincidence, or...
Glynis didn’t fall asleep again.
An hour passed. She couldn’t stay in bed anymore. She got up in her pajamas, tiptoed into her mother’s room, and watched the woman she had known all of her life, her back rising and falling slowly underneath the blankets. Glynis stared at that face, squished against the pillow, and searched for a hint of the truth, a hint of the trauma. There was none. It was the same face she had always seen.
By morning, Glynis had an obsession for her family. She had an uncle she’d never heard of. She had two deceased grandparents she’d never met. She had a father she’d never seen and who might actually be her grandfather. And her mother’s life, which, until yesterday, Glynis had taken for granted to be nothing but ordinary, was now shrouded in uncertainty. Uncertainty that seemed to hide behind it frightening possibilities. Everything she’d understood about her family had been obliterated. Nothing could be taken for granted.
What did she know of her mother? She was a theoretical psychologist, working at the McCourt Research Institute. She was married to her work. At times she’d pull eighteen-hour days. She worked weekends. She never dated. She had no friends except Ron and his wife, Elizabeth – and the both of them worked for her. Glynis never heard of her talk of anything that had to do with friends or family. But was she at work all day? Did she have nothing outside her life?
Glynis accessed the Net and began to collect information about her mother. Olivia had been working at the McCourt Research Institute since 2001. Her address was 120th Ave and 88th St. This was interesting, because they actually lived on Wilmot Mountain, outside the town. The computer records claimed that her mother had moved to 120th Ave. from another address five years ago. That old address, also in Wilmot, was not this place, either. And they’ve been living here at least since Glynis can remember. Almost immediately she discovered another doozy: her mother had been married to a man named Steve Caspi. He had worked at the McCourt Research Institute, as well, until twelve years ago.
Glynis put both hands on her cheeks nervously and took a few breaths before pressing the link.
Steve and her mother had been married for three years, between the years 2005 and 2007. Glynis had been born in 2006, exactly one year and eight months after her mother had married this Steve Caspi!
Glynis couldn’t take any more. She got up, went to the kitchen and made lunch.
Maybe he was her father. Maybe her mother had lied, as she had about so many things. Maybe Glynis did have Jonathan’s eyes, but Jonathan was not her father. Her real father was this Steve guy. Perhaps she should check all information about Steve, as well. Perhaps she should try and contact him, tell him that he has a daughter. But then... He knows he has a daughter. He got a divorce a year after she’d been born. Was Glynis the cause for the breakup? Why had he left?
Too many emotions. Too many possibilities. Nothing to grab.
After she ate, she couldn’t return to the computer. She turned on the television, and watched a meaningless, boring movie for two hours. Meanwhile, her mind drove around in endless, fruitless circles.
At the end of the two hours, she was ready to face the computer again. What she should do, she thought, was look up this potential father of hers.
She went back to her room. Information about Steve Caspi was still on the screen. He had left the Institute shortly before he had divorced her mother. Perhaps what had broken them up was not the child but a dispute over work-related issues. Yeah, right.
His homepage was easy enough to find. He was working now for the Romulus Foundation in New York. The name sounded familiar. But what interested Glynis more, though, was his picture. He bordered on Hollywood-handsomeness. He was smooth shaven, had long, curly brown hair, brown eyes, and looked thirty-five. Then again, maybe the picture was an old one. She saved it anyway. Glynis looked up his address in the Yellow Pages. She then cross-referenced the address with the millions of stationary PubliCams in New York City. Ah – there were eleven in that section of the street alone. Thank god for overcrowded cities! She had the computer show her the locations of the PubliCams on a three dimensional interactive map of the street, with Steve’s apartment highlighted. There were three PubliCams on his side of the street, four on the other, and four more on the roofs. She chose the PubliCam in the cafe on the other side of his street with a clear view of the entrance to his building.
She accessed the PubliCam’s records (these things were kept for 72 hours), and asked her computer to search for any person that bears a resemblance to the picture from his homepage.
Glynis sat, riveted by the numbers that crossed the screen, as the computer relayed that it had gone 1 second into the past, a minute, an hour, and so on. Half an hour later, it reported that its task has ended, and it had five segments that included someone that resembled the image with 80% accuracy.
Glynis watched them all. In the first, he was leaving the apartment. Still as handsome as his picture. He was leaving the apartment in a rush, a suitcase under his arm, smartly dressed. The next segment was a vid of him coming back. Then a vid of him leaving. Then another, the next day, of him leaving. The computer must’ve missed one segment. Oh, well, these things are never perfect.
Glynis chose the clearest video segment, and played it again and again and again.
Yes, she could see what her mother had seen in him. She liked the way he walked. She liked that look in his eyes. That haircut that said that he wasn’t altogether there, that some part of him lived inside his mind. Something that reminded her of those wacky professors from the movies. Or suicidal poets. Only a hint, though, no more.
There was no doubt in her mind now. She put her hand on the screen, “Hello, Dad,” she whispered.
A minute later, she had his home phone number. She reached for the button activating the phone in her computer, but her hand trembled, and she took back her hand.
Not yet. Not just yet.
As nice and friendly as he looked, there was a reason he had never been mentioned in this house. There was a reason her mother gave her the wrong name. There was something about him, maybe something bad. Maybe... Maybe it wasn’t mom that he’d hurt. Maybe this Steve Caspi didn’t like his daughter. Maybe mother was protecting Glynis. Maybe calling him wasn’t a smart idea.
Change of plan.
Now Glynis wanted to see who he was, what he was, to learn everything she could about him. In short, she smiled to herself, she felt like stalking him.
Glynis looked at her watch: if there hadn’t been an emergency or something, her mother would be home soon. Just enough time to execute an ISpy (pronounced ‘I Spy’) program.
ISpy has been around for the last few years, as the PubliCams became ubiquitous. All you had to do was choose a person from an image in a PubliCam from anything from a few minutes ago to as far back as 72 hours ago. The program would then save all images of this person until s/he left the screen. Then it would check for this person on any of the PubliCams more or less in the direction the person was heading. If spotted, ISpy would save the vids for later, adding them to the previous vids. If the person left the view of that Cam, ISpy would do its best to find the person again in the nearest Cam and save the new image after the old one. ISpy could access all PubliCams, some SeCams (security Cams), OnCams (which people wore on their person) and HomeCams – so long as the Cams’ data was stored in public cyberspace. The result would be a ‘movie’ of everything the person did on-Cam from the time ISpy began to follow to the time it was told to stop. (The fun thing to do with ISpy was to find identical twins in a single frame, and ask it to follow one of them. Then you just sat back and watched the machine’s head explode.) Glynis told it to run all night, enough time to assemble Steve’s last three days and this night.
Glynis executed ISpy and told it to run on the Net, so that she could turn off the computer even as ISpy was running. As if on cue, she heard her mother’s car pull in.
Her heart raced. She felt like a little kid that was almost caught doing something her parent disapproved. She turned the computer off and ran to the living room. When Olivia came in, she found Glynis watching the 24-hour Tonight Show Network and laughing hard. It was Steve Allen month.
During dinner, her mother said, “I figured out what I want to do for your birthday.”
“Sure. It’s something special. Something we’ve never done before.”
“What is it?”
“I’m not telling. You’ll have to wait three more days. We’ll do... something,” Olivia smiled mysteriously, and despite her daughter’s urgings added no more.
When dinner was over, Olivia’s phone rang. It was Ron from work. Half an hour she spent chewing him out over something he did and giving him new instructions. Glynis didn’t listen; her mother’s work always seemed boring to her. But it gave her time to think about the other things. Obviously, she could say nothing about Steve. But there were other things. Like the fact that her mother was registered as living someplace else – hmm, she could check that out with the PubliCams, too. Then there was the fact that she had an uncle she’d never seen. And maybe even the fact that there was no record of Glynis being born – although surely that was just a glitch, and the least important of all these things.
Suddenly she felt an uncontrollable need to confront her mother with something, to prove to her that she knew more than Olivia had told her. Maybe even to hint that she shouldn’t keep her secrets to herself, that Glynis could figure things out. As soon as Olivia was off the phone, Glynis began, “Mom, I...” suddenly, a rush of adrenaline told her that maybe telling this to her mother was dangerous, “uh... I...” Still, it wasn’t about her father. It was something about public records. “I... Uh... I noticed something by accident today on the Net.”
“Oh?” Olivia prepared herself a drink.
“Yeah, it’s just... I happened to look for my birth certificate, and... It wasn’t there. There’s no record of my birth.
“Really?” Olivia raised an eyebrow. “That’s weird. I’ll have to fix that. Well,” she shrugged, “when I have time. No rush.” She drank a bit, then said thoughtfully, “I think maybe you spend too much time on the Net, Glynis.”
Glynis froze. Not now! Not with her so close to finding out everything about her father! She’d been stupid-stupid-stupid for raising the subject! “No, no, really, I’m not,” she said immediately. “I just needed it for some stupid club I wanted to join and they needed my birth certi—But really, it was just some stupid club. Just some kid stuff. I mean, you know. Don’t worry about it. Really. I won’t do it.”
Glynis cracked jokes all evening, trying to amuse her mother, until she was sure Olivia had forgotten all about the Net incident.
That night, Glynis dreamed about the man in the picture. She attached a voice to him. She phoned him and told him he had to come to this address and that it was really important. A day later, there was a knock on the door. And it wasn’t Ron or Elizabeth or mother. It was him. He’d come. She was hesitant at first, and tried to procrastinate as long as she could, but eventually she told him who she was. For a minute he was shocked. He never knew he had a kid. He had been estranged from her mother since a year after their marriage – their divorce was only a formality. Olivia never even told him she was pregnant. He hugged Glynis and Glynis hugged him, and they both cried, and he promised that he would take care of her and that he’d be there for her from this moment on and—And then Glynis woke up. As soon as she realized that it wasn’t reality, that it didn’t really happen, she twisted in pain. Anything else that happens with her and her father can only be worse.
She took an hour to recover. The house was silent. Her mother was off at work.
Glynis made herself breakfast and watched television for a while, unable to walk to the computer and turn it on.
Eventually, she forced herself. She hit three buttons and watched the movie ISpy had made for her.
In the beginning, she watched each and every second. Steve Caspi walking out of his house, down this street, past another, taking a cab to the other side of the city. Eventually, she fast-forwarded through the boring parts, and concentrated on his interactions with other people. There were snippets of him having conversations with people during work hours. Some of the conversations were actually from the inside of the facility in which he was working, from some OnCams and some distant PubliCams that ISpy had zoomed in considerably. Glynis had AdLip read the lips of the conversations Steve held and instantly dub the image. It wasn’t Steve’s voice, obviously, but at least she heard the words.
Apparently his expertise in psychology had made him an advisor for the biologists Wilde and Clarke. Where had she heard those names? Ah! They were the first to have publicly cloned a human being! (Although two years ago there was a scandal about a rash of cloning experiments done as early as 2001.) Yes, little Charley and Joey, the twins that had been born one year apart, with their ‘bigger twin brother’ thirty years older than them. The clones must be... what?... Charley was born around 2009, which made him slightly younger than her. So what was a psychologist like Steve Caspi doing there?
On second thought, it made sense. The ‘twins’ got more coverage than the British royalty, not to mention the fact that they were the first of their kind in the world, and yet not unique like the rest of us. They would need a shrink.
The details about the twins that she garnered from Steve Caspi’s conversations didn’t interest her. More important was how he spoke and how he related to people. He seemed to always listen to others. He was impatient only rarely, and never discourteous. Everything he said was intelligent. Oh, she liked him. She liked him!
