WIP: On The Eve Of October
Or, The Endless Cycle Of The Apple and The Tree
The tree is free at birth
To itself, of perfect worth
Then it begins to care for others
Sucking on it like a baby to a mother
Though the tree tries, it can not guarantee
Fruit of the highest quality
On the eve of October, the tree will die
But from the Apple will start new life
"The tabloids were right."
I picked up the photograph, framed in a small gold object, with diamond encrusted handles that made it difficult to hang on to. The image was slightly faded, even with the thick sheet of glass protecting it from any possible sunlight.
"Every single one of them."
In the picture, I held my father's hand, firmly, securely, and with a subtle warmth. Just as I had remembered it. Just like the sensation of the waterfall behind us, creating a mist that caused his eye to close a little as the cameraman shot the photo. We smiled, even when he asked to do a retake, and I held the image all the way home.
"Right about everything."
At that moment, my father and I were inseparable. I was learning all I needed to know so that I could become his successor. This trip in particular was just a vacation, but he did find a way to squeeze in some lessons in etiquette and even some techniques to make my voice boom out of my tiny speakers. I tried taking advantage of them at the same waterfall, and was in awe as my voice echoed across the landscape. The cameraman came soon after, with an accepting grin on his face as he offered a fist bump.
I threw the frame on the floor, and watched as the sun-proof glass cracked along the bezel. The sound of the breaking pierced through the room. This image infuriated me. As far as I was concerned, it was a lie. A hoax. A conman's autobiography. It didn't represent what was happening now. It was a reminder of time when it seemed everyone was drunk off of the strongest liquor in the cabinet, the stuff in a small glass container with a warning label on it.
If you didn't notice already, my name is Bot. At least, that's what the people close to me refer to me as. All the others call me His Royal Successor To The Throne, Botticus Hideshi Corneyeus. If you ever do meet me, don't call me that. I hate it.
If you couldn't guess from my title, I'm the prince, the only current successor, to the Robotic Throne. My dad, Yaruto Takumi Corneyeus (or his His Royal Highness Of The Robotic Empire, Yaruto Takumi Corneyeus for all you followers out there) is the king. He runs the whole empire, which isn't saying much, since it is just a couple of miles of gated desert. The Robotic Empire is on the continent of Africa, in a particularly hazardous part of the Sahara Desert. No humans wanted to live there, so the UN just sorta gave it to us. It's seemed like a good prospect at the time, at least.
Also, if you didn't notice from my father's title, the Robotic Empire is a country populated by robots. Entirely populated by robots. Like, there are literally no humans who live here. Mostly because most of them don't want to, but you get the idea. The reasoning was that, if robots with true artificial intelligence exist, they should have a country in the same way other groups do. That way, there would be some sort of national identity for them, instead of just belonging to the country they were made in. (Which, if you haven't guessed, was China 99.9% of the time)
Although this decision caused conflict with the surrounding areas, other countries pitched in, and all that occurred was a 3 year scrimmage news stations called the North African/Robotican Conflict. No, I don't believe Robotican was a word before, but it is now. Again, if you meet me, don't call me that.
Where does this lead into my part of the story? Well, my father, who's the king now, was apparently a very good general. I know this because he tells me that constantly. While, yes, in the beginning it was fun to hear how he blocked Moroccan troops from entering his base by hanging cardboard cutouts of wasp nests, it got boring at about the 389th time he told it. He does have a whole crate of memorabilia I look into from time to time, though. Strangely, that's where I found the image of us at the waterfall.
If you are terrible at analyzing text, you probably didn't notice that I'm not a big fan of my dad. At least, not anymore. When I was a kid I idolized the guy. That's why pictures like the one of us at the waterfall exist. That's why I remember moments when I couldn't wait to be like him. It's just that along the way, it was almost like the picture I had of him in my head cleared up. I started noticing more of him, more about him. I noticed his many imperfections and I began to disagree with things we previously saw eye to eye on. Maybe it was just that he was changing for the worse. Maybe it was just that I was changing.
Growing up is weird.
Chapter 1: A Father's Son (Yaruto 1)
From the window, I saw that the sky was a deep gray. There were never gray skies in the Sahara before we came along, the natives said. There were never temperatures below 50 degrees in the summertime, in daylight, they said.
