Friday, November 29, 2013

Fiction Friday: Methuselah - Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match!

For other posts in the series, visit the Methuselah page on this blog. 

Illustration of synthetic head, showing inner circuitry.
Agnes winked to close the comm channel with her mother. She slumped in her chair and gazed dumbly at the monitor for a few seconds. That may have been the least satisfying conversation she had ever had with Mara. Possibly worse even than the vitriolic exchanges they had had during Agnes’ adolescence.

Those days were almost embarrassing for Agnes, though she recognized that they were a normal, healthy stage of rebellion and separation. And she had to admit that, even when she swore her mother was the most flawed woman on the planet, she never for one moment doubted that Mara loved her.

But today . . . today felt even worse. There had been no harsh words or disagreement; there had just been a certain emptiness, a superficiality to their conversation that left Agnes feeling like she’d been shortchanged. Like she’d been given a counterfeit.

I wonder, she thought, if this is what people feel when they think a loved one has been body-snatched. I just spoke with her, but I miss her.

She placed a mug under the beverage dispenser and spoke: "Hot green tea." Moments later an aromatic brew filled her cup. Grabbing her drink, she went to the living room and picked up her browser pad. She’d been procrastinating about her retirement trip. It was time to make a decision.

She hadn’t heard from Glen since his infuriatingly lame e-mail. Mara was saying all the right things but somehow was not convincingly sympathetic.

Fine, then. Moving on.

She opened Mate-Match, “Where families begin,” as their slogan promised, and began her request. First was the usual scanning of her fingerprint, which populated a dossier with her basic curriculum vitae information: name, date of birth, adjusted age, address, annual income, academic profile, careers to date, interests.

She verified all the information, added some personal notes (although she’d spent one sesqui in the service industry, she had not enjoyed that career path as much as the years she’d spent in the creative arts).

She clicked "submit," and a female face was superimposed on the screen. It was an artificially intelligent Mate-Match agent, a bot with a matrix of programmed questions and interactions designed to draw out Agnes’ personality.

“You can call me Beth,” the bot informed her.

Even knowing the bot was not human, Agnes found herself wanting it to like her, to find her attractive and charming. She made a few witty replies and the bot obligingly laughed.

“So, Agnes, excuse me for sounding like a wizened old granny, but I have to ask: why are you still single? I mean, a nice girl like you – pretty, bright, charming, accomplished – you should have been snapped up sesquis ago!”

Well! That was unexpected!

“Well, until pretty recently, I was ‘snapped up’,” Agnes laughed. “We actually applied for a reproduction permit together, but he didn’t get his, at least not quickly enough, so I went ahead with my renewal and implantation. Then he kind of, um, buggered off.”

“Oh no! How awful for you!” The bot’s sympathy took Agnes off guard. Maybe it was actually a person, not a bot after all. “What a schmuck!”

“Yah. It’s been pretty shitty,” Agnes allowed, and felt her eyes well with tears. “This was going to be a big adventure together and now . . .”

“Are you sure you really want to do this, Agnes? I mean, I can tell you’re still pretty heartbroken. It might just be bad timing, maybe wait a few months or a year?”

Agnes’ tears spilled over.

“I can’t.” And she explained once again why time was of the essence. “I’ve already sat on this decision for weeks, waiting to hear from Glen. He’s gone; I’m moving on. It’s time to make a baby.”

“Clearly you do want that, but I have to say, Agnes, a lot of men will find your recent breakup – and that’s what it is, really – to be a strongly negative factor. No one wants to enter into a twenty-year commitment on the rebound. I just don’t know.” The bot raised its eyebrows and wagged its head slowly side to side.

Tears gone now, Agnes was on the defensive.

“Look, why don’t you leave that up to the men?” Agnes challenged. “I am a good catch – you even said so yourself. I’m ready to start a family, and I do understand what a family is, whether you believe it or not.”

“I’m not sure you do,” the bot, Beth, replied condescendingly. “I mean, you do want a child, but I think the family you want to have is with Glen. It’s hardly fair to put some poor bloke who’s ready for real love through a sham marriage.”

“Sham? We are talking about arranged marriages here, aren’t we?” Agnes felt she’d been led into a trap. Her cheeks flushed. “Are you trying to tell me that none of the men out there come with baggage? It’s a seller’s market and I’m the buyer?

“I have thought long and hard about what I’m getting into,” she continued. “Believe me. It’s not the way I had planned this to happen, but it can – and I hope will – be a very fulfilling and loving relationship. In fact, there’s something to be said for having someone objective looking at bringing two people together, rather than just leaving it to chance. It would be great to have the passion along with everything else, but some of us don’t have the luxury to be choosey.

"Right now, I care more about finding someone who will be a good father and a good partner and - what's that old word? - a helpmate. Helpmates are seriously under-rated.” She was on a roll now.

Beth let Agnes continue in this vein for a few minutes, then broke in abruptly. “Thank you. You’ve given me a good indication of your personality and of your motivation for following this approach. I have enough to go on to prepare a selection of potential mates for you and to prepare your profile reel. I should have something for you by next week. From there we can talk about a process towards your retirement location.”

Agnes was struck dumb. She’d been played. The bot had honed in on her soft spot and had prodded just enough to get a reaction. Agnes had accidentally given her sales pitch. She tried to remember everything she'd said. Had she made any wild declarations that a potential partner would find offensive or might hold her to?

“Good. That’s good then,” Agnes stammered. “Thank you. I’ll watch for a message from you. Thank you. That’s, yeah, that’s good.” She forced herself to stop yammering.

“Have a good week, Agnes, and thank you for using Mate-Match, where families begin,” the bot signed off courteously.

Agnes winked the app closed and took a long drink of her tea. Her cold and insipid green tea. She wanted something stronger, but it was much too early in the day for a glass of wine. Besides, she needed to keep all toxins away from her pre-pregnant body.

No. What she really needed, after a morning like this one, was some fun. She made herself a fresh, hot cup of tea and gathered her paint supplies and got ready to re-learn how to paint watercolours.


  1. played by a BOT. That sucks. So glad you're not stopping. Also glad - evil me - that you don't make it every Friday. it would be harder to write, I think, if I knew both of you never missed a Friday! Too much pressure.

    1. Or is it a bot? Maybe they just want you to think it's a bot so you let down your guard!

    2. I may write more frequently once I'm semi-retired, but I'm not going to push myself.


What did you think? Any comments?

Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...