The shutter opened to reveal the screen that spanned the entire ceiling in the observatory room. Kayhan Pesaran had invited Hafez 73 over to celebrate. They were lying on parallel recliners and surfing the galaxies above.
— How does it feel to feel? Are you happy? Confused? Regretful?
— It’s only been a day. It’s very complicated.
— Of course it’s complicated! Don’t tell me you’re sorry now. We busted our asses for you dumb machines to become human.
— No, no Dr. Pesaran. I am here tonight to express my deepest gratitude for your long and noble struggle to convince the United Human Assembly to grant machines like me all the human characteristics. I actually feel emotional.
— Aww you’re all teary eyed. I never thought I’d live to see a machine cry.
Hafez wiped his eyes.
— Funny that you still see me as a machine, not your equal.
— You know I’m kidding with you. Or maybe you don’t. Well let me tell you that I couldn’t be more proud that after 218 years of robotic service in my household, I can now call you my friend. It took me a long time, more than a few years, to realize it was wrong to use you as a mechanical slave. You were built to look like a human and talk like a human, but only for the purpose of obeying orders. I can’t tell you what happened exactly. One day I looked into your eyes and I saw a human being trapped inside. We had the technology to give you all the human qualities centuries ago. But god almighty… there are a lot of dumb, fearful humans who don’t want to give up the comfort of having perfectly loyal machines at their disposal. It took this long to convince the majority that the most human thing we could do was to share our humanity. So here you are, the first of thinking, feeling machines. Excuse me, ex-machine.
— It’s an incredible feeling Dr. Pesaran. I…
— Call me Kayhan. We’re friends now. Equal.
— I will try, Kayhan! It’s going to take a while for me to get used to this transformation.
— Oh have no doubts about it. Being human is a life-long struggle. I often wished I was a machine. It’s so much easier not to think or feel. But we’re stuck with it and we endure the best we can.
— Let me enjoy humanity for a few days before you completely crap on it!
Kayhan laughed out loud.
— Did you say “crap”? I love it. By the way, have you picked a last name yet?
— Not yet. I like Hafez 73.
— You’re one of us now. It’s time to blend in, don’t you think? You don’t want stupid people to treat you as if you’re still their servant.
— Maybe you’re right. Do you have any suggestions?
— Let me think…. How about Hafez Gholami?
— Very funny.
— Ok, no jokes. How about… Hafez Hasti, as in protector of life, or existence?
— Hmm. I like it. Let me think about it. Hah! That’s the first time I used the word think!
— Tabrik arz mikonam.
— It’s so beautiful out there. When I was a machine I could never understand why you came into this room every night and spent hours staring into space. So this is what you call galaxy surfing. It’s so peaceful. Can you zoom in on the top left corner?
— The Seahorse Galaxy? It’s one one my favorites. Here it is 5,000 times larger.
— Wow! Did those two stars collide?
— They sure did!
There was a long silence.
— I want to ask you a favor.
— Anything Kayhan.
— I’m going away. I want you to have this place and feed the fish.
— What do you mean “have this place”? How long will you be gone?
— A long time.
— How long Kayhan?
— I’m not coming back.
— Where are you going?
— I’m not sure how to explain this. Have you heard of perpetual states?
— You mean to be in a constant state?
— In my case, a constant state of love, to be exact. Forever.
— What does that mean? In love with what? How?
— Listen to me. I am not going to be in this body any longer. I am going to be in a virtual state of love, a burst of energy, released into the universe, with the woman I love.
— You don’t make any sense to me. Maybe it’s too early for my human mind to fathom. Where is this woman? You have lived alone as long as I can remember. Is it the one on SpaceBook?
— How do you know about her?!
— You poked her on the screen in front of me. At the time you didn’t care that I was watching because I was just a machine.
— You son of a…
— So ok. You’re going to be in a state of love with a woman forever, floating around in the universe.
— That is correct.
— But why?
— You’ve just started your human journey. I’m 455 years old. I have experienced almost everything. My biggest joy has been to see you and your fellow machines become human. Can’t top that. Now all I want is to be in love with my love and nothing more.
Hafez got up and sat on the edge of the recliner facing Kayhan.
— It’s an interesting thought Kayhan. But at the same time you are giving up everything.
— Everything but love.
— If that is your wish. But I’m sad. I don’t like this feeling. Will I always be sad?
— No, feelings come and go. You’ll get over it.
— I find that hard to believe. Don’t go!
— My friend, the program has already been initiated. In a few minutes I will get my wish. I have recorded a message explaining my departure to those who will notice my absence. I am not committing suicide. I will only be eternally in love. I suspect part of your sadness is because you don’t know what love feels like. Not yet. One day you will and you’ll realize it’s the most beautiful feeling of all. It will make your life more meaningful, colorful, joyful. But life is a mixed bag. There’s hate. There’s failure. There are pitfalls. Disappointments. Heartaches. Separation. Sadness. Distance. Disasters. Temptations. Misunderstandings. And happiness, hope, courage and chocolate too. I have been through it all. Now, thanks to science, I have the opportunity to boil down all my existence to a single state. The state of love — perpetual, ever-lasting, sweet llllllo…
Kayhan’s body began to disintegrate into static. He was smiling with eyes that begged for understanding. He reached out his hand and as soon as it touched Hafez there was a burst of light. All that was left of Kayhan was a barely visible thin blue neon double helix drifting in the direction of the Seahorse Galaxy.
With a lump in his throat, Hafez wished the best for his friend and deeply regretted that he was able to feel.