We-Write #7 || Almost Human
The Charged Up Cafe was dead. Not because its tables didn’t have the power to charge devices as promised, but because no sane person wants coffee in the middle of the night.
So I loitered at the cash register looking out at the emptiness. Benches lined the walls and a single line of small circular tables were set up between them. The space was small - the owner liked to call it "intimate" - but it felt strangely cavernous being there alone. Now and then I'd walk back to the kitchen to chat with Henry, the night shift cook. But tonight he wasn’t in the mood to talk and simply grunted at me in response to everything I said. Still, I kept going in since just seeing him made me feel a little less alone as the hours dragged on.
Somewhere around midnight I left the kitchen to clean the tables, again, and saw I had a customer. He wore a black business suit with a long blue tie and white shirt. His face looked like hell. It’s not that he was old, but the skin around his eyes and mouth sagged a little. It's how I imagined doctors look after long shifts in the ER. When he saw me he shuffled past the benches and tables towards me.
"I need to charge," he said. I looked at him, wondering why he was telling me. Every table had a charging station. Why didn't he just go plug in?
"Ok. Pick a table and plug in. I'll be over to take your order in a sec."
He looked at me, then at a table. After what seemed like forever he sat down. I took a deep breath knowing that this would be one of those nights. You know, the ones filled with weirdos and oddballs. Like the guy a few months ago that came in wearing pajamas. Pink unicorns and balloons on the pants and a purple shirt that said "I Believe". It was cute, but didn't match his bushy beard and mohawk. Another time a woman tried to order "fuzzy wuzzy coffee". She was rather insistent, even when I explained to her that we only served regular, non-fuzzy or wuzzy coffee. After yelling unintelligible words at me, she screamed and ran outside.
My mind tried to figure out what the dude-in-the-suit’s thing would be. I was fifty fifty on whether he was high or exhausted. I grabbed the coffee pot and went over to his table. And, of course, he's sitting half bent over staring at the fake wood pattern surface. Nothing plugged in.
"I thought you needed to charge?" I said, regretting it immediately.
"I need to charge..."
His words slurred together, like a toy when the batteries are running low. His head dropped onto the table hard, making me jump back. That's when I saw the back of his neck.
I was motionless for some sizable minutes. This was my first, I mean beholding a sight as such, and not in a virtual reality.
"What the hell!"
I exclaimed loud enough that Henry heard me straight from the kitchen. He knew this couldn't be one of the pranks I had up my sleeves because I sounded really serious and frightened.
He rushed to where I was standing, and peeped from behind.
He was scared too.
He staggered and almost fell on his back.
The customer's weight was all over the table now.
Henry asked, lips trembled as he struggled hard to let those two words out of his mouth.
Who is he? And why does he have that hole on the back of his neck?
“Not a he, but it!” I told Henry.
“This is definitely no human.”
"Maybe it’s some kind of alien," I turned on my side to watch the expression Henry had on his face.
You mean our dear earth is likely under alien invasion?
“I can't say for now, but we shouldn't rule out such possibility just yet.”
"So what should we do now?" Henry asked me.
I moved few steps to have a closer look at the customer, there was no sign of activity. I beckon unto Henry to get strapped with anything he could lay his hands on. The mop stick seems the closest. He pulled it from a corner, and held unto it tightly.
I let out a mischievous grin.
The mopping stick will most likely inflict no damage on our inhuman customer should he wake and attack first, but it's just better and relieving, strapped with a stick than being empty handed.
"I will go for the head while you stay alert."
"And if you see any movement that might suggest I am in danger, you attack immediately!"
"I repeat, you attack immediately!"
"Okay, I got you bro." Henry swallowed hard.
I tilt him on the side, still no movement from the customer.
My hands danced around the hole on its neck.
Now looking up close, I discovered that the skin cover was made of synthetic fibre.
My hand reached into the hole, I was sure it was no bone. It was hard like Adamantium. Rare to find. It heightened our suspicion of a plausible alien invasion on earth.
I turned it over. I stopped, then mused for a while.
"Maybe it's an alien robot." I said, taking a quick glance at Henry's direction, then shifted my gaze almost immediately, back to the mystery slowly unraveling before my eyes.
"Why do you say that?"
I was sure Henry's eyes was desperately searching me over for answers but I no longer bothered looking in his direction.
"The way it sounded just before it went off completely.”
"Sounded more like a robot!"
I have questions too, but the only one who could provide me with answers is this stranger lying dead on my service table.
I dipped my hand into the small briefcase where I kept all forms of charging cables. It was on a Saturday that I and Henry went shopping for cables of varying lengths and mouths.
"Customer satisfaction comes first," I had said to him at the time.
Other customers come with phones and other forms of electronics to the "charged up cafe" to relax, and at the same time charge. Now totally unconscious is a customer that needs to get itself charged, though this is the first time.
My eye caught a rectangular pattern on the customer's neck.
I yanked it open to behold what I had already suspected.
At last, the battery slot.
They were twelve in numbers, heavy duty batteries.
I was sure of one thing at least.
That it was an artificial intelligent, a robot mould covered with synthetic skin that makes it capable of blending in among we humans, and not suspect immediately.
I wondered if there were more of it on the outside of the cafe.
I dipped the 12mm plug into his neck which was the perfect fit.
Regurgitated, I however managed to put up an act.
I wasn't going to show Henry that I was scared down to my pants, no, definitely not when everything was beginning to seem like I had it all in control.
Henry was the most alerted.
He was ready to scramble on his feet to the kitchen and lock the door from behind.
"Calm down Henry, it's nothing!"
I said, even though I knew I no longer sounded believable, I managed to wear on a smile while letting out a dry laugh.
The batteries were beginning to come up fast. Two out of five bars already charged.
Henry turned in the kitchen direction, and about to return to his unfinished business.
I checked the time, it was already past 2:00am in the morning. I retreated into my comfort zone, the sofa by the side of the room.
It wasn't long before I had dozed off, only to be woken exactly one hour and fifteen minutes after.
Hey dude! Thanks for the charge.
My eyes were still half open, but managed to make out the figure. I knew that was no Henry.
The voice was however familiar.
Then it came rushing back, memories from few hours before.
I jumped up throwing some kicks in the air. Was surprised I could still make out such move from the movie I had watch last summer.
"It was said that people has affinity to do great things when face with life or death situation."
However it was but for the moment.
I stood transfixed, sweating profusely, scared and shaking all over, at the same time confused too.
Then I saw Henry appear from behind the kitchen door, saying "it's all cool Sam!"
"And meet Flint our new customer."
Flint gestured with a right hand which suggest to get acquainted.
Still scared, however the reassuring smile on Henry's face made it more tolerable.
"Robots don't drink, or do you?"
I said, directing the question at Flint and so many more questions.
After a while...it was as if we've known each other a longtime. Flint was very human friendly, funny and entertaining. You should see my face brighten when I remembered the past few hours and what had transpired.
It was my first time of servicing a robot, and it was also my first time getting entertained by a robot.
The day was starting to come up, Flint had done enough. He had to go before the local authorities show up.
Not many will understand Flint the way I and Henry did.
However, I still have so much questions on my mind, and many more, should we cross path again.
Here is the link to the contest: https://steemit.com/wewrite/@freewritehouse/we-write-7-the-customer