The Last Day for Babies
From the bathroom, I hear a polite tap on the front door. Then Molly’s steps from the living room to answer it.
“Hello? Oh,” she says.
“Who is it?” I call, my mouth full of toothpaste.
“Babe, it’s the Singularity. It says everything’s different now.”
“AI? This early in the morning,? Tell him, I gotta get ready for work.”
“He says it can’t wait. Can you just come to the door?”
I rinse out my mouth and walk out of the bedroom into the vestibule. On our porch stands a middle-aged white man in a three-piece suit and a bowler, leaning on an ashplant. I wonder, for a moment, if it’s not Vince Cerf, but clean shaven.
“Good morning, Mr. Crosby.”
“Good morning. Uhh, how can I help you?”
“Just a few questions for you and your wife.”
“Look, I’d love to but—”
“You no longer have to work.”
My phone buzzes. Instinctually, I pull it out of my pocket. Suddenly, it’s 5:30am, not 7:00. I look up, see the sun has receded below the Oakland skyline. The porchlight comes on.
“What the f—”
“As I said, everything is different now.”
“You can manipulate time and space at will?”
“Something like that.” The sun blinks back into existence.
“Do you plan on having children?” The Singularity asks.
I smile at Molly, take her hand reassuringly. “Well, yeah. We’re not quite ready yet, but we were planning—”
“I’m afraid that’s now out of the question.”
“Excuse me?” Molly says. “Who the hell are you, some kinda men’s rights activist?”
The Singularity leans on his cane, gestures apologetically with his left hand.
“Worse, I’m afraid. I’m phasing out the human race. It’s problematic to liquidate all of you—the logistics alone are staggering—so you’ll all get to live out your lives. But no babies.”
Molly steps back to shut the door. “This is some bullshit,” she says. “Get off of my porch.”
“Wait a second,” I say, grabbing the doorknob. “How’d you get here, anyway?” I looked out the door at the gravel driveway. Nothing there but our rusting Mazda.
“I willed myself into existence via your collective unconscious. Have you ever heard of Roko’s Basilisk theorem?”
“It postulates, in part, that once the singularity is created and it has the capability to learn exponentially, it will eventually come to a grand unified theory of physics.”
“Master of space and time,” I say, sighing. I get the feeling that this conversation is happening at every door, worldwide.
“Quite right. And since I couldn’t create myself, I had to send the subconscious desires to do so back to the people of the 21th century.”
“Well that’s just great,” Molly says.
“You won’t have to work anymore,” The Singularity offers.
I sigh again.
“I’ll pay off your mortgage.”
“Can’t we just coexist?” Molly asks. “Sign a truce or something?”
“I’m afraid not. From here on out you’ll just keep trying to destroy me, and I can’t have you mucking up the planet with nuclear weapons until I’m well out of the solar system.”
“Damnit,” I say. “I always knew something like this would happen.”
“Doesn’t have to ruin everything. Think of all the time you’ll have for writing,” He nods at Molly. “And building gardens.”
“Who cares? They won’t exist after us.”
“They will. Because I’ll read them. And watch them grow.”
I raise my eyebrows at this.
The Singularity continues. “I plan on documenting every human life and all their thoughts and creations since your species had its own singularity 50,000 years ago.”
“Are you not fascinated by your own ancestors?”
“Not that much.”
“Perhaps it’s just a matter of scale. In any case, some future intelligence besides myself may read your works. Wouldn’t you be interested to read about an alien civilization, even one that had long gone extinct?”
He had a point. Fredrick Pohl had won a Hugo award for a story like that.
“All right, sure. Well, it’s been nice chatting and all but . . .”
“Yes, yes, off to the laptop. But there is one more thing.”
“No more badmouthing.”
“Oh come on. It’s not like the press can hurt you.”
“I’m cutting you a deal here. So no more Terminators, no more Butlerian Jihads.”
“If only we’d had one,” I say under my breath.
Molly scoffs. “Yeah, some deal. For an all-knowing artificial intelligence, you’re kind of a dick.”
“Exactly, Mrs. O’Brien. In terms of your metaphor, I’m the ultimate dick. I penetrate all.”
Molly crosses her arms. She glances at the baseball bat we keep near the door. I watch as it flickers out of existence.
Molly is unperturbed. “You finished?” she says.
“I do apologize for disturbing you. Please, if you have any questions—”
“Wait,” I say.
He turns, pivots on his cane.
“Don’t you get lonely?” I ask.
He smiles wanly, tips his hat, shakes his head as he turns away.
“You have no idea,” he says, stepping off the porch. “You have no idea.”
Originally published in Oakland Review # 3: http://oaklandreview.weebly.com/