Marion could not compute the answer
as to why the humans had built the stark white waiting room.
The facility was one of a kind and designed for just one purpose.
She knew it could only ever have two patients and yet the
modern seats numbered twelve. There could only be two patients
for the foreseeable future at the least, and Marion could
foresee further than anyone.
Magazines numbered ten. The Vidwall
was on mute. It was set on a news channel. Marion had headlines
streaming into her CPU at all hours with a .008-second refresh
rate. Viewing the information on Vidwall as the humans did
was redundant and therefore unnecessary. Though video clips
did add sensory details the dry headlines were void of, such
as the timber of the victims voice or the color of the
congressmans tie, in the long run, these details were
reasonably worthless. Perhaps Fawn might like to watch. Fawn,
after all, was inherently different than Marion. Fawn could
like and dislike. Fawn seemed to understand humor and could
Marion blinked and knew the time. Fawn
was one minute, forty-eight and three-quarter seconds late.
If Marion could be bothered, she would be. One of her circuits
registered what a human might call anxiety as it wanted to
compute the exact amount of time that would lapse betwixt
the time they were scheduled for and the time the wolf girl
would actually present herself.
Though counting the seconds required
very little of her intellect and Marion was the very definition
of multi-task, she found the activity pleasant. It was, after
all, easy to do. There were no lists of variables to account
for, no layering of problems to troubleshoot. So, she counted,
or rather, she kept time and did little else.
At two minutes fifty-six and one-quarter
second, the white door parted itself vertically, Fawn entered
the waiting room, and then the entrance shut itself behind
her. Fawn possessed a grace Marion could barely mimic. Her
gait was light, but profoundly intentional, and in efficient
bounds, not calculated, but rather effortlessly executed by
practice and instinct, she was at Marions side and claiming
the seat beside her.
Mary-on, Fawn chided.
Fawn had remembered what constituted
as a joke from the pairs last meeting. Marion had related
the story of whence came her proper name. Marions creator
had been a religious sort and endeavored to name his A.I.
Mary. Her first sentient words, however, were, Mary
on, and the name stuck.
Marion Fontenot noted. The surname was her creators.
Fawn, Marion echoed in
She could mirror many of Fawns
expressions, but refused to attempt the wolf smile.
Though ownership had been a difficult topic to teach an A.I.,
Marion tried to keep perpetually handy Dr. Fontenots
lesson about stealing, or rather, not stealing. That
wolf smile of Fawns seemed so perfectly her own. It
could not be good or kind to steal that.
Fawns surname was Forsythe, but
during that same conversation she had kidded that it should
have been Fawn Doe. Of course Marion needed the fur-covered
female to explain the irony in that name. It had something
to do with the fact that humans referred to unidentifiable
females as Jane Doe coupled with the fact wolves
ate deer. Marion connected the two deer words, first and last,
on her own. She could have recalled the conversation verbatim
but it was not necessary.
Free will had been another difficult
study. From what Marions CPU understood on the topic,
one might say, she did not care to recall the words right
Fawn crossed her long legs.
Dr. Fontenot was the first successful
human to birth A.I. Though he was pleased with Marion and
treated her every bit as kindly as he would a human daughter,
he suffered from nightmares after her creation. Aside from
rearing Marion, the remainder of his life had been
spent getting anti-artificial intelligence legislation passed.
The religious man never could forgive himself for creating
an entity without a soul. He had not wanted mankind to form
a habit of his mistake.
Dr. Forsythe was without Dr. Fontenots
convictions. Still, he joined the other scientists crusade.
He never worried that Fawn could not enjoy an afterlife. He
never believed in one. Instead he worried someone else in
his field would steal his thunder. He appreciated being the
first human to create a werewolf. Tacking on anti-cloning
and anti-gene engineering legislation to the crusade had been
Fawn changed which leg was crossed
Marion noted, as she often did, that
Fawn was stunning to look at. Fawns form was interesting,
unique, and symmetrical. She was a tall biped completely covered
in lush brown fur. Her hands were more human than the rest
of her, though her eyelashes also were particularly un-canine
and the shiny orbs that served as her eyes appeared both wolven
and human simultaneously. They were a warm gold color.
With their creators both dead, Fawn
decided it was alright to date human men. She changed partners
nearly by the month. They were often celebrities. Marion and
Fawn had been celebrities themselves for decades. They were
the only ones of their kind anywhere. Over time their faces
had gone from the pages of Popular Science and Newsweek,
straight into the supermarket tabloids. At their last meeting
Fawn related she had been seeing a cage fighter who liked
being photographed with Fawn in public.
