Author : David Henson
Bridget goes to the DBG keyscreen in the kitchen, taps in a detailed proposal for Frank and her to host Clarise Jenkins and Tremont West for dinner, then hits SEND.
“Please specify reason for engagement” appears on screen.
Bridget rolls her eyes and keys in “Getting to know a new couple.”
“Proposed menu includes wine. Please specify.”
Bridget shakes her head. “Chardonnay.”
“Please specify dessert.”
Bridget taps “Vanilla ice cream!” backspaces over the “!” and hits SEND.
“Proposal approved pending acceptance of Merlot and cheesecake.”
Bridget swears under her breath. “Accepted.”
“The DBG hopes you have a pleasant evening.”
“House Helper,” Frank calls out, “wine service.” A small, tracked robot whirs into the dining room carrying a tray with four glasses of Merlot. Tremont takes a glass, pushes his nose into it and inhales. Seeing Frank is about to laugh, Bridget casually squeezes his earlobe. Frank cries out.
“You OK?” Clarise says.
“Yes, just a little cramp in my … ear. You folks have one of these House Helpers?”
“Actually,” Tremont says, “the DBG approved us for the new release. Legs instead of rollers. Very maneuverable.”
As they wait for House Helper to bring salads, Frank twirls his fork. Bridget squeezes his knee under the table. “Were you delayed at the checkpoints?” she says. “I hate those things.”
“The Greeting Stations? I don’t mind them.” Clarise sips her wine. “We’ve nothing to hide.”
“We can’t take our safety for granted anymore.” Tremont adds.
“We’re hoping to visit the lake next weekend,” Bridget says. “Honey, is our trip approved?”
“Patience,” Clarise says. “I’m sure the DBG’s Recreation Optimization Division is giving your proposal a fair review.”
“I don’t understand why –” Bridget says, then feels Frank squeeze her knee “House Helper’s taking so long.”
“Everything’s better now with the DBG,” Tremont says.
Frank squeezes Bridget’s knee again. “More wine? House Helper, more wine,” she says.
Bridget brushes her teeth. Frank inspects his thinning hair. Clattering sounds come from the kitchen as House Helper puts away the dishes. At midnight the DBG keyscreen in their bedroom beeps. Bridget puts in her code and leans in.
“Bridget Simmons confirmed in place,” a computerized voice says.
Frank also gets confirmed, then returns to the bathroom.
“Curfew in force. Stay in place next six hours by order of the DBG,” the voice says.
“House Helper, turn down,” Bridget calls out, then goes to the window. The night flares as bright beams rake the streets. A drone, red camera eye blinking, swoops to her window and swings side to side to peer into the bedroom. Bridget slides left and right blocking its view. The drone darts faster till Bridget finally screams and closes the curtains. A siren blares.
Frank runs out of the bathroom. “Bridget!” he says, dropping a tube of Magic Hair. He runs to the window and flings open the curtains.
“I couldn’t take it any longer.”
“It was our private rebellion when we withheld them during The Donation. We agreed we’d never close them.”
House Helper rolls into the bedroom and starts pulling down the covers.
A voice outside booms: “Violation of Regulation RD/22 — Prohibition of Window Coverings. The Department of Benevolent Guidance will now take appropriate action. Who’s responsible?” Frank raises his hand before Bridget can stop him.
The drone emits a series of tones. House Helper rotates toward Frank and radiates a bright red light. He disappears. Bridget screams. “The DBG hopes you have a pleasant evening,” the voice outside says, and the drone zips away. House Helper turns back to the bed and starts fluffing the pillows.