“Rise and shine, Darla. Today is another wondrous cluster fuck.” The pre-programmed greeting used to make me wake up with a smile. I thought I was so cute. Now it just makes me mad.
The sheets pull off my bed and roll away and the R.E.M.brandt 2020 spins down and powers off taking my delicious dream with it. Sadness. I growl and smack my hand against the mattress. “I want to snooze!” I wail, but the computers know me too well and the LCD window goes from opaque to clear. Sunlight pours into the room and my eyes flutter. “Asshole computer.” I scratch my belly and yawn. I don’t want to be up and it makes me angry.
“Bacon, toast and coffee, Darla?” The voice is sweet and makes me even angrier.
“I’ll eat at work. Just coffee.” I swing my legs over the side of the bed and push myself up to standing. I pull my panties out of my backside and make my way to the bathroom as the bed slides away into the wall.
“More sugar this time, please.” I yank my panties and t-shirt off and fling them back over my shoulder. TIDY scuttles out from it’s corner and gathers them up. It waddles off to the hamper hatch like some sort of club footed spider penguin. I stomp into the bathroom, pee, then I stand before the mirror. The sink slides out and bumps me in the legs with cold porcelain. I yelp and take a step back as I narrow my eyes and glower at my reflection. I squeeze my hips and hiss.
“You’re in need of more calcium and niacin, Darla. Shall I prepare a pill?”
I need to turn off the pee analyzer. I yank the sonic off the wall and run it over my teeth with an affirmative growl. I look myself over and sigh out loud. I pull the sonic out of my mouth and run my tongue over my ultra clean teeth. “Slip out the treadmill, Comps. I feel fat.” I frown and slide my hand over my right boob and down to my stomach. I squeeze it and then smack it hard. Jesus.
“I believe you are in need of toning, not weight loss. According to my calculations, you are within recommended weight allowances for your height, Darla. I suggest a regiment of toning exercises if you would like to achieve a better self awareness.” A small capsule drops into the tray before me and I swallow it down without water. Yum – calcium and niacin.
I roll my eyes and return to the bedroom to dress. “Fine. Do it, please. I’ll do whatever it is tonight after I get home.”
“As you wish, Darla.”
The closet opens and I scan the clothing coldly. I tap the hanger to the right and the skirt to my left, then kick the wedge my tan heels rest on. I stomp out of the closet and wait for the clothes to slide out.
I stare out the window as I sip at my coffee and grow later and later for work. The sun is large and orange in the sky. The bridge looks lovely, but I can only see part of it now that they’ve completed the fourth beach front office park building. TIDY works on my left heel, buffing out the scuff I incurred while exiting the bedroom. The coffee tastes sweet and delicious. Damn computers got that right for once.
“Check the calendar. Can I work from home today?” I bite my bottom lip and watch the Skybus drift by. It’s bulbous front angles in past the guides and its landing lights flutter. It descends by the park and people draw back as it comes to rest, then scurry on as the doors slide open.
I don’t feel like leaving. I glance at the TV and watch as someone shakes the Presidents hand – I don’t know who. Someone from the Middle Republic maybe? He has a beard. Large, armed A-Class Sentinels scan the crowd for signs of unrest or danger. Their metal bodies catch the lights and glisten – almost pretty.
“Charles Porter requested an in house meeting today to talk about the Coastal Shipments Requisition and Mary Johnson was scheduled for lunch at the Gate. Shall I reschedule?”
I place the coffee cup under the spout and wave my hand before the eye to refill it. “Call up a V.I.P. for me with Charles? See if he’s in the office yet and connect me if he’s clear.”
I move over to the wall screen when I hear the connection signal and the President disappears. A V.I.P. logo fills the screen and lets me know the connection is strong and secure and a connection clock starts as Charles appears. He looks good, as usual. Cleaned and pressed. His hair is cut short and his suit is patterned early deco. Nice touch. His Namecon is animated and alternates between Charles Porter and the Dobrý Dog Elektronika logo. It distracts, but he’s the boss.
“You’re a little late this morning, aren’t you?” He glances away to the right and back to the screen eye. “I see you’re still at home?”
“Can we postpone our meeting today, Charles? I’m really not feeling up to coming in. I can V.I.P. with you right now about the Invoices if you want to.” I drag a hand through my hair because I know he likes it. “Mind?”
He stares at me and then breaks a smile. “No worries. It can wait.” He frowns. “You ok, Darla?” Something moves in the background, but he has the narrow’s pitched up high, so it’s so out of focus I can’t tell what it is exactly.
I manage a smile. “Fine. I think my R.E.M.brandt just sunk me too low. I need to have it looked at.” I shrug it off.
He nods. “Ok, well, I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Flying to China tomorrow, but I’ll see you the day after?” I slip my coat off as the smell of coffee reaches me. “San Francisco International to China via Chinair shuttle to meet with Song. Should be an easy one. He needs the process to roll smoothly and wants it done. I should be in and out same day.”
“Sounds good - enjoy the flight.” Someone off cam with long polished nails hands him a PDA.