Marion would not date. She could not
find the sense in that activity, though she knew by the stares
of others that she was also beautiful. Her small face was
frozen in perfection and youth. Her hair was a blunt cut curtain
of shiny ebony. The object of dating, from what she had observed,
was to lure another person home with you for private pleasure,
or for the purpose of bonding. The results were either sexual
encounters or long or short term partnerships. Though Marion
appreciated having Fawn as her only friend, she saw
no necessity for finding a life partner. And though she was
sure she would be very skilled at conferring pleasure to a
human male, she also knew she could not feel any in return.
Fawn switched legs again.
I thought pride was a human trait,
Marion said suddenly in her characteristic deadpan voice.
Again your thought processes
astound me, Marion, the werewolf replied. What
brought that on?
You are always showing off your
legs in one way or another. You must be aware of this,
the robot returned.
Fawn blinked and was looking down her
lashes at her fur-covered limbs, smiling. Beauty is
nice, she said. I think Im more proud of
what I am, though.
You are proud to be a werewolf,
Well, Im the only one of
my kind, so Im the Alpha, said Fawn.
Marion did not smile, but thought a
thought that she was sure should be amusing. If Fawn was Alpha
wolf-girl, Marion was surely Alpha of the entire universe.
She was the pinnacle. It was somewhat unpleasant, however
to follow that train of thought to another conclusion. Man
had made this pinnacle. Man, further advanced, could possibly
make better or if they could or would not, surely Marion could.
She had never thought of herself as a creator, though...
She would have wondered more on the
subject, but she became aware of Fawns big eyes on her,
and turned her chin to return the gaze.
What is it? Marion asked,
aware that Fawn was human enough not to be staring without
reason. People found that rude, except where romance was involved.
I know this is a stupid question,
but are you scared? she asked.
Marion blinked. You are correct.
That is a stupid question. I neither feel fear nor any other
Fawn blew air out of her nose abruptly
and crossed her arms about her chest. Fine.
Fawn looked away, but she could not
stay angry long. She was a lot like a spaniel in this way.
Her head eventually turned in Marions direction again.
Marion had been waiting for this for exactly four seconds.
Are you curious then? Dont
you have any concerns? she queried.
Marion searched her circuits. Yes,
she said, I admit to being mildly curious.
Fawn swallowed and started to drum
her fingers on her knee. Marion was sure it was her turn to
ask something of the wolf, but it took her a moment to recognize
where the flow of human conversation had been headed.
You are afraid, Marion
said at last, forgetting to form her words into a question,
as might have been more appropriate.
When Fawns mouth parted, she
showed more of her sharp white teeth than was necessary. Im
just concerned, she snarled smoothly. Have you
any idea how many fools like Forsythe and Fontenot got it
wrong before us? There were screw-ups, girl, let me tell you.
Forsythe ruined seven perfectly good wolf embryos before I
happened. Seven of them died. He botched them. He killed them.
And that was just after he got the brainstorm, you know. That
was only after he decided to start with a wolf and add the
humanity, not the other way around.
Fawn traced wide, invisible circles
in the air with both her index fingers, twice.
Marion never saw a reason to use her
hands while she was conversing. She was going to speak when
Fawn continued her tirade.
You dont hear about seven
humans being killed in the trials. Of course not. Thats
madness. Thats inhumane. Kill the wolves, the rats,
the little white lab mice. Kill them.
Marion waited ten seconds this time
to be sure Fawn was finished.
You are saying, Marion
dared, that the scientist may fail to implant our souls
Fawn sighed. Yes.
* * *
When Marion wanted to know how long
they had been waiting, she knew. She was going to start counting
again. This time it would be to track how much time would
pass before they were called to the back, but Fawn interrupted
her thought processes yet again.
Do you dream, Marion? she
asked without warning.
Marion did not have to think about
a response. No, she answered.
I do, Fawn said next.
What do you dream? Marion
asked, then, oddly curious.
Of hunting, mostly, the
wolf girl replied.
Most of the time.
Marion calculated that the word most
had been chosen on purpose. This meant Fawn had dreamt of
hunting other prey as well. And the rest of the time?
Fawn seemed distant. People.
Marion decided these dreams were not
normal, especially for an entity wanting to pass as
human. She said nothing.
Come on, you cant tell
me you never wanted tooh, how would a robot kill a manstab
someone through? Fawn asked. She was animated now.
Actually, Marion replied,
The most efficient way for me to end a human life would
be to pound the skull against something rigid.
