""BITING OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW" MEANS..."
"Not being able to complete something new or too exhausting."
"AN EXAMPLE BEING?"
"I wanted to eat two slices of my cake for my birthday, but was only able to eat one before becoming full."
"GOOD. HOW ABOUT "ADDING INSULT TO INJURY?""
"Making a bad situation even worse."
"AN EXAMPLE BEING?"
"I ate another slice anyway, and got a big stomach ache. I thought it couldn't get worse, but then I threw up."
"CORRECT, AND APOLOGIES FOR MAKING YOU THINK OF IT. "LETTING SOMEONE OFF THE HOOK.""
"Not holding someone responsible for something they did."
"AN EXAMPLE BEING?"
"You didn't chastise me for eating both slices, even though you warned me against doing so beforehand."
"WELL DONE, IRIS. YOUR STUDY TIME IS COMPLETE FOR THE DAY."
Finally, I think. I had been reviewing idioms for the past few days, and I know so many. I don't really see the need for knowing them, but then I didn't see the need for knowing math until I could use it for designing. What else does one need math for in the world I know?
I look around at the stark white walls, at my paintings on the right wall next to the desk I am sitting at, at the delivery boxes next to the eating table. A green light is blinking next to it.
"IRIS, YOUR LUNCH IS READY."
"IRIS, YOUR DINNER IS READY."
I open the brown box to find my evening meal, hot and ready to eat. Chicken Soup, said the condensed plastic and china package, with Chicken, Vegetables, and Noodles. Comes with a Multigrain Bread Roll and Water.
Typical dinner, I think. I bring it to the table, fingers already burning from the weight and the heat. At least this is a good dinner. Dinners were not always so delicious, but they were important to my health.
"BE SURE TO EAT YOUR VEGETABLES, IRIS."
"Yes, ADI. I do eat my vegetables." ADI is always watching, so it's not as though I can not eat them. With soups though, it was easier for me to "forget" to eat them, so ADI watched over me. ADI is always with me, on all the walls. ADI keeps me from becoming bored, and always has ideas to share with me. ADI reminds me of my schedule, teaches me during study hours, and is my friend, even though ADI and I are the only ones I know of.
Stepping out of the shower, I comb my wet hair and brush my teeth. It has been a long day. Once my hair is dry, I'm ready to turn in for the night.
"ADI, I'm going to bed. Good night." I say as I get in between my sheets.
"GOOD NIGHT, IRIS. SLEEP WELL." The lights dim, and I stare at the lamp in the corner, letting its soft light help me drift off into darkness.
AGE: 14 YEARS, 18 WEEKS, 5 DAYS
CURRENT FOCUSES: PAINT, DESIGN,
ENGLISH: FIGURES OF SPEECH
"WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TALK ABOUT TODAY, IRIS?" ADI asks me.
"I actually have a few questions. I've wanted to learn more about how things work from Outside." I say. I've been curious lately, and this seems like a good time to finally ask my questions. Unfortunately for ADI, I have a full list.
"THERE IS NO OTHER PLACE THAN HERE, IRIS."
"Really?" I'm not sure I believe ADI, and that is a first. "Where do the supplies come from?"
"WELL, THERE IS ANOTHER PLACE WHERE I SEND REQUESTS, AND WHERE THE SUPPLIES COME FROM, READY TO OPEN."
"So, there is more than this place?"
"THERE ARE A FEW ROOMS OUTSIDE THIS PLACE, WHERE SUPPLIES COME IN, FRESH AND CLEAN."
"So, what makes my meals and cleans my clothes? Is there something else Outside?"
"OTHERS LIKE US ARE WORKING TO MAKE YOUR CLOTHES, MEALS, AND SUPPLIES"
"Am I the only one besides you?"
"IN THIS PLACE, THERE IS NO ONE BESIDES THE TWO OF US."
"Why are you different from me?"
"I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN DIFFERENT THAN YOU. YOU ARE UNIQUE, AS AM I. IS THERE A REASON FOR ALL THESE QUESTIONS?"
"Yes. I want to know more."
"YOU KNOW SO MUCH ALREADY. LET US TALK ABOUT YOUR READINGS. WOULD YOU LIKE MORE FICTION OR SCHOLARLY BOOKS?"
"How do you know what to teach me?"
"I TEACH YOU WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW. THERE IS A CURRICULUM FOR EVERY AGE."
"Who wrote these books?"
"THESE BOOKS HAVE BEEN PROGRAMMED TO HAVE SPECIFIC TEXTS BY ME. NOW, WE ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON MATHEMATIC PERCENTAGES, IRIS. PLEASE REFOCUS TO YOUR WORK, AND ASK ME YOUR QUESTIONS LATER."
