By Derek V. Trout
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
Owen Blanc’s alarm clock rang at 5:30 AM, just as it had done every day for the past seven years, even though he’d never set it. He didn’t have to, the government did it for him.
By the fifth beep Owen was awake, and when his feet hit the floor the alarm automatically turned off. It hadn’t taken Owen long to learn that when the alarm clock started beeping he needed to quickly get out of bed. If he wasn’t awake by the tenth beep a polite, but slightly annoyed, voice came over the speaker installed into the ceiling of his bedroom and always delivered the same message: “Owen if you don’t wake up you’re going to miss your train to get to work on time.”
But it’d been four years since Owen had heard that message. After all these years he’d been programmed to never let the alarm clock get to the tenth beep, and by now he was always awake before the fifth.
As always, as soon as he got out of bed Owen went into the bathroom, relieved himself, shaved, and was in the shower by 5:37 AM. But it wouldn’t be a long shower, it never was. He turned on the hot water, then the cold and slightly adjusted both knobs to reach the perfect temperature. He made the adjustment quickly because shower time, like nearly everything else in Owen’s life, was regulated. The water automatically turned off after seven minutes and wouldn’t turn on, no matter how much you played with or adjusted the knobs, for another twelve hours.
However, as usual, he was finished long before the seven minute mark. At 5:40 AM he rinsed the last of the conditioner out of his short brown hair and the water in the shower shut off automatically.
By 5:45 AM Owen was dressed in a pair of neatly pressed black dress pants, a perfectly ironed dark blue long sleeved dress shirt complete with an all black tie that was knotted in a perfect double Windsor. The clothes had been prepared for him the day before by the Government Instituted Robots, or GIRs as they were called for short. The GIRs were assigned to every household, apartment, condo and townhouse to do what the government had determined to be “menial tasks.” These tasks included things like vacuuming, dusting, washing windows, cleaning the kitchen, cleaning the bathroom, making the bed, preparing meals, and washing, folding and ironing laundry.
The only time Owen saw the GIRs assigned to him was when they delivered his meals or, rarely, for special circumstances. The GIRs always came to his house to do their menial tasks while he was at work. And Owen, like most people, preferred it that way. Whenever he was in the house at the same time as the GIRs he always found himself looking over his shoulder, and glancing at the robots out of the corners of his eyes. And no matter where they were in the house, even if they were on one side and Owen on the other, he always felt like he was being watched. Most of his uneasiness came from how how human-like the GIRs looked, talked, and acted.
The GIRs had a head, two arms, two hands with ten fingers, two legs, and two feet with ten toes. But the robots were colored gray from head to toe, and some of the wiring underneath their outer metal covering showed at their joints. Their faces had eyes, that could easily be mistaken for a human’s, but their mouths had no lips. Also, they didn’t have a nose, where their nose should’ve been there were just two round holes that the GIRs used to smell. They had no ears, just holes in the sides of their heads that allowed them to hear.
But the arms and legs of the robots were superior to human arms and legs in every way. The GIRs could bend their shoulders, arms, wrists and fingers in any direction they chose. They weren’t limited by bones, joints, and cartilage. The same was true of their legs and feet. And that was just the beginning. Their arms could lift far more weight than any human could ever dream of. And their legs gave them speed, and jumping ability that was far superior to even the best athletes the human race had to offer.
All the GIRs looked the same, the only way humans could tell them apart was by the clothes they wore. Even though they were robots and had no gender, many humans were uneasy with the GIRs being ‘naked’ so they were forced to wear a bright orange shirt and matching pants. On the front of the shirt every GIR had their name printed in big, bold, dark blue print.
Owen checked his tie one more time in the bathroom mirror and made sure his hair was perfectly parted, as always, it was. As Owen turned his head and inspected his chiseled jaw line a voice came over the speaker mounted in the ceiling. It was the sweet sounding voice of a woman, “Owen your breakfast is here.”
“Thank you,” he replied, then nodded to himself in the mirror before walking out of the bathroom.
As predictable as the sunrise, at 5:47 AM Owen opened the front door. Standing there was one of his GIRs holding a tray with Owen’s breakfast on it. The GIR was dressed in the mandatory bright orange clothing, with his name, Kindred, printed across the shirt. The tray had the same things on it that it’d had every Thursday for the past seven years, a bowl of oatmeal, a banana, scrambled eggs, two slices of bacon, a glass of milk and a cup of coffee, already mixed with two spoonfuls of sugar and a packet of creamer, just the way Owen liked it.
