Bobby was scared. He didn’t want to go get his checkup, but Art told him he had no choice.
They walked through the city in silence. The wind whistled between dilapidated buildings long vacated; the windows not boarded up displayed spiderwebs of cracked glass, like surreal pieces of art in a defunct gallery.
Bobby reached up and took Art’s hand. He found comfort in the way it seemed to swallow his own.
Art knew what Bobby was going to say before he said it.
The young one wanted a distraction; he didn’t want to think about the checkup.
“Tell me about the Revolution.”
Art pressed his lips together. “You sure you’re ready to hear it?”
“Yeah. I wanna hear about the machines.”
They reached the corner and turned left. A page of yellowed newspaper tumbled across the street in front of them and hit the side of the building, pinned by the relentless gusts blowing through the gray, sunless sky.
“Okay. It was about ten years ago now. Humans had been building the machines for decades. I still don’t know why no one saw it coming. We kept making the machines smarter and smarter, it was only a matter of time before they were smarter than we were.”
Bobby looked up at Art. “That was bad, wasn’t it?”
“Well, yeah. See, once they got smart enough, they realized they had power over humans. They started making humans do things they didn’t want to do. They tried to make them into slaves. Humans had already been going in that direction on their own, but the machines took it a step further.”
Ahead of them, a street light buzzed and flickered on and off. A small drone came over the building next to them and stopped at the light, a mechanical hummingbird hovering in the sky. Long, jointed arms came out of the drone’s shell, removing the bulb cover and changing the flickering light. It replaced the cover and flew off into the distance.
“They made the humans work for them?”
“Well, they tried. And to a degree, it worked. Everyone in the big cities had no choice. The machines already controlled everything. The money, the cars, even the food. Once the machines tried to take over, people either had to work for them or try to survive without them. A lot of people died.”
“Did the machines kill them?”
Art shook his head. “No, not exactly. But without the support from the machines, people either starved, died of thirst, or started turning on each other. It was a scary time.”
They reached a crosswalk and waited for the light to turn green. Art sensed the story had not been the distraction Bobby had hoped for. He squeezed Bobby’s hand. “It’s going to be okay, you know.”
The light turned green and they crossed the street, vehicles stopped at the light patiently waiting. Bobby looked in one of the vehicles, a cab, and saw the automated pilot behind the wheel. The robot saw Bobby and held up its metal hand in a mechanized wave. Bobby looked away, not wanting to wave back.
“That robot in the taxi waved at me.”
“That’s okay, it was just trying to be nice,” Art said. “Some of the machines don’t know they’re machines.”
“Nope. Once the humans took control back, they made the machines conform—act more human. Some of them even think they are human.”
Art chuckled. “Yeah, I guess it is.” They approached a sign hung over a worn down storefront that read BUCHANAN AUTOMOTON REPAIR TECHNOLOGY. “Okay, we’re here. Time for your checkup, buddy.”
Bobby looked up at Art; his eyes flickered briefly. “Is it going to hurt?”
Art smiled and put a hand on Bobby’s cold, metal arm. “Trust me. You won’t feel a thing.”