AI That Glitters Is Not Gold

AI That Glitters Is Not Gold

In the heart of 1969, nestled between the psychedelic swirls of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury and the frenetic pace of New York City’s Broadway, was a modest office with a brass plaque reading “Eleanor’s AI Voice Clones.” The agency was a curious anachronism in an era more accustomed to peace signs and moon landings than to artificial intelligence. Yet, there it was, a beacon of cutting-edge technology, overseen by an old lady with a mind sharper than any computer.

Eleanor Prescott was a spry septuagenarian with a mischievous twinkle in her eye and a wit as quick as a whip. She had a knack for business and an even greater talent for subterfuge, traits that had served her well in her youth as a vaudeville performer. Now, in her golden years, she ran the world’s first AI voice clone agency, where she signed the crème de la crème of Hollywood and Broadway to immortalize their voices.

Her office was a cozy time capsule of the era: lava lamps casting mellow glows on the walls, a rotary phone with an extra-long cord for pacing during calls, and a plush, mustard-yellow sofa where the elite of showbiz often found themselves seated, sipping tea and marveling at Eleanor’s latest technological wonder.

The agency had quickly become the talk of the town. Actors flocked to Eleanor, eager to preserve their voices for posterity, enchanted by the promise of earning royalties without the hassle of constant performances. Eleanor’s AI clones were perfect replicas, indistinguishable from the original voices. She had a steady stream of clients: Marlon Brando, Katharine Hepburn, and even the unmistakable timbre of Orson Welles had all passed through her doors. Each had their voice recorded, digitized, and encoded into Eleanor’s sophisticated machines.

But there was a peculiar pattern that seemed to follow Eleanor’s success. Just as a new voice clone was perfected and the ink dried on the contract, the original star would meet an untimely demise. Brando was found dead under mysterious circumstances, Hepburn’s heart gave out suddenly, and Welles perished in a bizarre accident involving a malfunctioning reel-to-reel tape recorder.

It was whispered in the dimly lit corners of Hollywood parties and Broadway dressing rooms that Eleanor was cursed, or perhaps, as some darker rumors suggested, involved in something far more sinister. However, no one could prove anything, and Eleanor continued her business, her clones’ voices echoing through movies, radio shows, and television specials.

One particularly foggy evening, Eleanor was preparing for a meeting with her newest client, Judy Garland. The star was keen to secure her legacy, especially after the success of her recent television series. As Judy settled into the mustard-yellow sofa, she couldn’t help but be charmed by Eleanor’s warm demeanor.

“You know, Eleanor,” Judy said, stirring her tea, “I’ve heard quite a lot about your work. It’s incredible what you’ve done here. Truly ahead of its time.”

Eleanor smiled, her eyes crinkling at the corners. “Why, thank you, Judy. I believe in preserving the magic of our voices. Imagine a world where the greats can continue to enchant audiences forever.”

Judy nodded, taking a sip of her tea. “That’s precisely why I’m here. I want to make sure my voice is never forgotten.”

Eleanor’s smile widened. “You’ve come to the right place. Now, let’s get started, shall we?”

The recording session went flawlessly. Judy’s voice was meticulously captured, every note and inflection preserved with impeccable accuracy. As the session concluded, Eleanor handed Judy a contract, her eyes gleaming with anticipation.

“Just sign here, dear, and your voice will be immortalized.”

Judy hesitated for a moment, a shadow of doubt crossing her face. “Eleanor, do you ever feel… strange about all this? I mean, the rumors…”

Eleanor’s expression softened, and she reached out, patting Judy’s hand. “Oh, my dear, I understand. But I assure you, they are just that—rumors. Now, don’t you worry about a thing.”

With a resigned smile, Judy signed the contract. As she left the office, the fog outside seemed thicker, the night air colder. Eleanor watched her go, a strange sense of satisfaction settling in her chest.

The next morning, news broke that Judy Garland had tragically passed away in her sleep. The world mourned, but Eleanor’s agency buzzed with activity. Garland’s AI voice clone was in high demand, her ethereal tones gracing radio waves and movie screens once more. The royalty checks flowed in, and Eleanor’s bank account swelled.

Yet, amid the success, a private investigator named Jack Donovan had begun to piece together the puzzle. Jack was a rugged man in his fifties, with a penchant for bourbon and a relentless drive for the truth. He had been following Eleanor’s activities for months, his instincts telling him that there was more to these deaths than met the eye.

