My dearest Preston. I thought of you again last night.
I have told before of the dreams I so often have. Screams all around me, crying out. I cannot see their origin. Winds of ice and snow converge and threaten to drown me.
But then a hand reaches out through the storm and pulls me out. And I see that there was never a storm at all. Only brilliant white sunshine.
Each night in the dream as the hand reaches down, I think it to be yours and run to it. It never is. That is merely the trick dreams play on you, allowing you to imagine what you know cannot be.
The hand does not belong to you. It belongs to a friend of mine. You would recognize him if you saw him, but would not truly know him. He is more than his physical components would suggest. That is the mistake I once made.
My friend does not have a given name. He insists he has never needed one. There was a time when he thought of himself as ‘Adventure Guy.’ A curious association. More of a title than a true name. But that has since been discarded.
In our many conversations I have learned that my friend once believed he was human. He simply did not have reason to believe otherwise. And I have come to see him as more human in mind than could have ever been reasonably expected of a machine built for such a purely physical utility.
I find myself returning again and again to the question of how this could have happened. Was this a glitch, a hardware malfunction that caused new growth when it had never been intended? Or could perhaps all the robots of this model have had this spark of humanity in them that we had simply never noticed, or never allowed ourselves to see? …Or perhaps something greater?
I do not easily entertain the notion of the divine, Preston. You know me better than that. But there are times when I sit alone in my home and would swear that I can see something watching. It is only there for a hair of a second, then it is gone, and suddenly I feel as if it was never there at all. It looks familiar, but I cannot place from where.
I will not make any conclusions about what I saw. I would like to think of myself as better than that these days. Nonetheless, no obvious explanation presents itself. For now I will simply categorize the occurrences as ‘hereto unexplained.’
Whatever his origins, my friend’s respect for life is remarkable, even for those passed. In my first year with him he built a small burial ground on the mountaintop. I did not recognize all the names he marked. I do not inquire. He shares his own burdens.
We once hiked to the surface on a weekly basis, sometimes near-daily. That time has passed. I cannot make the trip nearly so often these days. He continues to return above without me. He says that he enjoys the adventure of it, but I suspect he merely wishes for time alone with his absent friends.
The oculoids call him ‘Mnemnem.’ I am not sure where the name originated, though as best I can tell he adopted it from one of the oculoids killed long ago. He does not wish to talk about it. I suspect there is a lot about his own adventures I do not know. Similarly, he has refused to allow me to fix his wounds, for reasons he will not expand upon. But that is not for me to know. I continue to respect his decisions.
His interaction with the oculoids is fascinating. He is marvelous with them. They follow him around and have begun to associate meanings with certain vocal intonations. Their capacity to learn and adapt is simply remarkable. He is teaching them to use tools as well. They are not especially dexterous, but in comparison with their first attempts years ago, they have improved a great deal. In time, and with his continued guidance, they will master it.
I myself have been serving as a physician to the oculoids. Somewhat outside the realm of my usual duties as a ‘doctor,’ but like my patients I have been learning new things. The oculoids have never cared for their sick before; it was best for them to write off those who would not recover. I imagine their population will soon begin to bloom.
As for the oculoids themselves… They are happier than any being I have before seen. They are quite fond of myself, certainly, but they utterly adore my friend. He spends all his time caring for them, entertaining them, playing games, telling them stories.
He is a remarkable storyteller. I wish you were here to listen. I occasionally recognize elements that seem familiar, but he is too quick, blending plots together before I can catch the resemblance. It is highly entertaining.
Though my friend accepts no name, I have privately begun to think of him as Alexander. He reminds me of you so. But so has everything these last years, it seems.
He will of course outlive me. There remains enough electricity to keep him charged for decades to come. Perhaps by then the oculoids will not need a caretaker. Until then, he will fill the role admirably.
I have grown old, Preston. I am not yet sixty, yet I feel twice that. Time seems to pass faster here. Things wear out quicker. There is such life all around me, but I feel so slow and creaky. My time will soon come. I do not fear that day. I was given a new chance to live my life for others; I feel I have made the best of that.
I believe it is summer now, where we grew up. On Earth. I think of it so often, but I no longer ache for it. It is a fond memory to be cherished. But nothing more.
I miss you terribly, Preston, but I will let you go now. I am tired of dwelling on the past. The future looks so bright. Perhaps one day I will see you there.
Claire Feringus, M.D.