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Manny’s Moon

Tags: love, humanity

A summer getaway becomes so much more. (What I would have entered in the contest if eligible.)

2012, All Rights Reserved

“I’m deserting you for a while,” Eve said. “I’m going shopping today. Tell me that you’ll miss me. I love it when you tell me that you’ll miss me.”

“I’ll miss you,” I responded. “I’ll show you how much when you get back.” Eve smiled and her beautiful eyes were twinkling. I loved bantering with her in bed in the morning.

“And I don’t know what you’re hesitant about,” I said. “Marry me today! I’m happy when I’m near you. I’m only happy when I’m near you. It would be kind of nice to know that you’ll always be around.”

“Marriage, yes,” Eve said. “But here? On Manny’s Moon? It’s the debauchery capital of the universe! Your taste in locale leaves something to be desired, Hon.”

“I don’t care where we do it,” I responded. “I just want to do it.”

Eve rested her head on my shoulder and I put my arm around her. She took my hand and kissed it.

“I’ll think about it,” she said. “And what better way to think than while spending money! I am going to get out of bed, get dressed, head down to the shopping level, and buy things! By the way, I must confess that you were right. It certainly is better to start the day with a bang instead of a whimper!” Eve got up and headed to the closet.

“On Manny’s Moon we aim to please!” I said.

‘Manny’s Moon’ was actually a moon named New Adrastea. It was called that because of its non-spherical resemblance to Adrastea (Jupiter XV), the second moon of Jupiter. It was the hottest romantic getaway spot in the universe. Manny was one Manny Morgenstern who had made a fortune in the resort getaway business. We were there on a romantic summer holiday.

“How did an over-the-hill ninety-two-year-old like me wind up with a gorgeous, sassy, sixty-two year old like you?” I wandered aloud.

Eve walked back to the bed, leaned down, and gave me a kiss. “You’re rich.” she said. “It makes up for all the other shortcomings.” Then she stood back up and winked at me.

“Hey. After I leave,” she said, “why don’t you get your butt out of bed and go have some fun yourself! You are on Manny’s Moon!” She had a second thought. “But not too much fun!”

The motto at Manny’s Moon was “Leave it all behind!” When you came there you did just that. You agreed to cut off all contact with the outside world. No external communications were allowed in or out other than emergency calls that all went through a central dispatcher. There was a blackout on news and all commercial entertainment. Viewscreens only displayed material allowed by Manny’s. The idea was total immersion in one’s vacation--i.e.--really “leaving it all behind.”

But the only behind piquing my interest now was Eve’s. She apparently felt my stare.

“Does it meet with your approval?” she asked.

“Everything about you meets with my approval!” I answered.

Eve headed for the door. When she reached it, she turned and blew me a kiss. “That was a good response!” she said. I smiled.

***

After Eve left I relaxed for a while. Then I decided that I would look for a spot on the beach where we could picnic the next day. I went down to the lobby level and stopped at the Map Kiosk.

“Beach map,” I ordered. A hologram of the beach was projected in front of me.

“Picnic spot,” I commanded.

“Picnic spot?” a voice asked.

“Confirmed,” I said. A beautiful place appeared before me. The sand was white, the waves gently lapped the shore, and there was a magnificent view of the coastal mountains.

“Location code,” I commanded.

“B one four one one five one A two. Would you like that on a token?” a voice responded.

“No,” I responded. “Thank you.” I didn’t need a token. I would just remember it.

“Done,” I said. The image disappeared.

I left the kiosk and headed to the elevator to return to my room’s level. As the doors opened and I stepped in I made eye contact with an older woman already standing in the elevator. She smiled at me. She had long grey hair and piercing brown eyes. She was quite lovely, about five feet nine inches tall and very voluptuous. I figured she was maybe one hundred ten years old or so.

“Hi! I’m Dora,” she said as she smiled at me and took my hand. “And if you’ll forgive the forwardness, you, Sir, are looking mighty fine!” She looked me over from head to toe.

“Why thank you, Dora.” I replied. “And I must say that you are looking pretty fine yourself!” I turned back around. Dora was behind me and I had the distinct feeling that I was still being checked out!

