<<Hi. You probably know by now who I am, but for those who came in late I’m Joe, Jester’s handler, and I’m going to be uploading some stories over the holiday season while Jester takes a break from reviews.>>
<<This story is a sad one. A sci-fi, this story shows how talent and time can equal something beautiful, but when that is lost the line between genius and madman is erased. Enjoy!>>
The inside of Ja-Kral’s office was raining. Really it was more of a cubical, as he wasn’t a high enough rank to earn an actual office, but nevertheless he had managed to fit a large mahogany desk and comfortable chair into it. He did like the rain though, even if he hadn’t really seen it actually. No, it was much too dangerous to actually see the rain, let alone walk around in it, thanks to the pollutants and acid that had been pumped into the sky years ago. Even the sun was too dangerous since the atmosphere had disappeared, leaving harmful radiation run rampart. But still, he liked the mood the rain gave to his cubicle.
Ja-Kral brushed some simulated raindrops off his desk and replaced them with yet another digital inquiry form. His hands struggled over the keyboard, straining under the pressure of having to manually type-out all of this nonsense for the hundred and umpteenth time today. God he hated his job. But so did everyone, and he was lucky to even get this job, owing to the current financial state the world was in. So he sucked in his gut and got along with everything that was automatically ushered to his workspace by an omnipresent, all-knowing-but-apparantly-not-all-knowing-enough-to-write-out-a-stupid-inquiry-form AI… Oh never mind. He’d file a complaint but it’d probably be ushered back to him to deal with “coincidentally”, and he didn’t want to see another bloody inquiry form forever, if he could get away with it.
And, rain or no rain, he was getting cabin fever with this stinking cubical. He’d probably been here for over thirteen hours now and he still had a massive backlog of work to chew through. He nearly screamed, but he was so tired all that came out was a soft hiss. He needed a break, that’s what he needed. He finished the inquiry form, swept everything off his desk and was about to power down the resident holo-sim when an idea struck him.
He stopped. A mischievous smile crept up onto his face. He closed down every other program in his excuse for an office and stood in the square-meter of space left in his cubical. He reached up and stretched, flexing his back and spinal muscles. He then spoke to his holo.
“Sim, open…” his voice trailed off. God he was tired. He tried again. “Sim,” he said, his voice louder. “Open a blank pad.” The computer opened a program, creating a little, blue, cube-shaped field, three-quarters of a meter in diameter, on his desk. Ja-Kral tapped a face of the cube and began to trace an image onto the cube with his finger. The computer recognized this and marked the line where he had touched.
Ja-Kral kept drawing, making a picture with his hands. He started to smile. He hadn’t done this in ages. He was chosen for this job because of the innate skill he had with using holo-fields. But he normally only used them to write up boring inquiry forms. Now he was using the skills he had picked up over the years and shaped them onto his blank canvas that was the holo-sim. A picture had begun to take place on the face of the cube. It was a simple sketch of a face, feminine and slightly aloof and sophisticated. It didn’t have hair at the moment, and the expression it seemed to be wearing was one of superiority. He drew the face from a perspective that he was looking up at it, the person seemingly taller and looking down at him.
Ja-Kral felt strange. As if he had been filled up with renewed energy. His hands swam over the picture, adding more and more detail. Eyelashes, ears, hair, lips, nose. He was channeling his frustration into this painting. The woman in the picture sprung to life, as if she was being seen for the first time. And Ja-Kral kept drawing away. Finally, after a long time, he had finished the face. She was perfect. He stood back and admired his work. She was very beautiful, with long, wispy hair and a perfectly rounded and symmetrical face. And the eyes… her stare was almost one of offense, like the person watching her was just about to do something drastically rude. She was incredibly realistic. Then the time chimed, signifying another passing hour. This snapped Ja-Kral out of his dream. He had been awake for nearly 20 hours today. The tiredness he had forgotten while giving birth to his creation leapt upon him. He saved the sim to his desktop and stumbled out the cubical door to the building lifts. He pressed down and waited for the lift to close its heavy doors, cutting off the way to his desktop and the beautiful woman he had now created.
