The time was 02.15. That gave U 02.00 hours until he would have to take the shuttle back to the station to meet with Mr. Hughes. U looked up from the bed he was sitting on to the MediaStation and then down to his PDA. When U pointed the PDA towards the screen new options lit up: Record, View, Archive, Alarm, Project, Search, …U pressed the button marked “alarm” and then typed in “Doctor Y. Ortho”. The rectangular computer beeped and then went dark again. U rose from the bed, closed his eyes and rolled his head around slowly to stretch his neck.
The message meant something. Maybe there would be a punishment after all. Walking towards the cleansing room, U thought about washing himself. He hadn’t showered since the night before. It would be good to clean, then eat something. U didn’t eat breakfast that morning, or dinner the night before. He couldn’t stomach it then, but now…he felt he could. The shower provided a numbing hum, filling his ears and freeing U’s mind from anxiety.
“I should get there early,” U thought, “just in case this Mr. Hughes decides to show up before 04.30. Then we can get this all taken care of before dinner.” A faint smile crossed U’s face as he stepped into the blue-water shower. He wasn’t sure if it was the heat from the blue liquid or the thought of the meeting with Hughes, but a warm feeling had taken root in his chest. This feeling continued as U ate his dinner in the kitchen. Each bite seemed to fill his body with contentment. It wasn’t until he was finished eating that the PDA rung with the alarm he had previously set: “03.13…channel 2A67…”.
“Ten mintues,” U mused to himself, “I wonder how they’ll report it”. U walked from the kitchen into the living space. He used the PDA to set the MediaStation to 2A67.
“…iriam Cooper was a first shift line supervisor at the West Lake Recreation Center,” the announcer’s words were supported by pictures of the center, a large blue building with an inviting look about it, “She was known by her co-workers as someone who was passionate about her work. ‘Miriam always would make you feel good about your job…’ said one close friend,” U stared at her photograph on the screen, he tried to visualize the way she must have walked, and the type of clothes she would wear. “Mrs. Cooper was married to a chemical analyst and they had no children. She was 34 years old at the time of her passing….”
“A minute and fifteen seconds for a life”, U thought, “But then again, now this Mrs. Cooper is immortal”. He sighed and set down his PDA. The Memorial Station was always on. Whenever someone died, the station would air a short tribute to that person’s life: one minute and fifteen seconds long. According to the officials, each citizen of the universe was valuable, and worthy of our memory. This was a beautiful idea to U, and as he thought of Mrs. Cooper being shown throughout the Earth and the outlying colonies he felt good, perhaps even wonderful. He lay back on his bed and watched several more memorials….
“Early today, Dr. Ortho, one of the most well known of the System engineers died. Dr. Ortho was a founding scientist in the famous London circle which envisioned and later created and implemented the System. At the time of his death Dr. Ortho was working on making the System more efficient through a series of updates. Although he is survived by no family, Dr. Ortho will be missed by everyone he touched with his kindness, genius, and skill. He was 52 at the time of his passing….”
“Why didn’t they mention his murder? Maybe that’s what this Mr. Hughes is going to do, find out about why I killed him and then submit the information so they can do another memorial,” said U as he rose from his bed and began to pace around the room.
“They could have said something about the murder…something about an investigation…uggh” U groaned with disgust. “It doesn’t matter, Mr. Hughes will sort all this out, he’ll ask me why I did it and I’ll tell him and then I’ll be taken to be punished and it will all be worked out, finished.” A deep sigh creeped out of U, draining not only the air from his lungs, but the strength of his bones. “I can’t think about this stuff, I need to go find something to do until I have to leave for the office.” His voice rang out loud in the small apartment. His hands moved sharp and franticly as he spoke. “Something to do, I need something to do, why didn’t they say something about his cause of death?” By this time, U had lapped his apartment several times, he stopped in the kitchen and found some calming fluid. Pouring himself a generous serving, U downed the drink in one swig and stood staring at the yellow wallpaper. An edge of one of the sheets of paper had begun to peel from age and heat. “I hate this color; I should have never let them give me this dump without new paper.” U took hold of the withered segment of the yellow wallpaper and tore at it. A long strip came off in his hand. Without thinking U continued to pull at the paper, going from edge to edge, yanking and grunting, tossing the strips onto the floor. When he stopped, the kitchen walls were bare and the air hung with the smell of old dried adhesive. U looked down at his PDA: “…..TIME……03.41……..TEMPATURE…..79 DEGREES…….”
“I should get going,” U thought to himself.