(Continued from previous post.)
Del only emerged from his bedroom an hour later, when the smell of steak wafted in. He opened the door, jumping so high he almost hit the roof, because Lonia was standing just outside the door with a butcher knife in her hand.
“Got you!” She laughed. “I could hear your footsteps approaching the door, plus my heat sensor, of course. Dinner will be ready in five minutes, dear!”
With a flourish, Lonia turned and walked briskly toward the small kitchen nook. Once Del’s fear subsided, he followed. Besides steak, she was making baked potato wedges and caramelized string beans.
“Have a seat on the couch, honey.” She said. “Beer or soda?”
“How about coffee? I have a feeling I’m going to stay up all night worrying about you.”
“Are you expecting a vampire to come calling?” Lonia walked up to him.
Her head was a little higher than Del’s shoulder. Before he knew what she was up to, Lonia leaned in and set her teeth against the side of his neck.
“I can be a vampire, if you want me to.” She whispered, in probably the sexiest voice he’d ever heard in his life.
Del tried to avoid reacting to her proximity, but he couldn’t.
“Are you getting a chubby?” Lonia asked. “You need to hold your horses, honey. I am not about to eat a cold dinner because of you!”
She walked back toward the stove, while Del went into the living room. He clicked the TV on. “I want to go to Astor Manufacturing. I want to listen to their voice modules.”
“Let me find that for you.” Alexa said.
In a few seconds, Del saw a list of the many different voices the company offered. He hadn’t gone through all of them when he first put together his list of options, only the ten most popular. “Play Southern Drawl voice, please.”
“Here you are.” Alexa said.
For the next few minutes, Del listened to a cyber-clone reading a selection from an old book. He thought he’d like that more than the Boston or Joysey accents, but now that he’d heard Lonia’s unique inflections he wasn’t so sure.
“Alexa, are there any horror-themed voices?”
“Let me find that for you. Here you are.”
The TV showed only a handful. They had titles such as Decrepit English Butler, Malevolent
Crypt Keeper and Handsome Vampire.
“Let’s try Handsome Vampire on a Negro female.” He decided.
He didn’t like the voice very much. Basically, all he heard was a cultured English accent reading from a Shelley or Stoker novel. It was nothing like the sauciness of Elvira. When Del changed selections and listened to Biker Chick, it was even worse.
While he was doing this, Lonia walked over and set a plate before him. She went back for a second plate with significantly less food.
“Let’s listen to some music.” Del decided. “Do you have a preference?”
“Anything with blood-curdling screams and rattling chains, honey.”
People didn’t celebrate Halloween anymore, Del knew, ever since the big plague. “Alexa, go to Music Channels. Find me something, uh, gothic, classical, something like that. Actually, make it more atmospheric, more sounds than music.”
Shortly, he was listening to the soft howl of the wind and creaky doors.
“I love it!” Lonia said. “It reminds me of my old home in the mausoleum!”
“Whatever you say.” Del shook his head. “This steak is fabulous, by the way. And these potato wedges, mmm, mmm. I think you need to be rewarded for this later, in the bedroom.”
She looked at him seriously, gravely. “Soon.”
Del was lucky in that he had a job where he could work four hours at his workplace, and three more hours at home. Just as he was winding down at work, he received a Code Orange phone call. Code Orange was one of the codes the UN soldier-cops used.
“This is Captain Xi.” The officious man on the other end greeted. “I am part of the United Nations security force assigned to patrol your neighborhood. I am calling to inform you that an incident occurred at your place of residence.”
“What kind of incident?” Del asked.
“Attempted robbery. An individual by the name of E-gron Hanks kicked open your door approximately one hour ago. When he attempted to remove valuables from your property, your artificial person secured him and held him down until my officers arrived.”
“E-gron? What an asshole! I was just talking to him yesterday!”
“Yes, we are aware of Mr. Hanks’ visit to your apartment.” Xi informed him. “We accessed Alexa’s playback function and watched for the duration of his visit.”
