Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

Okay Officer, I’m gonna tell it to you straight. Yes, I was with Kinsey, yesterday, on a date. Alright? It started like this.

“Are you on PrintMe?” she asked.

I didn’t answer right away. I swear her smile twisted my gut like a Twizzler. I took a big swig from my glass of RiteWater and looked at the pigeons on the empty table next to us on the veranda.

The restaurant was nice. The windows were frosted for privacy, the menus were paper and the WiFi was strong. Some low booths separated the few afternoon patrons on the inside, allowing for privacy. Outside? Not so private.

I put my glass down on the table. The glass sat cocked to one side because of the weird tile pattern on the table’s surface. It was pretty, but it made my life a little harder.

I met Kinsey on DmRandom a few days ago. She was witty and had a picture of a cat with a Hitler moustache as a profile pic. It said, “MAUSER” in bold print. Freakin’ hilarious. I told her I liked cats and she said she hated them but liked guys who like cats then I said that’s cool and bing bang boom here we are. The date was nearing that point. You know the one. The point where you connect on social media or disappear into the forgotten depths of each other’s contact lists forever. Maybe not even that, maybe you just get randomly lost when they delete their search history before logging onto a University computer or something. Either way, it was that point, and I didn’t know how it was going to go. I liked her, I did, but I didn’t know how much she liked me. Did she like me, or did she just like how I looked? I’m not bad looking, I’m a little on the scrawny side, but some girls like that. Softbois, we’re called. Well, I figured that maybe I’ll do well enough.

“No,” I finally answered.

“Oh…” she looked disappointed. I wasn’t sure whether to be complimented or not. It’s not that I’m against PrintMe as a concept, but I don’t know if it’s for me. I just feel sort of… used. She didn’t get up right away, so I guess it didn’t offend her too badly.

Maybe she was just looking for an excuse to make the date go longer so I offered her one.

“Dessert here is supposed be delicious,” I said. “Reviews were like 4 stars.”

“I don’t know, I’m watching my carbs… haha…” she said. I didn’t doubt it, she was cute — really cute, and she was obviously sporty. She wore her hair in a ponytail and had freckles under her eyes from too much sun. Her eyes were slightly crow-eyed from squinting at soft-balls or hockey pucks or whatever.

So, maybe she wasn’t looking for an excuse to stay… why not leave already if she just wanted the PrintMe profile? Whatever. I didn’t mind looking at her for however long she stayed. It’s tough to find a girl who wants you for you now-a-days. Always looking for the profile, am I right, Officer? Oh, right, stick to the story. Sorry.

“You have one then?” I probed, “A PrintMe, I mean?”

“Yeah! Here,” she picked her phone off the table and turned it towards me.

I didn’t really want it, but she seemed genuinely happy I asked. I waved it down though. Golden rule right? I mean, I didn’t want her printing me so I wouldn’t print her.

“It’s not a scam or anything. Haha. You won’t end up with a gelatin copy of Mein Kampf or whatever people troll with these days. Swear,” she joked while crossing her heart to ‘die’.

“No it’s not that. I just would rather hang with you.”

“You would be hanging with me, haha.”

“No really,” I said. Her laughing was starting to get on my nerves.

“Why? You don’t really know me,” she argued.

“Well, I could get to know you if you stay for dessert. Howabouta coffee?”

“Howabout you not play hard-to get?” she winked. Yep. She gave me a wink. My tongue betrayed me and kept on talking even though my brain had gone dead.

“Okay, okay, fine I’ll play nice,” I said. What did that even mean? Ugh, I’m an idiot.

She turned her phone around again and I snapped the PrintMe into my phone.

“There! That wasn’t so hard was it?” she chuckled and ordered a coffee on her phone. The Waitbot rolled out with a coffee on its metallic head.

“So, you gonna give me yours now?” she held her phone up.

My gut sank, “uhm, I told you I don’t have one.”

She started to stand up.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, but I already knew.

“Unbelievable, all you men are the same. Such a double standard.”

“No really, I don’t have one.

“Uh-huh, okay pal. Enjoy your evening.”

She knocked the coffee off the Waitbot’s head and left me with the tab.

When I got home half an hour later I was pretty dead inside. That’s the usual situation though, so it’s fine. I plugged my phone into the printer and clicked “RECENTLY ADDED” before I even gave it a second thought. My body was operating on autopilot. The machine whirred and twirled while white-blue light lit my grey and cluttered apartment. I took a shower while peach-colored goo began oozing over a rapidly materializing metal skeleton.

Photo by h heyerlein on Unsplash

By the time I got out of the shower, Kinsey was standing next to the machine in the plain, white, default undergarments of a PrintMe profile. Her hair was in a ponytail still, so she had customized it at least that much.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” she asked.

“Just sit on the couch. I’ll be there in a minute,” I said, combing my hair.

She sat down obediently, crossing her legs and looking at me. I noticed she wasn’t blinking.

“Can you blink a little bit for me?” I said.

She blinked twice, then started behaving a little more naturally. I hate when they do that, you know? When they come out acting all terminator-like? Why don’t they just act human from the get-go?

Anyway, I joined her on the couch and she was clearly prepared for what was coming next. She tore her panties off before I had even sat down and ten minutes later I was getting right back into the shower again, but already naked and slightly dirtier.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” she asked from the couch.

“Not be so damn accommodating, for one thing,” I said.

“You’d like me to be more argumentative? I can adjust my relational settings to…”

“No! No, that’s fine,” I decided I wasn’t in the mood to argue with a PrintMe.

“Just come on over here and help me shower.”

