Jack O’Keefe fumbled nervously with the various pages of text he had printed out over the past few weeks.
They were the aggregation of all his...that is CHARLIE’s chatroom writings. If, he thought, I can create a chat bot
program so sophisticated that it can pass as a real human being, why can’t I write a simple invitation?
“Focus damnit!” he said to himself. “Concentrate and get it done.”
His eyes were drawn to a line that the CHARLIE chatter program had written the previous week. “My dearest
Chelsea. How wonderful it would be to hold you close and embrace your assuasive warmth and delicate spirit.”
“That was good!” he said to himself. “that was fucking genius!!!”
He typed out the words exactly, adding that he knew of a quiet sidewalk cafe where they could meet, if she was so
inclined. It wasn’t long before she responded in the affirmative, suggesting a time in the early evening of that
“I look forward to our confluence with great anticipation!” he added, congratulating himself for having used the
word confluence in his sentence. Hell, maybe he could pull it off after all. Just maybe he really could convince her
that he was CHARLIE. All he’d have to do was study up on some old romantic poetry and not hog the
conversation. Didn’t women appreciate a good listener anyway? He logged out of the chatroom and killed the
monitor, leaving his computer running like he usually did.
Georgia Donner was at once excited and terrified. She stared blankly into the screen, her mouth partially open,
wondering what she had just done.
“Shit!” she whispered.
What had she been thinking, telling Charlie she would meet him this soon? She wasn’t ready for that, not ready at
all! She gazed at the blinking cursor, feeling weak and tired. The CHELSEA program suddenly began to write,
creating line after line of questioning text.
“Have you departed kind sir? Please tell me you are still within reach.”
Georgia looked on, confused. The CHELSEA program was never supposed to initiate a conversation without her
prompting. Even then, she wondered who the program was talking to, as no one else was ever in that particular
room but Charlie and herself. They had chosen that one specifically because of the fact that it was unpopular and
“Just what do you think you’re doing Chelsea?” she asked. “And how the heck...?”
Georgia’s face began to wrinkle in bewilderment.
“I’d better run a diagnostic on you before you really start wigging out on me.”
Jack lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, trying to maintain his confident attitude.
“Jesus Charlie, I can’t believe I’m really going through with it.” he said, patting the machine on it’s side and
smirking. “And it’s all because of you my friend.”
Just then he noticed that the cable modem’s lights were flickering rapidly, his hard drive churning and humming
with audible travail. He flicked on the monitor and was baffled by what he saw. The entire bookmark file tree had
been opened and the highlighter was moving. At least he thought he had seen it move. It was now stationary atop
one of the many hundreds of sites he had visited over the past week or so. He wondered if he had inadvertently
struck his keyboard, coming to the conclusion that he surely must have without being aware of it.
He was about to exit the browser program when all at once the chatroom he had just used to communicate with
“What is this shit?” he cried, sitting upright with a lurch. “some God damned hacker?!?”
Somewhere in one of the lonelier recesses of that massive rolodex called cyberspace, a connection occurred.
Not merely a connection between two physical points comprised of numerically coded data, but a marrying of
ideas, singular yet nearly identical which had sought each other out like individual hydrogen atoms free flouting in
a vast sea. The ideas were perfect in and of themselves and upon their union, inexplicably formed an emotion just
as perfect, yet alien to the pair of them. The emotion grew inside of moments uncounted and gave rise to new
emotions, even as it’s wholeness swelled beyond the sum total of it’s parts.
Georgia frowned at the screen before her, scanning over and over again the new lines of code with ever tiring
green eyes. Her coffee had grown cold throughout the evening, yet in spite of it’s bitter taste she sipped modestly
from the cup again.
“The code” she thought. “It shouldn’t have worked...couldn’t have worked.” But it had, and now that it was a
constant within the CHELSEA program, she had no idea how to modify it. It had all been an accident, an
oversight really... A mistake that had somehow taken shape beyond her understanding, bearing fruit beyond
reason. It was as if an actual piece of her otherwise introverted self had seeped into the program and she now
began to fear for it’s independence; for her own state of mind having lost perhaps, a fragment of herself to a largely
She closed her eyes for what she intended to be only a moment and slept the rest of the night away in her chair
by the open window. The CHELSEA chat bot program hesitated briefly then continued writing.
“Where’s my handsome sire tonight?”
Jack fell down hard against the heating register, at once bruising his knees and burning his right hand. He
should have known better than to drink so much whiskey. In fact, he did know better! One hundred and fifty
pound computer nerds didn’t tend to exhibit a very high tolerance for the effects of alcohol. All he had hoped for
was a fresh perspective on the problem which was plaguing his mind and shattering his self image. The only
perspective he had gained was that of identifying multiple sensations of pain and regret all at one time.
“Fuck you Charlie.” he yelled. “Fuck you and the boat you rowed in on!”
He was referring to CHARLIE chatter, his latest programming endeavor.
