#10 - Eric, Who is a Robot

      We sat on the end of the dock with our feet in the water, watching Mars get a little closer by the hour.

      The wine bottle we were passing back and forth sat on the aged wood between us. The one we finished floated on the lake's surface just in front of us.

      A radio sat just behind us blasting the entire Huey Lewis and the News discography in order, on repeat. The broadcaster had gone home to be with his family hours ago, and had put on some music as a courtesy.

      That was nice of him.

      The world was ending but at least we'd all go out knowing the words to Sports.

      Eric, who is a robot, reached for the bottle. He took a long, convincing drink. I thought to myself that the appropriate sensors must be triggering, he must be feeling his synthetic, mechanically engineered drunkenness by now.

      And I suppose that all drunkenness could be described this way.

      The lake was perfectly calm and flat, unmoving, quiet.

      The water reflected our faces, the trees. It reflected the enormous red planet that dominated more and more of the sky as time passed, like a cruise ship coming into port. A cruise ship with no captain, and no brakes.

      Eric passed me the bottle, I drank. The red wine was warm, good. I was drunk. It was calming drunk, a comforting one. I wore it like a sweater.

      * * *

      They had said on the news that an enormous something, something had crashed into Mars, and that it had thrown it out of orbit. That it was out of orbit, and was heading our way at some sort of ridiculous speed. That it would collide with earth and would end existence as we know it.

      I'd been sitting in the lunch room at my work when they first announced it on the television. I was eating a chicken sandwich and some plain chips. I stopped eating. This was no time to eat plain chips.

      An older man I worked with stood behind me staring at the TV. He was involved with the underground organization that smuggled office supplies out of the stock room, everybody knew it. He was the Harriet Tubman of paper clips.

      "Holy shit," he'd said "So the galaxy's just this big ol' mother fucker of a pool table and we're heading for its big ol' mother fucker of a corner pocket."

      I was glad he'd said it, because I didn't fully understand the broadcaster.

      It was like, not wanting to read Ulysses, and just reading the Coles notes instead.

      We were all going to die.

      * * *

      "Do you think it'll be quick Eric?" I asked.
      "I don't know really," a thoughtful pause. "You know, I don't suspect that it will."

      We were quiet for a while; his brutal honesty sat down beside us on the dock.

      "Yeah I suppose you're right."
      "Taking comfort in a quick death is a bit of an odd thing anyway, isn't it?"
      I drank.
      "Yeah, I suppose you're right." I repeated.

      Huey Lewis joined the conversation from the tinny speaker:

            "...You've been thinking
            And I've been drinking
            We both know that it's just not right
            Now you're pretending
            That it's not ending..."

      "So I guess nobody really saw this one coming, eh?" I said
      "No I suppose not."
      "Not like this anyhow."

            ...Girl don't cry, and tell me nothing's wrong
            I'll be alright one way or another...

      "How old are you anyway?" I asked
      "Three hundred and forty seven."

      I wondered if that was a good life span for a robot.

      "Is that a good life span for a robot?"
      "Um, I think it's about average. Though sometimes, if you really take care of yourself, you can live to be almost seven hundred."

      I took a drink, and passed the bottle.

      "How old are you?" Eric asked
      "That's young, is it not?"
      "Yeah Eric," I said. "Thatís young."

      We sat in silence for a while.

            "...If this is it
            Please let me know..."

      Across the lake the trees shook. I pointed silently, and Eric looked up. After a while, the trees parted and a mother deer walked out onto the lake's edge. She bent down, and drank from the water. A little while later, her baby followed her, and with a little less grace, did the same.

      We sat in silence, watching this closing act, while the big red curtain got a little closer.

©2009 Broken Chair