“I have not been–
As others were– not seen
As others saw–I could not bring
My passions from a common spring–”
-"Alone" by Edgar Allen Poe
It was an undisputed custom that thoughts had become obsolete and were not to be valued. The entirety of the world left autonomy behind, embracing a life of ignorance. There was no greater happiness than that of relieving yourself of the pain which is to comprehend. When the dust settled, though, nearly everyone was devoid of intelligence, of thought, of any sense of happiness. They had been wrong, it seemed, for if you lose your ability to think, you are not happy or sad. You feel nothing of any sort or kind. There is simply monotony.
When Aviva walked out of her cubicle at the mark of the end of the workday, she felt a great sadness. It was a loneliness, the heavy feeling in her heart as she trudged down the plastic steps. The people around her cared not for her, had no preference nor hate in their phony hearts. As she walked down the sidewalk, she collided with as many semi-humans as possible, slamming her shoulders forward into them, but the pedestrians simply walked forward with a grunt and paid her no mind. Aviva shrugged, letting the experiment wallow in the recesses of her mind.
As she turned onto Browning Street, a sliver of a teardrop gathered in her eye. “What is the use of crying if no one is there to comfort me?” she asked aloud, not caring for who heard her because no one could. Aviva steeled herself through a shuddering inhale, the tear disappearing into herself. A flower dropped from the sky, from a cherry blossom of worlds unknown. Aviva reached out to touch it and felt the petals in her hands, the folds of the pink and white. It was beautiful, a word that she had only recently discovered the meaning to.
When she reached the outskirts of town, there was an abandoned store. It was breaking down, with great big chunks of wall missing, but it was Aviva’s preferred home. There was always a place with the robots, but she would go mad if she had to tough it out there. She remembered the last time she’d set foot in the houses before she’d regained autonomy. It was always pale, the only memory she had of it, the rest of her time there tainted by the machine-like nature of their living. She was thrust into her memories, letting them swallow her.
There had been a plant on the windowsill, one that had never been there before. She noticed it but paid it no mind. After all, she had no mind. Then five minutes later, as Aviva lined up to go to lunch, she found her eyes glued to it again, and yet again she paid it no mind. It was when, full of synthesized proteins, she walked back from the cafeteria and saw it for the third time when she thought. It was quiet in her mind, the thought echoing around the walls of her skull. Slowly, it came into comprehension. That is a plant. It is green. Suddenly, a rush of emotion imploded against Aviva, nearly pushing her off her feet.
“I want to find more plants…” she thought. The image of the plant stuck in her mind as she left the room and never came back. As she stepped out of the door, a cold wind blew in her face. Before she would never have been able to recognize it, simply walk past it with indifference. On this occasion, though, she felt bumps rise on her skin, tickling in a way that made her shiver. Shiver… what an interesting word. She felt it roll off her tongue. Aviva realized that no word had ever come out of her mouth before the Shiver. It was weird, talking. She naturally felt self-conscious about her words, feeling the suffocation of being shy. Then she noticed the vacant looks on the faces of the pedestrians. They didn’t care, no matter how much she screamed in their face.
As Aviva jumped out of her memories, she took a deep breath. “It’s okay, I’m never going back there,” she whispered to herself. A paroxysm of sadness swept over her, remembering how she used to be and how alone she was. The door of the store swung open and she entered, stepping gingerly over the broken doorstep. Aviva closed it behind her, let it slam as she took in the expanse. Every time she entered, the same feeling overtook her; the feeling of freedom, of choices independent.
Each shelf was lined with decaying books, the pages like petals long since shriveled. Aviva was drawn to the shelves like a magnet, the poles of the old script attracting her interest. She had taken solace in these books for years now, the only knowledge she had. Thousands of them she had pored through, searching for the source of the plants. The single piece of knowledge she had uncovered in her endless search was how plants grow, not where to find them. Flowers and plants were her lifeblood, the only thing she could conscientiously care about in the bubble of tedium, but she was no closer to finding them.
It was time for her daily search. Aviva grabbed her binoculars, homemade from sanded wood, and hopped over the threshold to explore the world. In her mind, she reviewed what meager lead she had. There was something about them growing in the west, some sort of tree named an Oak. Well, she would endeavor to track the plants down.
As she left the normal sidewalks and streets inhabited by the semi-humans, she felt a cold wind blow against her cheek. This time, Aviva took pleasure in the shiver, let it echo throughout her body like a battle cry. She would find plants this time, she was sure of it.
The frost on the grass tickled her shoes, moisture seeping deep into the skin of her feet. Aviva felt the cold take hold of her toes, but still, she braved on. There was a ruin up ahead, what looked like a store, and she gingerly scaled the wall. The tan limestone stretched out for at least a mile, but the roof had been ripped off by erosion. No plants there.
Further on Aviva explored, ambling onward. She couldn’t stop, not when she’d come this far. The city of robots seemed miles away, not even a speck of dust in the distance. A longing came to her for home, to go back to her books and her hopeful gazes to where she now stood. A string seemed to tie her to the land of her birth, the place where every bit of her had been forged and grown. She couldn’t abandon it now, could she?
Aviva took a deep breath. The sun was setting. It wasn’t entirely foreign for her to be out as late as she was, but it still gave her a kind of exhilaration to be this alone, this perfectly lonely. She cut the string that tied her to the boring place and ran further, deep into the woods. There was no longer a home for her there.
There was a pep in her step now, a jump that seemed to propel her feet forward in sprightly dance. Aviva was free, yes, free! No one would do nothing around her anymore. No one would feel nothing around her anymore. No one would be around her anymore. It was true bliss, the feeling of freedom that illuminated her heart and kept her walking on.
As she sauntered through the woods, Aviva thought to herself, "So long, nudniks. Have a nice not life."