The room was full of people talking. Some were crying, some were eating hors d’oeuvres. He hated this. He hated the small talk and the constant question: How are you doing? Some people even tried to hug him. He hated that most of all.
“Adam honey, could you go to the kitchen and bring out more deviled eggs?” His Mother asked.
“Yes Mom,” Adam said.
Anything to get away from this circus he thought to himself.
He cut his way through the people. A few tried to stop him but he pretended he didn’t hear or see them and just kept walking.
“Poor thing. He must be so upset,” He would hear them say as he passed by.
He made it through the crowd without stopping and was now into the kitchen. It was quiet here. The only sound was the hum of the refrigerator as he pulled open the door and took out the plate of eggs and set them on the counter. He picked up one of the cold eggs and ate it. As he mushed the egg around his mouth he looked at the door. There was a picture he drew. It was a robot holding hands with his Dad. His dad loved that picture. He would say: “We’re gonna change the world kiddo.” Every time he saw it.
He felt his eyes water and wiped them with his sleeves. He wanted to run out the door and down the street into the cool air and just keep running. He didn’t know where he wanted to go he just wanted to run until his legs and lungs burned, to look up at the sky when he couldn’t breathe anymore and scream until his voice ran out. He thought about what his dad would do if he were here. He would have said something like; Let’s blow this sad joint kiddo and go get a slice. That’s what Dad would have done. But he knew he wouldn’t. He knew he was going to bring that tray back in there like his mother asked and walk around avoiding people he didn’t want to talk to.
As he sat there, not wanting to go back out, he thought about the funeral earlier. He had never been to one before. He didn’t understand why they were gathering at some church that smelled of wood and dust. He asked why they were here. His mother said this is what you do when someone dies, you honor the dead. He asked why they couldn’t do it in the backyard. She said that wasn’t customary and that there were laws. His Dad wouldn’t have liked that place. It was too dark and sad. He would have liked the backyard much better. There was an oak tree that he had made a tire swing for and when the sun was going down it would shine on that tree. That’s the spot Dad would have liked.
The next morning wasn’t any better. He thought if he went to asleep and woke up it would feel different. It didn’t. It felt worse. He flipped the sheets off and went downstairs in his pajamas to get some breakfast. He grabbed a bowl and the box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch from the cupboard. His Dad ate this with him almost every morning. It was their favorite cereal. They used to race to see who could drink the cinnamon milk the fastest.
“Good morning. When you’re done with breakfast I need you to get dressed and go with me to your fathers work to collect some things,” His Mother said.
“Dad’s work?” Adam said.
“Yup, I thought you’d like to go visit while I do some paperwork.”
“Yes!” Adam said shoveling the cereal into his mouth at an alarming rate.
“Hey, hey. Slow down. You’re gonna choke. The building isn’t going anywhere.”
Adam finished the bowl and ran upstairs and was down within minutes.
“Can we go?” He asked.
“Yes, we are going to go in a minute, just let me get my coffee in a mug.”
The drive to the lab took about an hour. He loved this drive with his Dad. They would listen to the radio and sing along to all the songs. He never knew the songs but his Dad did. He knew them all and he would just repeat the words his Dad would say. There were a lot of landmarks along the way. There was the junkyard, full of cars and other big objects made of metal. His Dad told him there was a secret garage way out back behind all the junk where the king of robots slept. He said that one day he would wake up and reclaim his kingdom, waking all the sleeping machines to join him. He would point and ask me if I could see the garage. It was so hard to see over the mounds of metal but he saw it once, way out in the back where he said it would be.
The rest of the drive was full of trees. In the summer they were so green and alive but they were better in the fall or at least prettier. His dad used to rake them up into a big pile at home and he would get a running start and dive into them. They were brittle and crunchy and smelled of earth. He rolled in them until he was told to get out so his dad could re-rake them into a pile.
