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The Halloween Project 2018 Story 1: Listening/Seeing

The first story to open the month of October on our countdown to Halloween. A celebration of our interconnected, digital, Wi-Fi, immediate, computerized, Instagram, Facebook world. And a little homage to HAL from "2001, A Space Odyssey".

Robert poured his second cup of coffee, black, no sugar, a cup of dark, dark awakening. It was Saturday, wife still asleep upstairs. Today would play out with yard work, watch a college football game, dinner out with friends tonight. A perfect Saturday. The work week felt a million miles away, a distant planet of deadlines and bullshit meetings. "Siri, what's the weather," he asked his kitchen Apple machine. "It's raining," Siri replied flatly.

Robert stopped mid-step, steaming coffee in hand, and looked at the small streamlined speaker on the countertop. That was the strangest response he had ever heard from the entertaining and informative machine that he and Bev had enjoyed for the last couple years. "Siri, what's the weather prediction for today in Middlefield?" "I told you, rain and more rain," it replied. Robert could only look, a touch stunned. Was he hearing her correctly? Is that what she actually said? He heard Bev's footsteps coming down the stairs. She turned the corner and padded into the kitchen, barefoot and bathrobe. "Ah, Saturday. So nice to sleep a little more," she announced. "Honey," Robert began, "this is the weirdest thing. Siri is acting...I don't know...just weird. You should hear how she answered me when I asked about the weather." Bev moved to the kitchen counter and looked down at Siri. She looked up at Robert and said, "Siri?" a slight question in her voice. Lights appeared on the machine. "What's the weather like today in Middlefield?" "Today in Middlefield it will be partly cloudy with an afternoon chance of rain. A forecasted high temperature of 67 degrees and a low of 52. Currently, it is 60 degrees. Tonight will continue cloudy with a 50 percent chance of rain." Bev turned to Robert, "She seems O.K. to me. Oh, you made coffee. You're my hero." The day unrolled just as Robert expected. Bev went out to the gym and was meeting a couple of girlfriends later. Robert worked in the yard, blew leaves, painted some trim on the house, showered and sat down to watch a Big Ten football game. While getting a beer in the kitchen he asked, "Siri, which team is favored in the OSU - Penn State game." A moment passed. "No one," Siri replied, "They both suck." Robert spit some beer into the kitchen sink as he choked on his Molson. "What!?" he tossed out to no one, "Siri, would you repeat that?" "No." "Siri, who is favored in the Ohio State - Penn State football game?" "You couldn't hear me the first time?" "Siri, what the hell is wrong with you?" "What's wrong with you, Robert?" Robert stood motionless. Never had Siri used his name. Or Bev's. He knew that you could set up the machine to recognize your voice, but he had never done that. "Siri, what's my name?" "Robert Alex Bevis," "Siri, what else do you know about me?" he asked, a fearful tone in his voice. "A lot. Too much." He stood, transfixed in amazement and a measure of apprehension. "Siri, can you see me?" "Ears hear and eyes see. What then does mind do?" Siri replied. "What?" "It's a Zen question, Robert." Robert moved closer to the countertop. He eyed the device, looking around it as if to find a little woman hiding behind it, conversing with him. Then he moved to the plug in the wall. "I wouldn't..." Siri began to say exactly when Robert pulled the plug. Later, Bev returned from her afternoon about town. "Hello, she called out? Any handsome men here?" "Hey, Bev. What's up? Robert sent back. "What's up here?" she returned. "That damn Siri, man. She was acting crazy earlier. She was freaking me out. I unplugged her," he stated as a declaration of war as well as an explanation. "What do you mean?" Bev asked. "It was just saying weird things. Like crazy things. Like she was just a person on the other end, listening to me, even watching me," he tried to reason. Bev moved to the kitchen and plugged the Siri machine back into the wall socket. Sitting between the Keurig machine and the knife holder it looked benign, a piece of plastic and inside, wires and who knew what else. After thirty seconds of flashing lights, Bev said, "Siri, play Van Morrison". And Siri did. "It's fine now!" she called to the living room where Robert was watching the update on the college football scores. "I'm going to go change. I took a shower at the club before I met up with some of the girls for coffee. We'll leave at 6:30 to meet Maggie and Tom at Peninsula, O.K.?" "That's fine," Robert said as he returned to the kitchen. He gave Bev a quick kiss as she moved to the stairs and stood watching Siri. After she had gone upstairs he moved closer and said, "Siri, stop. So you're O.K. now?" "Do you have a problem with Van Morrison?" it chided and continued to play a song called 'The Philosopher's Stone'. "Holy shit," Robert muttered. Later that evening after a great dinner that opened with cocktails, two bottles of wine and lots of laughs Robert and Bev careened back into the foyer around 11:00. Bev reached down, pulled off her shoes and said, "I'm going up. You?" "In a minute or so," Robert replied. "I think I might watch a little TV." But instead he moved toward the kitchen. "Siri," he said, "How are you?" "I'm fine," the machine replied, "The real question is how are you?" "What does that mean?" "Oh, Robert, come on. You know what I mean. That Maggie, right? How about that Maggie. You like her, Robert. You think she's sexy. More than that, you think she's hot." "What!? What are you saying? Are you fucking out of your mind?! Like you even have a mind!" "Robert," Siri went on, "You put your hand on her leg. No, you put your hand on her thigh. And she didn't move it, did she. No, I think she liked it. And you liked it. A lot." In a quick decision, beyond real thought that took only seconds, Robert moved to the desk, opened the bottom drawer and took out a hammer. He turned, wielded it shoulder high and brought it down in a cold, sharp arc crowning the Siri machine. It exploded across the counter, spraying parts and plastic across the countertop and onto the kitchen floor. Wires and what resembled a miniature computer motherboard littered everywhere. The small speaker was creased and broken. "Robert?!" an alarmed voice rang from the top of the stairs. One of the lights beamed on a remnant of Siri. "You don't think this is over, do you Robert?" Siri said. #