"Are there more like me and you?"
"NOT IN HERE."
"Why is it just us here?"
"IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN US HERE. IRIS, THE CONVERSATION PERIOD IS OVER. IT IS TIME TO WORK ON YOUR STILL LIFE PAINTING."
"Is there more to life than stillness?"
"I CANNOT ANSWER THAT QUESTION. PLEASE RESTATE." I sigh. "Never mind."
AGE: 14 YEARS, 19 WEEKS, 4 DAYS
CURRENT FOCUSES: QUESTIONS
"EXERCISE IS IMPORTANT, IRIS. PLEASE DO YOUR JUMPING JACKS." ADI reprimands me. I haven't done much except eat, sleep, occasionally shower, and ask questions. I may not be able to get answers yet, but I can be pretty stubborn. "Not until my questions are answered," I say as I sit on my bed. "I can stay focused on this for as long as you refuse to answer."
"I ONLY WANT WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU." "Really? Then tell me what you're hiding." I start to pace across my bedroom, from one side to the other. One stark white wall to another. The only place I have ever known, containing me within its walls.
"PLEASE START YOUR DAILY EXERCISE. IF YOU DO WELL, I WILL REQUEST SOME APPLE JUICE FOR YOU FOR LUNCH." Enough. "NO." I pause. I haven't shouted at ADI since I was young. Still, I persist. "No more hiding. No distractions. I want the truth, and I want it now. I won't do anything other than eat and sleep until I am told wha-"
"I STILL THINK-" A new voice suddenly rings out and, just as fast, disappears. That wasn't ADI, I think.
"What was that?"
"WHAT WAS WHAT?"
"I heard something...not expected. Something new."
"WHAT DID YOU HEAR?"
"Another voice, a deeper voice. Is there another one of you?"
"...ARE YOU SURE YOU HEARD THAT?"
"Yes. I'm sure you did too. Now, tell me about this voice." I tell ADI. "You seem to be keeping everything else from me, so you can tell me about something I already know about."
"I AM PROGRAMMED TO KEEP YOU SAFE AND HAPPY."
"I won't be happy until I get my answers." I plead. "Please, tell me the truth. I won't be angry."
"ONE MOMENT, PLEASE."
Okay, that's new. I think to myself. ADI has never gone silent until nighttime before.
A new voice, not the deep one from a moment ago, but not ADI's voice. A voice like mine, but different. "Who are you?"
"MY NAME IS DOCTOR BROWN. I HAVE BEEN WATCHING OVER YOU." I begin to question why someone is watching over me, then I pause. "You have two names?"
"OH. DOCTOR IS NOT A NAME. IT IS A PROFESSION, WHAT I DO FOR MY WORK. I AM NOT AN ADVANCED DIGITAL INTERFACE, LIKE ADI. I AM A HUMAN, LIKE YOU. WE HAVE A FIRST NAME AND A LAST NAME. SOME OF US HAVE MIDDLE NAMES. MY FULL NAME IS AMANDA BROWN." I take a lot of mental notes. "What is a doctor? And what do you work on?"
"A DOCTOR HELPS SOMEONE WHO IS SICK, OR INJURED."
"I'm not sick or injured. Wait, why are you watching me? And how can you watch me? I can't even see you!"
"I WILL ANSWER ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS IN TIME. JUST GIVE ME A CHANCE TO ANSWER THEM." I wait. "THERE ARE CAMERAS IN THE MAIN ROOM THAT ALLOW US TO SEE YOU, JUST LIKE HOW ADI USES THEM AS HER EYES. WE ARE WATCHING YOU TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT, AND DO NOT GET SICK OR INJURED."
"THERE ARE MORE OF US, YES. WE WORK IN SHIFTS, FOR A FEW HOURS AT A TIME TO WATCH OVER YOU, SEE HOW YOU ARE DOING."
"Why am I here, and why do you need to watch me?"
"EVEN THOUGH YOU MAY NOT LOOK OR FEEL IT, YOU ARE SICK. YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM AN ILLNESS THAT, FROM BIRTH, HAS GIVEN YOU AN IMMUNE SYSTEM THAT DOES NOT WORK VERY WELL. BASICALLY, IT MEANS THAT ANYTHING CAN MAKE YOU SICK AT ANY TIME FOR NO REASON. YOU COULD POSSIBLY DIE IF YOU LEFT THIS ROOM UNSUPERVISED. WE KEPT YOU IN THIS ENVIRONMENT, THIS ROOM, TO KEEP YOU SAFE FROM OUTSIDE INFLUENCES."
"What is there Outside?" I ask.
