The Automation

A shrill beeping rings in my ears. Painfully, it penetrates the darkness that has become my mind. I grasp to remember what I am doing here. Stumbling, I reach out to the shadows and low voices in the hallway. They are discussing something important. I look down at my hands. They are pale and shaking in a way that seems unnatural and an electrical buzzing starts creeping up my spine. The vibrations eventually join the incessant tone echoing in my ears. Memories fade faster, its like rewinding a movie, deleting the story as it goes further backwards in time. My name dissolves. Disorientation sets in as I find myself unable to do anything but sit on the cold, hard floor. The shadows and voices materialize into shapes as they approach me. I start to shake in an uncontrollable way as my head drops down to my left shoulder. Its heavy like metal as the whining and crackling become unbearable. “Turn it off!” a voice booms overhead. My eyelids slide halfway down with a machine like click, I can still see part of the room. A few tall figures are standing over me, one may have his hands on the exposed section of my neck. “Where is it?” another voice questions. Cold fingers grab at the back of head. Depersonalization begins as I sit there shaking and beeping, unable to move and unable to think. A final zap as I feel the switch turn me off and I descend into an eternal void.

                My eyes instantly open. My body is heavy. My mind is blank. As I blink away the confusion, I try to stand but my limbs will not cooperate. I glance down at my legs and feet. They rest on a cold metal surface. Remembering what has happened is impossible, what I know is that I have a body and I cannot move it. Overhead hangs a bright beaming light and it stings my half open lids. The room is cold and silent. It is the silence that unnerves me, the only vibrations I hear are in my own head. Gears churning and spinning away, searching for an answer. Just then I finally hear a sound, someone is opening a door to my left. I quickly close my eyes. Another enters the room. I sense them both standing over me, evaluating me.

                “What should we do with this one?” the first voice inquires.

                “It needs to be reprogrammed” the other replies “It should not be waking up like that.”

My mind starts racing. Reprogrammed? Waking up? I think I should hold my breath in case they find me breathing faster but then I realize it. I am not breathing. My heart, it isn’t pounding. My eyes click open a shave as I try to make out the people standing over me. One is taller, a man, with light blond hair. The other man is much shorter with black curly hair. Close.

               “I told you this would eventually happen!” the tall one says incredulously.

                “Well, I didn’t think it would happen when we were still making and fixing these things!” says short man. His voice is shrill and nervous. I can feel the fear in the room, its thick and heavy.

Tall one sighs, “She’s off for now, so we can go back and debug the code you wrote.”

“You mean the code we wrote.” Spits shorty. “At this point we will be in this code review for weeks to try and figure out why one the bots decided to wake up” I hear him shaking his head.

They stomp out of the room and slam the door. I am cold and heavy on the table. Still heart and lungs and a whirring mind.

                I wake up with a loud gasp. Heart pounding, I sit straight up in my bed. The bright sunlight pours in through a crack in the curtains. It is as warm and soft as the cozy red blanket that is nestled all around me. Cold sweat rolls down my face and down my back. The sheets are soaked in it. Glancing at the clock I realize I’ve only been asleep for a few hours. Its 2 o’clock. That was a nap. I physically shake off the dream I just had, my dark hair is a tangled mess around my pale shoulders and arms. I slowly stand up out of bed and stretch away the sleep. I can hear children laughing and running around downstairs. The smell of cookies wafts up the stairs. I pause at the landing. The house is hazy and warm. My eyes still blurry from my nap blink and focus. Each stair creaks as I make my way down.

                “Mommy!” screams a young girl, her blond curls bouncing all around her excited face, “We made you cookies while you were sleeping!!”

                “How was your nap?” a deep voice asks from the kitchen. As I enter another child, much smaller, grabs me by the legs and looks up at me with big brown eyes with dark hair getting a little too long. He needs a haircut soon.

                “Momma eat cookie?” he asks me softly.

                “That sounds sooo good” I say excitedly. I walk over to my husband. He is by the stove, just taking the chocolate cookies out and they smell divine. Giving him a quick kiss, I thank him for letting me have a cat nap.

