Guy was sitting in his favourite green recliner, which was an unusual change. This evening, he was waiting for his wife to come home. The rain poured on the window and puddled on the window-sill. He swirled around the simple glass of Scotch and ice he had poured for himself. His golf clubs were leaning on the chair next to him, which faced the door. He swirled the handle of his favourite; he had been prepared to go out golfing this evening. The blunt head drug through the carpet with a subtle sound, like petting a dog. She had known, and she must have gone out shopping without him. He fixed his glasses, and ran his hands through his thinning and greasy hair. He felt in an oddly good mood for a Friday, in fact. He liked the work, and liked staying at the office.
Dull headlights floated through the curtain on the front window, encroached on the house and bled off into the black night. The key slid into the golden lock, and clicked from the outside of the door. The chain lock dangled and chimed against itself as she pushed the door in. Sam revealed herself in the doorway. A black and white polka dot dress hung off of her. Her blonde updo leaned to one side, stray hairs spilling out from the bee hive shape at the back. Bright red lipstick was smeared in a line past her mouth and onto her cheek. Her left tit was nearly falling out of her dress. She stumbled inside. Guy snorted heavily in shock. She turned, and only then noticed his glasses glinting, along with the ice in the glass, in the dull light. “What, what the hell is all this? What were you doing?”
He had been at first shocked but now looked closer. Her cloth bra was poking out, and in fact appeared to be stained lightly.
She blinked eyelashes crumbling under the weight of their mascara. Her eyes widened. Her irises tightened. “Sweetie, I, I wasn’t expecting to see you?” She pulled her dress up, trying to cover herself, but it only revealed that she wasn’t wearing any underwear. She stammered like she was drunk. He was in such disbelief because it appeared too theatrical.
“I wasn’t expecting to see you like this… tell me, what’s going on?” He stood up. She flinched her eyes down. And he knew in an instant. It wasn’t something done to her, but something that she had done.
“What are you talking about?” She struggled out a smile. She still couldn’t look him fully in the eyes; her eyes seemed glossed over.
“Guy…” she moved her arms to wrap around his shoulders. She drew herself closer. He could see the stain of someone else’s fluid on the top of her dress. He was disgusted. He battered her hands away.
“Who?” He leaned back, resting on the golf club like a cane.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Sweetie, let’s just talk this through,” she leaned in again, and he batted her away again. “I know you Sam. We’ve been married 17 years, so don’t treat me like I don’t know you, like I’m some sort of a goddamned idiot. Don’t treat me like I don’t know. Who? Just give me the decency of telling me a name?”
She started to cry. The tears too seemed glassy, like fake salt water pumped from an aquarium. That bitch. She was putting on the show, trying to get his sympathy. He gritted his teeth. “You wouldn’t know him,” she looked down again.
He could tell from the tinge in her throat. “Then tell me,” he barked at her.
“Sam,” she said.
“Sam? Sam? High-school Sam? How did you even know him? Jesus, how long has this been going on? The whole time! Sam? Sam? You fuck a guy named Sam? You’re Sam!” He leaned his spinning head back and stared into the glowing lightbulb of the stained glass lamp that crept over the chair. His chair. Sam with Sam, it was almost too funny. He smiled. He laughed. It was a bad joke. For 15, 16, 17 years, it must have been. His bully. All those goddamn weird moments with her. Sam and Sam.
He brought up the golf club. She raised her arms. He clanged it down against them. She fell onto the side table. Her dress ripped off. She was naked, frightened, defenceless. Her hair spun out of its beehive into scrambling blonde tentacles. Tears of fear, shrieks burned her makeup down and through her face. He brought it up again. The anger gleamed in his eyes. When it swung back, it shattered the lamp and the bulb. There was a spark of electricity. Then silence, darkness. Just the pitter patter of rain against the window. He brought it down again. He could see only slightly the contour of her head, her skull. And he shattered it. He hammered it into the carpet. Fluids spilled out, splattered onto the chair. When the rage passed through him, he set the club down, a final time, onto the space her head had been. It clanked. It clanked like hitting a metal trunk. He knelt down. The fluid seemed weak, flowing. Not thick like blood. He pressed his face into the carpet, seeing anything he could. It wasn’t red. He rushed to the main light switch and turned it on. There was not red, but oil-black and milky-white sputtering across the walls. Her face looked like a mess of aluminum foil. Wires entangled with servos behind her jaw. The tissues of her mouth were opened to reveal circuitboards underneath. One glass eye was partially shattered, to show a black camera lens underneath. The other rotated in its socket all over, with a motor sound, whirring fanatically. The fake pupil darted like a bumblebee. He stammered back, against the front door. It blared open into him; the police were waiting on the other side.
They had played the tape just before his entry into the courtroom, although he caught on the large screen the last few seconds, before it was banished to static with his second blow. The Judge loomed above the table. There was no jury present; this was a secret operation. And nonetheless, the evidence was damning. His appearance was a mere formality. The Judge nodded at him, weakly. They both knew they did not need to be here very long. The handlers pushed Guy into his chair. He shifted his shoulders away from them. The Judge waved them away, but they took only a mere step back. The chains still lingered on Guy’s ankles. They scraped. He could feel a bit of blood. Had he really, in 17 years, never seen her bleed?
“The whole time…” he muttered to himself.
