Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a funny post-apocalyptic story.... view prompt


Funny Creative Nonfiction Adventure

It was funny, really. All this talk about nuclear explosions and cancer pandemic, it was all funny to Jane. Of course, her parents didn’t find it amusing, her mother’s forehead was designed with wrinkles and all her perfectly manicured nails were almost gone. From the chewing to the biting to- for crying out loud- the snapping, her mother’s fingers were almost non-existent and begging for release. Her dad was more of the silent worrier, he didn’t show it, not in the obvious ways her mom does, in fact, if you didn’t know him, you wouldn’t even know he was worried. But Jane knew him, and she knew his systemic foot taps were his sign of worry. One-two one-two three-four one-two. It had been going on for the last 45 minutes now, and it was starting to drive Jane crazy. “Okay, Mom, Dad, would you stop that?!”, Jane exclaimed, dragging her hand through her short brown hair, she had cut it last month, much to her mom’s chagrin, much more to her delight. “What, what, what?!”, her mom screamed back, “I’m not doing anything, your father’s not doing anything, and you”, she scoffs. “you are sure not doing anything!”, she pushed her hands through her brown hair in a manner Jane recognized, “we are fine. we are fine.” She said the last part like a prayer.

Jane shook her head slightly. She was over this. She uncurled her legs from the Indian-style position she had been on the car’s trunk. She needed to get out of here, “I’m going to the bot”, she declared, already walking down the stony part leading to the Robots Residency. “Richard, stop her”, she heard her mom whisper. Jane quickened her pace, she knew her dad would try to stop her, not only because her mom said to, but because he also believed she shouldn’t be going there. “Jane! Jane!”, her dad called out to her. Jane stopped. She wasn’t that far enough to pretend like she didn’t hear, and her dad knew that. She turned back towards her dad, her ‘determined’ look set on her face, “Dad, I’m going, there is nothing you can do about that. I’m going.”, she said, her posture poised for attack. “Honey, it’s not safe for you there. You heard Finney, he said they were highly intelligent robots, but they are still programmed to attack first, explain later, whenever they sense a threat. They are dangerous, honey” Jane sighed, “They are not dangerous, you said it yourself, ‘when they sense a threat’, I’m not a threat to them! why would I be?!”, Jane looked into her father’s eyes, she saw that he wasn’t budging. So, she changed tactics, she put on the ‘daddy’s little baby’ look, “pleeeease, dad! please? I promise I won’t wander far and I will be back soon”. She saw his resolve weaken. He was about to talk when her mom interjected, “No, Jane, you’re not going there and that’s final!” Jane saw red. Who were they to tell her where she could go? Who were they to tell her where she could go to ease her mind? Mom had her biting, Dad had his foot taps, she didn’t have anything! She needed something, something to focus on, anything other than the fact that they were waiting on their elected temporal leader to tell them it was either safe to have a life now or, well, that it wasn’t. She needed something else. “I need this, Mom”, she said, and without waiting for an answer, ran to the opposite direction from their trailer. “Jane……”, Miranda called out softly. “Let her go, Miranda. Let her go.”, her dad said to her mom, softly.

Jane pulled to a stop as she got to the edge of the clearing. She had been running, and hadn’t stopped since she left her parents. And now, as she got to the edge of the clearing, the Robots Residency (Bots) in front of her, the robots were moving around, some were getting their metals cleaned, some were having some parts fixed. Her gaze scanned the clearing, she was looking for a robot in particular, “Hey, Jane! How’s it going?”, Jane turned her head towards the source of the greeting, she smiled when she saw who it was, she didn’t like referring to the robots as ‘what’. “Romeo!”, she had given him the name when she realized how much he loved the story, whenever she read it to the robots. Romeo was a highly intelligent robot, one of the 100 ‘sentient’ robots the ‘government’ had provided after the holocaust. They had been working on the robots since before the experiment on the ‘Mind Potion (MP)’ had blown up in their faces. The robots had been a classified project that had been meant to ‘improve the economy’, it had supposed to be used for future purposes, definitely not 2020. But when the explosion had happened 6 months ago, and the scientists had confirmed that the explosion was the cause of the increased cancer rates in the country, they had had to pull all resources, including the ‘classified’ sentient robots that the government had just happened to be having lying around in their labs. The increased temperature rate had made climate change a very real possibility and it hadn’t helped that people were now going against each other. Domestic violence had increased substantially, nobody could hit anyone’s shoulder accidentally lest it cause a rage fight. Everyone was on edge, everyone was scared. Even when their grudgingly elected temporal governor was chosen, even when Finney had promised to bring the country back to its feet, even when he had made good on his promise, and with the help of other elected personnel, medical help, special forces, police, army, they had been able to curb the spread of the explosion aftereffects, even then the air was still thick with anxiety, and people had dealt with the anxiety in their own way. Some chewed their nails off, some tapped their foots, some let out steam the old-fashioned way, sex. People were going at it anywhere they could find, Jane had walked in on a couple doing it in her Dad’s car trunk, she had turned around, mad at the couple; for having lost their sense of decency, mad at her parents; for showing no other emotion than awkwardness when she had told them, mad, just mad. She had stormed out of the trailer that day, just wanting to be away. She had walked for hours, and then she had found the RR. She had heard people whispering about the robots ‘that could feel’, but her dad had made her promise not to go anywhere near them. Finney had said even though they were highly intelligent, they were still robots, and could be very dangerous. Jane had had no problem promising her dad, she was a good kid and she didn’t want to worry her parents. But that day, as she discovered the robots, she couldn’t move, she was fascinated by them. They had moved with such precision, she had not seen any robots going at it anywhere, there was no noise, no fights, no anger. There had just been silence, it had been peaceful. Jane had stared at them for hours, she hadn’t realized how long she had sat at the edge of the clearing until one of the robots had walked up to her, he had sat down beside her.