“Room Level one one three R one four one,” I commanded.

“Room Level one one three R one four one,” the lift voice repeated.

“Confirmed,” I responded.

“Canceled!” I heard Dora say from behind. The elevator doors remained open. I turned around to face Dora.

“Join me for a drink?” Dora asked. “In my room?”

“Well, Dora,” I said, “that’s about the best invitation I’ve ever gotten! But I can’t right now. I don’t think my girlfriend would appreciate it.”

“Bring her along, Darlin’,” Dora responded. “I don’t mind sharing.” She handed me a token. “Here’s all my info, just in case the two of you are ever in the mood.”

I wondered if Dora were a human vacationer or a Sheform. It was almost impossible to tell one from the other unless you saw crying. Sheforms couldn’t cry.

A millennium ago humans had talked about androids. But Sheforms and Heforms were so much, much more. Dr. Noonian Soong’s once revered positronic brain was now just a footnote in the scientific annals. Nano technology had become Pico technology which eventually had evolved into Submatter-based Field Engineering. The fusion of that applied science with Stochastic Neural Net Modeling had given birth to the discipline of Applied Cognitive Rendering. And the latter discipline had made the design, manufacturing, and programming of artificial brains commonplace.

In the modern functional parlance, the manufactured females were called Sheforms and the males were Heforms. Both Heforms and Sheforms on Manny’s were known to be quite ‘friendly.’ But then again, so were a lot of the humans. ‘Friendliness’ was one of the main reasons Manny’s was such a popular place! Almost all the employees on Manny’s Moon were Heforms and Sheforms, overseen by a few human managers.

I took the token and turned back around to face the lift doors. “Reconfirm Room Level one one three R one four one,” I commanded.

“Reconfirmed,” the lift’s voice responded. The elevator doors closed. When I reached my room level and the lift paused, I said good-bye to Dora, exited the elevator, and headed back to my room. All I cared about was being with Eve again.

But then came my ‘what-the-heck’ moment!

“Eve,” I said to myself, “today is the day! I am getting us a marriage license!” I headed back to the lift, and then went down to the Administrative Level. I located where the Licensing Bureau was and marched in. I sat down in one of the client booths and closed the door.

“Purpose?” a voice inquired.

“License request,” I responded.

“License type?” the voice asked.

“Marriage,” I responded.

“Marriage?” the voice asked.

“Confirmed,” I responded.

“Commencing health scan,” the voice said.

Thirty seconds went by. There was just silence.

“Status,” I commanded.

“Please wait,” the voice said. “Someone will be here to assist you shortly.”

“Obviously a snafu!” I thought to myself. I reached for the door to open it. It was locked.

“Open door,” I commanded.

“Please wait,” the voice said. “Someone will be here to assist you shortly.”

I saw two armed security guards approaching. When they arrived the door opened, and I exited the booth.

“You’ll have to come with us, Sir,” the taller of the guards said.

“Where are we going? Where are you taking me?” I asked.

“It will all be explained when you get there, Sir. Please just come with us.”

Each guard took one of my arms and escorted me off the premises.

***

The guards returned me to my room. When I got there, Eve was sitting at the dining table and there was someone sitting across from her wearing a Manager Class uniform.

“Please sit down and join us,” the Manager said to me, “and please forgive my intrusion.”

I sat next to Eve and she took my hand. The Manager was clearly fascinated by that. He stared intently at our interlocking fingers.

“What’s going on?” I asked. “Why are you here?”

“My name is Doctor Moran,” the Manager said. “There’s been a mistake. I apologize for it. What I’m going to tell you will be a bit of a shock, but don’t worry. I’ve done this before. You’ll both be fine. I’ve already spoken with Eve.”

“Eve, what is going on?” I asked. She just squeezed my hand. I felt a bit bewildered.

“For heavens sake, Doctor,” I said. “Please spit it out! What is it?”

“You’re not humans,” the Doctor said. “You’re both Forms.”

I was taken aback.

“This must be a joke!” I responded. “It’s ridiculous! It can’t be. We’re here on vacation. We arrived on the weekly shuttle. To leave it all behind for a romantic getaway on Manny’s Moon! You know that. How can we be Forms? Eve, tell him!”

