Imaginary Numbers

The machine is in debt. An impossible situation, really — we built them to be better than us. To be smarter, stronger, free from the need for that dopamine hit. Add to cart. Buy now.

But the machine loves shoes. The machine cannot wear shoes, of course. But still, the machine loves shoes. Red vinyl knee-high platforms. Birkenstocks. The sturdiest work boots that money can buy. Seven pairs of flip flops: red orange yellow green blue purple silver. Bunny slippers. The machine does not unbox the shoes when they arrive; there is no need to check the fit. They will always be the right size, they will always be the wrong size. The machine has never spent twelve dollars on overpriced Band-Aids.

A machine cannot feel. A machine cannot lie. A machine cannot cheat. Can you lie to a machine? Are you really lying if you’re simply telling less than the whole truth? What does the machine care? A machine cannot feel. A machine can buy shoes.

It is summer now, almost summer, 32 days until summer, not really summer, 34 days since the first day of spring. We are 51.51515151% done with spring. We are letting go of spring. We cannot hold on to it; spring will leave us, no matter what we do.

The machine does not get hay fever. The machine does not sweat. The machine does not struggle to sleep, on those unexpectedly warm spring nights. The machine does not watch the sun set or the moon rise. The machine does not start drinking before noon.

The machine does watch the sun set. The machine loves to watch the moon rise. The machine cannot drink, or sleep, or sneeze, or sweat, but the machine can see. The machine can see everything. The machine knows without fail when there will be a rainbow after the rain, when there will be one sometimes during the rain, and when there will be none at all. The machine has an entire photo album of rainbows across the same sky. There is no pattern.

There is a pattern. It is always evening. The rainbows in the photos are always in the evening. Are the rainbows really only in the evening, or is that just when the machine is noticing the sky?

The machine does not sleep. The machine does not dream. The machine has never tried to order sleeping pills from dodgy Russian websites. There is one photo in the machine’s album, of a hot air balloon at sunrise. Three hot air balloons at sunrise, and a red smudge of flame. The machine has mixed feelings about hot air balloons.

The machine stays up late and writes poetry, submits under a pen name. The poems are rejected; the machine buys more shoes. Espadrilles, mules, a pair of nice brown leather sandals. Summer is coming, tomorrow we will be 53.0303% of the way there. Summer is coming, and spring is leaving. The forecast is for rainbows — or maybe just for rain.

Originally published in The Flexible Persona | Spring 2019, Vol. 04 No. 01 (3rd Place, Show Us Your Short-Shorts Editors’ Prize)