“Good morning Kindred,” the man greeted the robot, but didn’t make eye contact, he just looked down at the tray and grabbed it.
“Good morning to you Mr. Blanc,” the robot replied as required. It was forbidden for a robot to call a human by their first name. “The weather is going to be great today.”
“I’m sure it is,” Owen nodded while closing his door, still he didn’t look at the robot. He carried the tray to the bar attached to the kitchen counter and sat down on a stool. Without a remote or even a voice command the T.V. turned on to the local news station he preferred. He had eleven minutes to eat his breakfast and watch the news.
Owen sipped his coffee. “Ah”
“Sixteen more companies agreed to terms for the government buyout yesterday, meaning that less than a total of one hundred companies are now privately owned. But the question remains, why would these privately owned companies, both their owners and employees resist such a gracious buyout offer from our beloved government?” asked the male news anchor.
“Yeah,” Owen grunted, “those fools don’t know what they’re doing. The buyout was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Two minutes later, Owen peeled a banana, still he was focused on the news, which had moved onto another story.
“Again, we remind all citizens if you have any information on who might be hiding cash, paper or coins, or where it might be hidden to contact your local authorities. Currently the government has located nearly eighty percent of the money in circulation. As most of you know this is the number used to determine every worker’s pay scale. So the more money the government can find and regulate, the more you, the honest worker, will get paid. Government officials believe the remaining twenty percent has either been hidden or has been smuggled out of the country. But don’t you worry, just this week the government announced the formation of a new organization of armed police to track down this twenty percent of unaccounted money and has promised that once they find it they’ll redistribute it evenly among us all.”
“Greedy no good dogs,” Owen mumbled under his breath before gulping down the rest of his milk. “I can’t believe people are trying to stop others from getting their fair share.” Then, almost subconsciously Owen recited the official government motto, “to each, only what they need.”
Three minutes later Owen finished his breakfast, but still watched the news.
“On a lighter note,” the female news anchor smiled at the camera, “the elimination of art, dance, music, and drama clubs from the public school system is nearly complete. When the total elimination of these activities was proposed four years ago it was meant with great opposition. However, more and more people have come to their senses and realized it’s more beneficial for the youth of this country, our future leaders, to focus on the subjects that really matter such as math, science, English, history, government, and environmental protection. Nearly all the ‘save the arts’ protests have finally stopped and soon the ideal schooling situation will become a reality.”
“About time,” Owen leaned back in his chair, “art and music has never helped anyone in real life.”
Then, just as the T.V. had turned on all by itself, suddenly it shut itself off and the voice came back over the speaker in the ceiling above the kitchen bar. “Owen, its 5:58 AM you only have two minutes before the train will be here to take you to work.”
Owen grabbed his brief case, opened the door, and walked outside. To his right, as normal, far as far as one could see, person after person walked out of their house at the exact same time. They were all wearing the same neatly pressed black dress pants and a perfectly ironed dark blue shirt with a black tie, all knotted in a double Windsor. To Owen’s left, it was exactly the same.
In perfect unison, as if it were rehearsed choreography, Owen and the twenty-three other people that lived on his block, walked down a set of six stairs then marched down the sidewalk. At once everyone stopped and stood as still and as silent as statures while they waited for the train. Everyone that is, except the GIRs who moved freely about. They walked and talked together then divided into groups of three and went into the houses of those who were leaving for work.
After less than twenty seconds of waiting the train pulled up to the workers. When it came to a stop not a single person had to move, each one had a door exactly in front of them, and again, in what looked like a practiced set, each took three steps forward, a right, left, then right and then stepped onto the train. There were five stairs to get into the train, and once each worker was inside the doors shut in unison and the train departed.
Forty-two minutes later the train stopped at the Hodgskin Guild Factory and Owen, along with the rest of the workers, got off of the train. There were seventy-two workers in total on the train, and as they departed they formed a single file line, lining up according to an alphabetic order by last name, just as they had done on the first day at the factory seven years ago.
Another fifteen minutes passed and all the workers were dressed in their white jump suits, with their last names printed on the back, and ready to go onto the factory floor. They didn’t have to punch in on a time clock, there was no need. The government knew if they were there or not, and these workers weren’t concerned about their wages. After all, they trusted the government’s guiding motto on wages, distribution, fairness, and life in general, “to each, only what they need.” And just in case any of them forgot, this motto hung from a ten foot high, fifty foot long double sided banner that could be seen from anywhere on the factory floor.
