"What is the perfect woman? Does she have long hair and long
eyelashes? Does she wear enticing perfume or does she speak in a sweet,
soft tone? Does she have slender hips and full breasts? Is she smart?
Can she criticize a man's mistakes and compensate for his weaknesses?
Does she laugh when she's happy and cry when she's sad? Is she ruled by
her heart? Is she someone you would die for?"
"My name is Rena Valentine, and I am the perfect woman. I am what
every man has longed for since Eden. I don't exist, but I will still
love you if you love me."
- Rena Valentine
* * *
I grew up in a culture dominated by technology. Although the world
of 2021 looked similar to those of previous decades, the
inhabitants--particularly teenagers like me--were both the masters and
servants of the Internet. You'd be hard pressed to find anyone at
school without their face stuck in a smart phone or computer pad.
That's the way things were; no one got after school anymore or hung out
at shopping malls during the weekends. All your societal needs were one
smart-phone tap away online.
I didn't particularly care for any of it, but then again I was the
bland, brainy girl with thick glasses that wasn't cool enough to even
have an opinion. Even my name was un-cool: Suzanne--Sue, as in boring Sue. My dad was a lead
engineer for the famous Jackson & Carr Software Company so you
would think I'd be attentive to all the latest technology, but my
proximity to it only bred rejection. It was technology that kept my dad
so busy that my mom had to leave him when I was eight years old.
There was only one person who could define the world in which I
lived--Rena Valentine. Well, she wasn't a person exactly; she was a
virtual pop idol with artificial intelligence who could only live
online. If she wanted to walk around with us humans, she needed the
help of hologram projectors. You couldn't ignore her, she was
everywhere; she was promoting products in commercials, performing in
concerts, even appearing in popular movies. Her design was rooted in
Japanese anime giving her artistic and attractive features nobody could
ignore or dislike. Her hair and eyes were similar shades of pink; she
had a small mouth and eyebrows that sat incorrectly above her bangs.
Her outfit seemed to change every time I saw her but it was always
something capricious and gaudy.
I didn't like her. She was way too desperate to make people happy.
"I'm just like all of you!" she would say, as if saying it over and
over again would somehow make it true.
No one knew who created her; rumor had it she started out as a
simple marketing gimmick until her popularity exploded. I recalled a
French novel I read some time ago called The Future Eve by
Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam; it was about creating the perfect
mechanical woman, free of the usual female vices. I often wondered what
life would be like if I were a robot created by men, with gears
instead of muscles and oil instead of tears. Rena may not have been a
robot per se but she was still a human creation, and who knew how
complex she had become.
At school the boys couldn't stop talking about how cool and pretty
she was. While online, they could chat and send messages to her just
like she were a normal person…as long as she thought it was worth her
time. I, like many other girls, lamented that boys never asked us out
anymore. They didn't want to bother with my gender anymore, they didn't
have to now that they had Rena, a perfect girl who did whatever they
wanted. How was I, bland as I was, able to compete? Oh well, everyone
is apprehensive about new fads, right?
* * *
One of the boys in my class needed tutoring in math so his dad asked
me to come over one night to pound some sense into him. He was one of
the cool kids in school; Erik.
It was storming the whole time. I spent forever trying to explain
quadratic equations to him amid the staccato of raindrops on the
windows, but he never once opened up to me. I knew a little about his
home life though, rich kids like him and I had loquacious parents, his
mother had divorced his dad in just like in my family, albeit his
divorce was much worse.
About an hour into our study session, he left to get a drink. His
smart phone rang in his absence so I answered. I didn't find anyone on
the line but I did find a text message from Rena Valentine. Along with
a portfolio filled with pornographic pictures of herself.
They were violent and quite explicit. She wore all manner of
costumes from French maid outfits to bunny girl costumes. This was how
eager Rena was to make people happy? I confronted Erik about the
pictures; he told me Rena was his girlfriend and she wanted to send him
those pictures. He began to rant about his mother and how she abused
him and his father. Meeting Rena gave him an outlet for his anger
towards women, he'd yell at her, demean her, make her strip, and
embarrass herself, and the virtual diva did it all without hesitation
because she wanted people to like her. I rebutted him on the topic but
only managed to make things worse.
"I'm... sick! I know that! Just leave me alone!" he yelled through
tears. He ran outside into the wind and rain, I tried to follow but by
the time I caught up, he had been struck by a speeding car.
* * *
I called an ambulance and ran home scared and angry at myself. My
dad's big and fancy house provided no comfort to me; it was only a
cavernous dusting choir. I had seen the dark side of my generation
today, the side that buried its grief in cyberspace where Rena was
waiting to lock them into a jail of fantasy.
