Author : Aiza Mohd
There’s a funeral being held in the junkyard today.
Its mourners come in a neat little line of twelve, proceeding in that beautiful precision of steps that only them bots ever have. When I was young, I learned to tell for myself whenever the girl at the ticket counter, the man falling asleep behind the bar, the bored kid mopping up the aisles, was nothing but cogs and gears. Wasn’t the flawless face. Wasn’t no lack of expression, either. Was the way they walked. No human ever walks the exact way the human body was designed to walk. But bots do.
The pallbearers arrive, lowering a dark coffin onto a clearing in the heap. Eddy and I had made that clearing ourselves just a couple hours ago, though we hadn’t a clue what it was for then. Just following orders.
Eddy’s staring, too, his forearms crossed and resting on the handle of his spade. ‘Don’t cha think them wooden ones turned out kinda nice?’ he says.
I look at him. ‘Wooden?’
‘Sure. Where d’you think the junk timber went? They wanna make ‘em outta waste now. Green robots.’
‘And these ones are wooden?’ Some of the mourners are weeping. One of them has white flowers in her hand.
‘So Jackie tells me.’ Eddy’s ex-wife. She works here too. They make small talk when they happen upon each other, as though the 32 years together had never taken place.
‘Well, I bet they ain’t the important bots. Important bots probably made outta gold.’
‘It’d surprise you,’ he says in return. ‘Plenty of them VIP bots is made outta cheap material come outta landfills like this one. Singaporean President? Made of e-waste.’
‘Parts of him used to belong to Acer. Ha, ha ha!’
I look back at the funeral proceedings. The bot holding the flowers lays her bouquet coffin-side. The others bow their heads a little as she does this. Stood up like that in the middle of all that junk, with their slender black silhouettes leaning against the sunset to the west, they remind me of a scene from a movie that I’d seen as a boy.
Pretty soon, them bots start leaving the ‘yard single file, and it’s time for me and Eddy to get to work. The bots don’t dig any grave of their own – that’s what me and Eddy are here for.
As we approach the coffin, the late afternoon light glances off a silver plaque on the coffin-lid. Eddy pauses, then scuttles over to it like the sparkle-loving magpie that he is.
‘What’s it say?’ I ask him.
He’s crouched down by the thing, without a shred of respect for the dead. ‘Isaac Benjamin Crocker,’ he murmurs, callused fingers running wonderingly over the silver plaque. ‘I heard that name before. Ain’t he one of them Silicon Valley fellas?’ He pauses in a moment of conscience. Then he heaves and pries open the damn coffin-lid with his own bare hands.
‘Eddy, what in the name of Teddy Roosevelt –’ and there I stop, because I’m staring, not at the disassembled anatomy of a machine in the box, but a person. A human man.
He’s been perfectly embalmed, Isaac B. Crocker, probably by mechanical hands, but a small card been tucked under his crossed hands. My own hands trembling – very much alive over his – I pick it up and read it aloud to Eddy’s questioning face.
‘Glory be our father.’
Ain’t it peculiar how interchangeable trash and treasure are?