I tried raising my hand. I knew instantly that my muscle had been wasted. I tried with the other hand, same effort and same result.
‘I am thirsty, need some water.’ Simple thoughts that arose in my mind. Sara appeared like magic, at my elbow and shoved a pellet in front of my face. I opened my jaw slowly and she dropped the pellet into my mouth. Clear, tasteless liquid, flowed down by throat. It cooled my insides and yet, I yearned for the warm ‘Chukkuvellam’ that I would drink at my mother’s house.
“Nobody knows where to find that herb. It has probably disappeared, just like the other three hundred thousand plants,” Sara relayed her knowledge in that monotonous voice that I have come to dread now.
“Sara, how many times have I told you? Do not intrude into my memories or my thoughts. They are mine, only mine!”
Sara remained silent. She was meant to read only my wishes, my actionable thoughts, thoughts that she could act upon. Lately, however, I have found her offering unsolicited opinion on everything. I was told by the company which manufactures millions others like Sara that she is probably learning from me. ‘So now, do I have to stop introspecting? Stop retrospecting? Stop being human? So that she doesn’t become more human?’
“I cannot be human.” Sara was staring at me.
“Unbelievable,” I muttered under my breath. “Well you certainly don’t look human,” I scoffed. But I was far from the truth.
She was a medium-statured brunette, with a smooth shiny skin, not soft but supple. She always dressed well and her attire accentuated her perfect figure. The only aspect of her face that gave a hint of her in-humanness, were her eyes. Her eyes bore into you. As if she was trying to reach the depths of your soul. Except that she couldn’t. Only humans could do that. Alas! No human looked at another human that way anymore. I had read in the books about haunting eyes, searching eyes and understanding eyes but humans these days, possess none of these eyes. Our eyes are glued to some sort of a screen all the time, either in the air in front of us, or on our hands, or on the walls of our house. We don’t look at each other any more.
‘I wish I could look at myself.’
As soon as the thought crossed my mind, the air, about four feet ahead of me crackled with electricity. A screen lit up in that space and a ghastly figure occupied it. I winced as I looked ahead. Was it me or my shadow? The pallor on my face notwithstanding, I looked like a trimmer version of me.
‘I knew I could fit into my college jeans some day.’ A triumphant thought crossed my mind.
“You would look good in them,” offered Sara. I suppressed a smile, though I knew that this trimmer version could not walk even a few feet without Sara’s support.
‘I need water.’ A simple thought again.
“Your quota for the day is over, ma’am.”
“Please Sara!” I spoke aloud. Sara remained unperturbed.
“Remember, we have only four pellets left. Your wages will be paid only four days later. Till then we will have to save what we have.”
“What I have!” I screamed, unnecessarily jabbing myself in the chest. I lost my breath for a while. “You don’t need any water or food! I hope you run out of charge too!”
“If I run out of charge, I’ll be unable to help you with anything ma’am.” Sara explained lucidly., as if I were a child.
I took a deep breath. ‘Maybe, just maybe, I could wander out. Maybe it has rained.’
“Yes, ma’am, I can take you outside but the status of the climate remains unchanged. It has not rained for 27 years. The earth is covered by a dense layer of smog. There is no vegetation left. And, no. You won’t be able to drink dew-drops off a leaf….”
How did she? I gasped at the thought that never crossed my mind.
“…There are no leaves left.” She completed her monologue.
The mention of leaves made me feel hungry. ‘Food’, I thought.
In an instant, Sara arrived with the capsule. I eyed it suspiciously. The last time when she gave me one, I couldn’t think of food for another twenty days. I ignored her outstretched hand. I needed something different. Something that reminded me of summer. A setting sun peeping through the branches of the trees. Children playing boisterously. A song playing in the background. Was it on TV? No. It was on my dad’s radio. I was sitting on my doorstep, my dog at my feet. Occasionally, he looked up with his puppy eyes, smacking his lips, waiting for a spoonful of? Ice cream! That’s it! It was ice cream that I wished to eat!
“No such food exists in the world, today.” Sara’s annoying monotone reverberated in my reverie.
Exasperated, I jumped up from my chair, trying to switch her off! Instead, I felt my feet give away! I was falling, falling down a hole…
I woke up with a start. I jumped up and ran straight to my balcony. They were still there. I caressed my lovely plants. Thanks to the almighty! They still survive! A simple prayer crossed my mind.