Funny how something simple can bring you back to a point in time so vividly; Something as simple say... as a smell... or a sound. The look in someone's eye. Or maybe the way the light from a lamp envelops the corner of a dark room. In the shadow outside its glow lie images. And if you stare long enough at that darkness maybe a face will appear. Just for an instant. It's not real, of course. Not real. But...
"But, sometimes, you just wonder..." she said to no one. Oops. Hope nobody heard that. She'd been doing that a lot lately. She sat in a solitary chair in the corner of the room, cast away from the rest of the crowd. An isolate here, hiding behind her drink and a cloak of social indifference.
The new Director had been over earlier. She gave her congratulations. What was her name again? Chantma... Chindra.. something like that. She was Indian, right? She rose from the chair then, and accepted the salutation, "Dr. Hobby would have been proud to be here today!" the woman with the strange forgotten name had said with that too wide smile. Hand shaking too long. Grip too tight. Desperate almost.
She had followed the procedure well enough; smiling back, nodding in the right places, "Yes. Yes. Thank you... he's doing wonderfully. Pardon me? Oh well, I am sure that he'll be moving to the Manhattan Division eventually. Thank you again." and then it was over. The chair awaits. And the shadows in the corner of the room. Images beckoned there. And a drink. Yessss. A drink.
"Thank you all for coming tonight..." Irv said from the podium. Damn, was it starting already? "... this years additions to our ranks have given Cybertronics a new hope for regaining our place as the number one Simulant Service Provider in the nation and the world!"
Oh yeah, Gotta applaud at these things. Almost forgot. She put her empty glass down and joined in. Did they have to put Irv's face in the big monitor? It's not like the smaller version wasn't bad enough. She giggled. Oppps.. hope nobody heard that.. Time for another drink. She tip toed to the bar. "Bloody Mary". The usual.
"All of us here know and appreciate the wonderful work that has been done over at Newark Division. You folks are pulling things together a day at a time and with profits up and R&D booming with new projects, I think you can all relax for at least tonight. Give your selves a hand!" and they did, "I personally would like to thank, Beverly Drake.."
Oh, God, not her again. Take a bow, cow!
"And Matthew Anders... where are you Matt? C'mon take a bow..."
Please don't invite him to the podium, He might try to tell a joke or something!
"And finally Henry Swinton himself! Henry, the entire division owes you a unpayable debt of gratitude!"
Oh yeah, honey, take your bow. We all appreciate your efforts so much. Uhhh ohhh... Why was Irv looking over here ...don't you even think of..
".. as well as your lovely wife Monica! Monica honey... where are ya. Ahh there you go."
Dammit! She was at the bar. They all smile, but they notice. Henry will notice. She stood up in the soft spotlight and nodded profusely. Damn you Irv, you pompous goof!
"As many of you folks already know, It was fourteen years ago that Henry and Monica were the first to imprint the model that put Cybertronics ahead of the race and, technical difficulties not with standing, they showed us how capable our great Directors vision was. We all owe a great debt to the late Dr Allen Hobby"
Oh God. Another toast to Hobby. He's been dead three years now. Do we have to toast him every time someone mentions his...
It was Henry.. what did he want now? Why was he whispering?
"You've had a few Bloody Mary's, honey?
She started to tip the bartender and then realized where she was. Unions didn't have any sway here. This was Mecha land. She giggled and composed herself. It's not her fault Irv decided to thank the entire cast and crew.
"I'm just listening to Irving's wonderful speech, Henry. No need to blow a fuse, so to speak."
Irv droned on ".... and without further adieu. I want to bring up Cybertronics new Director of Operations, Dr. Padmadev Chandraput!"
Oh yeah.. Chandraput! That was her name. Wonder what they named the little Mecha's over there?
Henry was saying something that drowned in the applause. She cupped her ear. "I said, let's go outside for a bit of fresh air, Hon." Ohh. He wants to go outside again. Was I showing? So soon. It's usually hours before I become embarrassing.
"No, that's not necessary.." she had started to say when she felt his hand wrapped tightly around her upper arm. He guided her not so gracefully out into the night. The quiet of the balcony was a pleasant alternative to the noise and speeches. The crispness of the moist salty air tingled against her face. The Cybertronics building loomed above them. Always impressive from this proximity. Wow, look at all those stars! So many. So many. How could you find just one in so many?
"You can't keep doing this," Henry said, bring her back down to earth..
"Don't play games Monica! This has gone too.."
"Is it a game?"
"Is it a game? You know... A game?" she laughed.
Henry looked befuddled. "What are you talking about? Where do you get these things, Monica?"
"You don't even remember do you?" she spat, " He always used to ..." Ooops! She had slurred that.. Time to compose. "He always use to say that," she started slower. "Every time I showed him something new, he'd ask that stupid question. 'Is it a game?' Is this a new game Mom.." Oops. don't wanna go there. She looked away.
"Is this about the Mecha again? Monica, get over it!"
"Mecha? Wow. I thought he was more than just a Mecha... wasn't he the model that put Cybertronics in the race ahead of everybody?! I mean... technical difficulties notwithstanding, mind you."
