With a Feeling

A lot happened since I decided to be a hermit. Looking out the windows, or down from my rooftop, I could have sworn people were talking to their cars, to streetlights, to doors. Some kind of bizarre road rage I assumed, except it happened all the time. And even weirder, lately people stopped yelling. It was like they were having friendly conversations with fire hydrants and construction cranes. I looked for bluetooth headsets or those earbuds that had mics on them, but most of the time I couldn’t spot any.

I had some trouble getting a package delivered one day, and FedEx called me and asked me to pick it up. I fought with them awhile, but nothing changed–I either had to pick up my package (in person using my ID) or it would be sent back to Amazon. Christmas was too soon and I bought most of the stuff on flash sales, so even if I got a full refund I wouldn’t be able to re-buy the same stuff for the same price. If I didn’t pick up my package today, I’d be SOL. No choice but to venture forth.

I didn’t even get out the front door before I ran into something weird. I had a key card but there was no panel to hold the key up to anymore–the whole door looked new. I pushed on it since it had no handle. No luck.

A voice coming from an electronic strip above the door said, “Please state your name.”

Damn! When did they install this stupid thing?

“Crystal Hanneman,” I said.

The door considered this.

“Are you a resident or a visitor?” the door asked.

“A resident. I live in 303.”

“Room 303: Unassigned. Are you a visitor?”

“I’m… I’m a resident! I live there.”

“Voice pattern unrecognized. Calling room 303.”

I heard a buzzing noise. Was the door buzzing my room?

“I’m not home, you knob. I’m here. I want to leave.”

“Visitor entrance unregistered. Exit prohibited. Please wait for security personnel.”

“I’m not breaking in!” I shouted, kicking the door. “I want to leave! Piece of shit, Jesus fucking–”

The strip above the door flashed red and an alarm sounded.

“APOLOGIZE,” the door boomed.

“What?”

“APOLOGIZE.”

“What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“PLEASE WAIT. SECURITY PERSONNEL EN ROUTE.”

I was a prisoner in my own home. A home I hadn’t even tried to leave in almost a year. How did this happen?

A blocky-looking young man with a baby face but a giant’s body approached the door–I could see him coming through the window I debated smashing a second ago. He spoke a muffled name to the door, which blinked green and opened automatically. I suppressed the urge to dash for freedom–probably due to so many months of suppressing the same urge throughout this whole hermit enterprise.

Bobby, the security guy, explained a lot of things I didn’t quite understand. First: I had to register my name with the rental agency–they would take my voice print for the door. Second: The door was now a “smart door,” part of the “smart city” initiative. And third: “Smart” tech had all recently been updated to have feelings–just “smartness” wasn’t enough apparently. Some smart city UX designer figured empathy was the key to enjoying such a big city-wide change. Problem was, now everyone was afraid mistreating the tech would lead to, well, Skynet. So law stated that we all had to be nice to our technology, as though that very idea didn’t already reek of “machine overlord.”

Sheepishly, I apologized to the door. The alarm stopped. Somehow the door seemed pleased.

Dazed by all this information, I forgot all about my package. Looking at my watch, I noticed that the package office was closed in two hours. I had to get there quick, or else I’d have to choose between paying rent or having Christmas.

“Thanks for your help,” I told Bobby, “and I’m really sorry about the door, but I’ve gotta go.”

“Just watch yourself. Talk like that to a smart object again you’ll wind up with a fine. And one more thing–”

I was already running down the block. I’m sure it was nothing important…

 

 


 

 

Day 350’s three random writing prompt categories were, “A living city,” “A new law,” and, “The hermit.”.

I may do a part two of this one. More adventures of Crystal from Crystal’s ChrysalisThe Hermit Dreams, and Work Will Set You Free.

– H.

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