Blonde Girl in a Yellow Dress
By Adam Allegro
The hovertrain shot north out of the tunnel like a cork out of a champagne bottle, quickly slowing to a stop and at Church and Duboce. The week had been long, and I yearned more than anything for sleep. I didn’t even want to celebrate that night I was so beat. The job was taking a toll on me, maybe. Golden, afternoon rays of light poured in through the lightly tinted glass, casting an unfamiliar hue throughout the compartment. This was the first day in months that the sun had been out and part of me regretted being indoors for most of it.
We just closed the Perrywinkle real-estate deal after months of nervous negotiations, netting all of the partners sizable paydays. Todd, our president, was planning to upgrade his yacht, “put a vertipad on that bitch,” he kept saying. Garrett was going to buy a rare, cherry-red 91’ Honda NSX that had caught his eye a couple weeks back, his dream car (this month). Will said he was going to put a movie theater in his basement “for the kids”. He was the only one of the bunch with a wife and kids, a practice which had fallen out of fashion with the our generation. Hell, people didn’t really even date anymore, not in the traditional sense of the term anyway. Chad was still at the office planning a weekend bender in Seattle at the Amazon Hotel and Casino, the same place he always went to blow steam and large sums of cash after closing a big deal. Then there was Brian, who didn’t much care about extravagant indulgences or shiny novelty, and generally lived well below his means, but had a drive that was sinister in origin, as if he had traded his soul for unbridled motivation and energy. He would probably invest his cut, although none of us ever really knew where his money went. For a bunch of professional men who really only cared about ourselves, we gossiped about one another like teens. Petty and stereotypical, I know, but the environment fueled the victories, and the money that followed, it clouded our realities. The greed feeds upon itself.
I, unlike the others, was undecided, and the money was burning through my navy wool casual pant pockets. I needed to spend it. I never end up with what I probably should, and the novelty of whatever I do decided upon usually wears off within weeks, sometimes days. I’m always left wanting more, no matter what the game is. All of us were like that, come to think of it. None of us were ever truly satisfied. Even Will was fucking some young art student on the side, though he insisted he was happier than all of us because of his wife and kids. He’s also constantly talking shit about art students. The gutters are always a little bit cleaner on the other side of the fence, much like the grass used to be.
The hovertrain doors slid open with a whoosh and the usual commuters trickled off and only two embarked. Just as the doors were closing, a fair, fragile arm thrust into the gap and forced the heavy doors back open with ease. Up stepped the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes upon, angelic in most every way imaginable. Her skin was as soft as Iranian silk and 150,000 strands of glittering gold hairs sprouted from her head. She wore a grand, yellow dress with skinny lapels, a sharp collar and a deep crease down the center of her chest. The flounce hovered inches above her knees, leading me down long, inviting legs that ended in black and white leather flappers. The whole getup reminded me of a bumblebee, of which I had only seen in books. The girl carried a tote full of groceries in her right hand and a heavy, black dry-cleaning bag over her left arm without strain. There were no rings on any of her fingers and she moved with calculated intent.
I stole a fleeting glance at her endless eyes when she briefly turned towards me, before taking a seat some rows in front of me. That instant, hundreds of shimmering emerald flecks amongst the rich blues of a tropical lagoon were burned into my mind. I was hypnotized by her exquisiteness. I had to have her.
I usually get off at the next exit, Duboce Park, and walk across the park to my house on top of an apartment complex up Carmelita Street, but today I was caught in a spell and couldn’t move. We stopped and more commuters departed and the doors swooshed shut. There were only a handful of people left in the compartment now as the train shot forward into the next tunnel. The lights kicked on after a few seconds of darkness. I looked around the train and the few people that were still riding were buried in their eScreens, commenting or consuming or planning for future consumption. If not for the girl in the yellow dress, I’d be doing the same looking down as them.
She was seated five rows ahead with her back to me and hadn’t stirred once since settling in. I wished she would turn around and give me a glance, just one. Finally, as if she sensed my silent yearning, the girl brushed back a clumsy section of blonde hair and careened her head slightly for just a moment, catching my stare in the window’s reflection to her right. As she turned back, for an instant, I saw the edge of a serial number and barcode thinly tattooed on a newly shaved spot of skin behind her ear. That was it. That’s what he needed. The overhead lights flickered again as the red tunnel lights whizzed by outside the train.
