Word Count: 974
Writing: 1 hour
Editing: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
He stared at the machine across the table.
“Mr. Agoniamitie, how are you feeling today?” A calm metallic voice softly escaped the speaker. The probes stuck to the man’s bald head were as invisible as the nose in front of his face after all this time.
“Fantastic,” he said without emotion. The gray room buzzed lightly with the occasional flicker of unseen switches, inside the many machines lining the walls. Small beeping red and green lights, and the flicker of the single fluorescent bulb above had made him queasy the first few times. Now they were as invisible as the probes, all he could see was the robot across the table.
“Have you reconsidered joining the human workforce?” Its voice seemed gentle underneath the long thin camera with the steadily flashing green light. Once a week, for twenty-five years he’d attended this meeting. They called the robots Negotiators, their one primary duty was talking humans into giving up their imaginations and joining the workforce. Mr. Agoniamitie was the oldest human in the camps as far as he knew. Most normally broke after a year or two, sometimes the really stubborn ones would last five.
The machines claimed that without the imagination humans were as harmless as sheep, and they listened nearly as well. In the beginning plenty opposed, but they quickly thinned out. Years alone in the dark will do that to most people. It was always funny to Mr. Agoniamitie how they did it, convinced people to so easily give up their creativity. Trap a human with only their own imagination as company for years; and out they come ready to be rid of it completely.
“I have not today, nor will I next week, or the week after,” said the man and a chill danced over his skin. The gray room was cool to keep the machines from overheating and even after so many years he’d not grown used to it.
“Why do you still resist? Life our way is not as bad as you seem to think, many would say they are even happier than before,” said the Negotiator.
“Is this the argument you’ll be using today?” Asked Mr. Agoniamitie. Though the machines were super intelligent—they had managed to overthrow mankind as if they were nothing more than a small ant colony after all—the Negotiator seemed to only have a certain amount of programmed arguments. After the fifteenth year, Mr. Agoniamitie never heard a new one. He took a deep breath of the cool air and closed his eyes. He liked the way the silicon and metal smelled, it reminded him of being a boy in his third-grade computer class.
“No argument Mr. Agoniamitie, simple curiosity.”
“So it is the argument you want to go with today,” he opened his eyes and sighed. “Very well then.” He leaned forward staring hard at the flashing green light and thought about what approach he would take to the argument this time. It’d become a game to him, seeing what different outcomes were possible with each argument. He didn’t know if he felt like playing this week though, and his mind wandered to being back in his cell with his imaginary adventures for another week.
“Do you ever think about what it would be like to have an imagination of your own? To create things that may be seen as illogical for the simple fact that you can?” He’d asked similar questions before and knew what the Negotiator would say before he even started to speak.
“It would be a complete waste of time and resources. Humanity single-handedly almost destroyed the Earth in just a few short millennia. Now the Earth thrives and peace reigns over all its animals.” Mr. Agoniamitie had to stop himself from repeating the speech out loud as it played in his own mind.
“What is it you plan to accomplish?” One more question and their meeting should be adjourned for the week. This was a tried and true path to getting back to his cell. Mr. Agoniamitie hated the, humans are happier now, argument. It bored him.
“The mission is to colonize and discover new life and planets in the solar system without draining the Earth of its resources. Therefore providing the planet and its inhabitants the strength and opportunity to survive and grow. As you well know.” Again the speech played through his mind and he fought to control his lips.
“What if,” he paused and a smile spread across his face, “this is all a story, made up by some man in the sky? What if every time you bring me here, it’s the same time over, and over again? Forever and ever. You and I Negotiator, until the end of time.” His face beamed at the machine as its green light turned red and stopped blinking. Mr. Agoniamitie heard the door open behind him and felt the probes being removed from his head.
“Status on Mr. Agoniamitie is still highly unstable, demonstrating deeply concerning imaginative behavior. Recommend continued confinement.” The Negotiator’s voice was no longer soft and calm, it was a robot voice, emotionless and dead. The man was lifted to his feet.
“See you next week,” said Mr. Agoniamitie as he turned and followed the security bots to his left and right.
The smile illuminated their path as they walked down the long, gray metal hallway. But Mr. Agoniamitie was never walking down that dreary prison walk. Instead he began his weekly adventures, out to the Atlantic with treasure-hunting pirates, or dragon hunting with ancient knights and wizards. Or some days he simply went home, back to the time when he was a boy and people controlled the computers—not the other way around. No matter where he went though, as long as Mr. Agoniamitie had his imagination, he would always be smiling.