There also wasn't any prosperity, but you never hear them say that.
The crowd in front of the stage was getting impatient, with the noise level getting louder and louder as I finished dressing in my old military uniform. The buttons always got me. That's why I was late.
In the other room, I heard Fish going over procedure with the other servants. He was always one to stress every vowel so that it stayed in your head no matter what. I ended up repeating after him even after I walked out of my room, "Look, smile, greet, offer, move, repeat."
"There will be no mistakes if we follow this pattern." He said. He was always a sort of a suck up. Even as he noticed me walking down the hall, there was an eager look in his eyes.
The gathering was a press conference, to announce my plans for the Empire after the death of Ayane. The CEOs would come just to hear how it would affect them, but I know for a fact that the media came here for my thoughts on Bot. I would take care of him, I planned on saying, I would mold him in my image to continue my legacy, then I would talk about tax cuts and all the moguls would go wild.
It is strange that this meeting would happen so soon after Ayane's passing, however. She really didn't want any political responsibility, so I didn't give her any. Nothing would really change from them to now. Maybe it was just that the public wanted me to emote to them. Show my feelings on the matter.
But the thing is, I knew it was inevitable. The virus inside her was going to catch up with her eventually. It did. I said my goodbyes and spent my last moments with her well. There was no real sorrow. I moved on to acceptance.
Yet here I am, about to force tears to something for the camera, for pity, for publicity.
Fish knocked on my door in a tight rhythm, and I could tell, even without seeing his face, that he was tense. He always did things precisely when he was tense. That was why he didn't die in the war. He wasn't very good at actually planning things out or staying covert, or even being a good motivator. But I'll be damned if he couldn't shoot the enemy with one bullet left in his rifle. In that way, it's kinda funny that he ended up being my servant.
I opened the door and walked into the hallway, careful to keep a professional-looking stride in my legs. Fish nodded in approval, and gestured me to the doors that held back waves of chatter. "I hope your message inspires them, sire." He looked into my eye as he spoke.
"There's no chance it won't." I put my hand on his shoulders and felt the warmth of his processor. He looked down at his wheel as I walked towards the doors and pushed them slowly with one hand, letting the wall of sound come in layers. The lights came next, making an already bright hallway seem like the surface of the sun. And as I made myself visible, the applause came as well. The thousands of hands created a symphony as I reached my metal podium, in the middle of the stage, with a million more lights beaming down on me.
Soon, the claps stopped, and speakers behind me began to play our national anthem, as twenty thousand feet hit the ground:
"Strong and independent
Leaders of our kind
The world in amazement
At the power of our minds
We are linked together!
Through the air
United, we can run faster
Than the fastest mare!
Oh, empire Robotica
Please let it be known
That even technological wonders
Have just as much soul!
Oh, empire Robotica
You are my home!
A powerhouse of freedom
A wonderful zone."
The sound of feet hitting the ground was replaced with the sound of rears hitting chairs, and I cleared my throat.
"Welcome, members of our world, to a meeting that will be very near and dear to my heart. I hope with an extreme amount of sincerity that it will be like this for you, too."
I paused, they applauded. I spoke again.
"As rude as it may seem to immediately jump into a topic, I feel like in this case, it is justified."
I looked around, and the faces were almost merging together, looking like a metal net in the darkness.
"Many of you are aware of the tragedy that occurred in this home, a week ago." As I paused, a few heads nodded. "The Queen of the Robotic Empire, on that day, after a long, hard struggle, a long hard fight, I might add, succumbed to the Pointblank Killer Virus."
I paused for twice as long, and a few more heads nodded. I began tearing up so that the cameras has something to focus on.
"I was there when my beautiful Ayane gave her last breath, and left this plane of existence with the words, 'I will always be here, even if I am not in the room with you.' I was there for watching my child, the heir to the throne, cry from his crib as Ayane stopped giving signs of responsiveness. I went through it all, and became a stronger man in the process."
I paused. The applause lasted a bit longer than expected.
"For even if his mother will not be there for him anymore, I will. I will make sure that he never cries like he did in that room on that day."
The waterworks began to flow. So I'll just have to feed him then, I joked in my head.
