“I’m sorry, Jim.” Annie said, in that monotone ‘I don’t really mean it, but I know I should say it’ kind of way.
“Oh, well thank you.” Jim replied, voice quavering into his cell phone and one hand on the wheel of his semi-truck filled with countless pallets of coolers. He had been a few days ahead of schedule on his delivery, and thought it would be a good idea to stop in and surprise Annie, seeing as he was cutting through that part of the state anyway. It turned out to be a big mistake. “Thank you for having the courtesy to call and let me know how sorry you are, after ignoring me for the past two days!”
“Jim, let’s not-“
“Let’s not what, Annie?” Jim could almost feel Annie’s hand pressed against her forehead, and could swear he heard a faint sigh as she pulled the phone away from her ear, bored already with this conversation and debating whether or not to hang up. Jim decided he had to speak louder. “You’re the one who called me. Did you really think that I’d be over it by now, or that I’d forgive you so quickly? That there wouldn’t be any repercussions and you could just say you’re sorry and be done with the whole thing?”
“You know what?” Annie interrupted, “Jim! I’m not sorry. No, I’m glad I did it and I’m glad you walked in right at the climax. To tell you the truth, it made it that much better. I haven’t been able to replicate such a shaky quake like that since you left, and believe me; I tried.”
“Man, I tell ya; all these people back here have all this money and they go out and try to feed us this crap all the time? I mean, we’re people too, and we gotta eat. I ain’t never asked for nothin’ from nobody, you know? People offer me money or somethin’ like that I turn it down.” I nod. “But these bastards here think they’re something special and they can just treat us like garbage all the time. Well that’s bullshit! I work my ass off to get by, and Goddamn it I get by, you know? Not like these lazy fucks around here.” I scoop a sporkful of white rice, covered in chicken gravy and peas, into my mouth and nod again.
“I got a family, you know? I try to make sure they’re all taken care of and I look out for ‘em. ‘Cause family’s what’s important, you know?” I scoff, and quickly disguise it as a cough so as not to encourage a separate rant. “People these days, man. They just don’t know what they’re doin’, you know?” I nod again, glancing at his plate. He’s scraped it almost empty and is still scooping any last bits of gravy off of it. It’d be easier if you just licked it, I think. He stands.
His hoodie is hardly worth wearing. I’m sure it’s supposed to be black, but dried mud stains almost the entire thing, and there are holes riddled throughout it. His zipper is halfway up on the front left, and the right side is barely hanging onto the cloth. I want to grab it and rip it off, but I remain seated. I think he’s an amateur; new to the game. I’ve learned my lesson a long time ago that even in the worst situations, it was always crucial to look as not homeless as possible.
Oil and blood don’t mix very well. It did, however, make for a strange, layered puddle that inched toward me. I closed my eyes and turned my head to face the darkness above me. The cold cement I felt beneath me kept getting colder, and yet I couldn’t help but smile. That smile soon turned to a chuckle. I did manage to prolong a war between man and machine, I thought, a real life John Connor, cut down in his prime. Wouldn’t Dad be proud? I was hoping for a light at the end of the tunnel, but it all just kept getting dimmer. I welcomed it, though. It was fitting and justified, given the poor choices I had made. Grave ones. If it weren’t for that damned Ivan Rechtmer, this whole thing wouldn’t even have happened.
I found the rumors about death to be true as I flashed back to the first time I heard his name. My father walking in with a newspaper in his hand, slamming it down on the table. “They don’t know what the fuck they’re doing over there!” He’d scream to my mother. Never at her, just to her. She’d just stand in the kitchen with her back turned and roll her eyes.
The 12 year old me wanted to know, though, “Who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re doing?”
“Don’t swear dear,” my mother said, “those are big people words.”
“Here, see for yourself!” Dad said as he tossed the paper to me. While in the air, It unfolded and different sections scattered on the floor. I saw the one he was referring to on the front page. A man with sleek blond hair and wood grain glasses was shaking hands with the President. Above the picture a headline read:
AN ARTIFICIAL AGE BEGINS