Cold Shades Ch 2

A dystopian future, in which humanity is overwhelmed by technology, causing a lack of human interaction.

Parental Advisory: This story is strongly suggested for ages 18 and up due to harsh violence, strong language, and adult themes.

It had been a week since Becca visited her brother, and she was still saddened over the whole ordeal. Though he was difficult, she still loved him. But there wasn’t anything she could do for him. She wished that an employer would give Harold a second chance, but she knew that she was nearly asking the impossible. The vast majority of employers didn’t want to take the time to see the potential employee, hence they had computers do it. She wondered if it was because they were afraid. Becca couldn’t say so for certain, but it would make sense. After all, if a potential employer were forced to look her brother in the eyes, seeing his hardships and his struggles, would such an employer be willing to give him a chance? Furthermore, despite all of the technology, would more people, even if only a few more, have jobs if there were less computers to conduct the interview process?

Computer interviews were so convenient for employers. They could hire whomever they wanted to by programming the computer to interview using the simplest and most basic of questions, not giving any leeway or room for extenuating circumstances or complex reasons for why someone did what they did, or why they lacked experience but could gain it. There was no room for bargaining, no room for understanding. Harold was certainly a victim of that.

Becca tried to stop thinking about it. The situation was just too painful. Instead she redirected her thoughts to the night at hand, one that could be alive with passionate embraces from another human being.  Some people would call her foolish. Why bring about the chance of heartache when one could just settle for a sex-bot!

Sex-bots were in high demand, with manufacturers selling large commodities of them. Advertisements abounded upon computer monitors and 3D billboards which read, Why risk fucking yourself or a friend when you can safely fuck a bot? It worked. These androids were not only lifelike replicas programmed with personalities, but they were also equipped with the sexual organs of male and female, being programmed in all manner of sex. Plus, they were disease and heartbreak free. Constantly connected to the internet, sex bots could have personality upgrades transmitted to them.

But Becca never liked the idea of cleaving unto a machine. If she were to twain as one flesh, she wanted to twain with someone real. She wanted more than just fucking, she wanted the actual process of making love, of giving ones heart and soul, the joining of two people not just physically, but mentally. She was hoping to find that in Ted, though for the life of her, seeing as how odd he was, she didn’t know how. But she always believed in giving people a chance. This was a particularly important mindset to possess in a time in which finding human interaction was becoming rare.

By the time she was done getting ready she looked like a queen among queens. She was the very embodiment of passion, dripping with sexuality, in her scarlet dress hugging her hips, lips glistening with gloss, her red hair brushed and curled to perfection, and her red slippers glittering under the lamplight. She was Venus De-Milo incarnate, walking, talking, and breathing, breaking free of her stone. She was now ready to meet Ted at Club Starlight.

The automated flight down there was dull, all of the houses and shopping centers looking the same in a sea of mediocrity. Eventually she grew so tired of the dull scenery that she activated a book on her V-Tablet. A small handheld device that when activated displayed a holographic image of a book. Like her computer screen back home, the image was triggered by the device sending a signal to the chip in her brain, making her see virtual pages. She opened a cover without substance, her hand turning air, to the first page of her novel and began reading.

In all respects, the trip shouldn’t take long. Jet cars could travel 300 mph. Though on a busy evening like this, they usually flew slower. Many vehicles were out flying, though a few kept to the roads down below. It was true that many of them didn’t have passengers in them, being piloted by robots. Some of the vehicles were even robots themselves, like the driver that deliver Becca’s food to her the day before. Like the robotic vehicle, many of the vehicles on the road were making deliveries to homebodies, and there were a lot of homebodies. Because of this, there were a few stops at hover lights to prevent an accident.

All things considered, it took her only ten minutes to get downtown. Soon she was at the top of the glass skyscraper where Club Starlight was located. Much to her chagrin, the upper parking lot, which didn’t have much space to begin with, was full. She would have to park below and take the elevator up.

“Find a parking space below,” she told the car.

The car complied, hovering slowly down to the street below her, where numerous homeless people were congregated.

Becca felt uncomfortable with so many of them about. She felt bad that she felt this way. She was sure that many of them wouldn’t hurt her, but couldn’t they go to one of the numerous shelters? There was certainly no shortage of shelters since machines had taken over ninety percent of jobs. The ironic thing was that many of those who were once employed at homeless shelters were now homeless themselves, androids having taken their place.