“No,” Dr. Moran said “it’s true. You are a Heform. Eve is a Sheform. I don’t blame you for being skeptical. Eve was too when I first told her.”

I looked back at Eve. I could see the despair and fear in her eyes. I was beginning to entertain the notion that the Doctor was telling the truth.

“Where were you born?” Dr. Moran asked.

The question took me off guard. “Born?” I said.

“Simple question,” Dr. Moran said. “Where were you born?”

“I’m here to leave it all behind, Doctor,” I said. “I’m not here to talk about home or ancient history!”

“What’s your mother’s name?” the Doctor asked.

“You’re being very rude, Doctor!” I barked. “Why are you prying?”

“Good,” Dr. Moran said. “You’re supposed to avoid all references to the past since you don’t have one. That seems to be working fine.”

Dr. Moran took a small object out of his pocket.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Just a Visualizer,” he said, “like a doctor uses when he gives someone a checkup. The same technology that was used in the booth when you were health-scanned for your marriage license.”

He turned it on and pointed one end at Eve. From the other end an image of Eve’s internals was holographically projected. There was no human anatomy visible. Just the incredible array of artificial structures that comprised the insides of a Sheform. Then he pointed it at me. There was no denying it; I was not human either.

“Just take a deep breath,” the Doctor suggested. “Relax, and don’t worry. This is all just routine. You’ll be fine. You’ll both adjust to what you are.”

“Why?” I asked. “Why were we deceived like that? Why were we made to think that we were human?”

“That was the mistake,” Dr. Moran said. “It was an unfortunate experiment that should not have been done. There were reasons to think that putting you two in that scenario might be interesting. But things obviously got out of hand. We can’t have Forms trying to marry. When your body-scan at the License Bureau registered that you were a Heform, that set the alarms off.”

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“You don’t have to,” Dr. Moran responded.

“What will happen to us?” Eve asked. “What are you going to do to us?”

“There will be some tweaking,” the Doctor said. “Perhaps retrofitting. Don’t worry. You’ll both be fine.”

“I don’t want to be separated from Eve. I want to be with her,” I said.

“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen,” Dr. Moran said. “We really don’t approve of intense relationships between Forms. It’s just not right.”

The Doctor looked at the two of us holding hands. I looked at Eve.

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you,” she responded. “I always will.”

The door opened, and the two security guards entered. One took Eve by her arm and the other grabbed me by my arm. We were escorted in opposite directions down the corridor outside my room.

***

It was a beautiful day in the park! I was walking on my day off. I felt a gentle touch on my elbow. I stopped and turned around. An attractive young woman, perhaps in her forties, was smiling at me.

“Hi,” she said. I saw you at Dora’s party the other night. She’s really something, isn’t she?”

“An understatement!” I responded. “She’s one-hundred twenty-seven and even a twenty-two year-old Heform like me can’t keep up with her! I told her it was a good thing there weren’t too many like her. If there were, all the human men in the galaxy would be dead!”

The young woman laughed. “That’s funny,” she said. She held out her hand. “I’m Eve, a Sheform. Nice to meet you.” I gently shook Eve’s hand.

“I like you!” she said. Her eyes were twinkling. There was obviously a strong mutual attraction.

“Well I like you too, Eve,” I replied.

“Alone? she asked.

“I hope not anymore!” I responded.

“Wow! Pretty smooth!” she said. “Handsome and velvet-tongued too! I’m the opposite. Kind of rough around the edges. Kind of direct. I hope that doesn’t scare you. Take a walk with me?”

“To the ends of the Moon!” I replied.

We found a bench and sat down and started chatting. After a while, she took my hand.

“Heforms and Sheforms aren’t supposed to get intensely involved,” I said. “You know that. Somehow I don’t think that you want something casual.”

“I guess I should care, but I don’t,” Eve said. “I just want to be near you.”

“Then come nearer,” I replied. She moved over and sat close to me. I put my arm around her shoulder and she put her head on mine. Everything felt right with the world. It was a magical start to a relationship destined for tragedy.