After three hours of ISpy snippets, Steve Caspi’s first day at work was done. Glynis wanted to replay some of his conversations. But she wanted to see what he did outside work even more. Steve headed back home. His open apartment window could clearly be seen and magnified from a PubliCam on a roof two streets away. She got to watch him inside his house! Who said technology wasn’t great?
She watched him watch tv, talk on the phone to a friend, prepare himself a meal, read a textbook, write a psychology paper on his computer (the title was big enough to discern – not the text itself), close the shade, and, inferring from the darkness that soon followed, put himself to sleep. The next day – yesterday (Thursday) – was much the same. At the end of that day, Glynis hit the jackpot with an AdLipped phone conversation. She only heard bits and pieces, since most of the time he was with his back to the window or out of sight completely. Here’s what she heard of the conversation:
“Hi, honey... yeah... fine, fine ... You know, work, nothing ex— [... he turned his back ...] How are things in Ha— [... his hand covered his mouth ...] Sitting down? Why? [...he bent over...] ... —regnant?! You’re pregnant?! [... for a long period he was out of view...] —not happy— [...turned his back, then quickly...] No, I’m not happy, I’m ecstatic! I mean, oh, my— [...] You’re still coming back tomorr— [...] Listen, you have to tell this to me agai—”
He walked out of view, and the next image that ISpy showed was when he reappeared ten minutes later, no longer on the phone. He was jumping up and down like a small child. He was going to have a baby and he was happy about it!
A heavy weight she didn’t realize was there had been lifted from Glynis’ shoulders. This man would not hate his child. He doesn’t now and he couldn’t have once – not with a reaction like that. She replayed his joyful bouncing again and again. He would like to have a kid. He would like to have a kid!
It was time to talk to him.
She looked at her watch. Taking into account the different time zones, he’d be home in another two hours. Enough time for her to run through most of today. She sped through everything ISpy prepared of this day. Nothing seemed unusual. She did stop to hear every phone conversation – perhaps he’d had a change of heart. But he hadn’t.
She did, however, get his timetable. He’d be home at 21:00. At 22:00 he’d leave the apartment to pick up the woman Glynis only knew as ‘honey’. Her mother would probably be home at 21:30, New York time. That gave Glynis a very small window to catch him alone. A window that would start in ten minutes.
Glynis watched him as, at this very moment, ISpy showed him waiting patiently inside a cab (she now knew that his (their?) car was in the shop). Five minutes from home and stuck in traffic. Glynis’ entire body began to shake uncontrollably.
She tore herself from the screen and left the room. She made herself a sandwich and hot cocoa. What would she say? What could she say? How should she introduce herself? What if he hated her?
Five minutes later, it was exactly 21:00 in New York. She’d made up her mind not to say that she was his child, but Olivia’s child. She’ll see how it goes from there.
She sat in front of the screen. Steve was just entering his apartment.
She dialed: sound only – he wouldn’t be able to see her. One ring. Two rings. He answered, “Hello?” His voice was different from what she had imagined. But it was warm. It was nice.
“Hi. Is this Steve? Doctor Steve Caspi?”
“Yes, yes it is. Who is this?”
“My... Uh... My name is Glynis.” Don’t tell him her full name yet, he might know who Glynis Hatch is. “Ah... Do you mind if we switch to vid?”
“Absolutely not. Switching.” The PubliCam’s image was immediately replaced with a close-up of his face. Good looking.
“Omigod!” he said, obviously reacting to her face, and her heart sank. “You’re on that grainy tv thing, what we used to call ‘color’ or actually—what was it?—pixels! I haven’t seen one in more than a decade!”
“Yes, I know. Technology hasn’t reached my humble home.” He was friendly. She was friendly right back at him.
“Technology?! This is like talking to someone in black and white! I didn’t know they made pixel-based televisions anymore! Anyway, I didn’t mean to insult you. How can I help you, young woman?”
“Um... Do you remember an... Olivia...” – she almost hung up; no going back after this – “...Hatch?”
His smile cracked – just a bit. It was enough for Glynis to fight mounting panic. “Yes, I do,” he said, his tone more serious.
“Well, I’m—I’m... Glynis... Hatch. I’m...”
“Related?” he finished her sentence.
“Let’s see,” he tried to think. “The name sounds familiar, but I can’t immediately place it. Glynis Hatch, Glynis... Hmm, Olivia had a brother, and when I knew him he had one son and one daughter... She was called... Um... Barbara.” He was back to being friendly. “But she was five last time I saw her which was ages ago. And you’re a bit on the young side. So I probably missed your birth or something,” he flashed a smile. He was treating her like an old acquaintance. “Are you Thomas’ kid?”
“No, I’m not.”
Steve waited for a few seconds for her to elaborate. When she didn’t, he said, “Okay. So, how can I help you?”
“Well, I, uh, I heard that—I mean, I—”
“Wait a minute, I know why the name’s familiar! You have the same name as Olivia’s ex—” And suddenly he froze. His face tight, the smile gone, he looked at her eyes right through the screen, “Who are you?”
“I—I—I don’t understand the question.”
“You’re a relative, you said!” he snapped. “Who are you?”
Tears were forming in the corner of her eyes. There was so much anger in his voice. Too much anger. He was angry at her from thirteen years ago. “I... I’m Olivia’s daughter.”
He put his hand to his forehead.
“Um...” her heart pounded, but she said it, and there was a hint of pleading in her voice. “Do you know me?”
“I... don’t know. That depends on who you are.” He shut his eyes, and said, “How... old... are you, Glynis?”
More tears fighting to get out. “Thirteen.”
“I’m bad with numbers. That means you were born... when?”
“Two thousand and six.”
Steve Caspi put his hand to his mouth, and stared at the screen. For a long while he said nothing. “I don’t believe it,” he whispered. “I don’t believe it. Oh! Pixel-based tv! Dear lord! The woman is crazy!” He held his head in his hands. Without looking at her, his voice a vicious whisper, he asked, “Did she tell you to call me? Is this a prank?”
“No! No!!” She could no longer stop the tears and began to sob. “She doesn’t know I called you. And please don’t tell her. She doesn’t even know I know who you are.”
He calmed himself with great effort, and, avoiding looking at her eyes, said, “How... How is it you’re talking to me, then? How is it that I can see you?”
“I’m connected to the Net,” she said as if it was the most obvious thing. Who wasn’t connected? What was it with grownups from the last century?
But apparently for Steve it wasn’t obvious. “You’re... connected... to the... Net?!” He repeated as if the concept could not be grasped. “The woman is out of her MIND!” He lowered his eyes. “She probably thought it was funny,” he mumbled to himself.
The crying stopped, although the tears kept rolling. Whatever Steve was going through, it didn’t feel like it had to do with her. Not with all this weird talk about the Net and pixels and Olivia being crazy.
“Or ironic,” he didn’t notice. “What was going through her damned mind!”
He sighed, and looked at her with sad, pity-filled eyes. “Why did you call me, Glynis?”
She took a deep breath and choked a sob, “For one thing, I... wanted to ask if you know me.”
“Yes, I know you, Glynis,” he said in the calmest of voices. “I was there when you were... born.” The last word did not come easily to him. Then he looked straight at her, sadness in his eyes: “Do you know you, Glynis?”
Something in the way he asked the question made her almost jump out of her chair. But she answered it just the same, steering it in the right direction. “I know that Olivia is my mother. And I think that you’re my father.”
He was taken aback, but only for a second. “I’m not your father, Glynis,” he said in his sad voice. And then a glint in his eye led to anger, “Did Olivia tell you that?”
“No, no, I swear! She never even mentioned your name!” She bit her lip. That might have been the wrongest thing to say! “I mean, I mean, she said my father is someone called Jonathan Hatch.”
He let out a small, wry laugh in spite of himself.
“You knew him?”
“For a while.”
“Is he my father?”
“That—that—that—” he began to stammer, “that depends how you define ‘father’.”
“I mean, is he my biological father?”
“That depends how you define ‘biological’.” He suddenly waved his hand. “I’m kidding. I’m sorry, Glynis. Yes, he’s your biological father. But I don’t want to talk about him. Not without Olivia’s consent. And probably not even with it.”
Oh, no! Not him, too! What was it with her father?!
Her voice made of iron, she said, “Is he the same Jonathan Hatch who’s also Olivia’s father?”
“Glynis, I’m sorry; I can’t talk to you.”
“Oh, please! Mother doesn’t let anyone talk about him. She can’t be controlling you, not after all these years!” It was dirty, but it might work.
“No, no, Glynis. It’s not that. It’s just... It’s just that I used to have a—” his voice cracked “—a soft spot for you, Glynis. I’ve tried so hard to get you out of my mind. It took me years. And for the last few years I actually walked around in the world as if you weren’t in it. Glynis... I can’t talk to you. It hurts too much. Now, I have to go and pick someone from the airport.” He put his hand above the ‘disconnect’ button.
“No! Please, no!”
“Glynis,” there was despair in his eyes. “I have to go.”
“But—But—Please, call me back!” (Her phone number was at the bottom of the screen.) “Or—”
“I need to talk to someone. And mom never talks about anything, and you know so much about us, and you’re such a nice person, and it would be nice if you did turn out to be my father.”
“Glynis. I am not your father.”
“Can you be my friend, then? I mean... I have no friends.”
Steve shut his eyes. “I know you don’t,” he whispered.
“Can we talk again, Mr. Caspi?”
For a long while, he did not move, his fingers shutting his eyes tight. Finally, he looked at her, and there were tears in his eyes, “God damn you, you’re so grown up now.”
“Can I call you, again, Mr. Caspi? Can we talk?”
“Yes,” he said. “We can talk again.”
“One thing,” he said. “She’s going to have a fit if she finds out about this. Let’s keep this between us for the time being, okay? Let’s... Let’s not tell her.”
“Okay,” she nodded enthusiastically.
“Keep in mind that this means I can’t call you. Because she’ll know about it. So let’s have you call me.”
“You’re saying she monitors my phones?”
“I don’t want to talk about that, Gly—” He sighed. “Yeah, yeah. You’re intelligent, damn you. Yes, Glynis, she monitors your phones. She probably doesn’t listen to all outgoing conversations, but she’s sure to at least check all incoming calls.”
“How do you know this? Maybe things have changed since—”
“I have to go. Call me some other time, okay? We’ll... talk.”
He turned off the phone. Glynis immediately switched to the PubliCam view of his window. Steve was coming right to the window, his hands on the pane, his breath short.
“Olivia... Olivia... What have you done?” the AdLip program jumped into action. The voice was now unfamiliar to Glynis, so different from his real voice. “She’s a person now. She’s intelligent. She... She cries, for god’s sakes! Oh, god, Olivia, I told you this would happen. I told you...”
For five minutes, he looked out at the city, and tears slowly fell down his cheeks. Finally, he straightened and faced the wall, where the phone was, his profile to the window.
“Phone,” AdLip dubbed. “Instructions. If the last caller calls again, play the following recording. Begin. Glynis, I’m sorry. I thought it over. I can’t talk to you. Phone, end recording. Phone, do not inform me of any calls from this caller. Delete all records of her calls.” He then pressed a few buttons, took a bag, shut the lights, and left the apartment.
Glynis stared at the empty apartment, and did nothing. Her face fell, her heart sank, and her world became black.
