A Heart That Lives

A Heart That Lives

A Heart That Lives

In the world of 2046, a routine job was a blessing. And although Mr. Elksworth had some issues with the aforementioned manna from heaven, he took it upon him to make the most of it. Occasionally, he even managed to spend an hour or two doing extra-time.

A ten-to-three job wasn't Mr. Elksworth's first choice. He despised it. It made him feel unworthy when he would see his colleagues — his bot colleagues getting a nine-to-five job.

It was indeed true that at some point in their lives, the generation before Mr. Elksworth thought a run-of-the-mill job was a free ticket to hell. Now it was almost hilarious that people were begging to the seventh star for that free ticket.

As predicted by the geniuses of that time, technology had stolen their means of livelihood.

Today, as he walked towards his home, even though there were auto-motion bikes and air suction entrances in every next shop, Mr. Elksworth's eyes were fixed on them: The robots. With their mechanical smiles and pre-recorded greetings, they welcomed the customers to the stores.

Mr. Elksworth let out a bitter laugh. They were still using the preliminary form of artificial intelligence.

He knew he could design better robots. But if he actually took that as his profession, he'd have to sign a document stating he'd only work for the government for the rest of his life. That meant he'd have to stay away from his family to maintain the seal of secrecy.

He could either leave his family, design robots and earn more money or he could just continue his life as a typical office worker and endure the competition with the same robots he could have designed.

Mr. Elksworth pursed his lips in distaste. The protocols were pretty screwed after the presidential elections back in twenty-sixteen.

He liked the world as it was forty years before when he was a child and technology hadn't taken over.

And, Mr. Elksworth tried all the programs — or, rather the lack of them — in his house to make it his perfect dwelling. His son, seldom to the inclinations of ordinary children, was a lover of the outdoors. His wife adored her man although he wasn't one of the most important people in the city.

Mr. Elksworth knocked on the entrance door of his home. Instead of installing a DNA-scan, auto-unlock door, he preferred the old system where people were greeted by people and not an electronic voice.

Mrs. Elksworth opened the door, registering the face of her husband. Then, she smiled.

"How was your day, Alton?"

Alton's smile faltered as he glanced at the spotless, porcelain skin of his wife. He handed her his office bag and recomposed his demeanor.

"Tiring, as usual," he told Margaret and her eyebrows slumped down with sympathy. "How have you been?"

"Wonderful," she replied instantly. Alton nodded and then loosening his tie, he walked towards his son's room.

Ambrose sat up on his bed when he noticed footsteps approaching him.

"Hey, Dad."

"Hello, Boy," Alton asked, smiling softly at his five-year-old. He looked just like this morning, round face sprinkled with little freckles and matted hair. Except for his big brown eyes. There were wet circles beneath them. "How was your day?"

Ambrose hesitated. "Fine."

Alton looked at his son for a brief moment, noticing the way he kicked his shoes on the ground repeatedly. Something had made him uneasy. "Don't pull the fine card on me. What's wrong, Son?"

"I said, I'm fine." No matter what how hard he tried to persuade Alton, his damp cheeks betrayed the lie Ambrose was trying to pull off.

"You're lying," Alton stated simply, then mentally cringed at his tone. He could never do Father. "Don't lie to me, Ambrose."

Ambrose blinked at his father for a few moments and then he broke into pools of tears. "Dad, T-This big guy from our school tried to push me from the t-terrace. I was so scared, Dad."

Alton clutched Ambrose into a bear hug, whispering that he would visit the principal and talk this out face-to-face. He couldn't believe bullying in schools hadn't stopped. Still. Ambrose was silent for a while and Alton was beginning to think that he had indeed calmed him down.

"Dad?"

"Yes, Son?"

Ambrose looked up at his father. He wore a broken expression on his face and Alton's heart squeezed at the sight.

"Mom believed me when I said I was fine. She didn't even ask me twice."

Those few words shook Alton to his core. His heart skipped a beat and then when it picked up the pace again, it thumped wildly as if it would break out from his chest any moment.

"It's like she doesn't see through me. She used to see through me, Dad. Mom just isn't the same anymore."

Alton couldn't hear another word. He shifted a few inches away from Ambrose and stood up, ignoring the sobs of his son that were dying out. He walked towards his bedroom, hoping to find his wife there.

And indeed, he found her. Margaret was holding an invitation card sent by Alton's colleague, Susan.

"Susan has invited you to meet her at a local restaurant," she said, holding out the card which smelled faintly like roses.

Alton stared at Margaret. If she was his Margaret, she would have known Susan had invited him on a date. She would have yelled at her again, saying to keep her paws off her man.

But she didn't, and it didn't look like she was going to do it anytime soon. That's when Alton realized he couldn't run away from the truth. Not anymore.

He slowly walked up to her, turned her around in a swift motion and pressed a tiny switch that blended with her skin color near the back of her right ear. As he watched her wife's eyes dimming to a hollow space and her head slumping down due to lack of power, the memories of his wife's last, living breath flooded into his mind.

It was six months ago when Margaret, his Margaret, had died in a road accident. Two weeks later, he built a thing that looked exactly like her. He gave in to the technology he cursed every new day so he didn't have to say goodbye.

However, hearts were better when living.

Alton stood before his wife — his robot wife — and tears of goodbye rolled down his cheek. Before pressing the auto-dismantle button, he leaned in and whispered the last words in her ear.

"I have to deactivate you. I'm sorry."

•••

Thank you for reading! Any comments are appreciated.