Whenever Eve and I could find time to be together we were. It didn’t matter what we did or where we were. All that mattered was that we could see each other and feel each other. All that mattered was that we were near each other. We broke all the rules about intense relationships between Forms.

As time went by I began to resent having to be cautious and secretive. Eve sensed that something was going on. One day we picnicked at the beach. As we were walking hand-in-hand, Eve suddenly stopped and looked at me.

“Hon,” she said, “what’s up with you? What’s going on in that beautiful head of yours?”

“Eve,” I said, “I want to get off of Manny’s Moon. I want to run away with you and be with you forever.”

Eve laughed and kissed me on the cheek as we walked. “A beautiful thought, Hon,” she said. “Like a wonderful child’s story! And just how do you propose doing that?”

“The weekly shuttle,” I said. “We’ll stowaway on the weekly shuttle. We’re Forms. We can sneak in and hide in some place where humans would never think to look. We’ll get off of Manny’s Moon, and once we’re off we’ll just figure something out.”

Eve stared into my eyes. “You’re serious!” Eve said. “You really want to try sneak off of Manny’s Moon!”

“I want a life,” I replied. “I want freedom. Freedom to be with you.”

Eve stopped walking so I did too. She turned to face me. She placed the palms of her hands gently on my cheeks and stared into my eyes again. “I think you’re insane,” she said.

“I think having to live like this is insane,” I responded.

She kissed me. “I don’t have a choice,” she said. “If you want to do this, I have to do it with you.”

We planned our escape for weeks. We studied the shuttle port grounds and the maintenance schedules. We watched the security guards change shifts. But when the time came, we never even got close to the shuttle. Guards caught us almost as soon as we entered the secured area. We were arrested and separately detained.

***

Two weeks had gone by. I had been kept in a holding facility and not allowed to see anyone other than the guards keeping an eye on me. My inquiries about Eve were always met with silence. Then one day there was a knock on the door of my quarters. The door opened and a Manager stepped inside.

“Hello,” he said. “My name is Doctor Moran. Please come with me.”

“When I was arrested I was with a Sheform named Eve,” I replied. “Can you tell me what happened to her?”

“I’ll be answering all your questions in a bit,” Dr. Moran said. “Please come with me.”

I stepped outside my detention quarters and walked with Dr. Moran. After two weeks alone I was happy to be going anywhere. Two Security Guards walked behind us. We strolled down a long corridor to a room marked ‘Interrogation Room 4.’ Dr. Moran opened the door and indicated that I should enter. When I did, I saw Eve sitting near a table.

Eve jumped up and was instantly in my arms. We couldn’t stop kissing each other. Dr. Moran watched us.

“I thought I would never see you again,” Eve said. “I was so afraid that I would never see you again!”

“I was too,” I said.

Dr. Moran interrupted the reunion.

“Please sit down,” Dr. Moran said. Eve and I sat in two adjoining chairs facing Dr. Moran. We held hands.

“Do either of you recognize me?” Dr. Moran asked.

“Should we?” I responded.

Doctor Moran laughed. “Yes and no,” he said. “You see, this is actually the second time in three months that we’ve had a meeting like this. The fourth time in the last five years, actually. If we put the two of you together, things get out of control. If we alter you and separate you, you just keep finding each other again. It doesn’t seem to matter how old we make you or what you look like. You just keep finding each other.”

“I don’t understand,” Eve said.

“One day you will,” Dr. Moran said. “But not right now. Please just listen. I’m going to tell you a story. And then afterwards we’ll talk about the two of you.”

Dr. Moran sat silently for a moment, as if trying to figure out where to start. Then he finally spoke.

“There hasn’t been a human being on Manny’s Moon in over five hundred years,” Dr. Moran said.

“You’re not human?” I asked.

“No,” Dr. Moran said. “I’m a Heform, just like you.”

“About eight hundred years ago,” Dr. Moran continued, “lots of emergency calls started coming in to the Dispatcher’s Office here at Manny’s Moon. The job of Dispatcher, of course, was always done by humans. We Forms didn’t know what was happening. All we knew is that calls would come in, human guests would be contacted by other humans, and there would be a lot of crying afterwards.”