After a few minutes, she asked her phone to call him. She saw the message, his face filling the screen, saying the message in his own voice. The message having played itself out, his phone then cut the connection. She called again, and this time saved his message. Once disconnected, she played the message again and again and again. She played it about twenty times before she heard her mother’s car in the driveway. She immediately ran to the bathroom to wash her face.
“Glynis!” her mother called. “Are you decent? We have company!”
‘Company’? Meaning not Ron or Elizabeth? We never have company!
“Just a minute!” She shouted, as she ran from the bathroom to the door, slamming the door behind her. “Just a minute!” She was already dressed, but she had forgotten to turn off the computer – and Steve’s frozen face from his phone message was still on it. Her hand hovered above the ‘off’ button, when, despite everything that’s happened, she decided that it was not over. She quickly programmed ISpy to monitor Steve from the time he had left the apartment, a few moments ago, and to do so on the Net. She then turned off the computer and was about to open the door.
She stopped. “I’m coming!” she yelled, as she ran to the window of her room and looked outside. Only her mother’s car was parked in front of the house. So whoever this ‘company’ is, s/he must’ve gotten a ride from mom.
She straightened her clothes, wiped her eyes, put on a smile, and went to the living room.
Her mother was waiting there with a small, bearded man, probably in his sixties.
“Hi, honey,” Olivia hugged her, and then gestured towards the man. “This is Professor Von Strauss, he’s one of the most important theoretical psychologists in the world today, if not the most important. He’s come to the Institute to see my research, and I suggested he come and have dinner with us. Charles, this is my daughter, Glynis.” She shot a look at Glynis, “Say ‘hi’!”
“Hi,” Glynis smiled hesitantly.
The man seemed thunderstruck. “You are... Glynis?” He said in a heavy German accent.
“Shake hands!” Olivia ordered.
Von Strauss offered his hand. Glynis shook it. He laughed nervously, then pulled it back.
“Can she understand everything I say?”
“Of course she can, don’t be ridiculous,” Olivia answered quickly.
“Can she do math?”
“She’s right in front of you, why don’t you ask her.”
“What’s six times seven?” he immediately turned to Glynis.
Glynis looked at her mother. Who is this nutcase? Olivia shrugged.
“It’s forty-two,” Glynis answered and immediately asked, “What’s the square root of 2222?”
Glynis turned to her mother, “He can’t do math.” Olivia laughed.
“See that as a warning, Charles. Not only can she do math, but she can embarrass our guests, too. Now, look,” she put her hand around Glynis, “the fact that she has a condition that prevents her from going to school doesn’t mean she’s backwards in any way. Me and the computer, and sometimes Ron, we teach her math, literature, history, science – everything. In fact, we just finished reading ‘The Merchant of Venice’. And tests show that she’s smarter than I was at that age.”
“Really?” the Professor was impressed.
“Really. So enough of these questions. Glynis is as normal as you or I.”
“I... I... I have one request,” he said. “I... uh... I would like to see her tonsils.”
Glynis looked at Olivia, who said, “Charles, you’re embarrassing me.”
“Please,” he said. “Her tonsils.”
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds, until Olivia finally said to Glynis. “Say ‘ah’.”
“Humor him,” Olivia waved her hand dismissively. “He’s old and senile.” Professor Von Strauss gave her a stunned look. “Behave like that,” she told him, “and that’s what people are going to say.” And to Glynis, “Humor him.”
Glynis said ‘ah’, and the Professor peered in.
“Amazing,” he said. (Later, Glynis snuck to the bathroom and looked down her own throat, to see if her tonsils were red or something. Everything seemed fine.)
“Yeah, yeah,” Olivia said. “She has eyes, she has hands, organs, dimensions, senses. She eats food. Prick her, she’ll bleed. Tickle her,” she sent a quick hand to Glynis’ armpit, and Glynis doubled over, “she’ll laugh. Poison her, she’ll die.”
“That’s right,” Glynis said. “And if you wrong me, I will revenge.”
They stared at her, stunned.
“What?” Glynis said innocently. “That’s how the quote ends, doesn’t it?”
“It does,” Olivia said, then clapped her hands once. “Let’s eat.”
Olivia prepared the food. Glynis and the Professor sat in front of the television, and watched the news. The most interesting item was about a team of scientists in Japan that created an intelligent human-looking robot. The robot had authentic-looking human skin, it had all the organs and ‘bones’ a human had, and theoretically it could move only as a human could. It could maintain its balance and walk an obstacle field, but its movements still seemed clumsy. Definitely not human. And its intelligence was quite astounding. It could answer questions and form sentences. Glynis and Von Strauss were mesmerized.
“In a few years,” Von Strauss said, “we’ll have robots so advanced, we won’t be able to tell them apart from a real person.”
“Not in our lifetime, Professor,” Olivia yelled from the kitchen. “These artificial intelligence and neural-net research people may be able to create intelligent neural nets. But no one has ever been able to artificially create consciousness or sentience or any of that. We’re as far away from that as we’ve always been. Eventually, we’ll probably get it. But not in out lifetime.”
During dinner, Olivia and Von Strauss mainly talked business.
“The problem with psychology today,” Olivia said, “and you’ll forgive me, Professor – but the problem is that it’s not really a science.”
“Now, now, now, that is a baseless attack on our profession.”
“Please, Professor. We’re worse off than doctors were five hundred years ago, when they didn’t know about the cardiovascular system and bacteria, when they gave anemas and drained people of blood to cure them, and didn’t know they should wash their hands.”
“Now, now, now. That’s ridiculous and you know it.”
“What I’m saying,” Olivia insisted, “is that if you really want to be a science, then once you create theories you have to be able to check them. You have to be able to perform an experiment twice under the same conditions. You have to then be able to perform the experiment again, changing some little thing here or some little thing there and see if that changes the result. Without that, all your theories are conjecture that can’t be taken too seriously. That’s not science, that’s guesswork.”
“But to do what you say you have to bottle the human mind, or put it in a test tube. And you can’t put the human mind in a test tube.”
She put her fork down, looked at him, and said with arrogance, “I can.”
Professor Von Strauss then looked at Glynis, and something in his eyes caused chills to run down her spine.
“And,” Olivia added, having missed Von Strauss’ stare, “I’m almost ready to publish.” Oddly enough, that ended that avenue of conversation.
The dinner over, Von Strauss said he had to return to the Institute. Olivia told him she’ll spend some more time with Glynis, and that she’ll join him in a couple of hours. Von Strauss left the house, and almost immediately, Glynis heard the sound of a car being turned on and then leaving. Olivia went to her room, when things clicked in Glynis’ head. The only car in the driveway was her mom’s! And the sound was the same familiar sound. She ran to the window, and removed the curtain. There it was, her mother’s car, parked in its usual place.
“So,” her mother emerged from her room, wearing something less work-related. “I’m all yours for the next hour or two. What do you want to do?”
What Glynis wanted to do was ask about the car. Or about her conversation with Steve. But she was still under the effect of her mother’s reaction yesterday when she enquired on the record of her birth. Somehow, asking questions at this time seemed dangerous. Better to find the answers by herself.
“You know, mom,” she said. “The Professor must be really important to your work, and he probably isn’t here every day. Why don’t you go and be with him. I’ll be fine on my own.”
Olivia hesitated. Clearly, leaving was what she wanted to do. “Ah... Are you sure?”
“Sure. I’ll be fine.”
“Maybe I’ll have Ron check in on you.”
“No, really, mom, there’s no need.”
Olivia looked into Glynis’ eyes, then said, “Okay. Thanks.”
“And, you know, I’m going to make it up to you. The day after tomorrow, on your birthday, we’ll spend all day together. Wait till you see what I have planned.”
“Can’t wait, Mom.”
Glynis watched through the window as Olivia got into her car and drove away.
Almost immediately, she went to her bed and collapsed in it. She had never felt so alone. Too many things her mother had told her were wrong or baseless. She had an uncle, and the uncle had at least one son and one daughter – Barbara – which Glynis had never known. Olivia was maybe living somewhere else. Her birth certificate was gone. Maybe her disease is just an excuse to keep Glynis from going into the world. And Steve Caspi (her mother’s ex-husband, yet another fact she didn’t know) refuses to talk to her. And who was this Jonathan Hatch whom Steve confirmed was her father? And that Professor Von Whatever, as crazy as he seemed, somehow only strengthened the feeling that her mother was not telling her everything.
There was no one to talk to, no one to confide in, no one to ask.
Determination rose within her. Fine. No more kid gloves. They’re keeping stuff from me, I’ll sniff it out, detail by detail. I’ll piece my life together. And I’ll work from all directions at once.
She sat by the computer and turned it on. It was time to play dirty.
It was time she stalked her mother.
She produced an overview of a map of the city, and asked for a display of all PubliCams in or around the McCourt Research Institute. There were none inside. And there weren’t any within half a kilometer. It was, after all, a security area. But by viewing each and every one of the remote Cams, she discovered that one PubliCam could actually see the entrance in the corner of the screen from 1200 meters away. It was enough.
She copied an image of her mother out of the online family album, and asked the computer to search for all images looking like the image within the last 72 hours. Glynis then searched for a PubliCam across the street from where her mother had ‘moved’ to five years ago, and, growing impatient, she gave the computer orders to alert her as soon as the first image was found.
This would take a few moments at best. She hesitated before recalling the ISpy that followed Steve. His betrayal still hurt. But this wasn’t about betrayal. This wasn’t about friendship or fatherhood or anything like that. This was about who she was and why everyone was lying. This was about everyone knowing the truth at her expense.
She recalled ISpy and watched in cold blood. Cab to the airport, a forty-minute ride. The Cams then lost him. One OnCam spotted him in the airport, hugging a thin, shortyish, thirty-year-old-looking woman. This must be the pregnant woman known as ‘honey’. Next, he was spotted ten minutes away from his home, in a cab with Honey. Innocuous conversation about her trip to Hawaii. How sweet.
She fast-forwarded as the two seemed to talk and talk, as they unloaded the cab, as they entered the house and unpacked. Glynis wound it down to normal speed, as Honey was caressing his hair.
“Glynis,” Steve was saying, “thinks that Oli— [...] mother.” Glynis froze the frame, her eyes wide in surprise. They were talking about her!
She rewinded one minute into the past, and played it at normal speed.
“Will you stop fussing,” Honey was saying. “I’m fine.”
“[...] Sure?” Too early. Then she had caught the conversation a few seconds before it started.
Sure enough, twenty seconds later, Honey was saying, “[...] understand [...] bothering you.”
“[...] complicated. [... whatever he was saying, she had a concerned look on her face. ...] —phone call I got today. [...] herself Glynis [...] —teen-year old. But actually— Forget it, that’s too complicated. [...] —r one thing, she thinks Olivia – that’s my ex —” (In the corner of the screen, the image of the PubliCam monitoring the Institute’s entrance began to flash – its task was done. It would wait for later.)
“The [...] -ologist,” Honey said.
Steve’s back was to the window, but he nodded.“[... he moved his hand to the side. ...] Glynis thinks that Oli— [...] mother.” Glynis frowned. It was much easier when he stood still and talked to the phone.
“And [...] isn’t her mother?” Honey put her hand on Steve’s shoulder.
Steve sunk into his chair. “Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. Not even close. She’s— [his hand covered his mouth for a few seconds] —st of her kind. She’s kind’a like the chicken who lays the first egg.”
