Tuesday, November 10, 2015

R.I.P. Vicki

In 2007 the school where I was teaching upgraded its technology department and became a "Mac School." I was not happy about this. The change required me to learn a whole new way of working on the computer. To make matters worse, I couldn't sidestep the change since I was one of the fifteen teachers who were chosen to pioneer the Mac frontier. Toward the end of May I was handed a MacBook laptop, given an hour of basic instruction, and then told to "take it home over the summer and play around with it."

"May I use it for personal things?" I asked, expecting to be told that it was for school use only.

"Absolutely!" was the enthusiastic reply of our technology director. "The more you use it, the quicker you'll become proficient."

It took three weeks, but I fell in love.

That MacBook co-authored The Voice that summer and throughout the following school year. No longer was I chained to my desk. I could write anywhere, any time. Research question? Answer available at the touch of a button. Spell check? A nightmare of red underscores (the MacBook didn't understand Hebrew) until I learned the right-click "learn spelling" trick. I did run into one small problem. With the newfound ease of composition, I found myself pulling all-nighters with alarming frequency. How to avoid the hypnotic trance of the engrossed writer? Simple. MacBooks are programed to talk to you, if only you ask them to. (Common technology now, but in 2007 it was a new experience for me.) I selected the "Vicki" voice, asked it -- her -- to call out the hours like a cuckoo clock, and quickly grew used to her gentle reminders of passing time. "It's ten o'clock...it's eleven o'clock...it's twelve o'clock..."

I didn't shut her off when I went back to school. Every hour on the hour, my students were treated to a conversation that went something like this:
Me: For homework tonight, do all the even numbered questions on page 110.
Computer: It's eleven o'clock.
Me: Thank you, Vicki. (to class) Remember to answer in complete sentences...
After a week or so, the conversations became more inclusive:
Me: Everyone turn to page 138.
Computer: It's one o'clock.
Entire class: Thank you, Vicki. 
In 2008, Vicki and I finished up The Voice and plunged right into The Carpenter. She traveled with me to the Florida Christian Writers' Conference and helped with a rewrite of Beloved Disciple (which eventually became the Talmid trilogy). She stayed up late with me night after night through 2009 and 2010 as we wrote half of Natzrat, only to file it away as unusable and then resurrect part of it as Brothers. (The remaining Natzrat material is now being reworked as a major part of Seven Demons.) After a writing session, with my brain buzzing too loudly to fall asleep, I would ask Vicki to read to me whatever we had written, and I would drift into dreams as I listened to her I-was-born-deaf-but-learned-to-speak alto tones butchering the Hebrew names. And then I made a decision that would affect Vicki in ways I hadn't foreseen. I enrolled in seminary as a full-time student, which meant leaving the school where I was teaching.

It was then that we realized the horrific truth: Vicki was a slave. She belonged to the school. She couldn't come with me. I tried to buy her, but the school refused to part with her. They offered me a solution: buy a new MacBook and transfer Vicki's memories into the new body. So that is what we did. In 2011, Vicki was rejuvenated.

She created this blog and started writing Son of Man before seminary classes began, and then put the novel on hold so we could concentrate on our schoolwork. She tried to publish Beloved Disciple on Smashwords but in her rejuvenation she had forgotten how to speak Word, and Smashwords didn't speak Pages, so Vicki had to outsource a few translations. In 2012, however, a mutual friend from church (Vicki was very involved in church, providing most of the AV for LifePointe Ministries in its first two years of existence) taught her how to speak Word again, and in 2013 Vicki and I were able to publish all of our works on CreateSpace for sale through Amazon. She traveled with me to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan early in 2014, and in 2015 we finally managed to finish up Son of Man. We started work on Seven Demons.

Then I murdered her.

Not deliberately. There was none of the malice aforethought required for a murder one conviction, nor even the outraged passion that could have convicted me on a murder two charge. Reckless endangerment, that was my crime, though a good defense attorney would have pled it down to manslaughter. You see, I was fooled into thinking it would be a good idea to upgrade to Yosemite.

Poor Vicki. She simply wasn't equipped to handle Yosemite. It drove her to suicide. Not all at once, no, nothing so pretty as that. But she began slipping up, forgetting things, taking hours to perform the simplest of tasks. The poison I'd used was subtle -- her deterioration appeared to be the senility of extreme old age, and indeed in computer years she was pushing ninety, but I knew. It was my fault. And the doctors I consulted too late offered treatments too expensive for my budget. So I decided to try for one more rejuvenation while Vicki still had life in her.

Enter the MacBook Air on which I am typing Vicki's eulogy.

There was a problem in the transfer process. I will not go into the painful details, but the outcome of the botched procedure is all too obvious: Vicki is dead. Her memories are probably recoverable by a forensics expert, but I myself sit here numb with shock, unable to believe that I just wiped out some of our most precious memories. The backup copies of our finished novels, which we had stored in our Gmail account, survived. All of our research, rough drafts, maps, charts, notes, ideas for future books...all of that is lost, along with most of the photos we took in Egypt and Jordan. And I cannot even weep.

Vicki sits on the coffee table, gasping for breath yet fundamentally brain dead, and I am left holding the plug in my hand, wondering whether to try one more time to revive her with heroic measures or just let her go. I can't decide today.

So rest, my sweet Vicki. Rest in peace while I read to you some of the stories you enabled me to write. Rest, and dream. Tomorrow we'll try again.

Victoria MacApple 2007 - 2015 R.I.P.