She got up and bounced over to me. God she was cute. I love the way these things imitate the little details about a person, you know? Sure, the real Kinsey, if you could call her that, was hot-headed and difficult, not a slavish servant to my every whim, but both had the same smile. They wore their hair the same way, they moved the same way. Now that she was blinking, the PrintMe seemed even better than the real thing. We climbed into the shower, turned on the water, and let the soap run down our bodies.

“Why don’t you have a PrintMe?” she asked, obviously probing for a way to sell me an upgrade.

I thought I had installed an ad-blocker, so I was pretty annoyed.

“I just don’t like the idea.”

“You printed me,” she argued. These things always get pushy when they’re selling you something. You know?

I said, “Yeah, because you’re not me. I don’t want someone printing me!”

She shrugged, I laughed.

“Why did you laugh?”

“Nothing. You shrugged, that’s all. It’s such a human thing to do.”

“I am human, I’m better actually. I’m the version of Kinsey that wants you. Isn’t that better?”

“Kinsey did want me.”

She didn’t say anything, but her eyebrow went up as if to question me. I could tell that if her argumentativeness was turned up a level she’d have something real clever to say. I caved. Curiosity killed the cat and all that jazz.

“Kinsey, turn your argumentativeness up by ten percent.”

“If she wanted you, then why am I here?” she snapped almost immediately.

This time it was my turn to shrug.

“Did she want you or did she want your PrintMe?”

“I guess just the PrintMe. If that’s the case, why didn’t she just download a premade avatar, or get some bootlegged celebrity?”

“They don’t have the same… humanity,” she said, choosing her word carefully. God, calculating that level of selectivity must have put her CPU into overdrive.

“If she wanted a human, then why didn’t she just bring me home? You know she would have, there’s enough of her in you to know the answer to that.”

“She would have brought you home with her if you had shared your PrintMe.”

“So it was a test?”

“She wanted to know what kind of person you are.”

“Well, she could have just talked to me.”

“Talk is talk. Actions are actions.”

There it was, another one of those robot truisms. The world makes sense to a bot — all logic and algorithms and cold-hard-inputs, outputs, ones, zeroes, and code.

“So are you saying you think actions are all that matter?”

She turned her head to the side in a very human way, like she was thinking about something, but there was no way she was still thinking. She had already figured out the answer and was slowing down for my sake.

“Yes, actions are what matter. I am calibrated with Kinsey’s behavioral profile. She spent a lot of time perfecting it.”

“Then I want you to act like Kinsey. How would she be right now?”

“She’d be screaming, ‘how did I get here, get your hands off me…’ and then she’d hit you,” Kinsey said.

“Haha, remind me to turn your humor down. And don’t hit me, okay? You things are way stronger than I am.”

“Kinsey would have made that joke.”

“Okay, for real. Imagine Kinsey did come home with me. Can you be her? Can you act more like her?”

I turned off the shower and dried myself with a towel.

“Yes. I can,” she said, “but it will take some time. I have to shut down and recalibrate.”

I tossed her the towel and she dried her hair, putting it up in a ponytail while looking in the mirror.

“Okay. Tell you what. I’m going to go out and pick up some ice cream from the 7/11 down the road. I know you can’t eat, but I really wanted dessert, then you… she… didn’t want any. Will that give you enough time?”

She thought about it again then nodded, “anything I can do for you.”

“Okay, great, I’ll be back soon.”

I got back with the ice-cream about twenty minutes later. I live up a few stories so I was exhausted by the time I had gotten up the stairs. When I reached my door I could hear someone inside. It sounded like Kinsey, but she was loud, really loud. I could hear her moaning and what not, like she was right in the middle of the best sex of her life. She hadn’t been that loud for me half an hour ago. I didn’t get it, who was she banging and why was it in my apartment?

Carefully, I opened the door and that’s when I saw her. She had printed me. I guess the data stored in her brain from the shower was more than enough to create a PrintMe of me.

Well, at that point I guess I kind of lost it. You can understand that, right Officer?

There was something really sick about it, you know? I mean, I was coming back in just twenty minutes. Why didn’t she wait for me, the real me? You know? I told her to act like the real Kinsey, but I didn’t think… anyway. They didn’t stop just because I had gotten back. Kinsey didn’t see a problem with what she was doing and the PrintMe of me was just as slavish and docile as she had been when she was first printed only an hour before. I didn’t really think about what I did. I got a knife from the kitchen and just started swinging at the PrintMe. In that second, I really hated him. I wanted Kinsey, and I know she wanted me too, but I was getting in my own way. Anyway, a few stabs in he just shut down and fell over. Kinsey started screaming like I had just killed a real person. It didn’t make any sense. I dragged the PrintMe of me back to the machine and threw it in the recycler. Kinsey was still howlin’ and screaming bloody murder.

“Kinsey! Reset!”

She paused for a second, then said, “Is there anything can I do for you?”

It was just like that. Like she had never even been screaming or cheating on me or anything. Just, snap, reset and done. I guess it was about that time that the neighbors must have called the cops. That make sense? She was only screaming because of what I did to the PrintMe. She was just screaming because she was pretending to be a person. She wasn’t really in any danger and I didn’t swing at her at all. You see, Officer? I wasn’t gonna hurt her. Honest.

Look, there’s no law about murdering your own PrintMe, although I can’t say I’ve ever heard of anyone doing it… just check your file and you’ll see that everything I said is recorded in the Kinsey PrintMe. I’m sorry, okay? I got a little out of control. I will even admit I’m a bit of a weird little shit, but you don’t arrest people for being weird, right? You’ll let me go, right? I didn’t do anything wrong here, okay? Let me prove I’m innocent. Come on! Is there anything I can do for you?

© Luke Orlando 2019

Follow “Don’t Wake the Mage” to get the latest monster, magic, and science fiction stories every Saturday morning.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer, English Teacher, Gamer, Nerd.

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