Glynis froze the frame and stared at the screen numb. Maybe because the shock was too big, but also maybe because inside she was so certain that Olivia was her mother. The similarities between them were so many – she couldn’t possibly be adopted. And yet... Steve should know what he was talking about. And what did that mean, ‘the chicken who lays the first egg’? What did that mean?
Olivia not her mother?! It couldn’t be.
She unfroze the frame.
“[...] Can’t tell you,” Steve rose. “Research [...] Classif— [...] I’ll work it ou— [...]”
“[...] —leep on it, okay?” She kissed him, and he kissed back.
“Yeah. [...] —t you.”
The two of them entered the bedroom, where Glynis couldn’t see them. That was all ISpy had. She looked at the watch by the corner. That last exchange was ten minutes ago. She switched to the PubliCam. Their apartment was dark except for a small light in the bedroom. They were reading. Or talking. About her. Or about Hawaii. Or about their baby.
Working completely by rote, aware yet unaware of what she was doing, she left ISpy working, and pressed the flashing icon at the bottom of the screen. The screen was immediately filled with an image from the PubliCam outside the address her mother’s supposedly living at. The frame was from this morning. Olivia was leaving the apartment, wearing her work-clothes, suit and all, and a briefcase in hand. She then entered her car and drove away.
“That bitch,” Glynis whispered, her mind still in neutral. “She does live somewhere else!”
The icon belonging to the PubliCam outside the Institute flashed again. Glynis couldn’t care less. She sent it away. She stared at the apartment for a while, her teeth clenched, wondering how nasty her response should be. A minute later, she had Olivia’s phone number.
Before calling Olivia’s number a few actions had to be taken. The phones always provided the number of the caller at the bottom of the screen. If a call is unanswered or if the callers do not leave a message, the caller’s phone number is still recorded. If Olivia sees Glynis’ number when she returns ‘home’, she’d be sure to recognize it. Glynis didn’t want that. Not yet. She would route the phone call through five different stations – the number that would appear would not be traced back to her.
Not only do I know math and literature and history, mother, she thought; I also got an ‘A’ in hacking. She entered the secured site in which she kept her hacking programs, most of which she had programmed herself. Her mother had kept secrets from her, and she had kept secrets from her mother.
She executed ReCall, and dialed her mother’s number.
Olivia’s face appeared. “Hello,” it said. “This is the residence of Dr. Olivia Hatch—” Glynis’ stomach turned “—I’m not home right now. Please leave a message.” As soon as her image was gone, ReCall immediately took over Olivia’s answering service. Glynis could now treat it as if it were her own. She scanned the messages. There were three pending (which Olivia hadn’t heard yet), two saved, and one in the trash bin, which had not yet been deleted (the trash bin deletes a message 24 hours after it is sent to the bin).
She watched the one in the trash bin first.
Professor Von Variety appeared on the screen. “Hello, Doctor Hatch,” he said in his thick accent. “This is to update you. I’ve just confirmed my flight. I’ll be taking flight number—” Glynis fast-forwarded. “—nd. I’m very excited to see your research. Even if only half of what you’ve hinted at is true. I’ll see you in less than fourteen hours.”
Boring. Glynis chose one of the pending ones. Ron’s face appeared, “Olivia! Olivia! If you’re there, please answer. There’s been an emergency with Glynis! Call me asap!”
Glynis blinked. Then she looked at the time-stamp. It was from six hours ago. She hadn’t seen Ron in two days. What the hell was he talking about? She looked around, half paranoid. But there was no emergency in the past six hours or twenty-four hours, for that matter. But that only drove home a point she hadn’t considered. Ron and Elizabeth were both in on whatever this is. They, too, have been lying to her all her life. No more allies. She was alone.
The other two pending messages were sales messages. Junk. Glynis turned to the saved messages.
An unknown man appeared on the screen. He was fiftyish, rumpled, tired, and a couple of children were playing behind him. “Hi, sis,” he said. So this is Glynis’ Uncle Thomas! “I just wanted to inform you that Pat arrived safely, everything’s fine, and we’re going to have fun while you’re busy with that bigshot.” He looked aside. “What? Oh, okay.” He turned to the screen again. “Pat wants to say something.” He moved aside, and the camera panned down to see the face of a cute six-year-old.
“Hi, mom,” she waved, as Glynis’ eyes nearly popped out of her head. “I miss you. Call me when you get home.”
“Bye, Olive Oil,” Thomas said, and touched the disconnect button.
Glynis couldn’t breathe. Spots appeared in front of her eyes.
After a couple of minutes, she calmed down enough to realize that she couldn’t remember anything else about the message besides the words “Hi, mom”. She replayed the message.
Pat. Her sister’s name was Pat.
She rewinded the message and froze a picture of Pat. She was cute, and she looked almost like Glynis did when she was that age. The nose and the chin were slightly different, though. There was no doubt about it. Pat was her sister.
Olivia was living a double life. But it was Glynis and Glynis alone who seemed to be the secret life. Pat had met the rest of the family. And Glynis… she never even knew they existed.
Suddenly Pat’s image disappeared and was replaced by a view of Olivia’s apartment. Glynis jumped: Huh? Just as she was about to press a button and reactivate the answering machine, she realized that there was movement at the top of the screen. Feet, high heels, accompanied by sound. The feet were coming closer. The camera was not panning as it usually does when there’s movement. The feet turned into legs in a skirt, and suddenly the face of her mother filled the screen and was staring right at her. Glynis nearly wet her pants.
Glynis was frozen in place, unable to move, as her mother’s brows furrowed a bit, and her eyes moved up and down. Very slowly, one thought followed another in the back of Glynis’ mind. It was a safety aspect of ReCall: When there was a change in the surroundings, it snapped back to appear as if the phone was not operating, while allowing the caller/hacker to view the inside. ReCall was playing dead. Actually, it was playing like it was an answering machine. Olivia couldn’t see Glynis; her screen looked like her answering machine. She wouldn’t find out… as long as she didn’t try to place a call.
Olivia pressed a spot on the screen and moved aside. ReCall played the three new messages for Olivia, while Glynis watched her go from one corner of the house to another, get herself a drink from the fridge, and search for something in a desk.
The messages played themselves out. Glynis sat in front of the screen, not daring to disconnect. Olivia put the files from the desk in her suitcase, shut it, turned off the light, and went out of view. Glynis could hear her open the door, close it, and lock it from the outside. It was then that she realized how badly she’d wanted Olivia to discover her. To punish her, maybe, but to confront her about why and how and—and—and—so many things, too many things…
Glynis began to cry. The tears obstructing her view, she disconnected from the Net, turned the screen off, and fell on her bed. She sobbed uncontrollably.
Half an hour later, she was asleep in her clothes, having cried herself to sleep. She dreamed about her sister.
Glynis opened her eyes, and her mother’s face looked at her, smiling. Glynis immediately flashed back to the previous night, and jumped instinctively, gasping.
“Whoa! What’s the matter?”
“I… I… I’m sorry. I had nightmares.” She looked around. “What… What time is it?”
“It’s morning. And you slept in your clothes. You haven’t done that in years.” There was concern in Olivia’s voice. That surprised Glynis. “Oh, god, I’m sorry, I’m not paying enough attention to you. Listen,” she touched Glynis’ flushed cheeks. “This is just because the Professor is here. He’s very important for my career. He was supposed to leave today, but it turns out he likes what he saw, and he’s going to stay another day. I know I said we’ll spend tomorrow together, but this is really important. He’s leaving at six p.m. You and me, we’ll spend the evening together, that’s bound to be enough, what do you say? I’ll give you your gift, and we’ll pig out or something. Okay?”
“Sure.” Glynis tried to smile.
“Now,” Olivia clapped her hands once. “Snap out of it! Get dressed and we’ll eat. I have to go soon.”
“So,” Olivia asked once Glynis emerged from the bathroom. “How does it feel to be grown up? How does it feel to almost be thirteen?”
Breakfast was already on the table. Glynis sat down and looked at Olivia from the corner of her eyes. “I feel older and less innocent that I was yesterday.”
“When I was thirteen,” Olivia said, “I already felt like I was an adult for three years at least.
They ate breakfast silently. Suddenly, Glynis asked, “Mom, why don’t I have a sister or a brother?”
Olivia didn’t even flinch, “I had one daughter. She was really sick. It’s hard enough as it is to deal with a job and taking care of you. It was enough.”
Glynis clenched her teeth. She is a bitch! She’s blaming me!
Glynis wallowed in silence. Olivia kept talking about Professor Von Wowzer. With breakfast over, she rushed off.
Glynis found herself disappointed that Olivia didn’t ask what was really bothering her. She hadn’t realized how badly she wanted to tell Olivia what she knew, to hear an explanation that would make all her questions, all the betrayals, go away. And she didn’t have the courage to ask, she needed her mother to ask. But she didn’t.
Glynis was tired of guessing, tired of spying. She’s had enough of being jerked around, tired of being lied to. And, more than anything else, she’s had enough surprises for a lifetime.
It was time to put an end to it. And she knew how. All she had to do was press the right buttons.
She pursed her lips in determination, sat at the computer, and turned the screen on. She took a look at Steve’s apartment through the PubliCam. There was nothing. But today was Saturday. What are the odds that at ten o’clock he’d be home? She waited a minute, then a man’s figure walked quickly from one side of the window to the other. She stopped the PubliCam, rewinded it, paused the picture, then zoomed in. The angle was all wrong, but that was his hair and build. It was Steve, all right.
She dialed Steve’s number through another phone number. That way the block he’d set up to exclude her (her number, actually,) would not work.
The phone dialed once, twice, then his face appeared on the screen.
“Hi,” she gave him a big, cynical smile. “Remember me?”
His face wore shock. Just as he was getting his bearings, she said, “I’m the chicken who lays the first egg,” and his face collapsed again. “I loved the fact,” she went on, “that you blocked my phone calls. I loved it even more that you thought it would work.”
“No, no, no,” she interrupted him again. “You’ve had your chance. Now I’m going to have mine. I want to share something with you,” she said in an extra-nice tone. “I broke into my moth– Olivia’s – other house, I assume you know she has two of them. And look what I found.” She played Thomas and Pat’s message.
“Shit,” Steve whispered once the tape was over. He understood its importance and perhaps a bit more.
“Do I have your attention, Mr. Caspi?”
“Good. Because here’s what I know. My father has Olivia’s father’s name, and no one will tell me anything about him. You say that Olivia is not my mother,” – his face showed confusion – “No, you didn’t say it to me, but you said it nonetheless. But Olivia, who has an entire family she never told me about, including you for that matter, and also including a daughter who looks a lot like me and our mother – so how can we not have the same mother? And for some reason you seem to think it has something to do with my pixeled tv.”
“Glynis,” he said. “I understand what you’re going through. But I can’t help you.”
“Are you scared of my mother, Mr. Caspi? Because up till now I told you what I know. Here’s what you should know. I’m smart. I’m resourceful. I’m sneaky. And I’m after you.” She leaned closer to the camera. “I’ll find some way to blackmail you. I’ll find some secrets about the woman carrying your baby. I’ll find a way to break up your relationship if I have to. I can do much more damage than mom can. You don’t want me as your enemy. Wouldn’t it be nicer to be my friend, like we proposed originally?”