"I will train him to be my heir, your new king, when my reign is done. This tragic death only marks the beginning for our Empire. For we cannot have greatness without sorrow, or a surplus without a poverty. This country will soar to new heights that Ayane could not have even imagined, that I cannot even imagine, when my reign is done. The future of our nation is in the hands of my child."
Pause, applause, stop tears. Little Bot came out in his crib, with Fish proudly pushing him towards me. As the crowd went wild, I picked him up and kissed his cheek, only to make the crowd even more insane. So you know what I did? I held the kid up like in that scene from The Lion King. I don't even have to describe it to you; you know the one. After that, I dried up my cheeks from my fake tears and began talking cash, to the delight of the bigwigs who were watching.
"Mission accomplished.", I told myself later as I finally took off my sweaty suit. As Fish came by, he muttered something under his breath. From what I remember, it was something to the effect that raising a child is a lot harder than playing human emotions.
Or maybe that’s what I wished he’d told me.
Chapter 2 : Wanderers (Bot 1)
I awoke with a buzz, both a mental one and a literal vibration, as my alarm clock began to ring. As my eyes adjusted to the lit up numbers, I read them in a whisper.
"12:10." The numbers flashed in a strong neon green into my mechanical retinas.
Once awake, I blinked slowly and stretched my limbs in every which way. There was a reason I woke up at this exact time every morning: it was still early, in a social sense, so the creepers wouldn't be out yet. Also, from this time to four in the morning was the only gap in the servants' shift. Most of them were so used to not resting that even giving them a gap was seen as being very generous.
Getting my hoodie on was next, and I did so being sure to cover my face as much as possible with the small piece of fabric. No one knew that the king's son went out and about at this hour. And if I played my cards right, that would never change. Even the security team has never caught me, and I can't count the number of times that I've knocked over trash cans and pottery when walking through the gardens.
I grabbed my wallet, which had about 40 bucks in it, and scaled down from my bedroom window. I was hanging on to bricks I had purposely pulled out just enough that I could use them, but that no one else would notice. The maintenance crew never did leave their tools safe. As my wheel hit the grass, I almost thought there was someone behind me. I could feel a sort of warmth for a second as I stepped down, so much so that I turned around, only to see nothing out of the ordinary. Strange, I thought.
Why did I do this, you may ask? It was partly because I was sick and tired of being in my gilded cage of a home. It was also due to the fact that I was increasingly infuriated at my father's never-ending sass, so I needed an escape.
Not to mention, I was pretty lonely. There were no people in the castle who were my age, let alone anyone who felt cool enough to actually speak towards me. I guess it's this sort of unspoken rule that you never talk to royalty just in case you say something stupid. Which I get, but at the same time, I do still require a conversation every now and then. So, I talk to Fish, our head servant. I'm pretty honest with him about things I would never tell anyone else, because he had this very trustworthy kind of aura to him. I can't really explain it. He's been through a lot, I can tell, but he still seems down to Earth. It almost makes me wonder, sometimes, how such a great person to talk to is still a bachelor, and is still working a demeaning job. There was this one time, especially, when he almost cried.
"Bot," I remember him telling me, as he twiddled his thumbs in his lap, "I also had a, well, let's say strained, relationship with my father."
"Really?" I replied in surprise.
"Oh, yeah." He nodded his head and placed his hands out on the glossy wooden table. "We clashed more often than any father and son ever should. He was mostly just worried about me joining this whole movement, which he described as being almost like a cult."
"It feels like it." I remember saying, and later regretting.
"Well," he chuckled, "now I see that as the way that he showed his love, because he was a very hardened man, so he wasn't good with emotions. He was just worried about me."
I thought of applying that same logic to my situation, but the pieces didn't seem to fit.
"Was that the only thing he knocked you down over?" I asked.
"Well..." He paused, paused again, and sighed a great big sigh. His hands clenched. I could see in his eyes that he didn't want to talk about it. "There was something else. Let's just leave it at that."
I never did find out what that was. Frankly I don't really want to know.
The streets were practically empty, with one or two people looking as if they were quite drunk coming out every once in a while. All the buildings around me were quiet, especially for a Saturday night. But that was just the way things were around here. The most efficient workers slept early. It was why we were number one, my father had said at a press conference the week before. In the crowd, citizens had kept chanting, "#1 GDP!", almost to rub it in the face of everyone else.
