1. Don't Go Outside
A dome stood on the outskirts of the town. It was hemispherical, grey, and sporting only seven windows. It was not as lavish as the domes one would find in the town. The town domes would boast an aurora borealis bouquet of different colors, a retractable roof, a robot servant army, and at least ten lavishly decorated windows. This dome, however was tiny, old,a tad bit dusty, and not at all attractive.
To be truly honest, only two people in the whole epoch of six billions years of creation found the dome pleasant. One was a beautiful lady, full of wit, intelligence, charm, and charisma. She was quite lovely, and made good company and good tea to anyone who wasn’t a bloodthirsty serial killer, which was pretty much everyone in the town. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago, a sudden heart attack induced by overly sweeten tea. The other person, was her grandson. His name was Jaime Blake, and he was a person half empty of wit, and full empty of charm and charisma. He was tall, a bit thin, too dark on the hair, and too clean on the teeth. He always took his tea sweat. After all, what’s the point of living if you can’t drink your tea super saturated with sugar.
That Friday started off rather routinely for Jaime. He woke up at ten a.m., rose up from his bed, and proceed to the bathroom. A lone robot silently passed him and entered his bedroom to make the bed and dust the floor. Jaime entered the bathroom, and stood in front of the sink. He was feeling rather adventurous today, and selected the Alpine Pine toothpaste for his teeth brushing. The sink spread the toothpaste on a brush, and proceeded to methodically clean Jaime’s teeth,
Jaime rode the stairs down to the kitchen, passing by the front door which slid open for a second to reveal a blonde man with peculiar facial hair, before sliding close again.
The appearance of a blonde man had started to turn the rusted gears and clogs in Jaime’s head.
No, it wasn’t the bathroom, he already had used it. Maybe it was tea.
“Calculon, can I have some tea?” Jaime whispered sleepily between yawns,
The small, golden robot that went to make Jaime’s bed ran down the stairs and into the kitchen. He stopped for a second in front of Jaime to deliver a resounding, “Yes sir!” before continuing,
Jaime went over to the sofa, and lazily dropped down on its’ cushions. Three different screens turned on and floated near his head, One was showing the daily news, another the weather, and the third a cheaply written talk show. The screens were in a competition of who can make the viewer the most bored, The news story of a robot amassing an army of cat followers beat the jokes that the talk show host was attempting to deliver of an army of cats delivering the world to their robotic overlord.
Calculon came back from the kitchen. A small cup of tea was on his platter.
Jaime took the tea, after taking the time to shoo away the TV screens, The tea was a bold and well-sweeten camomile. It had a rich texture that lovingly awoke the drinker like a lover in the middle of the night. The tea shone with a wonderful yellow hue.
Yellow? Why was that important again?
Jaime walked to his front door, which slid habitually open and welcomed the warm sun to his morning. The blonde man was still standing outside.
Adam McAdam was a certain type of person. He was certainly blonde, certainly thin, and certain that his facial hair was absolutely charming. He was also certain that once he saw Jaime pass behind his sliding door, it would only take Jaime 15 minutes to recognize him. Adam McAdam was also certain that once Jaime did walk out to meet him, he would be holding a warm cup of camomile tea with him.
Fifteen minutes later, Adam was certainly correct.
“Let’s go outside today Jaime,” Adam announced,
Jaime gave him a tired stare, turned around and proceed to go back into his house.
“C’mon Jaime, don’t be like that.”
The sliding door closed after Jaime found his nearest sofa.
“We can’t spend our entire lives inside domes, Jaime! Let’s go camping.” Adam announced loudly.
“No! You can’t make me!” Jaime announced just as loudly.
Adam grunted a certain censored word. “Can I come in. . . at least?”
A small cylindrical robot with a rounded bottom stood in front of Jaime’s door as it slid open.
“Thank you, Calculon.” Adam tipped his hat to the robot.
“Yes, sir!” responded Calculon.
“Why don’t you change his personality every once in awhile?” asked Adam.
“Because his other personality is my grandmother. I don’t want anyone telling me how to drink my tea!” quipped Jaime.
“It isn’t very humane.” Adam was certainly correct, mostly because a robot isn’t humane at all.
“Don’t worry, he likes his personality, don’t you?” Jaime asked.
Adam decided to amuse himself. “Would you like me to change your personality setting?”
“But, you like this personality better, don’t you?”
The room was silent following Jaime’s comment.
Adam broke the silence, “It’s almost like it is starting to become sentinel.”
Jaime spun around and three screens flocked to his immediate vision. One of the screens was showing a robot apocalypse movie. “What brings you here?”
Adam sneaked out of Jaime’s peripheral vision and took a look at Calculon. “I’m planning a camping trip.”
“When is it?” Jaime felt obligated to ask.
Jaime drank his tea loudly, “yeah, that’s not going to happen.”
Adam was certain that it would. “The Southern woods are as harmless as your sofa.”
