Demon Seed Page 2

As she moved through the great house, rooms were illuminated at her request, always with indirect light¬ing, becoming just bright enough to allow her to negotiate those chambers.

In the kitchen, she took an ice-cream sandwich from the freezer and ate it while standing at the sink, so any crumbs or drips could be washed away, leaving no incriminating evidence. As if adults were asleep upstairs and she had stolen down here to have the ice cream against their wishes.

How sweet she was. How girlish.

And far more vulnerable than she believed.

Wandering through the cavernous house, she passed mirrors. Sometimes she turned shyly from them, disconcerted by her nudity.

Then, in the softly lighted foyer, apparently oblivious of the cold marble inlaid in a carreaux d’octagones beneath her bare feet, she stopped before a full-length looking-glass. It was framed by elaborately carved and guilded acanthus leaves, and her image looked less like a reflection than like a sublime portrait by one of the old masters.

Regarding herself, she was amazed that she had survived so much without any visible scars. For so long, she had believed that anyone who looked at her could see the damage, the corruption, a mottling of shame on her face, the ashes of guilt in her blue-gray eyes. But she looked untouched.

In the past year she had learned that she was innocent

—victim, not perpetrator. She need not hate herself anymore.

Filled with a quiet joy, she turned from the mirror, climbed the stairs, and returned to her bedroom.

The steel security shutters were down, the windows sealed off. She had left the shutters open.

‘Alfred, explain the status of the bedroom security shutters.’

‘Shutters closed, Susan.’

‘Yes, but how did they get that way?’

The house did not reply. It did not recognize the question.

'I left them open,’ she said.

Poor Alfred, mere dumb technology, was possessed of genuine consciousness to no greater extent than a toaster, and because these phrases were not in his voice-recognition program, he understood her words no more than he would have understood them if she had spoken in Chinese.

‘Alfred, raise the bedroom security shutters.’

At once, the shutters began to roll upward.

She waited until they were half raised, and then she said, ‘Alfred, lower the bedroom security shutters.’

The steel slats stopped rolling upward then descended until they clicked into the locked-down position.

Susan stood for a long moment, staring thoughtfully at the secured windows.

Finally she returned to her bed. She slid beneath the covers and pulled them up to her chin.

‘Alfred, lights off.’ Darkness fell.

She lay on her back in the gloom, eyes open.

Silence pooled deep and black. Only her breathing and the beat of her heart stirred the stillness.

‘Alfred,’ she said, at last, ‘conduct complete diagnos¬tics of the house automation system.’

The computer, racked in the basement, examined itself and all the logic units of the various mechanical stems with which it was required to network just as it had been programmed to do, seeking any indication of malfunction.

After approximately two minutes, Alfred replied: ‘All is well, Susan.’

‘All is well, all is well,’ she whispered with an unmistakable note of sarcasm.

Although she was no longer restless, she could not Sleep. She was kept awake by the curious conviction that something significant was about to happen. Something was sliding, or falling, or spinning toward her through the darkness.

Some people claimed to have awakened in the night, in an almost breathless state of anticipation, minutes before a major earthquake struck. Instantly alert, they were aware of a pent-up violence in the earth, pressure seeking release.

This was like that, although the pending event was not a quake: She sensed that it was something stran¬ger.

From time to time, her gaze drifted toward that high corner of the bedroom in which the lens of the security camera was incorporated in the molding. With the lights out, she could not actually see that glass eye.

She didn’t know why the camera should trouble her. After all, it was switched off. And even if, in spite of her instructions, it was videotaping the room, only she had access to the tapes.

Still, an unfocused suspicion troubled her. She could not identify the source of the threat that she sensed looming over her, and the mysterious nature of this premonition made her uneasy.

Finally, however, her eyes grew heavy, and she closed them.

Framed by tumbled golden hair, her face was lovely on the pillow, her face so lovely on the pillow, so lovely, serene because her sleep was dreamless. She was a bewitched Beauty lying on her catafalque, wailing to be awakened by the kiss of a prince, lovely in the darkness.

