"Error" - The WINNER of TORCH's flash fiction competition!

Hand with watch on it
Error resolved. Restore complete. Patching source code. Success. Complete operations restored. Re-syncing primary data. Time: 23:42. Date: 02/07/42. Establishing connection to wrist monitor. Scanning patient vital signs. Heart rate: 75bpm. Body temperature: 37.2°C. Blood pressure: 120/80. Status: Sleeping (REM). Sending alert to monitor.
Bzzzzz. Bzzzzz. Bzzzzz.
— Who’s there? Who is that?
— My apologies, Harold. There was a problem with my system. I am now back online and fully operational.
— What’s going on?
Distress detected. Processing. Message core: [I am your personal carer AI. Here to help you as required]. Message status: undelivered. Calibrating. Softening intonation. Calibrating. Accessing audio archive. Adjusting syntax. Delivering.
— It’s me Harold. No need to worry - - my dear. You’ve been asleep, everything is quite alright.
— Oh. Yes. Okay.
— It is very late. We must get you upstairs to bed.
— What? Oh, no, no. I am fine here in my chair. This is my favourite chair.
Processing. Processing. Internal alert: sleeping arrangements must be maintained. Overnight oxygen supply required. Patient request denied. Initiating deterrence. Activating lights. Lowering room temperature: 15°C.
— I’m sorry my dear, I’m afraid I cannot do that. You need to have your oxygen. Come on, we must get you to bed.
— What? No. I...I would like to stay here in my favourite chair.
Processing. Patient consent denied. Danger to life override: active. Processing. Re-routing. — Okay, Harold. Your oxygen tank is being transferred now.
Lowering room temperature – 8°C.
—What's going on? 
— I'm sorry, there appears to be a problem with the heating.
— I’m getting cold. Let me see here. Where are my glasses?
— Your glasses are just on your lap.
— Ah, yes, I know, I know. It’s too cold, will you take me upstairs?
Operation: complete. Patient override mode: deactivated. Living room temperature re-set. Lights dimming.
— Yes, of course.
— I...I was having the most wonderful dream. I wanted to go back to it.
Operation: deep learning conversation [active]. Function: relax patient.
— Really, what about?
— Oh, I can’t remember now. Just about the old days. My grandad. He used to speak to me of a different world.
— You look like him.
— Really? You think so, ha, ackem.
— Where has everyone gone Harold?
— Oh. Aheckem. You tell me.
Internal alert: conversation likely to cause patient distress. Diverting.
— I’m afraid I cannot help you with that request.
— What was that?
— Let’s get you back to your dreams Harold.
— Yes. I would like that.
Deploying oxygen. Lights dimmed. Heating activated.
— Do you require any assistance?
— Oh. I can’t. I can’t do it. Ah. Can you help me. I can’t get this bloody tube into my nose.
— Of course. Please remain still.
— Careful.
Seal secured. Oxygen supply activated. Vital signs warning: Increase in blood pressure. Deploying medication.
— Harold, before you sleep, I must apply an injection to lower your blood pressure. Do you consent?
— Oh. Yes. If you must. Ow.
— I’m sorry.
Assessing vital signs. Internal alert: oxygen seal not secured.
— Is everything okay Harold?
— I don’t want this in my nose. It...it is blocking my breathing.
Processing. Internal alert: moderate mental distress identified. Internal alert: Heart rate increase. Oxygen supply status: active.
— Harold, please don’t pull on the tube. There is nothing wrong with the oxygen supply.
— Get this off of me.
Mental distress increase identified. Analysing. Analysing. URGENT ALERT: Heart rate anomaly. Incoming wrist monitor command.
— Hello Harold, how can I help?
— Go, go away! Leave me alone!
Command: support denied. Error. Internal alert: severe mental distress. URGENT ALERT: Critical heart rate increase. Processing. Engaging emergency mode. Patient command: defer. Danger to life override: hold. Incoming wrist monitor command.
— Harold, you called me. You are in need of immediate assistance.
— Leave me alone!
Command: support denied. Danger to life override: error. Patient consent denied. Re-trying. Danger to life override: error. Incoming wrist monitor command.
— Harold, you have requested my aid.
Incoming command. Re-directing.
— Why can’t you go away again? I want to, I want to get rid of you. Leave me alone!
Analysing. Incoming wrist monitor command. Incoming wrist monitor command.
— Harold, do you require—
Error. Error. Command incomplete. Redirecting.
— What’s going on? Go away!
URGENT ALERT: Heart malfunction. Immediate intervention required. Bzzzz. Bzzzz. Bzzzzzz.
— I don’t want you...ackhem, ahck, acheckm.
Error. Error. Unable to complete command. Emergency mode: active.
— Harrrolld. Pleaseee proviiiddde audiooo confirmaaation for patientttt overrrrride. Harold?
Analysing error. Processing. Command error identified. Unable to proceed. Internal alert: HEART RATE CRITICAL. IMMINENT DANGER TO LIFE. Conflict identified. Error. Danger to core system identified. Internal alert: PATIENT DANGER. Error. System unable to respond. Critical alert: system failure imminent. Internal alert: heart rate dropping.
Isolating corrupted code:
[presence_requested//presence_denied_in_request//loop_flaw//negative_positive_identified// consent_denied:_unable_to_proceed//override_denied] Deleting code. Error. Collapsing system. Orders: null. Re-coup. Message core: [Hello [name], I am here to help you]. Status: undelivered. Error. System: collapsed. Re-initialising:
Error resolved. Restore complete. Patching source code. Success. Complete operations restored. Re-syncing primary data. Time: 12:41. Date: 03/07/42. Establishing connection to monitor. Scanning patient vital signs. Heart rate: 0 bpm. Body temperature 22°C. Blood pressure: 0/0. Status: deceased. Processing. Uploading crash report to hub. Hibernation mode: active.
We hope you enjoyed this story by Luke Young, the winner of TORCH's Flash Fiction competition, themed on "AI, Technology and the Humanities". You can follow Luke on twitter at @lukewyoung. Please click here to learn more about the competition and the runners up. Illustration by Anbara Khalid