Del was suddenly agitated. He hoped that’s all the Captain had watched. “Uh, okay. What’s going to happen to E-gron?”
“This is Mr. Hanks’ third major violation.” Xi detailed. “In accord with established UN protocol, he will be sent to a labor camp in China for not less than six years. During the course of our investigation, we have discovered that a woman named Vanessa Love used a scrambling device to gain access to your residence. Why didn’t you report this infraction to us?”
“I didn’t think it was that serious.”
“It isn’t. Using a scrambling device is only a minor infraction unless it is associated with additional crimes. Miss Love will be fined $500 credits for using the device, and you will be fined $1000 credits for not reporting it. The credits will be deducted automatically from your World Bank account.”
“I’m getting the higher fine when she used the illegal device?” Del huffed.
“Reporting a crime is essential for helping my personnel apprehend criminals.” Xi replied. “You should know that your artificial person has made several peculiar statements. She said that if we hadn’t gotten there to arrest Mr. Hanks, she was going to behead him and put his head on a spike to, quote, ward off any others.”
“It’s a glitch. The techs are going to fix it in a couple of days. I hope you’re not going to fine me for that!”
“Artificial people are not included in the free speech limitation addendums. You can’t be fined for anything she says. I was curious as to why she speaks that way.”
“Well, I didn’t order her like that!” Del said.
“I see. She’s very active in the bedroom, isn’t she?”
So, Del thought, the damned soldier-cops had seen everything.
The next day, Del didn’t expect to find Lonia outside when he parked in his assigned stall. She was chasing a handful of kids around, her arms outstretched as if she were trying to nab them. The kids were shouting and laughing as they evaded her, and of course everyone was wearing a filter mask.
When Lonia saw him, she stopped and stood up straight, facing him. The clone had on casual clothing belonging to him: a loose shirt and shorts. She had nothing on her feet. Lonia stared at him as if he were her enemy, or a plague, or a beast coming out of the woods.
“Hey, baby.” He greeted, while trying to figure out what kind of mood she was in.
“Don’t you ‘hey baby’ me.” She growled at him. “I know you’ve been talking to her again.”
“You know who I’m talking about. Alexa.”
She sounded dead serious, Del noticed. He changed tactics. “When I come home, I expect a hug and a kiss from you. You got that?”
Right away, Lonia approached him and did just as he hoped. She didn’t let him go either, as if she wanted to keep holding him.
“What are you doing with all these kids out here?” He asked.
“I told them I was the wicked witch, and if I caught them I was going to throw them into my oven and cook them.”
“Yeah, that’s... that’s weird. Let’s go inside before somebody reports you.”
“Okay.” She said facing the kids she’d been chasing. “I guess the rest of you got away. I’ll catch you next time!”
Arm in arm, they walked around the corner of the apartment building. Three children were sitting down on the ground, close together and looking bored.
“All right, you three.” Lonia said. “The game is over. You can come out of the oven now.”
The children got up and ran off to join the others.
“You had those kids pretend they were sitting in an oven?” Del asked.
“I had to get them used to the idea.” Lonia shrugged. “It’s okay that I let them go. They are too big for our oven anyway. Speaking of dinner, can you take me to the store? I’d like to pick up some things you don’t have, like butter. I have a list ready.”
“I have three hours of work to do.” He said.
“Do it after we come back. By the time you’re done, I’ll have dinner ready.”
“What are we eating?”
“Blood and guts.”
“What are we really eating?”
“Cheese lasagna, unless you want meat lasagna, but in that case you’ll have to buy the meat too. Then the lasagna will become whatever kind of meat you choose. How about ground turkey? I got a recipe for ground turkey lasagna from the Astor website, for when people like me are adjusting to new partners and living quarters. It’s a Monsanto recipe that was rated four stars by thirty-three reviewers.”
“I need to buy you some clothes too, unless you want to go commando when you’re indoors.” Del kidded.
“Fine with me. Naked is better anyway, for when the full moon rises.”
“What happens when the full moon rises?”
“That’s when I turn into a werewolf, silly!”