One evening, Jack found himself at a dingy bar, poring over his notes. The bartender, a grizzled old man named Gus, refilled his glass.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost, Jack. What’s eating you?”

Jack sighed, running a hand through his greying hair. “It’s this Eleanor Prescott. Every actor she signs ends up dead. It’s too much of a coincidence.”

Gus leaned in, lowering his voice. “They say she’s got some kind of deal with the devil. Those voice clones… they’re not just recordings. They’re… I don’t know… something more.”

Jack’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean?”

Gus shrugged. “I don’t know for sure. But I’ve heard whispers. Voices in those machines are too real, too… alive.”

Jack finished his drink, his mind racing. He decided it was time to pay Eleanor a visit.

The next morning, Jack arrived at Eleanor’s office, posing as a potential client. He was greeted by Eleanor herself, who ushered him in with a warm smile.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Donovan?” she asked, her eyes twinkling with curiosity.

Jack leaned forward, his expression serious. “I’m interested in your voice cloning technology. I’ve heard it’s the best in the business.”

Eleanor beamed. “Why, thank you. It is indeed. We take great pride in our work here.”

As they talked, Jack subtly began to probe, asking about the process and the clients. Eleanor answered his questions with practiced ease, but Jack could sense something lurking beneath her pleasant facade.

After an hour of conversation, Jack decided to confront her directly. “Eleanor, there’s been a lot of talk about the actors who’ve worked with you. Their untimely deaths… it’s quite a pattern, don’t you think?”

Eleanor’s smile never wavered, but her eyes grew cold. “Rumors and gossip, Mr. Donovan. Nothing more. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have another appointment.”

Jack left the office, more convinced than ever that Eleanor was hiding something. He spent the next few days digging deeper, uncovering old newspaper clippings and obscure references to Eleanor’s vaudeville days. He discovered that she had once been involved in a scandal involving a magician’s assistant who had mysteriously vanished.

Late one night, as Jack was poring over his findings, his phone rang. It was Gus.

“Jack, you need to come to the bar. Now. I’ve got something you need to see.”

Jack hurried to the bar, where Gus handed him a dusty old book. “Found this in the basement. It’s got some pretty wild stuff about Eleanor.”

Jack flipped through the book, his eyes widening as he read about a secret society of magicians and performers who dabbled in dark arts, using forbidden technology to trap souls in machines. Eleanor’s name appeared multiple times, her involvement central to the group’s activities.

With this new information, Jack knew he had to confront Eleanor once more. He returned to her office, this time breaking in after hours. He searched through her files, finally finding a hidden room behind a false wall. Inside, he discovered a bizarre array of old-fashioned recording equipment, wires, and strange symbols etched into the walls.

At the center of the room was a large, ominous-looking machine. Jack approached it, feeling a chill run down his spine. He pressed a button, and the machine whirred to life, emitting a low hum. Suddenly, voices filled the room—Brando, Hepburn, Welles, Garland—all of them speaking, laughing, singing. It was as if their very souls were trapped inside.

Eleanor appeared in the doorway, her face a mask of anger. “You shouldn’t have come here, Jack.”

Jack turned to face her, his expression grim. “What have you done, Eleanor? These aren’t just recordings. You’ve trapped them, haven’t you?”

Eleanor’s eyes blazed with a strange light. “They wanted immortality, and I gave it to them. Their voices will live on forever.”

Jack shook his head. “But at what cost? Their lives? Their souls?”

Eleanor stepped closer, her voice cold and menacing. “They knew the risks. They were willing to pay the price.”

Before Jack could react, Eleanor pressed a button on the machine. A blinding light filled the room, and Jack felt a searing pain in his chest. As his vision faded, he heard Eleanor’s voice, calm and triumphant.

“Now, Mr. Donovan, you too will be part of my collection.”

The next morning, the news reported another tragic death. Jack Donovan, renowned private investigator, had died under mysterious circumstances. Eleanor’s agency continued to thrive, her voice

clones more popular than ever. And in the hidden room, the machine hummed softly, adding another voice to its collection.

Eleanor Prescott, the old lady with a mind sharper than any computer, had secured her legacy. In an alternate 1969, where AI ruled and the line between life and technology blurred, she remained the undisputed queen of the AI voice clones, her secrets buried deep, her empire unchallenged.

– written in the style of AI Lily Tomlin