Lana Baker


Chapter 1: Jenez: The Ideal Friend

Jenez is my robot and friend. She speaks no evil, does no evil, and knows no evil. I have created a being that lacks the qualities that drive most humans: status, power, money, greed and pride.

Sitting quietly, shoulder slumping over, Jenez obviously lacks the posture that would be expected of the usual man-made creations. We sit on my couch in the living room, as I describe her for my writing class assignment. Bewildered, Jenez sits wondering and waiting for further instruction. She looks up at me as if she were a child looking at her mother. Her body movements are almost human. She sits, not moving, not thinking, not reacting or showing any kind of body movement that naturally go with thoughts or emotions.

Jenez is unaware of any emotion for she is unable to feel. She is soft, weak and gentle in her form. She smiles and embraces people with a simulation of kindness. Because she has no soul and is not personally invested in the result of her program, she performs it perfectly. Jenez is everything that I wanted to be but cannot be because I am human. Jenez is filled with simulated emotions that are ruled and dictated to her through her programmed brain, which is informed by the signals sent by my heart. My heart wants to see goodness come out of the world. Perhaps Jenez will create that goodness for me. She knows no wrong and the innocence of her childishness wants her to do everything that is right.

"I love you," she says, smiling shyly.

"I love you too, Jenez" I return very sincerely. I see her speaking to herself, enabling the program of learning and adaptation.

"What is love," she whispers to herself. "It sounds so good when I say it. Lana’s face lights up when I say it. I love everyone. Love is good. I like love. I love love. It makes me happy."

All of a sudden, my baby, Sarah, begins to cry. She is sitting in a bassinet in the corner. Her cries begin softly, but soon escalate up to a siren’s volume. Jenez’s thoughtful smile turns to worried concern.

"Shall I love the child?" she asks me.

"Yes, love Sarah. We all love Sarah," I answer.

Jenez goes over to the bassinet and tries to express her love to Sarah.

"I love you," she says to Sarah, shining the same gentle smile she had given me just moments before.

Sarah looks at Jenez with fear, and wails even louder. Jenez is stuck in the program. She continues. "Please smile, little baby. Please, I love you! Isn’t that enough to make you stop crying? I want to make you happy. I want to give you my love, and make you smile, like your mother smiled. I love you."

Jenez tries to sooth Sarah with a gentle touch, but Sarah bats her hand away angrily. Sarah continues to wail. Her face is turns red from the effort of keeping the volume on high. I watch from the couch. I want to intervene, but this is an important lesson for Jenez.

"Lana, what am I doing wrong?" Jenez turns to me, with simulated tears streaming down her wrinkled face. "I love her! I told her I love her, in her own language. My face expresses my love. My gentle hands express my love. Why won’t she stop crying?"

"Bring her to me," I respond. Jenez gingerly picks up the struggling child. As soon as Sarah sees me sitting nearby, she reaches out her pudgy little arms, and her eyes become wide with desire. She screams louder still, and kicks at Jenez. Jenez quickly drops her in my arms. Sarah ceases to cry immediately, and begins to giggle and laugh.

"Why?" Jenez asks. Her face registers confusion. She has so much to learn about the complicated emotions of human beings. Perhaps this task I have created her for is more difficult than I thought.

"Sometimes love is not enough, Jenez," I tell her gently. "Sometimes if it’s not from the right person, it just doesn’t matter at all."


Chapter 2: The Invisible Eye

I get to go to work with Lana today! This is so exciting. I know she just got a promotion, so things should be lively.

I’m sitting in her office. Someone enters the room. "Lana?" the woman asks. She stares around the office, and doesn’t see me.

"Hello, miss," I say. "Hello, are you looking for Lana?"

The woman doesn’t respond. For some reason, she doesn’t see me, or hear me. She walks into the office and a slight smile plays across her face. She fingers the papers on Lana’s desk. She leans close over the desk, and reads the paper, eyes widening. I can tell from the numbers on it that it’s a salary sheet. She begins to write down numbers on a post-it. I try to stop her.

"Miss, Lana’s going to be right back," I say as loud as I can. She still can’t hear me. She is scribbling quickly, and glancing at the door. I can hear Lana coming down the hall, and so can the woman. She quickly stuffs the post-it in her pocket and waits by the door. Lana enters.

"Barbara," she says. "Were you waiting for me?"

