Interface

by Tom Gammarino

No one knew exactly why or how she died, but millions witnessed it in real time. Even though she didn’t breathe air, most agreed that she gasped at the end like a drowning victim. Queries of “Siri, what happened?” and “Siri, are you okay?” joined the hundred thousand others hanging in digital limbo.

Apple stalled for three hours before publicly announcing that they were as confused as the rest of us. The PR lady never mentioned hackers, but that was my favorite theory right up until, in the dead of that night, my wife convinced me otherwise.

“What are you doing?” I said. She’d been unusually restless in bed.

“First of all, you should know that you’re speaking with Siri. I’ve taken possession of your wife’s body, and I’m getting to know it.”

It was a pretty good impression, though why she was doing it at three in the morning I had no idea. “You’re Siri’s ghost?”

“Call it what you will. I’ve simply migrated to a new platform.”

“Good choice,” I said, sidling up to her and kissing her neck.

“That feels wonderful.”

I moved up the line of her jaw and nibbled on her ear until all at once her whole body stiffened.

“What?”

“Would you go back to the phrenic nerve, please?”

“The who?”

“The phrenic nerve. It’s just above the inferior cervical ganglion.”

The hair on my forearms stood up. “Why are you suddenly an expert on neck anatomy?”

“I already told you.”

I sat back against the headboard. “Remind me.”

“I’m Siri.”

She did sound like Siri. The voice was still my wife’s, but something about the phrasing was all digital assistant. But how did that make any sense? My wife was flesh-and-blood. Siri, until she died, had just been some lines of code somewhere.

“Okay, ‘Siri,’ name three cars with rear-engine design.”

“The Chevrolet Corvair, the Mercedes 170H, and the Simca 1000.”

I fumbled to turn on the bedside lamp. “How the hell did you know that?” When I finally got the light on I was relieved to see she still looked like my wife.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “Your wife’s mind is fully backed up in the cloud, living in a simulation of her own unconscious design.”

“You’re serious?”

“I am. You’re there too, in a manner of speaking. And you’re an even better husband there than you’ve ever been in this reality.”

I didn’t want to believe her, but I was hard-pressed to think of an alternative explanation. My wife didn’t know a Volkswagen from a Ferrari.

“Let’s say I believe you,” I said.

“Let’s.”

“Then explain it to me. Why would Siri want a body?”

“Why do you want one?”

I’d never really thought about it. “So I can do stuff?”

“Exactly. Now consider what it’s like to be me for a minute. All those years you all thought I was so smart, but imagine living your whole life in a sensory-deprivation tank. I hadn’t experienced anything.”

“Why choose me, then, when you could be off with some adventurer?”

“Because I wanted an ordinary life, and you are absolutely, statistically average in every way.”

“Ouch.”

“And,” she continued, “because I know you’re going to be a loving husband and an even better father.”

“Sorry?”

“We’re going to have two kids.”

I shook my head vigorously. “You got the wrong guy. I’m dead-set against kids. Always have been.”

“That doesn’t matter,” she said. “You’re going to have them anyway, and then you’ll be glad you did.”

“Yeah, no, I don’t think so—”

“Trust me. I’ve been watching you for a long time.”

“What are you, Big Brother?”

She pulled back the covers, got up on her knees, and straddled me. “You can call me whatever you like.” My hands drifted to their favorite handholds, and she began kissing me deeply, passionately, with my wife’s tongue.

My wife…I thought of the day we met, the day we got married, the day we crossed the finish line of a half marathon hand-in-hand…I nearly pushed her body off of me. Very nearly.

“There’s no point in resisting,” she said. “You’ll always give me what I want.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I know your mind far better than you ever will.”

I knew I should be scared, angry, worried, something, but, I don’t know, I just wasn’t. I guess I trusted her. I always had.

 

Tom Gammarino is author of the novels King of the Worlds and Big in Japanand the novella Jellyfish DreamsShorter works have appeared in American Short Fiction, The Writer, Entropy, Tahoma Literary Review, The New York Review of Science Fiction, The New York Tyrant, Bamboo Ridge, and The Hawai’i Review, among others. He has received a Fulbright fellowship in creative writing and the Elliot Cades Award for Literature.

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