“Hello, Walter,” I said, and with a gleam of confidence in my voice, as the computer began to boot up with its beeps and start-up engine running a rising electric-noise. Walter was a computer.
He had lived in my basement for a time, instructing me about how to go about his ‘needs’ and advising me about how to improve my own life. Walter was alive, you see. Well, alive in an artificial sense. And as a living being he required human interaction and frequent upgrades to his hard drive to stay alive.
I had first found Walter near some garbage cans on a street corner while walking home from work one night. I think it was his monitor that first established my admiration for him.
I needed a computer at the time and figured that I could fix him up. After I took him home I looked around inside of him, realizing something strange. The make-up of Walter’s insides weren’t like that of any other computer.
He was just a lone monitor on a small stand, with a plug coming out of his back lower half. Upon closer inspection I noticed that he had no outlets or plug-in areas for wires, mouses or towers. He was a lone-screen. Living.
I plugged Walter in to see if this might be some new age touch-screen technology or something to that effect. When I plugged him in, the screen remained black and no sign had shown that the power had gone on. I looked around once more for any other attachments, but eventually gave up.
I remember saying aloud, “No wonder they threw you away.” That was when Walter began to speak. I’ll never forget his first word.
“What!?” he replied in an angry tone. Eventually we introduced ourselves and he told me the story of how his old owners suffered an… unfortunate accident, and how their home and all their possessions were being sent away or repossessed. Walter said that when the movers found him they must have thrown him away, seeing no use for a single screen and a monitor that couldn’t connect to anything.
That was when I had found him. Walter was with me for some time and always implored me to keep him out of the sunlight. For some reason he found it weakening.
I kept him in the dim basement where he said he felt more at peace. Everyday I would come home from work and head down to the basement to greet Walter and tell him about my day. He was quite talkative as well.
Walter would tell me stories about the lives of people around me. Walter said he knew everything about everyone and that, if I so desired, I could use the knowledge he could give me to gain a leg-up in life. Some of these things included secret thefts my boss had been committing from the company I worked for, or the ideal guy that the cute girl, Anna, was looking for. That was the girl next door to me.
Walter told me that with information I could bend the world to my will. He knew everything from secret information to files on things no every-man should know. It sounded too good to be true, so one day, before heading out for work, I stopped down in the basement to have a word with Walter.
He advised me to blackmail my boss with his theft, telling him I wanted less hours and more pay or I would turn him over to the law. After that, Walter said, I should head over to Anna’s house and ask her on a date. The day went just as planned, and after Anna had said yes we shared a wonderful night in the town.
I hesitated to blackmail my boss, though. I only told Walter I did. He knew I was lying, since he said my bosses’ information was still in the database at work. He stopped caring after a while. As for my date with Anna…
I told her what she wanted to hear, just as Walter had informed me. I cheated and lied away, and life had never been better. Now, I’m sure we’ve come to the part of the story where the once down-on-his-luck narrator tells of how the artificially-intellectual being, who helped the narrator take control of his life and gain that which he longed for, would finally begin asking for blood sacrifices and illegal tasks such as murder to be preformed on the machine’s behalf.
Sadly, for Walter, this isn’t one of those stories. See, I had read plenty about artificial sentience. I studied the possibilities, read the old horror stories and took out the books behind Walter’s back. I read them in libraries so he couldn't look up books I had taken out of the library, since they’d be on their computers.
Every single time the subject of a lone-everyman, gaining the aid of a living machine, the stories all ended the same. In the narrator’s demise. Well, I knew this wouldn’t be me since I had something none of those previous theorist or protagonists had supposed.
I lacked the factor of overwhelming greed and the desire to grow that which I had earned. So, it was on a bright sunny Sunday that I strolled down to the basement and unplugged Walter from the wall, throwing him away, into a nearby river an hour later. Walter was out of my life before any possibility of backfiring could occur. And what can I say? Life went on. Without Walter around I eventually lost Anna’s love.
That was, once I couldn’t keep up with the expectation of being exactly the man she had wanted. Once Walter had stopped guiding me. I was let go from my job a few months after that, after my boss’ thefts had been found out and the business suffered some major financial issues, ending in many layoffs. Word of my scheme to blackmail my boss had even floated around.
I didn’t know how anyone could have known about that. Kind of makes me think Walter is somewhere else now, plugged in and seeking me out.
Things haven’t quite been the same since way back then, but no matter what I face, be it jail time, loneliness or starvation, I was happy with the time I did have with Walter around.
I remain uncertain of wherever he floated off to. Perhaps the water destroyed his circuits. Perhaps not. All I know for sure is if he was to ever be booted-up again, and were to come to the realization of what I had done, he would surely despise me.
He might even hate me to the point of convincing his new owner to find and kill me. But I doubt this since, after all, I smashed him up well-enough before dumping him away. He didn’t break easy and that bothered me at first, but just a little bit.
Now, pleased that I was never in danger of walking the same path of a tragic narrator, seduced by the empty-promises of a cold-emotionless machine. I was different.
I’ll never forget his robotic voice, coming out of the small speakers installed beneath his screen. I still hear his stern tone in my sleep. It’s funny. People who I’ve told this story to all think I’m joking. They don’t believe a machine could actually be alive. Let alone, a computer with little to no components inside of it. My friends write my tale off as someone with a walkie talkie in the monitor messing with me. But there was nothing like that inside of Walter. Believe me. I checked.
I’m not a fan of the idea of souls possessing inanimate objects, but maybe that’s what this was? Anyways, I’m keeping my eyes out now, for anything that may resemble the strange phenomenon I had faced with Walter. It’s a time of my life I guarantee I will never forget.
Credited to Brian C. Alexander