Glynis took a breath, eased back into her chair, and said in a tired voice, “Look. That was the threat. Here’s the real deal: Steve, you know and I know that she’s been lying to me my whole life. I don’t understand it, and I don’t like it, and it’s wrong. I know you think the same as I do, and from our first conversation, it sounded to me like you left her partly because of it. She’s been lying to me ever since I was born. She’s kept me a secret from almost everyone she knows ... and I don’t know why or what else she did, but I need to know. Can you understand that? I mean, you said you used to have a soft spot for me. And you’re going to have a baby and I can tell you’re a compassionate man. How would you be able to raise it knowing that you’re part of whatever it is she did to me when she raised me, that you had a chance to change it, and didn’t?”
Steve looked down. “You’re not going to believe me if I tell you, Glynis.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “Tell me anyway.”
“There are some things a person shouldn’t know about herself, Glynis.” He raised his eyes and looked at her, “If I tell you, you’ll never be the same again. Never, Glynis. Do you understand that?”
She paused for a few seconds, so it will look like she considered it. “I understand. Tell me.”
Steve took a few deep and slow breaths, as if he was gathering strength for an impossibly hard task. Not looking directly at her, he said, “First thing, Glynis, no, Olivia is most definitely not your real mother. You’re her—... um... You’re a science experiment, Glynis.”
“A science experiment? But she’s a psychologist!” Then her eyes narrowed. “She is a psychologist, isn’t she?”
“Glynis, Glynis, please listen.” There was compassion in his voice. “I told you this would be hard to believe. And this is the easy part. What I’m going to say next is also the easy part, although it won’t sound like it. Glynis...” he sighed and looked aside. “...You’re not human.”
Glynis stared at the screen. “I...That’s ridiculous,” she finally said.
“It’s true,” he said in a calm voice.
“But... I walk, I dream, I breathe, I smell, I feel—” She stopped, realizing that animals do all those things, too. “I think! I talk! I—” It was ridiculous, and yet she couldn’t prove that she was human, because maybe a new form of intelligent life would be able to do that, too. “I’m just like everyone else!” she shouted. “I—I—I—I’m human!”
“I know you do all those things and more. And you would have been human, and you could have been human, and you most definitely have human DNA and just human DNA. But the fact is ... that...” He couldn’t go on.
And he looked straight into her eyes and said, “Glynis, you’re not real.”
You have to let me tell you (Steve said) without interrupting me, okay?
It all started – for Olivia, at least – during her first year in college. It bothered her that the science of psychology could never make any real progress because the researchers couldn’t make any real experiments. Not like physicists or biologists or chemists could. Because the experiments are on people you could never actually repeat most of the experiments you would like to have. You never worked in real lab conditions. It was always possible that things happened not because of what you did or didn’t do – but because of something else. It was all suppositions, guesswork.
I met her during her third year in college. It was, uh, 1997. We met, we befriended, we... became involved. And it was then that she trusted me enough that she told me about an idea she had. She knew it was a bad idea and that it could never work, but, still, she couldn’t help being obsessed by it. It went roughly like this: The only way to make real progress in psychology is to somehow put the human mind in a petrii dish. Or maybe a computer was a better analogy. If you could do to a person what you could do to a program or a digitalized movie or a digitalized piece of music, it would be perfect. If you could copy them, save them, replay them, add or subtract information then rerun the situation – then you would have lab conditions. You could have the same kid grow with two different sets of parents, and how different the two of him are when he grows up. You could make sure that what you think makes the difference is what made the difference, by eliminating all the other options. If you could digitize the human mind you could perform experiments in lab conditions. You could repeat experiments. You could— You could do everything. You could finally get psychology to the level of a science.
But the idea was obviously self-defeating. She wanted to put the human mind in a computer neural net so she could figure out how the human mind works. But to get it into a computer neural net in the first place, you already had to know how it works. It wasn’t even a paradox. It was a no-brainer. You couldn’t do the former without the latter. And real progress in AI and neural nets was farther away then than it is today – not that it would ever have helped, anyway, because you needed a human mind, not an artificial mind.
A year before she got her doctorate, a few days before 2,000 – and I remember it, because she partied during those Millennium celebrations recklessly – she came up with the idea of a lifetime. She was so full passion and... joy, which is something I never saw in her in such intensity before or after. She partied because of her idea. She partied because she knew it would work. She partied because she knew she would get a Nobel for it. And you know what? She will.
It was a streak of genius. Horrible, horrible, immoral genius, Glynis. But genius. Because it was so... damned... simple.
It went like this. I don’t need to know anything about artificial intelligence or neural nets, she said. I don’t need to know how the human mind works. All I need is knowledge we already have in biology and chemistry, a computer fast and big enough, and the human genome project to be over. That’s it, she said. That’s all I need.
Why is the human brain the way it is, she said. Why does it work like it does? The body is built and each and every thing in it happens because it reads the instructions in the DNA. A protein called RNA polymerase – I heard that name so many times I won’t forget it till the day I die – reads the DNA. Ribosomes read the RNA polymerase, then they make the right proteins, and the proteins then react chemically with the rest of the body. In short, everything in the human body acts like a machine. A machine that operates according to some very strict rules - which we know!
Why don’t we program a computer to set up an environment that acts exactly like a cell? We know that the cells are made of proteins, carbohydrates, fat, and nucleic acids. We know the millions of varieties they come in. We know how they react with each other. We know how everything works! We know everything about what makes the blood vessels, the neurons, the sweat glands, and... I don’t remember everything that’s in the body, Glynis. But even then, in the year 2,000, we knew enough about the machine that is the human body to program its rules into a computer. We couldn’t interpret the DNA on a macro level, but we knew how the body interpreted it on a micro level. So we didn’t actually have to know what each packette of genes meant. We just had to know how the cells function and how the instructions are real. What’s in the instructions? We don’t need to know that.
Now, say we don’t do it to a cell. Say we start out from a virtual egg that’s been virtually fertilized by a sperm. When the virtual egg needs to split into two cells, then the virtual egg splits into two virtual cells. And then into four virtual cells. And so on. And so on. What you get at the end of nine months is a virtual human baby inside the computer! It grew hands, it grew feet, it grew a mouth and lungs, sexual organs, and... everything. But also a brain. We didn’t know how a brain works, but we didn’t need to. Nature did the work for us. We just had the computer follow nature’s instruction.
That wasn’t the end. You needed to program a virtual environment for the virtual human. You needed to make distinctions between the hardness of walls and the hardness of, say, couches. Sight was a bit tricky, because you’ll have to program virtual photons (that only worked like particles, for the sake of the program) that reached the retina in the eye as if they’ve come from a preprogrammed light source and bounced off the surfaces of the virtual environment. That would be hard to program, but it would be possible. Sound that reached the virtual human’s ears was easier, because sound waves cause vibrations in the eardrums. So the computer could ‘tell’ the cells of the eardrums that they were being vibrated at such and such speed, direction, force, and frequency. Sound coming from the throat was done the other way around. Vibrations in the vocal cords were interpreted into frequencies which were then interpreted into sound for in the earpieces of the humans that are looking into the virtual environment. Breathing in and out was simple – since we knew how the air in the lungs is ‘absorbed’ into the bloodstream, the computer just had to make sure that the blood got a correct mixture of what it would consider Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide, and whatever else is in our atmosphere. And so on and so on, every aspect of human life could be simulated.
The real program is millions and millions of cells working simultaneously. The virtual human speaking and thinking and seeing and feeling in the virtual environment was a small byproduct of the trillions of simultaneous actions that the program was performing each millisecond. It was just a byproduct. But it worked. Boy, did it work. And the virtual baby would never know the difference.
Olivia got financial backers for her idea amazingly fast. She was in charge of the project, which the McCourt Institute performed. It took the Institute’s computer people until the middle of 2,005, though, to finish programming the virtual human body program that would be at the root of the secret project.
And then... Then she needed a volunteer. Whose DNA would be used to simulate the body? It was agreed it had to be a living person, so that the problem of ‘consent’ would be solved. The subjects, after all, would not be told that they’re in an experiment, and eventually the courts might claim that they have rights. So if the ‘donor’ made an informed decision and agreed to have digital clones of him- or herself subject to experiments, that would solve that.
Olivia volunteered. She said she knew how bad and cruel some of the experiments would be, and she was willing. Also, since it was her project, she would be the only person who would never go back on her consent.
But the truth is, that it wasn’t enough for her to be the person who invented and researched all of this. She also wanted to be the first in a new form of life. A digitalized breathing, speaking, feeling human. That’s the truth behind why she volunteered her own DNA.
And then the project was off and running. She had to wait nine months for the single cell to grow into a baby inside a virtual, artificial womb that supplied it food and oxygen and so on.
That’s how you were born, Glynis.
You were immediately copied into a hundred different Glynisses. Each and every one of them except you is subject to experiments, which are repeated time and time again. Every second each of you or your copies’ lives is saved and backupped someplace in the Institute’s huge computers. They can – and do – go back to any time and any one of your versions and rerun them, changing this or that.
But you... Olivia wanted one normal Glynis that had a ‘normal’ childhood, one that got the ‘best parenting’ possible. The Institute agreed.
Your real name is Glynis 1.0. You live in a virtual house that you can’t leave not because you have a ‘condition’, but because reality doesn’t exist much farther beyond the house. Your house doesn’t have an address and it isn’t a place, it is inside the Institute’s computers. When Olivia arrives and leaves, there’s a basic random program of the car coming and parking or leaving – although all she’s really doing is putting on or taking off her gear. When she sleeps, that’s not her, that’s the computer running a simulation of her. She’s really walking around the Institute, and the computer buzzes her if you try to ‘wake’ her. When she’s with you, she’s at work. When she goes to work, she could be at work, but she could also be at her real home. When you see people – they are physically in the Institute, too. They wear a virtual environment suit, and you see them because the computer excites your virtual retinas as if they were there.
That’s also the reason why you have pixeled tv. Because the animation in your virtual environment is not as good as real eyesight, and our present televisions are. But the animation is still better than pixeled tv, so Olivia chose that as the solution.
That’s what you are, and that’s who you are. You have Olivia’s parents. You are Olivia, except that you aren’t real. That’s why I left, Glynis, and that’s why I broke up with your mother. Because, although you weren’t real, you were as human as anyone else. And what they’re doing to the other versions of you... I couldn’t see the things they did to you in the experiments. I couldn’t face it. I couldn’t...
But, Glynis, you have to realize that you’re not like Pinocchio. You never will be a real girl.
“Oh, god, oh, god, oh, god!” Blackness filled her vision. Blackness that wasn’t real.
“I feel the air from people’s breath,” she whispered. “I feel my own breath... I smell... I dream... I cry...” But her tears were not real tears. Her thoughts were not really there. Her flesh was not flesh. Her breath did not take air from the world, nor did it give any back when she exhaled. Her thoughts, her dreams, her life could be saved on a disk! She was just a computer program.
“But I bleed!” She shouted, her fingernails scratching her neck. She brought up her fingers. They had fresh blood on them. “I bleed!!”
“Glynis...” Steve said, and there was pain in his voice. “I’m sorry, Glynis. I really didn’t mean to cause you such—”
“I’m not Glynis,” she said, her throat raw. “I’m Olivia! I’m not Olivia, I’m a— I’m a computer program. Execute me. Copy me. Delete me. Delete me! Undelete me. Activate me simultaneously. Goodbye.” Her hand fell and Steve’s image was gone.
Her stomach began to heave. She ran to the bathroom and vomited. And as she did so, she thought: The vomit isn’t real. And she vomited again. And again. And again. And all the time she knew that it was just the computer analyzing what her stomach contents should look like if they were outside her body, telling her eyes, giving the scent, as if it’s there even though it isn’t.
