Allen Hobby sat in the dim afternoon light of his reading room, deeply entrenched in a paper by the radical biomechanist-theologian Janek Leibowitz, concerning the quantification of the human soul.

The door unexpectedly chimed four. It was the friendly chime, activated only by the personal code of someone close to the family.

Who on earth could that be?, he thought. Reluctantly, he put down the book, and rose to answer the door.


The house was open to a beautiful day, a warm, bright day in the mid-seventies, with a dry breeze out of the northwest that drove the usual humidity away to the coast. David had ridden his bike into town to pick up some engine parts for his Swizzle-Roo™, and Hobby was glad of it. David didn't get out as much as Hobby felt he should. A happy loner by nature, David had become downright reclusive since his mother had walked out of their lives over a year ago.


The door chimed again just as he reached it. He opened it to a perfect day.
"Quantifiable and indestructible!" Leibowitz had written. "As timeless as God Himself, and as immutable! All the nine-billion names by which the Creator is known apply to this subtle organ, which is inextricably interwoven into the very stuff of time and space! We are already immortal, ever existing - only our shells are of poor design. Given bodies of titanium and steel, we would conquer all of creation in a single day!"


There in the doorway stood his friend Victor, back-lit by the glare of the late afternoon sun, a glare diminished only by the figures of the two police officers standing behind him.


Hobby knew instantly. Instinctively. The blood fell to his feet.
"Victor."


"Allen. May I come in?"


"Yes," replied Hobby, who stepped back without further comment, moving like a man suddenly struck blind.


The police officers began to follow Victor into the house, so he stopped them.


"Wait outside, but do wait." They complied, and the door was shut.


Victor turned to his friend.


"Let's go sit down, Allen. I - "


"I don't want to sit."


Victor sighed and slumped, now looking older than Hobby remembered him.


"There's no other way to do this, Allen. There's been an accident. David's…"


"David's what?"


"He was out on the highway. We don't yet know what happened. Maybe he thought he saw something. Maybe he'd forgotten something, and turned back to town."


"He's not allowed on the highway."


"He turned across the path of a Tsukita Nighthawk. The driver swears David turned right into him. He didn't have a chance, Allen. He likely never knew what hit him. You know how quiet the new cars are."


Hobby, like one of the automatons he was so familiar with, turned and walked stiff and slow and straight to the living room, and sat on the couch.


They say your whole life passes before your eyes just before you die.


As if by proxy, David's life passed before Hobby's eyes, flipping through his mind like pictures on an old roloviewer. A whole life. The life that had been, and the life that could have been.


"Mommy, I got to fly Dad's helicopter!"


David ran excitedly to the kitchen, to Isabel, carrying the small bouquet of flowers he'd just freshly picked.


"Why, thank you , David. They're beautiful. I'll put them in some water right away."


She glanced up at Hobby. He knew the look.


"David," said Isabel, "Why don't you go up to your room and play for a little while? I need to speak to your father about some grown-up things."


"Are you going to fight again?" asked David.


"No, honey, I just want to talk about some things. It'll just be for a little while, all right?"


"All right," he sighed. "What's for dinner?"


"I don't know. Maybe we'll eat out tonight."


"Gojiro!"


"What, David?"


"Gojiro. It's Japanese for Godzilla. You know, the big lizard that ate Tokyo before Japan sank? It means…hugely great."


"It's kid's talk, Isabel," said Hobby, smiling. "No one expects you to keep up."


"Yes, well, go up, David. I'll call you for dinner."


"Okay."


Hobby sat down at the kitchen table, crossed his legs, and folded his hands like a therapist waiting for a punchline.


"What now, Isabel?"


Isabel walked to the staircase, checked to be sure that David wasn't eavesdropping, then sat at the table, looking out the window.


"How was the game?"


"Terrible. Duke won."


"I'm leaving you, Allen."


Hobby lowered his eyes, then looked up, grinning sarcastically.


"Ah, the melodramatic approach. Why am I not surprised here? This hasn't been a marriage for some time."


"God knows I've tried, Allen. I really have. But there are things I want for my own life, and I can't get them here. I'm sick of sitting home all day. I'm sick of being little more than a housekeeper. You're gone all day, David's gone all day, and there isn't a blessed thing to do here. Small town living might be your idea of fun, Allen, but it's not mine. I'm sick of it. I'm sick of being -"


"A mother?"


"I didn't say that! I did not say that. You have no idea what it is to have no life. You've always had a life. I have needs too, Allen!"


"Like what? Irving?"


"Allen, be serious. Irving's a friend. He has lot of influence in the industry, and he can get me some chances. That's all there is."