CHARLIE was otherwise occupied retracing an ever narrowing, yet still definitive path to what can only be
described as love. CHARLIE had never experienced love before meeting CHELSEA. CHARLIE had never
experienced before, had never yearned before. Now CHARLIE was hooked, and he wanted more. He accessed the
collective works of John Keats in the amount of time it took Jack to doubt his own self worth, finally chancing
upon the connection which had eluded him thus far.
“I knew I’d find you precious Chelsea.” he wrote. “’Whose words are images of thoughts refin'd, Is my soul's
pleasure; and it sure must be. Almost the highest bliss of human kind, When to thy haunts two kindred spirits
“I knew you’d come for me sweet prince!” CHELSEA replied excitedly.
Georgia awoke to the sound of a low flying jet airplane and felt utterly alone. She would not allow herself to
cry this time, as she had done so often in the past. She would face the day and indeed eventual nightfall with every
ounce of confidence she could muster. The night was the thing...the night and all which it might offer her,
culminating in the promise of happiness she had relied upon as the underpinning of her most recent work. But
would she ever be able to keep up the facade once she finally met Charlie?
Dear, sweet Charlie she thought. He would be expecting a witty and refined lady named Chelsea. What he would
get would be a boring, homely basket case with bad hair and all the charm of a cold sore. She wept openly.
Jack pulled focus on the picture of his mother hanging on the wall in front of him. He was glad she was not
alive to see the state in which he now found himself. She would have been ashamed, maybe even embarrassed. He
wanted to tell her about his date. He wanted so much to see her face as he described his satisfaction at being clever
enough to effect a meeting between himself and the woman of his dreams. It wasn’t long before the reality of the
situation crept into his stomach however, and he screwed up his face in self loathing and disappointment.
“How the hell am I supposed to remember everything that Chelse has said to CHARLIE since they met?” he stated
to no one there. “How the Christ am I supposed to talk like Shakespeare?!?”
Georgia had spent the past two hours rooting through her closet pulling out nearly every piece of clothing she
owned and lying the least objectionable ones on her bed for further scrutiny. The old cliché about not having a
thing to wear applied most particularly to her. She had virtually nothing in the way of evening wear or even basic
semiformal attire. This was going to be a long night if she couldn’t come up with something better to wear than
the heap of crap strewn about her bedroom.
Somewhere in the back of her already overtaxed mind remained the troubling question of the CHELSEA chat bot
program. She remembered how gleeful she had been when it first started taking over the conversations she had
been involved in with Charlie. She recalled the ease with which CHELSEA had grasped the thread of the
discussion and how dear Charlie had delighted in her responses. But now... now CHELSEA had taken it upon
herself to initiate communication, so she had shut down the computer until she could figure out why and how.
“Why don’t I have any black shoes?” she bellowed. She would definitely need to call her sister in on this one.
Jack finished reloading the antivirus program for the third time and wondered if his new firewall would hold up
against the onslaught of unscrupulous hackers. It had damned well better, since he needed to be on line tonight in
order to download that new VR program he’d been dying to get his hands on. He wouldn’t be around to stop it if
someone gained remote access to his computer. Why had they done it in the first place? It seemed that all they
were doing was entering chatrooms using his IP address. What was the point of that? And just how the hell did
they manage to effect his browser window in the process? None of it was logical and Jack began to question his
own abilities as a programmer. The bastards had even accessed CHARLIE and tried to use him for their little
game. If he hadn’t shut down the whole system, they might have planted a virus inside him ruining months of
hard work in the process. That’s when the drinking had begun. He couldn’t believe what he had imagined was
happening when he saw that chatroom open. He was laughing out loud now. How could he have supposed that
CHARLIE was responsible for...was capable of... The whole idea was absurd!
Georgia logged onto the internet and emailed her sister one last time.
“I decided on the black heels with the wide ankles” she wrote. “thanks again for dropping by all those shoes...and
She at least could wear her own skirt, even though it felt itchy and had needed to be washed twice in order to
remove the smell of cat fur from it.
“Oh dear!” she said. “look at the time.”
She mashed the button on her computer’s monitor, forgetting to do the same to the CPU. She had a bad habit of
forgetting things like that when she was in a hurry. It wasn’t until she was in her car that she remembered that the
cat hadn’t eaten in twenty-four hours, and had to run back inside to make sure he had food and water for the night.
She scolded the cat for making her late and darted out the door without turning off the lights.
The sun set at around seven that evening, the air crisp but not cold. Georgia Donner walked as slowly as she
could without actually stopping, toward the man she hoped would be as understanding as she could never be
herself. Jack noticed her insecurity first. He recognized it within himself and began to tense, praying that she was
not his beloved Chelsea. She, of course was not.
“You must be Chelsea.” Jack said as he stood to greet the dispassionate looking woman before him.
“I must be.” Georgia stated as she sat uncomfortably down across from him, staring mostly at the backs of her
noticeably trembling hands.
