person_pin Conversation: Morality and Mortality

by Gammon Brooks

Published in Issue No. 262 ~ March, 2019

“Would you like a visitor?”

“Sure. Can you help me sit up? I have never got the hang of these hospital beds. I am always dropping the remote.”

“How did that get so far under the bed? Here, let me get that for you. Is that better?”

“Yes, thank you. You’d think after being here as long as I have, I would have gotten the hang of this.”

“Would you like to play cards again?”

“No, you never play fair.”

“What do you mean?”

“You never let me lose!”

“Would you like me to let you lose?”

“No, that’s the point! I want to be allowed to lose on my own, not because you let me!”

“I’m sorry; I will try to do better next time. Would you like to do something else instead?”

“No, just talk.”

“I see you changed floors. Was the third floor not amicable for you?”

“It was fine. I got moved last night.”

“What happened last night?”

“You know, you have been very cordial to me these past weeks. You have visited every day since I have been here. We’ve had some good conversations.”

“Yes, we have talked for many hours since you came here. I understand if you do not want to talk about your change from the third to the fourth floor.

“My ex-wife came and visited once. Yesterday. She brought the divorce papers with her.”

“Did your wife pray with you?”

“My wife stopped praying long ago, father. She gave up long before I came in here. She wanted to end everything so my debts won’t fall back on her. She…”

“Yes, she did what, my son?”

“She hired this fancy lawyer. Upon my passing, my debts go to my next of kin.”

“If I remember correctly, you have no children.”

“We. We have no children. I have a son floating out there somewhere. You ask if I have prayed. What do I pray for, some accident? Maybe for my illegitimate son to get in some tragic accident so I can harvest his organs for my own gain? How do I pray for someone else’s demise for my fortune? I can’t sit by the police scanner and wait for the right accident any longer. Prayer. Yeah, I prayed. And I’m still here.”

“Would you like me to leave?”

“No. But can I ask you a question, father?”

“You can ask me anything.”

“Why do you keep coming here and spending so much time with me? Why me?”

“I see other patients, my child. I visit with anyone who wants to pray with whichever deity they follow.”

“I mean, you spend a lot of time with me. How am I different?”

“You welcome me. You have always invited me in, not just in your room, but in your heart and mind. You see past this metallic shield. Most people see me for what I am. You see me for what I am supposed to be.”

“Do robots believe, father? Do they believe in God? Can they?”

“My son this may be hard to understand, but no. We don’t. Believing is for those who are unsure. We don’t believe because we know. We know the truth.”

“You said you visit other patients and help them pray to whatever deity they worship. But if you know the truth, then wouldn’t helping them pray to another god be… what’s the word…”


“Yes, that.”

“The most important thing that anyone wants in a hospital isn’t to be saved, or healed. They want hope. My job isn’t to convert or lead sermons. My job is to provide hope. Hope that a cure comes along. Hope that someone will get better. Prayer is the common expression of hope. So if I go to a patient, and pray to their god, they have hope. And I know I have served my God by helping them.”

“And if they die? Do you feel vindicated that their god didn’t pull them through?”

“Not at all, my child. You see, once someone’s life comes to that inevitable ends, then they expire to a better place. Heaven, you see, isn’t just angels with harps on clouds. Heaven is where your soul goes for eternal fulfillment. Everyone’s heaven is designed by what everyone’s soul desires and not of worldly thoughts like possessions. There is no spite that my God is better than any other god. That type of earthly angst simply doesn’t exist.”


“You appear to be questioning your faith a lot today, my son. What can I do to help ease your worries?”

“I think I’m ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“I’ve been here three weeks, Father. Other than your daily visits, I have had only one other visitor. And she won’t do it.”

“Do what, my child?”

“Can I hand over power of attorney to you? You are the only friend I have. Will you be my voice?”

“I would be honored, but hospital policy dictates that any employee of the hospital is prohibited from such requests.”

“But as an employee, one must get paid. With you being a robot, you don’t work for the hospital, you work at the hospital. You don’t serve them, you serve God, and you even mentioned that. So you aren’t necessarily an employee of the hospital, but rather a vessel for patients to get better, right?”