"I'll try," I sigh out.
“Cheer up – talk to you later.” He sounds like he’s talking to his cat at the vet. So absent.
“Thanks, Charles. Bye.” V.I.P. goes dead and I drop my coat to the floor. “Thank God.” I draw in a deep breath. “Comps – reschedule today’s lunch with Mary Johnson. Friday at the Caff instead of the Gate if it works for her.” The Caff is her favorite and should take the sting out of the late cancellation.
TIDY snatches up my coat and moves off with it, but stops and returns for the heels I kick off in two different directions. Watching t try to decide which shoe to pick up first manages to bring a smile to my face.
“Shall I fix the bacon and toast, Darla, seeing as you are not going to work today?”
I think a moment. “I want a Poptart. No – two Poptarts. No bacon.” I pick up the coffee and gulp at it greedily as I watch three kids drift down the sidewalk out front on glowing red shoes.
Work doesn’t happen. I try to get a grip on he notes for my Song meeting, but the codes don’t match and I lose patience and shove them away. I’ll work on them on the flight. I start a comp for an invoice pattern, but loose interest so many times that I finally give up on work all together. I drink a glass of water and watch the people below walk by. They aren’t working, just moving along in the sun. I try to convince myself to leave the house, but I fail. I’m not sure I want to do anything today. I feel something tug at my sock and kick at it absently sending TIDY scuttling off with a string in a claw.
Steven calls and wants to come over, but he has “that look” in his eyes and I’m not in the mood for messing around right now. I wave him off and he’s a good sport about it. I play XB600 with him for kicks seeing as I’m not working anyway. I kick his ass at tennis with ease. The poor guy looks bored, but cheers up when I agree to play his strange little version of strip Thermals 4046. I excuse myself and change into a pair of shorts, t-shirt, hat and slippers so the game doesn’t go on for too long.
When I return to the wall screen, Steven is wearing a coat and hat. I have Comps dim down the window to black, grin and dive into the game. I instantly regret not wearing a bra as I bounce and dodge. I grip the control and clench the fist in the control glove tight. Swords and sorcery among the ruins, dragons on some lava planet, and two battles on giant water snakes with golden eyes. The graphics are so real that I scream when his snake lunges at mine. I feel ridiculous. I let Steven win and congratulate him standing naked in the living room. I figure I owe it to him. No need talk about how we say our goodbyes.
Hours pass and something like melancholy fills me up and I can’t seem to shake it. I feel dingy as I cycle the air in the house, then slip into my t-shirt and sweats. I make a standard call to my mother, but she’s golfing in Hawaii and seems distracted. I tell her about the China trip, but swear that I can hear her swing the club. She grunts something into her headset, then asks me to bring her sweet cakes and dumplings back. “You know the ones I like, dear.” She barks something at her bot. She seems so far away. It's always the same. Kiss kiss and she's gone.
I stomp back into the living room and stand before the blank wall screen. I can’t think. I don’t want to, really.
“Show me something beautiful?”
"Yes, Darla. One moment, please." Comps chews on it for a while. They are good at referencing what I’ve enjoyed before and within seconds they have cross-referenced everything that has caused a beauty response in me over the past five years.
The wall screen glows and a mist filled forest comes into view in rich, bold, DHD detail. I feel like I can walk through the screen. Ferns move ever so slightly in a small breeze. A fog of some sort dances between large redwood trees. The sound of falling water comes from somewhere in the distance and some dots of color can be seen among the foliage – wildflowers in bloom. I fight the urge to ask where the footage came from because I don’t want to know if it’s real or just some grand 3D experience render.
I sit on the floor and reach up on the table for the fourth Poptart of the day. My eyes well up with tears and I take a bite. Crumbs fall on my chest and bounce along the floor. TIDY waddles out and makes it’s way towards the crumbs on it’s spidery legs.
“Comps, turn TIDY off and put it away, please.” I don’t know why, but I’m somewhat sick of the little things like TIDY always cleaning and tidying up. “Turn everything off. The whole house except what I’m using right now.” I wipe at my eyes with my shirt.
Comps does what it’s told. The dishwasher closes as the last dish is loaded. TIDY tick-tacks it’s way back into the wall.
“Shall I leave the window open?”
“Dim it, please. 20%.”
The Beach Front Business Center fades away. I drop the last bit of Poptart into my mouth and face the wall screen. I listen as birds sing and the water babbles away. I close my eyes.
“Screen off.” The wall goes dark.
I can still hear the sounds in my head. The house is quiet.
I lay down on the floor and stretch my arms up over my head. My sweats feel nice against my skin. I can barely hear the skybus outside as it cruises by. I snatch a pillow off the sofa and slide it under my head.
“Comps – off off off.” I hear the soft beep chime three times and the computers go offline. The fans of the refrigerator sweep up for a moment before going quiet themselves.
I don’t think of tomorrow’s China trip. I don’t think of Steve. I don’t think of the Coastal Shipments Requisition.
I just listen to the silence.