We popped out of the tunnel heading west towards the Pacific Ocean and the retreating sun. If I got the serial number exact, maybe with a picture, I could have Garrett hack the company and backtrack the order to the source, the original schematics, the architectural plans. I could have one made exactly like her, with the same body and the same outfit and those same intoxicating eyes. This was just the thing I would spend my money on. I began developing a plan.
We soared through the Sunset District beneath shadowed, expanding triplexes and modified sub-subdivisions, the streets devoid of most activity. A majority of the shops were abandoned years before, then sold, then newly renovated and sold again as condos and shared workspaces. Most people stayed home these days without really a need to go anywhere, waiting for their BUGS rations (Basic Utility Government Subsidies), spending what little they had on rent, ready-made meals, and their Comcast bills, which included Netflix, a VR Headset and the Library of Everything plan. Its not like there was much work for people these days with all the automation. Add that to instant delivery of food and drugs and everything else, as well as nowhere really to go, and you get mass stagnancy - a sustainably stagnant culture built around consumption.
I was hypnotized by the girl in the yellow dress and lost myself in her radiant hair as we chased the sun, the latter showering the former with warm, unearthly hues. I waited to make my move, concluding that it would be safer off of the train than on, with the security cameras and all. Just what I needed, a court summonses for disorderly conduct against someone else’s humanoid. I could make it go away with ease, but the guys would have a riot over it. Plus this was more fun. It was beginning to feel like a hunt. She was my objective, my game.
End of the line. I pretended to type into my eScreen as the girl exited the hovertrain so as to not draw attention. Waiting a moment, I rose from my seat and casually walked down onto the sand-dotted pavement. To my left was a blood-soaked sunset of red and orange tied together with black-and-blue marks, all mixing and blurring with the waning sun. A perfect silhouette casually walked below, a dimly backlit yellow dress dancing elegantly in the gentle ocean breeze. To my right a bad moon rose like an assassin, silently creeping up behind with fatal intentions. A shiver echoed through my body and I wasn’t entirely sure it was from the cold. Was it the excitement? The nerves?
I turned my back on the foreboding moon and followed the girl. I just needed to get close enough for one picture. I needed that serial number. She crossed the empty street and walked up the dirt path to the old Great Highway, passing a darkened public bathroom to her right. That would have been the perfect spot, shaded and hidden. Plus it would have only taken a moment.
As I walked up the path my heart beat faster. I slowed and kept my distance, waiting for the girl to cross the street towards the eroded sand dunes. There was no traffic at the moment, yet she followed the commands the lights gave her and didn’t jaywalk. I opened the camera on my eScreen and turned on the flash. I was ten feet from her now. Should I do it, here on the side of the darkened highway with no one around?
Five feet away… I readied myself to strike. Now I was the assassin, the bad moon sneaking. My heart sprinted faster and faster, heaving my chest with each beat.
Music, subtle and distant. I paused. Then it was closer and increasing in volume from my right – 90’s hip hop. From around the corner of the public bathroom rolled an old man in a worn, motorized wheelchair. He was dressed in pressed, black suit with black snakeskin loafers and rainbow tie. A bouquet of wildflowers sat in his front basket and fluttered in the wind.
I hung back some. Moments later the wheelchair was gone and the music faded. The WALK signal illuminated green and the girl crossed the highway. When the signal began flashing I followed her up into the dunes. I was ready to make my move and found my opportunity rapidly approaching when the girl stopped suddenly at the apex of the mound. She gazed forward, as if longing for an organic existence forever out of her mechanical grasp. She was lost in those moon-brushed waves, tumbling and crashing endlessly over a shadowed shore, the sun all but gone from the gloomy skies overhead. If there was ever a moment in my life where I truly felt anything more than lust or loathe for a robot, it was then. For an instant, instead of looking at a manufactured Femrep, I felt like I was watching a confused girl stare longingly at the sea. I still wanted one of my own.
