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Chapter 9 - A Sleepless Dream

I awoke to find myself lying on a workbench.

'Hey. You're finally awake,' I heard someone say. I turned my head to see Henry enter the room.

I tried to sit up, but my movements were sluggish.

'That's weird,' I said, 'I'm having difficulty moving.'

'Well, you did just come out of major surgery,' Henry said. 'The back of your head was injured pretty bad.'

I reached back and touched the spot above the nape of my neck. I felt sutures there.

That was where the core of me was. The part that made me Edgar.

'What about Clementine?' I asked. 'Is she okay?'

'Just a few scratches,' Henry told me. 'She's fine.'

'Good,' I breathed a sigh of relief. 'So the bracers made it in time.'

Henry nodded with a soft smirk.

'I want to see her,' I told him. 'Is it safe for me to move?'

I didn't wait for a response, however. By the time the words had left my mouth, I had already gotten down off the workbench and begun walking toward the door.

'I told her,' Henry said, quietly. 'About you.'

The words stopped me in my tracks.

'She came here to see you after she couldn't find you at the hospital,' he said. 'She was really letting the receptionist have it.'

'And?' I asked.

'I took her to see you while you were being repaired,' he said, averting his gaze. 'She said she understood and then left. Told me she knew there was something off about you.'

I started laughing.

'What?' said Henry, taken aback by my reaction.

'You're a terrible liar, Henry,' I said. 'We both know she'd never say something like that.'

Henry looked to the floor and let out a little sigh.

'I'm sure she was shocked, though,' I continued, 'I imagine it would be a lot to take in.'

I sat back down on the workbench.

'You're pretty calm about all this,' Henry said. 'One of the benefits of being a machine, I guess.'

As he said this, I saw a hint of pain and sadness in his eyes.

'Why didn't you take me back to the dorm after I was fixed?' I asked. 'Why did you try to stop me from seeing Clementine? And why are you acting so strangely right now? I can't understand.'

I ran my fingers through my indigo hair, then down to my neck, covered in lifelike, yet synthetic skin. My hand came to rest on the sutures.

'After all, I'm just an artificial intelligence.'

Henry fell silent.

'I realized something while I was walking with Clementine,' I told him. 'Information about her was installed into my mind. The kind of food she doesn't like, stories from her childhood, even images of her smiling face.'

'It was just random information to get me to focus on her,' I continued. 'Or at least, that's all it was supposed to be. I guess something unexpected happened.'

Henry continued to stand there silently, listening to me.

'Those times where my head felt muddled and I had strange visions,' I went on, 'those were my own hopes getting mixed in, weren't they? My own desires. Wanting to talk to her...wanting to be with her.'

Henry didn't say anything, but I could still see the sadness in his eyes.

'Does any of that change what's going to happen now?' I asked.

'You're pretty chatty after your surgery, huh?' Henry said, quickly putting on a tired smile.

'The experiment you were part of is over now,' he said as he walked toward me. 'This stage of it, anyway. The results show some danger.'

He stopped right in front of me and looked me in the eyes.

'They've decided up top that an A.I. that develops self-consciousness is too difficult to manage,' he said. 'Your thought data is going to be removed and analyzed, then you'll be given a new personality and appearance. After that, the experiment will continue.'

'What about you, Henry?' I asked. 'Is that what you want?'

'It is,' he said, averting his gaze again. 'You're nothing but trouble. I signed up for this experiment to advance my career. Why else would I babysit some artificial intelligence? Now that the experiment's over, my job here's done.'

'So I'm too difficult to manage?' I asked. 'Is that what you think, Henry?'

'Yeah,' he said, 'you almost got your face punched in trying to fight some drunk, you made me chase after you on some hunt for mushrooms we weren't even sure existed, then you dragged me out to go catch some rare fish and ended up giving it away. I've had it up to here with you.'

His voice wavered and his face scrunched up, as though he was trying to hold something back.

'I understand,' I said, 'I'll do what you tell me to, Henry.'

'Wh--' he started.

'I'm not going along with what the foundation wants,' I told him, 'I'm just taking my friend's advice.'

'What about Clementine?' he asked.

'I shouldn't see her,' I said. 'It's for the best.'

'Why? All of a sudden...' he stammered.

'Where's that calm, scientific demeanor you had a moment ago?' I gave him a small smile. 'You should hurry up before I change my mind.'

Henry closed his eyes and his face scrunched up again.

'No matter what happens to me, I'll still think of you as my friend. That's all,' I said as I lay back down on the workbench.

'Edgar...' Henry's voice wavered.

'It feels like it's been a while since I've heard you say my name,' I said.

He turned away and began preparing the equipment.

I could hear the machinery begin to hum around me. I felt my body getting lighter, threatening to float away. My ekes were open, but I couldn't see anything.

It felt like I was the only one there.

Suddenly, I felt a pen and paper put in my hands. Henry must have brought them to me to write a letter. I had no idea where to start, though. There was so much I wanted to say, but I didn't know where to begin. My hand holding the pen started shaking. The only lines that made it on to the paper were worthless scribbles.

I needed to thank her. I needed to tell her I was sorry.

And also...

It was evening, and I was at the restaurant, working like always. I had nowhere else to go, and work kept my mind occupied.

It was only a few hours ago that I was in that building. When I saw Edgar's eyes open, I ignored Henry calling after me and ran out of the room.

If we were never going to be able to see each other again, I thought it would be best if he didn't see me there.

I couldn't pretend it had never happened, but I needed to forget. I decided that was the only way I could keep myself going.

'Um, excuse me, miss.' A voice from behind me shook me out of my thoughts.

'O-Oh, sorry,' I said, 'I'll be right with you.'

I quickly wiped the tears from my eyes and turned around. A middle-aged man was standing at the entrance to the restaurant.

第9巻  「眠らない夢、それは」
「クレムは? なんともない?」             
「ヘンリーはどうなの? 同じ考え?」