UBBE, THE ROBOT =['.']=
UBBE was never punctual because he couldn’t understand the pain of waiting. He waited like an owl. It gave him a sense of purpose, even if it made him appear useless. He was entirely satisfied to stare at a floor for a few minutes, or hours, or to stand outside a building and beep, or to rest against a wall and wave at people, or to count the words on a newspaper without ever actually reading it; or to remain on hold...
UBBE bumped into his friend Wally at the dentist's. Wally was a human who had a cavity, and UBBE had rust. Wally told UBBE that their town was along the same route of a new high speed rail.
“Have you seen the station?” said Wally.
“I do not know. I do not think so,” said UBBE.
“That’s because there is no station. This new rail is so high-tech! It hovers a safe distance above passengers and picks up only those in a state of self-willed mobility. A rail without rails, and never a delay, imagine that?”
But the trouble with UBBE was that he could not imagine.
When UBBE got home he found that his pet rabbits broke out of their cage. He swept up some broken glass... poured a bed of fresh sawdust... and programmed a sweet ditty to siren the lads back home.
He waited for thirty-seven hours but the rabbits didn't return. Instead, they remained in the forest behind UBBE's house. He watched them from his window for days. and usually caught them huddled next to a tree or a rock. “I’m just happy you’re safe,” UBBE said one evening, and then slammed his claw hand through a glass window.
What happened to your rabbits?” asked Wally the following afternoon.
“They’re living in the patch of woods behind my house. They’re doing a brilliant job out there,” said UBBE.
“That’s fantastic. I wonder if they’d recognize me. It’s been, what, seven weeks?”
“Forty six days, seven hours, forty-two minutes, two seconds...” said UBBE. “Four seconds. Perhaps I can show them your picture and see if they make any sudden movements. It might be wise to leave them be, however.”
“Sounds like a plan,” said Wally.
From September until last Friday UBBE had been gainfully employed. He regularly worked the local multiplex's matinee shift. Popping popcorn and ripping tickets. But then too many customers complained about his signature routine: he would yell “All aboard!” whenever a theater opened for seating. After a pattern of complaints emerged, the manager sat UBBE in the front row of theater seven, shook his robot claw, and asked for his pin and vest.
UBBE spent his unemployed days researching the high-speed rail. The results were perplexing. Articles with diabolical ledes, incredible bylines... J. Edgar Hooper, the Illuminati.. UBBE read between the lingo, skipping over the fluff and digging into the data.
“Wally, this is more high-tech than you described,” said UBBE into his phone.
It was 7:07 a.m. and he was in the library, tilting his head back to make out the latest Internet search result. He paused and looked at his neighbor’s computer screen: a glowing, hypnotic light show of jewels moving and exploding—their direction controlled by a keyboard's W, A, S, and D keys.
"Some real gnarly graphics, friend," said UBBE to his neighbor. UBBE stood up too quickly and accidentally yanked the power cable out of his electrical socket. A librarian had to come to his desk and re-boot him. Everyone huddled around him to wait for his systems to reload. It was touch and go. But before he could return to his browser's robust number of tabs, the librarian reminded the reading room about the robot loitering policy.
"I'm sorry, but you must leave," she whispered to him.
"Very well," said UBBE.
UBBE had been late for appointments partly out of carelessness, partly because he didn’t understand the pain of waiting, but also, partly, in order to prolong the fear of being late, which often preceded another long period of waiting…
One such morning UBBE noticed a rabbit tilt its head to one side and squint in his direction. He approached the patch of woods where a small cabal of them ten-hutted with a kind of militaristic posturing that the robot found quite impressive.
A fast-processing robots he may have been, but UBBE processed the rabbits' betrayal quite slowly. It'd been seventy-five days since the "migration," but this gesture—a military about-face—was undeniable. The rabbit at the tip of the phalanx broke formation and hopped toward him. Troweling dirt in every which way, the rabbit seemed to hop very quickly, but he didn't get any bigger by the time he reached UBBE. Finally it looked up at UBBE and bowed.
"Perhaps the time has come to parlay," said UBBE.
But the rabbit appeared to have fallen asleep at his feet. And it continued sleeping, even after the other rabbits whisked it away in a corn husk. All of a sudden, UBBE began to question his reality.
UBBE read a book about the history of railroads. As far as he could tell, it covered tens of thousands of years, but, then again, UBBE had no sense of time. Its final paragraph read: "The Central Railway is an American-funded Argon-based project to link the cities of Q-Bex and Wilkes-Town. It has yet to break ground. Linking the two cities in 25 seconds, it will reach top speeds of 205 miles per hour and is scheduled to be complete in 2099 or 2100."
"This is all very informative," said UBBE, and then he slammed the book shut and powered down.
The next day UBBE found himself back in the dentist's chair, forty-seven minutes late for his appointment, but still trudging through thoughts about about the rabbits, and the rail, self-willed mobility, and the microscopic dust particles coating every space and dimension of his world, which only he could see...
"There's no easy way to say this," said Dr Wolfenstein. "We noticed something missing in our latest hardware scan..."
What could be missing, thought UBBE.
Dr Wolfenstein pointed to two-dimensional barcode framed squarley in the middle of an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper. "An Apian void," he began. "Quite hunky, in fact. You see, the network of wires responsible for mimicking the Daucus carota enzyme have vanished. I'm afraid you'll never taste another carrot again."