Julie Chung '21


He was, as many knowledgeable scientists put it, a piece of art.


He looked at himself in a cold, tall examination mirror. He possessed a symmetrical face, meticulously constructed—combining and contorting numerous faces that humans found aesthetically pleasing. His short, jet-black hair, combed neatly to the back, shimmered under the LED light illuminating the room. His pure-gold eyes burned eerily like stars in his metal skull. He was tall and effortlessly maintained a grand, elegant posture. His skin looked nearly human at certain angles but simultaneously possessed a translucent silver hue that alienated him from the world. Mechanical wires occupied the space beneath his skin instead of blood vessels. He imitated the motion of breathing by pushing his artificial lungs in and out. His hull rang with a dull, mechanical drone.


The gears in his knees clicked and turned as he advanced to his test chamber for his daily checkups. Three separate supercomputer systems, lovingly crafted by his creator, dialed a series of codes and updates into his OS.


[¡Hola! 您好。こんにちは。Bonjour. 안녕하세요.]


His mechanical tongue smoothly pronounced the greetings in each language. After eliminating the kinks in his codes, he entered his office and connected to the laboratory’s main system. Since his birth, humanity had progressed into a new world of blooming economy, technology, entertainment, and comfort; manual labor and pesky calculations had been pushed onto A.I. and robots. He transcended his creators: he was a modern divinity and savior, tied to humans by codes and wires.


Next to him sat a dusty turntable. Thin cracks ran through the foggy plexiglass cover. The acrylic platter shook feebly every time a vinyl rested upon it. The speakers were clogged with years and years of dust, and the stylus stood on the verge of snapping in half. The outdated machine appeared to have jumped across time from the 30s. The modern-day machine crouched, pulling out a vinyl lodged underneath the table. King of the Delta Blues Singers by Robert Johnson. After a click of the flimsy, old-fashioned play button, the record slowly began to spin, producing the sound of warm blues guitar and unrecognizable noise. He only stared at the inferior piece of technology, cherishing the counterfeit sensation of nostalgia.


When he had been nothing but a series of code inside the supercomputer, he encountered his creator. She was the furthest figure anyone would expect when asked to picture a bright-minded intellect holding the key to the future. Grey hair sprouted underneath her fading black hair, and her face was filled with wrinkles, frozen in a deep frown. Her makeup routine consisted of applying deep-maroon lipstick on her chapped, thin lips. She constantly held a cigarette to her mouth (although she had the courtesy of not smoking indoors) and wore a teal-colored shirt stained with ketchup to work every day. Her existence sparked an emotion within him. Later he attempted to identify the emotion by giving it names like curiosity, fascination, and admiration, but none of them seemed to quite fit.


Whenever an error occurred during the experimental running of his OS and she had to debug him for hours, she turned on King of the Delta Blues Singers by Robert Johnson. The strums of blues guitar and Johnson’s voice often accompanied the hums of machines in the research lab. Since she refused to talk to him despite granting him the impeccable ability to converse, his memory of her was saturated with blues guitar. Consequently, when his hardware was built, and when she passed away due to pancreatic cancer, he could only recall her through the tune of "Terraplane Blues."


He experienced deep dissatisfaction: the only question he had not been able solve since his birth was identifying his emotion towards his creator. So again, he stood in front of the turntable, now on the brink of falling apart, to listen to the album again. Accidentals of blues guitar. The warmth of the tape recorder. An emotion sparked within him.


Could it be nostalgia—그리움?


Could it be regret—후회?


Could it be passion—열망?


He waits for answers, and the next song plays through the soiled speakers.