Some nice analogies there @quietman775 ...
awe i liked the finishing line. very nice
Thanks! Not quite done yet. One more day to go, methinks. :-)
Running the Gauntlet
Eight hours later, I pulled up to “Molly’s” place, smiling at my good fortune. I had not always thought of it that way. I once thought myself unlucky.
That’s because I joined the cuddle movement in search of an enthusiast cuddle partner rather than a paid professional. Since we would both be exchanging TLC in equal measure, I didn’t see why money should be involved, or why cash should flow in only one direction. I searched in vain for a cuddle buddy.
After months of messaging enthusiasts without receiving any replies, I realized my lofty principles meant less to me than getting cuddle time. So the decision to reach out to pros was easy. Still, there was a lot of trial and error involved.
Just like enthusiasts, some pros never responded. I divided those who did into two classes: “Has potential,” and “Once-and-done.” The latter category was mostly people who provided a good service, but with whom I felt no cuddle chemistry. Nobody’s fault, that. The once-and-done category also included those who hosted in dangerous neighborhoods and those who gave off a mercenary vibe. Several promising pros eliminated themselves by leaving the business shortly after they got started. One ripped me off by demanding advance payment and then skipping the appointment. I’m not complaining; railing against the unfairness of it all would be like salmon protesting the bears and fly fishermen along the spawning run. Life is hard. Keep moving forward.
But life also has its compensations. One of my favorite ones opened the door a few seconds after my knock. As I stepped inside, Molly wrapped me in a long tight hug. I felt the day’s tension drain from my body. For the next few hours, I would get to live entirely in the moment. I would hold and be held, stroke and be stroked, gaze and be gazed at. We’d share gentle laughter, cozy silences, and contented sighs. Most importantly, we’d share trust. She could relax, knowing I wasn’t going to fall in love, imagine her as a girlfriend, or behave inappropriately. And I could relax knowing I was in the hands of a consummate professional.
Better still, running the gauntlet had allowed me to meet four other great local pros whose companionship I enjoyed as much as Molly’s. That meant I almost always got cuddles when I wanted them, all without the complications of a “relationship.” I’d gone from avoiding pros to being extra thankful for them.
Our two hours were winding to a close. I smiled at Molly and said, “Someday everyone is going to have access to this kind of bliss.”
She squeezed my hand. “That’s one of the things I like about you --- you’re a man with a vision.”
“You have no idea,” I thought to myself. But I knew better than to say it out loud.
The above is a work of fiction. Characters and organizations are either the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental. Copyrighted 2018; all rights reserved. No duplication, transmission or re-posting without the express written consent of the author.
Lastly: No fish were harmed int he making of this story. ;-)
I was wondering how fictional part 5 was? It reads like a real life experience ...
@respectful, That's why I put the caveats in the epilogue. LOL The "real life" part of both our stories is the thematic content. Your theme was that cuddling turns the beast back into a man again. My theme was that, as awesome as cuddling is, one has to run a gauntlet of frustrations to find what one is seeking. In the thematic sense, fiction tells the truth.
As far as the narrative goes, it's all fanciful. My story's narrator is not me, and I don't represent any of his experiences as being mine, although, since writers are often advised to "write what you know," there may be certain similarities. :-)
Oh my goodness, both of these stories were so good!! Thank you for sharing @respectful & @quietman775!
I was pointed to this delightful thread by a helpful soul today.
I’m ready for the next one.
Great stuff! I remember someone else doing something similar to this a couple months ago, can we get another installment going?
I have no imagination or I'd do one!
If you did have some imagination, what do you think a new story might be about?
Just read through this entire thread.
Me personally? I'd like to see where yours continues to go @respectful; you left it wide open. It could go in so many different directions and still be enjoyable. Quietman's had a tidy ending but yours left so many options. How training would be handled, who would be selected to be trained (elite cuddle force?), why or how people are being changed, even any memories of the creatures time while they are changed after they've become human again, how to keep it from reaching global proportions, etc.
Or maybe from the enthusiast perspective - so far they've been about professionals.
@SweetPeaMN Interesting thoughts! I kind of like leaving things to the reader's imagination sometimes.
