Sunlight crept through the window and its rays tiptoed across the face of a young, unsuspecting girl. In disbelief, she quickly rose from her bed. Frantically looking around her room, she searched to find an answer as to how any sunlight was able to sneak in so early. Typically, sunlight could only be seen in homes earlier than noon if the curtains had been set to a manual timer. Finally, it dawned on her that her father was behind the rude awakening.
Stumbling out of bed, she placed her feet on the cold, metal conveyor belt, waiting for the machine to take her into the bathroom where the family robot, X1, would begin her morning routine. However, this morning, the belt seemed not to budge. Her legs began to shake the longer she stood up and she grasped the edge of her bed for support. It had been so long since she had to physically support herself. In today’s time, it was very seldom to see anybody exerting any physical effort to move around.
Unable to leave her room, she summoned X1 to come to her rescue. Frustrated, she looked to the gray walls and stainless steel furnishings to calm her mind. She had no idea why today her father would choose to ruin her life.
Within minutes her robot appeared and swept her into the bathroom. Once she was ready for the day, he brought her into the kitchen where she found her brother sitting at the table, communicator in hand. Nobody talked to each other anymore. Personal communication was replaced with quick messages through the communicator. With all that was going on around them, it seemed as though nobody had time to engage in conversation anymore.
Brother: Morning. Dad emotional.
With a roll of her eyes, she already knew what was going on. Only a couple of days ago had their mother passed. She had suffered multiple, fatal lacerations during a tragic motor accident when her car had lost control while on autopilot. Their father had yet to accept the fact that the woman he loved dearly was gone. Since her death, he had been on a mission to remind the family of how life had once been before technology consumed their world.
Gone were the days of bereavement. It was uncommon in the modern world for families to mourn the loss of loved ones. In replacement of a funeral, families now had a holographic device that would sit above the fireplace. A trip to cemetery was no longer needed when one could simply communicate with a holographic image equipped with prerecorded messages. Each morning since their mother’s passing, the family would take turns speaking with the image before they went about their daily routine. Although, the only one who struggled to do so was their father. Tears, another uncommon sight, often streaked the face of the older man each time he neared the fireplace.
Sister: He’s coming.
The two siblings turned in their seats as they heard footsteps coming down the hallway. Shocked, they could not imagine that their father was choosing to walk. They were convinced something was wrong with him and had hoped that with all of the open curtains in the house, their neighbors had not noticed the unusual behavior. If they had, it would take only one phone call to commit their father to an asylum where he would be evaluated and held for treatment.
“Good morning family.” Their father called, grabbing his breakfast from the counter. He took a seat at the table and joined his kids for their morning meal. John glanced at his father, trying to find his communicator. Neither of them knew how to respond.
“It’s been two days since your mother left us.” The father said. Both children looked away. “I really want us to come together as a family. No more communicators, no more robot, no more walking around pretending like nothing happened.” He snatched both of the devices from the unrelenting hands of his children. Overhearing the conversation, X1 retreated back to his room.
“Now finish your breakfast and then we’re going to the park.” The father commanded. He finished his breakfast and retreated to the garage. Both kids sat at the table not knowing how to respond. But not wanting to disobey, they hurried through their breakfast and slowly made their way to the car. By the time they reached the garage, they were out of breath. Exhausted, they exerted the rest of their effort to climb into the backseat of the car.
Zipping through traffic, their father drove manually to the park. He refused to use autopilot anymore. Once they reached the quarter mile wide open zone of artificial grass, the children were thrilled to see working conveyor belts again. At least here their father had no control over what technology they could use. Before their father could stop them, the siblings were already on their way into the park to play with the other children.
Finding an open spot on a park bench, their father took a seat. He looked around and watched as kids sat idle in the grass using their virtual simulator glasses to interact with others. Nobody talked, nobody laughed, nobody moved.
A soft breeze brushed a leaf onto his lap and he clutched onto it before it could leave his sight. It’s course fibers broke apart into his hand. He got up and walked over to a tall oak tree, leaf in hand. It was one of the last remaining plants in the park and held many memories for him. Resting his head against its trunk, he brushed the remains of the leaf against a name etched at the bottom. It read: Anthony + Cassandra Forever. As another rush of wind swept across the park, the father looked to the sky for an ounce of hope. Wishing for a sign, he longed for something that would let him know everything would be okay.
As if the universe heard his call, a small bird flew onto his shoulder. He brushed off the chirping as another synthetic sound manufactured by the owners of the park until he felt a soft peck on his neck. He gently turned his head, looking the bird in its eyes. He was familiar with the expression on its face. It was one that said it was scared. He took his finger and rubbed it against the top of the bird’s head. It let out a sigh of relief and nestled on top of the man’s shoulder. For the rest of the day, the two rested against the tree. They knew nothing of what the next day would hold, but were comforted by the company of one another.