15 May 2021

Because of a computational error, the following story from the year 2050 has appeared on your device. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Dave was telling their story. He spoke the words you read below directly into her mind.

The early days of the Universal were sweet, but truly, all their days were happy. Dave rose early in the morning to make tea. He served it to Kat in bed and they talked about what would happen each day. Dave was focused on the creation of the Universal. Kat was building a large team for her company.

Every day, on a regular schedule, Dave cooked all their meals with love and caring. When he wasn’t making tea or cooking, he worked on the Universal in the greenhouse. He was teaching it all the languages of the world.

Then, one night, as they stretched out on the sleeping pad like satiated animals, Dave said, We live a pretty boring life, don’t we?”

Kat aimed her smile at the ceiling. Not a care in the world.”

Shall we have a storybook wedding?”

Kat sat up. Do you want to?” When she saw that he really did, her voice was like a bell. Let’s do just that.”

Dave on his screen loved to spin out these beautiful memories for Kat. The real Dave was long gone. This Dave captured the living Dave’s warm eyes and old-timey expressions. The past is always the best place to live in when you have a large database.

Kat shot him a tolerant look. Don’t break the Fourth Wall, Dave.” She wanted him to tell the wedding story. Dave patiently watched her from his screen, knowing fully in his machine intuition where she wanted to go.

After a moment during which his eyes went dull as he gathered the necessary memories, Dave spoke again.

They married suddenly, he said into her mind. Though the decision was sudden, they were sure of it. They were in love in a way so powerful that they felt two people had never been in love before. It felt new in the world. One morning like any other, Kat caught Dave’s eyes and said, We have to get married. Today.”

Dave blinked. Not that I’m objecting. I love you as I have loved no other person on this earth.” He was feeding an old novel into the Universal, and his mind was filled with words written many years ago. The Universal took up much of his time when he wasn’t doting on Kat. It was a beast. He fed it novels in English and Farsi, depressing fairytales in German and Dutch, technical manuals in Arabic, appliance repair guides in Korean, and ancient languages. Sanskrit. Sumerian. Any language that humans had spoken or written, Dave gathered it up in its essence and poured it into the Universal. He became drunk with this activity. It made his mind float. It was intoxicating and maddening. He loved it, but he loved Kat even more.

After some gentle negotiation, they set a date six months ahead, notified family and friends, and created a guest list of 300 people. They began long, languorous planning days, and as they planned, they broke down the parts of the wedding into small elements that could each be handled individually. They did teleconferences with florists, deciding on flowers exotic and simple. They stood before their screens and tried on virtual clothes. The guest list took up most of their time. Kat’s mother was dead and her father was too old to travel. She fretted about how she would get him from the assisted care facility in New York to the floating house in Marin.

Dave’s family was small, huddled in the American Midwest District, scrapping out an existence on mostly barren farms. His parents, because of their proximity to near-barren farms, had all but lost the capability of speech. They had few words between them. He couldn’t imagine how they would fit in at his festive wedding.

Then, one evening, Kat and Dave were sitting quietly, feeling slack after hours spent opening mag disks and looking at 3D renderings of venues, and reading over lists of food that seemed like too much food for all the people in the world. The sun had set long ago, but they had no way of knowing because the blast curtains were drawn. The house swayed gently on its pontoons. In a break from his usual pattern, Dave hadn’t worked on the Universal for days. Kat had stopped taking the ferry to work. Her employees joked she had left the company to them.

It should be just us,” Dave said suddenly. No one else.” He looked at her sideways, expecting an argument. To his surprise, she gave none.

You’re right,” she said quickly. She wanted the words out of her mouth before they became birds and flew away.

Surprise lit Dave’s face. ‘Ever since I was a little girl’ is what I expected you to say.”

You shouldn’t expect me to say anything,” Kat said.

That’s true,” he replied. You often surprise me.” He opened the blast curtains to reveal the night laid out before them like velvet. The night had been waiting for them. They went to bed. In the dark, lying side by side on their sleeping pad, they resolved to get married in the morning at the District, just the two of them and the official to speak the words to bind them.

Computational Error is part of a series of short-form fiction. Subscribe to get the series in order in your inbox.

(c) Lee Schneider 2023. Take care of each other. Subscribe.