Elizabeth was tired. “I just want to be done for the day,” she said.
“I understand,” Jason replied. “Why don’t we have dinner and then we can begin your night session? You’ll find it very relaxing, I promise.”
She didn’t argue. Her stomach was grumbling, and the memories of the chocolate cookie dulche made her all the more hungry. She greedily devoured the sandwiches that were placed before her and gulped down a glass of chocolate milk as Jason watched her with an amusing smile.
“This way Elizabeth,” he said, leading her to a dimly lit room where they were greeted by a young man of South Asian descent. The room was furnished with a bed, an array of neatly stacked servers and a large console. A pleasant music from what seemed to be a flute was playing in the background.
“This is Muralidhar Chandrasekar,” Jason introduced him.
“You can call me Murali, Ms. Quinn,” he offered mercifully as she struggled to get his name right. “Wow, I’ve met you in your future, but never when you were so young!”
“Alright, alright,” Elizabeth shook her head impatiently. “So you’re from the future too, and you worked with my future self, yada yada yada.”
“Actually,” Murali corrected. “I’m from the past.”
“What?” she asked incredulously as Jason and Murali glanced at each other and smiled.
“Yes Elizabeth, Murali is originally from 1977,” Jason clarified. “A smart one like us, he’s from India from the 70’s. An incredibly gifted high school student, he was languishing at a time and place with no access to the technology he needed to make his ideas work. We recruited him during one of our time travels. With his brilliant mind and the wealth of the technologies we’ve provided him with, he has worked wonders here at JP labs.”
“Okay look, I’m tired of these time travel stories, okay?” Elizabeth snapped. “I’d prefer to dwell in the present, thank you.”
“But.. Ms. Quinn, this is your dream! You’re the one who made, I mean, will make time travel possible,” Murali said with a look of surprise.
“She’s not ready for it yet, Murali,” Jason explained. “Let’s give her some time. Now let’s get on with our exercise, shall we?”
“Yes of course,” Murali nodded, his face brightening as he powered on a switch. “Ms. Quinn, meet Swapna, with whom you’ll be spending the night!”
“Hello Elizabeth,” a friendly female voice came from the console.
“Swapna is the machine you see here, possessing Artificial Intelligence,” Murali said, beaming with pride. “Her specialty is in communicating with people in their dreams and studying their thought patterns during their sleep. I’m sure you’ll love her. Now Ms. Quinn, please lie down and make yourself comfortable.”
Elizabeth did as she was told, and her arms and legs were clamped to the bed. A cold metal headband was fastened on her forehead.
“How’re you doing, Elizabeth?” Swapna asked.
“I’m fine, thank you,” Elizabeth replied looking at the computer and the room in awe.
“I hope you don’t mind me calling you by first name,” Swapna continued. “I never liked the concept of last names anyway. Maybe it’s because Murali didn’t give me one. Or maybe I should use his last name. He created me after all.”
“Swapna is a nice name,” Elizabeth replied, amazed at the manner with which the system could converse with her. She knew of computers that could carry out simple conversations with a set of pre-determined questions and answers, but this one appeared to be quite a chatterbox.
“Thank you,” Swapna replied as Murali watched proudly. “It means ‘Dream’ in Sanskrit.”
Swapna then began to hum a melodious tune.
“Err.. what’s that?” Elizabeth asked, suddenly feeling blissful and relaxed.
“It’s the Neelambari raga,” Murali explained. “A series of musical notes used in lullabies. Indian classical music is my passion. I’ve programmed her to sing melodious tunes from Carnatic and Hindustani classical music. Puts even the incurable insomniacs to sleep! Beautiful, no?”
Elizabeth nodded as she let out a yawn, her eyelids feeling heavy as the singing continued.
“I’ll wait outside,” Murali said with a smile as he left with Jason, sealing the glass door shut. “I don’t want to fall asleep myself! Swapna will take good care of you. Sweet dreams, Ms. Quinn!”