On the 25th of December 2027, at nine o’clock, Rob Ahaï switched off his daily alarm with the back of his hand. He went back to sleep, forgetting that it would ring, inevitably, five minutes later. After the second time, he woke up and directed himself, almost mechanically, towards the bathroom. He started brushing his teeth, knowing how much the operation was useless since he would fatally eat on his way to the office. Whatever he tried, he could never find any sort of appetite before leaving. After having brushed his tongue, he gazed at his face in the mirror and found it especially dirty. He used the small device on the right side of the mirror to zoom and realized how much his beard was dry and how many dots he had.
“Close shaving sir?
He jumped and quickly turned around, holding the toothbrush as if it was a weapon. In front of him, Rob saw the opposite of what he had just seen in the mirror: a clean white face with nice short blond hair and blue eyes. On the right cheek of the unknown figure was written: “NS-2027”. It was a robot.
He looked down on its trunk and saw a note on which were written the words “Happy birthday my Robbie, I know you hate machines but this one will only help you to clean the mess that you leave in, I just couldn’t stand the idea of you living this way after the last time I came to see you! Take care honey, Mum”.
Hastily, Rob left the bathroom and headed back to his room. He opened his drawer and took his gun. Walking back to the bathroom, he reloaded the weapon and shot, uncaring and almost without aiming, on the robot. The wires from the head spread all around the bathroom but Rob was running late for work so he decided that he would clean the mess after coming back in the evening.
After having finished to prepare himself, Rob went to the kitchen to take three cookies from his candy jar. He looked at his computer to see what task he had to do in the day before he turned it off, put it in his pocket and went out.
Each time he walked out of the grey and dirty hall of his building, he took a long and deep look on the background in front of him. Today, he thought, was a good day. The sky’s colour was beautifully scattered. A few very thin sunbeams pierced through the dominant clear grey and each ray of light lasted for a small lapse of time after which the pollution would take the upper hand. Very closely beneath, were the clouds in which the flashs of lightning were exceptionally rare and had a sort of comforting aspect, as if they could protect the city from the bad weather.
At the contrary, the buildings had nothing changed. They still gave Rob the feeling that they could collapse at any second. The inhabited skyscraper in front of him made him especially anxious. No matter the time of the day, the colour of the walls always seemed sad and degraded. What made him even more nervous were the windows. The strangeness of these openings came from the fact that, from any angle, their interior appeared as black. One day, Rob decided to go up to his roof to have a look, face to face, at these mysterious holes and even back then, in the middle of the day and with numerous flashs of lightning in the sky, he could never see anything more than darkness. It always gave him the impression of a skull. Dead inside and dying outside.
He opened the door of his car, sat on the seat of which the leather was very worn away and linked his computer to his dashboard with a small cable. When he plugged the device in his computer, a feminine voice progressively rose:
“Hello Mr. Ahaï, today’s task is the destruction of an emotionally disturbed HUM 2027.” The new models, Rob thought, these new types of robots were meant to react and to think exactly as human beings. The voice continued: “The robot will be taking a coffee at Stardust millennium at 10 o’clock”. Funny he thought, it was the place where he had the last cup of coffee before his wife had died. He moved the idea away, turned on his the engine and, silently, the car went up before it flew away towards the darkest parts of New York.
When he landed on the parking of the Stardust, several cars were already parked, he gazed at the number plates and limply searched for a clue that he knew he wouldn’t find. He opened the door of the café and immediately got worried by the number of people in the place. If all the robots were the same as the one that his mum had offered him, the task would have been simple but most of them didn’t have their number printed on a spot which was accessible at the first look.
However, Rob was used to these kind of tricks, he entered, ordered a coffee and sat on a bench in the corner of the coffee place. Immediately, he started to look for all the details he could find: the ankles, the wrists, the nape of the neck and all the other parts they had taught him in criminal school. After a few minutes, he lowered his head and started to sip his coffee again. He started to predict his failure and the fact that once again he would be yelled at or even fired when we would go back to his office.
When he prepared to raise his hand to ask for the bill and to leave, his eyes, frustrated by the defeat, went back to their normal state of concentration and began to look for the waiter. Very rapidly, Rob found him. He was putting a coffee mug down on a table, three rows ahead, where a blond girl was seated. Rob’s eyes opened wide when he recognized her back and realized where the trick really was. They had disguised the robot in his ex wife, Mary, something he learned only in the last year of criminal school, “the robot’s affection trap” they called it. However, he had never seen such a realistic one, even in the images that his teacher used to project during classes.
He got up and pretended to walk naturally toward the bathroom. In the few seconds he took to arrive to his target, he repeated the same words to himself: “Stick to the procedure, stick to the procedure…” When Rob, with his legs shaking, arrived close to the bathroom, he turned the fire alarm on. Then, he went back to the main room and, as he expected, he saw everyone run to the main entrance except from the robot which was the only one to use the fire exit, on the other side of the room. Rob went out with all the others and, once he was outside, he turned around the building to go to the other entrance in order to join the robot. When he saw it, the robot was standing still and it was looking at the sky.
Rob ran towards it and yelled: “Run! it’s a bomb!”. The robot then started to run and automatically directed itself to the closest street which Rob had spotted before he had come. Rob followed him, smiling as his plan was going exactly the way he expected it. Now running behind him, Rob accelerated and waited until he was next to him to pull out his gun. The robot immediately saw the weapon and threw himself on Rob. It was now standing on him and trying to choke him, pressing its two hands on his throat. With dexterity, Rob seized his gun and shot in the robot’s trunk which flew against the wall. The pression on Rob’s chest had made him bleed from the mouth and the nose but with a lot of efforts, he managed to get up in order to finish the machine. Limbing with difficulty, he directed himself to the rest of the robot, pointed his gun on its head and prepared himself to shoot before he heard the words:
“Take me back to November 28th”
His hand started to shake stronger and stronger until he couldn’t feel his fingers anymore.
How could they have known this? How could they have implanted this memory in the robot? Who was there with Rob and Mary when they were sitting in Central Park at five o’clock in the morning? Who was there to hear him tell Mary, for the first time, “I love you”?
He lowered his gun, tired by the life he had since she was dead and renouncing to live in a world where not only the love of his life, as a person, had disappeared but also where the love of his life, as moments, had been trivialized. He wanted to be elsewhere, a place where he hadn’t lost her and where he hadn’t lost them.
Seeing Rob’s weapon slowly lowering down, the robot quickly pulled out its own gun and fired at him. Rob flew off and crashed himself on the wall behind him.
The robot was now standing up, in front of him and he was aiming his head. Rob smiled and started to close his eyes thinking he would meet her again, until just before the end he wanted had arrived, he threw a last glance on his bleeding hand and saw, under the ripped first layer of skin, the inscription: HUM-2028.