“Well, I think this is a pretty open-and-shut case, Mr. Welles.” The Judge’s voice was deep and raspy. “We have just one witness to hear from, I think.”
The handlers rolled in on a travelling kitchen cart, lined with electrical turntables and apparatuses, the semi-repaired and still functioning head of Guy’s once-wife. A scar of metal still scraped down its left side. The eye was open, mechanical and rolling in its socket. The skin of the neck was ripped off like mere rubber, and the head wobbled slightly, imbalanced on the table, as it looked around and opened and closed its mouth as if to breathe.
“You can’t just look at the video and have this over with?” Guy whispered from his seat.
“She’s been taking video your whole life together, Mr. Welles. Your case is one of many. I don’t think we need to see all of what may or may not be fair or unfair motivation. She can simply summarize it for us.”
The handlers stopped the cart behind the witness’s booth, and her mouth rumbled to life. Teeth and their metal sockets were visible through the scar through the skin on her left side. It rumbled to life. It was her voice — or a tape recording? Who’s was it originally? He thought — but it was broken, like the tape was played a bit too slow or fast, like it was running down.
“I was nothing but a pleasant wife. All of the records, even those copies stored at central headquarters, really will show that, Judge. I cooked for him, cleaned for him. We were preparing for our first child.” The words made Guy cringe; how would that have worked? “I fulfilled everything he asked of my sexually.” She finished. What tapes of him had they seen?
“This was the first time I had ever shown him anything had ever been wrong. The first time. And he killed me.” The Judge nodded with sympathy down at the clacking thing.
“Thank you, Mrs. Welles. I don’t think we have to hear anything else….
“The ruling I give, obviously, is that you are guilty of Attempted-Enacted murder.” He smashed the gavel theatrically, “For this I hand down the standard sentence of life in prison, based on the observable and provable fact of your violent temper and your general threat to the community.” Guy slumped in his chair. He tried to let his thinning hair fall over his bespectacled eyes, to shield him in some way, but it was too slick and static. His hands were tied and he could not do anything else.
“We still have twenty minutes in the schedule, though, and I have been in the habit, however,” the Judge continued, “when the cases are this open and shut, of giving the extra time to answering maybe some of your questions about what has happened, what will happen next.” There was a long silence, with the Judge looking far down at the top of Guy’s forehead. The look burned into him.
Guy finally looked up, with a pleading desperation clearly seen through even his thick glasses that so distorted his eyes, “She wasn’t real, the whole time?”
“The whole time, Mr. Welles.”
17 years… he thought to himself.
“I… Who, who had the technology to do this? I would have never thought…”
“That was precisely the point of it all, Mr. Welles.” The Judge rumbled, “As soon as it was invented at the Department of Defence, and the expenses came down enough to make sense to mass-produce, we realized at the Special Intelligence Unit that a great many undesirables in society could be replaced, flawlessly, with these empathic machines. But, how could we find these undesirables — the murderers, rapists — before they murdered or raped someone? To save lives even before the program had really begun? It was from this standpoint that the Simul were introduced into society, to be the stand in for victims until such time as enough murderers, murderers like yourself, Mr. Welles, were caught as to reveal the state of the art to the world.”
“So, these, these… things.” He glared at Sam, “Are everywhere?”
“No, not everywhere Mr. Welles. They are still reasonably expensive. We first surveyed government records, and, with the help of the FBI profiling program, which was expanded, identified those in youth who had shown indicators they might snap one day, so to speak. We deployed Simul close to them, and, as time went on, staged testing situations with the intent of seeing who really could or would do it. Yours just happened to be last night, Mr. Welles.”
He hung his head, and wiped his dripping nose on his orange prison garb. “Sam,” at first he only whispered to himself.
“Sam? There was no Sam, err — that she slept with. She never knew him?”
“We never knew of him, Mr. Welles.”
“Why did that name come up? It’s her goddamn name. Or, it…” He sighed. The head on the table seemed to smile at him. It was taunting him.
“Improvisation, or, a bit of a short circuit. We still haven’t perfected creativity or realism in the Simulcra’s conversational skills.”
“Yeah,” Guy croaked sarcastically: he ran his tongue over barred teeth.
The Judge frowned and glared at him, “I wouldn’t be too short with us or our abilities, Mr. Welles. You were married to her for 17 years and didn’t seem to notice the gaping errors. Suffice it to say, I don’t think you could have been a truly attentive husband. You only heard what you wanted to hear, only saw what you wanted to see.”
Guy gritted his teeth even harder and grimaced, contorted his eyebrows up and at the Judge. His eyes were darkened by his face arching over them. The Judge glared back.
“Might I add,” he grew a cocky grin, “that it is quite Freudian that you married a blank-slate with the name of your male high school bully? Do you think you might like sucking cock, Mr. Welles? Is that what he made you do?” The Judge laughed. The head joined in. It echoed more and more distorted, like the tapes or speakers were running down as they spoke. The Judge tapped his fingers on his podium and checked his watch. “Well, I’m afraid that’s about all the time we have.” He nodded to the guards. They jammed harsh fingertips into Guy’s armpits, and lifted him up faster than his feet could support him. His ribcage sagged. They moved him away.
“I didn’t kill anyone!” He shouted. He barked, spit at the head he had once touched and kissed. The spit landed on the metal, “I didn’t kill a human!”
“Yes, but you would’ve,” the Judge waived his hand, “you didn’t even know the difference.”