The world faded in without a modicum of decency.
It is true that Selia rarely recognized her surroundings when she initially awoke. This always gave her moments of glistening hope… which then always popped like soap-filled bubbles when she recognized the usual grab-bag of twirly lights and whistles from the same place she had left the night before.
On this occasion however she had been shades of awake for minutes without recognizing anything whatsoever. Soon she would be able to stand and that would yield great confusion as to the direction to head in order to find a shower or some type of running water.
Her head needed washing.
As the blur cleared, across the room, through a series of stinging blinks, she thought she saw a familiar face. A familiar unsmiling, unblinking, metal face.
That idiot robot waiter that kept giving her watered down drinks!
She realized after a moment however that though this was in fact a robot, it was not one she knew. And it couldn’t be a waiter because it wasn’t wearing a bow tie.
All this thinking was making her unconscious.
Some hours later Selia awake again in approximately the same spot, momentarily became excited that she may have materialized into a magnificent utopia, then immediately settled back into the vapid reality of reality. This time however there was a familiar face, although not one she was entirely sure she liked.
Gullet: How is the young lady?
Selia: [Straining to understand why Gullet was appearing at her bedside, in her dreams, or in the universe more broadly. Also straining to talk or think properly.] Say what now who?
Gullet: Ah. Confused, I see. Somewhat of a puddle you fell into.
Selia: Puddle what?
Gullet: You had some ‘troubles’ madam, let us just say.
Selia: [Pondering] Troubles… [A flicker of confused anger] Someone or something was watering my drinks down….
Gullet: I suspect not madam… perhaps you mean ‘watered up’?
Selia: I, ah…. [Eyeing Gullet suspiciously] Hmmm….
Gullet: Do you need any help?
Selia: Probably. I do feel rather helpless. My arm…
Gullet: Your arm?
Selia: [Shaking her left arm] It’s okay, it’s here now. Cold though. And a little hot. [Pointing across the room at the robot that had just reappeared in her focus] What’s that thing!?
Gullet: That is Little Zip, a Betabot. I use it to test various new features. Currently it can juggle carrots while reciting poetry. Would you like to see?
Selia: No. Not at all. But thanks. Poetry makes me ill, actually. Like being on a boat or something.
Gullet: I do understand. Poetry is certainly quite sickening. Perhaps you would like a carrot?
Selia: Carrots also make me ill. Where am I?
Gullet: In what sense?
Selia: Well, the sense of location.
Gullet: Oh yes, well, this loca… this location is my home madam.
At this point a robot waiter did appear, replete with bow tie and serving tray. The tray carried a fizzing drink.
Gullet: You should like this. It will reduce the effects of the alcohol and poetry.
Selia: [Pointing at the waiter] Why is that thing here?
Gullet: It’s my Test Waiterbot. I make them you know. I don’t really need one at home since I do not consume liquids, however I do enjoy being served things. And the testing is important at times.
Selia: [Pointing now at Gullet] Errr….
Gullet: Have this concoction. It is carrot-free.
Selia suddenly had a belt of queasiness hit her that made her think that any concoction, despite coming from an axis of dementia such as Gullet and the Waiterbot, could not make things worse.
She took the drink and drank it.
It tasted good, but with a disgusting aftertaste. Though the aftertaste may have been from what was previously in her mouth. In any case she did feel instantly clearer, if not better.
Selia: Thank you I think.
Gullet: Good. That had previously only been tested on machines. Do you think this Politician’s Strike will ever break?
Selia: [Feeling various body parts and taken by surprise by the question] I don’t know or care. I probably should go to work.
Gullet: It is Sunday. You don’t work on Sunday any more than you care about politics.
Selia: I probably should go to church.
Gullet: You don’t go to church.
Selia: How do you know? [Moving on] Well I have to now to overcome this trauma. Wait, maybe this is church. It seems like one. Do they have robots at church?
Gullet: Mine does. So you never took an interest in your boyfriend’s work?
Selia: [Pausing momentarily] Well I have no interest in my own work, why should I have cared about his?
Gullet: What does interest you?
Selia: [Pausing less momentarily] There was a time when I thought my secrets would mean something. Might seem funny to say that. And it turns out it wasn’t funny – and they didn’t mean anything. And in the end the only thing that interested me about them was that they were secrets. [Scratching her head rigorously] I appear to have an itchy skull cavity.
Gullet: I have a secret. [Selia slowed her head scratching just enough to suggest she may be interested in his secret] I only pretend to walk with a limp because it seems to make people happy.
Selia: [Smiling slightly] That is really a terrible secret. It’s very nice of you though. I didn’t know you were so nice. I’m not nice at all. [Long pause, contemplating, smile dissipating] I didn’t really like Mark.
Gullet: [Leaning forward to a somewhat uncomfortable angle] What was wrong with him?
Selia: [Withdrawing somewhat as though she had realized an error] Oh I don’t know. Things the size of nothing but the weight of everything.
Gullet: Imperfection is frustrating. Why do you always refer to him in the past tense?
There was a long pause as Selia stopped scratching, rubbing and writhing long enough to allow a terrible wave of sadness to overwhelm her. She began crying, trembling slightly, her controlled confusion giving way to a cruel befuddlement of tears.
Selia: I guess… because I hope he will never be found.
She put a finger into her mouth and bit into it until her teeth crushed the bone.
Then she started screaming.