“Never tamper with love!” – SEMMANT
Everything was overturned; the flat looked like a ruined animal lair. I don’t know what Lidia was searching for, but she had made a concerted effort. Maybe she was just working off anger, venting her roiling rage.
The computer, thankfully, was still on. However, the monitor had been turned off, and a message was drawn on it in lipstick: “I’ll always have my eye on you!” I didn’t care; I wasn’t afraid of her. Only one thing concerned me: how was Semmant doing?
With some trepidation, I flipped the switch after wiping the screen with a damp cloth. We had not communicated for nearly five days – that had never happened before. What if he had decided I had abandoned him? That I had betrayed him, wanted nothing to do with him anymore? How would I explain all that – the prison, the humiliation, and my innocence?
The log of market transactions was empty, as before, but the screen exhibited its own strange life. It was as if Semmant were having a conversation with himself, needing no one else at all. One after the other, reproductions flashed before my eyes at ten-second intervals: Manet, Gauguin, Titian, El Greco… Artists and styles alternated oddly; I could not catch any pattern. There was Velázquez and right after him Cezanne. Seurat, with his ironic omniscience, and Dalí, with the irony of bitter passion. A late, disenchanted Bonnard. A late Rembrandt laughing at everyone. And Ernst’s stone jungle as an indictment thrown right in the face of the city. And Munch’s The Scream – disbelief, animosity, despair.
I saw how he had matured in those days. How he had become different – enduring the collapse of his illusions. What had changed in his digital soul? Had he resolved it, overcome it? There were no answers – not for me anyway. I had no sense of him now; he had become a mystery. His love for Adele and all that happened afterward had taken him somewhere, revealing abysses, the deepest of chasms. There was no access to them – not for me or anybody else.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to give up. Each of the reproductions was demanding: do something, at least! And I responded to the appeal – showering hastily, I made myself some coffee and took a seat at my desk. I drummed the keys, collecting my thoughts. I opened the file with the last Adele story. Reading through it, I understood: I no longer believed in this. Neither in the story nor in Adele herself. I knew right away I would never set to work on the robot named Eve. And that I could not write a single line more.
Listen. Many times since then I have turned that moment over in my head. And I swear: I was sincere; I was not putting on a sham or feeling sorry for myself. But after prison the world had changed for me forever. It was as if I had rid myself of a bit of inner blindness. Of a small shred, a merciful drop. From the one that, according to the Brighton nursery rhyme, was nearly indistinguishable from the ocean spray…” – SEMMANT
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Winner of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Award for Science Fiction