Lillian looked more than happy. Her eyes were filled with joy. For how long had she waited for this moment! Wilfred was back.

She couldn‘t recall all those lonely years. There had been too many to count. And there he was. Lillian understood that she could only talk to him on the other side of the room’s glass panel. The doctors had explained everything to her. But how dearly she would long for his touch! Just the gentle touch of his hand would do, even for the briefest moment. But heavens, Wilfred was back, and with him the warm aura of his personality.

Julian looked satisfied, with a big smile on his face as he saved the video recording. He glanced over the analytics. ‚ Look at those readings‘, he mumbled enthusiastically, ‚ Happiness levels went through the roof! Damien will love it when he sees this tomorrow.‘

Zoe gave him a long, disapproving look and hissed ‚You know this is fucking wrong, Julian, we both know it, and we need to stop the program! Let’s let down Lillian gently.‘ Julian‘s professional counter-attack came swiftly and without hesitation:‚ Look, Zoe, if you don‘t like what we are achieving here at Meta AI, this amazing research, then please bring it up with the ethics committee! For all that I know, they will be thrilled forwarding your incredibly insightful concerns to our investors.‘ He switched off his computer angrily and stomped out of the room.

Zoe felt helpless. How did she get into this? Was there any way out?

She closed her eyes briefly, gulped, and then glanced over Lillian‘s case file on her desk. It was her case after all: Lillian Kelly, 86, dementia stage 6, severe cognitive decline. Admitted to Meta AI Medical on Sunday, the 12th of March 2028. Her husband had died eight years ago. No children or next of kin. Currently in the second week of the program.

How desperately she would have loved to talk to friends about her work. But the nondisclosure agreement was tight. Meta knew that innovative science needed to be guarded by the best lawyers money can buy. Zoe felt a slight headache creeping up, switched off the equipment and turned on the dimmed LED nightlights in her favorite colors, cyan and purple, before she left the room.

It was almost 11PM. After most human employees had left, the ward went quiet.

That particular night, Lillian had trouble falling asleep. She constantly thought about her beautiful conversations with Wilfred. About how he appeared so near and yet, unexplainably, seemed so far removed from her, almost like a ghost. ‘Oh my dear Wilfred, my dearest Wilfred…’, she sighed deeply into her pillow. Little tears started forming in her eyes.

Outside of her room, service bots glided silently along the corridors.

Picture credit: Nina Hill

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