At the Hodgskin Guild Factory Owen was a painter. Depending on which day of the week it was depended on what he was going to paint. Mondays were for painting containers that trains used to ship goods. Tuesdays were for painting industrial machine equipment. Wednesdays were for painting the outside hulls of passenger trains. Thursdays were for painting metal roofing and metal siding used for making buildings. Fridays were for paintings things that the government placed outside such as fire hydrants, park benches, and light posts, just to name a few. Saturdays were for painting other various concrete and metal parts used in making buildings. Sunday was the only day Owen didn’t paint, it was his one day off a week. No matter what he painted it was always one single dull color, usually a forest green or plain brown. But it was the same thing day, after day, after day. Paint. Paint. Paint.
The only time he didn’t paint during his 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM shift was during his lunch break. The break started precisely at noon, and ended exactly half an hour later. Owen never brought his own lunch, there was no need, for the government provided it for him and all the workers.
And everyday Owen ate lunch with his best friend at work, Isaac Richards. Isaac was a “paint-prepper” at the factory. Anything that came in and needed to be repainted, it was Isaac’s job to scrap the old paint off and strip it clean before it moved down the line to Owen. And ninety-five percent of what came into the factory was a re-paint.
Everyday, Owen’s shift ended at exactly 5:00 PM at which time he and the rest of the workers changed back into their suits, boarded the train and were home by 6:00 PM. This gave Owen an hour before dinner was served and Owen always spent this hour by watching the news, again, no remote was needed to turn on the T.V. At 7:00 PM Kindred delivered dinner, and Owen continued to watch the news as he ate. But after dinner the T.V. turned itself off, and Owen spent this time reading one of his beloved books. In fact, he loved the books the government delivered to him so much that reading, after watching the news, and doing his part as a painter for the government, was his favorite part of the day. He’d just finished the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1868 by Karl Marx, one of his favorites yet. Now, he couldn’t wait to start the next book Kindred had just delivered with dinner, a classic by Charles Fourier titled Design for Utopia.
Owen read from 7:30-8:00 PM, but at 8:00 PM on the dot, the sweet sounding woman’s voice again filled the house. “Owen, you have fifteen minutes until the lights will be turned off in your house to conserve energy, thank you, and good night.”
No matter if he was in mid sentence or had just finished a chapter, as soon as Owen heard the fifteen minute lights out notice he marked his place and closed the book. After the notice the first thing he did was brush his teeth, then put on shorts and a t-shirt to sleep, and was always in bed at least ten minutes before the lights turned off at 8:15 PM.
This was Owen’s life. Every day, even his day off, he was woken up at the same time, ate the same government provided meal that was the same thing week after week. And every day he worked he rode the same train, painted in the same colors, came home, watched, the news, ate, read, then go to bed. Day after day, after day, after day. For seven years this was Owen’s life and he’d grown to love it.
But there was one night a week the nightly schedule changed. Workers either got Saturday or Sunday off, and since Sunday was Owen’s day off, he got to have his weekly gratis, or free time, from 6:30-8:30 PM every Saturday. During his gratis he could choose a number of different government sponsored and approved activities to do, such as going out to eat, going to the movies, or to a museum.
And since Owen’s day off was Sunday he also got gratis from noon to 4:00 PM every Sunday. Owen spent most of his gratis in the park reading his books or drinking a coffee with Isaac and other factory workers as they gushed their love of the government.
There was only one way to change the amount of gratis you received. Each job had a certain quota that was expected to be done. If a worker could surpass that quota by two hundred percent for an entire year, he or she, received more gratis. And if one could keep up the pace for more than a year they would be rewarded with better houses, better clothes, and better food. The most productive of these select few were even granted permission to marry and have children. But that happened to less than ten percent of the working force, and took many years to achieve. Most of the workers were like Owen, working as hard as they could, but still unable to meet such high standards.
But everyone, from the least productive to the most, were on the same schedule, the government’s schedule. Day after day, after day, after day.
Until one Tuesday something changed. Owen and Isaac sat in the factory cafeteria eating the same lunch they’d eaten every Tuesday for over seven years, a turkey sandwich on wheat with cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise, with sides of carrots, an apple, one cookie, and a bottle of water.