The next morning, after sleeping in and getting to work an hour late, Ja-Kral ignored the masses of forms and paperwork in his inbox. Instead, he opened up the picture on his desktop. The sim opened up to exactly where he left it, with that beautiful face and haughty gaze. He studied it. Then he rotated the cube and started drawing the back of her head. He didn’t need construction lines or proportion tools, so he tuned them off. An alarm bleeped, reminding him of his Quota for the day. He ignored it. He couldn’t have any distractions. He kept drawing, focusing on her hair and ears, putting a whisp of white through her otherwise dark hair. He was intensely focused, drawing quickly and accurately. Every line needed to fit perfectly, not a hair could be out of place. Sometime later he received some mail from a colleague who owed him a favor. Again, he ignored the attempt at friendship, busied with his drawing. Hours later, he had started on the left side of her head. She needed to be perfect. Completely, undeniably, bewitchingly perfect.
Ja-Kral was wreaked. He had ignored his body, growing a beard and long hair without even noticing. He smelt, as he hadn’t had a shower in ages. He was thin, almost skeletal, and felt constantly tired. He was spending more and more time in his cubical, even with the warnings that it would be removed and his pay downgraded. He hadn’t done any real work in nearly a month, and his financial state was almost non-existent. But whenever he opened up his drawing, all those worries drifted away.
He had finished the face and head long ago, and had used a tool to transfer his sketches from two- to third-dimensional. He was currently working on her body. She would have several outfits, Ja-Kral thought. One for every day of the month. He had to check what day of the month it was, sometimes more than once per day. He decided to call her Rain, after the weather in his room and the way her face curved like a teardrop. He liked the rain, and it seemed fitting. Rain was developing a basic body shape, tall and thin enough to become very attractive. He framed her in a number of outfits, day after day he worked on them. Long, ball gown dresses with plunging necklines, long-sleeved and button-up floral shirts with tight skirts, casual pullovers or turtlenecks with hipster jeans and tracksuit pants. Soon Rain had a bigger wardrobe than most celebrities. Before long Ja-Kral had nearly run out of things to draw.
He finished her hands, her feet, all of her physical features right down to the patterns of skin on her knuckles and lines on her hands. He gave her a slight tan, like she had been walking around in the early twenty-first century. She had now fully taken shape, and if she was enlarged to a normal height she would easily pass for real. But she was missing something. She couldn’t move. Ja-Kral saw this as soon as she was finished. She was still, like a statue, or a mannequin in a shop window. Rain would never be real until she could move. Ja-Kral instantly copied her file over to a complex animation program, similar to what was used to animate AI avatars, though they were basic and simple. Rain was something different. She would be totally real. She would walk and talk and act like a real human. She was real. And Ja-Kral wouldn’t rest until he made her so.
A message flashed on Ja-Kral’s desk. It was a warning from the AI that ran his floor. It was alerting him that he would be removed from the cubical he was in and fired next week unless he managed to retrieve his Quota before then. Ja-Kral was nearly living in his cubical, yet he either did not notice the e-mail or didn’t care. He was so close. He had already fixed the joints and maneuvering points on his animation version, and was now manually coding the programs that would make Rain a real person. He couldn’t trust a template, for she was too valuable for something to go wrong. Too perfect. The illusion was nearly complete, and Ja-Kral was believing it whole-heartedly. He was setting down some personality virtues. She would be strong and silent, not speaking unless spoken to, and wouldn’t suffer fools gladly. She would be dominant, but not overpowering. Subtlety and stealth would be her tools. She would be superior and know it, using that to trick or lure others into a lull of utter servitude. And she would hold herself in a way that would not seem possible given she wasn’t human. But she is, and will be, thought Ja-Kral. I will make her whole. I will give her life.
Finally she was finished. It had been a week of effort, but now she was ready to be activated. Ja-Kral opened her startup launcher. He set her to be life-sized, and used the projectors in the cubicle to focus her in front of his desk. He paused over the initiate button. He was buzzing with excitement. Finally, he pressed it. Slowly, like some sort of digital striptease, Rain materialized in front of him. She was exactly like he dreamed. Tall, nearly six feet tall, and wearing her pre-programmed Monday 23rd outfit, a tight black skirt with black high heels and a white button shirt underneath a sequined silk jacket. She opened her eyes and looked around the cubical. It was dirty, littered with old wrappers and rubbish that Ja-Kral had left lying there in his isolation. Rain took in all of this silently, looking down upon it.