The Southern woods were also as glorious and large as Jaime’s sofa. Which is to say that they were a tiny packet of trees right before the southern gate to the town. To be frankly honest, the Southern Woods were mostly a park. But because no one in the town ever saw any woods, they assumed any collection of wood, no matter how sparing to be a woods.
“Eh,” replied Jaime.
“There is also a small cabin there, with indoor plumbing.”
The cabin was the smaller mystery of the town. No town member knew when the cabin was built, who commissioned it, and why would anybody erect themselves a cabin in the middle of those woods. The bigger mystery of the town was how did such a mysterious cabin have indoor plumbing.
“I have plenty of indoor plumbing in my own dome, thank you very much.” This was true, despite the toilet reliably overflowing on every fifth Wednesday of the month.
“Yes, that’s very lovely. But where’s the adventure. Why sit at toilet in your dome, flushing your unspeakables, when you can sit in a toilet in the woods, flushing your unspeakables!”
Yes, why indeed. “Because I can take as long as I care to make sure all my unspeakables are out of my body and in the toilet, that’s why!”
“Just think of the respect you’ll obtain for your toilet from the experience.”
Jaime took a big swig of his tea, leaving the cup empty. “I have plenty of respect for my own toilet, thank you very much.”
“Do you now?”
“Yes!” This was absolutely true, and one should always be cautious around the type of people who do not hold their toilet up to a plenty of respect. After all, the toilet has defeated cholera, foul body odor, bad relationship ends, and the morning hangover; and thus deserves our full respect.
“But how can you say that if you never even tried another man’s toilet.”
“Oh, lay off, Adam.” Jaime threw his hands up in the air. “I’m not going to your stupid camping trip!”
A main staple of literature is that once a character declares a course of action that will be digressive to the plot, something will happen to up-end his decision and continue the plot of the story. It is akin to putting one’s foot down, then realizing a second later that your foot is in a puddle of lava. So it should come to no reader’s surprise that Calculon came racing down the stairs, with a small carry-on stuffed with Jaime’s belongings.
“Jaime Richard Blake!” shouted the robot. “How dare you lounge around bashing your friend like this. It is simply abhorable.”
“What the bloody hell did you do?” Jaime had his sights set on Adam.
“I just find your late grandmother very charming.” Teased Adam.
“Charming my eye! The lady was a loon!”
Calculon threw the luggage at Jaime, who, as always, didn’t catch it. “Watch your mouth. Would it kill you to mind to whom you’re speaking to.”
“Calculon! Power -” Jaime’s command was interrupted by a very loud, almost fake sneeze.
“CALCULON! POWER-!” Jaime’s command was once again silenced, this time by a louder, almost genuine rumbling sounds behind him.
“Oh, will you quit it now!” Jaime gave Adam a stare, who fired off one of his shrugs.
“-Camping will be fun! You’ll see! You get to see the woods! Oh you’re gonna love the woods! And you’ll breath some fresh air! Oh you’re gonna love the air!-”
“This is all true, Jaime, you should listen to your sweat grandmother,” teased Adam McAdam.
“I hate you.”
Calculon continued on without a care in the world. “-Now then, I packed your fuzzy slippers, the one that look like little cute rabbits. Some tea bags, and a pot. No Sugar! Do you hear me? Well it’s worth repeating either way: No Sugar!-”
Calculon picked up Jaime by the collar and brought him to the edge of his dome, the door sliding open to reveal a cultivated and civilized landscape before him. Jaime shuttered.
“After you, young Mr.McAdam,” Calculon insisted.
“Why certainly. Thank you Ms. Blake.” Adam gave a small bow and walked out of Jaime’s dome.
Calculon tossed Jaime out the door like he was excess trash. “And don’t you dare come back for another three days.” The door slid closed, projecting a small red locked symbol.
Adam looked at his crestfallen friend, who was on the verge of a breakdown. “Well, at least you have your fuzzy bunny slippers.”
“But now they’re gonna get dirty in the woods.”
“Come on, let’s go,” Adam said gently. “If the cabin has indoor plumbing, I’m sure that it has indoor cleaning.”
If one had to describe our hero’s enthusiastic journey from Jaime’s dome to the Southern Woods, one only needs to describe it as an abandoned, but fully operational amusement park. There were plenty signs of life to be seen. The bakery robot was kneading dough in it’s petite and charming outdoor stand, two passing robots tipped their hats to each other despite their suppressed loathing for one another, a grocery robot was unloading goods into a store where people could greet one another while shopping, while a delivery robot was scurrying around and delivering goods to domes so that the same people will never have to greet one another.
And yet, despite the lone Maple, an occasional Pine, there was no actual witness of a living breathing organism.
The woods were at the most southern point of them town. They slept idly on a perfectly round hill, gracing the our heroes with a picturesque view of the rolling hills of the town to the north. The hills were neatly topped with domes-but nice domes, where indoor plumbing worked on every fifth Wednesday of the month. While, to the south, there was the southern gate. An almost painting like opening in the 100 meter tall steel wall that surrounded our perfect little town.
The opening was sometimes guarded. This was not one of those times.
“Hey Adam,” Jaime spoke, “What do you think is behind the walls?”