Fifteen minutes later, physically exhausted, she leaned on the wall of the tub, breathed hard and stared at her surroundings.
The walls weren’t walls. She kicked one in anger. Her foot hurt. But that didn’t mean the wall was there. Nothing was there. She kicked it again with more force, and pain shot through her foot as it twisted awkwardly. A nonexistent wall just made her sprain her nonexistent foot.
And Olivia! Even her mom, half the time she was here, wasn’t really here!
And – oh! oh! oh! – that was why Olivia was always so amused every time Glynis sat down to surf the Net. A computer program playing a computer program. How amazingly funny. Ha ha.
But then she’s me. I’m her. I’m just as much a witch as she is. I’m just as responsible as she is. Oh, god... And though she had nothing more in her stomach, her muscles heaved again. Nothing came out when she vomited.
For the next hour she tried to will herself to not exist, to stop this farce, for her body to realize that the thoughts were not real thoughts, that her world was not real. But nothing changed.
Slowly, she realized that she still existed. She couldn’t will herself to disappear. She still had these thoughts. She still had feelings. She still sensed things and touched objects. Her foot still hurt. She still breathed and could taste food and hate her mother. She was still... still herself. She was still alive. And in the most absurd and ridiculous and paradoxical way – she was still... human.
She flushed the toilet again and again, then sprayed the room with air freshener. She limped to the living room, slumped head first into the sofa, and turned the television on with the remote. The news was on. News from the real world. There was a discussion about something the President said.
She stared at the television, her eyes glossy. A few minutes later, the news turned to the latest technology breakthroughs. A certain professor was being interviewed. He said that although people could already eliminate many genetic diseases and mishaps in a newborn, what he was offering, roughly, was to custom-design the newborn from the best traits of both parents. Genetic engineering will soon be ‘in’, he claimed.
Glynis turned the television off in disgust and stared at the ceiling.
After an hour, she had an epiphany. Humans – normal humans – are just as much machine as she is. They all have inside them a trillion functions going on simultaneously that they’re not aware of. They, too, are a ‘byproduct’ of all the activity going on in the cells. Their consciousness, their sight, their hearing, their tastes, their dreams, their feelings – they’re all just a byproduct of trillions of atom-sized, natural nanomachines doing their thing, obeying the basic DNA instructions. It’s exactly the same.
I’ll even die like them. Even though I’m a program, I have a time limit, just like them. True, I don’t get sick – and now I know it’s because there are no viruses or ‘bugs’ in my universe – but I’ll die of old age, just like the rest of you. Except...
Except that after I die, they could resurrect me, start from scratch or from any point in the middle and have a go at it again and again, until the damned universe explodes.
“But I’m real!” she shouted into the air. “I’m real, I’m real, I’m real!!!” I dream, I fantasize, I masturbate. Can a program masturbate? For god’s sakes, I have a menstrual cycle! My eggs die! I—I—I—I have eggs! Oh, my god! Can I have babies? Is it possible for me to breed?!
Her mind feverishly ran in circles for hours. At times, she cried. At times she shouted. At times, she gave way to self-pity. At times she wanted revenge and to burn down the Institute and Olivia – whom now had gone from ‘mother’ to ‘twin sister’ – and always in the background were Steve’s words: ‘You’re not like Pinocchio. You never will be a real girl.’
Suddenly her eyes widened in horror. She’d remembered something else Steve had said. In all the excitement about herself, it got lost. But now...
When she was born, she’d been split into hundreds of copies of herself. And on each and every one of those copies, they’re holding experiments. Glynis is the lucky one. Her twin sisters are... lab rats.
She got up. She was dizzy again, but she didn’t care. Her sprained leg hurt. She hobbled to her room and sat in front of her computer. For a second, she hesitated. She was afraid. Instead of doing what she’d planned, she’d brought up again the message ‘Uncle Thomas’ had left on Olivia’s answering machine. She fast-forwarded to the part with Pat.
“Hi, mom,” Pat waved. “I miss you. Call me when you get home.”
That’s not my sister, Glynis thought. That’s my potential daughter. She played it again, “Hi, mom.” She stopped it, and pressed a couple of keys, defining a loop. “Hi, mom. Hi, mom. Hi, mom. Hi, mom. Hi, mom. Hi, m—” Glynis pressed another button and paused the frame. Pat was in mid-wave. Glynis stared at the image for a long time, then waved back. “Hi, daughter.” Another button, and the image of Pat waving became Glynis’ wallpaper on the computer.
Glynis took a deep breath. To hell with fear. To hell with Olivia. To hell with everybody. And to hell with me. It was time to break into the Institute’s computers. It was time to break into hell.
She entered the Institute’s site. It had the logo, the promos, and so on: stuff meant for the general audience. That didn’t interest her. She looked for a way for the Institute’s employees to get into the Institute’s computers. There was none. Not a code or a password you had to type. Security was tight because they were keeping a big secret, and they couldn’t afford to have even one hacker break-in. Still, it didn’t make sense in this day and age that there was no way for employers to access their computers while away from the location.
She accessed her mother’s – Olivia’s, Olivia’s, not her mother’s – phone, again, using ReCall through another untraceable route, and this time accessed the phone log. All outgoing and incoming phones were recorded, unless they’d been erased from the log – and even then, if you knew how, you could retrieve them. But Olivia hadn’t bothered to erase them. She’d made the phone calls over the past three days to the same number that had the Institute’s prefix. Each call was a few hours long. Obviously, a computer hookup. Bingo!
Glynis disconnected, and taking yet another strange route so that her number could not be easily traced, dialed that number. What irony, she thought, I’m breaking into the Institute from the inside! She immediately got another site that clearly belonged to the Institute. But that immediately changed to another site: Access not Authorized!
Huh?! They hadn’t asked for a password or a code or anything of the sort. How would they know she wasn’t part of the Institute... Unless you didn’t need a code, unless the access was granted according to the phone number you were calling from. Hmm, allegedly sneaky on the Institute’s part. But too easy to break in.
She used ReCall again, broke into her mother’s – Olivia’s – answering machine. She copied all the phone’s idenity.ini information and disconnected. She then replaced her own identity.ini with her mother’s, and dialed the number again, not even bothering to channel the call through other phones. That shouldn’t be necessary; the site will see this as a call from Olivia’s house.
For a second, there was nothing, and then the page: “Welcome, Dr. Hatch!” appeared. She hit the table with her fist triumphantly. Yes! The Institute must have complete morons taking care of their security.
Olivia’s entrance page was user-friendly. Unlike her daughter (her replica, her replica!), her mother never handled computers well. The options were simple: personal logs, notes, etc.; monitoring cameras; and something called The Project. Each and every one of these was tempting, each and every one scary
Her heart pumping at twice its normal speed, Glynis chose the most harmless-looking one: ‘Monitoring Cameras’. Best to take things easy. A list of options appeared, each representing a different camera. She chose one at random, and the vision of a corridor appeared. Beyond glass windows, she could see a couple of secretaries typing at computer terminals. She switched to another camera. A room filled with computers, people in lab coats. And—Ron just walked into the room.
Glynis leaned back, her mouth clenched in anger. Oh me, oh my: The traitor. She watched him for a while, grew tired of it, and switched to another camera. And another. And another. And—And then she stopped. Professor Von Wonderful was sitting in a chair, talking to someone out of view.
“What a small world,” Glynis whispered.
A second later, the Professor’s interlocutor stepped into the frame, and Glynis caught her breath. He was talking to Olivia! She fumbled quickly at the keys, and activated AdLip.
“—gal experts have solved the legal problems,” her mother was saying, although the voice was too mechanical and not close to her real voice. “We’ve already applied for a patent for the entire idea of creating computerized personalities through biological means. The Institute will own the patent. Anyone who wants to do the same thing we did will have to pay us to use it.”
“But you can’t patent the personalities themselves,” Professor Von Warzone said. “At least I don’t think so.”
“No,” Olivia nodded, “but we can copyright them. We will have to copyright Glynis.” Glynis blinked: excuse me?! “But that raises a hornet’s nest of complicated issues. What exactly are we copyrighting? Are we copyrighting her mind at a specific second? Do we copyright her image and the state of each and every cell at a precise second? And which Glynis do we copyright? Do we copyright them all? Does that mean that if someone else develops Glynis in a different direction, they own the copyright to that Glynis? Is a Glynis different if she’s progressed a second from the time we copyright her? Or maybe we should copyright her DNA? But then you’d be copyrighting me, and you can’t copyright a person. And copyrighting DNA is not a precedent they think we can set, anyway. Our legal experts say this is all obviously uncharted territories, but that we could probably avoid all these issues if we copyright the initial program itself, with my DNA already in it. It would be like copyrighting a computer game. All eventualities of the game – in this case Glynis – are included in the copyright. That takes care of all the options and permutations that are possible.”
“That’s interesting,” the Professor said.
“The good thing about it is,” Olivia seemed excited, “that once we copyright the program, we have funding guaranteed for the next twenty years. Because if anyone wants to verify our research they would have to either use our Glynisses and pay us for it, or they would have to grow new people from one cell. They would have to wait nine months, and then wait for the person to grow in real time. Which will take years. It’s ingenious!”
Glynis pressed the ‘stop’ button for AdLip. Holy shit! Anyone who wants to can grow a Glynis if they pay Olivia enough? They would be teaching her in medical schools, in psychology classes, each student growing and examining and experimenting with his own Glynis, going over each moment of her life with her. Students will have to grow different Glynisses at home to experiment on, to see how accurate the latest research is. And it will go on like this for decades, each Glynis unaware that she’s not the only one. Each Glynis living in the illusion that she’s a real person, living in a real place!
And when Olivia dies, seventy years afterwards – was that the law? – no one will own the copyright. Glynis will then forever belong to the world! Glynis will be bandied on the Net for free, like Shakespeare’s plays or Dickens’ books. She’ll just be digital code that will be activated in homes. Grow your own Glynis! Glynis the screensaver! She’ll be grown by peepers, by sadists, by child molesters, by... Oh, my god!
She got goosebumps all over her body.
Those Glynisses won’t be me, she tried to tell herself. None of that will happen to me! I’m safe! They’re not me any more than I’m Olivia!
But how could she know that? It felt like these things would all be done to her. The massive feeling of violation could not be or discarded with a cerebral thought. It didn’t work like that. If there was any way to convince herself that it was true, that the other Glynisses will not be her, she had to be shown it.
Glynis quickly backed up to the original menu and chose ‘The Project’. What she was too afraid of a moment before was now her only hope.
Another menu appeared. A list of Glynis 1.0 to Glynis 2075.6. Glynis had to hold her head. Oh, my god! So many versions of herself!
Remembering Steve’s words, she knew she was Glynis 1.0. She maneuvered the mouse’s icon to rest on top of her name, and, after a moment’s hesitation, clicked the mouse. The screen was filled with a view of her living room. At the bottom of the screen was a menu. There was a link to each room, and an option to choose the exact coordinates from to view from. She pressed the icon representing her room. She immediately saw her own profile. Both she and the profile raised their eyebrows in surprise. She looked aside, then at the screen again. She turned the screen, and now she saw herself looking at the screen in which she was looking at the screen in which—
This was spooky. Big Brother could be watching her any time, any place.
She went back to the original Glynis menu, then turned the screen back to its original position. Glynis scrolled down the menu, unable to choose from all the different Glynisses. But then, at the bottom was an option she hadn’t seen before: ‘Overview for the Professor’. Ah, she smiled wryly, Glynis for Beginners. She pressed that one.