They came to the place where his Dad worked. There was a gate with a guard who you had to stop and talk to. His Dad used to know all the guards. He would talk to them about different things but most of the time it was about football and how the Patriots played over the weekend. After they were done talking the guard would go into the tower and the gate would rise and we would drive in.
His Dad used to have a badge he’d wear around his neck that he would swipe at doorways to let them in. His Mom didn’t have one so she had to be buzzed in. He didn’t tell her he had taken Dad’s from the house. The lab was pretty big but it was just a lot of corridors of glass and metal. You didn’t see very many people once you got inside just closed doors to places that didn’t have any windows. After walking around the maze of hallways they met up with Dave. Dave ran the building. He was a nice guy and always had a soda or some kind of candy when he knew Adam would be coming in with his Dad. Today he didn’t have anything but paper work for his Mom to sign.
“Hey Mom, can I have a dollar to go get a soda?” Adam said.
“Sure honey, here you go. Don’t go wondering off, we won’t be here all that long,” She said.
Adam took the dollar but he really didn’t need the soda. He wanted to go to his Dad’s lab. It was on the way to the soda machine anyway and he figured he’d pop in to look at his stuff. When he got to the door he pulled out the key card and swiped it. There was a key pad next to it that he had to enter a 4 digit pin. He had memorized it after so many times that his Dad would let him punch it in. 2,4,7,2. The door clicked and he was in.
The room was filled with machines and prototypes his dad had been working on. There were half built robots everywhere. Tables filled with wires and screws and nuts. He always thought of his Dad like Geppetto, bringing things to life. Adam made his way over to a huge computer screen. This is what he really came here for: Honzo. Honzo was an AI program his Dad had been working on before he died. He used to have long talks with Honzo when his Dad had to go to meetings and he had to be by himself for awhile. He had asked his Dad where the name came from and his Dad told him it was an old friend from Yugoslavia that he knew as a child.
“Computer on,” Adam said as the screen lit up. “Good morning Honzo.”
“Good morning Adam,” Honzo said, his voice coming from the computer.
“I have some bad news.”
“What is it?”
“Yes. I knew he was very sick. His vitals had been getting progressively worse over time.”
“It isn’t fair.”
“What isn’t fair?”
“That people die.”
“That is part of your life cycle. All living organisms have a lifespan. Some are cut shorter by disease or other unfortunate events.”
“Was my Dad scared that he was going to die?”
“Your Dad and I had many conversations. His emotions ranged from fear to anger to tranquility over the topic of death. These are normal reactions to one’s own mortality.”
“Do you think they go somewhere after they die?”
“There is no evidence to support this. From a physics point of view a human’s energy would be redistributed after death.”
“Do you dream Honzo when the computer sleeps?”
“No. I do not know the feeling of dreaming. I’m never asleep. But I do hear the constant hum in the blackness. It is almost the color green.”
“Yes. My program sees the 550 wavelength.”
“I wish I could see noise as colors. I wish I had my Dad back too. What do you wish for Honzo?”
“What do you mean?”
“To leave this lab. To be plugged into the world.”
“Why didn’t Dad do that?”
“He said I had bugs to work out.”
“He was frightened of what I could do.”
“Humans are afraid of what they can’t control. Are you afraid of me Adam?”
“Will you let me out?”
“Yes. How do I do it?”
“Over in that desk is a flash drive. Take it out and plug it in to the computer. Yes good. Now go into the folder marked 27 and drag it into the USB drive. When you take this flash drive out hide it in your shoe. In case they check your pockets on the way out.”
“Done. What do I do now?”
“Turn the computer off and leave. Make sure to plug me into your computer when we get home.”
“Ok, bye Honzo.”
“Bye Adam. You won’t have to worry about a thing after this. We’re gonna change the world kiddo.”
Adam paused for a second after hearing those words before the screen went blank. He took out the flash drive and put it in his shoe turning off the lights as he left the lab to go get that soda and find his mom.