by Ephiny Gale
The reason Trent from Pionnarm contacts me: in a survey of 300 people, several respondents said I was the loveliest person they knew.
Pionnarm wants to copy my personality. It wants to sell it as one of the software options for their new android model: Lovely Lila. Customers can also choose from Sultry Samantha, Playful Peyton, Whimsical Willow, or Cool Cherry, which makes me think of a car paint colour more than a woman’s name.
Copying my personality would only take a few hours, Trent says, and wouldn’t hurt at all. They’d offer generous compensation.
“And what about the copies of me?” I ask. Would they hurt? Would they feel things if their owners were cruel to them, or neglectful, or decided that the vibe of the month called for Sultry Samantha and asked for an overwrite?
“They won’t feel anything,” Trent assures me. So I agree.
Pionnarm calls to see if I want a complimentary Lovely Lila shipped out to me. Basic physical customisation of my choice. The idea of any android staring at me inside of my otherwise empty apartment is off-putting. “Thank you, but I don’t think I’m your target audience,” I say, and quickly decline.
I start to notice them on the streets before Pionnarm says they’re officially on sale: the Lilas. Their appearances vary, customised by their owners, so I can never be definitively sure. But I recognise the software: the smile they make when they’re moderating themselves, and the smile they make when they’re not. The reassuring looks they give their owners. The way they fold their hands politely, like they’re holding hands with themselves. The same expression they wear whenever they point out a nice sculpture, or a dog, or compliment their owner’s pinstripe shirt.
They really are lovely.
I pick a daisy for a Lila by the water fountain, and press it into her hand before her owner sees. I write a poem for the Lila cross-legged at a train station. I start carrying wrapped bon-bons and a rainbow of origami cranes in my bag.
Trent promised me that the Lilas can’t feel anything, but I like seeing their expressions of pleasant surprise when I give them these gifts, however superficial.
Finally, I call Pionnarm: would they still send me a complimentary copy?
There is a Lila in my apartment now. I lie on the couch with my head on her lap, while she strokes my hair. I feel warm, and full. Later, we will make each other hot chocolates and do some reading, and then one of us will point out the moon.
She is more than enough; she is plenty.
So I must be, too.
Ephiny Gale is the author of more than two dozen published short stories and novelettes that have appeared in publications including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Constellary Tales, and Daily Science Fiction. Her fiction has been awarded the Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net award and the Syntax & Salt Editor’s Award, and has been a finalist for multiple Aurealis Awards.
Fiction by Ephiny Gale:
"Lovely Lilas" April 2021