by Sam Mills

 

  1. It’s the future and we haven’t worked out what to do with all the robots. Actually, the robots haven’t worked out what to do with us. The robots do everything so well, and what’s worse is how nice they are about it. They say: “don’t worry, we’ll take care of that”. And they mean it. They do. It’s just sort of rude not to let them get on with it.

 

What’s annoying is that we were told by all the scientists, before the robots, that afterwards we’d have time to do the things that are true. Like crafts and dancing the tango and laughing until it hurts. And yeah, I mean, we can do all that. We do. But it’s not the same. The robots can do it so well that it just seems kind of pointless. Nobody warned us about that. That the robots could paint and make love, and that they’d be so damn nice about it, too.

 

Last week I saw a stage show with human actors in. Without a headset. I remember that’s how it used to be: without a headset, with human actors in. I remember how lifelike it felt back then, how everything seemed like one type of thing. Now the humans look so unreal. It reminded me of times as a kid, looking at old photographs of my parents and thinking  “wow, everything looked so old back then. Couldn’t they tell they were old just by looking at everything?”. And I’d look at the photos of me and go “yes, yes, that’s where it’s at. It’s all here”. Now those kid photos look old. It reminded me of that, this human stage show. Life without the headset suited us fine back then. Now it looks so unreal.

 

It’s a shame because when they said we could do all that true stuff, like fishing and making pots, we thought it was going to be great. And it was, for a bit, before it wasn’t. And then it got worse. I mean, it never got really bad. That was almost an issue, how bad it didn’t get. The robots ensured it didn’t get bad bad, which was worse in some way, because it’s like, we can’t even have a riot anymore.

 

So they came up with this recruitment thing, which was a good idea. I mean, things were heading that way already, but it made sense. It’s the future and humans work in recruitment. The only work we do, in fact. Of course, the robots do it better, but we ask them not to. It bums us out having them around, doing it better than us. They were obliging, really. I think they feel sorry for us.

 

What we do, is we recruit. We recruit one another into recruitment. You come to me for a job in recruitment, say, and I recruit you into a better agency than the one you’re in. Later, I come to you and you recruit me and so on. It sounds pretty pointless when you spell it out like that, although it’s anything but. There’s a star system and a hierarchy and everything. It’s pretty cool. I was a scout and now I’m a junior. In a couple of years I’ll be made administrator, I hope.

 

It’s just annoying this is how it turned out, that’s all. We were so scared at first, but that was part of the appeal. I remember in the weeks before we got them, saying “there’s gonna be a big war, man”, you know, for a laugh. And you’d be hushed for saying it, especially if the children were around, but you could see in everyone’s eyes this sick relish. You could see people were gunning for it, that’s all.

 

  1. It’s been an exhausting few decades, but I’m happy to have kept busy. I get home from the agency every night with a shooting pain in my left knee. I won’t have it checked out. Next week is my recruitment consultation. They’re discussing taking me to the seventh level. I’m nervous because I don’t know what it means. We don’t see many of those around. I just hope there’s something for me to do. I like to keep busy.

 

No sign of that war yet, although it’s not for lack of trying. The other week they asked to have a look at my knee. “We really think you should have it checked out, doc. Come on, we can fix it in under five nanoseconds. You’ll be more spritely than a young boy afterwards!”. I say to hell with them and kick over a CPU. It doesn’t do much. But I feel their sentiments shifting. I sense soon, retaliation.

 

I climb into bed next to my wife and bring up the gammy knee, and how much pain I’m in, and that I need love. But I can smell them all over her. She says she has a terrible headache and can’t it wait til morning? She knows I have to get up early and how busy I am. I lie awake as she drifts off, my mind on my consultation, then to the knee, next, the war: and I wonder, whose side will she take? What side is she on?  I fall asleep perspiring, drifting, licking, scheming.

 

(-)

 

Sam Mills is a writer from Berkshire, England, currently teaching in Lisbon. He is the author of ‘Nightmares’, a collection of short stories with themes of British suburbia and the internet.

 

 

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