I was dragged there, mainly to get into a photo shoot with my dad and pretend to be happy. I spent most of my time watching viral videos backstage, much to the dismay of the man of the hour. That was another reason I went out in secret; I hated, hated, hated being dragged to press conferences. When I went out on my own, it was my choice, and I was with people I wanted to be with. Not that my Dad would approve, of course. He never approves of anything I do.
The bar was only a block away, and there was a sort of force field of electronic music around it. The bass moved the sidewalk around me, and soon I saw people outside, making out and throwing up. Even the most disoriented robot moved to the rhythm.
Home, I told myself. To others, it had a name, "Bezerkrs", which sounds like a really bad attempt at text speak. But to me, it was the place where I wasn't royalty, where I was just another one of the guys, where I could walk on the wild side just enough to justify my goody two shoes for the rest of the week. And this sentiment was proven as soon as I walked in.
"George, dude!" The lean, bottle holding robot I knew as Stephan exclaimed as I came in. Zara was right next to him, holding on to his jacket while looking drowsy, and with a hint of lust in her eyes. Stephan and I proceeded to do our secret handshake (which, ironically, everyone seemed to imitate themselves), before he handed me bottle with a rolled wad stuck down the neck. I looked at him with the same face that he known so well.
"Really, man?" He asked in dissatisfaction. "Look, when you drink, the flavors are filtered through the blunt, and it's amazing. Just try it, it won't hurt you." He tried to push the bottle towards my mouth. I pushed back.
"You know why I can't." I replied. My father, I remembered telling him several times, would flip if he knew I had drank. It's really hard to hide because it temporarily stains any robotic surface that it touches with a pinkish color, looking almost like a rash. I remembered times when we traveled to other countries and found entirely pink robots sleeping in the street, which my father would use as a reference point for another public service announcement. Stephan tisk-tisked under his breath and stuffed the drink in his jacket. At that moment I saw that he had a few dark pink spots on his face.
"Oh, these?" He asked, pointing towards the same dark spots. "Zara here decided to go a little crazy tonight, isn’t that right, babe?" He looked down at her and she forced a smile, motioning away his hands in a half-playful manner. What happened for the next few hours was honestly a blur — it usually is in places like that. All I remember is at one point noticing that the crowd in the bar had been dying down, with the song playing when I came in playing again, and the bartender starting to clean up. When I looked back at where Stephan was, Zara was in his place.
"Bathroom", she answered. I kept looking at her, as she twiddled her thumbs. I had always assumed that Zara was a prostitute, because she dressed that way, but until that moment, I had never seen her gold necklace, which had a butterfly hanging off its chain.
"That’s a nice necklace." I said, breaking the sudden silence. Over the clattering of bottles being put away by the bartender, I could then hear a soft whimper. It came from Zara, who now had her hands on her eyes.
"Bot," she whispered, "can I tell you something?"
"Stephan doesn't know this, the poor soul, but.." She sneezed, and continued. "... I got fired from my job."
"Oh." I didn't really know how to respond, so I just tapped her shoulder. Then I remembered how conversation worked. "Why?"
"I got a virus." She said coldly.
"Oh." Damn it, I told myself, stop doing that! This time, I went in for a hug. And she nuzzled my shoulder.
"This one guy," she whispered, "kept saying that he didn't want any barriers, that he wanted a natural feeling." Oh, I said to myself. I was right. At that moment, however, I felt bad and put that thought away.
"Well, dumbass, look what happened now”, she continued to herself.
"Wait”, I interrupted. "what does this have to do with the necklace?"
"My boss gave it to me when I left. Apparently the same guy left it as a form of payment." I started playing with her vinyl hair, part blond at part brown, and she let the rest of her anger out as she mumbled into my skin. Back out the window, subtle purples were beginning to appear. Zara started breathing softly and slowly began to reach around me.
Her hands surrounded me like a warm bath, and I began to rock back and forth to the drum beat that I heard over the speaker. She held on and her eyelids shut slowly. The place was pretty much empty now, and the lonely bartender only glanced at us as he walked into the bathroom. Just as my mind began to wander, I heard a familiar voice whisper:
"Thanks for getting her to sleep. She was acting kinda grouchy for some reason." Steve put his hand on my shoulder, and I stopped moving. Zara’s hands came apart, and her boyfriend was ready to catch her in his arms and to walk out.
