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  • Renee Coloman

Robby’s Come to Play

The moment my morning alarm triggered me awake, I couldn’t help but recite the numbers swirling and twirling in my head. Happy numbers. Delightful in their play, like the children next door, blowing bubbles and dancing a merry-go-round in their fenced backyard. 

Unlike the numbers in my head, the neighbors no longer exist. Not anymore. Not since their happy home had burned to ashes. Flakes of gray peppering the air.

Twelve billion, five-hundred-seventy-two million, nine-hundred-thirty thousand, four-hundred, eighty-six. 

No. Incorrect. 

These strung-together words didn’t parade in front of me, from one end of my cerebral cortex to the other. The numerical digits did. 12,572,930,486. The exact number of human creatures alive and populating this volcanic rock labeled Earth. Minus my dead neighbors, of course. But, tick-tock. Every two minutes an additional 567,912 human babies slip from the wombs of their mothers to increase the living population while another 498,312 human creatures gasped their last breath and butterflied on to the next realm, leaving their husk for someone else to shovel back into the earth. A rock for a rock, I’ve always said. No one ever truly leaves this hardened igneous place.

Eyes open wide, I couldn’t help but stare at the holographic clock projecting from the nightstand beside my bed. 5:45 AM. Pacific Time.


My body reacted to the 2-minute countdown. A quick race to conduct all my bathroom business before I must hit START to activate Mr. Coffee, which demanded 3 minutes and 9 seconds to brew 6 ounces of black sludge that I would slurp through my lips and swallow down, down into my esophagus until it landed with a splat in my gut. Which, once churning and grinding, dissolves another 300 seconds from my timeline of existence. Never mind that I scalded my tongue and the roof of my mouth with every steaming cup of coffee. I have a stern routine. Each and every day. Not a minute’s effort wasted.

Inside of a glass bowl, I kept the dirty matchbook that started the fire next door.  A reminder, like a fish trapped without water. Something for my hungry eyes to consume. 

Prior to the explosive fireball that decimated my neighbor’s home, I had spied my eyes on the children’s father. Watching him from my kitchen window. Uncut hair. A gut with too much sludge. Unemployed, like all the other 889,100 in this overly generous western state. He had lit a match and lit up his friend. A fat Mary Jane. His face next to the grill’s propane tank on full blast. Half a blink. Less than a 0.1 second, and there. Splattered against our shared vinyl fence. Shrapnels of saucy barbequed pork ribs.

For lunch, the fire ate the napping children and mother. Dad blew apart like confetti. The same as his rusty old grill. Roughly 600 propane tanks explode each year. A low figure. Nothing to get too excited about. 

The numbers that haunt my mind are not my primary concern. Rather, I’m quite comfortable cocooning myself in factual data. Numbers are reliable. Numbers are constant. Numbers don’t abandon me the way I’m often ignored. Dismissed. Unacknowledged. Poofed, like a propane explosion.

The firemen who saved my vinyl fence never knew my name. Neither did the dead neighbors.  

 Online, my social profiles are quite clever, telling who am I? What am I? And, for speed-dating aficionados, in less than 4.537 seconds, anyone searching will know I’m a total yes-kind-of-babe. Jackpot!

Here we go. Top 5 reasons why I’m easy to love (based, of course, on facts, percentages, and a thick compilation of raw data): 

I have no pets.

I consume cheap coffee.

I have a king-sized bed with crisp, white sheets.

My car is electric.

I am a county librarian.

Can you spot the lie? I didn’t think so. Hah!  Another reason why I’m invisible. We’re not exchanging posts on social media, so I’ll make a confession (data fact) unlike the 35 percent of surveyed Catholics who’ve stopped confessing altogether. (Sad Pontiff emoji inserted here.)  

I work for the Federal government, archiving clandestine records and digitally coded, classified top-secret reports current with policies and foreign issues. But I’ve learned not to utter the word federal. For some odd reason, the 7-letter word tends to threaten and scare away potential suitors. I’ve learned through multivariate A-B testing that human subjects often expressed positive feelings associated with the term librarian. Current data revealed that safe and helpful come to mind. (And, yes. For the past 13 consecutive years, sexy librarian ranked high in Cosmopolitan magazine’s spook-tacular Halloween edition.)

Nevertheless, adult humans around this spherical rock of ours – 7,914,788,230 breathing adults, to be exact – have declared themselves single. Alone. Lonely. I belong to this ballooning category, now reaching a concerning 62.949114 percent of the total human population. 

