“Machines,” Tory muttered. “Don’t even know they are.” He shook his head, sighed. It was maddening, frustrating, infuriating, and the saddest, most awful thing at the same time. “Humans,” he crossed his arms on his desk, and rested his head on them. “Stupid, fucking humans. Don’t even know.”
There had been a time when he believed in other people. When he believed in the world. When the future looked good to him. He remembered it, burned into his memory forever, something he could never get rid of. Life would be much simpler if he could, which was most likely why he couldn’t. Life was never simple.
He sat back up and stared out the window, into the dark of night. “Normal people are asleep by now, you know that.” He always told himself such things. “Normal people actually can sleep at night.” Instead of having nightmares, and tossing and turning, and tearing the covers loose, and waking up coated in sweat, wondering why he felt like he’d run too far on a scalding hot day. And that dry, cardboard taste in his mouth. What was that all about. “Doesn’t happen to normal people.”
He knew why he couldn’t sleep. That’s when his brain cells were unrestrained. When all the rules, all the lines in the sand, all the social crap that kept him in check during the day, went away. And his brain thought what it wanted to, said what it wanted to, talked to him about all the crap that was life, all the shit people did because. Normal.
“Fucking robots.” Tory shook his head. “And don’t even know it.” He shook his head again, “And you can’t explain it to them. ‘Cause. Seeing things as they really are is against the rules.” He closed his eyes, and tried to smell the darkness of the night. “I wonder what time it is?” He was still up, because it was better than going to sleep, and letting his brain do whatever.
“Mow the yard every Saturday morning, neighbor.” His next door neighbor was outside, from late February to late December, every Saturday morning, with that damn noisy lawn mower, making certain every fucking blade of Kentucky Fescue 31 in his lawn was the exact same height. Then there was pulling everything that wasn’t exactly the same. Every blade of grass had to be the same kind. All trillion of them. And the sidewalk, driveway, and curb had to have razor sharp edges. Not one blade of grass could reach over concrete. That would be a sin. Same thing with the flower beds. “Idiot spends $300 or more on mulch every year.”
Tory knew. “It’s an investment. I take care of it so it grows in value.” He knew why the neighbor wasted every Saturday. Just like why every car in the neighborhood was spotless. No dust. No dirt. No mud. No pollen. No scratches in the paint. “Shiney!” And his brain cells said, “That’s a $55,000 investment in my driveway.” An SUV with no dents, dings, or scratches, that never went off road, that slowed down for every bump, that almost stopped before making turns, and did stop for speed bumps. “I can’t hurt my baby!”
Fucking robots. That’s what people were. Nothing but robots. Programmed to want the same things. To want the same lives. To want more, and more, and more. And Tory wasn’t. Tory saw them for what they were. Saw the lie they lived. The lack of depth to their lives. Take the neighbor’s car, and house away, and he became nothing. “A failure,” that’s what they said. “A failure. Like Tory.”
Yeah, he knew. He knew what they thought, when they saw his yard, with dead leaves and weeds all over it. His car, with the chipped paint, and door dings, and in spring, the pine pollen shell that coated it. “Get with the program!”
That’s what it was. A program. A script. “A successful human is defined as follows.” Tory knew all the rules, all the supposed to do things. All the definitions of success. Of being a real person. And he knew it was all a lie.
Every last bit of it.
“Stupid, fucking machines.”
Tory wondered when he’d finally wander off to try to sleep.
Miranda Kate‘s weekly short fiction challenge is in it’s fourth week. You can read about the challenge here. I’ve enjoyed writing for it every week so far. Please, go read her short tale this week, and any others that show up.