Olivia’s face appeared on the screen. She was highly dressed-up and preposterously made-up. “Hello Professor,” she said. “I assume you’ve already been briefed about what we do here and how. Here’s a short overview of the results we’ve achieved using my special method.” Her image slowly faded, to be replaced by the image of a naked, newborn female baby, but her voice was heard loud and clear, “Once you get used to the idea, you discover that this is just like parallel universes. It all starts in precisely one spot – this baby. And then different actions have different consequences. Different action taken by others on the specimen—” specimen! “—at different times result in entirely different people, if you like. Observe Glynis 2.1.” The image changed to what must be a few month old diapered baby. Someone was hugging her. “Our first and major experiment was not a subtle one. We wanted to see what the difference would be between the Glynis 2's who got nothing but love, and the Glynis 2.5's who received no love at all, but were constantly and mercilessly beaten, hurt, maimed, and so on.” Just the words caused Glynis’ face to twist in disgust and anger. The image changed, now the baby was slapped around and hit powerfully.
“I did not say ‘maim’ by accident,” Olivia said. “The Glynis 2.4’s were maimed by us.” The image was now that same-aged kid, her arm clearly broken and twisted around unnaturally. Glynis’ stomach heaved on empty again.
“Now, let’s skip ten years into the specimens’ future.” Olivia’s voice went on. “Glynis 2.41 – one of the future versions of Glynis 2.4. We left her alone with a knife for a while.” The image was now of a ten-year-old girl. Her features were clearly Glynis-like, but she seemed nothing like the image Glynis was used to seeing in the mirror. She was twenty pounds thinner, skin and bones, her entire movements and body were like a boy’s, and the eyes were dead. Glynis 2.41 was sitting on the floor, her pants pulled up to her knees, a knife in her hands. She then began to scratch her legs with the point of the knife, just enough to make permanent white traces. She drew shapes on one leg, and then on another. “And in another instance,” Olivia cut in, and the image changed. The same Glynis was now standing in front of a mirror. She raised her shirt completely, and put a knife underneath the small bulge that was her breast. “As you can see,” Olivia said, as Glynis 2.41 cut underneath her left breast, exactly where it curved, drawing blood, “she is entirely immune to pain, has a knack for self mutilation and despises herself and her body.” There was now half a circle of blood, and Glynis 2.41 changed her attention to the other breast, and began to do the same thing to it. “We have many theories on this. It’s most interesting.
“If you wish to view our papers, or the entire history, everything is available. Meanwhile, let’s go on to other experiments.” Olivia’s face reappeared. “In trying to understand when and how we absorb language-skills, Glynisses 10 through 20 were used. No one spoke to the Glynis 10's until they were a year old. No one spoke to the Glynis 11's until they were two years old. And so on. The results are fascinating. Observe Glynis 15.1, whom, although we have succeeded in teaching her language even though we had started at the late age of six, she is incapable of creating anything resembling independent symbolic logic in her head, even at the age of twelve.” The overview showed Olivia talking to a twelve-year-old Glynis 15.1, who seemed a lot like Glynis herself, except that her movements seemed disjointed somehow.
“How are you feeling, Glynis?” Olivia asked her.
“I am very fine thank you.” She was speaking like she had a speech impediment.
“What did you do today?”
“We played a game yes me and Ron.”
“And was it fun?”
“Oh yes fine thank you.”
“What are you thinking right now?”
Glynis 15.1 strained a bit and crinkled her forehead but for a long while gave no answer.
“Are you thinking about something now, Glynis?” Olivia tried again, patiently.
Again, there was a long silence. This time, she did answer, “What was the question mother I forget.”
“What are you thinking about right now?”
And again there was silence. Olivia’s made-up face reappeared. “We’ve reached the conclusion that Glynis 15.1 was incapable of symbolic logic. She thinks in sounds and music and feelings, but not in words. And so her independent thoughts – as we consider thoughts – were always primitive. Complicated thoughts are impossible without symbolic logic, meaning words. Complicated thoughts are obviously within her potential, had she grown up like me, learning language from age zero. This research would not have been possible if it wasn’t for our experiment. We can’t use real humans as guinea pigs, and we would never have known what a person was capable of if what had happened in her life had happened otherwise. But now we do know.
“If you feel philosophical, it’s as if the person, in this case the specimen, is an empty pot that can be molded in many ways, but not in every way. And each of these ways is specific to that person. After this experiment, we can actually redefine ‘personality’ not as a person’s present personality but as the multitude of possible personalities. But that’s a matter for another day.
“With the Glynis 100's through 120's, we tried to examine guilt. We made sure she accidentally ‘killed’ her father when she was five. Two years later, she accidentally killed her mother. Everything she did turned out for the worse. The way she handled it is amazing. Watch.”
Glynis watched it all. She watched the guilty Glynis and Glynis the murderer. She watched Glynis the egomaniac (close to her mother) and Glynis the genius (an experiment in how to bring out the fullest potential in humans). She watched the sexually abused Glynis and the clinically insane Glynis. She watched the Glynis 1000’s to 2000’s, each of whom had had a different part of her brain removed through an operation in virtual reality (in this way Olivia could learn what each part of the brain really did). And the more she watched, the more she felt what little control she had over her life slip away. She was someone else’s toy, and she had no choice in the matter, no way out. It was a gut feeling of true and overwhelming helplessness.
What if she told her mother she didn’t consent? No one asks to be born, Olivia will say. Besides, Olivia had originally given consent. Well, Glynis was grown-up now, and she was a thinking, feeling person, able to grant or deny consent, especially about being born again. And she does not consent! But no one would listen to her. She’s just a computer program. She’s just a copyrightable piece of data.
And besides, the experiment was too important. They couldn’t scrap everything and begin from zero. Olivia had invested her life in this. Her precious Nobel was waiting for her.
Olivia would choose the project over her any day. And that hurt more than anything. It hurt physically, inside her stomach.
No real, loving mother could really let these horrible things be done to others that are exactly like her daughter. She wouldn’t have let Glynis 2.41 be maimed, if she didn’t see all Glynisses as experiments and nothing more. And even if Olivia did feel love towards Glynis 1.0, it probably didn’t compare, it probably couldn’t compare, to the love of a mother to her real daughter. It couldn’t.
She fell back into her chair, drained of energy, exhausted.
I’m nothing. I’m nothing to my mother. She doesn’t really think I’m her daughter, she doesn’t really love me.
And Glynis realized that despite everything Olivia’s done, despite the hate Glynis felt toward her, and despite the fact that she wasn’t her biological mother, Glynis couldn’t help but see her as her mother. That was something Glynis couldn’t erase, no matter how badly she wanted to. She still couldn’t tear herself completely from Olivia, despite her incredible betrayals. She needed Olivia, she needed Olivia to like her. She needed her mother!
But that didn’t go both ways. There are thousands and thousands of other lab rats just like me. How am I different from all the others? How am I special? How can I possibly be anything if the only man who ever slightly cared about me, even though I’m just a bunch of ones and zeros, says I’m not real?
She sat up, fingers clicking at the keyboard. It was time to check the one thing she had avoided, because, until now, she still had hope that what Steve had said wasn’t true. But now there was no hope.
It was time to see what she really looked like.
Cutting in from Olivia’s original page to the Institute’s mainframe, she searched for the folders in which Glynis’ 1.0 programming resided. She found the computer unit in which she was located. There was the icon: Olivia’s small face, and underneath it the name ‘Glynis 1.0’. She could manipulate that icon now. She could erase it, she could stop it, she could run herself from the beginning or from any other time. It freaked her out.
But that wasn’t what she was looking for. She pressed the right button, and saw the icon’s ‘properties’. She traced the program’s .exe file to the right folders, and now she saw the ten files that were Glynis 1.0. There we are. Glynis. In the flesh. In the ‘code’.
She broke into her own ‘code’, even as it was running. There it was, the code that gave her her body, that represented her blood, the air she breathed, the food she ate, the sweat, her glands, her saliva, her cells, her DNA, her hair, her fingernails, her teeth... Millions and millions of lines of code. Jesus fucking Christ!
She let the code scroll endlessly down, as she just stared at it. Real people had to cut their flesh to see what they’re made of. Me, cutting my flesh wouldn’t do that. This is what I’m made of.
The program scrolled down and down. You had to give Olivia credit, it was ingenious. Who thought we could achieve this so soon? And she’d done it more than thirteen years ago! You had to give the woman credit. But why me?! Why would she do that to me?!
And as self-pity engulfed her, the hazy lines that ran down the screen almost too fast to read, suddenly began to make sense. She was a good programmer herself, and some of the code was obvious. She slowed the scrolling down a bit. Yes. She could... tweak this.
She could change her own code. Suddenly, she stopped the scrolling, and jumped from one place to another in the program that represented her. The part about how the cells functioned – that was a tough one, and she couldn’t understand it. But all the rest – the physical rules of the virtual reality, that was easy.
Here was the part where the hardness or softness of every object was defined. Simple manipulation, and she could walk through walls...
Here was the part in which the shape of the environment was defined. She could change that. She could live in a palace or a jungle or...
Here was the part where the images of the visitors were defined – Olivia, Ron, Elizabeth, and, probably a recent addition, Professor Von Wannabe. She could get Olivia to look like Ron or Glynis or an elephant...
Here was the part that interpreted ‘photons’, as they touched her ‘retinas’. All those equations must be complicated physics stuff. But there was an easy place to tweak: The computer interpreted what she could see based on the location of the virtual eyes. She could tweak the code and get the computer to have her ‘see’ from whatever coordinates she wanted to without her having to move. In fact, she could find the place where she moves, and tweak that, so that she could simply ‘jump’ from place to place...
Here was the part responsible for the way Glynis herself looked. That was a tougher one. The program was told to search what is the ‘outside’ of Glynis – the exterior cells, mainly, but it also searched for blood or bones or muscles outside the body (in case of injury). Then the program would ‘color in’ the shape according to the analysis of Glynis’ body. But Glynis’ image didn’t have to have anything to do with her cells or muscles or bones, did it? It could be anything, too. She could tell the program to forget about Glynis’ exterior, and to simply put an image of... of anyone or anything. Imagine Olivia’s surprise, if the next time she walked in, she’d be looking at a mirror image of herself. Or if Glynis looked like the Professor. That would be something. But... But the potential was even greater, Glynis realized. Who said she needed an image? This was virtual reality, after all. She could have no image – she could become invisible.
And with her completely invisible, with her body able to pass through things, with Glynis not having to move from place to place but able to simply ‘jump’ there – Glynis would still be Glynis, but the only thing that would be left from Glynis – the true Glynis – would be... what?
The brain. She couldn’t tweak her thoughts or her emotions. She was and always would be a brain, a brain connected to a nonexistent body, but that depended on it to breathe, to supply blood, and perhaps to do other things we don’t know about. She’d always feel her body, she’d be able to run, or jump or lift her hands. Her body would still grow tired, it would still itch, because the programming was of the body and the brain. But her body could be turned invisible, it could all be turned into objects that don’t interact with anything in ‘reality’. Because her programming was bound to humanity’s rules, Glynis’ brain couldn’t exist without her body. But the body didn’t have to be physical at all, did it?
She turned away from the screen and stared at the wall. This was too much. She was human and yet not human. She was thousands of different people, she would be thousands and maybe millions... But they would never be her. They could never be her.
Her eyes suddenly lit up. There was a way to insure she would be unique! There was one more thing that could be tweaked in her programming!