But on this particular Tuesday Isaac had had enough of Turkey sandwiches, carrots, apples, cookies, and even water.
“Raspberries,” Isaac whispered, then let out a deep breath as he stared blankly ahead at nothing in particular.
“What are you talking about?” Owen asked with a mouthful of Turkey sandwich.
“Raspberries,” Isaac repeated, setting down his half-eaten sandwich and running his hand through his thin black, balding hair. “Raspberries, I miss raspberries. And blueberries, and oh my gosh my favorite,” a smile grew across his face. “Blackberries,” he said whimsically, as the hair on his arms stood up. “I haven’t had berries since the government took over seven years ago. I want some berries.”
“What do you want berries for?” Owen asked, picking up his bottle of water and taking a sip. “The government gives us fruit, I ate a banana with my breakfast this morning. Listen,” he continued, “if berries had enough nutritional value the government would serve them to us, but they don’t so the government doesn’t. The government only wants what’s best for us.”
Isaac’s eyes grew large as he stared at his friend. He covered his mouth with his hand and leaned over, “I can’t believe you’re buying the lies they’re selling.”
Owen was taken aback, “lies? What are you talking about?”
“All of it, it’s all a lie,” Isaac said as he rubbed his clean shaven chin, he missed his beard, but the government mandated he shave it after their takeover. “The government claims to try to do what’s best for the majority, but they don’t. And the price we have to pay for it is our freedom and individualism. And that price, is too high. I cannot believe the rebellion everyone talked about in the beginning hasn’t happened after seven years.” Isaac sighed, shook his head, and took a sip of water.
“Rebellion?” Owen’s face tightened, “why would you want to rebel against utopia?”
“Bft,” Isaac nearly spit out his mouthful of water, but somehow managed to choke it down. “Utopia?” Isaac repeated trying to keep his voice down, his eyes scanned the room “are you serious? When’s the last time you watched a movie that you wanted to? Or were able to change the channel on your T.V.? Or could go in and out of your house whenever you wanted? When’s the last time you saw the stars light up the night sky?”
“First of all,” Owen held a finger in the air, “you can go watch any movie you want on a Friday or Saturday night, depending on which day you have off. Second, I never have to change the channel on my T.V. because it’s always on the stations I want to watch. And third, what can be gained from looking at the stars?”
“I’m telling you th – ” Isaac started just as the whistle blew, informing the workers their lunch break was over.
Isaac stood up and leaned over to Owen’s ear. “Just try to change the channel on your T.V. tonight and see what happens.” He took a step away then stopped, he turned around and was face with face to Owen, who had gotten up out of his chair. “And pie,” Isaac smiled and raised his eyebrows, “when’s the last time you had pie.”
Owen subconsciously licked his lips, at one time in his life he’d described pie as his kryptonite.
“Let’s just get back to work,” Owen replied. “Before someone notices your insubordination.”
All the workers disposed of their trash, put their trays in the designated spot and returned to work. And, for the first time in years Owen thought that he might not reach his afternoon painting quota. His blood boiled at how his friend didn’t support the government and how misguided he was about what they were really doing. Also, he thought it absurd that Isaac would suggest he couldn’t change the channel on his T.V., after all it was his T.V., well rather it was the T.V. in his government issued house, but he could still change the channel if he wanted to. But most of all it was the pie, he unknowingly licked his lips again, he hadn’t thought about pie in at least five years, but now, he couldn’t get it out of his mind.
That night, on the train ride home the conversation with Isaac played through Owen’s mind over and over again. I’ll show him, he thought, the first thing I’m doing when I get home is watching something other than the news. Or, well, at least a different news channel.
But still, his mind kept going back to pie, and the more he thought about it the more and more he wanted a slice of coconut cream.
When Owen got home he changed out of his work clothes and as he walked back into the living room, the T.V. turned on to the news channel he preferred. Owen plopped down on the couch and looked around to the room, for the first time in years, the news was on, but he wasn’t listening.
He didn’t see his remote, he lifted up a cushion, nothing. He lifted another, still nothing.
You know, his eyes squinted as he thought, I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen my remote…
“Owen,” the woman’s voice came over the speaker, she sounded as sweat, but also as dull, as ever. “Are you looking for something Owen?”
He leaned back and sighed, “no, well, kinda, I guess. I was just looking for the remote to the T.V.”
