You’re more than welcome to leave feedback at the bottom, or let me know through social media if this is any good and if I made the right call with this decision to focus on creating, or if I should go back to interviewing musicians and rasslers and chasing the same stories everyone else is. Either way, please enjoy.
“Hi, Baby! I missed you!”
She was radiant and vibrant enough to almost glow through the 10-inch screen. Her blond hair, blue eyes, and soft features picked up well on the device’s high-definition screen, as did the home office she sat in. Her voice, feminine but firm, emanated through the ear buds he wore clear as a bell. The homey touches of family pictures were plainly visible behind her.
Byron smiled as the warm corner of his heart lit up with the sight and sound of her. The bench he sat on was as comfortable as it could be. It was a wooden bench all the same, no matter how new it was. The scenery - fresh-cut, emerald grass and tall, powerful oak trees - and the bouquet of deep burgundy and light pink roses that sat beside him was about as pretty as he could hope for, aside from seeing his love on his tablet. “I’ve missed you too, Samantha. Really wish I could see you.”
“I do, too,” Samantha responded. “It’s been a while, but I know you’re busy at work.” Her warmth didn’t fade, but the melancholy was palpable even through an internet connection.
Byron’s smile faded enough to be noticeable. “Yeah. Still a lot to do. Good news is, we’re getting a lot closer to a final product, I think.
Samantha’s mood seemed to brighten. “Oh, that’s wonderful, Baby! You have any idea how much longer you’ll be there?”
“Not sure of an exact timeframe, offhand,” Byron answered. “I think we’re going to be ahead of the month from now they had projected, though.”
“That’s great! You’re that close?”
Byron sighed and studied Samantha on his screen a moment. “It certainly seems that way. All the testing has been flawless. They want to be sure, and I can’t say I blame them with as much as they have invested in this--”
“Sure,” she nodded.
“--But so far, everything’s going very smooth. Like, almost too smooth to be believed,” he chuckled. “It almost feels like they’re waiting for the corner to turn on some glitch they hadn’t forseen or something. But the project’s been moving along so well, we’re a little ahead of schedule.”
“Of course you are. They have the best programmer in the world spearheading this thing. And he’s good at a lot more than that,” Samantha grinned slyly.
Byron laughed. “Well, I aim to please, Love. Always did.”
Samantha’s expression went quizzical. “Your girl or your bosses?”
Byron’s smile fell, replaced by a look of consternation. He put the tablet down on the bench and pulled a small notepad and pen out of his pocket. Jotting down a note, he could hear Samantha through the tablet: “Are you okay, baby?”
“Yeah,” he said, distracted as he finished his written notes. “Just thought of something I have to tweak once I get back to the lab. Think I may have miscalculated one of the formulas.”
“Oh, no.” Samantha looked slightly dismayed. “That’s not going to delay anything now, is it?”
Byron shook his head. “I don’t think it’ll be too serious. But,” he frowned, “I need to get back to the lab to find out.”
“Lunch about over?”
“Yeah. Time to get back to the grind.”
“Did you eat?”
Byron rolled his eyes. “Of course I did, Samantha. Slim pickings here at the commissary, of course, but I had an Italian sub. Thought of you because--”
--”Because it’s my favorite,” Samantha finished. “That actually sounds like a great idea! You going to call again tonight?”
“Yeah I will, Love. I should be getting out of the lab tonight around...7, I think?”
A corner of Samantha’s mouth turned up. “So, around 4 our time here?”
Byron nodded. “Yeah, about 4 there. You going to be at the gym, then, or...”
Samantha pursed her full lips, then smiled. “Not by then. I’ll make sure and get that in after my Italian sub.”
Byron laughed. “Sounds good then, Love. I’m heading back to work and I’ll catch you then.”
Samantha put her hand up at the screen. “Will do. I’ll see you then. Love you, Baby.”
Byron smiled back. “Love you too. I’ll ring then. Bye.”
Samantha’s image - and that of his home office - shrank off of the screen to nothingness. Only the stylized, generic home screen image littered with multiple applications remained. His brow furrowed and his mouth curled in focus as he thought about what his girl had told him. This had to be addressed.
Byron pressed a button, then one more on his tablet screen. A microphone icon appeared on the screen, then a red light popped up as well. Byron sighed heavily, like taking on part of an assignment he never looks forward to. Byron then spoke into the tablet’s microphone:
“Subject is displaying proper reactions at proper phrases and facial expressions. Subject is adept at reading non-verbal cues. Body language assessment is mostly on point as well, though difficult to judge as subject can only see head and shoulders. Subject is mostly reacting properly to all test questions and stimuli, but is also asking unusual questions. Subject almost seems to remember circumstances of creation and almost made inquiries related to origin. Further testing may have to be performed to see if subject is leaning toward self-awareness and, resultantly, if programming would have to be altered. Testing being conducted to see if data can be assimilated through vocal transmission and storage after subject has been put to rest but before separation.”
Byron tapped the tablet again to finish his recording and made sure it saved. Byron then pressed the screen to open another app and tap it once. A SD card ejected from the side of the tablet. Byron removed the card from the tablet and placed it in a small plastic case marked with the letters “SB.” Byron, with a sadness in his movements and now plastered on his face as if it had been let out of a cage, clasped the plastic case shut with the card inside. Placing the tablet and case back in a coat pocket, Byron gathered the bouquet of deep burgundy and light pink roses and got up from the bench.
Byron took several slow steps from the bench and stopped at a headstone. The cemetery he had been sitting in, he thought, was very much like a funeral. The place had been refurbished to produce a peaceful, serene atmosphere, but the pall of death still hung about to remind those left behind of the reason they were here. Either to visit, or say goodbye, or to hang to one last memory. The landscaping was precise and the gravesites were kept immaculate out of respect by the staff. Byron appreciated that as he read the headstone:
June 18, 2052 - April 21, 2079
Byron knelt down and placed the bouquet in the vase set in the top of the headstone. He kissed his hand and touched the headstone. “I miss you too, Love,” he said softly. “Time to get back to the grind.”
All original content copyright Michael Melchor, 2008-2013
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.