Excerpt from SAD ROBOT STORIES by Mason Johnson (CCLaP)

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Sad Robot Stories

by Mason Johnson

CCLaP
August 2013
                                                                                                                

The Beginning

The general consensus was that the apocalypse had made everything considerably quieter.

Robot disagreed.

Yes, the cries, giggles, laughter, screams, moans of both pain and pleasure, squeals, wails, whispers—the many sounds of the human race—were all gone. Even the minute sound of blood rushing through veins and arteries, speeding through the heart and up to the brain—which sounded to Robot’s technologically advanced hearing thingymajigs like a warehouse filled with porcelain toilets constantly being flushed—was gone.

Robot missed the toilet sound that was the human race. It had heart. And things were not by any means quiet now that people had gone the way of the dodo, had all succumbed to a Kennedy-like curse. The Earth still made a racket, it was just a more uniformed racket, composed by Robot’s brothers and sisters, their clinks and clanks accentuating the lack of life that once flourished.

Robot’s siblings did not share the same love for the now dead human race that Robot had. And when the other robots stood in what was previously a park landscaped with lush green and brown trees, but was now a chunk of earth with gray, brittle sticks jutting from the ash-colored ground, saying things like, “Boy, doesn’t all that nothing sound great?” Robot would walk away, depressed, and desperately trying to remember the questions pigeons would ask, having no desire for his siblings to look at him and say, “What the hell’s wrong with you?” when he didn’t seem happy about the extinction of every living thing.

But sometimes the situation was unavoidable, and Robot would find himself face-to-face with one of his brothers. They’d ask him questions, but he wouldn’t answer. It was like he was damaged, like a couple of circuits were crossed, like his random access memory was all used up, like he couldn’t handle the amount of processes comin’ in.

“Well?” his brother would repeat, poking Robot’s square, bronze chest with a clank. Standing in Robot’s way. “What the hell’s got into you?”

Eventually Robot would look up. He’d say what he felt: “Nothing.”

His siblings always found it funny when he said this. They’d buzz.

“Keep it that way.”

This happened time and time again, like a process on the conveyor belt that Robot and his family used to work on; but even on the conveyor belt, even with robots, things didn’t always go as they were planned. Eventually Robot got poked in the chest one too many times and he blew a freakin’ gasket, although not literally. He looked at the brother in front of him, he looked at his other brothers and sisters standing in the park, near benches, next to the dried up pond, and he asked them questions that left them silent and puzzled, like “Don’t you miss the feeling of grass between your toes?”

No one said a thing. They had no damn response; you can’t miss something you’ve never experienced. Robot had never felt the touch of grass between his toes either. Robot ain’t got toes. Robots weren’t built with toes and couldn’t feel a goddamn thing that touched their feet. But Robot still felt himself missing it, or rather, missing what he never had.

“Being out of breath?” Robot asked, raising his volume to its max. “Don’t you miss screaming till your lungs are about to burst?”

“The beating of your chest?” Robot asked. “You gotta miss that! That insane beat—like a broken piston—that feeling you get when you’ve lost your daughter in the supermarket. Don’t you miss the fear?”

Nobody answered. Robots had no daughters. The concept wasn’t only ridiculous to them, but a bit disgusting. Were they capable of vomiting, they just might.

As Robot screamed these things, the robots that hadn’t walked away started to back off slowly, raising their arms cautiously, a gesture they’d adopted to put their human counterparts at ease when a robot accidentally startled them, a gesture that was now useless. They put their hands up and Robot walked away. He walked right into the lake, leaving the city forever.

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