Or, How to Kill a Romance Novel
“Jonah…we need to talk.”
Jonah sat across the café table, feeling an ominous sense of dread welling up inside him. Only a few days ago had they met at this public hiding place, and his sweetheart had borne upon her face an expression of matchless joy far more powerful than any of the gloomy clouds of care. But today she sat in a winter of silence, and Jonah could feel the cold from where he sat. It terrified him immeasurably, like he was on the edge of a fog-obscured clifftop. “Hannah,” he ventured to ask, “is something the matter?”
Hannah avoided his eyes, afraid her confidant’s soul was now an abyss of deceit. “It’s nothing,” she lied, afraid to confront her fears. “I…I don’t know if this is working out, that’s all.”
The cliff had been found – Jonah felt the whole world vanish from under his feet. “Not working out?” he asked in panicked disbelief. “Why? Is it something I did?”
“No, no,” she said, trying desperately to preserve his heart. “I’m just not sure…I don’t know how much I really mean to you anymore.”
“But why? I’m always with you! I couldn’t imagine being with anyone else!”
“Could you?” Hannah looked up at Jonah, the corners of her eyes ready to flood. “How can I trust you?”
Finally the potted plant on the table had heard enough.
The couple’s argument was unexpectedly cut off by a loud beep. Their gazes leaped to the small flowerpot next to the water pitcher – its flowers had suddenly been sucked back into the soil. What followed was a medley of clicks and whirring noises as the table decoration split into segments, reconfiguring into an odd little machine with tiny blue eyes and the figure of a squat sitting owl.
“[URCARU-Bot #55783 Online: Situation detected. Scanning subjects for grievances and recent histories.]”
Jonah, being an ordinary human male, was speechless at the robotic transformation of the tabletop ornament (and was secretly wondering if any other of his everyday items were capable of this feat), so it fell to Hannah to ask the Question. “Um…what are you?” she warily asked the little machination.
In response, the bot projected an image onto the table: a heart, cracked down the middle but being held together with a padlock. The ex-decoration began his explanation in a fuzzy little voice. “[I am an operative of the Unnecessary Romantic Complication Assessment and Rectification Unit, URCARU. It has come to our unit’s attention that a significant percentage of interpersonal complications have come about due to a proliferation of mishandled situations that, under normal treatment, can be defused without major damage to the relationship. However, in these modern times (particularly in the cinematic arts), people have seemingly lost the ability to repair these occurrences on their own, leading to an increase in average social isolation and depression. URCARU-Bots are here to help, mediating any uncomfortable scenarios until a beneficial result is achieved.]”
His tiny eyes blinked twice. “[Scan completed. Structure of recent history compiled and sent to the Mainframe.]”
“Wait!” Jonah interjected. “Did you just –“
“[Good news!]” URCARU-Bot interrupted him. “[Mainframe has determined that your relationship with each other is healthy enough to continue existing. Before your lives can continue, however, the current complication must be rectified. Fortunately, the problem appears to have a greater amount of miscommunication as a causal factor than outright egotism. Solution: conversation.]” The robot stuck a stubby hand towards Hannah. “[The lady shall commence. Party One: Please state in clear, concise terms the nature of your grievance.]”
After an awkward pause, Hannah decided that compliance would be the only path of escape. “Well…I saw Jonah in school yesterday with Bethany Simkins. They’d taken one of the private study rooms, just the two of them. I didn’t know what to think – I was too afraid to ask what had happened, if Jonah was maybe getting tired of me…” she trailed off.
“[Grievance noted.]” The little hand shifted to Jonah. “[Party Two: Please explain your perspective of the distressing event.]”
Jonah stared at his girlfriend in disbelief. “What? You mean you got worked up over that? I – ouch!”
In danger of losing control of the situation, the robot zapped Jonah mid-exclamation. “[Protocol error. Please keep vocal levels normal, and state your view in a civilized manner.]”
“Sorry.” Jonah ran a hand through his hair. “Just…Bethany wanted help with her calculus notes, and I thought it would be rude to say no. We just studied, that’s all that happened.”
The bot gave him a quick scan. “[Party Two’s account is valid,]” it concluded. “[Party One, do you require clarification?]”
“She asked you for help, though?” Hannah burst out, no longer speaking to the robot. “Why not Horton, that nerdy kid in the back row who’s always pulling off perfect grades? He’d be a much better person to ask for help on that subject!”
“[Party Two’s current calculus grades support the objection,]” URCARU-Bot sided with Hannah. “[Do you have a defense?]”
Justin wrung his hands for a few seconds, trying to hold back what he knew, but Hannah’s stare combined with the robot’s unmoving blue lights cracked him. “Okay, I’ll admit it,” he spoke. “Bethany did try to flirt with me in there. She stormed out after I told her she was crazy – everybody knows I’m already in a relationship. With you.”
Hannah kept staring, but…with a different intensity.
URCARU-Bot performed another scan. “[Party Two’s phone data indicates four deleted calls from this ‘Bethany Simkins’, with no replies on record. Evidence suggests that Party Two’s affections have not wavered. Party One, do you have any further objections?]”
She couldn’t make a sound. Jonah’s eyes weren’t as empty to her anymore.
“[Party Two, do you have any comments?]”
Jonah was also lost for words.
“[Excellent,]” the robot nodded. “[Situation rectified. Closing Advice: Party One, before any relationship termination strategies are employed, I recommend first discovering the nature of the event with an objective perspective, considering all factors – including the testimony of the other party. Party Two, in order to avoid such a precarious situation to be misinterpreted, employ strategies to negate the social pressure. Perhaps Bethany could have been recommended by you to a more astute student, or you could have invited more people to join the study. Now,]” a daisy grew out of the bot’s hand, “[offer this to her as a token for reparation.]”
Like a clumsy child, Jonah plucked the flower from the machine and sheepishly held it out to his sweetheart. The next action nearly destroyed both gift and giver – Hannah lunged across the table to envelop her boyfriend in a crushing hug. Her smile was back; the gloomy clouds began scudding away once more.
URCARU-Bot’s eyes dimmed. “[#55783 to Mainframe: Relationship rectification has reached the Much Uncomfortable Social Hugging (MUSH) Stage. Requesting immediate deactivation.]”
The robot shrank back into a common flowerpot, but the couple barely noticed his departure. The storm was past, the cliff averted. The sun was out again.
Remember your friendly URCARU-Bot!
*Notes: This account was for advertisement purposes only: Mainframe is aware of multiple scenarios with varying complexities – heck, he’s not even done compiling all possible relationship factors. URCARU services are not yet worldwide. Your support would be greatly appreciated.
Published in Loomings 2015
Published in Loomings 2015