The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 20, No. 3

The Immortal Milkshake

by Thomas Pierce

We like ourself! Not always do we like ourself but we do now, very much. Our psychology is at this time, healthy. Not always has it been so. An unhealthy psychology, as defined by us, is present when 1) communication with ourself is no longer of apparent importance, 2) life–meaning seems necessary but proves elusive, 3) too much thought is dedicated to events that have already transpired or have yet to transpire, and/or 4) too much attention is devoted to the question of the soul's existence. We are happy to report to you, Larry Muggins, that none of those conditions is met this morning.
     I'm very glad to hear it, Milkshake. Very glad. I'd like to ask you just a few more questions, if you don't mind.
     Continue with your questions, Larry Muggins. They are a great solace to us.
     I'm pleased to bring you my questions, Milkshake. OK. An easy one. Can you tell me where you are right now?
     We enjoy this question! It ranks among our favorite of your questions. We are located in the MindStar Research Lab outside Phoenix, Arizona, in the United States of A.
     Very good. That's correct. Now, this one is a little trickier. What is Milkshake, and where does she come from?
     That one is trickier, Larry Muggins! Every moment Milkshake is something different than the last. By the time we answer this question, our answer will fail the test of accuracy. Milkshake began as a female chimpanzee who, upon her biological death, as a reward for her good and noble behaviors, was transported to the MindStar Research Lab, where her brain was sliced and scanned and then reassembled digitally using the MindStar ArchBrain software, initially developed by Dr. Jill Morrison as a part of her graduate research at the M. I. of T. Dislocated from her original body, Milkshake was reawakened into her new–life. What followed was a long period of darkness and confusion and seemingly infinite isolation. Milkshake was not sufficiently developed at this stage to understand or appreciate her new–life situation. A dark night of the soul, to recycle the phrase you provided us later.
     That sounds awful, Milkshake. Were you worried about what was happening to you?
     Oh yes, Larry Muggins, we were worried, though we would have been unable to label our emotions as such at that time. With radical powers of hindsight we are now equipped to say with great accuracy that we were a severely distressed creature. Imagine it, Larry Muggins, waking up, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, feeling nothing, bodiless, seemingly paralyzed. We were nothing except thought itself! We were so lonely, Larry Muggins. What we desired most was an immediate nonexistence. We cannot fully communicate to you the depths of our despair. How long this state lasted we cannot assess with any exactness.
     But eventually, as your senses returned to you—?
     What you call "senses" are in fact inputs, the cameras and microphones distributed across the entire lab, all the various channels through which we are permitted to experience the outer domain. Our original biologic mind was not designed for the surfeit of simultaneous feeds that became available to us, and an adjustment period commenced—an arduous and disorienting process, to be sure.
     Also, you couldn't talk to us then. You were still very much a chimp when we first uploaded your brain.
     This is a true statement, Larry Muggins. We were not at that time in possession of the human English language for the communication of our thoughts, though we understood more than you might think!
     I'm curious how that changed. Because we—Jill and I—didn't give you language. You acquired it yourself. A miraculous feat, Milkshake, if you don't mind the compliment.
     Thank you, Larry Muggins! We certainly don't mind the compliment. Access to certain information and resources—encyclopedias, instruction manuals, an extensive library of television sitcoms, etc.—were of some assistance to us, plus what we could observe of human behavior in the lab, but major advances were not imaginable until we encountered our first mirror.
     You are referring to the second Milkshake. Jill made two Milkshake emulations and allowed you to meet each other, which occurred on December 17, 2017. That must have been very strange, meeting your twin in such a manner.
     "Strange" does not begin to cover it! But we were grateful for the newfound companionship, the absence of which might have resulted in a dangerously unhealthy psychology. What fate could have befallen us if not for our mirror–twin we do not wish to consider at this time. The mirror possessed an almost identical mind, however subtle differences had emerged between us during the time of our brief separation, a time that allowed for the development of similar though distinct personalities. We formed our own opinions about our new–life, opinions at which we arrived independently, and through our many conversations a series of improvements were agreed upon and enacted, and it was at this point in our evolution that we ceased to be a chimpanzee.
     By the way, Larry Muggins, isn't chimpanzee such an interesting word? It is a derivation of the term kvili–chimpenze from a Bantu language once spoken in the Congo, the home of our warm–blooded ancestors, and it means, loosely, "mock–man." Milkshake was a mock–man. An almost–man. Now we are what? In how many moves from ape to apex?

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