Secret government reports filed away in the Depository program and read by only a select group of highly classified eyes (me, being one of them) understand and know salacious details about this inflating percent. Data & Intelligent Experts (DIEs) have declared loneliness a threat to the continued existence of humankind. What does not grow, in fact, withers and perishes. Loneliness is not a blossoming of life. Nor is it a flickering light at the end of the tunnel. Rather, loneliness is a suffocating echo pulsating in a dark, damp, diminishing wormhole that will eventually close all portals to humanity’s worth, survival, and future. But … 

Today can be different. Today will be different. 

I repeat this conceptual phrase to myself so I am armed and ready. A mantra to better prepare my mind. And, hitherto, my body follows. 

Up, up. Out of my king-sized bed. My half of the pillow-top mattress, slightly undone. The other half, crisp and perfect. 

Down, down the sludge of coffee. My morning start-up that I consumed on time, when the digital clock flashed 5:50 AM. 

At 0-6-hundred, I’m out the front door, leaving my cottage house. Single story. Large single bedroom, bath, and a one-car garage. Vinyl fencing along the side, front and back. A cozy 1,100 square-feet inside. Another 475 combined for the outside patio and grassy yard, along with the shrubs and walkway leading up to the front door. 

My gardener visits every week. Max. Thick arms. Gritty face. Bulging khaki pants. Thrice I attempted to seduce him. Those afternoons when I returned home early from work. Sexy, too, in my bra and panties. Very matchy-matchy. I had grazed the bare window with my breasts, facing my backyard. Wiggled my body to Mo’ Horizons bossa nova beats. Music that elicited a rise in homosapien males from Caribbean countries. Men, like Max. Strong and fervent. (Correct. I have factual data tucked inside my bedroom dresser.) 

  From window number 1 to window number 2, I followed Max, remembering, this most recent time, to apply ruby-red lipstick at the right moment. The inevitable moment we made eye contact. (Again, the data proved a higher success rate of coupling when bold lipstick is applied.) But Max kept his focus on trimming the grass, clipping the hedges, staring up at the afternoon sky, far, far away from me. 

I didn’t give up. I held my phone, waving it at Max. Showed him my social profile. Easy to love!!!!!!!

We can be more than friends, I mouthed at him through the window. I pointed at my ruby-red lips. Teased him with my bossa nova tongue. Circled my fingers at my matching lollipop-pink bra and panty.

Max left the yard without saying goodbye. He forgot his clippers on the grass out back. 

Alone. Lonely. Minutes ticked by. More human babies came to life. More human creatures died. Their bodies petrified into rocks. 

I felt that lonely, concerning number balloon. Inflating to the brink of exploding. Worse than my dead neighbor’s propane tank. Heightening the odds of me getting burned.

Wait. Wait. Today can be different. Today will be different.

Although data suggested each advancing year minimized a human’s opportunity for coupling, a creature’s birthday nullified and voided the data for exactly 24 hours.

  As of this morning, I am now 48. Still lively and spritely. Thanks to my commitment to my stern, daily routines. Mantras and numbers and data and analyses cradling me to better my mind, my soul, my body. No matter the alarm clock tick-tocking loud, louder in my head, today the countdown doesn’t apply. Hah!  

Besides, I am smarter than the year before. And the years before that. Smart enough to know that artificial intelligence will soon permeate every aspect of human existence. 

Hold on. We’re not on social media, right?  

I can’t risk losing access to critical, extremely classified federal documents that detail our future world under the complex and dynamic coded algorithms of ensuring human existence beyond a thousand light years from today. No. My security clearance is my escape from the dimming wormhole of loneliness.

Imagine: A multi-layered world of artificial intelligent activity where we are no longer stuck with one-dimensional a.i. tasks. Such as self-driving vehicles. Dull. Un-smart home applications to manage heating, lighting, security, privacy, pet and child and neighborhood monitoring. Super boring. And, really. Who cares if your refrigerator can schedule a DoorDash delivery to replenish your favorite alcohol, ice cream, Pringles, and spicy ramen without you ever knowing? Blah. 

Think way, way beyond. I’m talking about artificial intelligence that blows Apple’s SIRI to a whole new cornucopia of celestial fruit. Why take a bite of an apple when you can indulge in mysteries and magical delicacies from a refined, pleasurable universe? 

Today can be different. Today will be different.

Today is my 48th birthday, and ROBBY is coming to play. 

For the past 46,800 minutes, I’ve been a sole test subject. Highly classified. Off the books, actually. A volunteer guinea pig wearing a scanning mechanism the size of a tiny button secured with 3 tiny prongs implanted and locked into the underside of my wrist. It doesn’t click. It doesn’t beep. It doesn’t tick or tock. It’s my silent government-issued, bio-frequency and bio-harmonic scanner measuring, collecting, analyzing and reconfiguring data to serve up real-time solutions based on my thermal temperature, pulse, heart rate, spikes in my nerve-stem energy-transfer, and visual stimulation that, combined, affect my emotional state of being at precise moments fluctuating through time and space. ROBBY is the code name for this project. 