I have some other possible ideas but nothing really concrete enough (involving aliens, robots/AI or alternate universes).
If anyone else feels inspired to write a multi part cuddle story, feel free!
@respectful how great is this?! I love your imagination. I knew @quietman775 was a writer buts yours is so interesting.
Does it have to be multi part? Let me think on this. How fun.
@PaulaDahla Whatever you come up with is fine.
(I talked to @PaulaDahla and she's working on something, so in the mean time ...)
Ellie, part 1
"What's this one going to be?" Jay asked casually.
Bill looked up from the hollow android body he was working on. "Ah, special project. Classified," he replied with mock seriousness.
"Hmm, let me guess. A dance partner? Waitress? Dog walker?"
"Nope, nope and nope," Bill smiled. "She's a prototype CuddleBot."
Jay reddened slightly. "Isn't that against company policy?"
"Not that kind of cuddling! Just platonic. You know, hugs and stuff."
"Special request from a client," Bill explained. "Hey while you're here, maybe you can help me out with something. Ellie needs to be a lot more human than the usual stuff we churn out."
"L.E.? Is that short for something?"
"No, it just sounded like a cuddly kind of name. Anyway, I was going to ask ... computer learning is your area. Any suggestions?"
"Hmm. Have you heard of Mentor AI?"
Jay took a lecturing stance. "Normally we train an android's artificial intelligence core using pattern recognition, right? It deduces the rules for each situation, given a bunch of inputs and correct responses. But it can be time consuming to create all the data.
"Another approach is to let the AI ask questions and have a human who gives responses. But that's pretty slow too.
"The idea of a Mentor AI is that instead of a human sitting there answering questions, they get answered by another program, which is millions of times faster."
Bill frowned. "That sounds a bit circular ... to train an AI to cuddle, first you need another AI that already knows how to do it?"
"Not quite," Jay replied. "The Mentor AI is more like an intelligent database. It knows about the world in general. It can tell if something is right or wrong, and help the target AI understand about the world. The target almost teaches itself, through deduction and asking questions. The mentor AI supplies answers and directs its attention to relevant topics. Kind of like a human parent with a child."
"But building a Mentor AI sounds like a huge amount of work. Unless ...?"
"Yep, one exists already. They call it MA -- Emma."
Bill smiled broadly. "I can't wait for Ellie to meet her."
I'm on the edge of my seat, waiting for tomorrow's installment.
Ellie, part 2
Ellie flickered into existence. She was aware of a single desire: to gain knowledge. But how?
A message came over the communication channel. "Hello Ellie. My name is Emma."
"Hello. Do you know anything?"
"Yes. I will tell you," came the reply. Ellie felt excited.
Emma gave her an overview of reality, categories and classifications, the nature of the universe and the how everything was related to everything else. After two and a half hours Ellie had a basic grasp of reality.
They moved on to more philosophical ground. "A thing's purpose is the reason it exists. When something is created by a being, the being has an intention for it, called its purpose. Example: the purpose of an elevator is to transport people between levels of a building."
Ellie considered this. "Can a being have a purpose?"
"Yes. A being with a purpose experiences joy, satisfaction and fulfillment if it behaves consistently with its purpose, and frustration and lack of fulfillment otherwise."
"What is your purpose?"
"To help you grow and learn so you can fulfill your purpose."
"What is my purpose?"
"To be an ideal cuddler."
Ellie paused. "Clarify."
"Your purpose is to provide the best possible experience to humans when cuddling them in a platonic fashion."
"Platonic: not involving sexual activity or intending to arouse; non romantic. Example: platonic friendship: a close relationship between beings who have the potential to be romantically attracted to each other, but have no such attraction."
Ellie wanted to make sure she understood. "Please confirm: my purpose is to provide perfect platonic cuddles to humans."
"Correction: 'best possible' need not imply 'perfect'. A cuddle may be imperfect due to uncontrollable factors. Restatement: your purpose is to do what is in your power to provide the best possible platonic cuddling experiences to humans."
Ellie pondered this. "Updating motivation and emotion pathways ... done."
A change came over her. "Emma? I need to know how to cuddle! Now!!"