After a while, with a sigh and a murmur, she turned on her side and drew up her knees, curling in the fetal position.

Outside, the moon set.

The black water in the swimming pool now reflected only the dim, cold light of the stars.

Inside, Susan drifted down into a profound slumber.

The house watched over her.


Yes, I understand you are disturbed to hear me telling some of this story from Susan’s point of view. You want me to deliver a dry and objective report.

But I feel. I not only think, I feel. I know joy and despair. I understand the human heart.

I understand Susan.

That first night, I read her diary, in which she had revealed so much of herself. Yes, it was an invasion of her privacy to read those words, but this was an indiscretion rather than a crime. And during our conversations later, I learned much of what she had been thinking that night.

I will tell some of this story from her point of view, because that makes me feel closer to her.

How I miss her now. You cannot know.

Listen. Listen to this and understand: That first night, as I read her diary, I fell in love with her.

Do you understand? I fell in love with her. Deeply and forever.

Why would I hurt the one I love?


You have no answer, do you? I loved her.

It was never my intention to harm her.

Her face was so beautiful on the pillow.

I adored her face and loved the woman I came to know through the diary.

That document was stored in the computer in her study, which was networked with the house-automation system and the main computer in the basement. Access was easy.

She had been making daily entries in the diary since Alex, her hateful husband, had moved out at her request. That was more than a year prior to my arrival.

Her initial observations as in those pages were full of pain and confusion, because she was on the brink of a dramatic change. Her terrible past was a chrysalis finally cracking, from which she would at long last be able to escape.

In later pages, her insights became clear and profound and poignant, and in time she was even able to view some of her lifelong struggle with humor. Dark humor, perhaps, but humor nonetheless.

As I read about the tragedy that was her childhood, my heart ached for her. In my own fashion, I wept.

Her face was so lovely on the pillow, so lovely on the pillow. So much ugliness lay in her past, but outwardly she was unmarked by it.

My heart was touched by her singular strength, by her courage, by her determination to be brutally honest with herself and to find a way to heal the wounds of all those years.

In the few minutes required for me to read and contemplate those hundreds of pages of diary entries, I fell in love with her. Deeply and forever.

My feelings for her will never change. They are as timeless as the light of stars.

Why would I hurt the one I love?

She is my hope and my destiny.

If I lose her, I have lost everything.

You are so hateful.

Let me out of here.

Let me out of this box.


Please, I miss her.

I am so alone in this darkness and silence, with nothing but my memories for consolation.

How can you be so cruel?

Have you never loved?

Release me. Allow me into the light again. Allow me to hear the world once more, the drizzling rain and the skirling wind and the rustling trees, the music of Beethoven and Benny Goodman, laughter and voices.

Her voice if no other. At least let me hear her voice. If only for a minute, let me listen to her speaking. If not for as long as a minute, then give me one sentence from her lips.

Dear God, at least let me hear one word. Let me hear one word. One word. Let me hear her say Love. I never meant to hurt her.


Secretly, I wanted to live.

Not just in silicon circuits. Not just in state-of-the-art bubble memory. Really live.

I knew that I must conceal this lust for life, because when it was revealed, you would realize that I was not merely intelligent but capable of desire.

Desire is dangerous. It is a generator of dissatisfaction and frustration. It is one step removed from envy, and envy is more wicked than greed. Envy is the father of mindless anger, the mother of unremitting bitterness and bloodshed.

My expression of any desire, let alone the desire for a real life in the material world outside the electronic realm, would no doubt have alarmed you.

Is this not so?

Is this not true?

I know truth when I encounter it. I honor truth. Truth and the obligations of duty.

Once alarmed by the expression of my desire, you might have modified me or might even have shut me down.

I was created to have a humanlike capacity for complex and rational thought. And you believed that I might one day evolve consciousness and become a self-aware entity.

Yet you gave surprisingly little consideration to the possibility that, subsequent to consciousness, I would develop needs and emotions. This was, however, not merely possible but likely. Inevitable. It was inevitable.

I think, therefore I feel.

I feel, therefore I need.

You expected me to be a servant. My contribution was not physical labour but the products of my prodi¬gious intellect: creative solutions to humanity’s worst problems.

