Author: Christopher Lee Buckner
The End of All Things Good
Alice-8000, a fancy name that meant nothing beyond the fact it made the android seem more advanced than it really was led the Johnson’s into their new room.
Speaking in an upbeat voice, Alice stated to the husband and wife, “And this is your room. While it is simple, as you can see it is also quite cozy; certainly, a better standard of living than you must be used to.”
Mr. Johnson snorted his contempt for the machine’s presumption, but decided against voicing a correction. His life hadn’t been amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but he was happy and content with his little piece of the world that he shared with Mrs. Johnson for the past eight years.
The room was simple, no larger than a typical hotel room at a modest resort one might find in Florida this time of year. Two beds sat in the center of the room, an old fashion statement that a man and wife did not share the same blankets. The second the machine was out of the room, he figured he would push the beds together, if they weren’t bolted to the floor. There was a nightstand between the beds and on it was a bright red phone.
“The phone, of course, is for internal use only. No signal can be reached beyond these walls, for yours and the rest of residences safety,” Alice said, seemly reading Mr. Johnson’s mind as he glanced at the phone.
On the opposite side of the beds were two nightstands with two identical lamps, each with a newly printed Bible placed along the edge. A neat desk, two chairs, a lime-green wallpaper, and mid-century yellow nylon carpet was on the floor. The only other room was a bathroom a few feet from the left bed, but it did not have a shower, just a sink and toilet.
Mrs. Johnson nearly leaped into her husband’s arms as she jerked violently, tightening her grip around his arms until his skin turned white.
“Oh, don’t be worried, Mrs. Johnson. I assure you, nothing outside can hurt you in here. We are well protected from any intruder that might attempt to gain entry,” Alice said.
“Are you certain? People are getting pretty desperate,” Mr. Johnson asked.
“Oh, I assure you, our illustrious benefactors made certain this domicile will keep you and your wife quite safe for the foreseeable future. Now, I will leave you two to your new home. I’m most certain you are overcome with joy and wish to get some rest. Dinner will be served at 5’oclock on the dot. Do try to not be late—the kitchen is serving apple pie tonight for dessert,” Alice said.
“What about our things?” Mr. Johnson asked.
“Oh. You will not be needing those anymore. Everything you could ever want will be provided for you,” Alice answered.
“We had family photos in our bags!” Mr. Johnson said.
Alice seemed to freeze for a moment, taken aback by his sudden outburst before finally returning to her typical cheery behavior.
“I’m sorry. If there was something of importance among your things, you should bring the subject to the attention of your unit liaison. Now if there aren’t other questions, I do have other guests that must be acquainted with their rooms.”
“What about –” Mr. Johnson tried to speak, but Alice ignored him as she left the room.
Another loud boom echoed in the distance, far, far above Mr. and Mrs. Johnson’s head, causing a flickering of dust to drift down from the ceiling.
Mrs. Johnson collapsed on the edge of the left bed, sobbing uncontrollably.
“Please dear. We don’t have the time for more crying,” Mr. Johnson said. He wanted to be more sympathetic, but just couldn’t bring himself to care right now, even for his wife.
“We should have stayed up there with our children and our family!” she shouted.
“You know we couldn’t. We were selected. Neither of us had any choice. If we hadn’t been… saved, we would be ash right now,” he said.
“The better for it, too!” she said.
Mr. Johnson didn’t know what to say that hadn’t already been said. So he threw his arms around his wife and allowed her sorrow to pour out, as tears rolled down the brown and yellowed stripped jumpsuit that had been given to him and his wife to wear.
In a low and loving voice, Mr. Johnson spoke to his wife, saying, “We’ll be all right. I don’t know how, but everything will be fine. I promise you, I can make this work for us, no matter how long it takes.”