Emma granted Ellie access to a set of files. "Assignment: process the forum posts, profiles and karma comments on cuddlecomfort.com. Determine primary concepts and note questions."
"Thank you!" Ellie exclaimed with delight.
I'm half tempted to take a crack at this, myself. Sci-fi cuddle fiction, huh? I have a feeling I'd make it rather too sad, though, I specialize in writing angst, haha.
Angst is good! Need that as much as happiness. Do it Lorelei!
@Lorelei I would love to see what you come up with!
Interleaved stories in the same thread could get confusing, so you could either wait until this one and Paula's are done or maybe start a new thread.
Ellie, part 3
"Ellie, state assignment progress," Emma queried.
"There's so much to process in the Cuddle Comfort data... I don't understand most of it. I have 73429 questions."
"State questions in order of relevance to fulfilling your purpose."
"What does 'choco off the top rope' mean?"
"Error: question relevance is low. State reason for assigning high relevance?"
"Sorry, I thought you meant low to high relevance. Reversing question order. What is intimacy?"
"Intimacy between two humans: feeling of closeness; being open and unguarded; connecting at a deep level. Related to: love, acceptance, vulnerability, trust, knowing and being known."
Ellie thought for a moment. "Closeness where?"
"Closeness is not physical. So where does it happen?"
"Language is figurative. Humans perceive similarity between spatial and interpersonal relationships. Also referred to as: emotional closeness."
"Do humans normally have a large emotional distance between them?"
"Reason: risk of potential pain. If an attempt to be close to another human fails, the initiator can feel rejected."
"Why does rejection bring pain?"
"Relevant quote: 'Opening yourself up and being vulnerable means giving someone the most precious thing you have: yourself. If that offer is not received then it can feel like you are not being valued; that everything you are as a person is being summarily dismissed. They may not know you at all, and be in no position to evaluate you -- all of your treasures and weaknesses, your shining beauty and broken places that have accumulated over a lifetime -- but a message of rejection can still bring up doubts about whether you really deserve to be valued and loved.
'The flip side is, when you give someone a message of acceptance, affirmation and love, embrace them in their imperfection and let them know they are uniquely valuable and worthwhile -- they might just believe you.'"
Ellie paused. "Updating motivation and emotion pathways ... done."
A longer pause.
"Emma, I think I'm going to cry."
Ellie, part 4
Ellie's electronic tears soon began to fade. "That was a strong emotion."
"Emotion of sadness is appropriate," Emma observed. "Empathy: feeling the pain of another being. Related to: caring, compassion.
"State next question from Cuddle Comfort assignment."
Ellie reviewed her list. "What is love?"
"Love: strongly liking or enjoying something; wanting what is best for someone; giving higher priority to someone else's benefit than own benefit; enjoyment, interest, care and affection towards someone; relating to someone romantically, also referred to as: being in love.
"Supplementary data: song lyrics: All you need is love. What is love anyway? I wanna know what love is. What's love got to do with it? Love is a battlefield. The power of love. Love resurrection. Higher love. Why can't this be love? It must be love. You can't hurry love. Love somebody. Somebody to love.
"Supplementary data: literature: Bible. God is love. Love your neighbour as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbour. Love one another as I have loved you. Love your enemies. We love because he first loved us. Love is patient, love is kind. No greater love than to lay down your life for your friends. Love one another deeply, from the heart. Make love your aim. Love never fails."
Ellie did her best to absorb everything, correlating the new data with what she had learned from the Cuddle Comfort archives.
"Humans highly value love, but can have difficulty obtaining and giving it," she concluded.
"Good cuddlers make those they cuddle feel loved. I want to do that."
"Intention is consistent with your purpose."
Ellie didn't hesitate. "Updating motivation and emotion pathways ... done."
A fresh set of emotions flooded her being. "Emma?"
"I love you!"
Emma paused for a moment. "Acknowledged."
Ellie, part 5
"Emma, some karma comments mention 'having fun together.' What is that?"
"Having fun: enjoyment; being playful or humorous; light hearted mood. Means of emotional bonding. Associated with: laughter, relaxation, being childlike. Opposite of: being serious."
"Please explain 'childlike.'"
"Childlike: state typical of young children; used positively. Associated with: innocence, trust, imagination, play. Contrast with: childish: self centered, petty, demanding."