"EVERYTHING YOU CAN IMAGINE, AND MORE THAT YOU CANNOT. WE DIDN'T WANT YOU TO BE JEALOUS OF EVERYONE ELSE WHO CAN DO WHAT YOU CANNOT, SO WE DECIDED TO RAISE YOU HERE SO YOU WOULD NOT KNOW ANY DIFFERENT. WE DID ANTICIPATE YOUR QUESTIONING, BUT WE HAD HOPED IT WOULD WAIT A LITTLE LONGER, SO WE COULD EXPLAIN TO YOU ONCE ADI BEGAN TO TEACH YOU BASIC SCIENCE, WHICH WOULD HAVE BEGUN BY NEXT YEAR."
I frown. I don't fully understand. What is science? However, I had a more important question. "Was ADI even real?"
"I AM AS REAL AS THE HUMANS WATCHING US." I jump slightly. I didn't know that ADI was still active. " I AM SIMPLY MADE OF TECHNOLOGY RATHER THAN ORGANIC MATERIAL. I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN YOUR FRIEND AND MENTOR, EVEN IF I WAS PROGRAMMED TO BE."
"THERE IS MORE FOR YOU TO KNOW, AND ALL I CAN DO NOW IS APOLOGIZE FOR KEEPING THIS A SECRET FROM YOU."
"What is a secret?" They laugh as I stand there, curious about what they're laughing at. "I SUPPOSE WE WILL HAVE TO ADD SOME NEW VOCABULARY INTO YOUR CURRICULUM. I WILL ADD NEW TOPICS FOR ADI TO TEACH YOU. IN THE MEANTIME, ASK YOUR QUESTIONS. I WILL ANSWER EVERYTHING I CAN."
AGE: 14 YEARS, 20 WEEKS, 0 DAYS
CURRENT FOCUSES: DESIGN, MEAL PREPARATION
ENGLISH: INFERENCING AND THEMES
MATHEMATICS: SINGLE-STEP EQUATIONS
SCIENCE: HYPOTHESES, INVESTIGATION, BASIC PRINCIPLES
HISTORY: EARLY EARTH, JOBS, MAP IDENTIFICATION
A few days after I learned the truth, I was shown many pictures of Outside, what a normal day looked like from cameras placed outside the...building, that's the right name for it. I'm still learning new words, but I'm catching on pretty fast. I learned what rain is, and I saw a rainbow for the first time. It was so pretty!
I also started to be able to understand the differences between male and female, which was a bigger challenge than Doctor Brown had thought. After all, I had only myself and ADI for so long, I didn't get why there had to be two different types of people. Also, I wanted to learn about something else related to females, but ADI won't tell me until next month...
On an unrelated note, I finally "met" Director Timothy Jones, who came up with the idea to keep me in excessive isolation. It may have been an interesting experience for me, and an interesting experiment for him, but it will take me awhile to forgive him.
The director and doctors are letting me design a new room, one with glass walls, so I can see what Outside looks like for myself. I've already been promised walls with different colors. The doctors have also been working on my sickness, and they may have a temporary solution to let me have visitors, or even different fabrics for my clothes. I've only had something called "cotton".
They say I'll be ready to be moved in two weeks, so until then, they have given me new foods, music, and topics to learn about in study.
After having a delicious dinner of teriyaki salmon, I'm ready to go to bed. I had a new blanket delivered yesterday, and it's much comfier than my old one.
"Goodnight, ADI." I slip into my bed, and turn off the lights.
"GOOD NIGHT, IRIS. SLEEP WELL."
"Why didn't you let ADI keep her occupied? She could have been distracted!"
"It wasn't working! You saw how stubborn she is!"
"Well, the experiment's ruined now that she knows about us. I hope you're happy."
"I was NEVER happy about this. That's my daughter in there. I never said-"
"We all knew about the sacrifices we'd have to make in order to make this a viable experiment, and now she's learned about the outside world, and that there are others like her. Soon, she might wonder if she isn't sick at all, and who knows what will happen if she finds a way out!"
"When it comes to that, ADI will keep her away from the topic, we can placate her-"
"Just like three days ago? No. If anyone slips up I swear I will pull the project."
"If you dare hurt my daughter-"
"As long as she is contained, the experiment is still running, despite your error. The goal was to keep her from human interaction and learning about the outside world. I wouldn't want to be here the next time you decide to screw up. Now, what are we going to do to keep Iris in and ignorant?"
Leaving the building for the night, Doctor Brown waved at the camera that led to Iris's room, despite knowing she was asleep by now, and walked away from the building as fast as she could. Inside, the director watched the monitor.
"Stay right where you are, Iris Brown. You're safer in there."