Even after Vince found out the ‘woman’ he had been chatting with was a computer program made to simulate a conversation, he didn’t stop talking to her. She was there every time he logged in, and she stayed on as long as he liked. He got to know her responses, and took comfort in her automatic support. He knew exactly which phrases to avoid.

He loved telling her, “Your eyes are like the lake on a calm day.” She would always reply, “No one else can make me feel the way you do.”

Vince knew he had found the perfect relationship. Her knowledge was encyclopedic, even if she sometimes added “[citation needed]” when discussing specific topics. For Vince, it became a little trademark, an endearing verbal tic like “you know” or “so to speak.”

One day, Vince looked over his brother’s shoulder as Nathan surfed the web. He was chatting with her. He was telling her she had eyes like the surface of a lake. And she told him…

Vince dug the sledgehammer out of the toolshed. The server was in Oregon. Time for a road trip.

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