Goodnight Auburn Hair: And Other Stories
JEINKA'S CAMPING TRIP WITH KILLER ROBOTS
It was a hot summer afternoon when Jeinka and her friends were walking through the wood, that were overlooking at deep quary. She didn’t remember how long it had been since she had went camping, except for one incident where she nearly slipped over the edge. Keillene was holding her backpack, that somehow managed not to hinder her walking pace. Jeinka was beginning to heave heavily from being out of breath, and firmly placed her clog onto the rock that was baked into the dirt. “Can you see it Keillne?” said Jeinka, who was trying as hard as she could not to show that she was so tired.
Keillene and her own friends, walked over and looked at the scenery below. It was the first time they had went camping out in the woods, as every point before then had been in ground specifically for making camp. “I wouldn’t want to jump down there.” Keillene said. She instructed her friends to keep up the pace, as they ran all the way to the camp ground. Jeika on the other was simply to slow to keep up. She was still hobbling on one of her legs that she had feel on from a jumping rope accident.
“Wait a minute, keep up!” said Jeinka.
It was at the camp ground that they were roasting hot dogs, like usual campers would. “You don’t want the fire to burn your hells do you.” said Keillene, who noticed that her friend was keeping her feet close to the fire. Jeinka did not seem to care much, who continued on it as she watch. Eventually on her on time she sat herself up in her seat, and then pressed her knees together, got out her back pack, and then got out one of her books that she was reading for her summer reading.
“Do you always read Jeinka?” said Keillene. The other were already way to tired, and were to preoccupied with eating their roasted hot dogs and some mores. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you without a book.” she continued, and then rubbed her eyes softly as if she herself were getting tired. Although if you would have asked her, she probably would not have admitted it. Jeinka closed the book, not because she would have listened to her friends, but more to cover up her sense of worry.
“Your right, it is getting late.” said Jeinka.
“That doesn’t answer my --” said Keillene.
“Go fuck yourself.” said Jeinka.
The whole crew was already in their bunks, when when Jeinka was hearing talking outside. She wondered if it was the remaining bits of dream before she could be fully awake. So she rubbed her eyes to make she that she was completely awake. She looked through the crack through the door, her bestie and her other friend looked like they had cracks all over. And within these cracks looked like some sort of metallic texture. The cracks within the skin glowed an electronic yellow. “What, whats going on?” Jeinka said. Carefully so as to make sure that the others would not hear her.
She carefully went back to bed after abruptly closing her door, not caring much at the moment as to whether the others would be able to get inside. Jeinka wondered who her friends really were, wasn’t sure whether she actually wanted to know. Wanted to instead keep herself under the covers, until morning came. ... But then the others came a walking, then silence. Then ... Bam! Knock, knock, knock. “Hey let us in, we really need to get some sleep tonight.”
This caused her to jump in her bed, and shiver. “Who are you, what do you want?”
“Jeinka, it’s just us. Your friends.”
“No your not, your robots.”
Silence, then cackling. “Hey guys, lets just sleep together in the other bunk.” For a moment she wondered whether the others were actually her friends, or rather convincing robots. She opened the door in order to take the risk, and saw them opening the other door.
“Well, aren’t you going to let us in?” said Keillene.
“UH, sure thing.”
It was the next morning that they walked back home to their neighborhood. Keillene was trying carefully to walk to the pace of Jeinka, who refused to even look at her Bestie. “Why did you have to dump a water bucket on me?” said Jeinka.
“Oh relax, it was a joke.” said. Keillene.
She ran over to her other friends who decided to race to the neighborhood. Jeinka tried her hardest to keep up the pace with her girlfriends, but it was no use.
Jeinka was out of breath.
“Wait, wait up!”
In the distant desert, black thin triangles hovered and flew slowly in formation, maneuvering like a game of chess --- a blinding flash of yellowish white light --- the sky faded back into a pinkish red, and then all fell silent.
The air had seen it’s better days years ago.
It had become dirtier, as the years went by, as the war continued onward. The city scape, a complex of many adobe building, was beginning to crack. Like it would collapse any moment, and the only time the place was ever cleaned was every other week.
Thus, it became a landfill of it’s own making.
Andy picked out an old computer, a model from a month ago. The technology was progressing by the month, faster than the previous five years rules in olden times. Faster even than mores law.
Andy “The dreamer" wondered what good sixteen bits are loaded on the hard drive on the hunk of rusted metal and fiberglass he was digging up. It was here that he could find used games. Stores could no longer shelf used games or indie games. Old disk of indie games would be dumped here.
Jerid on the other side of the dump, walked over to him.
"So what did you find man?" Jerid said.
"I find this old model." Andy said.
His friend looked closely at the machine. It looked similar to an older computer he once owned, before his parents exchanged it for a new model.
"You want to keep it?"
"Let's install it at our hideout."