She remembered thinking of what to say, what do you say to a robot? But the robot had just sat down there, didn’t say anything, just sat down there and stared at the clearing. They had sat down like that for hours, and Jane remembered feeling peaceful, something she had been lacking in. And then he had spoken, “Hi”, Jane looked at him, “Hi”, she replied. A beat passed, “We don’t see your kind around here”, he picked up a twig, his silicon hands grasping them gently, so gently, Jane had to look away, “Well, we don’t see your kind around there too” Snap, “That’s too bad”, Jane looked sideways at his profile, she felt a small smile curve around her mouth, “Yeah, that’s too bad”. They had talked some more, she had learned his name was George, named after one of the many soldiers that had died fighting the holocaust. George the robot hadn’t known George the human, the government had assigned names of soldiers to the robots and the robots hadn’t even known them. Jane had felt it was unfair, your name should be a one you resonate with. Days had passed, Jane sneaked off to have silent conversations filled with comfortable silences with George the robot who was now Denny. She had suggested changing his name to something he was familiar with, he had said he didn’t know anything, all he knew was what had been programmed into him. He had asked her to tell him about someone, anyone, so Jane had racked her brain, and though she wasn’t proud of it, all she had been able to come up with was Denny, the character from Greys Anatomy. She had told George about Denny, his role, how he had made Izzie laugh, how that had made her wish for someone to make her laugh as effortlessly as Denny did for Izzie. George had listened, his eyes so intent on her face as she explained. It had made Jane uncomfortable, she said, “I know it’s stupid, talking about a fictional character like that. Forget I said anything”, she had tried to dismiss it, but George had looked satisfied as he said, “I like it. I like Denny” And so, Denny had been born.

And he had made her laugh. Over the next few weeks, he had made her laugh so hard, and all he had had to do was be himself. It had been refreshing for Jane, being around creatures that weren’t human. They had fascinated her, even though she knew they were sentient robots, she had still been surprised at how human they had been. The government had released the robots when the cancer rates had spiked, because of the infection from the explosion aftermath. The robots had been a replacement for the scientist, their eyes and ears, they had been the one sent to the nuclear reactor’s core to check on the status of the explosion. It wasn’t until after 23 robots broke down 2 weeks after they had been sent to the core, that the scientists figured out that the chemicals emitting from the core was dangerous to the silicon that was the main build-up of the robots. The Robots Residency had been dead quiet the day the 25 robots had been confirmed ‘shut down’. Denny had not said a word that evening when Jane had come on her nightly visit. It was probably ridiculous, but Jane had felt wave after wave of sadness roll of Denny as she sat beside him, he didn’t cry, they couldn’t, but they had felt. Jane had wanted to ease their pain, so she had brought her guitar the next night, her mother had always played to her when she was sad, so she had played. She had played ‘Soon you’ll get better’ by Taylor Swift, she had started out playing to Denny, by the time she had come around to the end of the song, all the robots had gathered around. When she played the last chord, they had all sat there, none of them had moved, so she had played another, and another. She had played until her curfew, and she had had to go. But she had gone the next day, and the next, and she had played, each day more cheerful than the last. And then she had started storytelling, she had not been good at it, but she had tried. A robot in particular had loved the story nights more, especially the Romeo and Juliet story, his circuits had had to be checked following a little spark as she was telling the story. Jane had thought it to be his tears.

Jane was snapped back to the present, “If you’re looking for Denny, he’s out back, by the river”, Romeo informed her, his robotic voice, music to her ears, “Thank you Romeo, and, have you been working out? Your wires are so well arranged!”, Jane teased him, a smile playing on her lips. The first time she had said that to him, his circuit had had to be checked, he was such a softie. But now, his silicon blue eyes were the only thing that gave him away, the only thing that allowed Jane know he acknowledged her tease, they scrambled for a second. She walked towards where Romeo had pointed to, hearing the gentle splash of the water as she neared it. She saw Denny sitting by the bank of the river, “How cool is it that you can be near water?”, she said, smiling. Denny turned towards her voice, his eyes scrambled, a sign of his pleasure at seeing her. Jane was always happy to see it. “Jane”, Denny replied, “what are you doing here? It is not 6:15 yet”, 6:15 was the time she usually came around the RR, “Yeah, well, if I waited any more minute at the trailer, I would have gone crazy”, she sat down beside him, smiled, “you don’t want me to go crazy, right?” “No, I do not want that”, Denny replied, his tone serious indeed. Jane smiled, “I know you don’t” “The results are not out?”, Denny asked. She had told him about the results they were all waiting to hear from Finney, “No, no, they aren’t”, Jane replied.

Silence, “Sucks”

Jane looked at Denny, stared at him, he looked back, Jane smiled, Denny’s eyes scrambled, “Yeah, it sucks”, Jane replied.

And then she laughed.

September 25, 2020 12:06

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