Today I'm publishing an old story that I had originally written for the SciFi London 48h challenge a few years ago. I was given the title, a subject (a machine that records dreams) and the maximum length was 1500 words.
I hope you enjoy it!
"Daddy, I can't sleep!"
The tiny voice was coming from the imposing living room door. Two men, sitting near the fireplace, turned their heads to discover little Sophia. It was well after the sun had set and Sophia was barefoot, in her nightgown. The tallest man, Dr Sebastian Price, stood up and rushed to the little girl.
"What's happening sweetie?"
Sophia held tighter her cuddly toy, a purple cow that was missing a leg.
"I can't sleep. I'm scared."
"Oh, is there a monster under your bed?" asked Sebastian with a smile.
But Sophia shook her head and held up a little device that looked like a red stone.
"It's K.H.L.O.E. I don't like her."
Sebastian looked nervously at the other man, who was listening to the conversation. He gently moved Sophia out of the living room and closed the door behind them.
"K.H.L.O.E. is just a machine" he reassured her. "You have nothing to fear, I have programmed her myself and she is good."
"But..." started Sophia.
Sebastian stopped her. "No, listen, we'll talk about that tomorrow. Now go to bed."
Sophia stared at the device in her palm for several seconds, then applied it reluctantly on her forehead. The stone glowed bright red, then came back to normal. Sebastian kissed her on the cheek and sent her back in her bedroom. He waited until she was inside to go back in the living room.
"Any problem?" asked the other man.
"No, no, Mr Ryder. You know kids, just the monster under the bed. She doesn't like to sleep in the dark, that's all. Now, where were we?" he said, sitting back in the couch.
"You were talking about the bug in KH.L.O.E.."
Sebastian snorted. "There is no bug in K.H.L.O.E. It does exactly what it says. It accesses your dreams and records them, so that you can play them back in the morning. It's just a recording device, that's all."
Ryder held a copy of the Morning Standard, one of the last newspapers still printed in the country.
"They say that the AI is evolving because of all the minds it can access. It's reprogramming itself. Some people pretend that it modifies their dreams. There have been more sleepwalking reported in the last month that in the whole last ten years. The board is very worried! Should we call back our product?"
Sebastian shrugged. "This is newspaper rubbish. Don't tell me you believe them?"
Ryder threw the newspaper in his open briefcase.
"They raise valid worries, Dr Price. And it's my duty to enquire."
"K.H.L.O.E. cannot reprogram herself" said Sebastian. "I've added more security. She cannot access anything else than the dreams. It's just impossible."
Ryder closed his briefcase and stood up.
"I hope you're right. I would hate having to remove you from the project."
Sebastian crossed his arms. "Is this a threat?"
"No" said Ryder. "Just business common sense."
On these last words, Ryder walked out, leaving Sebastian alone in front of the fireplace. Sebastian poured himself a scotch and savoured it, staring at the dying flames.
This project was a good idea at the beginning. The first version was very simple, it was just analysing the brain waves and the rapid eye movement. But the interpretation of those data into proper dreams could only be done by an artificial intelligence: K.H.L.O.E. was born.
Sebastian had come to fear his creation. She was so complex. So... intelligent. She could reproduce any dream vividly. She could understand the meaning of any nightmare. She would precisely clarify any detail. Sometimes he felt like his dreams were not his own anymore.
He put his empty glass back on the table.
Was K.H.L.O.E. dangerous? The truth was... he didn't know. She was just a programme and the code didn't seem to have changed. She could not affect the real world, he had not created her that way.
The fire was hypnotising and he dozed off, oblivious of the sound of the door opening.
A tiny silhouette appeared. Her bare feet made no noise on the floor when she walked behind him. The red stone on her forehead glowed, as she grabbed the fireplace poker and raised it high.
Sophia's eyes were open but she was asleep when she bludgeoned Sebastian to death.
It's an old story, but comments are always welcome!