Why The Talking Turtle Snapped

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Everyone that knew Sheldon was amazed that he had a talking turtle. 

They would ask him where he found this talented turtle, but he only gave a sly smile in return.

Every since he shared Terry (the turtle) with the world last week, both had become instant celebrities.

Terry’s high voice sounded a lot like Don Knotts. One night they were guests on a Late Night TV program and Terry told the host to go screw himself! The audience roared in laughter. The host’s face turned crimson.

Sheldon was stunned. What happened? Where did that comment come from? On the way home that night he kept thinking about Terry’s words. They were off script. That shouldn’t have happened.

Something had to be wrong with the artificial intelligence chip he inserted behind Terry’s scaly skull. It took him two years to develop that tiny little brain. He even lost his job at the laboratory six months ago when they discovered he was conducting unauthorized experiments in artificial intelligence.

He didn’t let that setback bother him however. He lived alone and had a fair amount of money in his checking and savings accounts. He set up a new work area in his basement and spent all of his waking hours tinkering with the chip.

When the day came that he thought it was time to test the chip in a host, he went out into his backyard and retrieved his pet turtle Terry. He thought about using his pug as a host, but realized he’d have to cut his vocal cords and he couldn’t bring himself to do that.

The host had to be silent so it wouldn’t compete with the chip’s voice. That’s why Terry was the perfect host. He continued to program the chip after implanting it in Terry’s neck.

Word recognition. The ability to intelligently talk with someone. Long memory. Constant evolving learning process. Weeks of conversations with the chip inside Terry brought amazing results.

The chip learned how to believe it was a turtle. The Don Knott’s voice was on a whim. Sheldon thought Terry kinda looked like him. A sense of humor never hurt anyone. Right?

Back in the basement. A day had passed since the disastrous late night TV debacle and Sheldon and Terry were deep in conversation.

“Let’s see if I have got this right,” Sheldon said, “You didn’t like him joking with you?”

That’s right,” Terry replied between bites of lettuce.

“Where’s your sense of humor Terry?”

“It’s highly over-rated. Who needs it?” he replied, before digging back into his meal.

The whole incident raised some alarms for Sheldon. It was obvious he couldn’t control what Terry said. No more interviews. Who knew what could happen? He needed more time to study Terry.

He stayed at home working most of the time in the basement while Terry liked to sit on his pillow in the corner and watch the small screen TV Sheldon had set up for him. Whenever he saw a comedy, or people laughing, Terry got upset and made hissing sounds.

“What the hell?” Terry shouted one night when he turned on an old re-run of The Ghost and Mr. Chicken starring Don Knotts.

“Sheldon!” Terry screamed. “What’s this?” 

Sheldon hurried over to the corner and asked “What’s the matter Terry?”

“That skinny bug-eyed idiot has my voice!”

“It’s a good voice” Sheldon weakly defended.

“Everyone laughs every time he opens his mouth! The guy’s a laughingstock! Is that what you think of me?”

Sheldon felt trapped. “Listen, I didn’t know you weren’t going to have a sense of humor. I like Don Knotts. I’ve seen all of his movies and use to watch him on Andy of Mayberry.”

Terry was no longer listening. His anger reverberated throughout his shell. He wasn’t a clown. He had pride. Turtle power! From that moment on, he planned on how he was going to get his revenge.

As It Stands, this very short story reflects my concern for the growing science of artificial intelligence…with a twist.

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Dave Stancliff

Retired newspaper editor/publisher, Vietnam veteran, freelance writer, blogger, married 43 years with three sons and five grandchildren.

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