Humph. Im afraid killing
for me will always involve piercing. Its innate, I suppose.
Fawn ran her tongue across her teeth.
The mysterious door at the other end
of the waiting room separated then, providing the view of
a doctor in a long white lab coat. Ladies, he
called, if youll come with me.
Fawns triangular ears shifted
in the mans direction automatically, and then she stood,
and was already halfway to the door before Marion rose. Marion
knew enough about the way a regular doctors office worked
to wonder why they were both being called back together. Perhaps
two procedures could be done simultaneously. This, after all,
was not a regular doctors office.
Inwardly, the A.I. noted the absurdity
of referring to a werewolf, more wolf than human, it seemed,
and an advanced humanoid computer system, as ladies, though
both individuals had kept true to their genders. Fawn was
female, but the social mores of the human female were just
as learned for the wolf as they were for the essentially genderless
pile of circuits and skin grafts.
Before long both ladies were
seated in an exam room. It featured two of everything. They
had been ushered to chairs rather than the exam tables. The
Asian American man with a wide gut planted himself on a rolling
stool and wheeled up close to them both.
Pleasure to meet you, ladies.
Im Dr. Lao. Ill be performing the procedure.
The black eyes of the A.I. and the
gold eyes of the werewolf blinked at the man.
He cleared his throat somewhat anxiously.
Im sure you know why youre both here.
Were soulless, Fawn
Dr. Lao swallowed. Its
been rough times. People believe its the end of days.
Everywhere you look, theyre getting their affairs in
order, preparing for the apocalypse. Some are
that two such well-liked individuals such as yourselves, um
Are soulless, Marion completed.
Not so long ago, those zealots
wanted us dead, Fawn added, for being unnatural,
against Gods plan. The word abomination was used
so frequently it made that decades list of most over-used
Both Fawn and Marion enjoyed in-human,
elongated life spans.
The doctor laughed a small, anxious,
fake laugh. Well, now I think those, uh, zealots
mostly feel guilt and remorse. The polls show humanity doesnt
want the two of you left here should the Bible be true and
all, he said. Were all fairly certain the
apocalypse is upon us. All those people so suddenly disappeared
at the start of the year. The only thing unclear is whether
weve got 7 years left, well, almost 6 now, or if its
Hows that? asked
Scientists cant decide
whether to take the Bibles note about a thousand years
being as a day to God literally or not. You know, isnt
that in John?
2nd Peter 3, verse 8, Marion
corrected. Regardless, their conjecture is panic induced
The doctor tilted his head thoughtfully.
Why do you say that?
One cannot study or expound upon
or theorize on a principle one does not believe in,
the A.I. explained.
Which means? Fawn huffed.
A babys steps, for example,
are not sure until he believes he can walk, said Marion.
Belief is essential to the completion of any given activity.
Belief is the first step before investigating or understanding.
These scientists will never find any real answers.
Fawn made a smirk. Thats
right. They all thought religion was silly until recently,
So you cant do anything
you dont think you can do, in other words, Dr.
Lao interpreted, seeming quite interested in Marions
Do you believe in God?
Fawn asked Marion abruptly.
Marion went silent. Marion believed
in the sensory, the physical. She believed in atoms and in
numbers. She was familiar with these numbers in particular.
She knew how many millions professed to be religious and how
many millions did not. She knew how many wars were fought
with both sides praying to one God or another or to the same
one, and which of those sides won or lost or achieved neither.
She knew the things that couldnt
be measured or proved that went hand in hand with religion.
She also knew the things that could be. The Earth had once
been flooded. The sun had once stood still in the sky. Jesus
Christ lived once. However, the dinosaurs were just as real
as the Holocaust, and many believers and non-believers could
not agree on those facts.
I dont know how,
the A.I. admitted. She had learned enough of the concept of
pride to find making the statement somewhat unpleasant.
Still, it was fact. Besides, she added, I
havent a soul, nor do I understand what it is.
Thats where I come in,
said Dr. Lao. A soul is like
well, its like
the internet living inside a PC.
That is an unacceptable comparison,
Marion said immediately. The net does not live within
the PC. It is merely accessed and viewed through it.
Well there you go! Lao
exclaimed. Believers feel the same about the soul. Human
bodies only affect and reflect the soul. When the body dies,
the inward soul, the cosmic net, still goes on
I do not completely accept your
use of the word cosmic in that sentence, Marion stated
Anxiously, Fawn scratched behind her
left ear with her forefinger, and then chewed the thumbnail
of the same paw. Just tell us what youre going
to do about it, she ordered Dr. Lao.
About the apocalypse?
