Jessie sat at the kitchen table looking out the window to the now empty street, imagining times when she had walked that street with friends, learned to ride her bike there and spent many hot summer days colouring on the pavement. It had been three months since an explosion had rocked through the city and still she was alone in her house, alone on her street, alone it seemed, in the whole world. And yet–
“Hello?” She called out timidly.
“Good morning, Jessie,” came the halted robotic voice she had grown so accustomed to in the past few months. “Is there something I can be of assistance with?” The voice was calm and female-sounding, and though Jessie had asked multiple times if there was a name the voice would prefer, the answer was always no.
“No thank you. Just making sure you’re still…there or working I guess.”
“Noted. I am in excellent condition. Please let me know if you need anything, Jessie.”
And indeed the house was in excellent condition. The house was able to help her with everything she needed. Robotic arms cooked food for her and cleared away the mess afterwards. A robotic vacuum took care of the floors in the house and robotic arms like the ones in the kitchen cleaned the walls and dusted shelves whenever necessary. But excellent condition didn’t make up for being alone all the time. A feeling Jessie had been dealing with for months and one she thought she would never resolve.
Jessie sighed. The day the city was attacked she had been at home. That morning was the last morning she had been around people and she had never suspected it would be the last time she said goodbye to her parents. There had been no school that day as it was a professional development day for teachers. She had been watching TV when the house lights had turned off and did not turn back on no matter how many times Jesse had asked them to. Next came the wailing sirens from every direction. After the last great war, sirens had been set up not only in homes but in the streets. Anywhere there was a streetlight, there was also a siren. Seconds later there had been an earthquake level shake that had left dust falling from the ceiling as Jessie had sat alone in the dark. That was when the house had begun to talk in sentences that weren’t simply in response to commands. Jessie had started panicking yelling out “Hello?” and “What’s going on?” and finally the house had responded.
“I have picked up a terror attack from an enemy territory. All of downtown has been destroyed and a chemical agent is spreading throughout the city. I will arm the house to prepare. Nothing will harm those in this house.”
Jessie had screamed and screamed for the house to stop as her parents would be locked out but the house had predetermined codes for such an attack, nearly all houses did after the great war, but Jessie had never viewed them as problematic. And so she had sat in the near pitch blackness of the living room, hugging her knees and praying her parents were somewhere safe.
But they had never come back. Eventually the lights had turned back on, and the emergency food storage containers had unlocked themselves. Soon the hours turned to days and the days to months, and Jessie had begun to come to terms with her parents not coming back. It had been three months and still many of the protective wards continued to be up around the house and Jessie was stuck inside for her own safety. Each day she asked the house if it was safe outside yet and each day the house gave her the same negative answer with its oddly chilling voice, “Not today, let us hope for tomorrow.”
So Jessie spent her time indoors, taking long bubble baths with her candles. Reading her favourite books sitting in the small family library. Drawing the places she used to love visiting and writing down the things she would do when she was able to leave home. Watching old tv shows and movies, nothing was being filmed anymore as far as she could tell. She tried not to think too often of what was going on in the outside world for whenever she did an overwhelming sense of panic tended to set in. The days seemed to stretch on forever but during the nights her sleep was fitful and restless and she would often get up and walk around the dark house.
Jessie had begun to wonder how she was meant to live the rest of her life with only a house for company. She cleared her throat and asked softly “Will I be alone forever?”
“Of course not,” the house replied. “I will always be right here.”