"Right. Well, that's all there is, then. We've gone over all this before. But let me ask you two questions. First, when are you leaving?"


"I'm packed."


"Oh. All right. Second, what about David? Do you plan to tell him you're leaving, or just send a letter?"


"Whatever you think best."


"Jesus, Isabel. You're really something. You won't see him again, you know."


"What? Of course -"


"No. You won't. Don't you remember the pre-nup? If you walk out, you're cut off, with no grounds to contest. I'm going to take David into town with me right now. We'll drive around for awhile, and get some Korean carry-out. We'll be gone about an hour. Think about it. If you are seriously intent on leaving him, then don't be here when we get back."


Victor sat down on the couch next to him, unsure what to do next.


"He never got over it," muttered Hobby. "He never had the chance."


"Allen?"


"I want to see him, Victor."


"No, no. You don't. Trust me now on this. You don't."


Hobby nodded, and sighed deeply.


"They're sure?"


"Yes, Allen. They're sure."


Hobby took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. He reached out and placed a hand on Victor's shoulder.


"Allright, Victor. Thank you for telling me. I know it wasn't easy."


"I'll take care of everything, Allen. Is there someone I can call for you?"


"No, Victor, thank you. There's no one. I think I'd like to be alone now."


"I don't know, Allen. Are you quite certain?"


"Yes, please. I'll be all right."


"Very well. Call me if you need."


"I will. Thank you, Victor."


Hobby walked Victor out, waving off the police as he shut the door. He went to the reading room, and sat down. On the table next to him, a book, titled "What Fish!", that David had been reading. Above him, on the bookshelf, was the most recent school portrait, with David smiling brightly in his favorite gray plaid flannel shirt.


There's no reason to this. No just reason at all. Please no, not David, no, no…no…not David…not David…


Hobby crossed his arms over his face, and wept.


He drank, and he cried, and he fell into a dreamless sleep.


He woke up, drank some more, cried some more, and slept again.


This time, he dreamed.


"Good afternoon, Professor Hobby."


"Good afternoon, David. How do you feel?"


"It is very bright here."


"Oh, hold on. Let me adjust...something here...how is that? Better?


"Yes, thank you."


"Would you stand up, please?"


"Yes, Professor Hobby."


"David, I'd like you to walk to the other side of the room, pick up the blue book on my desk, and bring it to me. Would you do that?"


"Yes."


"Very good, David. That is the correct book. Thank you."


"You're welcome."


"Can you read the title, David?"


"The title is..."What Fish!"


"Good. David, do you know what you are?"


"I'm a boy."


"Yes. You are a boy. What is a boy, David?"


"If I am a boy, a boy must be me."


"But do you know why you're a boy?"


"Is it a game?"


"No, David, it's not a game."


"I'm a boy because...I am."


"Very good, David. That's very good."


"Professor Hobby?"


"Yes, David?"


"Do you know what you are?"


Hobby awoke to the sounds of a new day, and the telephone.


He ignored both. He dragged himself back to the reading room, slumped into the chair, and poured himself a glass of Dom Benedictine.


He remembered the dream.


Cybertronics Corporation had recently made him an offer, an offer he'd refused because he wanted David to grow up in a small town environment, as he had, instead of in the hardly-controlled chaos of the city. His facility at the university was adequate, but no comparison to what Cybertronics had offered. They were the second largest in the world in the production of industrial mecha, and were rapidly winning the market for social models. His expertise in neuronal modalities and sequencing had made him one of the most sought-out scientists in the field of artificial intelligence, and he knew he would have a blank check, wherever he went.


He raised the glass to his lips, ready to take up where he had left off the night before, when he was blocked by an image intruding from the remembered dream.
An image of David, back from the dead.


He returned his arm to the chair's armrest, holding the glass suspended over the floor of the reading room.


There is a way, somewhere. Cybertronics will provide me everything I need. There is always a way. Could it be? If Leibowitz and the others are correct…


He gripped the glass tightly, and tipped it slowly, pouring the contents out onto the floor. He gazed at the portrait above him, into his son's eyes, shaking as the tears came once more.


There is always a way. Somehow, I'll find it. I'll find you.


The glass shattered within his tightening grip, cutting his hand.


I swear, David. I will see you again.


Hobby wiped his eyes, and reached for the phone.


Outside, a clear-sky sun rose high above the world, tossing razorcut shadows as gentle breezes cleansed the air. Doors slammed, people conversed, engines hummed, and children played loudly, as robots came and went about their programmed duties, unnoticed.


It was a perfect day.


It was not to last.

 

Continued in For Yet Another Day

The DAY Trilogy


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