I Love Egg

by Erika Bachman

The clock on the wall read _:01 AM. One had jumped out again. "Why do they even give these things intelligence?" Carterson wondered. "What's the point in being cognizant of the fact that your entire existence revolves around being a click-on plastic bit in a cheap alarm clock?" It was hiding behind the couch. Nanomachines. Self cleaning. A huge black stain shaped like Antarctica on the far right seat begged to differ. Carterson picked up the trembling digit and set it back inside the machine. "Oh boy," he muttered, "One o two AM. It's almost time for Egg."

Migraine flicker sensation of a television being turned on. Wave of intolerable noise. Then the soothing and familiar jingle that heralds each episode of Egg. The introduction segues into a scene showing the titular Egg sitting alongside a rural highway, knapsack and hanky in tow, hand outstretched, thumb pointing west. "Great!" Carterson thought. "I don't think I've seen this episode!" For some reason, no one could ever be sure if they'd ever seen an episode of Egg twice. For some reason no one could ever fully recall any prior episode of Egg; only bits and fragments of bits and gags. In spite of that, no one would ever argue that Egg was undeserving of its praise; every episode was, it was believed, so funny that it went in one ear and out the other.

Carterson sat down and let the colorful cartoon reality wash over and engulf him. He laughed. He wept. He felt more alive than he had since he was twelve years old and running away from home for the first time, tasting his first spring rain without a roof to hide the world from him. Counting the endless stars over his head and knowing the name of each. And when tonight's episode had ended, Carterson felt a pang of longing for something not quite remembered. Maybe the ghost of a kiss, maybe the fresh smell of wet earth. Maybe memories of a life lived without fear or hesitation. Maybe nothing.

Carterson argued with the coffee pot until an agreement was reached and a ceasefire sworn on. He sipped his subpar coffee slowly, wondering what it was about Egg that made him feel this way. Like waking from the best dream of your life without any recollection retained.

He shrugged. No point in wondering. The day went on. Carterson arrived at the bottle cap factory at 3:03 AM. His wrist watch also told him to "sit and rotate." A vague sensation ran through his body like an electric current as he checked in for the morning, and realized that there was a time not too long ago when people only worked ten hours a day. The thought made his head spin. What would you do with all that extra time?

The bottle caps were in a good mood today. Each of them dutifully snapped around their fated counterparts without a single complaint or insult. Carterson liked the newly born intelligent objects. Sometimes he envied them. The way they moved into their new life with such purpose and intent; a bottle cap knows exactly what it's made to do in the world. A bottle cap midwife may or may not. It was only after they'd lived a few months that they began to realize the banality and horrifying triteness of their own existence. Only then did they become bitter, spiteful at their creators and their assigned purposes. Carterson remembered a soda he'd drank a few years prior, how the bottle had wept syrupy tears at knowing its cap had been lost; how it ached with a heartbreak not unlike a widowed lovebird.

As he was checking out for the day (11:11 AM, and go fuck yourself) Carterson realized that there was a time not too long ago when inanimate objects were far less, well, animated. "How lonely that world must have been," he thought. A world through which people move alone. An artificial jungle with only the slightest semblance to ordinary life. People had grown so lonely, so maddened by the concrete walls that they'd breathed life into them, made their make believe jungles finally real and alive and wild.

Noon, and top o' the mornin' to you. Carterson was arguing with a case of beer. "I think you've had enough for now," the case chided. He was having one of his fits again. Sometimes the walls would close in. Sometimes he longed for the touch of one of his own kind.

"Am I the only person left alive?" he shouted at the case, at the translucent walls he swore he'd see breathing sometimes in the loneliest hours of morning. "Just tell me! Tell me where I am! What is this place and why am I the only one here? I wasn't always here! I wasn't always like this, God damn you! I want to go home! Tell me where home is! Take me home!"

It was the refrigerator who calmed him down. "Shhh," it cooed in a maternal whisper. "Would you like an egg?"

3:03 PM (and have you seen my purple socks?). Naps are miracles for ailing psyches. Carterson was strolling through the supermarket, stocking up for the week. Eggs, milk, bread, cheese. Carterson wondered how the early settlers could stand to eat a cheese that didn't cry out in fear and pain. It was, after all, only natural. The checkout robot blinked at him. "Eggs. Milk. Bread. Cheese," it droned. "Why, if you had a knapsack, you'd be good for a whole week's travel. Reminds me of the days when I would ride the rails all over this country. Would you like to buy a knapsack? They're only seven—"

"No, thanks." A beat. "You were a hobo, once?"

"Yes," the robot sighed. "I ran away from home once when I was twelve. I still remember the first night. It had rained, softly, warm spring rain pouring down on me and for the first time in my life I didn't have a roof to chase the rain away."

"That sounds lovely."

"Yes. Eighty-seven fifty... Hold on, the last digit's escaped again."

Erika Bachman keeps enormous lists to help her remember all the things she's always forgetting (although she forgets where she leaves them). She lives in the postapocalyptic wastes of West Texas with a typically sardonic cat and three atypically hyperactive dogs. She works as a nurse by day and infrequently writes strange little stories at odd hours of morning. Her favorite color is purple. She has no previously published work to plug.