Becca knew that she was one of the fortunate ten percent holding a job. Because of this it was important to be sympathetic, but the crowd of homeless people edging their way to her car were putting her on edge. Breathe, she thought to herself. She wouldn’t be able to help them. There was no way she could transfer funds to all of their chips, especially since some probably had minds so scrambled from drugs and alcohol that they couldn’t remember their chip numbers anyway. She would walk straight towards the door, ignoring them. It was cruel, but it was necessary.

Hungry hands reached out to her as she got out of the car. Whether they were hands hungry for food, hungry for love, or for whatever funds she could spare to feed an addiction, she couldn’t say. Either way, she practically jogged to the door of the building.

Homeless people were practically breathing down her neck, their breath rancid and stale. Their bodies were covered in a fine layer of grime. The smell of their clothes washed in urine and soaped in alcohol were assaulting her nose. As this was going on, Becca was waiting for the computer to conclude with its analysis that she was not one of the homeless. Come on, hurry up, she thought to herself.

Suddenly the doors slid open, allowing her to escape from the ocean of lost souls. Once inside, Becca breathed deeply. After a couple of breaths and looking down at her feet, she turned back to see the hands of many of the homeless pounding on the glass door, as well as hear the faint words of “help us,” “I just need a little for a meal,” and so forth. She turned away from it, not letting them see her tears. She was trying to hold her emotions in, but she was struggling to keep from bawling. They didn’t deserve this. Yet, she couldn’t help one without helping the others, and she just didn’t have the funds to help all of them.

Becca turned a corner in the hall before finding a bench to sit down on and sob. Harold could have been in the same situation if she and her parents hadn’t of helped him in the first place. He could be in that same situation if she didn’t continue to help him.

A rough grip took Becca by her right wrist, violently yanking her hand away that had been wiping away her tears. She looked into the face of a man sporting a bushy beard, greased with sweat and blood, and be-speckled with dirt. His eyes flashed at her, drawing her into not the soul of a man, but of a frenzied tiger, hungry for her flesh. His teeth gritted together and his tongue licked his lips. Becca wanted to scream, but she was nearly paralyzed.

“You best be quiet!” he ordered.

Becca just barely managed to nod in assent.

“Nobody can help you, bitch.”

“What do you want from me?” Becca was just barely able to express her question above a whisper.

The homeless man took both her wrists tightly in his hands, yanked her up, and then slammed her against a wall. Becca’s space was being personally violated as she found his face near hers, his nose just about touching her nose. His breath smelled like he was decaying just a little bit each day, turning him into nearly a walking corpse. Still, though much of his humanity had long died, leaving behind a savage beast, a little bit of it must have clung onto him, as even in his anger tears of frustration and loneliness were forming in his eyes.

“I want to eat a good meal again,” he said, spitting a shower of putrid droplets on her face. “I want my own bed to sleep in. I want a job to work at during the day, but no one is fucking giving me a chance. I want someone to touch, someone to caress. I want the feel of flesh.”

“I’m sorry, don’t hurt me,” Becca was crying. “I’ll give you some money. Just let me be. What’s your chip number?”

“I said shut up!” he barked, and then slapped her hard across the face causing her to be dazed as he tore a huge tear in her dress down from the bust line. She was in a dire situation now. Though she had never been violated, she knew a rape when she saw it.

Becca did the only thing she could do. She fought back. She sunk her teeth into his cheek, causing him to scream. The taste of bitter blood conglomerated with old dirt almost made her retch. She smacked him as hard as she could across the area where she bit him, his cheek still raw from it. He staggered back, falling on his backside. Becca gave a quick prayer for deliverance.

As the homeless man was in the process of getting up, her prayers were answered. But not by the kind Savior of the New Testament, or the mighty Abrahamic God of the Old Testament or the Torah, nor by a benevolent Buddha, or a mythical Brahma of the Hindu texts, but by the ominous figures of two security bots. They towered up above the bum, their metal armor gleaming under the light. The pair of them were warriors, guardians to potential customers, ready to delivery divine retribution to those unholy.  Unlike androids, security bots, as well as police bots, didn’t look like people. They were built to look machine through and through, their purpose to inspire fear in criminals and troublemakers. These bots were grey and black all over, with broad, round cylinder chests of plated steel. A firm pair of trunk-like metal legs held them up, and long steel arms, ending in thick metallic fingers for strong grip, hung from their sides. A small cylinder was atop the large cylinder of each, forming a crude head, fashioned with two flashing lights to make eyes. Unlike police bots, these were without any form of guns or ammunition, being bouncer bots.