“The remote?” her voice perked up. “Any why are looking for that? You haven’t used it in years. We take care of you Owen, we already know what you like to watch and have it ready for you.”
“Yeah, I know,” Owen looked at the speaker as he talked back to the woman, he’d never done that before. “But I don’t know, I was just maybe thinking of watching something different.”
Dryly, the voice replied, “I don’t think that’s best for you Owen.”
He looked down from the speaker and stared at the T.V., still he heard nothing it said. “If you think that’s best, then I accept that.”
“Of course you do,” the woman responded. “Is there anything else I can help you with tonight Owen?”
His lips smacked together did he dare ask for a piece of pie with dinner? “No,” he let out a deep breath, “thank you, but I’m fine.”
The woman didn’t reply, but the volume on the T.V. turned up so loud, Owen couldn’t help but listen.
“We’re excited to announce that today two workers at the Mattoon Guild Factory have achieved such consistent excellence in surpassing the two hundred percent about quota incentive for the past three years, that they’ve been granted permission to seek a partner for marriage. One of the workers was granted permission to have one child, and the other was granted permission to have two children. This is the fifth worker at the Mattoon Guild Factory in the last year to be granted the permission to marry and…”
But even with the high volume the news didn’t keep his attention. I wonder how long I’d have to be above quota to have a piece of pie… His stomach growled at the thought.
The next day at lunch, Owen sat down next to Isaac, this time neither was interested in the Wednesday menu that had been the same since the takeover. Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, two rolls, one brownie, and a bottle of water.
Isaac curled his nose and stabbed at the food with his fork. “Do you think there’s even any meat in this meatloaf?”
“I don’t care,” the look in Owen’s thinning eyes was the most serious look Isaac had ever seen him have.
“Wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?”
“No,” Owen barked, “but last night, for the first time in over six years I had trouble sleeping, all thanks to you.”
“Oh I see,” a sly smile covered Isaac’s face. “Couldn’t change the channel on your T.V., huh?”
“Well,” Owen’s eyes returned to their normal size. “No, I couldn’t. But that’s not what kept me up.”
Isaac’s eyes lit up, “it was the pie wasn’t it?”
“It was the pie,” Owen said dreamily. “That’s the thing I’ve missed the most over the past seven years.”
“Wait a minute,” Isaac started to use a mocking voice, “what happened to Mr. we’ve got to take whatever the government gives us because they just want what’s best for us?”
“Well I still believe that,” Owen said as he shoved a forkful of meatloaf into this mouth, for some reason, this meatloaf didn’t taste as good as last week’s, Owen had also thought the same about the breakfast he ate earlier that morning. “If I can’t eat pie and have to make that sacrifice for the good of the many then, well, that’s what I’m going to do.”
“What if I told you there was a way,” Isaac twirled his empty fork on his finger, “that you could get a piece of pie?”
“Ha,” Owen shook his head, “then I’d call you a liar.”
“I’m serious,” Isaac scanned the room. “You know not everywhere is like it is here in Hoxhaville.” He lowered his voice, “from what I’ve been hearing, more and more smaller villages in the midland are sprouting up. Villages where people are free to eat whatever they want, go where ever they please, whenever they please. I think I’m going to try to break out of the city and find one of these villages. You wanna come with me?”
“Ha,” Owen scoffed, “you can’t be serious right?”
“Tell me,” Isaac looked directly into his friend’s eyes, “do I look serious?”
There was no need to answer, the look said it all, he was serious, very serious.
“Come on,” Owen chuckled. “You’re really going over the top with all of this. I could go anywhere I wanted, anytime I wanted.”
Isaac barely managed to contain his laughter. “No you can’t. Try it tonight, at any time after you get home try to open your door. That is, try to open the government’s door.”
“What do you mean?”
“You think you own that house?” Isaac asked, then took a sip of water. “You think you own anything? You don’t, everything you have the government’s given to you. Before they took over we had different houses, different jobs, clothes, we even had cars, but the government’s taken it all. I don’t own one thing, everything in my life, from my tooth brush to my underwear is government given. I work and I don’t get paid, all day I’m told what to do, when to do it, and where to go. I’m not okay with that.”
“I don’t know why not,” Owen replied. “And you get exactly what you need, I see no reason to complain about that. There are people living in other countries in this world that would kill to have it as good as we have it.”
“Well,” Isaac shrugged, “you find one of them to switch places with me and I’ll gladly allow it.”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
“No I’m not,” Isaac’s eyes grew, “you are. And I was being serious about leaving Hoxhaville. I’m going next week,” he continued, “you in?”
