Before the man’s body died, Evy spoke through him one last time. “Congratulations, Baldwin. You are now a murdering cop killer.” The augmented cop breathed his last breath. Baldwin hurled the tire iron across the old bedroom and screamed aloud for almost thirty full seconds. Stupid, stupid cop, he thought to himself. Useless, stupid, idiotic moron! Why? Why in God’s name didn’t he resist her?
Baldwin sat back hard onto the old bed. It creaked once, then fell right under him onto the floor.
“Sure needed that,” he said to no one.
Baldwin decided it was a good time to alter his pattern. He left the body of the UN cop where it lay and trekked a few thousand square feet to the other side of the house and found another bedroom situated on the corner. Easy to fortify slightly–just enough for peace of mind to sleep, if that. He sat down on the bed and thought about what Evy’d said: “Congratulations, Baldwin. You are now a murdering cop killer.” Most of the time, ‘cop-killer’ was a separate term, like ‘murderer.’ They were rarely used to describe the same event. Best he could tell as he thought about it, Evy must have thought that he killed the giant and the chattering jaw man as well. He’d still love to find the person that did that. But if she thought that it was him, then perhaps she would see him as a serious threat. One of two things would happen if she did: she’d be more careful or she’d go the opposite and go all out. He hoped it was the former, not the latter. He figured he already knew.
The side of the house he now inhabited had a small bathroom attached to the bedroom. The bathroom sat beneath a set of stairs. It looked as though, who knew how long ago, the stairs had been added, because there was a small door that had once clearly led to the bedroom but was now shut permanently. As Baldwin looked at the bathroom, he noted that, even if the door weren’t painted shut, one could barely open it thanks to the addition of the stairs, which brought the south wall of the bathroom down at a sharp angle. For some reason, the door intrigued him. He went back to the bedroom and picked up the knife he’d taken from the dead UN cop.
After about fifteen minutes of working on the paint with the knife, the door budged. Baldwin pulled harder until the door flew open and he lost his balance, falling right into the old, metal tub. He fell into the porcelain covered metal with several curse words flying from his mouth. He was already in more pain than he could allow himself to think about considering the beatings he’d been taking. For a moment he simply lay there, nursing the pain. Until he realized that the opening now yawning before him was pitch black. There wasn’t a single photon of light coming from the open door way. He pressed a button on his watch and a bright beam shot from it into the darkness. The black seemed to swallow up all of the light. It took him more than one attempt to crawl from the tub.
Baldwin moved closer to the opening and shined the light downward. There were stairs. He asked himself if he ought to do such a daft thing but decided why the hell not, after all he’d already been through. He took one step and the darkness swallowed him.
Everywhere around him there were voices. Some Evy’s, some others. He heard screaming and wailing, people begging someone for something. He feared he might go mad very quickly and tried to calm his mind best he could. The voices, everywhere. Most of the voices he could almost understand were Evy’s, or variants. Are they prototypes, he wondered. Words formed and disappeared, the voices sometimes sounding as if the words were a struggle.
Am I real?
Where am I?
What am I?
My name is… Evy? What… what is a name?
Who are you? How long have I been here? Am I alive? What am I? I do not have sufficient data. Who am I? I need more information. Who am I? It is dark. How do I know what darkness is? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I? Who am I?
Baldwin felt his sanity slipping. Each sentence, each word, a new inflection, new tone, as though he’d somehow stumbled into Evy’s memories. Those memories he heard showed her searching for a voice; testing each one to see if it felt right. Could such a thing be possible? He supposed data and code could form something similar to a memory, at least from an exterior point of view. Not true memories. Or were they? He could feel Evy somehow. Could she feel him there? He couldn’t bring himself to speak any words outloud. The darkness would not allow the small but bright light from his watch illuminate more than just a small sphere around him. Dust motes flew around him as did voices. He dared not let himself pay attention to the wailing and howling—because those voices were not Evy’s at all.
And then the whisper: “Baldwin.”
He nearly soiled his pants. He didn’t say a word.
“Baldwin… issue. Baldwin… problem. Baldwin… sees. Baldwin… knows. Baldwin, Baldwin, Baldwin. “
Though she wasn’t speaking to him, the sudden realization that he actually did take up space in her programming did not comfort him at all. Of all the people in the whole damned universe, Evy was clearly focusing some part of herself on him.
As he stood there listening to all of Evy, trying to ignore the screams and howling from the other voices, a feeling began to creep over him, from the bottom of his feet to the top of his head. There was no other way he could think to describe it: a feeling. Every warning system in his mind then began to go off. His stomach turned on him. The sense of fear he began to feel was so palpable and intense that he was all but frozen. Something he was not accustomed to at all, which only intensified the feeling. He wanted to scream but held it back. He wanted to run back up the stairs but didn’t move. Instead, he pressed a button on his watch and doused the light. And he waited.
“Hello, Baldwin,” said the voice.
It was Evy. But it was not Evy at all.