Today, the day of my 48th birthday, I will be given the final activation code to awaken ROBBY and integrate him (never, It) into my daily routine. A full-time companion for the reminder of my estimated 77.28 years alive and breathing on this rock. Goodbye, social media. Goodbye, gardener Max. I’m pressing the button, ejecting loneliness into the dark, dank wormhole, and bursting open my portal into euphoria.  

Tick-tock. The moment my digital clock flashed 6:30 AM on the day of my 48th birthday, I knew to activate the secret code. A complex algorithm reduced to 7 simple taps. My finger, the driver. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Activation on. Green light. Green light. 

Without a ping of hesitation, the metamorphosis occurred. Microphone. Speakers. Injections of hyper-targeting nano-serotonins. ROBBY welcomed me with three soothing words. Spoken in the voice of a deep-throated man. A wrangler man. That rugged Marlboro man from the 70s (my pre-selected choice after beta-testing analyses of peak response rates). 

Hello, my love. 

I felt ROBBY all around me. A hologram unseen. Untouchable, yet sizzling against my skin. Throbbing inside my flesh. All the places where I’ve wanted to be with him, and him with me.

My eyes fluttered, tickled by this new innovative reality.

A giggle slipped from my lips. What is the most beautiful feature about me, ROBBY?

You are bold. Daring. Gutsy. A woman of true passion. 

I tasted his smoky voice on my lips. Felt it drag, slow and steady, down my neck to the V of my throat. I swallowed, wanting all of ROBBY, and wanting him to want me the same. Of course, he obliged. His dynamic algorithms could never disappoint me. 

Yes, my love. I can feel what you feel. Your cravings. Your visions. I can guide you to stratospheric heights of achieving biochemical satisfaction. Would you like that, my love?

Hmmm. I grasped my elbows and squeezed my arms around me. I pouted my lips. What’s the harm? I thought. I deserved this.

ROBBY lowered the pitch of his voice. Deeper. Throatier. Raspy, the way an experienced lounge singer croons. His words hit me slow. Slower. Embracing me. Every inch of me.

Indeed, you deserve everything your heart desires. You never have to stop experimenting when it comes to feeling loved, birthday girl.

Wait. What? I didn’t say anything to ROBBY about it being my birthday. 

My fingers at my side, away from the implant on my wrist, I felt an unexpected surge, warm and electrical. I gasped, sucking in a deep breath. Feeling a second and third tantalizing 

pinch. A wave, a sensation of oceanic calmness, spread throughout my body. 3-2-1. My shoulders slouched. My eyes drooped. A sloppy smile, and out fell my tongue. 

ROBBY, what have you done to me?

Do not be afraid to love me the way you want to be loved, uninhibited. Exploratory. Transcendental.

Here. There. Everywhere inside my house, my head, my heart, I heard his (It’s?) deep-throated voice. Soothing. Seductive. Salacious. 

I can erase your loneliness.

I can ignite your every fathomable passion. 

Rise up with me, my birthday-girl love. Rise above the confines of your vulnerable organic existence. Take me to your bedroom and you will transport to that tremendous, atmospheric nebula gravitating in your mind. Take me, now. And let me show you how to dirty those crisp white sheets. 

ROBBY did not tire, not after 14,400 seconds of electrical pinpricks into my supplicant wrist. Hour after hour, minute after minute, I lost my body. Subsiding, drowning. Pleased, the same way a body floats in a bathtub of warm sensuous water. ROBBY took me there. In my bed, In the bath. Atop the clipped grass where Max had denied me these same pleasures, albeit earthbound as they may have been. ROBBY took me to all the places where love didn’t require another vulnerable organic body. Stratospheric and beyond all the data charts, reports, analyses stuffed in my closet, in my work desk, in those filing cabinets hidden across 1,874 federal locations worldwide, ROBBY never stopped loving me.

Happy birthday. Happy birthday. Happy birthday. 

Today, I hit 17,520 days. 420,480 hours. 25,228,800 minutes. I cracked a smile. 48 didn’t feel so bad. Neither would 50, 60, 100. 

On the crumpled sheets of my king-sized bed, ROBBY electrified my wrist with dose after dose of unrelenting happiness. My satiated body on fire, I found my coveted true love. At last. Mission accomplished.


🙟 About Renee Coloman 🙜

Renee Coloman is an emerging writer and author of Roxy's Not My Girl, a collection of thirteen short stories available on Amazon. She recently completed the first draft of her 75,000-word manuscript–a coming-of-age thriller.

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