Author: Mandira Pattnaik
Summer 2039, Tokyo: Goats read the evening news on TV. Goats? Yes! Take it, or leave it!
Not goats, Sam! Kamala had once corrected me. I had been silent then. It’s so much better to buy peace with your spouse even if you know better! I had worked on a farm at one time and know for a fact—goats don’t have brains! For Heavens, neither do these cleverly camouflaged machines! I had thought of yelling. And faces? You put a goat’s head or your own!
The TV screen flickers like the lights did months ago, above the operating table. Distinctly annoying, even beyond my closed eyelids….my heavily drawn breaths, each an enormous effort, murmurs, a shuffle. I can’t remember it all. Only flashes. Still, at the Trauma Center days later, I remember hearing voices, probably of nurses, alluding to the miracle that my survival was, when all the other occupants of the car had succumbed….
One goat enters the room, clumsy and irreverent. Who’s he?
Dad, here’s your medicines.
Then, this goat—is—my son. Okay! This is Teddy! The same Teddy who once wanted to make a business out of programmed goats. Tonight, he broadens his mouth to the precise measurement I’ve come to understand as his mirth. He wafts out of the room.
Kamala! I call out to that pesky female who has lived with me for… I forget so much…okay… Twenty-five years!
Kamala! Wives don’t listen to us anymore! I murmur under my breath.
She appears. I ask for some Chardonnay. She nods, slips away.
Lila says, Hi! She sways her delicate silk gown in front of the mirror, looks just like her mother twenty-five years ago.
How do I look?
Her little tapered eyes twinkle. I understand she’s pretending to go out on a date!
Well, miss? I answer, without actually looking.
How do I look?
Yes! Think you look just perfect.
She adjusts her tensile ribbon, eyes still on her reflection.
Below my window, tiny lights come up in the hazy evening, just as hazy as we drove that night—dark, save for the occasional headlamps of cars on the opposite lane flashing onto my eyes. Lila sat on the front passenger seat, fidgeted. Teddy was talking gibberish causing Kamala to fret. I’d stepped on the pedal hoping to make it to the Bay sooner. I could almost smell the sea. Then it had happened—a loud screeching sound, the distinct smell of blood, wails of ambulances, police sirens, and numbness all over my body….
I couldn’t do without them. Work of roboticists—they remade my family. Exact replicas to stand in for my dead family, to keep me from lapsing into insanity.
Kamala pours my drink, asks in the identically replicated voice of my wife if I need something else.
When I answer in the negative, she recedes near the potted Calendula and plugs herself to the socket.