“Of course not,” Owen replied, shaking his head.
“Your choice man,” Isaac sighed. “Just please, don’t tell anyone I’m leaving.”
“Yeah,” Owen picked up his tray and started to stand, his lunch was less than a forth eaten. “I’m not going to say anything, and I don’t want you to ever say anything to me again!”
“Hey,” Isaac grabbed his arm, “just try to leave your house tonight and see what happens.”
Owen looked down at Isaac’s hand that was grabbing his arm then slowly raised his glare to meet Isaac’s eyes. “If you know what’s good for you, you’re going to let go.”
Isaac let go, and Owen straighten his sleeve as he walked away.
“But –” Isaac tried to continue, but it was too late, Owen was nearly two tables away and wasn’t slowing down.
For the second day in a row Owen didn’t enjoy his usually peaceful ride home on the train. In fact, today he was even angrier than yesterday. And there was still the pie, his desire for a slice was increasing by the minute.
Pft, Owen shook his head, what’s he know anyway? I mean sure, he was right about the remote, but that house really is mine, it really is!
He stared out the window, they were going past his favorite sight on the ride, Lake Thomas. The Lake was in front of a range of mountains, and the reflection in the water while the sun was setting was breathtaking, but Owen didn’t even notice.
Leave Hoxhaville, ha, what a fool. I don’t know why anyone would want to leave utopia. He let out a deep breath, closed his eyes and smiled. Yes, he’s wrong this truly is utopia.
That night when Owen got off of the train he saw the same thing he always had, but for the first time, he really noticed it. GIRs were walking on the grass, even the workers weren’t allowed to do that, and they were laughing, strange robotic laughs, while they talked amongst themselves.
Owen continued to watch the GIRs as he opened the door and went inside. As soon as he went inside Owen changed out of his suit, and as it always did, the T.V. turned on to the same news station when he went out to the living room. He flopped down in his favorite spot on the couch and put his feet up on the coffee table.
“Ah,” he let out a loud sigh of relief as he folded his hands behind his head. Yes this is utopia.
“Thank you all for joining us for the evening news,” a male news anchor greeted his audience. “Our top story tonight is…”
Suddenly, Owen’s eyes moved from the T.V. screen as he briefly looked over at the front door doorknob, he did a double take, it was locked.
Huh, Owen sat up straight. I don’t remember locking that…
Slowly, still staring at the doorknob he stood up and walked towards the door. Just as he got close enough, he reached out his hand to grab the doorknob when all of the sudden…
“Owen,” the woman’s voice filled the house, he quickly retracted his hand. “What are you doing Owen?”
“I just uh,” he scratched the back of his neck. “I just uh, wanted to go outside for a few minutes, that’s all.”
“But this isn’t your scheduled gratis,” the voice replied.
“So,” Owen’s brow scrunched. “So I can’t leave then?”
“You’ve been acting different these past few days,” the voice said with intrigue. “What’s happened?”
“Nothing,” Owen looked out the small window in his door, GIRs were standing on the sidewalk chatting. “Nothing’s happened. I just uh,” he shook his head. “I don’t know what’s going on, I apologize.”
“Of course you do Owen,” the woman said in a way that you could tell she had a smile. “Now why don’t you go sit down and watch the news, Kindred will be here with your dinner before you know it.”
“Yeah,” Owen smiled as he walked back to the couch, “I think I’ll do that.”
The next day at lunch Owen sat at a table and Isaac came and over and sat down next to him.
“I thought I told you to leave me alone,” Owen said not even turning to look at his friend.
“You did but, well,” Isaac shrugged, “I thought you might’ve changed your mind.”
“Nope,” Owen replied and bit into his meatball sub.
“So I guess you were able to go outside then?” Isaac raised his eyebrows.
“I didn’t even try,” Owen shook his head. “But you need to find somewhere else to sit before I remember what you told me yesterday and accidently tell it to the wrong person.”
“Oh,” Isaac forced a smile, “I see how it is. But before I go,” Isaac stood up and leaned over. “I’ve got to know, what’s your favorite kind of pie?”
Owen chuckled and shook his head.
“I’m serious, what is it?”
Owen smacked his lips together, “coconut cream.”
Six days passed and Isaac and Owen didn’t talk to one another, and for the most part, Owen had gone back to his normal self, except with the occasional craving for a slice of pie.