"And you're an asshole!" Ooops. That was not good. He was getting mad now. His face had a few more wrinkles and a touch of gray here and there, but she could still read it fine.
"Monica. It, has been gone now for fourteen years. Fourteen long years. Nobody on the planet save you even remembers the prototype. Honey it was a machine! A mach..."
"He loved me!" her voice was shrill. She couldn't help it.
"Oh no.. not that again! Monica it was a program! All of them are programmed that way."
"A program. I see! And when was the last time you talked to one of them, Henry? Did you ever have one of them embrace you when you needed a little tenderness? huh? Did you ever look into their eyes Henry? Did you ever look one in their eyes and tell it.." she couldn't finish that thought. Even in it's slumber, that particular memory was too painful to recall. Why did they have to have the proceeding here?! Of all places. This was where they made the cursed things. The poor cursed things.
"It almost killed our son! Monica it was becoming dangerous. You know that."
"Oh stop it! Martin told us that it was Todd's fault! You know that, Henry! Why do you keep insisting that he was trying to kill him? Even he doesn't believe that."
"Okok,, I know about Todd, but that doesn't explain him jumping into the pool.."
"They fell Henry...they fell."
"We don't know that for sure."
"Yes. Henry. We do. You just won't accept it. You wont accept it because you cannot accept your guilt."
"My guilt in what Monica? He wasn't alive. If you'd have brought him back they'd have shut him down and that would have been that. It would have been over. But you chose to let him run. And now you can't get closure. But that's your own doing Monica."
"Listen to me Henry, " her voice was strong now. She'd wanted to tell him this for years. "He was alive. I don't care what your damn programmers say.. or your technicians and ..whoever! I don't care. David was alive, Henry. I don't care if you think I am crazy.. or... drunk.. I don't care. I looked him in the eye, Henry. I looked him in the eyes and I told him... Oh God! I left him there. Henry if you could have seen the look on his face. He cried!"
"C'mon Monica." he had to calm her now. Please, not here. Not tonight. " Dr Hobby went over all this with us years ago. They weren't programmed for tears. That was .. I don't know... something else."
"He cried! I was there! Oh god. I can still feel his hands on me, Henry. Clinging. How will I ever..." She stopped then. Suddenly. She straightened and wiped her face. She'd never convince Henry. Never. David was gone. That was that. Right? The crash of the surf was the only sound for some time.
Henry didn't want to fight. Not tonight. This night wasn't for them. He stood quietly while she calmed herself. They could handle this later. Maybe she should... see somebody about this. Irv might know some names. Somebody discreet.
"We have something to do tonight, he said calmly. "This is not a time for us to argue. Especially about... that. Now you compose yourself and get back inside. Somebody in there needs you!" and then he was gone. The entrance sliding shut in his wake.
Just a program.
Was he right? Was she just being morbid and selfish? "I need a drink!" Oops. Hope nobody heard that. Nope. Everybody was inside except the serving Mecha at the door, gesturing. She waved it away. No. She didn't need a drink after all. Maybe later. Time to freshen up a bit.
A breeze came off the sea, washing her in a sobering chilly embrace. Above her the stars shone clearer than on the foggy mainland. The moon reflected off the waves, twinkling against the restless sea on into the dark horizon. How could you possibly find just one? In all that? He was out there somewhere. Somewhere in this whole wide world, he was out there. What was he doing? Was he lonely? Was he looking for her? Needing her?
She had to stop herself. This would take her nowhere. Nobody had seen David in over fourteen years. She had to get on with her life. But even as she thought this, she knew that this would never go away. Not until the time when she could look him in the eye again. Not till she could tell him...
"I'm sorry, David. Please forgive me..." she said to the night. New tears felt cold against her face. 'I hope you find your Blue Fairy. I hope you find your dreams," she choked on that last sentence, . "Take care of him Teddy." She was being melodramatic. Silly. She knew this. She didn't care if anybody heard her "I ...loved you." Her voice drifted out over the surf. Lost in the violence of sound from the weeping of the lions.
Back in the conference hall the new director, Chandra... Chanti.. the woman with the forgotten name, announced some new arrivals to the Cybertronics crew. Monica smiled and clapped with the crowd. Then came the special announcement;
"And lastly, Please welcome someone we will be expecting a lot from; Mr. Martin Swinton! Mr. Swinton, come up and present yourself to your new family. Welcome to the Cybertronics team." Martin was beaming pride and Henry making a fool of himself carrying on cheering and whooping. " You'd better do good, your father is watching!" The Director joked. They all laughed. "And thank you all for coming to our proceedings tonight. There are refreshments and a wonderful view on the balcony!" the Director concluded. She worked her way from the podium and the monitors faded to black.
Martin came to his mother her and she embraced him. He dwarfed her now, this once small and sickly boy. "I'm proud of you, son." she said. And tears fell across her face again. She felt a moment of guilt as her memory flashed quickly on another small embrace.
Sometimes you just wonder. You can't help it. You wonder what becomes of those you loved.
Outside in the dark, the passage of two thousand years was already underway.