The World Is Wrong Print
By Brad Miner   
Monday, 17 January 2011

The judge turned her chilly azure eyes to look at him. 

“The defendant will rise to hear the jury’s verdict and the sentence of this court.” 

Thomas Daley watched her speak but wasn’t listening. He rose because the lady in white at his left stood up. 

“You may address the court if you wish,” the judge said, and this Daley did hear. He knew he shouldn’t speak. 

He professed an illicit religion – although he was not on trial for that – and his silence protected other Catholics. He hadn’t spoken to the police or even to his own advocate. If he began to talk, he feared not stopping. Marie’s friend, Fr. Paul, had told him a man may regret the words he has spoken; rarely that he didn’t speak.

Yet as he looked to his right at the grinning, red-robed prosecutor, then at the six black-robed jurors in the boxes on either side of the judge – men on the left, women on the right – and again at the judge, whose red robe was trimmed with black and white, he thought, No, I should witness.

“Jesus said,” Daley began, his voice hoarse from silence, his throat tight to say what he’d never said in public, “‘Whoever rejects me and does not accept my words has something to judge him: the word that I spoke, it will condemn him on the last day . . .’”

There were sighs of exasperation in the courtroom. Daley sensed more than saw the rolling eyes and shaking heads but heard spitting mockery, and – strange as it seemed – this put him in mind of the first time Marie had taken him to a secret Mass. Secret, because there is no other kind.

And he couldn’t help marveling, as he so often did now, that he and Marie had met on the very day his Angela X had begun malfunctioning. He’d been standing outside the Museum of Books and Music, idly staring into a window display of manuscript pages from a time when people wrote things down by hand. He was wondering when maintenance at Delectatio would fix the A-10 and if they’d do it wirelessly or have to take “her” in, when Marie had exited the building on a run and ran right into him. The first thing he noticed was her eyes, big and brown. She had to put her hands on his arms to keep from falling, and he could smell her hair, which didn’t have the odor the Angela’s Comacomb.

“Forgive me,” were the first words he heard Marie speak. He shook his head, meaning there was nothing to forgive, but she said, smiling:

“You don’t forgive me?”

“No . . . I mean I . . . It was nothing. An accident. No harm. Okay?”

“You speak in telegrams,” she said.

Daley didn’t know what that meant, and Marie could see that he didn’t, but she also saw more in this man than the usual twenty-second-century opacity. She offered him her hand to “shake” in the old way.

“I’m Marie.”

Her hand was so soft, not like Angela’s waxy Verderma, and Daley could see blue vessels under Marie’s pale skin. He’d heard there were some Sexual Androids with skin like this but they cost a fortune. Why would anybody spend so much on an SA? Jack at work said it was so you could take them out in public. They’re that good, Jack said.

“Tom. My name is Tom.”

Standing now in court, Thomas Daley heard the judge say something to the jury and a juror reply, and he felt the advocate’s hand on his arm. He was the first man to be convicted under State’s new cybercide law.

The world, he was thinking, is wrong. Most owners were fooled by android surrogates. Fr. Paul called it “the old transference.” Daley had owned Angela X six months before the programming error, but he had recoiled from day one and was heartsick when he’d begun talking to the “her.” You were supposed to talk, so they could learn to talk to you, but he hated his own stupid credulity.

“You want me to talk to it?” Thomas had asked the delivery technician. 

“To her, yes. Look . . . talk or don’t talk. They work better if you do is all. You’ll enjoy her more.” 

“Enjoy it more,” Thomas corrected. The tech just arched his eyebrows.

An Angela X is a kind of miracle – just as Delectatio Corp. promised in ads. But Marie told him, No. It’s just technology. It began, she said, with movies and Perfect Animation. Then there were other developments: artificial skin and muscles, NervoSyn and TruOculi – tremendous advances for suffering humans – from which Delectatio and other companies perversely profited. She explained these things at the Masses where she and Fr. Paul also proclaimed the Truth, now an offense against both Tranquility and Equality. Thomas wanted to marry Marie, so he took the Angela X to the Cliffs overlooking the Sea and pushed it off. Falling, the “robot” screamed. And was heard.

The azure-eyed judge sentenced him, in the “spirit of the New Tolerance” she said, to five years in a minimum-security facility.

“You’ll serve two at most,” the advocate whispered.

Tom Daley didn’t care. Marie would wait.

Later in the Visitor’s Bay she told him this new tolerance is just the old sin, and he knew she didn’t lie.

Brad Miner is senior editor of The Catholic Thing.
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