                “Are you ok?” he asks, worry furrowed in his brow. His blond hair shines like gold in the sunlight.

                “I’m ok” I say, brushing off his concern. “Still sleepy, you know…I’m not awake yet.”

We all grab a cookie and sit down to enjoy. The children happily devouring the treats with chocolate faces and simple chattering.

                “Did you have another nightmare?”

I look at him and think about his question. Is it a nightmare that I have been having? Or is it something more than that? Every time a wake up the life I am in seems less and less real. My home slightly off, almost like some one crept in the night and moved all the furniture 4 inches to the right. My children, a boisterous five-year-old and a timid three-yea-old seem less and less like my own. I look into their curious eyes and a see them look back at me differently…suspiciously. My husbands increased worry about me has me scared and guilty for even falling asleep in the middle of the day when we should be out on a Saturday running errands or working on the house. There are just these times when the tiredness takes over and I have no choice but to lay down and go somewhere else. Those dreams that last years and years somehow in only a few hours. Limbs trying to wake up, but are heavy and stiff from an eternity of stillness.

                “No,” I lie “Not this time.” He gives me a sideways look as he bites into his cookie. Gooey chocolate sticks to his chin.  I smile and enjoy mine. I look at the children. My daughter, besides the blond hair looks exactly like me, my son looking exactly like my husband but with my dark hair. They are so little, just babies. I get up and look out the back patio window. Our yard is lush and green with June abundance. The sun shines on me and warms my cheeks. I get Deja vu. I hate that.

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. Playtime. Groceries. Dinner. Bath. Bedtime. I flop on the couch, soggy and exhausted. I never thought I’d be a mother and yet here I am. I make a cup of peppermint tea and unwind. My husband walks into the living room.

“Do you want to talk about it?” he looks at me strangely.

“About what?” I snap. I look into my tea cup. I don’t remember drinking it.

“You just aren’t yourself lately, Sam, I am worried about you…” he trails off. His eyes and face are lined and tired. I look away and feel the tears fill my eyes, but I quickly blink them away. The truth is, he is right. How can I explain that I think when I am dreaming I am somewhere else. Another life, another…dimension?

“I’m just tired, you know, the kids need so much from me.” The tears start rolling down my face now. He sits by me and holds me tight, kissing my head softly. I am lucky to have such a wonderful partner and such beautiful children and comfortable life, yet something isn’t right. I have given up control and let whatever this power around me is drive me. Do I get up or stay? Eat a cookie or have tea? Sleep or wake up? Something or someone is deciding for me, I know it.

“I am just going to go to bed” I say, weak and confused. One more squeeze and he lets me go. I feel him staring at me as I get up and go upstairs. Creaks all the way up. I find myself in front of my bathroom mirror. I lean in close and inspect my face. My dark fringe frames my pale skin. I have it braided over my shoulder, long and heavy. My green eyes stare into themselves. My nose almost touching the glass, I stare right into the black pupils. Its impossibly black. They are almost pulsing. I start to feel a little dizzy as the background spins and shifts around me. Its only me and these portals in my face. I feel like my body is shaking but I can’t look away. I am too far gone.

                Legs heavy and unmoving. Arms glued to my side. I awaken in the same room where I was before. Still cold and metallic, still no heartbeat, still no breathing. I hear a clock ticking in the distance. Each click ticking in my brain, chipping away at my sanity. There is a window in the room. Its night. A full succulent moon shines in. I follow the moon rays to my body. I peer down at my lifeless vehicle and see it. Soft moon rays illuminate machine guts. The clicking is me. My insides churning and spinning and ticking with gears and wires. Cold metal skeleton. I’d gasp if I have lungs. Cry if I had tears. As I lay on the hard table, I try to figure out why I am here. I must be broken, they are fixing me. Only this is just a dream. I am a human, a mother. The same two men walk into the room again. I try to sit up. I try to speak.

