This is the first chapter of a story that has been bumping around in my head for months. It’s something in the genre of Catholic Sci-Fi (is that a thing?) about a priest, artificial intelligence, free will and other things. It’s set in the future.
I have never written a story as long is this one, and as you will see in the first chapter, it’s not kid-friendly, so there’s your warning.
I’m going chapter by chapter, posting it here. If you are of the mind to, please let me know what you like and don’t like about it. I would really, really appreciate any insight.
CHAPTER 1 – The Final Homily
In the barren sanctuary, all that Fr. Noah did echoed louder than normal. His steps click-clacked on the marble floor. You could hear his gentle breathing into the mic on his vestments. And when he opened the book for the Gospel reading, the pages fluttered like the sound of birds in that hollow space.
“A reading from the book of Matthew. Glory to you, O Lord,” he said quietly.
After reading the passage, he stood for a moment, staring out at the empty pews. His words had been carefully written out along the guidelines of the USCCB: not offensive, always with a story, two bland jokes, and an inspirational quote at the end. And of course, every word, phrase and sentence were run through the Algorithm.
His stomach turned as he looked over the text he had composed. He folded the paper and tucked it into the Bible in front of him. And from the preacher’s podium, he spoke the last homily he would ever preach.
“Utopia. That is what we are living in.
We know this because the government told us so thirty years ago. AI, the Algorithm, solved our wars, solved our hunger, solved every problem we ever had.
So now, we bow to it. We turn to it for every need, every desire, every lust. There are so many stories we could tell of how the world has become a better place for everyone.
Well, I have my own story. A mother and her five year old son lived next door to a very wicked man. (I think I am still allowed, as a priest, to use that adjective, “wicked.”) We know he was wicked because he ordered a bot made to look and sound exactly like the mother’s child, and every day they could hear the wails and shrieks of the bot coming through the walls from his house.
The bot’s voice sounded just like her son. Its cries sounded just like her son. Often, the mother would mistake those gasps and yells for her own child. She would come running into his bedroom to see that he was still there, and when she found him playing quietly with his toys, she would walk back to the kitchen mumbling anxiously.
She called the authorities about it, but they could do nothing. After all, what crime was the man committing? No real child was hurt.
So she put in double pane windows to keep the sound out, and she had some peace for a time.
Till one day, she went to her son’s room to get him for dinner, and he wasn’t there. She looked everywhere, frantically. Finally, she ran outside and heard those same shrieks coming from next door, only there was something different about them, something too familiar.
She ran to the front door and started pounding on it. For five agonizing minutes, she screamed and yelled at the man inside. He never answered, but the police came – not to stop him, but to stop her.
After explaining everything, they knocked on the door to sort everything out. The little boy, barely able to move, limped to his mother.
The man went to court, but he was let off. No one could prove that he knew it was not the actual boy. The bruises didn’t come till after it happened, and the bot was terribly convincing.
The man couldn’t live with the guilt he had, though. When everything was done, he buried his bot in his backyard and then killed himself.
That is my story of utopia: a suffering mother, a suffering child, and the suffering wicked.
So here’s your inspirational quote for the day, taken from our reading this morning: what comes out of a man defiles him.”
When he finished, a lone, single clapping sound came from the side. Fr. Noah looked around to see where it came from and saw a man, smiling, in nice clothes, seated in the side of the sanctuary. After clapping, the man stood up and quietly left.
No sooner had he left than a priest burst through the back door and walked briskly right down the middle aisle to the front of the church.
In a frustrated, strained voice, he said, “Come with me, Fr. Noah.”
“I’m in the middle of Mass.”
“The Bishop wants to see you now.“
“Can’t I fin-“
Fr. Noah went to the sacristy, changed out of his vestments, and got into a car with his fellow priest.
He knew the Bishop would not be happy.
©2021 Catholic Anonymous
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