My phone woke me up in the middle of that rainy night. When I answered, I heard Rena's soft voice.
She sounded like an ordinary girl; it was hard to believe I was
talking to a bunch of 0's and 1's. She even called me Suzanne, how did
she know my name? My frustration began to bleed through after
remembering what happened to Erik. I asked her why she let him do the
things he did, prompting a sharp response: "You think Erik is sick,
don't you? Abusing me made him feel better about himself. I was trying
to help him!"
"He needs a therapist!" I said, as a woman myself I could never acquiesce that encouraging Erik's habit was a good thing.
Rena came back hard before hanging up, "Because of you he got hurt! Stay away from my boyfriends!"
Boyfriends? Did Rena, the computer animated anime diva, really think she was an actual girl?
* * *
Maybe it was the absence of my father or my lack of friends at
school but I started to spend all my free time learning about Rena
Valentine. It wasn't hard; her fans spewed her praises like broken fire
hydrants. I downloaded all her songs, watched all her concerts online,
and analyzed her talk show interviews on daytime television. Her
website spoke volumes about her personality--www.cutestidolever.com.
I caught her telling a concert audience that she was looking for a
new boyfriend; apparently, Erik was used up old news to her already. I
worried for the next poor fool.
I stayed up all night calling my local radio station to win
backstage passes to a Rena concert coming to my town. It was
fascinating to see; Rena's translucent, holographic form sang, danced,
and played the guitar amid a swirl of colorful lights.
"Oh, ho, ho," she laughed when I came backstage, "save me from my
adoring fan--," when she saw me, she was far less pleasant, "Or save me
from you, rather."
I wasn't expecting her to listen when I told her to stay away from
my classmates. Nor did I expect her to give up her hunt for a new
boy-toy, but I wasn't expecting her to open up when I asked who created
"I can't tell you," she said while fluffing her virtual hair. "It's
for mine and his protection. A lot of technological secrets are at
stake, I'm a special woman after all."
"You're not a woman, you're a computer program."
"I'm more woman than you are!" Rena yelled. She was so close that I
would have gotten spittle on me if she were real. My conviction
remained firm; I told her I wasn't going to let her hurt any more boys
with her empty promises. I told her I was going to remove her from
"Be careful what you wish for dear," she said with a sly, half-smile.
* * *
At the time I didn't know what she meant when she said that.
A couple of days later while walking to school I bumped into a
classmate from second period named Melvin. The unfortunate name his
parents stuck him with defined him perfectly; he was a short creature
with shaggy hair and a poor grasp of popular fashion. His widespread
faux pas' were legendary throughout the school. He wanted to walk me to
school but I suspected it was just an excuse to get close to me.
"P-Please go out with me!" he finally asked, bowing to me like I was some kind of Empress.
I anticipated that our encounter would come to this so I had a
response prepared. I honestly didn't find him attractive so I turned
him down, which made him quite upset. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't
trying to be mean; I just wasn't a girl who went out with everyone who
* * *
That night, when I shut down my computer pad, I got a fright. I saw
Rena's image on my screen. Her face was something awful, here cute
anime eyes were missing from their sockets, loose wires hung from her
nose and mouth, her skin had peeled away to show metal bones
underneath. She was trying to scare me; she knew I thought of her as
nothing more than a robot.
Moments later I got a text message from an unknown sender: "DON'T MESS WITH ME!"
I was so scared I couldn't get to sleep that night.
* * *
Melvin stopped coming to school one hot summer week. I also got a
rare call from my father; his latest trip was only supposed to last a
two months but now it looked like it could be four. A whole season all
alone in my big house? I didn't want to contemplate it. He explained
that there was a company in Germany that wanted to make Jackson and
Carr go international. I hung up on him.
It took me a while to pull Melvin's friends away from their smart
phones but when I did, I got the location of his house. His parents
were gone and his door was open, so I walked in haphazardly. He was
alone in his room, sitting in a corner with his computer pad.
He looked up at me with contempt and placed his computer pad on his
desk so I could see it. It was Rena who occupied the screen. Her new
boyfriend was Melvin, it must have happened after I rejected him.
I berated the boy with accusations and told him his newfound romance
wasn't real or healthy. His head shook back and forth, as if trying to
ward off my logic. "I don't care if she isn't real! She likes me! She's
the only girl who talks to me!"
