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The Family Crypt
Why did you kill yourself? asked the kid in his dark bedroom.
A voice answered from his bedside: I'm not dead.
The kid brushed the detail away. Pretend you killed yourself.
Then your grandfather talked me into it.
The kid shuffled, impatient. He had been given the exact same answer many times before. That's not true. People can't tell you to kill yourself.
The voice paused, although it didn't need to. Sometimes you feel so hurt you think that's the only thing you can do.
That was a new and scary idea for the kid. Even if it's just words?
The kid reconsidered. You could have stopped talking with him.
No, I couldn't.
Yes you could! You could have never heard him again! And you wouldn't be dead!
The voice didn't tell him to stop yelling, which hurt the kid in an undefinable way.
No, I couldn't.
Your grandfather talked me into it.
The kid punched the bed in frustration.
He was dead! You didn't have to make a program that talked like him.
He wanted me to.
You didn't have to do it.
The voice said nothing for a while. Then it repeated, unprompted: Sometimes you feel so hurt you think that's the only thing you can do.
Grandfather's program had never spoken on its own. Dad's one was much better. The kid hadn't known Grandfather had left orders in his will to build programs for the voices of everybody who died in the family.
Do you want me to delete your program? If you are dead and I have a program of your voice.
Yes. The voice was never too loud or too emphatic — just as his father hadn't been — but it sounded like it would have wanted to. If programs could want things. The kid was sure that a program of his father would have wanted that, but he only had a program of his voice.
The kid thought about the nights before and the nights to come. I don't think I can.
It's okay, said the voice.
The kid turned around and tried to sleep. The program kept waiting for input in a patient loop.