Author: Jeremy Nathan Marks
Why wo ee? why wo ee? an’ wo ee an’ wo ee?
All day long, the droid kept entering and exiting the room. It opened the curtains at dawn and levitated Kurt while he slept. It turned his body, fluffed his pillows, and lowered the room temperature in anticipation of the sun’s arrival. It was an attentive droid, but Kurt didn’t notice it, for Kurt was always asleep.
“What is he thinking, mom?” Kurt’s grandson asked.
“He’s remembering his remarkable life,” the boy’s mother said.
“Is the droid his friend?”
“Men don’t make friends with droids,” she replied as the droid handed her a cocktail. She sat by her father’s bedside and sipped it, puckering her lips. “A woman would have made a better one,” she said but kept drinking.
Kurt’s grandson went to the window and stared at the trees. He saw a forest that beggared belief. There were baobabs fifteen feet wide and eucalyptus three hundred feet high. Fruit bats the size of small aircraft flew overhead, and the boy could hear through the thick window glass the sounds of howling monkeys and croaking frogs that sounded like they could have swallowed a human whole.
For hours, the boy stared out the window at this remarkable wilderness that looked nothing like the steel, tin, and plastic world he knew. Sometimes he would turn to his mother and say, “Did you see? Did you see that mummy?” And his mother, with cocktail-glazed eyes, would mumble, “Yes. Yes. Yes” before falling asleep.
Kurt meanwhile travelled through the forest outside his bedroom window. As he went, he invented the trees and creatures that held his grandson spellbound. With a little device in hand, Kurt wrote the code that produced two and three-toed sloths and toucans with beaks the size of shofars. He coded a spider the size of a dinner plate which stood at the base of a eucalyptus holding half a dozen koalas tripping on its psychotropic leaves. His grandson shivered at the spider but couldn’t take his eyes off it. When he turned to alert his mother, she was passed out.
Kurt had been building his forest for months. But he didn’t know this because there was no day or night in his sleep. Kurt’s original intention was to make a forest the size of Lichtenstein, a kingdom he wanted to visit but had never seen. So, he kept creating until he had a forest that covered sixty-two square miles (160 square kilometers), the precise dimensions of his beloved unitary-parliamentary semi-constitutional monarchy.
But Kurt felt his ambitions growing. When his forest reached the intended dimensions, he still could not stop coding. He decided to keep going until something bade him stop.
Kurt knew his grandson was watching what he was doing. Before he had fallen asleep, Kurt had seen the boy just once. But now his work was all about the boy. “My little Lichtenstein,” he said. “This forest is for you.”
At one point during the long day of the boy’s window vigil, the droid brought him a cocktail. It had watched him watching Kurt’s handiwork and felt the child deserved a reward for such devotion.
The boy accepted the drink and the droid withdrew to a corner of the room to watch the cocktail take effect on the child. For several minutes nothing happened, but then the boy saw something startling. In the middle of the forest an old man appeared. He was carrying a small device and with every step he took, a tree appeared. And after a tree, some strange creature would materialize, animals he had never before seen.
And so, the boy assumed his grandfather was God.
From deep in his forest, Kurt turned and waved at the boy who had appeared in a floating window only a few hundred feet away. His grandson’s mouth was agape; his eye widened, and his face flushed with excitement and wonder. Kurt chuckled and thought, “That droid’s given him a drink. It makes my daughter sleep but sends the boy on a trip.”
“Watch this, Little Lichtenstein!” Kurt called out. And he made it snow.
“Do you know what this is?” he shouted toward the window. “Do you know what this white stuff is that is falling from the sky?” The question was a test. Kurt wanted to know whether his daughter was giving the boy the education he deserved. Kurt had always said that education was the sine qua non of life, and he had also known that his own flesh and blood had never understood what that meant. “You need to dream things that never were!” he always told her.
“Tell me what this is!” Kurt ordered. But the look on his grandson’s face made it clear he had no idea what he was witnessing.
It was just as Kurt had thought. He knew that his stay in his forest had to end. Sure, the droid could attend to his body, but what about the boy? It was clear his mother had neglected him. So, Kurt shut down the device in his hand, and his beloved forest disappeared.
To his grandson, the world beyond the window suddenly turned into an impenetrable darkness. All he saw was a blackness that, the longer he stared at it, the more it seemed it would come through the glass and swallow him
But before the boy could deliver himself to his fright, he heard a voice behind him say, “Son, it’s time you met me, your grandfather.” The boy turned and saw a droid in the doorway. His grandfather was lying in bed with his eyes open, but the voice belonged to that machine.