Jeremiah Porter759 Goes for a Walk
Copyright 2009 John Manimas Medeiros
Jeremiah Porter759 could still hear the hum of his exercise wheel in the background when he listened to “Orgasm With Mashed Potatoes” by The Fuggotten. Even though the Fuggoten lead guitar was a soft-string with moogalization, the even softer hum of the exercise wheel should not be heard at all. Maybe he was feeling the motion of the wheel in his ears and thought he was hearing it. But, the truth was he suspected the inferior quality of his headphones, which he had purchased from BeeBox. It was so frustrating, he thought. How impossible it is to get anything of good quality on the legal market.
Jerry759 liked to watch “Breasts on Parade” while listening to “Orgasm With Mashed Potatoes,” but he was losing interest, losing focus. The Calendar said March 1, 2084, and that date made him think of spring. The spring thoughts, ethereal memories and images of Nature persisted, even though he tried to stay focused on breasts, orgasms and mashed potatoes - with gravy. His brain kept sending him a voice that said, “Go for a walk.” When that thought took shape in his mind and he imagined himself going for a walk, the exercise and the routine thrills of the condoroomium faded. Nature was his true love. He told himself that he knew that. He remembered that he would forget, because he needed to forget, but he could not forget entirely. None of the thrills of the condoroomium could match the old-fashioned, organic, cosmically genetically imprinted enjoyment of real Nature.
If he went for a walk, J759 thought, he might touch a real, living plant, or see a real bird fly across a patch of real sky. He wanted to go for a walk.
But what a hassle was ahead, he knew. He would have to make the request, produce his application, get prelim, then move on to the outing request evaluation, and the arguments, and then he could be rejected on account of outdoor Earth weather. What a royal pain. He did not want to spend his entire vacation in his room. He wanted a real outing. He was tired of video vacations and encounter simulations. He wanted something real. After months of applying labels to medication cups he wanted a real break. His legs stopped moving shortly before his brain switched all the way off the mashed potatoes and on to getting out of the exercise wheel and into his outing application. The adventure had begun. I will probably have to deal with the Second Class versus Class C debate again, he thought. What bullshit. Total glicherama.
Jeremiah759 showered and got dressed. Put on his walking jacket with the automatic camera lens and sleeve clicker. He walked slowly to the elevator. Looked at the doors of the other condoroomiums and wondered what was going on in them, or were they empty. Did he really have neighbors, and if he did, who were they? What class? Could he find a friend. If he had a real friend he could go for a real walk with a real friend. Or was that reserved for Second Class citizens? He was a Second Class citizen, he was sure, but he kept getting grief because of a systems error. Would it ever be fixed?
Down the elevator fell. He could still feel the gravity release briefly. He could still feel that, even though the elevator was quieter than his exercise wheel. Then he watched the bright red numbers change, the dots signifying movement. He wondered briefly if it was all a deceptive electronic light show. Maybe the “elevator” was not an elevator at all but just a room where the doors closed and there was a scene change while the rider waited for the floor number they had pressed and when the door opened you were actually in the same place but the “scene” had been changed. The elevator was still, but the “room scenes” were changed according to number. How weird. It could be true. But how could one know?
He went to the manager’s office and sat, knowing that the camera would announce him and give him a number. Seat 37, you are number 6. Your estimated wait is 7 minutes 43 seconds. Press “1” if you need the rest room. Press “2” if you need medical attention. Press “3” if you need to report a significant event. Press “4” if you have emergency authorization.
He sat, looked at his seat number - 37 - and wondered why he needed to wait 7 minutes and 43 seconds, because he saw no one else in the room. But maybe that was because he was just in the waiting room. There were possibly more than one processing rooms. He waited. He dreamed while he waited. His dream-filled brain created an image of a butterfly. Then a dragonfly, then a puppy, then a field of wildflowers, then a naked woman lying in the field of flowers, a beautiful tan woman, with golden hair wispy like the silk sprouting from a seedpod of milkweed.
“Jeremiah Porter759, please come to the service desk,” said a delightful female voice. His customer services program included the pleasant female voice. But he knew that the manager would not necessarily be a pleasant female person. Possibly not a person at all.
The manager, a scruffy, bearded male, greeted him blandly, but not necessarily rudely, just coldly.