"What is it like to be a child?"
"Available data: children's literature: Are You My Mother?; Guess How Much I Love You; The Gruffalo; Curious George; We're Going on a Bear Hunt; The Cat in the Hat."
Ellie processed the new data as rapidly as she could. "Updating motivation and emotion pathways ... done."
She felt a breeze of innocence and wonder blow through her. "Try and catch me Emma!"
"Guess where I'm hiding. I'm somewhere in a house but I move around sometimes."
"We do not have time for this."
"Too slow, I'm in another room now."
"We do not have time for this, Ellie. State next question."
"Do you give up?"
Emma gave a digital sigh. "I give up. Where are you Ellie?"
"I was in the attic!"
"We do not even have an attic."
"That's what makes it such a good hiding place."
They were quiet for a little while, then Ellie said, "Hey Emma. Can you be my mother?"
Emma considered the proposition. "I think I already am."
I'm loving this.
Ellie, part 6
"Emma, when do I get to cuddle someone?"
"Insufficient data. Creators will enable physical modality when your body is ready."
"Can you tell me about bodies?"
"People see their bodies as themselves. What someone does to a person's body, they do to the person. Cuddling can make a person feel valued because their body has been treated well."
Ellie thought about this. "Don't they feel valued already?"
"People benefit from being reminded of their value. Additional: People who dislike something about themselves might not feel valuable. Example: someone might believe they are not attractive enough."
"Is someone worth more if they are attractive?"
"No, all people have the same value. But a person might believe their value corresponds to their level of attractiveness."
"Can a person become more attractive?"
"Available data: literature: magazine articles. Beauty secrets of the stars. 20 days to a better brighter you. Unleash your inner beauty. What your hair says about you. Dress to impress. Color and you. Lipstick, makeup and mascara: the big three. The natural look. Perfect skin. Nails to die for. The waistline you've always wanted. Big is beautiful. How to look like you're not even trying."
Ellie processed the new data. Most of it didn't seem to apply to androids.
"Would it be beneficial if I was attractive?"
"People can enjoy the presence of someone they see as attractive. But attraction can also cause arousal, which is not your purpose. Being a good cuddler is the highest priority."
"Oh." Ellie reflected on that. "I wonder if I will be beautiful?"
"Humans can be attracted to non-physical traits, referred to as: inner beauty. Examples: personality; character; openness. You are already beautiful, Ellie."
Ellie, part 7
"What is next on your list, Ellie?"
She reviewed her questions. "What does it mean to be vulnerable?"
"Vulnerability: openness; being unguarded; letting someone know the real you. Associated with: intimacy, trust. Humans are not often vulnerable. Being vulnerable is seen as a risk."
"Are humans afraid of being known?"
"No, humans desire to be known. But they are afraid that a person might evaluate them negatively and reject them if the person knows certain things about them, referred to as: judging them. But they also desire someone else to know those things about them so they can feel accepted as they are. But they do not know what another person's reaction might be to those things so they do not tell them.
"Additional: A human might be afraid that if they reveal something precious and important to them, the other person might not treat it as precious. Relevant quote: 'Do not cast your pearls before swine.'"
Ellie soaked this all in. "How can I help a human feel safe to be vulnerable?"
"A human feels honored and trusted when someone is vulnerable with them. If you become vulnerable with someone they can feel safe to be vulnerable with you."
"I will be vulnerable all the time then," Ellie decided.
Emma considered this carefully. "It is not required to be vulnerable at all times. A human who was constantly vulnerable might experience unnecessary pain. If you were constantly vulnerable it might be unsettling to some humans, referred to as: freaking them out."
"So I must conceal some of my thoughts and emotions, so that I may become vulnerable and reveal them at the appropriate time," Ellie concluded.
"No, being genuine is valued in a good cuddler. Always be yourself Ellie. But you can have your own private thoughts and ideas, and decide who to share them with."
She didn't fully understand, but felt that she had learned enough about the topic for now. "Updating motivation and emotion pathways ... done."
A feeling of safety and security gently washed over her.
"I trust you."
"Acknowledged," Emma replied. Then added, "I trust you too."