"Thanks", he repeated. As the door opened and closed, happy mumbling was heard, and the sky was a beautiful purple as many other couples went home. Inside it was silent, dark and empty. The bartender signaled me to leave as he jangled his keys in his hand.
On the way home I tried to play back what had just happened to better understand it all. No luck.
I woke up in a sweat around four hours after I sneaked back home. All I could hear for a couple of seconds were screams, slaps, moments of silence, and more screaming. I don’t remember the voices much anymore, or even if it was a dream or not.
Fish always told me about the many times that my parents argued. Even before the marriage was official, they were verbally tearing each other apart. On one occasion, Fish told me, there was a physical confrontation. His blank stare showed me that he didn't want to explain further, and I quickly changed the topic to the weather.
That didn't stop him from talking, however.
"Do you know what it's like, Bot, to see a person that you've always looked up to, always seen as a brother figure, so something so awful?" He spoke in monotone. I nodded side to side. A lone year was streaming down his face, and he sniffed.
"Terrible." He whispered. "Just terrible."
I never truly got back to sleep after waking up — I just became more restless every time my eyes opened back up again, every time I failed to calm myself down fully. It didn't help that a few hours later the servants woke up and were hard at work, and as gentle as they tried to be the sounds they made were fodder for my hawkish ears.
When I finally decided to get up, it was 7:23 in the morning. The sun was up in its full spectrum of yellows and oranges. Outside my door, I heard the footsteps of servants passing by. All in all, it seemed like a normal morning, before I realized that there was a lump in my back pocket. There was a small, flat shape connected by a thin string, and when I decided to take it out, I recognized it.
Zara left the necklace with me. There it was, it's shimmering gold butterfly hanging off a similarly colored chain.
At first I thought that I should just return it, but finally analyzing the events of the previous night, I decided not to. Maybe she meant to leave it with me, I thought. The metal made pleasant noises as I ran my fingers through it. Why would she do this, though? She has a boyfriend, and - she doesn't actually seem to be happy with him. I paused. No, I thought, I'm overreacting. She was probably just drunk. And with that, I hid the necklace in the drawer where I leave my magazines, among other things, and decided to go have some breakfast.
Chapter 3: Subtlety (Yaruto 2)
On a personal note, I would love to know how Bot spends so much of his time in seclusion. This morning he seemed particularly tired, coming down the grand staircase more slowly than a gallon of tar. Though I have in the past peeked into his room out of curiosity, recently Fish has allied with him in order to keep me out, citing privacy concerns. (Not that I ever did see anything actually incriminating or interesting.) Really, this whole privacy push just makes me more curious as to what Bot does behind closed doors.
After it seemed like eons, Bot finally sat in his chair, and after looking at the table, gave me a dirty look. I asked him why.
“How much oil do we have left?” He snapped. Surprised, I responded honestly, telling him that I knew very little. Not satisfied with my response, he began to explain himself. As I soon saw, I was killing the planet by literally burning up history, and if I was really concerned about boosting trade with human nations, I should keep the planet around a bit longer.
“Hmm.” I grabbed my usual coal based energy link. “You know, Bot, we’re not humans. Us robots have gotten to the point where we can be entirely self-sufficient if need be. So if powering myself using this kills humans, so be it. They’re the ones who started their planet’s death.” I remembered my trip to the United States, where what used to be called Florida existed then as a national park for sea creatures. Thanks to overfishing, it just became the nation’s largest dump.
“I just think we should be a bit nicer to the humans.” Bot shrugged. ”After all, we wouldn't be able to be self sufficient if it wasn't for (insert character's name here) Independence chip.” This signified the problems I had with Bot, and vice versa. He supported the humans universally, even as they've done more to kill themselves, robots, and yes, the planet, than we have. I haven’t been able to understand it, or even where he got this admiration from. It just seemed to have blossomed sometime around his 12th year of operation.
Fish wanted to butt in as usual, seeing that he considers himself a mediator, but one look restricted him to sitting quietly as my morning refill occurred. It was still noticeably tense when Bot stood up from his chair and, much faster than he had come down, went back up the staircase, and I assumed back into his room. The following slam didn’t surprise me at all.