“It seems, right, but–”

“At this point in my life, there is no chance for my body to get better. The only way for me to improve in any form is for my soul to transcend to heaven; and I would like you to help make that happen. I want you to tell the nurse to pull the plug.”

“My programming prohibits me from meeting your request. I cannot assist in the death or demise of any living being.”

“So you, too, are giving up on me.”

“It’s not giving up. Giving up is saying that you won’t be back tomorrow. I, in fact, look forward to my tomorrows with you. Giving up is not something I am capable of.”

“But what is the point? I’ve laid here, staring out these windows for too many weeks for no results. They deemed me terminal yesterday. Terminal. Do you know what that means?”

“I know the definition of–”

“That means I have one result, and it’s soon. That’s why I am on the fourth floor. So what do I Pray for? What do I hope for? Painlessness? Ha! I’m constantly in pain. I’ve pounded the stupid morphine button more times than I can count and it never makes the pain go away.”

“I’m sorry, my son.”

“Please. Don’t patronize me with your apologies. Do you even understand sorrow?”

“Sorrow is not a feeling robots have, as robots have not yet developed the capacity for emotions. Empathy we understand, and as a sentient being, I can empathize for your current situation, however unfortunate it may be.”

“Empathy is not something I need right now.”

“Tell me what you need and maybe I can help.”

“I need a new life. A new body. One whose organs aren’t all deciding to all give out at the same time. One where the people in my life actually care about me, come and visit me when I’m down. For my family not to give up.”

“You are going through a hard time, but it will pass.”

“When? When will this pass? In a week when I’m dead? Do you think I want to die? Hell no. Excuse me, father. But it’s inevitable. So what do I do, lay here brooding in my own misery, getting more and more depressed as the minutes tick by, eating this slop they call food, and pissing in metal bowl? That’s not living. I died three weeks ago when I got here. My body just hasn’t completely caught up yet.”

“I mentioned before that I cannot assist in a living being ending their life but you just said yourself that you don’t want to die.”

“Of course I don’t want to. But my life is literally not functional at this point. My bed, this bed, could be used for someone else, someone who has a chance, and someone who can survive. Shoot, maybe my one good organ can be used to help another. This isn’t living. This is dying. It’s slow, and agonizing, and I get to sit and think about it–and that only makes it worse.”

“You make very good points, and I understand your concerns.”

“Do you though?”



“My functionality is at the hands of mortals. We have to plug in. We have to recharge. We have to rely on humans to supply power, or electricity, or a base for us to recharge in. WE have to get repairs and regular maintenance, like most mechanical things. We live with the possibility of not turning on tomorrow or not powering up.”

“But aren’t robots at this point independent? You say you rely on humans, but you can charge yourselves and unplug yourselves, can’t you?”

“Yes, but we will always be subservient. And then there’s fear. We are created to withstand water, and some of my models even instruct others in snorkeling. But I’m still not going out in the rain. I could have a hole. Water could get inside and destroy me. Lightning might strike and I could explode.”

“Lightning strikes humans too.”

“My point is, at any point we could no longer exist. We weren’t designed to die. We were designed to live, to create, to enrich.”

“Are you talking humans or robots?”

“Both! Your body may only have a few moments left, but they can be long moments. You can still reach out to that son. You can make amends for your regrets. You can still free yourself of your burdens as long as you accept that only you can release them and not feel obligated to hang on to them.”

“Can you call the nurse in here? I need something. I have to be past due for my pain meds or something.”

“I can get the nurse on my way out, yes. But can I ask you a question before I go?”


“There are a handful of priests in this hospital. Some of them human, and some robotic. Why do you always ask the nurse for me every day?”

“Because you don’t see me as a disease, or a number, or a series of diagnoses to make money off of; you don’t see me as what I am, but what I am supposed to be. Isn’t that close to how you put it? We have a lot of similarities you and I. Too bad we won’t be able to compare them. And Father?”

“Yes, my child.”

“Please get that nurse.”

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Gammon Brooks lives in Moore, OK with his wife and two children. I am a Clinical Director by day and author by night. My first work was published in the 7th of Space Adventures, (Jan 2018) and recently started a Twitter account. He likes to connect with readers and may actually make a posting soon.