For the sake of skipping past all the boring bits about a long, winding drive through the sort of gorgeous stretch of lush Californian California that would bring Steinbeck to frothy bliss (if he weren’t inconsiderately stone-cold dead, of course) and lukewarm introspective spousal melodrama, we will. Those who might care about such careless dismissal of assingly trivial things like atmosphere and character development can rest assured that it wouldn’t have been any good even if we had bothered with such things. And for those who might not give a shit either way, please know that you were, in fact, missing out on quite a lovely bit of writing. But we’re beyond such things now, aren’t we? No sense crying about it. Besides, we’re doing it for you, you know. We wanted to do it, really. But we thought it best for all of us if we simply got to the damn point before we’re all dead like Nathan’s sister’s family after that awful fire we casually expositioned about sometime back. You’re welcome.
Anyway. Let’s just say we’ve arrived at that point where Nathan and his wife stood waiting at the front door of Darla’s eyesore of a luxury three-and-a-half story cottage nestled there at the ass-end of a dreamy, tree-laden hillside road. All by its lonesome, without a neighbor within screaming distance. Its not entirely not-ominous charcoal-black wood exterior contrasting with the absolutely batshit amount of scientific doodads, thingamabobs, and watchakerjiggers strung, jutting, bubbling, blinking, crawling, and threaded all about the place. And yet, beautifully complimented the way the setting sun set the silent, birdless sky ablaze so that it looked, more or less, exactly the way a house fire might burn. The fire, Nathan thought to himself as he stood there like some kind of jackass. Ah, yes – the fire. Very hot, fire. Burns things. Burning, hot fire.
Anyway. As we said, no time to waste. Nathan and Vulvian, front door, waiting.
(Also, that’s his wife’s name – Vulvian. We thought you might like to know that. You’re welcome.)
“Jesus,” Vulvian blasphemed. “I’m surprised this place didn’t burn down sooner.”
“It did,” Nathan corrected.
“Oh, that’s right.”
“I’m more surprised she had them build it back the exact same way as before – even all the cables are in the same–“
You know what? Rosie just opens the door. Right now. Okay? I’m in a mood now. This is how it goes. Rosie’s opened the door now. Rosie, alive and well. Well, not well. Or alive. She’s a robot, of course. It might not even be Rosie, just a similar high-tech gyndroid that just almost reaches the other end of the seemingly inescapable uncanny valley, and picked up for a steal from the local discount store. Hm? Ever think of that? Of course not. That’s stupid. Don’t be stupid. That’s a stupid, stupid idea. Ever come across a little phrase that sounds, reads, and smells precisely like, “A hat on a hat,” maybe? It’s just Rosie. Re-existing, somehow. Just go with it, okay? It can’t possibly be for much longer. Otherwise, why all this nonsensical drivel? Hm? For fun? Well, I’ll have you know, I’m not having any. Not one teensy-weensy bit.
So, again. Rosie, one side of the front door – the inside part, that is. And Nathan and his poorly named wife, the other, outside part of the same front door.
“Rosie?” Nathan asked like some understandably confused, shocked, and horrified person who has just seen a… well, not ghost – but some robot-equivalent of a ghost, I suppose.
“Mr. Nathan?” Rosie asked in the same faux, vaguely Latin-ish accent Nathan remembered having to talk to Darla about on more than one occasion.
“Rosie?” he asked again for no good reason, really.
Vulvian, meanwhile, pushed her way beyond this ill-conceived scene, and Nathan eventually followed.
Somewhere beyond the refabricated foyer, through the duplicated den and to the right of the replicated washroom, they eventually found Darla dining with her deceased – yet, also somehow not – family.
(See? Wasn’t it worth skipping ahead?)
“What the shit is this?” Nathan asked, staring at his not-quite dead, not remotely close to alive niece and nephew on either side of his very much alive, clearly not well sister. His sister-in-law, Jennda, looked mostly the same, all things considered. And somehow this only made Nathan more uncomfortable. Imagine that.
“Dinner,” Vulvian replied.
“Dinner,” Darla chewed in agreement. Her family, meanwhile, only poorly pantomimed eating. Not that they seemed to notice or care, what with the way they blindly stabbed themselves about the face and mouth with their forks, splattering cheap Chinese takeout everywhere without a second thought.
“Dinner?” Nathan repeated, only in the sense that it was a question.
“Dinner,” everyone replied.
“You all realize how creepy that sounded just now, right?”
“Would you like some dinner?” Rosie asked, startling the weak, little man.
“Oh, thank god!” Nathan creamed. “We’ve been driving for hours! So much driving and talking and developing, but not at all enough eating.”
“Nathan,” Vulvian growled, unnecessarily and unconvincingly through what she thought was a smile.
“Fine,” he pouted. “Darla, we need to talk.”
“Can’t it wait?”
Nathan considered this, then looked to Vulvian. Vulvian shook her head, No. Nathan sighed, “No, I guess it can’t.”
Darla ate for several more moments, then agreed. “Alright.”
“Yeah, of course.” Then, turning to a small box on the wall, “Pause program.”
A cute little chirping sound later, everything went still – the candles, the lights, Rosie, Darla’s wife whose name I’ve already forgotten, the children with such silly names even I can’t be assed to remember. All of it. And at some point, Vulvian was almost certain that even the air had gone still.
“That was easy,” Nathan said to Vulvian.
“Well, I just figured–“
“What? That there’d be some drawn out bickering before I inevitably concede to speak with you about me inviting you to my rebuilt house to see my rebuilt family?”
“Well, if you’re going to take all the fun out of it…”
“Well, wherever you’re going, can I join?” Vulvian asked. “Your frozen animatronic family is creeping me out.”
(Casio and RCA! That’s their names – the creepy robot kids. Even when they weren’t unalive monstrosities of yet-to-be-explained origins. I knew I had that scribbled down somewhere.)
Darla laughed. “Oh, my god. They’re totally creepy, right?”