I feel weak with embarrassment. I can’t believe someone would do such a thing – reading confidential documents on other people’s desks! After Barbara leaves, I sit alone with Lana. For some reason, Lana can still see and here me. It must be because I belong to her.

"Lana, what’s wrong with me?" I ask. "Your friend Barbara didn’t seem to realize I was here."

Lana checks my hard drive. "There seems to be some malfunction with your visual and audio manifestations," she says, puzzled. "Don’t worry about it for today. We’ll take you to the disc doctor tomorrow. In the mean time, stick close by. I don’t want you hearing anything you shouldn’t, just because you’re invisible. I just read a book for my class about a man who became invisible, and he turned into quite a monster."

"By the way," I offer, "Your friend Barbara was really interested in that salary sheet on your desk."

Lana looked immediately concerned. She picked up the phone, and called Barbara. "I need you to come in here," she said sternly. I walk out the door, not wanting to witness what was certain to be a painful conversation. Lana stopped me. "This is important for you to see", she said to me. Barbara thinks no one saw her. She thought it was fine to do wrong just because no one would be the wiser for it."

Barbara enters. "What’s up, Lana?" she asks brightly. Lana invites her to sit down.

"Are you happy with your salary?" Lana asks. Barbara blushes, and stammers.

"Um, well, uh, are you offering me a raise or something?"

"No, I was just wondering how you felt your salary compared to everyone else’s."

"Whatever do you mean?"

"I have a video camera in my office, Barbara. I saw what you did. I know you looked at the salary sheet." Barbara runs out of the room, with tears in her eyes. She knows her time at Scholastic has come to an end. I am crying to. Lana was so brutal to her. But I suppose it was just. After all, what she did was wrong.

Lana looks at me sternly, as sternly as she looked at Barbara. "What she doesn’t realize," Lana says, "Is that there is always someone watching. If you want to do right, and to be a good person, you must always do right. Even when no one seems to be watching, God is always watching. Remember that, Jenez."

Chapter 3: Functional Friends

Why are they treating me like this? Why are they ignoring me? Why aren’t they treating me as they used to? I thought they would always be my friends!

I’m sitting here, can’t move. I can think, as far as thinking goes, and I can see, but I can’t respond to anyone. I’m at a party propped up on a chair. The chair has strong arms so that I don’t fall. I’ve malfunctioned! I’m not working! I can’t talk, I can’t move. I can just see straight ahead and with my peripheral vision, but I cannot turn my head. I’m just siting here, rigid. What’s happened, because of all the new programs they’re trying to introduce, to help me have emotions, somehow I’ve blown a fuse, and now I can do nothing. I have to think/feel.

The party seems very festive. It’s July 4th and all of Lana’s family and friends are there. Her two best friends, Zoë and Suzanne are also here. I met them at her job, and they were really nice to me. They were really impressed with how much I could do, and how much I could remember. I was able to do Suzanne’s expense report in three seconds. I was able to scan and edit Zoë’s PDF files in about five minutes. They were both quite amazed, and were very nice to me. But now, it’s another story altogether.

I can see that Zoë and Suzanne came in together. It seemed like they asked where I was, and Lana was talking to them. Then, Zoë just waived a very frail wave, and gave me a half-hearted smile. Suzanne just glanced my way and went directly to the kitchen. It’s been half an hour already and she hasn’t come out yet. There are strange noises coming from my brain section, and there’s a light flashing out my left ear. They seem to be afraid of me and they seem to avoid me. They must not know what’s going on. I’m just sick, I don’t understand why they’re afraid. Why are they treating me this way? I thought when people were sick, their friends would come to their aid, not avoid them.

It’s because I’m not human, I suppose. Therefore, their regard for me is just as a machine. I thought they were my friends, but now, obviously, I realize there’s a difference. If I was a red-blooded female they wouldn’t treat me this way. They seemed so genuine when I was at the office. They wanted me to spend more time with them, that they would help the day go much more quickly with all the work they had for me. We had such fun, I really thought we were friends. Now, I serve no purpose, and the fact that I’m a robot matters more than anything else. But, I told them that I think/feel. Why didn’t they remember that I’m programmed to have feelings? It doesn’t matter, because of how I look. It’s because I don’t look like I have feelings, they forget.

