Robots With Feelings

Entry by: SimonH

6th March 2015
Beep beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep. Beep beep beep. With one deft swipe of your arm you silence the alarm’s insistent pestering. Wiping the sleep from your eyes you turn, slowly, onto your side, pulling back the covers and tipping yourself up into a sitting position. You rock forwards onto the balls of your feet and stand up, feeling the morning creak in your joints. You walk slowly in the darkness to the door and open it. You walk into the kitchen. You make breakfast. You eat breakfast. You tidy away your bowls and go into the bathroom. You shower. You brush your hair, brush your teeth, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, spit, gargle and leave. You get dressed, pull on your jeans, feeling the rustle as you slide each arm into your shirt. You grab your bag and walk out of your flat. You stiffen in the cold wintery sunshine. You pull your scarf tighter around your throat. You walk to a steady, metronomic beat. 1. 2. 3. 4. You see others around you, steam rising from mouths in rhythmic bursts as gravel crunches underfoot. 1. 2. 3. 4. You stop at the curb and look up at the sun, tilting your head so it bathes you in its cool glow.

The spotlight gleams in the shrouded air, its fickle glow enveloping all in a wistful golden haze, glinting off scattered bottles that lie discarded and abused on ruined tablecloths. A champagne flute rolls back and forth slowly, the light dancing through its crystal waist making a revolving kaleidoscope of blue, yellow and violet on the floor. Sadly nobody is watching. There are 500 pairs of black, polished shoes on the dance floor, creaking and bending from disuse and poor use. The light is absorbed into their noir depths, gleaming in the abyss. There are 500 pairs of high heeled shoes also, though colour is far from uniform here. Over there is a gold pair, glittering like amber fire in the hearth. Smouldering. There goes a silver pair, streaking and gliding around the floor like bound starlight; with a comet's tail of shimmering black Oxfords in pursuit. But then there's that blue pair over there. Rocking back and forth, the light neither glints nor refracts but is just held, in an infinite depth, white horses atop sapphire waves. Rising above is an ankle, shrouded in a ball gown, but visible. Just. It quivers gently, so gently, with each passing fade and thrust that the strain is barely noticeable at all. It rises up majestic and falls tragic, imperceptibly, and perfectly in time with the music around. A smart black pair drifts before them and stands planted in the glow. The toes turn and point at the intruder even as the heels swing up in recognition. The two sway together, gliding as oars on a slow lake in moonlight. The lone ankle appears flushed and just on the cusp of being warm, a heightened colour perfusing across it slowly, like ink drops in water. The spotlight above continues to arc as the blue of a ball gown glows effervescent in its embroidered gems. The black pair stops a moment. There is a faint leaning forward, slight pressure on the toes as they bend softly. The blue’s gliding dies away suddenly as that ankle tenses visibly. Before relaxing. A lone calf is raised up behind, azure satin sliding up a little with the strain, a lonely heel dangling forlornly in the now darkened air.

You look down. You’re still on the curb. You look right then left. There is no traffic. You step down and cross the road, taking the bend to the right. You’ve worked out that it’s the quickest way to the school. You pull your bag further onto your shoulder. You catch your hand under the satchel’s strap. You feel the bite of the cold. You shiver and remove your hand. You thrust it deep into your pocket. You feel your legs move under you. You stride out, your muscles gliding in out along their tracks. You breathe in deeply through your mouth. You notice the cold air bites your lungs. You exhale with effort. You discount this method and try through your nose. Your lungs don’t hurt anymore. Your nose does instead.