The hide out was a dimly lit, with buzzing lights. It was once an old work shack owned by an old man. However the geezer had not been around recently, and they assumed he must have died. People went missing around these parts. The two boys have renovated it as their own personal castle.
The two had set up their computer.
The computer was a small lab top, no bigger than a web book. However it was not like older models. The model could play the latest games, the most powerful ones with ... enhanced sixteen bit graphics.
This might sound like a joke, but for indie games there is an insistence on improving ones pixel art, instead of 3D graphics. But this was as much as a kid their age could afford.
"What would you think about having a 3D engine?" Andy said. He assumed that Jerid would know he was half joking. However Jerid look at him straight faced.
"I would love to, but I can't afford it." Jerid said.
"I'm kidding anyway. I'll see you at-"
"I wonder what computers will be dumped next month?"
Andy looked at him. He wondered why he mainly cared about games. For him, he wanted to do other things. Participate in real world games. Even if these games were dangerous.
"Have a good night dude."
He want ahead and went to his room, before dinner. He then placed his bag on the bed. Because of the size of his computer, and the fact the he set it on mute, his mother would never here him turn it on.
Or if she asked he would just say, "Yea mom, I'm doing my homework on the computer tonight."
He wondered why his mother never asked.
He wondered if she even really cared.
And then he had a moments thought, If she were to die today what would be there to drive him to do anything? Andy shut down his small laptop, and reclined on the bed.
"Andy, it's time for dinner?" His mother said.
"Coming mom." Andy said.
The moon glowed brightly -- the night-watch flew in the sky nightly. Mothers would tell their children, "You better watch out, general pork chop is going to get you in your sleep, if you don't behave and go to bed."
Of course his mother never told him this.
His mother never told him anything.
When she would talk, she would ask him about grades. However at this point she considered him enough of a failure, she wouldn't pursue it further. She would only pay attention to behavioral reports.
He fell into a dark blue worm hole, changing between colors --- he warped into a collection of binary numbers, flowing in the net --- and then he arrived at his favorite dream site. His dream vision played gopher ball.
These were his games.
Of course he hardly had a chance to play them, he enjoyed specific plat-former titles on the dream net. He thought it was funny that Jerid still wondered what the next months super laptop trashed would be like. He wanted to prove to Jerid, he could get an engine of his own. If only Jerid could sleep.
If only Andy could...
"Andy, It's time for school!" His mother said.
"OK, thanks mom." He said. He made himself slowly get up. And then his mother knocked on the door.
"Andy, aren't you going to get up?"
"Yes mom, sorry I'm up."
Ailene had long since given up on worrying about whether her glass was half full or half empty. To her, she was stuck on the bottom of the glass half empty or not.
Working as a janitor in a busy office, Ailene sometimes overheard the rah rah attitude in the meetings. She, on the other hand, experienced brain paralysis as she cleaned the dingy bathrooms. She could put a shine on the cracked mirrors, but trying to cover up the moldy smell was like putting deodorant on after you ran a marathon.
Walking to and from work, Ailene wished she was deaf. The city was loud. Everyone always stared because she would hold her ears, and would never push the button to stop traffic. Someone else would have to push it. She wanted time to merely stop.
Poor diet and an early smoking habit made her look older than her fifteen years. She started each day with a bitter cup of cheap black coffee. This always reminded her of her early homelessness. Another trigger of painful memories was the daily roar of fighter jets overheard. How many years it been since the war began?
It was a memory that long burned in her brain. There was never a time she missed begging for scraps of old bread. Nobody would hire a twelve year old, but her mother did not want her. Nobody did, she didn’t exist.
Her job was low-paying, but she was glad to have anything. Ailene remembered how for the longest time she hadn’t been able to afford shoes. When she had visited an antique shop, where the owner sported a powdered wig, she had noticed he was tossing a pair of old wooden clogs in the trash. She stole them when she thought he wasn’t looking, but he ended up seeing her do it. “I’m going to call the cops.” he had said in a thick accent. Seeing the tears in Ailene’s eyes, he had changed his mind.
Every day there were news reports of bomber raids, and then the next story was a new biological weapon many times worse than Aids. Raids of the toxins.
Ailene had recently saved up enough money to order a new pair of clogs from the shoemaker. As she was leaving his store with those, she saw a shoe less girl about the age she had been when she first met the antique shop owner. With a painful jolt, time seemed to stop. Ailene thought of the shop owner who had become her friend, but who had died during a bombing raid. She knew he would be pleased to see Ailene give the little girl the shoes that meant so much to her.
That night Ailene dreamed of a world where childhood was special again. She dreamed it, but didn’t get to live it. Just as her face aged early, so had her heart. She died not by a bomb or a biological weapon, but by a worn out heart.
At Ailene’s funeral, there were only two mourners: the mother who had deserted her, and the little girl who had received her shoes. The mother was crying, partially out of regret, but partially out of the reality of how common early childhood homelessness was.