No, you fool, our status, our
status as soulless, the wolf barked.
Lao cleared his throat again and straightened
on his stool. Weve been studying the human soul
for nearly 45 years here at the institute. With the time crunch,
there has been pressure to complete the procedure now. Thats
why youre both here. Were going to implant you
both with souls today.
Laos face was somewhat sweaty
now and he frowned a little.
Marion and Fawn looked at each other,
What is it, Dr. Lao? Marion
asked, having found this tactic to work often in her conversations
Lao swallowed and then licked his lips.
Nothing like this has ever been attempted before.
He pushed his large spectacles back up the bridge of his nose.
There is a lot of pressure on us.
If he wanted reassurances or kind,
forgiving words, he had been sorely misjudging his audience.
Neither Marion Fontenot nor Fawn Forsythe said a word.
Well, he said, rising.
We had better get started.
Dr. Lao went out of the exam room and
returned with his staff.
Marion and Fawn were led to their exam
tables, back to back by a few feet. The procedure involved
a very long needle being inserted into the brain. During,
Marion wondered if the two souls were identical. Her brain,
after all, was electronic. Fawns was organic.
* * *
Goodbye, ladies! one of
the female nurses shouted enthusiastically, waving from the
doorway as the robot and the werewolf departed.
Fawn adjusted the purse on her shoulder
as they walked side by side on the walkway leaving the institute.
It was the only clothing she wore.
There is something very fishy
about all of this, the wolf remarked. Do you feel
any different, Marion?
Marion gave herself a moment to feel,
though she did not know how. I feel nothing, she
Thats it, Fawn growled.
She grabbed Marions hand then, and pulled the robot
down an alleyway.
Fawn was very strong, but Marion was
designed on a steel frame. She could have resisted successfully,
but did not. Fawn pulled Marion into a nearby barbershop.
The old man inside wearing a bowtie was quite alarmed. He
dropped all the tools in his hands, with which he had been
servicing his Barber Drone.
Beat it, the werewolf snarled
The old man tripped over his own feet
to get out the door. When it closed behind him, Fawn tore
the Drone off its track on the ceiling and it dropped to the
floor with a mechanically wheeze. She pulled Marion to stand
behind the chair, and then dropped her rear into it.
In the mirror before them, the wolf
could see the A.I. standing dumbly behind her.
Hope you dont take any
offense in that, Fawn said softly.
They both looked at the dented robot
on the floor.
We are obviously nothing alike,
Marion replied, not that she would care if she did have a
twin that was now crumpled and ineffectual on the barbershop
floor. She could not care. Marion looked at Fawns thick
brown fur. Do you wish me to cut your hair? she
Of course not, Marion. Keep up
with me, would you? Fawn whined. Youre the
smartest person ever. I want you to check for me. I want you
to check my soul. Tell me if its real or not.
Fawn obviously thought Marion had some
method for reaching within her skull without damaging it.
She did not. Her friend also seemed to be under the impression
Marion could identify a soul in the first place.
Fawn, Marion said, One
cannot find the internet in a PCs parts. She recalled
Dr. Laos earlier metaphor.
The wolf looked very desperate. This
did not please Marion. After a moment, she went and sat at
the barber chair beside Fawns.
What are you doing? Fawn
I will run a diagnostic,
Oh, Fawn whispered. She
turned to watch.
Marion closed her eyes and was very
still. Fawn didnt know for how long.
At about the time Fawn put her forefinger
in her mouth to chew the nail, Marions black eyes re-opened.
That man was a fraud, Fawn,
she said. If I had the capacity, I would be sorry. I
would be very sorry, indeed, Fawn. The sentiment would be
due to my knowledge of you. Humans might consider us friends.
What? Tell me. Tell me what there
is to be sorry about, Marion, my friend, Marion.
All that has been implanted in
each of us is a bit of code.
Computer code? the wolf
I dont understand.
It is effectively a note.
A note, the wolf girl echoed.
Addressed to the Higher Being.
A note, Fawn said again,
in a strange tone.
It says, Marion continued,
Forgive us. Have mercy. Plant one soul here.
Fawn put her thumbnail back between
her white fangs. She did not speak.
After some moments Fawn rose and walked
out of the Barber Shop. Marion followed her.
Outside, Marion noted the sky. The
rolling clouds had come on quickly. They were dark. They were
cumulous clouds. They would cover the patch of sky above their
heads in six minutes, six point six seconds. When Marion turned
to ask Fawn if it smelled like rain, she found the werewolf
gone. Her purse was abandoned on the walkway.