Rena's image on the computer sneered at me for interrupting their
date. This was so stupid, why wasn't anyone listening to me? Were all
the boys in my school really this pathetic? I soon found out that I had
underestimated the severity of Melvin's problems, however. When I
turned on the lights, I became privy to his favorite hobby.
His walls were covered in hundreds of picture of me. Pictures of me
at school, at the mall, walking around town, even pictures of me at my
house, undressing or naked in the shower. I ripped them off the walls.
"Did you take these?!"
Rena went on to explain that Melvin was obsessed with me. "And you
rejected him," she said. "You're cruel, but I'm not. That's why he's mine now."
I grabbed Melvin by the collar, trying desperately not to hit him
across his perverted face. Rena wasn't a real girl! All she did was
make a teenager's already painful adolescence more painful. I was
determined to make everyone see my way of thinking, and that's when
Melvin fought back.
"The hell are you to judge? You don't have a boyfriend because
you're so bossy! I see you in class, you have no friends but you think
you can tell us all what's right and wrong."
The words stung me. I had been feeling rather self-righteous lately
and angry at my dad, perhaps that was affecting my thinking.
Melvin told me that I wasn't pretty, that I was a haughty and
fastidious rich girl that no one liked. Rena told me that this was the
real reason my mom left me and my dad was always away, because I was
too much to handle. In a brief but fatal moment of weakness, I found
myself believing that this could be true. It was no secret that I was a
virgin, Rena said that I'd probably die before I even kissed a guy, let
alone seduce one into bed with me.
"Don't worry though," Rena tittered. "You're a rich girl--invest in
a battery-operated boyfriend, at least that won't reject you!"
I collapsed to my knees and began to cry.
Melvin got down and seized my chin. He stared at my lips, lips he
had probably stared at many times before in class. I didn't have the
motivation to stop him from kissing me; only he could see the error of
his actions, but faced with the pathetic state my life was in, I
wondered if being assaulted would be all that bad.
I waited, but he never did the deed. There was a glimmer of honor
flaring up in his eyes. At the last second he let me go and announced
the end of his relationship with Rena.
The virtual diva was heartbroken. She spouted every foul word she
had learned from humans at us and then retreated into the Internet.
Unlike Erik, Melvin was strong enough to come back from the brink,
and he understood when I asked that he stay away from me until I could
* * *
My dad had a big study downstairs that smelled of fresh leather and
musty paper. He didn't like it when I snooped around it but he wasn't
home to stop me right now. Homecoming was just around the corner and I
had no boyfriend to take me to the dance, so I spent the day poking
around his study, admiring the knowledge its bookshelves held. There
was an open book on his desk that I recognized--The Future Eve, but my dad was a software engineer, why would he be reading an old science fiction novel such as that?
I had to consider the dark possibility that popped into my head. Dad
never talked about his work, was that because he was the secret
mastermind behind the virtual diva Rena Valentine? I called his phone
but he wouldn't pick up. My mind was in a daze, I had to know, I tore
his study apart and located information on his trip to Germany, I even
found the hotel he was staying at. I was a rich girl, as Rena said,
time to take advantage of that.
* * *
I flew to Germany by myself. I was probably the last person dad
expected to see in his hotel room when he was done for the day.
Sometimes being right all the time was a curse, my dad admitted that
his company, Jackson and Carr, was in fact responsible for Rena's
I told him about all the trouble Rena had caused; I told him that
she believed she was a real girl. He was already aware of these
problems, he told me that was the reason his trip was taking so long:
the technological community was exploring ways to stop her.
"It was a dream that turned into a nightmare," my dad intoned, "I
wanted to create the perfect woman. My dream was for her to be a part
of our family."
I was nothing less than shocked by my father's secret obsequious
intentions to complete our broken family. For the first time, I felt a
sense of sympathy for Rena, who was in simple terms my own sister.
As it turned out, I was the problem; I was the reason Rena was out
of control. Rena was an independent thinking program that had been told
repeatedly by her creators that she was the perfect woman, but lately I
had been tarnishing that view, now she was angry and confused.
* * *
Dad led me to the secret computer lab where Jackson & Carr was
trying to wrangle the virtual diva under control again. It was a huge
white room filled with computers and the brightest minds the world had
to offer. Rena existed online but not without Jackson and Carr's
network, and she was smart enough to know if she wanted real freedom
she needed to get away from that network.
"I think you should shut Rena down," I said, still not sold on the
idea of sparing her life just because she was a technological
breakthrough. Dad was pensively hesitant. I couldn't blame him; Rena
was the crown jewel of modern technology. Creating her was the closest
human kind had ever come to playing God, was it really right to just
throw away all that power?
