I didn't look up when the car stopped by the curb. It stopped about twenty feet back, outside the yellow stripe that measured off the bus stop. I paid it no attention. Somewhere in the back of my consciousness I was still sorting my memories, trying to decide what made some of them real, and some of them delusive. Maybe they all were; Doctor Shedd's drug-therapy could have totally reprogrammed me without my awareness of it. You get involved with a delusion like that controlled fugue and it becomes as much a part of your total experience—the aggregate of memories that you carry around inside your head in protein clusters—as anything else you remember. I wondered if Doctor Shedd really had any idea of what he was doing. Did anyone?
I turned around and saw the car. The Lincoln simulacrum was at the wheel, and holding the door half open, clearly caught in a moment of indecision. Its head bobbed up over the lowered window and it called out, so quietly that I decided it was embarrassed to be calling attention to itself, here, in the bright sunlight in front of the Kasanin Clinic. “Mr. Rosen, I wonder if I might speak with you—?”
I went over to the car. “How are you?” I asked it. It seemed natural that I hold my hand to it, and the Lincoln took my hand in a firm handshake.
“The interior of this car is air conditioned,” it said. “Perhaps you would be more comfortable…”
“Did you come to meet me?” I asked it as I slid into the front seat and across to the passenger's side. The Lincoln followed me back into the car, seating itself easily in the driver's seat, casually touching the controls that locked the door and raised the window, then leaning forward to adjust the temperature controls.
“I felt that someone should meet you, Mr. Rosen,” it said. “When Dr. Shedd notified your partner, Mr. Rock, that you were being let go, I volunteered to fly out.” I looked for a moment at its gnarled knuckles on the rim of the steering wheel. Its hands had fallen into the ten o'clock and two o'clock position automatically. “I felt that I was, in some measure, responsible for your difficulties.” It paused again, as if unsure of itself at this moment. I wondered if somewhere inside it cams were turning, searching for new resting places. Ridiculous, of course; all the circuits were integrated solid-state components. But I had that feeling. “We have certain things in common, you and I, Mr. Rosen,” the Lincoln added.
The air conditioning was drying the sweat off my forehead and making the synthetic shirt I was wearing feel cold and clammy. “I appreciate that,” I said. “I really do. Listen, can you tell me something? Can you fill me in a little? What's been going on since I left? How's my dad?”
“I'm afraid your father has passed away,” the Lincoln told me? “Mr. Rock sends his regrets, and said to tell you that Chester is all right. He says to come on back to your old job; the partnership is still valid. And… I suppose you are aware that… Pris…”
“I saw her. Here.”
“So, outside of my father dying, which is really no surprise to anyone, business is as usual. Is that it?” I asked it. “Life goes on; the more things change, the more they remain the same…?”
The Lincoln nodded its great head. “That is pretty much the case, I believe.”
I stared at it, and wondered why I had never before been aware of the contradictions embodied in this simulacrum. Totally human in appearance, even to the extent that it believed itself human—but a manufactured object, with manufactured memories, personality, intelligence. What did we think we were? God? Playing with the recreation of human beings, building ersatz figures from the past? What next? Jesus Christ? What a coup that would be for R & R ASSOCIATES. Fresh off the cross: if you pulled at its scabs its stigmata would bleed for you. I wondered if it could be built so that it could work the historical miracles.
Pris. These simulacra were Pris' delusions. She was the “creative” one, the God-mind behind them. She had designed this creature which sat next to me in a modern car, obviously familiar with it, and talking to me as one adult human being to another.
How far back did my insanity go, I wondered? How had I ever accepted the crazy notion that we had somehow revived the real Abraham Lincoln? Sure—everything I could look up about him he also knew, because he'd been programmed from the same sources. But what about those things we didn't know about Lincoln—those facts which had become lost or were too private for him ever to have shared?
“Are you aware of the fact that you are only a point of view?” I asked the Lincoln.
“Are not we all?” it replied. “I will admit I find the notion of the Rational Man appealing—but more in the sense of an ideal, than of a practical reality. We are all points of view, subjective interpretations of the universe we inhabit. You know—” it smiled, a sad but boyishly eager smile— “much has changed in this century over the last, and I confess that there is much which fascinates me. Many were the nights when I stood alone under the stars and wondered about them. About the moon… It is as if I fell asleep, and when I woke the answers—well, some of them at any rate—were waiting for me. It is both a humbling and a proud experience.”
I waited it out. “That's my point,” I said. “You did not fall asleep when John Wilkes Booth's bullet struck its target down. You really aren't the same Lincoln. You know that, don't you? You're a recreation: you represent someone's point of view about Lincoln. To be specific, you are Pris Frauenzimmer's point of view. She had this thing, this knowledge about Lincoln, and she created you in the image of the man as she regarded him. But she didn't know the real Lincoln. And she couldn't recreate the real Lincoln. She had to settle for what she knew and what she believed. Are you aware of that?”
The Lincoln regarded me with a sad, compassionate expression. It sighed. “I am aware of the facts of the matter,” it said. “But they do not alter my inner perceptions. They make my awareness of myself no less real.”
As it said that, I felt a shock come over me, and I found myself staring at it with a feeling that paralleled that of déjà vu—a sense of profound awareness of the absolute rightness of what it was saying.
