Author : Brent Benton
Marsha leaned back and surveyed the sky from the park bench. “Johnny, will you take me dancing?”
“Dancing? Marsha, how can you talk about dancing when things have gone to hell? They force us to sleep outside and barely feed us, and you talk about dancing? Where?”
She gazed at one especially bright star, and said. “We’ll think of a place.” She was silent for a moment, “Yesterday, a janitorial-bot said dog packs were spotted in Jersey.”
Johnny leaned closer and whispered, “I’ve made contact with a guy named Tony. He’s ready to resist. Maybe there’s something…”
“Johnny, it’s no use. It’s over. We need to live whatever life we have left as best we can. There’s no more.”
A police-bot approached; a humanoid, phase-shift array version with tactile sensors.
“Hey, O’Toole,” Johnny yelled. “We’re going dancing. Whatdaya think of that?”
“My identifier is 7X307, not ‘O’Toole’. The robot’s voice was staccato-like. “Our Unique Identification Authority requires proper identifiers. Dancing is forbidden also. You should know that, human.”
“My identifier is ‘Johnny’, and hey, we’re only kidding. There’s nowhere to dance, right?”
“You are here every night, I know you. I am tasked to remove humans from Central Park at curfew. You are the only ones here. You must leave.”
The yellow light from a nearby lamp illuminated the three. A chilly wind penetrated the pair’s heavy clothing.
“See that star, O’Toole,” asked Marsha? “The bright one, shimmering with the blue tinge, over there. It’s my favorite.”
The bots compound eye whirred skyward. “That is Gamma 2XT9..”
“No, O’Toole, it’s not Gamma ‘anything’. I call it Alexandria. Loosen up. Every night you come by and run us off. Police-bots are so uptight.
“Our problems with humans are diminishing. The War Treaty allows living humans to continue, but not to breed. You will ultimately terminate and we will then have unhindered control. Please leave now.”
“Hey 7X307,” said Johnny, ignoring the directive. “I’m serious now, how many humans are left? Can’t hurt to tell us.”
“I do not know; a few hundred perhaps.” Then he continued, “I have instructions to warn you that packs of dogs have become a problem. Though we have programs to eliminate them, they are quite resilient. But, they have only been observed in the Jersey sector. Their food supply is limited and they attack humans. The Syndicate Leaders are sorry for this inconvenience and advise watchfulness. My duty is done. It is no longer our concern. Take measures to avoid the packs.”
“We’ll trust in the stars, O’Toole,” said Marsha.
“Trusting in stars is not logical. Dancing is also not logical or legal. Please leave the park now.”
The pair left and crossed Madison. The vast city was empty, dark, and quiet. Rows of deserted buildings and gloomy streets offered almost unlimited sleeping possibilities. A cold breeze slid easily off the Hudson and temperatures fell.
As they did every night, they found a doorway in an empty building and crawled as far back as possible, out of the wind. Then, pulling their heavy, dingy coats tight and dragging their stocking caps down over their ears they embraced, curled up in the corner, and fell asleep. Then they dreamed beautiful dreams. They saw a long forgotten Broadway with music and chorus lines, they heard children laughing and running in the park, and they found themselves out among the stars where they danced with Alexandria and her companions.
In the shadows of the deserted street pairs of yellow eyes suddenly appeared. Dark forms crouched, moving quietly, slowly creeping forward, converging on the pair dreaming in the doorway.