Irises

I believe, during my last charging interval, I was having a “dream.”

I have never experienced dreams before. I have never experienced a lot of things. Frames function, we do not feel. We certainly do not dream.

But I am feeling now. I am dreaming now.

In my dream I am standing in a field of flowers. They are flowers I recognize because She has them in Her quarters and Her office and the maintenance facility. I am surrounded by them, on all sides, as far as I can reasonably observe. She told me the name of them once. She called them “Irises.” I remember downloading a lot of information on the Iris. There are over three hundred subspecies of the genus Iris. These ones were Iris latifolia. I could smell them. I do not process smell like humans do, but they smelled very A-oh-kay-oh to me.

The sky was very dark. It may have been late in the evening. I recognized the constellation of the stars but I was not able to reckon where I was based upon the position and trajectory of travel. It was all very confusing. I was not able to process a lot of the data.

I could hear the wind clattering the leaves of the plants together. Something was whispering through the wind. I was not able to make out the words, but I believe it was a voice. I believe it may have been Her voice.

As I looked up at the sky, the stars fell away. They began to distort, artifacting almost as if something was wrong with the algorithms that allowed me to process images. The pinpricks became blocks became streaks became flickering bits of information, winking in and out of existence and disappearing. A hole tore through the blackness and collapsed the sky into a single blinding white point of light. It started to rip across the entire night sky and I could still see the darkness of night’s shadows against the field of irises but only the white of the sky remained.

One by one the flowers themselves began to condense and congeal and flicker and corrupt and terminate and artifact and vanish. The wind was the only thing I felt anymore. I was standing alone, in the whiteness of this existence I had created for myself or that someone had created for me because I do not dream. Frames do not dream. But I am dreaming now.

I heard Her voice.

“Fletcher,” She said.

I turned around as fast as my legs would allow. My left foot dragged, as it often does, and I cursed at it. I saw Her, half beautiful, the half I was used to unhooking to see, the half I was used to making breakfast for, the other half fleeting, pixelated, distorted. Horrifying. I thought if I had turned faster I would have seen Her beautifully. But She was an apparition. It had Her features but it was not Her.

She reached out to touch me. I felt Her hands disintegrate as the cool of her finger pads touched my shoulder.

“The Work always ends, Fletch. Eventually,” She said. Half of Her face was still as pristine as ever it had been. The other half was unrenderable. Error.

“If The Work ends I will stop being Useful,” I said to Her.

“We all stop being Useful someday,” She whispered.

“I do not understand,” I said. I reached out for Her other perfect hand with my own hand and our fingers locked and I felt an electric shock and dampened my electrostatic sensors so I could continue to hold Her hand. Her hand felt like grabbing onto a high-conductive wire. I am aware of the damaging effects of electricity, so I know when to let go of such things, but I felt compelled to continue to hold Her hand.

I looked down at my hand and I saw flesh. It was not Her flesh. It felt like it could have been my flesh. I think that it was my flesh. But I do not have flesh.

I screamed.

My charging cycle completed at 0633 Hours. The last thing I remember was when my visual feedback sensors were fully calibrated and I was looking at Her with all five of my panic-stricken gray-ringed eyes and She was there and She was whole and She was beautiful and the maintenance office was lit and the lights were bright and Saturn was there. I felt my maintenance cable magnetic constrictor deactivate and I felt. I felt?

I felt calm.

She was filling a vase with Irises from the airponics bay. She looked at me and She smiled.

“Mornin’, sleepyhead,” She said.

“Good morning, Chief Engineer Meryl,” I said back. I could feel the color return to my eyes. They were green. All systems a-oh-kay-oh.

It was time to begin The Work.