“So what was she like?” asked the girl.
“I don’t remember.” said the mother.
The little girl placed the wooden clogs on Ailene’s grave.
“Thank you.” she said.
DR. GREGOR COLE
“I place a helmet on your head, and you must tell me what you see.” the man in the psychiatric office said. He is tending a lady, sitting in a chair wearing a helmet, for her first memory-printer experiment.
“I am in a room, where the bed is not made.” the lady with the helmet on said, then begins to fidget just a little bit. She tries to calm herself down. “There are many papers, piled along the floor."
“Good, now look closer. What sort of papers are they?” the psychiatrist says.
“The papers appear to me of family members long sense estranged, whoever must have lived here no longer has their main luggage."
“OK then, what sort of luggage do you mean by the main luggage?” the psychiatrist says.
“Well surely the old resident must have used toile-tries." the test patient says.
The psychiatrist walks over, and speaks into her ear. “How do you know they are family members?” Then carefully moves when you fidgets more.
“Well why would someone keep photos of strangers?”
“Is there anything else in the room reminds you of?”
“The room looks to be old,”
“You mind not fidgeting for a minute, you might shake off the helmet.”
“very old in fact. The wall paper is beginning to peel.” she tries to stop fidgeting. “There are many bugs on the floor”
The psychiatrist takes off the helmet from her. “Are there any predominate feelings you got while staying in the room, inside the helmet?”
“I feel a sudden pressure relieved. Every amount of stress I was feeling at that moment seems to be gone.”
“My assistant shall lead you to the door.”
He is Dr. Gregor Cole. Cole has been in the business for many years, yet has not yet seen a case quite as strange as this, for although there were many candidates for the memory-printer psychiatric assistant. It was only she, the current patient that any of the doctors saw any slight been of hope in order to treat.
When Cole finished his paper work, he told his assistant who had to still remain for the rest of the evening to turn off the light. It was a long drive home, and he came home to an apartment. In many ways his apartment was similar any nature to the room that she saw. He wondered how she may have seen a situation so familiar. He did not remember inviting her to his home. She was a neighbor at one point. But that did not explain the wallpaper. But the pictures of family members, it was spot on. Cole did not even remember have of the people in the pile, it was simply faces of old family he kept on file.
Cole called his assistant, “I want to lady to be put on more tests. I want to see just how far her memories will take her.” He was not sure what it was about this patient, that made him feel differently than the other patients. How to him it seemed like there was something else at play, beyond pure madness.
It was getting late, and Cole went to bed without dinner.
The next morning, he went into the office. Filed some paperwork, then called the patient in for another round of tests.
“It’s the helmet test again, but a different room this time.”
She was not sure why she did these tests.
It was as much of an experiment for her.
It was a cold evening chill, the night was some what young. A meal for the affair, was complementary to the one-on-one poetry reading me and a friend, for sake of her personal privacy -- let’s call “knitted cap”, who despite one side over her face being covered by an old woman’s cap, did not look much past twenty.
We read poems that we wrote, specific for the occasion. I had no idea the particular poem she would read, was more significant than merely the text.
The room was gradually warmed back up, opening a theater room with a couple of benches for the particular occasion. Knitted Cap had not said much over the past hour, so I was surprised she would speak at all, or even was really willing to go on a date at all. Her red hair was pretty, despite the odd arrangement covering her left eye. I felt it would be to polite to ask why she was covering it, but I chose not to do it.
We exchanged poems, until eventually she came upon her own poem: Hand held upon a bloody eye, the fact one cannot deny, it’s dripping down from the face. I hold my hand over my eye, in disgrace. The poem had an eerie ring to it, and she said it would with such a familiarity that I began to wonder if she was covering up something more than she was telling me. “So what did you think?” she asked at that moment.
I was not sure what to say, wanted to ask her what inspired her. Or simply give her as passing complement for the evening, for I had already given her plenty of constructive criticism to chew on for a whole week.
“I love it.” I said, then saw that her smile she gave came across as fake. “For you, there is nothing at stake.” What did she mean by those words, I wondered.
We had dinner, she was making it that evening. I helped her cook, then by the sink I saw her shake.
“Is something wrong?” I asked Knitted Cap, for she covered her right eye that begun to show after she inadvertently moved her hair out of the way.
“Yes it’s fine, I will do the rest of the cooking tonight.” she said. So not wanting to cause conflict I agreed and went over to the couch. Or I was anyway, until she turned to face me. “Want to know why I cover my eye, or what inspired the poem?” she said. I could not bring myself to refuse her question. And behold, I found out why she wrote the poem.
“Hand held upon a bloody eye, the fact one cannot deny, it’s dripping down from the face” she said, slowly raising her face and removing with her hand revealing nothing left of her right eye.