“Not the Southern Woods.” Adam was certain of that.
“I’m asking a serious question here!”
“Oh sorry, couldn’t tell. Well, I know what’s not behind those walls. There is no indoor plumbing, no indoor cleaning, no baked fresh bread delivery service, no domes, and well no robots either.”
“No robots?” Jaime muttered. “How could they live like that?”
“Who knows?” Adam knocked on the lone cabin in the middle of the woods. The door slid open, and the lights flared on after an exaggerated pause. A lone vacuum bot was cleaning the living room carpet. “See, what did I tell you. Indoor cleaning.”
“Hey Adam, let’s go check out what’s on the other side of the gate!”
“What! Why? We came here to camp, near civilization, not the dangerous unknown!”
“Just think of the respect you’ll obtain for civilization from the experience.” Jaime teased,
“Ha-ha, very funny.” Adam was not really laughing. “We could get attacked by the most foul, cruel, and bad-tempered rodents you ever set eyes on! They have violent streaks a mile long!”
“Yes, if we get attacked, I’ll just use my fuzzy bunny slippers! That will teach those, what did you call them, rodents?”
Adam nodded. “Yes. Rodents!”
Jaime paused for a second. “What are . . . these rodents?”
“They’re like mini monsters. With a tail.” Adam curved two of his fingers and left the others in a fist. “They have these nasty, big, razor sharp teeth.”
“That sounds mild compared to my grandmother.”
If one were ever trapped in a Scary Movie, and one could be for a small fee of twenty credits at the Dome of Mild and Shocking Horror, they should keep a few things in mind. One, never split up from the gang. Two, never pick an escape car that has poor mileage, low gas, or both. Three, chasing down running participants with a chainsaw gets you tired really quickly. And four, never proceed to walk down a 60 meter long, dimly lighted, and abandoned tunnel. Luckily for our adventuring heroes, they were not trapped in a Scary Movie, at the Dome of Mild and Shocking Horror thus their course of action in following the 60 meter long tunnel, dubbed the Southern Gate was perfectly safe.
The scenery that welcomed them on the other side of the gate was not very welcoming. The ground was brown, with tiny, scared patches of green grass dotting the landscape. A few saplings, none thicker than Jaime’s arm were scattered in the death wilderness, clinging desperately to life, and wordlessly begging for water. A lone tumbleweed crawled the field of vision as desperate as a maimed soldier struggling to get out of no man’s lands.
Jaime stretched his arms.“Well doesn’t this make you feel liberated.”
Adam took a deep breath of the scenery. “Who knew this is what Outside feels like.”
“We can camp here. Right here. Next to the gate. We’ll get appreciation for civilization, and if rodents attack, we can scurry back into the town.”
“I don’t think that this is a good idea.” Adam was scratching his forearms, scanning the horizon for the first sign of something amiss.
“You don’t like this? Oh, well, good for you. Maybe next time you won’t program Calculon to kick me out of the house for three bloody days.”
“Are you upset?”
Jaime threw up his hands in the air. “No Adam, I am perfectly fine, peachy, lovely. Lovely and peachy. There is nothing wrong with me today!”
“When I said camping, I meant the Southern Woods, you know, the place that we passed.”
“And when I said that I wasn’t interested, I really meant that I wasn’t interested. Now we both get stuck with something that we don’t want.” Jaime dropped his bags down, and sat down definitely. He instantly missed the three television screens that would float around him whenever he would sit in his warm sofa.
“And what is that?”
“A compromised,“ Jaime scoffed. ”Life’s a bitch.”
“No I mean that.” Adam pointed to a shadowy silhouette approaching ever closer to them.
Jaime fought down all his urges to pick up his stuff and flee back into the town, and all the way to his dome. He bit his lip and leaned back against the steel wall. “I guess we’re going to wait and see.”
Three minutes later, they saw the silhouette to be a man, a bulky and stern faced man. He wore a white uniform and carried a gun across his back and a pair of binoculars across his chest.
“Civilians?” spoke the man. “What are you doing Outside!’
Adam open his jaw to speak,“noth-”
“Campaign.” Jaime finished earning himself a nasty look from Adam.
“Campaign!? No. Pack up and head Inside, military orders. There is a situation unfolding here.”
“And if we say no?” Jaime quipped earning him another nasty look from Adam.
“Then you die. Now move. Both of you,” the soldier scanned the area once more, and spotted another figure. “Great, another civilian.” The soldier rose his voice. “Sir! Please get back Inside, it is not safe out here.”
A lone sound, like that of thunder, colored the soldier’s uniform red. The soldier fell down limp.
Adam and Jaime stared in disbelief at each other.
A man holding a rifle walked up to them. He was dressed in rags and dusts. His facial hair was so disheveled that it made Adam’s look flattering. He removed the sanded goggles he wore, and addressed our heroes through yellow and crooked teeth.
“I have no quarrel with you two,” he kicked the dead soldier in the ribs. “But if you don’t apologize for your friend’s actions and help me bury my friend, I’ll find a quarrel.”