But that evening, while he was watching the news Owen jumped at the loud rapid knocking on his door.
“Uh,” Owen yelled as he stood up. “Who is it? Umm,” he looked up at the speakers, “umm ma’am could you tell me who it is?”
But the speakers gave no answer.
Owen reached for the doorknob as the knocking continued, he grabbed the knob, turned it, and to his surprise, it opened.
“Hu, hu, hu,” Isaac stood there, clutching his chest and trying to catch his breath, in his hand he held a small white box.
“Isaac?” Owen shook his head. “What are you doing here?”
“Just,” he took another deep breath, “let me in, we don’t have much time.”
“Don’t have much time?” Owen shook his head as Isaac pushed past him and walked into the house. “What are you talking about?”
“I cut the communication line to your house,” Isaac explained. “And disabled the locks, but I’m sure they’ve already figured it out. If we’re going to leave we’ve got to leave now!”
“I, I, I,” Owen’s jaw was dropped and his eyes had never been wider. “I can’t believe you did that. I told you I didn’t want to go with you and now the government is going to think I’m in on this too.”
Isaac cocked his head, “you were serious about wanting to stay here?”
“Of course I was!” Owen glared. “Believe it or not, I like it here.”
“But what about this?” Isaac smiled and opened the white box, it contained a single slice of coconut cream.
Owen leaned over the pie and took in a long, deep breath. It’d been seven years he smelled pie. And this pie was the best thing he’d ever smelled, and at the smell his stomach instantly felt like he hadn’t eaten anything in four days.
“How,” Owen swallowed, “how’d you get that?”
“I told you,” Isaac handed Owen the box, “not everywhere is like Hoxhaville.”
Owen stared at the slice, he wanted to take a bite so badly, but deep down there was something he wanted even more, or at least, in that moment, he thought there was.
“No,” Owen closed the box and handed it back to his friend. “I can’t. I won’t go against what the government has ordered.”
Isaac’s face was blank, “but the problem with that,” he scoffed. “The problem with that is that the government, this government, doesn’t care about you. They don’t care about your wants or your needs, your freedoms or individuality. The government controls everything, what we eat, when we sleep and wake up, what we wear, where we live, and what jobs we have. The government’s forced thousands, hundreds of thousands to do the same thing day, after day, after day. They’ve programmed us just like they’ve programmed the GIRs and I for one, am breaking free.”
“You’re a fool,” Owen shrugged. “You do what you want to do, but don’t come back here begging to me when you leave this city and then return realizing just how good you had it here, and just how bad it is on the outside.”
“Oh don’t worry,” Isaac sat the box with the pie on Owen’s table and walked over to the door. “I won’t,” he said as he opened the door, the faint sound of sirens was heard in the distance, then Isaac stepped outside and disappeared into the darkness of night.
Seven minutes passed while Owen sat in a chair staring at the pie. His stomach growled, and his lips smacked together, but he didn’t take a bite. Then, there was a knock at the door.
It was Kindred.
“Hello Kindred,” Owen nodded.
“Good evening Mr. Blanc,” the robot replied. “I was dispatched here because you seem to be having some problems with your communication line and locking system.”
“Yeah,” Owen nodded. “I know,” he walked to the table and grabbed the box. “A man named Isaac Richards was here,” he handed the box to the GIR. “He gave me this and tried to convince me to leave the city with him, but of course, I refused.”
“I must ask,” the robot replied in his metalish voice. “Why did Mr. Richards say he wished to leave Hoxhaville?”
“Well,” Owen scoffed. “He was rambling on about something how the government’s taken away all our freedoms and programmed all the workers to be robots. But he’s crazy, I’m,” Owen pointed at his chest, “I’m not the robot, you’re,” he nodded to Kindred, “you’re the robot. Not me.”
Kindred looked at Owen with his human-like deep gray eyes and started to laugh. It was a programmed, metallic, rhythmic, unnatural kind of laugh. Then, slowly as the laugh faded Kindred said something that would haunt Owen for the rest of his days, something that made Owen wish he’d eaten the pie and fled the city.
Kindred looked Owen in the eyes, Owen had never seen a pair of eyes that looked so free.
A smile crept across Kindred’s metal face.
“You think I’m the robot?” the GIR asked as he started to laugh again, then reached into the box, pulled out the slice of pie, and took a bite of the coconut cream.