“Are you alright, mam?” one of them asked, its metallic voice displaying no emotion.

“He tried to rape me!” she cried, pointing to her attacker.

The homeless man’s countenance had greatly changed, having turned from a fierce tiger to a mouse wanting to scurry away. He had no time to escape his judgement as the steel fists of the two bouncer bots pounded into his soft flesh. Becca was certain that they would give him a couple of punches and then carry him out. She was shocked to see them keep on brutalizing the man. Her attacker was being morphed into their punching bag.

“Stop it! Stop! He’s had enough!” she screamed.

Her cries for leniency were ignored.

Becca closed her eyes. But, though it protected her from the horrendous sight of violence, it couldn’t drown out the sounds of breaking bones. Only when she ceased to hear sounds of punching did she venture to open them again. The homeless man dangled in front of her, mangled and broken, blood dripping. She let out an inaudible gasp. The bouncer bots, as cold in their mannerisms as the steel that plated them, said not a word of comfort as they threw him to the side, leaving him to drown in his pool of blood.

Conflicting emotions swarmed within Becca, threatening to drown her in terror. She didn’t know what scared her more. There was no telling what the crazy homeless man would have done to her if they hadn’t of come. He could have killed her after he tried raping her. As for the bouncer bots, certainly they saved her life, but what if they had turned on her? Who could stop them if they had of chosen to beat her to a pulp or rip her limb from limb?

For a while she wondered if it was even worth going to meet Ted, shaken up as she was. Would it be better to call the whole thing off for the night, to reschedule? She shook her head. She needed to try and forget about the situation. After all, she came to potentially be in a man’s arms. There was a comfort and love, a mystical power that came from the arms of a man, like something out of a fairy tale that ended happily ever after. If only the car wreck hadn’t of ended her happily ever after with her husband.

Taking a breath, she let herself know that should could do this. She held the torn opening of her dress closed so as not expose herself when she walked into the club. She wished that she could find something like a safety pin to at least pin her dress closed, but all she could manage was her left hand to hold the broken seams together. She hoped that Ted would be beyond understanding, offering comfort to her distress.

Becca took the elevator up to the top floor, while realizing she was crazy for carrying on her evening appointment in her current emotional and physical state. Passing by her view from the glass elevator were a plethora of shops, store chains, and restaurants. Occasionally, she could see an employee or a shopper, but they were few and far between. Of course there were life-like androids as well as average robots, but even the life-like androids had aspects of the way they were built that differentiated them from people. For instance, androids had to be designed to show seams around the outline of their face in order to have a removable faceplate. This was made into law so that people could differentiate between a real person and an android. As for the lack of customers at the establishments, this didn’t matter, since all of these restaurants and stores delivered anyway, including Club Starlight, who delivered drinks.

Yet, even looking at all the stores and restaurants couldn’t keep Becca’s mind off the fact that she had nearly been raped. How many other women, homeless women even, had that man violated? She felt numb. And yet she also felt like she needed someone talk to. She fought back the urge to throw up.

She felt weak in her legs when the elevator reached the final floor, but she managed to steady herself and make her way to the entrance of Club Starlight. Though the huge neon blue logo complete with a big star was supposed to bring a sense of excitement, Becca felt that it looked garish instead. The music could be heard blaring from inside, if it could be called such.

A robot bouncer waited at the door, one less large and intimidating than the two that had killed her attacker, but still formidable. Becca panicked, thinking in her current state that the bot bouncer would mistakenly identify her as one of the homeless. Thankfully, such was not the case, and she was allowed in, even with the bust of her dress torn wide open. Looking back, Becca was sure that the bot saw it as fashion statement, seeing as there were women who wore little more than bikini tops to such clubs.

Inside, strobe lights were flashing, seizure inducing to anyone unlucky enough to be cursed with epilepsy. A few people were dirty dancing, their senses hypnotized by the blare and rhythmic pounding of the music. They were all slaves to their passions and to the beat of the stereo.

Becca scanned the room, easily catching sight of Ted at the bar. It wasn’t hard. Aside from the few people dancing on the dance floor, and those few drowning out their sorrows at the bar, he was one of the few people there. For a place that should have been swarming with people, the club was nearly empty. There wasn’t even a bartender at the bar, but an android pouring drinks, telling canned jokes. If one didn’t want to hear the canned jokes, there were also the vending cabinets that could dispense alcoholic beverages.