Soon after, the android began talking in calm, calculated sentences, giving directions or something like that, repeating itself and using different approaches with the instructions. It was navigating someone, somewhere. That was my chance. I walked forward, faster, the sand subduing my steps. My heart was a jackhammer as I readied the eScreen, zeroing behind the android’s right ear. The gusts were constant and the robot’s flowing locks fluttered about, forcing me to choose my moment tactfully. I saw my opportunity and shot my left hand out, grabbed a handful of hair and pulled it back authoritatively, exposing the prized serial number. At the same moment I snapped off a sequence of pictures with my right hand, artificial clicking and flashes discharging in stride, rapid fire-like. Its head followed its hair and the camera continued shooting the Femrep. Everything happened so quickly.
Click, click, click, click click clickclickclickclick BOOM! An explosion of light from my right, reverberating across my eyeballs and rattling my skull and then I was soaring through the air. My vision was blank with fractured light leaks and silhouetted capillaries and static. You’d think landing on sand would be soft and comforting but it’s quite the opposite. I hit like a trash bag full of rot and lost all the air in my chest upon impact. With warm, wet blood dripping off my eyelashes and down my nose, I finally came around to wondering what was happening to me. I was interrupted by a series of violent impacts and cracks in my gut and new variations of pain followed. The kicks strangely gave me back my vision but I would have rather the world stayed black, for the only thing my clarity revealed was a heavy, black shoe retreating back like a pendulum and then coming forth and connecting with my nose. It brought forth the most sickening noise of tiny bones shattering and a different, crimson blindness, which quickly shifted and sent me back to the black.
I came to, unsure which way was up and which way was down. A hairy fist arrived from above and gripped my collar, pulling me fiercely off the sand. Then a deep, serious voice, angry and full of rage, spoke.
“Who the fuck do you think you are, friend? I don’t know what in God’s name you think you’re doing, but this here is my property. You wouldn’t go and touch another man’s automobile, would you? I should kill you where you lay.” I believe I was trembling at this moment and would be lying if I said I didn’t piss myself. I could see had an occupied holster on his belt. I was terrified and just wanted the situation to be over. The grizzly man stared at me for a long time. I couldn’t look at him. I glanced over to the girl and saw that she was emotionless and still, and in that moment I hated her and I hated myself and I hated this bear of a man who just beat the shit out of me.
“Don’t you look at it. You look at me.” I struggled to meet his furious gaze and when I did, he looked through my eyes and whispered calmly.
“You lay a finger on my property again and I’ll murder you, friend.”
The burly man grabbed the laundry from the girl and slung it over his shoulder, then grabbed her arm tightly, glaring with all business eyes.
“And you, what the hell do you think you’re doing wandering off again like that? You do what I say, yahear? I paid a shit ton for you. Dinner should have been ready and all this should have be put away by now. Shape up or you’re going back. You know what they do with rejected robots right? Do I need remind you?” He turned her and they walked off.
I watched as he jerked her down the sand embankment back to the lights of the city, turning right a few streets back into a quiet neighborhood. I slowly struggled to my knees, then my feet, pain bouncing throughout my battered body. For the next few minutes I searched in the darkness for my eScreen and eventually found it a few feet away, half-buried in the sand. As I sluggishly limped back to the hovertrain stop, I dusted off the display and the turned it back on. The pictures came up slowly and I scrolled through each one. I arrived at the train stop as I landed on the picture of her right eye, blurred and skewed but nonetheless exquisite. I wanted her again. Then I saw it. The serial number was intact, as well as the barcode. It was all there…
As I waited for my train I tried to think hard about the evening, searching for some lesson to be gained from the events that unfolded, but found my mind drifting instead, an unfortunate side-effect of my undiagnosed ADD and inability to self-reflect. I was dreaming of the excitement and possibilities that would come forth from the picture. My entire imagination was consumed by the fantasy, the envy from the partners, the control. The pain from my broken bones evaporated as I floated above prospective futures and I was excited once again. Soon I would have my very own, perfect blonde girl in a yellow dress.