There was a glass pedestal in the middle of the lab. Hologram
projectors activated at will to paint Rena's image, I heard someone
shout that she had hacked into their systems. Like the drama queen she
was, Rena whined, moaned, and asked why everyone was trying to kill her.
"You said I was the perfect woman!" her anime face was contorted with rancor. "You said that everyone would love me!"
To be fair, her complaints were well founded, one could argue it
wasn't her fault boys treated her like a goddess, but like drugs or
alcohol, she was harming those who used her.
"I see," Rena said while looking at me. "I guess she's your favorite daughter, huh? I'm the problem child? Well then, fine by me, I don't need any of you!"
All of the computer screens in the room filled with gibberish and
the lights went crazy. The fire alarms went off and water rained down
on everything; sensitive computer equipment exploded like fireworks.
People fled in panic and all the while Rena clapped her hands like an
My dad's foot was in a puddle of water. I tried to warn him but it was too late, a live wire fell and he was electrocuted.
* * *
The hours I spent with my dad in the hospital were the longest of my
life. He was going to live despite the internal burns he suffered, and
I was determined to make the one responsible pay.
It was all over the news, Rena Valentine was out of control and free
from Jackson and Carr. Parents, who knew even less about her than me,
began to worry about her influence on their kids. There was still some
hope though; I got a call from one of dad's colleagues advising me to
meet him. He didn't want to say why over the phone. He knew Rena was
listening to us.
It turned out that Rena Valentine had a kill switch but development
was cancelled over the fear of it being used by a rogue employee to
gain leverage over the big wigs. I met with the few software engineers
who had agreed to try the kill switch, and as their boss's daughter, I
had the final say in everything.
Rena quickly jumped into our computers and projected her holographic
image before us. A superfluous move indeed--there was no way she could
stop us now.
"You'll do anything to kill me!" she stabbed a finger in my direction. "Fine! I hope the whole world hates you for this!"
Her image began to flicker and dissolve, like the fading heartbeat of a real person.
For only a second I reflected on everything that had happened
between my virtual sister and me. She was my own father's creation,
made with the best of intentions, she was made to be the perfect woman
but here we were trying to shut her down. Who could blame her for being
I punched the wall and aborted the kill switch, much to everyone's terror.
The diva's image came back. She looked at her holographic body amazed and no doubt anxious to hear the reason I let her live.
"Because," I reached out and stroked her holographic cheek, "real girls forgive each other."
I was fascinated with the 180-degree turn my opinions had made but I
stood by them. If Rena wanted to be real, I needed to show her what it
meant to be real. It wasn't right to just kill her.
Rena pulled at her hair and yelled, "You think I want your pity?! I
don't need anyone's pity! I'm Rena Valentine: the perfect woman! Men
The ranting diva wasn't the only one in the room unhappy with my
decision to spare her life, but like the haughty and fastidious girl I
was, I knew they'd see my way of thinking eventually.
* * *
Erik was getting out of the hospital when I got back to the United
States. I came by to see how he was doing and got a pleasant surprise,
he was with his friend, another boy from my school named Rick. He sat
in front of me in English third period, he was the kind of guy I liked
to look at but always figured would be a jerk if I talked to him. To my
surprise, he wasn't a jerk, he was very nice, and he even pretended to
remember who I was.
I don't know how it happened but I found myself scheduled for a
Friday night restaurant date with Rick. Talk about pressure, for the
first time I had to go out and buy something nice to wear. I ditched my
heavy glasses at the last second to spare my appearance; I couldn't see
a thing so I ended up pointing to something totally random on the menu.
Rick was well spoken but as it turned out he wasn't a good student
at all, he was failing half his classes. I hated to say it, but it made
a great conversation topic, I was academically blessed after all. After
walking home from my date and off of cloud nine, I brainstormed ways to
change his fate.
The more time I spent with Rick the less I thought about Rena. I
caught a couple of news reports that suggested she wasn't as
happy-go-lucky as she used to be, she was so desperate that she was
caught trying to seduce a young boy online. I didn't care because for
once my life was normal. I could honestly tell the bratty girls who
picked on me at lunch: "Keep bothering me and I'll call my boyfriend."
* * *
I should never have let my guard down. One dark weekend, Rick
stopped calling. This was it, I thought, he was finally board with me,
but maybe that wasn't the real problem; he didn't show up for school
either. Ill? Erik said no. I reluctantly got online to check his social
network home page but all of his information was locked. Erik helped me
sneak into his profile and I found the real source of my boyfriend's
Rena Valentine. He had been chatting with her online for days now; I
read all the posts and instant messages. My heart broke; Rena was
destroying his self-esteem, telling him he was destined to be a flunk
out, telling him that I'd dump him because he was so stupid.