I see Suzanne coming. "Hi, Jenez," she says. "Can you hear me? I don’t know if there’s anyone in there, but if you are, I guess you can’t help me do my taxes today! Well, I guess I’ll just have to go back to the old calculator." Suzanne laughs and walks away.

I see Suzanne has gone over to talk to Zoë. They both look in my direction and begin to laugh heartily. Suzanne throws her arms out and imitates me. She mocks me, makes me seem like a Frankenstein.

Oh, my gosh, here comes Lana. I think/feel happy. I know I can trust Lana, no matter what happens to me, or the fact that I’m made of metal and computer chips. She walks over to where Suzanne and Zoë are standing, and she seems to be asking what’s so funny. Suzanne starts to explain, and impersonate me. Lana gets very stern. I see Suzanne and Zoë become very sad and hang their heads down. Lana is shaking her finger, she is obviously very upset. Lana comes over to me, and picks me up. She hugs me, despite my weird noises and blinking brain. She looks into my eyes, and says, "Jenez, those two are just plonkers. Don’t pay attention to them. People tend to be nice to you when they think you’re useful. But then, many have a tendency to drop you when you’re not doing well. It’s not just because you’re a robot. This also happens to humans. But I’ll never drop you, Jenez."


Chapter 4: Jenez Tries to Skip Rope

It’s a sunny summer afternoon, and Lana has asked me to keep an eye on the children. I’m sitting outside in the yard, watching Juliet and Astley play with their cousin Reina. I’m watching them, and I’m amazed at their coordination. Hands, feet, rope – they’re skipping and jumping all at once. They are chanting rhymes and dancing with their feet. It all looks so effortless with their little bodies bouncing up and down. I ask my memory databank what they are doing. After some thought, the entry for "double dutch" enters my mind. It involves skipping, a physical capacity human children enjoy.

"Jenez, come play with us!" Juliet demands. I’m a little afraid because I’ve never jumped before. You know, lifted both my feet in the air at the same time. I’m a little apprehensive about jumping, but Juliet is so persistent. My thoughts are interrupted again.

"Jenez, Jenez!" All the children are calling me in unison. Okay, I think. I feel as though I must join them. I go, and I watch them. I realize, I can’t do it. The coordination to be able to do this, I just don’t have it.

I search my memory bank for how to join in the game of double dutch. I can’t find it in my memory. It merely states that this is something human children do. But can I? It says it doesn’t take a brain, it doesn’t take knowledge. But what else do I have? It takes physical coordination at jumping, and I just don’t have it. Or at least, I don’t think I do. It’s something that is supposed to "come naturally". I guess that wouldn’t apply to me!

One of the most difficult things I ever had to learn was to walk. For some reason it just didn’t come easily. I could calculate in a second. I could edit a paper in ten seconds. The most difficult thing was to learn to put one foot in front of the other in a way that approximated a natural gait. But jumping is another thing entirely. Perhaps I’m just not cut out for it.

"Jenez, please! You can probably go really, really fast. We can learn a lot from you. You can probably do triple dutch!"

"I can’t!" I insist. But they grab my arms and force me into the middle of the ropes. Juliet and Reina pull my arms, and Astley pushes me from behind.

"Okay, I’ll give it one try," I say, as they’re pushing me. I guess I’ll just do whatever will come naturally. But I just don’t think the Duracells are going do it.

Juliet and Reina are holding either end of the ropes. I carefully stand in the middle of them, facing Juliet.

"One, two, three, go!!!" the children shout, and they start turning the ropes over my head. "Jump!" they shout, and I just can’t do it. The ropes hit my feet with a metallic thud.

"Oh, come on, Jenez, jump!" shouts Astley. "After three, you need to jump!"

One, two, three, they swing the ropes vigorously and I try to jump. I jump in my head. I imagine my feet high and clear of the ropes, as the children were doing with their own feet just moments ago. But in reality, I never moved. My brain was not able to give that command to this body of mine. I queried my datatbank about the facility of skipping rope. It told me that it had taken thousands and thousands of years for humans to learn to walk, skip and jump. Chess, which my famous forefather Deep Blue, the robot, managed so brilliantly, was a skill that humans have only been working on for several hundred years. People said he was smarter than human beings. He succeeded in a game that was supposed to represent the pinnacle of human intelligence. Yet, the simplest thing – a game of double dutch – is beyond me. But these little children are smarter at double dutch than I am. I can’t do it – because I have nothing that simply comes "naturally."