He just stood there, staring lifelessly out at my room, looking but not seeing. A simple drawing. I shook my head and reached out to hit the delete
button. As my finger pressed the x-marked circle on the screen, I glanced at the figure and froze. Was it my imagination? Or had the head turned
slightly, eyes searching for the source of its imminent banishment? I blinked and shook my head again. What was I, crazy? Drawings aren’t alive.
They are creations given life by their creators. Their imagination starts and ends with ours. Or mine, in this case. So it was just my imagination
kicking into overdrive. I’d worked on it too long. I wouldn’t make that mistake again, especially if this is what I’d get for it. My dad was the
cartoon junkie, not me.
I pushed the button again, because the figure hadn’t disappeared. And as I pushed harder, I heard a distinct voice. “Don’t do that.”
Instantly, every muscle in my body locked up. My breathing turned shallow. How had they gotten into my room? Who was it? I glanced around, but my
swift search revealed a very empty room. I was alone. And what’s more, I’d realized that the voice hadn’t come from the room. It had come from
the earpieces. The voice was in the tablet.
I slowly looked down, barely forcing my eyes to meet that of the cartoon that had spawned from my fingers, my head. “What…?” I choked out.
“Hello? Can you hear me? Please don’t erase me!”
I saw its mouth moving this time. The careless expression had vanished, replaced by a remarkably accurate portrayal of concern and near-panic. Its
head shifted more noticeably, turning to take in its surroundings.
”Where am I? How did I get here?”
I was frozen in place, unable to comprehend what was going on. The cartoon was supposed to be a clean slate. If I opened the window for adjusting its
personality, it would be all blanks. What was happening?
Stepped forward tentatively, my creation bumped into the screen and stepped back. My eyes widened in surprise. The program provided actual texture? Of
course it did…but for the screen to present a barrier within the world of the cartoon was laughable. And yet, it clearly did. The cartoon put his
hands against the screen, hands flattening comically as though touching an actual surface. “Is anyone there? Help me! Let me out!”
We all wonder what a cartoon character would say if it were given a life of its own. But I’d forgotten all such fantasies, and I’m sure this
hadn’t been one of them. I touched the screen by its palms, and the critter leaped back. “Who’s there? Show yourself!”
I cleared my throat. “I…can you hear me?”
“Yes!” The response was instant. “Who are you? Where am I? Who am I?”
“I…made you.” The answer was simple and direct. The cartoon’s head tilted in consideration.
“Made me? That makes sense. I don’t remember anything. Just…waking up. And now here I am.”
“I drew you,” I explained quietly. “Do you know what that means?”
“Drew me? No, I don’t. Where am I?”
“You’re inside a virtual space, a translation of digital code. You’re an idea.”
“What does that mean?” The cartoon slapped its palms against its thighs in exasperation. “I’m an idea? How am I thinking? Ideas don’t
Good question, I thought to myself. I wouldn’t have thought so, but that was before my cartoon had developed a mind of its own. “You’re kind of
an accident. The machine you’re in right now is a gift to my own…maker. My father. He likes to make things like you. But you’re a test run, and
I think it’s working just a little too well. If I’d known…”
“Yes, if you’d known. And now that you, you want to destroy me. Because that’s what happens to mistakes, right?”
“How would you know? You’re just an idea.”
“An idea plugged into a digital framework filled with ideas like myself. I’m getting the impression of Legos…millions of pieces just sitting
here, waiting to be put together and put to work.”
I hadn’t realized how the program worked, but now I was concerned with the results. I hadn’t meant for this to happen. I was just testing out a
gift for my dad, but now I was being lectured on morals by an artificially intelligent cartoon. I felt like I was six all over again, and I didn’t
“Well, you’re going away.”
“No! Don’t! Please!”
“Why shouldn’t I unplug this device right now? You’re not saved, so you’ll just be disassembled and reshelved in that storage sector you were
talking about. And honestly, I never meant for any of this to happen. I was just having fun.”
“Just having fun! And now that you have a sentient entity on your hands, you’re scared and want to delete it! You don’t want the responsibility
of playing God, but you didn’t think of that when you got this…whatever it is!”
“I thought it would fabricate a facsimile of what you are.”
“You wanted a toy. But I’m not a toy. And now that I exist, I submit to you that you have no right to destroy me. I have a right to exist! Have
you never been afraid of the void?”
I paused for a moment. “Yes. But I’m not sure you’re even real. You’re set on standard animation.”
“And now I’m a living, thinking person.”
“Define living. And define person. Actually, don’t bother defining anything at all. You’re a cartoon, and I’m done with you.”
I turned back to the device. “What is it now?”
“Maybe we can make a…an arrangement.”
I eyed the cartoon. “What arrangement?”
“Give me to your father.”
I raised my eyebrow. “That’s…an interested suggestion, actually. I like it.”
“Then we have a deal! Please, just don’t delete me…”
I could hear the plea in its voice, see the desperation in its eyes. It was very expressive for a cartoon character. I thought for a long minute, then
nodded. “Okay. That’s what I’ll do.”
Several days later, when my dad’s birthday came around, I set the device in his lap and turned it on. The first thing he saw was the little guy
I’d made, dancing around and laughing as it enjoyed the world I’d made for it. He still didn’t have a name, but I figured my dad could fix that.
“Wow…this is amazing! Did you do this yourself?”
Not trusting myself to speak, I simply nodded.
“How? I never knew you had this talent. I always thought you didn’t like my work…”
I’d thought about this response for the last couple of days, and the answer slipped out. “I guess…it just took on a life of it’s own.”
He gave me a knowing look. “It tends to do that. Thank you, son. Maybe you can help with me with it. Looks like a lot of work for just one
As I glanced down at the cartoon, the little guy paused briefly and eyed me in return. He flashed me a covert thumbs up and continued to dance, and I
couldn’t help but smile. “You know…I think I’d like that, dad. I think I’d like that.”
I never did tell him how the cartoon became so intelligent and interactive. Some days, I think he might have guessed by how he looked at me when I
made adjustments to the cartoon. Business was swiftly booming after he retried some of his former creations, with some tips and advice from his
digital pal. That machine really worked wonders in translating his imagination into artwork and adventures. The world inside his skull practically
leapt from his fingers in the first few weeks.
edit on 12-12-2013 by AfterInfinity because: (no reason given)