She got rid of the ‘view’ ability and accessed the program itself, even as it was running, and began to change its code. The irony of herself being a program that was consciously changing its own programming flashed through her mind, and she typed faster.
Within fifteen minutes, she was done. Until now, the program saved its data – Glynis’ and the environment’s exact condition – once a minute. Now the program could no longer ‘save’ itself. But this was not enough. She had seen where the ‘saved’ information was sent to – and now she accessed that place. Here they were. All the records of Glynis 1.0 from her birth to a second ago – her entire life in one minute intervals saved on a computer. Erasing all this would take her hours. She quickly wrote a program that would delete each and every memory of her. The program would also make sure that none of her memories could be undeleted. And, when it was over, it would hide itself, and if any records of Glynis 1.0 ever appeared – it would erase them, as well.
She wrote the program and executed it. She watched the screen, as moments of her life began to disappear, a hundred at a time, beginning from the present and going back. She had not tampered with Olivia’s experiment. She had just made sure that she would never relive her past. Of all the other Glynisses, she was unique. There would only be one version of Glynis 1.0. Only one. And when she died, she would not be reborn. Not her. Some other copyrighted Glynis. Not her.
She watched, as her entire thirteenth year had erased itself. The month before her twelfth birthday... she remembered how excited she had been, how innocent she had been there, unaware of the truth. And for a moment a hint of regret appeared. But what she was erasing was not memories. This was no album she could look at. This was the moment she had lived. To relive that would be to relive it exactly as it had been, from her point of view then, with no additional information or memories. It was not an album. Half the year was now gone. Good.
It was odd how most people would kill to get the kind of immortality she was now throwing away. To live forever. That every moment of her life was remembered, could be lived through again. People dreamt of this kind of immortality. And all she wanted was to be forgotten. No, that wasn’t true. She wanted to be unique. And this was the only way to get it.
Her eleventh year had now been erased.
Glynis wondered how Olivia would take this. Now that she wasn’t an experiment, now that she couldn’t take back her mistakes, now that Glynis was as unique as anyone else. How would she react? Would she finally see her not as an experiment, a specimen, but as a person, as... as her daughter?
Then she realized that she wasn’t doing it to be unique. She was doing it for her mother. All her belief in her mother’s love, in the life they’d had, had vanished. She wanted proof that her mother loved her after all, that she really wanted her, that she cared for her, that... that she was her mother.
How stupid. How pathetic.
Her tenth year was now gone.
Stupid or not, pathetic or not, it was how she felt. She couldn’t change that. (And she couldn’t ‘tweak’ it, either.)
How would Olivia take this? She reduced the window with her vanishing life to a corner in the screen, and accessed the cameras, again. Where was Olivia?
She switched from camera to camera, from viewing post to viewing post, from one computer-filled room to another. Seeing Professor Von Wildman, she stopped, but Olivia was no longer with him.
Her ninth year was now completely erased.
Glynis continued to camera-hop. She stopped for a moment, seeing Ron sitting at a computer panel. She was about to move on to the next camera, when Olivia stepped into view and leaned over his shoulder. Glynis executed AdLip.
“—massive alarm,” Ron was saying. “And I can see why.”
“What? What is it?”
“Glynis 1.0,” he said. “Her records are erasing themselves.”
“What?!” Olivia looked afraid.
“See, whatever it is, it’s already erased all her records after her eighth birthday.”
“Bring them back! I need them! Bring them back!”
“I can’t! They’re not deleting themselves like normal programs, into the trash bin. They’re really deleting themselves! Hundreds at a time! That’s why the alarm went off. One of our virus alerts turned on the sirens because of the massive deletions.”
Cool, Glynis thought. I triggered a virus alert.
“So, you’re saying there’s a virus infecting Glynis 1.0?”
“At least everything we’ve saved from her.”
“What about Glynis herself?! Is the virus affecting her? Show me Glynis! Is she all right? Show me Glynis!”
“Hold on.” He tapped at the keys. Glynis could glimpse his screen from her viewpoint. She stared at it intently. Within seconds, the image of the living room appeared. Bastards! They could look in on me any time they wanted to. They could see me taking showers, dressing... Her face went red.
“She’s not in the living room,” Ron said. “But at least the environment seems unaffected.”
“Try her room.”
Glynis tensed up. From the corner of her eyes, she saw that her seventh year was now gone. She saw Ron hit the keys, and concentrated on the screen, trying to seem natural.
There it was, on the screen – her image. She was sitting at her desk, staring intently at the computer screen.
“She seems fine,” Ron said.
“Turn on audio,” Olivia urged him. “I want to know that everything is fine.”
Both Olivia and Ron bent closer to the screen, when suddenly the Glynis’ face looked aside and straight at them right through the screen, “Hi, mom. Hi, Ron. How are you two doing?”
Olivia took a step back. “What? Can she see us?”
“Don’t be ridi—”
“Of course I can see you, mom,” Glynis said. She turned her computer screen so that it could be seen from their point of view. “See? Here’s you, and here’s Ron.”
“How? How—? What?!” Olivia couldn’t gather her thoughts, while Ron looked behind him at the camera.
“Holy Mother of—” he whispered.
“By the way, Pat sends her best from Thomas’ place. We have a fine daughter, don’t we, Olivia?”
Olivia’s face suddenly twisted, and she bent forward menacingly, “You talked to Pat?”
“No, I didn’t talk to her, I just saw her. By the way, Mom. I like your place on 88th Ave. Especially the Chagall in the living room. It goes great with your blue wallpaper.”
“Ron, how is this possible?” Olivia whispered.
“I’ll tell you how it’s possible,” said Glynis. “I’ve been talking to some ghosts. Our father, Jonathan Hatch, sends his regards from the grave.”
“Ron, stop her!” Olivia said.
“Oh, by the way,” Glynis seemed to remember something else. “Glynis 2.4 sends you her best regards and thanks you for the treatment she received at your fine establishment.”
“Stop her!” Olivia wasn’t looking at the screen anymore. “Freeze her!”
“And one last thing,” Glynis said. “How’s that nasty virus?”
“I can’t,” Ron said. “To stop the program, I have to save it. And it won’t let me save it. If I stop it without saving, we’ll lose Glynis.”
Glynis waited a while, as Ron tried a few more things. At the bottom of her screen, a message flashed. The last – and first – moments of her life were now gone. Glynis then said in a somber tone, “You can’t save me, mom. You can’t freeze me, you can’t undo me, you can’t replay me. You can’t deal with me later! You have to deal with me now!!”
“Move aside,” Olivia told Ron. He obeyed. Olivia sat down and looked at the screen. “What do you want, Glynis? How are you doing all this?”
“I understand computers, mom. And I’m no less intelligent than you.”
“You’re responsible for the virus, aren’t you?” Glynis said nothing, afraid of Olivia’s tone. “What else did you do?”
“Nothing, and it’s not a virus. I erased my own records and that’s it. Mom,” and now she spoke angrily, even as tears began to fall. “I know what I am! I know who I am! I know about your theories, I know about all your other Glynisses. I know you lied to me!” And she began to cry. “All my life you lied to me. I know I’m not really your daughter. I know, mom. I know... You can’t lie to me again.”
“Don’t you feel smart,” Olivia said with rancor. “You beat me.”
“I didn’t do it to beat you!” Glynis shouted.
“Glynis, don’t you understand that all your tears now could have been spared? I could’ve run you again from before you found out about any of this. I could’ve made sure that you never did find out. That you had a happy life!”
“You can’t do that, mom!” Glynis slammed her hand on the table. “I’m real! I’m not a program! I’m real! You have to deal with me!”
Olivia was silent for a minute. Then she said, “What exactly do I have to deal with?”
“I know exactly who and what I am now, mom. The question remains: Who am I in your eyes? Am I an experiment? Am I your daughter? Will you raise me, now, as a real daughter?”
Olivia turned around and said to Ron, “This is unacceptable. Are you sure you can’t save her as she is? I can’t deal with this right now.”
“I’m here!” Glynis shouted. “Don’t talk like I’m not here!”
“Whatever she did,” Ron told Olivia, “I’ll have to call on our original programmers, and it’ll take them time to find it and reverse it.”
“Olivia,” Glynis said. “If you had a real emergency back home. If I were Pat, what would you do? Would you run home? Or would you stay at work and ignore her?”
“You have five minutes, Ron.” Olivia kept ignoring Glynis. “Find a way to save her, or, preferably, to undo what she’s done.”
“Olivia!” Glynis screamed. “Do I have to delete some other Glynisses before you start paying attention to me?!”
Olivia’s head shot at the screen and her eyes narrowed. She roared, “Don’t... you... DARE!”
“Answer my question, then!”
Olivia stared at the screen. Then her face twisted wryly. She said, “Fine. When Pat was born, Glynis, during those first few weeks, I could understand why people believe in god. Because you have this powerful feeling that says: something this beautiful, something this gorgeous and incredible couldn’t be the result of chance. Pat is my daughter. And – I’m sure it’s not true, but in my eyes it certainly is – I love her like no other mother ever loved her kid. Pat is my daughter, Glynis.
“But you— You’re me. I could never really see you as beautiful. I could never really look at you without, in some way, being disgusted at aspects of myself. You’re not an experiment like the other Glynisses. But you are an experiment. My experiment. You’re my attempt at the best possible me. I wanted to see if I could create a happy Olivia. I tried to spare you – to spare me – all the personal aches I had during my childhood. I did my best, but you went through most of them anyway. And all the trouble I had with my parents – I spared you those, but you went through others no less powerful with me. Glynis, you were supposed to be the perfect me. But you know what? You’re not. I’m the perfect me.
“And now... With what you’ve done, and with the threat you made, you just showed me that my experiment is over.”
“I didn’t really mean to erase other Glynisses.”
“It doesn’t matter. I did plan to take away your computer and tv before I went public with my experiment. But now... You’re not a happy Glynis anymore. You never will be again, not knowing what you know. And I can’t go back to a happier time and make sure this never happened. So... Why waste my time? Why keep the illusion? What’s the use?” And her finger hovered above the ‘delete’ button.
Glynis felt herself sink.
“Go on,” she sobbed, her throat raw. “Press the damned button!”
“Wait a second,” Ron said, his manner hesitant. “Don’t I get say in this?”
“She can ruin the project, Ron,” Olivia said, keeping her eyes on the screen, and her finger above ‘delete’. “She’s just a computer program. And didn’t you just last week complain that you had too much Glynis-time, and that you had no real life? Would you take care of her?”
“Try and interfere,” she whispered, “and I’ll fire you.”
Ron made a face, then looked away, submissive.
For the first time, Olivia looked at the camera. “You did this to yourself, Glynis. This could all have been prevented. You did this. You forced me to press the button.”
“Mom,” Glynis cried, “I—” Olivia looked at the screen now, and her finger approached the button, “—still—” the finger was getting closer “—love—” Olivia’s finger touched the button but did not press it, “—you.”
Olivia hesitated for one more second, then pressed the button. Glynis’ eyes widened, her heart hammered in fear, and—
Copyright © 2001 by Guy Hasson
Bio:This is Guy Hasson's fifth story in Aphelion. He is a playwright as well as a science fiction writer. His previous sf publications also include stories in Anotherealm, Millennium Fantasy and Science Fiction, Planet, and Demensions. His science fiction book, In the Beginning..., was published last year by 4goodbooks.com, and his next sf book, Hope for Utopia, will soon be published by Fictionworks.