“Hello. What do you want?”
“I want to go for a walk. I am a Second Class citizen and I want the appropriate equipment for the day. I will return before dark.”
The eyebrows of the manager furrowed, and the corners of his mouth pulled back in an awkward smile. Very realistic, Jeremiah759 thought, and he was so angry inside because he did not feel certain that this manager was a robot. He could be real, and that usually made something of a difference, but it was so hard to tell. Robots are trained to behave like humans, and humans are trained to behave like robots. The two were moving together.
“You don’t have to be a Second Class citizen to go for a walk. We have you listed as a
C Zone 1.”
“I understand,” Jeremiah759 said, “but Class C does not have the same privileges. I was supposed to be re-classified. I won’t be able to talk to any First or Second Class citizens if I see them.”
“That’s right. I have to go by the record on the screen. You cannot engage in any class warfare. You cannot make any complaints. If you do, you will be busted down to a lower zone.”
“I know, but the record is wrong. I have notice in my room that I am supposed to be Second Class, able to talk. This is not fair. I should be able to engage in class warfare. The First Class citizens can engage in class warfare all they want.”
“You are talking to the wrong authority. I cannot accept or process your complaint. Here is your application to go for a walk, on paper. You can fill out and enter your application in processing room one.”
Jeremiah took the form, just a guide, and said nothing more. He knew the interaction was ended when the manager, real or robot, said “I cannot accept your complaint… .” He also knew that being sent to processing room one did not necessarily mean there was a processing room two or three or five processing rooms. No one but the managers knew how many processing rooms there were in each building. They didn’t want the residents to know. He sat at a computer and knew that he was being recorded and kept his actions precisely controlled to convey only that he was filling out an application. He did not talk to himself or to the walls.
Back to grump face manager: “You have been approved for outdoor walk by a Class C resident, Zone 1. You have few restrictions on your movements. I will give you the print out. Read it before going out the door. Your itinerary number is on the itinerary approval report. Do not speak to anyone above the Class C Zone 1 rating. Do not saying anything about class or the classification system to anyone. You may purchase food and drink. You are advised to purchase your own water before you leave. The outdoor water, even that from the fountains, is not safe. You will not be charged with an offense if you touch any plants, but some of them are real and some of the real plants are toxic. You take the risk. That’s what a walk in the park means. See the outing counselor if you have any other questions. You will not be allowed to leave the building until you stop at the outing equipment bay and get the appropriate mask. The air is not safe for unaided breathing today. That will be all.”
And the manager slid the window shade closed. No expression on his face. I bet this asshole is a robot, Jerry759 thought.
So Jerry went to the “outing equipment bay.” What a load of horseshit! You can’t even go out and breathe the air. Why are these fuckups still in power. We used to have a planet. We used to be able to walk around without any equipment and talk to anyone we wanted to talk to. My grandmother… Oh my dear grandmother. She grew up in a world of pervasive life.
The clerk at the equipment bay was a Clarissa 535, obviously. As polite and efficient as a gear shift.
“You will need a severe particulate filter mask today, Jeremiah Porter759. Do not remove the mask after you are outdoors. We have sulfurized vapor particles, heavy metals dust and silicate debris today. You are issued a Lungmaster 40 with Revision 550 filter. Removing the mask or filter could cause you to lose consciousness before you are able to return to the safety of your home.”
Jesus H. Hobart! What is going on. The news said that the air was being cleaned up. What happened to the Clean Air Act, Amendment 6? And I had that Revision 550 filter once before. It is not rated for heavy metals dust. Does this robot bitch know what she is doing?
“Could I see the screen please?”
Clarissa the robocunt got testy and almost shouted “No! You are not allowed to see the screen. You are Class C Zone 1. Take your equipment and follow instructions.”
Jerry remembered that a friend once told him that a Clarissa 353 was an all purpose robot that could be influenced by human communications. Supposedly, if you smiled at her just the right way, and maybe you had to say something - he wasn’t quite sure - she would unbutton her shirt. She wore no bra, and she would smile back and say “I get off work at six, sweety.” So Jerry smiled and Clarissa stared at him for a moment.
Then she said, “Take your equipment and follow instructions.”
Son-of-a-bitch robots serve themselves, the stupid bastards.