“Well, the hardware seems to be in good shape, “says the shorter man poking at my torso, “but the code is definitely screwy.” He stops and looks over at the taller blond man. He looks familiar. I feel strong fingers touch something in the back of my head.

“Why are her eyes open like that?” he asks. He frustrated. “Something is going on, I feel like she knows what is going on and if that’s the case she may not be the only one.”

“Then we are in deep trouble” says his partner. He runs his hands though his curly hair. I don’t know this man, but the other one’s voice is deep and familiar.

“She’s not acting like she used to” he pauses and looks closer, his face almost touching mine. Blond hair like gold in the moonlight. Just then my legs give a jolt. My arms involuntarily reach out and grab his jacket.

“Where am I?!”I cry out. I sit up and scramble off the table. Fear curls down my spine with tendrils of steel.

“Get her!” the blond yells as he tries to catch me. I narrowly escape his arms and run out into the hallway. I’m running to find a way out, a door, anything, but the hallway is long and lengthens as I approach the end. Footsteps pound close behind. The scenery unfolds before me, blank wall after blank wall, cold dark hallway forever.

“Mommy?” “Mommy…” sticky little hands grab at my face. I see two little faces staring at me from my bedside. I groan and look over towards the clock. Its way too early to be awake, even if the birds are chirping.

“Ok kiddos, let’s get some breakfast, ok?” I am met with squeals of delight. We all trod down the stairs and get to work making some pancakes and fruit salad. We let daddy sleep in. As we sit down to tuck into our meal I realize my daughter is looking at me eyes wide as her pancakes.

“What’s wrong, honey?” I ask her terrified little face.

“You are not my mommy.”

“And now why would you say that?”

“Your eyes are funny.”

“Oh? Funny? Like silly?”

“No… they are not mommy’s eyes.” I don’t know what to say to her unusual question. Just at the right time my husbands walks into the kitchen.

“Do my eyes look weird or something?” I ask him, opening them up wide to look at him.

“Hmm, maybe more beautiful now?” he replies, giving my shoulders a squeeze. His hands are strong and warm. They move up towards my neck. I quickly pull away.

“Ah, please don’t touch my neck there, its sore” I say rubbing the back of my hairline. He pauses and gives me a strange look, then apologizes and eats his breakfast.

“So, I am almost finished with that website I’ve been working on. It’s coming together really nicely, only a few bugs to be worked out and then it will be done.” I glance at him. His eyes are blue and tired. I know the website he has been coding keeps him up all night. He is rarely in bed at the same time as me. We finish up breakfast and clear the table. He cleans the kitchen while I play with the kids. It’s a nice lazy Sunday.

“Hey Sam?” he calls from the kitchen.

“Yes?”

“Can you come in my office really quick? I need to ask your opinion on this project I’ve been working on.” I slowly get up and make my way to his office. I start to get an uneasy feeling for no real reason. Fear starts to flush my cheeks. Déjà vu again. I knock on his door, and he gets up to let me in. Inside there are many machine parts and wires and motors and computers.

“Come over here and tell me what you think of this site.” He looks at me smiling. I walk over to his monitor where he has the page pulled up, another monitor displays the code…it looks like an alien language to me. I am having a hard time seeing what’s in front of me as my vision gets inexplicably blurry. I start to say something but nothing comes out. I’ve realized that halfway through my episode he has locked the door behind me. I feel him stand behind me, he is much taller than me. His hand slowly makes its way up the small of my back all the way to my neck. At the back of my neck is where I feel his strong hands hold me in place. I try to turn around but he is too strong and my body is not cooperating with me.

“I knew there was something wrong with you” he whispers in my ear. His breath is warm on my skin. As my vision goes in and out, I begin to see the website he’s been working on. ControlaRobot.com, and lots of them to choose from. I see the menu to the left with cars and spider like ones, animals, even ones that paint and play music…and then I see it. My face. I’m available to drive. I hear him laugh slowly and deeply behind me. He whispers something else in my ear but a cannot hear it. My world divided has come together as one. I am a machine. Closing my eyes, I feel his fingers poke the back of my head to turn me off.