© 2019 Yoshi Matsumoto, All rights reserved.
Everything can be known about a person by what they choose to leave behind.
In the mad rush to get out of the city most hadn’t bothered to shut their doors. As Wayln walked the empty halls he could see inside the apartments, room after room littered with trash and clutter on the floor, the leavings of people who’d swept through all their wordily possessions like tornadoes trying to decide what, if any of it, mattered. He saw a lot of business documents. Unopened letters. Bank statements. Papers that had probably seemed terribly important until the moment they were garbage. Clothes spilled out of wardrobes as if the closets had eaten too much cotton and finally vomited. Many had left their televisions on, red text centered on the screen told him there was no signal. He thought it interesting how many photographs were left. Family portraits sitting abandoned in their frames on kitchen counters, pictures of children getting dusty on the table. More than one plush toy lay forgotten in a corner. In one room he saw an urn, forgotten on its mantel.
Money he never saw. No wallets. No coin purses. For some reason people had been certain to take those even while fruit and bread had been left out on the counter to mold. It made him wonder if people even realized what was happening, if they were even capable of processing the curveball life had thrown. A few of the doors were shut and occasional Wayln would test the nob of one and invariably find it locked, a sign of true madness, as though they were expecting to come back again or worried that someone else might rifle through their particular assortment of garbage. A special kind of narcissism that. But who was he to talk? Here he was alone, absorbed in his own thoughts and cares as much as anyone, believing the garbage in his book was worth more somehow that the papers strewn around him on the floor. That was the whole problem. It was so easy to consider yourself the center of the universe. He wondered if cicadas felt that way. They probably did.
As he began to climb the stairs he could hear music. The sort dominated by the gentle twang of a sitar, accompanied by a slow melodious banjo. Here and there came bursts of reed flute, high lilting notes like dancing butterflies in spring. It was a happy, soft kind a music, and it made him smile to hear it. In his travels he had found it to be almost a law of nature that those who played the best music told the best stories. His stomach rumbled at the thought of meeting those who played it. Very often, such people also had good food.
INTRUDER. YOU ARE NOT AN AUTHORIZED RESIDENT OF THIS MODULAR HABITATION UNIT. AVAILABLE OPTIONS:
1) DISPLAY VISITOR IDENTIFICATION MARK.
2) VACATE THESE PREMISES IMMEDIATELY.
3) ACCOMPANY THIS LAW ENFORCEMENT UNIT TO A DETENTION FACILITY FOR PROCESSING.
LETHAL FORCE IS AUTHORIZED TO COMPEL COMPLIANCE. YOU WILL BE GIVEN TEN SECONDS TO RESPOND.
Wayln sighed. “You know,” he said to the machine, “the problem with you robots is that you don’t know when you’re useless.”
It was true. A flesh and blood police officer would’ve given up the act by now. He’d have been sitting in uniform on the stairs with beer on his breath and when Wayln had come around the corner he’d have smiled and asked the monk if he wanted a beer too. Wayln would have smiled back. Wayln would have said yes. They would have sat together for a while and had a moment, some laughs. It would have been nice, something to be remembered, a high note to go out on.
It would have been something between two people.
But instead here was this thing. This dishwasher with guns on it.
A glorified militaristic calculator mindlessly running its algorithms over and over, long after they stopped making sense.
Wayln’s paw slipped down to his belt.
The raccoon’s telescoping staff exploded outward and slapped down across the motion sensors on the robot’s head sending metallic reverberations down the halls.
YOU ARE UNDER ARREST.
Wayln leapt. Two purple lasers sliced through the concrete where he’d just been standing like a knife through bread. Above the bot both of the raccoon’s footpaws pressed momentarily against the wall and he pressed off it, spinning. The pole in his paws compacted down on one end even as the other side extended and in a single fluid motion the pole came snapping down, bending and cracking like a whip across the blasters. Electricity arced through the air as wire pulled loose from wire and Wayln landed softly on the ground in Fluid Crane. The laser guns hit the ground beside him a moment later, one on either side.
ALERT! ALERT! YOU HAVE BROKEN PENAL CODE 437601-83B SECTION Q. THE SECURITY GRID WILL BE NOTIFIED OF YOUR NONCOMPLIA-
Before the machine could finish Wayln sank into Great Warrior and shoved the pole through the center of the metallic body before him as though it were a spear.
UNAUTHORIZED DESTRUCTION OF GOVERNMENT PROPERTY. YOU WILL BE FINED 400 CREDITS AND SUBJECT TO 500 HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERVICE. SERVICE. SERVICE. SERVICE. COMMUNITY SER. SER. SER. 400 CREDITS AND SUBJECT TO 500 HOURS OF COMMUNITY SERRRRRRRRRVIIIICCSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.
The priest stood. He tapped a claw against the staff and it retracted to his paw with a satisfying click as the bot went dark. Both the machine’s arms and its head went limp above its shiny box frame body, the whole of it now a useless hunk of metal, resting atop articulating tank treads. He gave the cylinder in his paw a little spin and threaded it back through the loop of his belt. Then with a grimace he raised an arm and rotated it around the shoulder a few times. He winced. He could feel the pain there, the knot and the beginnings of swelling. It would’ve been very courteous of the bot to have given him a chance to stretch first.
He sighed. It was no fun getting old.