Still shaken, Becca slowly took a seat next to Ted. If she had of previously been an Aphrodite, then Ted was still a Dionysus, god of wine and intoxication, as he seemed to have drowned seven glasses. Still, strangely enough, he didn’t look the least bit inebriated. He looked handsome decked out from head to toe in a fresh polo shirt, ironed out slacks, and a pair of polished shoes. She wanted to tell him that he was handsome. She wanted to engage in pleasantries. But she couldn’t. She was doing all that she could not to break down into tears over what had just happened.

“Well, hello beautiful,” he eyed her up and down. “Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!”

“Flatterer.”

“Thanks,” he said, gulping down his eighth glass. “Hey, you look a bit startled. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” she lied, unable to conceal the quivering of her voice.

“Are you sure?”

“Actually, no,” she yelled. It was hard enough to speak of it, but the loud music made it even worse. “A guy tried to rape me.”

“That’s terrible. Are you alright?”

Are you alright? That was the only thing he could think to ask? Of course she wasn’t alright. How could someone be so dense, so clueless, to ask such a question. Still, she kept her cool.

“Yeah. I guess so. But, no, I guess I’m not. Oh, it was terrible. It was like a living hell. I saw the guy get beat to a pulp by the bouncers, not long after getting out of my car.”

“Speaking of cars, I brought mine,” said Ted. “It’s a new brand, and it can fly ten feet higher than the last model. Would you like me to take you for a ride in it?”

Becca looked at him incredulously. She couldn’t believe that after what she had been through that he’d be so thoughtless to bring up hover cars. “No!” she snapped. “What? Are you crazy! Not right now! I need to unwind. I’ll have a drink.”

“Hey, not a problem. Let me buy you one.”

“Great! Thanks!” she said without much enthusiasm in her voice.

She soon found that she had lost any desire to drink. The most she managed to do was to stare blankly at her poison in a glass, oblivious for a moment that her date had started talking about cars again.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” she asked when it finally dawned on her.

“What do you mean?”

“All you do is talk about your love for all these damn flying cars. Can’t you talk about anything else?”

“Do cars bother you that much?”

“Of course,” she said, pushing her glass aside. “My husband was killed in one. His car battery ran out of power and he fell to his death while killing a family when crashing into their living room. Flying cars are one of the crappiest things to happen to society in a good long time. And what’s even crappier is that you don’t seem to care that I was violated by nearly being forcibly penetrated by a bum, and then I then had to see him murdered. This is beyond shitty.”

“I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your husband,” said Ted solemnly. “But you’ll be happy to know that the new models, such as the Light Rods, have built in safety mechanisms to prevent an accident. Plus, they are comfy. I would love to take you for a ride in one. What do you say?”

“I say you’re nothing but a bastard,” Becca, retorted. “All you care about is your cars. Well, I don’t want to hear it. Go to hell.”

As Becca was walking out of the club a middle aged man tapped her on the shoulder.

“What do you want?” she fumed, her patience running thin.

The man just shook his head. “You know that guy wasn’t a real person, right?”

She was taken aback at this. It was the same thing she had been told recently. “How do you mean?”

“I mean he was just a walking advertisement. An android!”

Becca stared at him startled. “No. He couldn’t be. Androids have to be built a certain way. I saw no seams on him.”

“Maybe because some companies aren’t making them with seams anymore,” the man shrugged.

“But that’s illegal!” she protested.

“Only illegal as far as money will say.”

Confused and traumatized, Becca took her leave of the club and made her way back down to the car, finding relief when the crowd of homeless were no longer there.

The airways were fairly clear. But it didn’t prevent her from having a near accident. Out from the darkness a car came flying towards her, its lights off. Her car’s navigation system just barely managed to swerve away from the oncoming car. Palms sweating, heart pumping, voice screaming, her car grazed against the side of the other car, peeling away the paint of both and taking her rearview mirror.

“Idiots!” she called out, as it flew through the darkness.

She was lucky. If her car’s computer had of waited just a second longer to maneuver out of the way, she would have been falling to the surface, the two cars intertwined in a fiery comet of devastation. She checked her car’s navigation system to find that it was functioning properly, meaning that either someone had hacked into the programming of the car that nearly hit her or that the passenger had disabled the safety system so that he or she could be the driver. Whether it was a hacked into car or a driver going for a joy ride it didn’t matter. If Becca was distraught before over the evening’s events, she was twenty times more distraught now.

