by LJ Frank
I entered an urban public library with the simple title of The Urban Library engraved in limestone above the entrance. Was that a person’s surname or a statement of fact?
The architecture was an exquisite example of urban-industrial; provocative in design yet somehow unusual and bewildering. Once you entered the building there was no obvious way back out. The entrance disappeared.
Still, the immediate interior was striking and majestic with a cathedral-like ceiling, several stories high, with prominent steel beams and dangling pedant lights. There was something odd about the scene before my eyes.
The staff moved about and acted as if they were somehow constrained. It was as if they were artificial intelligence robots that only looked human with a skin like exterior.
There was an exception, a woman with a question in her eyes. She was stylishly dressed in a pin-stripe suit and high heels with high-lighted hair whose reddish eyeballs betrayed a sleepless night. Her eyes followed me as I walked by a staff member who nodded to me and asked, “How’s our director today.”
I returned her nod and just smiled. “Fine.” I was the director?
I continued toward an area of tall ranges of book shelves. The woman who watched me earlier approached me while I was looking at a book that I’d just removed from a shelf. She touched my arm, and in a beseeching voice asked, “Are you human?”
“Can you prove it?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’d like to…” then she whispered in my ears. “Please.”
“Yeah! And then you can…for me, for my sake.”
“You know I’m a little fuzzy about things…I’m human.”
A problem developed. Every time we tried to find a secluded place an artificially intelligent staff member was looking at us.
She asked, “As the director, don’t you have an office?”
“If I am, I should have one.”
And we started looking for my office. There was no listing at the elevator for administrative offices, so we took the elevator up to each floor so as not to miss anything. We couldn’t find any administrative offices and what appeared as offices and a board room all had windows with AI like humans behind the windows. They were busy in front of computer screens.
“Not one person is wearing glasses, except me,” I said.
“Now that you mention it. But then neither am I, and I can assure you I’m very human.”
I asked a staff member exiting one of the offices, “Where are the administrative offices?”
“You’re funny. Good sense of humor.” He laughed in a staccato fashion and walked away. We decided to look for an emergency exit. But there were no emergency exits.
“I noticed something peculiar after walking through the building.” My female acquaintance said.
“There’s no cafeteria. Though I saw a couple of battery recharge stations.”
“I noticed them too.”
We took the elevator down to the main floor. Looking around I noticed there was a crack of light in a substantial rectangular floor to ceiling column. I walked over to it and stuck my arm through the crack. Tt started to close. “Ouch!” It pinched my arm through my suit coat. We looked at each other. I noticed a tear forming in my acquaintance’s eyes.
“I need to go to the restroom. I don’t see any. Wait! There’s a door that has the gender symbols for female and male. I’ll try it.”
“Good, I’ll wait here.”
Fifteen minutes later. She’d been gone too long I thought.
I asked a woman exiting the room if she saw a woman wearing a pinstripe suit.
”Sorry sir, I was the only one in that room. If you’ll excuse me I have to return to my Net Space.”
“What was happening,” I mumbled to myself. Who were these people and who was the woman I toured the library with?
My head started to spin. I began to feel nauseated. There was something wet on my back. “What was I feeling?” My head pressed against a pillow.
I opened my eyes and gazed at a ceiling fan. I’d been dreaming. My arm ached. I looked down and there was a piece of wiring sticking out of my forearm. I shook my head.
There was knock at my apartment door. I got up, walked slowly to the door and opened it. It was the woman in the pinstripe suit.
“My god, it’s you. It was real. How did you get out?”
“I’ll tell you later,” she said, holding a pair of wire-cutters in her hand.
I stepped back. “Wait!”
“Don’t worry. I found your background specs on the Net. It’s only your arm.”