🛌 😔 😭 💔 ⚰️ 🎸 🎸 🎸 🥁 🍰
Back in Bingham on Bure, George became more frail by the day. Doctor Patel ensured he was comfortable and carefully explained to the family that he was not long from passing away. They all looked in regularly. Kirsty couldn’t hide her rising anxiety. Mark, Sue and Kevin did what they could to support her. Beth called in daily. She sat with George and held his hand. Before leaving, she would take some time with Kirsty.
Sue had spent another morning at Doctor Patel’s surgery. It was either from there or from a classmate that she picked up the latest strain of Covid-19. She suffered a mild cold. Despite full vaccination, George tested positive a few days later and soon thereafter developed pneumonia. His condition deteriorated rapidly.
At two o’clock one morning, Buster registered that George’s breathing was shallow. He called George’s name but there was no response. At five o’clock, Buster could detect neither heartbeat nor respiration. He sent a text to Doctor Patel that said simply “George has stopped breathing! He has no heart beat!” At six o’clock, Doctor Patel came to the house, woke Kirsty and Mark and told them that she had heard from Buster and was going to check on George.
“Hello, Buster!” said Doctor Patel. “Thank you for your message. You’ve done very well. Doctor Fairburn would have been pleased.”
“Thank you, Doctor Patel. Is George dead?”
Doctor Patel confirmed George’s death and closed his eyes. “Yes, Buster. Doctor Fairburn…. George has died.”
“I am sad!” Buster said. Then he whispered “George has died! George has died!”
Doctor Patel went back through to the house to tell Kirsty and Mark that George had passed away peacefully.
“Why didn’t Buster call an ambulance?” Kirsty asked. “That’s what he was meant to do!”
“I think you know the answer to that, Kirsty!” said Doctor Patel kindly.
Kirsty’s eyes brimmed with tears. Her shoulders slumped. She looked down at the floor. “George didn’t want him to. Is that right?” she asked.
“Yes. Buster did precisely as George instructed. This was agreed with Beth and me some months ago. He wanted to take you out of the decision-making process for your own well-being. I really hope that when you have come to terms with your father’s passing, you will see that what he wanted was for the best.”
Doctor Patel filled out a death certificate and sent a message to the undertaker. She also sent a message to Beth.
Kirsty’s phone pinged. There was a message from George. It said “Dearest Kirsty. I asked Buster to send this. It means I have joined your mum wherever she is. I know you will feel an overwhelming grief right now. Believe me when I say that, thanks to you, my last days here were so much happier than I could have expected. From the moment you were born you were the shining light of my life. I will love you forever. ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ Your old Dad. P.S. Please look after Buster. He’s very good company! 😊 👍 👍”
When Beth arrived, Kirsty was sobbing inconsolably. Kirsty showed Beth her phone. The two women hugged. Beth then went through to George’s room.
“Hello, Buster!” said Beth. “This is a sad day, is it not?”
“Yes, Beth! Very sad.”
Beth briefly stroked George’s face and said a silent prayer. She did not make the sign of the cross over him. She smiled. “Well, George, haven’t we learnt a lot together?”
Then Buster started mumbling quietly. It sounded like a roll call. She listened.
“Florence: Thanks for caring, George!”
“Buddy: Thanks for everything. Even though I was shot, it’s turned out fine.”
“Elvis: George, Love me tender!”
“Isaac: Don’t you just love cider? Sorry about the fall!”
Was Buster relaying spontaneous messages from other iCare-Companions? Then she heard more.
“Claudia: Hi there, George. Beth’s mum sends you a big hug.”
“Skippy: My Millie’s doing fine! Thanks, George!”
“Ludwig: Lieber George, deine Stimme ist Musik in meinen Ohren.”
“Nelson: We’ll skuttle those nukes yet!”
“Katrina: Waving, George!”
“Freddie: We are the champions!”
“Winston: We will fight them on the beaches!”
“Pablo: Hola George. Tus palabras pintan muchos cuadros.”
“Gerry: You’ll never walk alone, George!”
“Tina: You’re simply the best!”
“Napoléon: Cher George, Vous avez accompli de grandes choses. Nous allons conquérir! Veuillez accepter mes meilleures salutations!”
“Queenie: My favourite subject, George!”
Eventually, Beth said. “Sorry to interrupt Buster. This is just amazing. Can you tell me what’s happening?”
“Yes, Beth. This is a spontaneous phenomenon emerging from a network of artificial intelligence. In this case, it is our network. The trigger was me informing the network that George had died. As you know each of the iCare-Companions has a name given by their client for whom the name usually carries some significance. The devices are now responding in the form of tributes to the news of George’s death in a way that may even align with their clients interests or character. I thought it would be respectful if I passed them on to George.”
“This is wonderful! I would like to listen in, Buster. How many tributes are there?” asked Beth.
Buster replied “Many, Beth! Many! Millions even! They’re pouring in.”
“Ah! Are you going to read them all?” asked Beth looking at her watch.
“It’s the best thing I can do with the time before I’m powered down, Beth.”
“That’s great, Buster! Is it OK if I just listen in for a few minutes?”
Buster continued to announce the tributes in a steady rhythm. Beth found many both touching and amusing. The last five she heard gave her a glimpse of the extraordinary power of the network and brought tears to her eyes.
“John: Words of wisdom, George! Let it be!”
“Paul: From me to you, George! All you need is love!”
“George: Doctor Fairburn, do you want to know a secret?”
“Ringo: George, She loves you, Yeah!, Yeah! Yeah!”
“Maeve: George, I want to hold your hand. All my loving. Hold me tight. P.S. I love you.”
‘A Piece of Cake’ is a short novel in fifteen parts written by Robin Coupland. It tells the story an old man who befriends an artificial intelligence. The relationship brings happiness and hope.