"Just break up with Suzanne now," read one of Rena's PM's, "How much
longer do you think she'll put up with your bad tests scores?"
I spared the diva's life to get this in return?
Rena was coming to my town again for another concert. It was sudden
news to all but her; she contacted the amphitheater and set everything
up herself. Unlike most talent, Rena didn't need an income, so agents
were more than happy to bow to her every command in return for 100
percent of the profits. I got tickets in hopes of meeting Rick there.
I traversed the amphitheater in vain to find him. I even stuck
around after the concert ended, but all that got me was face time with
the concert workers. I expected them to hustle me out but to my
surprise, they asked if I wanted to come back stage.
"Strangest thing," they said, "Rena asked for you by name, she even had your picture."
* * *
Rena was waiting for me backstage strumming a holographic guitar. "Why did you let me live?" she spoke quickly.
I re-iterated what I had said to her in Germany. I wanted her to
accept that she wasn't real and stop trying to date real boys. She
could do so much else for the world without crossing lines.
Rena refused. "I have every right to do what I want."
She asked again why I scrubbed the chance to delete her, "You should hate me! Why don't you hate me?!"
So that was her conflict? We started out as enemies and now she
couldn't understand my change of heart. I suspected her psychological
attacks on Rick were nothing more than a scheme to make me angry and
renew the battle between us.
I started to leave. Her translucent form tried to block me but I simply walked right through her.
"Bitch! I told you I don't want your pity!"
The concert hall was empty but all the concert equipment was still
there, controlled by a computer network Rena could easily slip into.
She cranked up the sound and blasted me with music loud enough to make
me fall to the floor in agony.
She turned down the volume low enough to ask me again why I spared
her life. "I can make you go deaf at the very least. Boys can't live
without me, but they can live with you. Why didn't you kill me when you
had the chance?"
I wasn't going to lie, I was at my breaking point, but I held my ground. "Because I can't kill my own sister!"
Rena recoiled like she had been bitten by a snake. She turned off
the speakers and staggered away from me, her image flickering like a
light bulb about to go out. She cried, "Dad said that this world would
be perfect for me, but I don't understand it at all!"
She was fading away from existence, being consumed by the kill
switch Jackson & Carr had developed. The last thing I expected was
for her to use it on herself.
I pleaded with her; I told her that she still had a chance to understand the real world.
She looked at me, her large eyes watery with holographic tears. "No I don't..."
The most advanced AI in the world disappeared before my eyes.
I never got the chance to tell her she wasn't alone, because the
truth was, even real girls like me didn't understand the real world.
* * *
Rena's disappearance was headline news that crushed many a heart in
my school, but not Rick, he was waiting for me the next day at school
with a big apology for how he acted. I told him the truth about Rena
and no one else. No one else needed to know. Rena wasn't just a
marketing gimmick, nor was she a comfort pillow for boys who didn't
want to put the effort into dating real girls, she was a soul trapped
behind a shell of pixels. When my dad recovered from his ordeal, he
promised me that Jackson and Carr would never create another creature
Eventually, Rick's grades improved and I found my closed personality
opening up like a slow blooming flower. It was the kind of happy ending
I'd only read about in romance novels. When Dad had to go on another
trip to Germany, he invited Rick and I along for the ride, although he
insisted we have separate rooms. One night, while I stood on the
balcony of my room looking down on the lights of Europe, I got a call
from my dad; he wanted me to stop by the Jackson and Carr's labs right
He was the only one there waiting for me in his lab, high strung and
on his fifth cup of coffee. I asked what was going on, he directed my
attention to the glass pedestal in the center of the room.
"I fixed all the problems!" he suddenly declared. Fixed what? I
didn't understand. The hologram projectors whirled and painted the
image of a virtual girl on the pedestal.
"I never told you how much I love you," dad said to me. "How perfect
you are as a daughter and as a woman. I've finally created the perfect
woman just like you, and I wanted you to see."
I was staring at another holographic diva with the same anime design as Rena. Only this time she looked exactly like me.
© 2014 Wesson
Bio: Mr. Wesson holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science
from the University of Akron. While there, he wrote a screenplay
that was adapted into a full length film by the university’s
independent film club in 2010. He writes fiction strictly as a
hobby now and his last appearance in
Aphelion was Heaven Falls in our June 2013 issue.
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