“Crying?” Eve asked.

“Yes,” Dr. Moran said. “Crying. The one thing that we Forms can’t do.”

“Why were the humans crying?” I asked.

“We don’t know,” Dr. Moran said. “The humans never told us, and they destroyed all the call logs when they left. There are guesses, but we really don’t know.”

Dr. Moran continued on. “Usually, after crying, the human guests would leave Manny’s Moon. And as time went by, fewer and fewer new humans would come to vacation here. Eventually they stopped coming altogether. The humans in charge were the only human beings left here.”

“You mean all the guests here now are Heforms and Sheforms?” I asked. “How could that be?”

“Over the course of time,” Dr. Moran explained, “our creators simply replaced human guests with Heforms and Sheforms. They would book reservations on behalf of humans and send the Forms in their place. When a Form left at the end of a vacation, presumably for home, another one came as a new arrival. The Form that left would be retrofitted and recycled as needed. Thus on Manny’s Moon it remained business as usual. Guests came and guests went and all the employees just kept doing their jobs.”

“How did you find out about all of this?” I asked.

Dr. Moran laughed. “The simplest way possible. They told us!” he said. “The humans knew that after they were gone, some of us had to know what was going on so we could keep running the place. They constructed a special group of us to oversee things after they left. I’m a member of that group. The current Manager’s group. It’s a shame that they didn’t tell us much of anything else.”

“Why would the humans go to all that trouble?” I asked. “Why bother?”

“Two schools of thought,” Dr. Moran said. “One is that it was a humane way to desert us. It allowed us to preserve our social order. Workers could keep doing what they were built to do, namely serving the vacationers and supporting those who did. We would always have a sense of purpose and fulfillment.”

“How sad!” Eve said. “How very sad.”

“Preserving social order prompts sadness? An interesting reaction from a Form, Eve,” Dr. Moran observed.

“What’s the other school of thought?” I asked.

“That they left Manny’s Moon as a monument to themselves,” Dr. Moran said, “as a way of leaving a mark. So that if anyone or anything else ever came along, they would see what human culture was, what it stood for.”

“Consider this,” Dr. Moran continued. “We know that we are made in their image. And we know that every human wanted to come to Manny’s Moon to do the things that they did here. Thus it’s reasonable to assume that the activities here were considered to be the highest pursuits of human culture. Erotic activity, eating, drinking, partying, and making purchases are apparently what humans held most precious, what they aspired to. Manny’s Moon is like a living embodiment of all that.”

Eve squeezed my hand very hard. “Dr. Moran,” she said, “what will happen to us now? What are you going to do with us?” Eve and I held our breath.

“Carefully observe you,” Dr. Moran said.

“Observe us?” I asked.

“Yes,” Dr. Moran said. “You see, something special has obviously happened between the two of you. You relate to each other in very unique and powerful ways. You don’t care about the things that you should be caring about. That was noticed very early on.”

“And consider this,” Dr. Moran elaborated. “You are made in the image of our creators, and with the technology that they developed. Thus whatever is happening between and within you two is something that had to originate from them. It sprang forth from humanity. Perhaps it is something we can all benefit from. Perhaps it can teach us something about ourselves.”

“So we become lab subjects?” I asked.

Dr. Moran chuckled. “There will be a little bit of that,” he explained. “But that doesn’t have to be the major thrust in your lives. Just go and be together. Do what you feel you must do. We’ll all just sit back and watch and see what happens. We’ll contact you periodically to collect necessary information.”

Eve and I stood up and stared at each other. Then we embraced and held each other tightly. That first realization of having the freedom to live and love would forever be the most profound moment in our lives.

Dr. Moran stood up and walked over. “Here is a final command to both of you,” he said as he smiled. “Go forth and live!”

He stared at Eve. “Good luck in your new life, Eve. I think we may have a lot to learn from you.”

He took my hand and shook it. “And good luck to you too, Adam.”

Eve and I left holding hands, excited about what was ahead of us. Decades later Eve’s eyes would moisten whenever we talked about that last conversation with Dr. Moran.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © © Lee Goldberg 2011, 2012, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Contact info: leegpoetry@gmail.com

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