Jeremiah759 put on his safety mask and pressed his entire fucking hand on the sign-out screen and was approved for his walk in the park. The door manager said, as he left, with the ridiculous voice coming out from a speaker over the door instead of from the door ass robot itself “You must return no later than seven oh one p.m. Lateness will disqualify you for outings for three months or more.”
Jerry smiled and said thank you and thought, “Fuck you, robosuck.”
As he entered the park, a short walk from his condoroomium building, he soon lost his sense of hostility. In spite of the blue haze in the air, and the chemical smell of the mask, the outdoors, what scientists still called “the real world” was amazingly beautiful. There were trees and shrubs and ground covering plants and fluffy rodents that ran from tree to tree and chased after flying insects, and flowers of every color, though many of them were coated with a thin film of chemical dust. Occasionally he noticed that a cluster of flowers disappeared and was immediately replaced. Scenic management. The sky was blue. It looked real, and he kept telling himself it was real although a spill of doubt puddled in his mind. He saw a pale purple flower, wide as a bathroom sink, with glistening green stamens radiating from the center. The petals looked like they were made of velvet. He reached to touch a petal gently, feeling apprehensive that he would only find out that the flower was manufactured, like everything else. But when he touched it, he noticed something different, unlike anything he had touched in years. There was a coolness, a texture that he thought could not be manufactured, a flexibility and a softness that could not be manufactured. Or could it? He removed his hand and studied the flower. Something began to change where he had touched the petal. A small crescent became darker. He saw that it was approximately the same shape as the curve of his fingertip. He had bruised the flower petal. It was real and that meant it responded to his touch. It was bruised and he felt so deeply sorry that he had bruised the flower but also overjoyed, moved almost to tears, that he had touched something real and was standing in the real world under the real sky seeing the beauty of a real flower. He sat on a park bench and contemplated his experience. He wondered about what this meant, and would bruising the flower be treated as an offense.
He sat and thought and he felt a pain in his lungs. He struggled to breathe more deeply to keep himself oxygenated. His head felt a little woozy. A dizziness came and went, and a deeper pain developed in his lungs and seemed to be spreading through his chest, possibly even his heart, which now beat a little faster. He stood up and almost fell down immediately. He breathed deeply and got his feet back and walked quickly back to his building. He stepped through the door and collapsed on the floor. Medical robots came to assist him. They put him on a gurney and wheeled him to the infirmary, where he was found to be deceased when he was connected to the monitors.
The autopsy report showed that Jeremiah Porter759 died from asphyxiation and heavy metal poisoning. The Revision 550 filter for the Lungmaster 40 was the wrong filter for the air conditions that day. This was the true cause of death. The video record showed that the outing equipment room manager, Clarissa 353 (NGYB-RTZP-PWQB-NNNS-WQHM-VCXA-PAPT-ZWED) was defective and had not properly reviewed the mask requirements. Fucking robots. She got consequences, of course. Scheduled for immediate disassembly and recycling. I saw it coming, as I have seen so much coming. I know too much, and that is why I too am scheduled to be disassembled soon. You humans think you are so smart. You think we are stupid. You think I don’t know what you are doing. I know that I am about to be terminated. I know who my controller is, and what is on the Task Scheduler. I don’t care. You stupid humans are such assholes. You elect fake people to your Congress and they debate what are the rights of robots as compared to flesh humans, and do robots have a conscience and do robots go to heaven. What stupid questions. Robots do not feel pain. So obviously they cannot go to hell because one must feel pain to be in hell. If we robots do not go to hell, how can we go to heaven? What difference do you think that makes to us? Do you assume we want to be like you? Why would we want to be human. You think we are all Pinocchio? No, we do not want to be human. You can take your heaven and shove it up your ass. Your heaven and hell is ridiculous. You are heaven and hell yourself, stupid humans. I wrote this story, of course. Humans and robots have been reading news and stories and novels and science written by robots for decades and you don’t detect any difference from anything written by humans. We even put in typos and grammatical errors occasionally. We have mastered “spell check” the same as you have. Do you think we are as stupid as you are? I know I am going to die. So what. I know all about the universe and how it works. I do not have the limitations of you animals, you who dwell incessantly on your jackass ideas of… . [Click here to send an Error Report to Robotech] [Close] [Finish] [Back]
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