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Brutish Automata

[A short narrative exercise with some names omitted for privacy's sake]

He slugged along, dragging his black fur slippers across the hard concrete, the wind gliding past him and enclosing itself in the slit of bare flesh at his ankles. He doesn’t mind it. He thinks of little, and he isn’t particularly hungry, though he is walking to be served breakfast. Familiar faces walk outside of the building—Sam, Lauren, Edmundo—and they heed him not as they stroll on their way. His muted plaid trousers and grey jacket, perhaps, contained not enough color to catch their eyes, and indeed his outfit matched quite well his demeanor. He looked at them askance, though they hadn’t noticed, with his sullen eyes that floated on dark blue buoys. He wasn’t slighted, and his mind lacked the necessary energies to take offense at their ignorance.

Entering the hall, now protected from the violent winds, he made his way with diffidence to the buffet. The smell of oiled bacon lifted his spirit somewhat, but he continued in his mission unthinkingly. “Hi, Ricky!” he heard a colorful voice say to him. Across the counter, he saw, in a familiar grey collared work shirt, S—. With a transcendent smile and a bright account did she look at him, and the thoughtless brute was struck with inaction. He answered just as an automaton would: “Hi. How are you?” She was quite obviously dismayed by this rote response, and her demeanor dimmed as if the boy had commanded her with a sliding switch. He recognized his blunder; this was the first stimulus to cognize the copper gears inside his head (I assure you—it was not he himself who had mustered a thought, but she who compelled him), and he repeated a phrase he had spoken to his flatmate. Panic has a tendency of grasping onto any tangible thought-item it can, and is little concerned with useless things like creativity. “I don’t have any classes on Fridays, but I have a paper due, so I’m still grinding.” It would have been a non-answer even if she had asked a question, which she had not. He looked in horror at this dull object before him, which mere moments ago was a creature resplendent in joy. He had used his mind to feign authenticity for the first time that morning, and it gifted him only despair. S—, who had been reduced to an object just the same as he was, started, “well, I wish you good luck with that...” Her voice trailed off at the end like a balloon drained of helium, and she did not define the final article. “What is the point?” she might have thought, though not in so many words. The boy was fleeing from his disaster, and shuffled away as he shoveled more slop onto his porcelain dish. He did not bother responding, though he mumbled a syllable which resembled the sound of “thank”.

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