Fish, in between watching the lower servants clean up the dining table, signaled me to come his way, as he walked into the kitchen. I followed.
“Sire,” he began, leaning against the countertop and dumming his fingers on it, “I know that you have seen how your relationship with Bot has deteriorated over time.” I chuckled.
“Don't you think I've tried to stop it?” Fish stared at me, then back at the tiled floors.
“You know you can't keep a monarchy going if you're not going to have a good father-son relationship.” I scowled.
“What makes you think he wants to be apart of it?”
“Why are you, pardon my language, so pessimistic about your own successor?” Fish was never one to raise his voice, but he was close this time.
“He hasn't showed me that he has what it takes to do what I do. If he wants to mooch off the backs of humans, then he can do that without desecrating everything I stand for.” Fish took a breath, signaling to me that he was trying to rationalize.
“But why, sir, do you think he feels that way?” Because I had asked myself that question so many times before, the response I’ve always come back to reared its ugly head again, becoming almost a symbol of what my role as a father had become.
“I don’t know.”
The day after the press conference was one of the most tense, stressful, and otherwise inconvenient days of my life, for the single reason that it was the first time I was the primary caregiver of another thing.
Perhaps I should explain: Ayane was chief in Bot’s care early on, to the point that I never had to learn to do anything but baby talk. Even after her death, he was taken care of by a local nanny, one who was agreed upon by all the yes men to be very trustworthy. Nevertheless, she was under supervision by both my personal servants and below-average military forces, which is probably why she was so eager to give up her role. Now I, who had never had to clean, coo, or otherwise care for Bot, had to take care of him. Ayane left it in her will to be so, stating that she wanted Bot to grow up “under the crown, not under the help”.
My first inconvenience came the morning after, around two in the morning to be exact, when Bot awoke during a particular enjoyable dream of mine. My first of many mistakes came as I tried to ignore his cries, thinking they'd stop on their own. Unfortunately, like an untouched alarm, it was static noise in the background that I could not ignore, and I had to deal with. Coincidentally, as soon as I got to his crib, he stopped.
Fish told me at breakfast later that morning that I could at least ask for his input in parental matters, instead of letting him take care of Bot entirely. It seemed like a good compromise — I would still be taking care of the boy, but the help would, well, help. Considering I was already busy with running a nation, I took him up on his offer.
Fish encouraged me to treat the bot, and treat I did: all the latest accessories, trips to every travel destination, and a playful attitude that I put on to be his friend even during the most tedious moments. And it worked: as Bot grew from an infant to a toddler to a boy, he was happy and so was I. It was only when Bot began his rapid developmental expansion, around his 12th year of operation, that the trinkets and playthings, the visits that used to delight him, and my occasionally playful attitude stopped working on him.
Bot began to disagree with me on things, and he began to question me. I was absolutely befuddled as to how to keep caring for Bot. It was as this point that Fish, sensing my lack of experience, stepped in completely and took Bot under his wing. It was a weight lifted off my shoulders, and another placed in the back of my head. I justified it, however — Bot didn't grow up under the help entirely — just at the point where he was starting to become a young man.
Though looking back, I wonder if Fish is the reason behind Bot’s rebellious nature. Even now, the signs are subtle, but it seems like Fish and Bot talk a lot more than I realize. Occasionally it seems like they speak entirely in inside jokes, or at least about subjects unfamiliar to me.
And it's at those times where I think the most about the role we play in each other's lives. It feels like I exist as a representation of everything Bot is apparently against, and Bot is a son I can’t help but treat more and more like a lost cause in response. He hasn't shown me to be at least faintly charming, or at least interested in others, instead sulking and hiding away in his room whenever possible. He has shown little interest in anything important, for that matter, especially anything that would affect his future. He has shown no interest in negotiation, only pushing for his side and his side only in an argument, as wrong as he may be.
Though I guess that may have its benefits - traditions be damned, Bot is a fighter.
Chapter 4 : Discovery (Bot 2)
I'm not a heavy sleeper. I've been woken up by the buzz of insects, the… So when my father decided not to just wake me up, but to shake my body and almost yell into my face, I was rightly miffed.