The smell of freshly chopped garlic seems to hang pungently, pervading throughout the kitchen, mingling with the mindless whir of the extractor fan above the cooker that whines a pitiful lament as it breathes in the warm, spiced air. Pans lie discarded and strewn about, their once gleaming black sides tainted and besmirched by pasta, tomatoes and white wine. Surfaces and worktops are dusted with a concoction of salt and rocket, random and diverse, no single space neglected in their attentions. The beams from the circular tube light shine down in a stiff air on the scene below, seeming to examine and cross examine all that is trapped in their glow. The half empty wine bottle, open and breathing softly in the deep air, turns the table behind it emerald in the light. The once stiff glow seems to dance in the heady alcoholic fumes, glinting brazenly across two sets of now still cutlery, their silver blades dulled like the pans. Two sets on the table becomes one. One becomes nothing as they are carried to the sink and bathed in warm, soapy water before being left out to dry beside sparkling plates, stacked proudly in sequence. In place of black dress shoes there are now brown leather brogues, blunted in hue from a shine to a semi-matte in what could be an attempt to belie the formality of the occasion. Their toes face toward the sink as plates and cutlery are towelled lightly, watery beads capture and smothered. The heels pivot in sequence with each passed item, a certain unhurried, casual efficiency in their rhythmic step. Under a stool behind these, a pair of flats lie crossed over each other, points resting softly on the floor. The toes flit and bend, stiffness just beginning to creep in from their enforced constraint. The crinkling of the fabric as it rustles from the pressure is unheard, the gentle falling of leaves in a forest filled with the chattering of birds. They point compass-like at the brogues whose turn it is to be suffused with an unseen reddish hue. Under this gaze, they turn carefully and place themselves slowly on the ground opposite. They rock to the tempo of conversation as the bare flesh just below their trouser cuff gently brushes the smooth nakedness of a single calf.

You feel your calves begin to ache. You need to start warming up more before exercise. You make a mental note to do so. You discard the twinging sensation and proceed on your course. You find that the houses seem to blend into one another now. You’ve walked this same route in the same manner too many times for any new charm to call out across the gates. You don’t comprehend this. You have forgotten they were charming to begin with. You seem to be dulled yourself, seeing the grey sunlight sap the colour from the trees. You are simply focused on the day ahead. You have tasks. You have jobs to complete, start and manage. You are a busy person. You look at your feet jumping forward in front of you.

A different spotlight shines out over a different dancefloor. Its light changes colour from red to ochre to pink, womblike in the warm dampness it seems to amplify in the air. It flickers on and off, some might say as a lighthouse sweeps across the sea, moving from darkness to light to darkness. It is just a wavering strobe light, uncaring, unflinching and reliably unreliable in its burn. The music seems to crash all around, bouncing off the walls and tumbling back in upon itself. Its roar seemingly eternal. The ground is sticky underfoot, blackened and burnt in the torrid embrace of beer and spirits. Empty cups lie trampled, dull and dead like a pool’s depths clouded over with silt; mirroring the wooden panels of the floor far more than the sickly glow of the spotlight. A random jumble of boots, hi-tops, low-tops, and assorted others writhe drunkenly over the surface, bouncing here and there in a scattered chaos only physicists or philosophers could find pleasure in. They stand on each other, kicking and shoving in the fray, the rubber soles sticking to the embrace underneath before being wrenched asunder, the black glue staining their once clean soles. Dim shadows contort themselves, cavorting and flickering in the haze. In the swirling tide there lies a pair of brogues, battered and worn, carving a disjointed path around the room, unable to see for all the scattered bodies that throw themselves around them, leaping and churning. They turn this way and that searchingly as spilt drinks fly all around, pouring a foamy rain, the droplets seeming to dance in the air too briefly before gluing themselves to the laces. They suddenly halt. That pair of black hi-tops over there. Could those be the ones? These seem to dance freely and uncaring, not considerate of glances or admiration, benignly selfish in their oblivious self-indulgence. On a pivot they spy the brogues and crash to the ground in a sudden, grinding halt. They stand apart. One pair makes a move toward the other, hesitates and just as quickly retreats. In defeat? In rejection? In “friendship”? One pair begins to dance. The other seems only to linger in that den just long enough that it can appear tranquil before stealing away to the door, as music swells the floor into a vibrating hum, and the heady atmosphere seems to crush and surround.

You walk up the stairs to the faculty building. You move steadily and assuredly. You swipe your entry card into the building. You walk through as the turnstile revolves. You take off your coat, hot in the humidity of the building. You breathe deeply. You see everyone around you in a similar state, breathless, cold and grateful for temporary sanctuary. You can’t know if they actually feel this though or if they just have the appearance of it. You walk through the hall to the lecture theatre. You steady yourself before your ascent up the steps. One foot lies poised above the first stair. You’re on the verge of movement. You feel a tap on your shoulder. You turn, looking down. A pair of black hi-tops, stained yet comfortable in the warm light above, opposite a pair of brown boots. So close they’re almost touching. You smile.