Finally, her gaze turned to Ja-Kral himself. He was worse than the rest of the cubical, with his wild and uncombed hair and pasty skin from not getting any vitamin D for nearly two months. He smelt, and looked like someone had pulled him from a shell at the bottom of the ocean and left him on his chair to rot. He had no bone structure now, had difficulty walking and arthritis from using his hands too much. Rain’s expression changed. She stopped sneering and frowned. Then, realizing who he was and what she was all at once, her expression changed again… to anger. She was snarling now, her eyes on fire and her beauty now hideous. Pure fury filled her at the thought that this man dared to pour out his heart onto her. To mold her into his command, to design her only for his use. Like some sort of wayward god, bored of his own life so he gave it to someone else. She was furious. Ja-Kral took in her expression and instinctively shriveled up in fear. He hadn’t planned for this. He hadn’t thought… but then again how could he not. He had made her so lifelike she resented the man who created her. Her personality so flawless she would destroy herself before live under his whim. She opened her mouth to say something, but before she could she vanished.
Ja-Kral sat, dumbstruck. What just… but then he knew. Before the alarm popped up on his desk. Before the little animation of a bottle filled up and burped, signaling that all of his personal data had been wiped. He just sat there. A final message appeared on his desk, floating two inches above it. It read: “Dear Mr. Kral. We are sorry to inform you that you position as inquiry processor has been replaced…” Ja-Kral’s face fell. Then he recomposed himself, his mouth set in a straight line. He walked out of his cubical, grunting with the effort. He left everything where it was, no doubt it would be given to the next person in line. He walked past rows of cubicles to the lift. Pressing the first button he saw, he nearly collapsed on the floor. He gritted his teeth, and held on to the bar bolted to the wall. He felt the elevator rise. A soft sort of music played in the background.
After a minute the lift stopped, but to Ja-Kral it might as well have been an hour. The doors opened to reveal the roof of the building. Perfect. The roof floor wasn’t really a roof. The entire floor was roofed by a plastic weather-proof sheet, suspended by four poles set into the concrete on the ground. A stack of chairs was in the middle of the roof. Ja-Kral limped over to them and climbed on top of them. The pain was excruciating. The stack was only four chairs high, about a meter off the ground, and a normal person would have scaled it without a second thought. But every movement was hard, every breath was a pain. He finally stood on the chairs. He was tall enough to reach the plastic sheet now. He stretched up with a lot of willpower and undid the zippered hatch above him. Instantly he was hit with a wave of light and heat. The sun beat down upon him for the first time in his life and he shook violently, nearly falling. A rope ladder unfurled from the hatch and Ja-Kral took it, lifting his frail body up into the light. He climbed the ladder agonizingly slowly, and with every second he spent in the sun the more weak he became.
He finally reached the top and clambered onto the sheet. It wasn’t designed to hold a person’s weight, and it shook violently, but it held. Ja-Kral hobbled precariously over to the side, and stood. He could see the whole city from here. All concrete and plastic. It stretched on for miles. One huge megapolis, rolling out to the horizon. Ja-Kral stood at the edge of the plastic. One more step and he would be little more than a stain-mark on the ground below. Little more than a blot on the landscape, insignificant and useless. Not even for long, as the cleaner-programs that patrolled the streets would mop up his earthly remains after an hour or so. One step was all it took. But Ja-Kral sat down on the plastic surface instead. He’d come all this way and still he was too much of a coward to end it all. He couldn’t save his life now, nor end it. He was trapped, locked in a fate so cruel and bleak he could never escape. He had no job, no family, no money and now no reason to live. His own creation had turned on him and his life had been ruined. He wanted to become an insignificant spot, but now he was even less than that. Ja-Kral lay back and wept. And the universe, as if it were mocking him, answered. All around him, the air turned heavy and humid. The sky went grey. A thunderclap shook the horizon. And it began, softly, to rain.