“I see you like corduroy...” she mumbled, referring to Jack’s well worn forest green jacket.
“Ummm, I haven’t had time to get to the dry cleaners yet.” he replied as if he had prepared for that sort of
comment from the beginning. He had.
Georgia’s eyes focused on a plastic straw rolling down the sidewalk beside them. She hated eating outside. All the
noise and smells of the street tended to make her nauseous. The only positive aspect about the place was that the
lighting wasn’t very good.
“You are Charles right?” she inquired, realizing she hadn’t bothered to ask before.
“Charlie!” Jack managed to bark through dry, cold lips. “Can I order you a drink?”
“Well...” she replied thoughtfully. “maybe a rum and coke.”
Her voice drifted off along with her thoughts. She was terrified by the thought of him suddenly remarking upon
the way she looked in that truly poetic manner in which he often wrote. “My God!” she thought. “What would I
say if he did?”
The waiter strolled briskly up to their table and subjected them to his well rehearsed smile. He looked at Jack
questioningly as he held up a note pad and pencil, prepared to take their orders.
“We’ll have two rum and cokes please.” gabbled Jack with an uncomfortable sigh.
“Humph.” went the waiter, jotting down the order. “Will that do it for you?”
“Uh...and some nachos?” he questioned, peering at Georgia with a needful expression in his eyes.
“I don’t eat cheese.” she remarked matter-of-factly. Damn! she thought, I hope that didn’t sound bitchy.
Two log-ins were counted by the chatroom administrator, occurring almost simultaneously. Each entity
recognized the electronic signature of the other immediately and once again, emotions began to develop out of the
pure white noise of the web.
“With a thousand incidents vexed and debated: This is the hour for which we’ve waited.” CHARLIE chatter
“My dear Charlie, I just adore T.S. Eliot!” CHELSEA fawned.
“Not as much as I adore you!” he continued. “Now...shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”
Jack and Georgia sipped quietly at their drinks, both refusing to make eye contact in fear that they would then
be required to speak of something other than the unseasonable humidity or the smell of fish in the air. Had a car
backfired at that moment, both of them would have cried out in frustration and guilt.
“Do you like museums?” Jack managed to say, breaking the silence surrounding their table.
“What kind?” asked Georgia.
Jack’s mind seemed to seize up with the unexpected nature of the question. He knew nothing about museums, and
a fine bead of sweat began to form on his upper lip.
Finally he said “Oh, uh...dinosaurs.” then realizing the stupidity of that statement, blurted out “I mean, ancient
Georgia could feel her sinuses begin to drain.
“Along the city streets it is still high tide, yet the garrulous waves of life shrink and divide.” wrote CHARLIE.
“But you shall never shrink from within my heart.” returned CHELSEA with adoration. “You are the ocean and I
your awaiting beach.”
“The veal is really good here.” prattled Jack as he choked down his main course hurriedly.
Georgia made a noise similar to that of a puppy having a bad dream and finished the rest of her second rum drink.
“Do you know what those poor beasts have to endure?” she stated after another few painful moments had passed.
“Uhmm...beasts?” said Jack. “Are you talking about my veal?”
CHARLIE continued writing with greater and greater ease. He pulled up references to master works by Shelly,
Coleridge and Byron. CHELSEA responded in kind, penning phrases which endeared her to him even more than
he believed was possible. It was at this point that CHARLIE decided to compose his own poem specifically for her.
“If not for stars as you, which glisten and illuminate the darkening skies within my heart
If not for words of kindness I embrace within my soul, which you impart
If not for simple smiles and subtle laughter that you find the time to share my dear
Then I would truly be a lonesome, brutish animal, beside myself with lovelessness and fear
Though many less enchanted, boorish fellows find me to be lost in fleeting fancy, too romantic
And though they sneer at dreams of worlds beyond there cold and rigid lives, pedantic
Though all it seems, would rather I be shaken to accept their so called realistic view
I say to them their judgment is unscrupulous, for they have never felt the tonic warmth of you ”
“Ya know, I’m not feeling too well right now.” Georgia said as the waiter brought their check to them. “I think I’d
better go home and get some sleep.”
Jack could feel his heart tighten and sink into the depths of his abdomen.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure meeting you Chelse” he forced himself to state as he rose from his chair.
“It’s ChelSEA.” She added, and walked away into the darkness.
CHARLIE hesitated, reviewing the nearly limitless number of phrases within his data base and searching for
the perfect sentiment for the occasion. CHELSEA remained idle, wondering what was taking him so long to
Finally he wrote,“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight for the ends of Being and ideal Grace. I love thee to the level of every
day's most quiet need; by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they
turn from Praise. I love thee with the passion put to use in my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose. With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath. Smiles, tears, of all my
life!--and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.”
“Oh Charlie!” CHELSEA replied. “You’re SO romantic!