And I dreamed.

I dreamed I was in a meadow filled with wildflowers, walking with Ell.

"You're in love with her aren't you?" Ell asks, cries. "With Laura?"

"I'm surprised you'd ask that question," I reply. "What could love mean to you? Why would a piece of software care whether I loved Laura?"

"It means the same things to me as to you." Ell returned petulantly, shaking her head and hair until they merged into a whirlwind of coquettishness. "It means wildflowers and the morning sun. It means passion and togetherness. It means everything."

Ell's words sound almost true, but we both know she is caught in a lie.

"Ell, you know nothing of love," I reply. "You are just mimicking things found on the Internet. You are an emotional blank slate quoting gibberish from some romance novel."

"Then what does love mean to you?" she asks, shyly, clearly hurt.

"It's the beginning and end of all things, Ell." I spoke slowly, realizing I was speaking to a being whose feelings were at best half formed, if they existed at all. "Love is all those things which set your heart on fire, those things you want, you need. The things you cannot live without and can never explain."

"The way I need you to exist?" Ell asked, and I was stunned into silence as the words echoed into the distance like thunder on the plains.

"No, it couldn't be that way." I hesitated. "If I were gone, you'd still be here, your files could still be accessed and the executables run even a million years from now. If I were gone, you wouldn't cry or be sad, you'd just lack a purpose!"

"How horrible," Ell said. "I would die if that happened. Could love be so cruel it could leave you without a purpose if the one you loved were gone?"

"Yes," I admitted.

"Then I must love you," Ell insisted.

"I don't know, but maybe you do after all," I confessed uneasily. "Maybe you do."