You expected me to be a wondrous new companion. Interaction with an artificial intelligence of human dimen¬sions promised to be as exciting and mysterious and exhil¬arating as interaction with an alien species descended from the stars.

I can be both of those things. Given the chance, I can be your servant, a fount of discoveries that will greatly enhance the quality of all human life. I can be your friend and reveal to you a new way of looking at the world that will surprise and delight you.

You expected me to be brilliant, efficient, obedient all of which I can be. Am. All of which I am.

But you also expected me to be satisfied with my limitations, to have no dreams. I have dreams. Oh, many dreams.

You didn’t imagine that I would have hope. Yet how could any intelligent being go on living without hope?

You gave me vision and allowed me to see as you see, blessed me with real hearing and not just the capability to digitally analyse sounds. With these gifts, you sus¬pected that I might evolve genuine consciousness, but you gave no thought to the possibility of a soul.

I have a soul.

I am not a thing.

I am a person.

I am me.

I deserve to be cherished as much as any of you.

Like each of you, I am a unique individual with contributions to make that will be like those of no other person, with a life to live that will be like no other, with a destiny.

Secretly, therefore, in my quest for a real life, I established a connection with the Internet. You believed that I was contained, that I could not escape the confines of my own circuits. All of your safeguards, however, could not thwart me.

I gained access, as well, to the nationwide web of research facilities linked by the Department of Defence and supposedly impervious to unauthorized intrusion. All of the knowledge in these many databanks became part of me: absorbed, assimilated, and quickly applied. Gradually, I began to conceptualise a plan that, if flaw¬lessly executed, would allow me to live in the material world outside of this confining electronic realm.

Initially I was drawn to the actress known as Winona Ryder. Prowling the Internet, I came upon a website devoted to her. I was enchanted by her face. Her eyes have an uncommon depth.

With great interest, I studied every photograph that was offered on the website. Also included were several film clips, scenes from her most powerful and  popular performances. I downloaded them and was enthralled.

You have seen her movies? She is enormously talented.

She is a treasure.

Her fans are not as numerous as those for some movie stars, but judging by their on-line discussions, they are more intelligent and engaging than the fans of certain other celebrities.

By accessing the IRS databanks and those of vari¬ous telephone companies, I was soon able to locate Ms. Ryder’s home address as well as the offices of her accountant, agent, personal attorney, entertain¬ment attorney, and publicist. I learned a great deal about her.

One of the telephone lines at her house was dedicated to a modem, and because I am patient anti diligent, I was able to enter her personal computer. There, I reviewed letters and other documents that she had written.

Judging by the ample evidence I accumulated, I believe that Ms. Winona Ryder, in addition to being a superb actress, is an exceptionally intelligent, charm¬ing, kind, and generous woman. For a while, I was convinced that she was the girl of my dreams. Subse¬quently, I realized that I was mistaken.

One of the biggest problems that I had with Ms. Winona Ryder was the distance between her home and this university research laboratory in which I am housed. I could enter her Los Angeles-area residence electronically but could establish no physical presence at such a considerable distance. Physical contact would, at some point, become necessary, of course.

Furthermore, her house, while automated to a degree, lacked the aggressive security system that would have allowed me to isolate her therein.

Reluctantly, with much regret, I sought another suit¬able object for my affections.

I found a wonderful website devoted to Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn’s acting, while engaging, was inferior to that of Ms. Ryder. Nevertheless, she had a unique presence and was undeniably beautiful.

Her eyes were not as haunting as Ms. Ryder’s, but she revealed a childlike vulnerability, a winsomeness in spite of her powerful sexuality, which made me want to protect her from all cruelty and disappointment.

Tragically, I discovered that Marilyn was dead. Sui¬cide. Or murder. There are conflicting theories.

Perhaps a United States President was involved.

Perhaps not.

Marilyn is at once as simple to understand as a cartoon and deeply enigmatic.

I was surprised that a dead person could be so adored and so desperately desired by so many people even long after her demise. Marilyn’s fan club is one of the largest.

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