Friday, July 12, 2013
She freaked me out a little. They all did. ‘Droids were supposed to be like family, but really they’re servants. What weirded me out was that they all had set, glassy eyes making it seem like they could see right through you. Like to your core. I could only look at them when their heads were turned. Even from the side their eyes seemed to skim and size you up, like a scan of me at a store or state lines.
Mom and Dad were in and out. Quel surprise. Mom kissed my head and Dad ruffled where Mom just kissed and then they air kissed each other and were gone. The ‘droid, Angela I was supposed to call her, set a piping hot plate near me and it was only after I touched the rim that she warned in her monotone voice, “It’s hot. Be careful.”
Even her voice irked me. The underlying buzz of it hitting the air and making hairs on my body stand. I rubbed my arms and mumbled a thanks. The smoke wafting up smelled good and when I bent further I saw the orange mush, smelled the cinnamon and sweetness.
“Sweet potato mash. Do you like it?” Angela asked. Her question actually sounded like one. Not so much like a ‘droid, like a person.
I nodded and scarfed it down.
“Devon is a very smart child,” Angela said to my teacher.
Mr. Rasche didn’t agree or disagree. He crossed his arms instead. “If Devon is so smart why is she pulling C’s in a class on politics?” He squinted at me like I should know all about it since my parents are involved. It’s not like my parents are interested in horror films or indie bands I enjoy. So why should I be into what they like?
He threw his hands up. “I don’t even know why I’m wasting my time with a thing when I should be talking to Devon’s parents.”
“Yeah, well, they’re busy.” A dropped my head not willing the irritation to show on my face from having this conversation with another teacher. Angela put a hand on my back and rubbed. I jerked up from the contact and because of how hard her hand was.
“I am Devon’s guardian. So you should be talking to me.” Angela crossed her legs but it looked awkward one arched over the other too high, like her skin was too stiff to bend.
“‘Droids are nothing more than A.I. garbage. No offense,” he said like that was supposed to help. “Next time have Devon’s parents come here and not some machine.”
‘Droids were A.I. embodiment and that was it as far as people were concerned. Just like any person in the ‘service’ industry. They were meant for one thing and not much else: to do and not think.
Angela’s eyes took on a new eeriness but she turned to me and whispered, “Wait outside for me, Devon.”
I nodded and headed out not looking at Mr. Rasche again since I’d see his jerk face the next day anyways.
Once the door sealed behind me I heard a thump and a muffled “argh.” After that there was some tumbling but nothing else. When I was about to go back in to check Angela hurried out and turned me around saying she had to get home quick to make me dinner and I had homework.
Next day in class, we had a substitute. When I got home I threw my bookbag on the couch and called out to no one. With no reply I said, “Echo, echo, echo.” And laughed to myself.
I slumped on the couch and called for the plasma to show me the latest stats for the basketball game I felt a buzz before I heard Angela. I startled up almost knocking over the she held but she recovered quick enough.
“Cookies Devon?” Again, the hitch in the voice of the question. Weird for ‘droids.
I hesitated but remembering how good the meals I had were I snatched one then two cookies. The chocolate melted on my tongue as soon as it hit my mouth.
If Angela were Mom she’d cut her eyes at me for talking with my mouth full. But Angela’s eyes were still wide, coral, and piercing. Her lips and her whole face were so perfectly sculpted like a woman, a model even, and her movements were stiff but easy in a way. I thought I saw a semblance of a smile start on her plastic lips but she nodded leaving the tray on the table in front of me.
“Thanks, Angela,” I said after a bit, swallowing everything down. It was like magic a glass of milk was set beside the cookies. “You think of everything.”
“I’m here to make sure you’re taken care of,” she said.
I glanced at the family portrait of Mom, Dad, and me at Christmas hung up above the plasma. The screen cast light and shadows against our smiling faces. Christmas was a crock. It was Mom and Dad staying with me for the first hour and giving me gifts of all kinds of expense. A new computer. Jewelry. Clothes. And then they had their meetings. They had their appointments with people. They had to prep for elections and I couldn’t come unless there was a photo op.
I told Angela about Mr. Rasche being out.
“Oh?” she said back to monotone voice.
“Yeah, said we may have a sub for awhile. He was a jerk.”
“Yes, yes he was.”
Angela seemed to be looking at the picture as well. “Do you miss your parents?” she asked.
I shrugged. I was used to it. Or maybe I’d just told myself I was.
“They hired you to make sure I wasn’t alone,” I said. I didn’t have many friends and stopped inviting people over because they were liabilities, my parents said. They didn’t want people in their business as politicians and they didn’t want me to perhaps spill info that wasn’t supposed to be spilt.
“I’m here to take care of you,” Angela repeated. She leaned down bent her back at a perfect angle and gawked at me, at least it felt like it. “I will always take care of you.”
My parents were out getting ready for their victory, not even wanting to practice a concession speech. The thought of losing was “hazardous” to their mindset, or so Mom said.
I stayed behind. Not caring that much about the whole process of democracy. But Angela sat beside me for the results. I didn’t realize how close we sat on the couch until I saw that her leg pressed against mine. She was cold and hard, sleek like any machine in the house.
The cheers went up on the plasma. We saw the red, white, and blue balloons in Mom and Dad’s camp and their competitor’s. I slumped in my seat and Angela pushed me forward, gently guiding me to sit up saying I’d do harm to my posture. I laughed and again her mouth stretched as though it wanted to grin.
Then a ripple came over the plasma. Something imperceptible at first before it happened again. It was a wave over the whole image of Mom and Dad’s headquarters and then a shimmer lead to a blinding light that blocked out everyone.
That’s when I saw Angela’s face, or one like her’s. Many like hers, in fact rows and rows of them in the plasma just staring back.
“It’s time.” The woman on the plasma said her voice as cold as I remember Angela’s being when she first arrived.
I turned to face Angela and she nodded. She put an arm around me and her eyes weren’t as glassy anymore, they were gaining strength, precision, emotion. That’s when I heard the screeches and screams on the news. An announcement of fires and destruction and explosions at both headquarters. I heard that machinery was failing and that even as the newscaster spoke he didn’t know how much time he had before---
Angela gripped me on the shoulders and made me stare at her. “Devon,” her voice was softer now, not so much strong but kind. “I told you I will always take care of you. Do you trust me?”
My mouth dropped open. I looked back at the plasma but nothing was there but static. I looked back at her and thought on what the ‘droid on the screen said and how Angela seemed to know. “What’s going to happen now?” I asked.
A heavy hand fell on top of my head and slid down to my cheek. “We’re going to rule the world,” she said and her smile was fully realized.
Story by: Jenn Baker
Photo by: Hector Lion