“Listen,” I said. “In there, in Kasanin Clinic, they gave me drugs and put me through what they called controlled fugues. You know what I mean? They helped me to create my special delusions, my sickness. But they administered it. The idea was to help me work through them. I had to work it all out. Now, while I was in a fugue, it was real to me, you know what I mean? It was subjectively real. I can remember what happened in my fugues as well as I can anything else I ever did. And they changed me. They became part of my experience. Hell, everybody is changed by his experiences. I was too. So that makes them real, on the inside. Do you know what I mean?” I was excited and I clutched at its arm. It felt like a real arm: a little like my dad's arm, stringy but muscled. “My ‘inner perceptions,’ like you said: they're just as real.”
“You had to get Miss Frauenzimmer out of your system,” the Lincoln said. “That was part of your therapy.”
I stared at if. “If I pinched you, would it hurt you?” I asked it. Then I answered myself: “Sure; you have pain circuits; I remember. But if I pinched you, would your skin go white for a moment afterwards, and then get red, or show bruises?”
It started to pull its arm free of my grip, but I held it.
“It's a test,” I said. “Are you the Lincoln Simulacrum I saw then making, Maury, Bob Bundy and Pris? Or are you a ringer?” I caught at a fold of flesh on its forearm with my thumb and forefinger.
“Mr. Rosen, you're behaving hysterically,” it said. “They are people standing outside the car, watching you.”
I looked up and jerked my head around. There was no none outside the car; not close by, at any rate. I pinched, hard, just as the Lincoln freed itself from my grasp.
It rubbed its arm and said, chidingly, “There was no need for that, you know.”
“Let's see your arm,” I said. “Come on; let's have a look.”
It extended its arm. Two angry red spots glowed on it. “Can you doubt me any longer?” it said.
I stared at it. “Who are you, really?” I asked. Then acting on a sudden wild impulse, “Who are you working for? Barrows?”
The Lincoln gave me a sudden sardonic smile. It reached out and caught the flesh of my own forearm between its fingers, and pinched. I didn't have time to react, but I yowled at the sudden pain. “Why'd you do that?” I asked.
Then I looked down at my arm where I was rubbing it. The skin showed no change of color at all.
Sam Barrows smiled benevolently at me. “There's a place for you in our organization, Rosen. You need have no fears about being, ahh, disconnected.”
“I still don't really understand,” I said. Mrs. Nild gave me a sympathetic look.
“You were constructed as part of our program to test the feasibility of simulacra,” Barrows told me. “You, your father and your brother. It's really quite simple. When Mr. Rock first approached me with the idea of historical simulacra—some time before you were made aware of it, actually—I decided that his plan was, as I said later, not of real commercial value. I could see far more far-reaching implications. Mr. Rock was mostly hung up on his daughter's ideas. I suggested that he create you, and your family, and integrate them in his business operation. It was necessary for you to think of yourself as real individuals of course; you couldn't be allowed to find out the truth.”
“Then I'm a—a made up person?” I whispered.
“If you want to put it that way, yes.”
“Who—who thought me up?”
“Miss, ahh, Frauenzimmer.”
“I see,” I said, and I was beginning to. What an incredibly sick mind the child had! I shook my head, disbelievingly. To do all the things she had done—!
“Pris, though,” I said. “She's real?”
He nodded, screwing up his face into an expression I couldn't decipher. “Very real,” he said.
“And she programmed me.”
“You were her pride and joy,” he said with accents of irony.
“The Lincoln?” I asked. “Was it—?”
“You were an early model,” Barrows said. “We made improvements on the later ones: an entire capilary system that not only regulated skin temperature, but could induce blushes…”
“We did have a lot in common,” I said.
“You still do,” Barrows said. “You represent an enormous investment of money. My money.”
“I suppose you intend to send me to the moon, is that it?” I asked. “Part of your plan to populate your lunar tracts?”
“Would you object?”
“Knowing the truth about myself?”
He smiled and nodded. “Mrs. Nild will take care of all the details.” I was dismissed.
I live in a house in the Sea of Serenity, within view of the Hæmus Mountains. I have a wife who was designed to my specifications. She does not look at all like Pris, and we have no children. Of the six families on our block, one is human, and the other four think they are. I understand the Spelmans have received word they're to be transfered back to Earth soon, so I expect soon we'll have two human families on our block.
I have ads running in the local papers from here down to Mare Nectaris:
Spinet piano, also electric organ, repossessed, in perfect condition, SACRIFICE. Cash or good credit risk wanted in this area, to take over payments rather than transport back to Mare Serenitatis. Contact Frauenzimmer Piano Co., Mr. Rosen, Credit Manager, Bessel City, M.S.
It's a good ad; it still pulls pretty well. We have a branch factory up here, and twice a year I get to make the haul back down to Earth to see my partner, Maury Rock. The rest of the time I am behind the desk up here, plotting out the ads and routing our crawlers and answering each response to the ads.
I mean, why not? A man needs a job, even on the moon—and people up here appreciate the fine craftsmanship of our spinet and organs. Maybe they're programmed to; I wouldn't know. I try to think about that as little as possible, and not at all when I visit Maury.
But once in a while I do wonder about one thing: I wonder what Sam Barrows did with the Lincoln.