Connection Lost

Summary: Sometimes, memories take on a life of their own.

I went online each Saturday morning to talk with Mom and Dad, which was Friday night back home. I saw Mom perched in front of the computer, clad in the worn sweater she always wore. Dad hovered like a circling hawk behind her, as though keeping his distance from the computer. I waved. They waved back.

"Hey Mom," I said. "You read that book I recommended?"

"Yeah, but I didn't like the end," she said. "Too anticlimactic."

"I thought the same," I said, nodding in agreement. "But the characters and action scenes were great. Raleigh always does that well."

"I still like his horror stuff better," Dad said. "But you're free to be wrong."

I chuckled to myself, as my eyes went teary.

"Yeah, that one he did with the psychic alien was great," I said. "How's swimming?"

"Completed another bay swim, and there's another in two months from now."

"Glad to hear that," I said.

"How about you?" Mom asked.

"Oh, as best I can," I replied, quickly changing topics. "Loving the food here."

"I bet you miss dinner here."

"Yeah, Mom, I miss dinner at home," I said.

"You're not missing much," Dad said, his voice suddenly going flat. "It is just the same here."

"Yes, it is just the same," Mom said, her mouth no longer matching her words. "The same."

I closed the window, and I held back the tears. I went into the program's guts, and I reset the vocal parameters. The video quality was better, but there were still ways to go. The voice recordings needed another pass, so the neural net could better emulate their natural pitch. I closed the program, and I succumbed once more to despair.

My parents died a year ago in a car accident, while I worked abroad. Since that time, I'd trained a customized chatbot to emulate their voices, and synthesize video based on our recorded conversations. It hadn't been easy, but it kept me sane. Even through the depression, I let their memories live on, perhaps too literally.