Ralie

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"Todd," She whispered gently. "Are you awake?" Nothing. Strange. Not even the sound of his usually steady breath, slow and with a high whistle near the end. A high C note, she thought, accurately.  But it wasn’t there. The room was unusually still.  Opening her eyes, Ralie scanned the room. She could easily see in the darkness that Todd was not there. He had come home from work at the normal time, and said he was going to take a nap. She hadn’t heard him get up. Ralie normally heard everything. His bed was a mess of scattered sheets. Turning, she left the doorway of the dark room and willed her one foot in front of the other to the dark living room. It was now very apparent that Todd had left and she was alone. Without moving any further in to the living room, she stepped to the left, and with her back up against the wall, she waited. There was no need for her to go anywhere else. This was an appropriate place to be.

Across town, Todd sat on a barstool with his freckled hand wrapped around a pint of mead. Todd had been making mead in his apartment for years, but this was the first bar he had seen who sold any variety of the honeyed ale. Around the room, people laughed, a woman shrilly screamed the name ‘TEDDY!’ and there was a consistent buzz of conversation. Todd had his eyes on the round table in front of him, trying to read the names and pictures scratched into the wood top, his eyes blurred from what he assumed was the alcohol in his system. "Todd!" a close and very clear voice said. "Are you awake?" Todd’s eyes looked up at the man across the table. He blinked and the blurriness subsided. The man across the table was Jeff, his childhood friend, and now business partner. "Todd, you are unusually spaced out tonight, brother," he continued. "I thought you were just caught up in the project, but is something else is going on."

"No," Todd shook his head. "It’s nothing." He focused back on his drink. He was hesitant to say anything else.    

"Ralie?" he whispered as he opened the door. "Todd, you’re home. I hadn’t realized you were going out tonight." Ralie was standing against the wall, beside the hallway that lead to the bedroom and bathroom. It was a small apartment, but Todd lived alone and didn’t need much space. "You were deactivated for maintenance, Ralie. The server said you would be offline for several hours. I didn’t see a need to stop the download." He flipped the light switch on the wall to his right, and closed the door behind him. With a hand on the wall for balance, he used his toes to grasp the heel of his shoes and wiggle his feet out. Suddenly, Ralie was right in front of him. Todd breathed in sharply. She had no sense of ‘personal space’. Her face was hard to look at up close. It was near human, but too angular, much like an image from a graphic novel he had read as a teenager. When her model had been designed, it sold out in record time, probably because of her humanistic characteristics. They, the company, were still building more for a second release. A male version had barely sold at all. Ralie didn’t blink. She had no need to breath. Her mouth made talking motions, but her lips and her tongue had nothing to do with her voice, which came from a speaker placed in the back of her throat.  "I have to go to sleep, Ralie." Todd said.

"Is it possible, and I mean, just think about this for a second, but, is it possible that we really f-ed this up?" Jeff, who was almost incapable of swearing, was looking at him with a concentrated furrow in his brow and harsh eyes that made him appear older than 36. "I can’t put my finger on it, but I can’t sleep at night, man, and I know you feel it too. When we were at the bar last night, I could tell. You feel it." He lowered his voice and asked again. "You feel it, don’t you? Something’s changed." Todd lifted his hand to his face and put his fingers against his beard. He did feel it. After two years working on the same project, in the same lab, with the same equipment, he knew something had gone awry. "Todd, are you listening to me?" Jeff pleaded. In their small rented lab, in the basement of a building they shared with a cosmetics company, everything looked the same but to Todd everything felt different. Todd made eye contact with Jeff. "We didn’t change anything," he started, "and when the spin reached maximum acceleration, none of our equipment read anything unusual."

"The science is sound." Jeff said, quoting Todd.

"The science is sound." Todd agreed.

Ralie knew something had changed but her systems could only detect that Todd had changed somehow, and that his body, his structure, was weaker. The Ralie of this world did not need to evaluate the increased radiation in the air; the other humans, the ones born here, were immune to it. Todd would not survive here. Based on his newly weakened body, and the standard radiation levels, she predicted he would only be alive for another five weeks and two days. A slow death. Ralie, with all her complex components and electrical wizardry, was only informed of the discordance. Her systems did not provide her with an algorithm for dealing with the variance; she could not warn Todd. Standing up against the wall, next to the hallway, she connected to the server and waited to for another update. 

 

About the Author: 
Based out of Toronto, I spend my days as a customer support advisor and my evenings as a caffeine-fuelled poet. When my poems stretch on too long, they become stories that would primarily fit in the science fiction / fantasy genre.

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