 

Back at her home, Becca lamented over the current form of society. Had society really grown that cold? Or had it always been so, with technological advances giving people more of the chances to turn such.

She wished for a simpler time. She missed her husband. Her prince charming, her knight in shining armor, her Lancelot, she his Guinevere. Now she sat alone to mull over her thoughts of nearly being raped, of seeing her would-be rapist brutally killed, and almost colliding with another car.

She took a jar of meds out of the cabinet. She was only supposed to take one with a drink of water to cut down on stress. She found herself taking four before drowning them down with a glass of beer to induce her into a blissful near coma of tranquility. She normally drank wine, but tonight called for something stronger.

Lying immobile upon the couch, her second glass of whisky dangling in one hand, Becca’s mind traveled back to when she had first met her Steven, her husband. It had happened entirely by accident. The two of them had been out walking one particular evening, when, upon turning a corner, they bumped heads. What happened next was like something out of a romance novel, the two star-gazed lovers instantly falling for one another. He had shown chivalry, offering her his hand and asking her if she’d like to be taken out for coffee.

Their first date at a coffee shop had been a good one, the two of them being the only ones there. There were of course a couple of robot workers in back, and a few self-serving and making coffee machines. The big chain coffee companies, just like all the other companies, were more than grateful for this option as it allowed them to save money instead of paying employees. Becca and Steve had been grateful too, enjoying the alone time, which quickly turned into a make-out session. It hadn’t taken long for them, just by intellectually stimulating conversation, to find out that the two of them were kindred souls, both of them sharing a love for literature and art.

Later that night they had gone back to Becca’s house to spend an evening in the mountains. The holograms did a wonderful job tricking their brain into making them think they were on a mountain-top at sunset.

From then on Steve and Becca had experienced many other moments together. It wasn’t long until they were married and living together.

It had been late when Steve chose to take his car out, but he had forgotten to check the battery power. The car should have hovered safely to the ground when it ran out of power, but for some reason the safety mechanisms hadn’t worked. So he crashed into a house below him, killing the family, including their two year old child, the bumper landing on the kid. Becca felt sorrow for that family, and for Steve whom she would never see again. For months she had mourned, suffering night and day. She had tried to patch her love-life up, but she had never been able to find another Prince Charming. Becca felt like a Sleeping Beauty, who unlike the one in the fairy tale had received her first kiss to wake her up, she on the other hand was doomed to sleep in a castle of thorns without ever being kissed again.

Melancholic, she passed out from these thoughts in her head.

 

She awoke in the morning, her head pounding. Worse, the thoughts of the night prior of her nearly being raped to seeing a man killed came back to her increased fifty fold. This time she couldn’t hold back the sickness that inside her, and she threw up.

She wondered if her favorite hologram simulation could brighten her up.

“Mountaintop at night,” she called out to the computer on her desk.

Immediately, Becca was in another realm. Stars shone above her, as trees cloaked in shadows to her right and to her left rose above her. She breathed deeply, immersing herself in the environment. This was what life used to be like when there were more areas of land without buildings, before houses and other structures covered almost the whole earth. Now, the only way one could commune with nature like a mystic of old was through computers sending false images into the brain to trick someone into thinking they were somewhere else. If there was ever to be another Jesus Christ, Moses, Buddha, Muhammed, or Joseph Smith desiring to commune with nature, to tap into the mysteries of the universe, to evoke higher powers, that holy man, or woman, would have to make use of the computers sending false images to their embedded chips, as not many real forests or deserts existed anymore.

When Becca really wanted to escape civilization, there were other programs she could activate. She had programs of Utah style deserts with great rocky ridges, and of Scottish country-sides full of green rolling hills and lakes.

She often wondered what it would be like to see an actual area of nature, not a computer simulation. She shook her head. There was no use in thinking about it. Those days were turning to dust under foot.

Laying upon her back, she washed away any stress from her mind and just looked at the stars while listening to the sounds of crickets chirping and owls hooting. It was very peaceful, and it functioned better than any therapy that she’d have to dish out loads of money for.

It was interesting to think that when she was done with the simulation, the room would go back to being her living room, the illusion fading away.

Believe in my work? Support me on Patreon. https://www.patreon.com/jonathanscottgriffin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s