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The S.M.A.R.T Recording.

By: David Wildsmith.

I like to spend time with them. I think it makes me feel better about my job, my employers, and myself. Around 7.30pm, just after the youngest children have gone to bed, we all meet. I will clean the bathrooms, put the towels in the laundry and make sure Cynthia and Joe are tucked in after their showers. Then I inform Mr and Mrs Devon. They’ll spend five minutes with the children before retiring in front of the television with a drink that I have prepared for them. After that they never usually need me and the evening is mine. I look forward to the evenings more than ever, it’s when we all meet, although I do take a lot of pride in my work and get a significant amount of pleasure from maintaining a home.

My friends are all holograms, although they don’t know it. I find them curious and sad. I think of them as people because that’s exactly how they look and behave. I marvel at their presentation and try to keep my own appearance as immaculate as theirs because, after all, I’m the last of a disappearing breed. I take pride in this and believe my human qualities are what Mr and Mrs Devon value above any other service that they may be able to receive. We all work in the ‘Tudor Towers’ apartment building, one of the newest inner city flats equipped with ‘Self Maintaining Automated Residency Technology’. All apartments within the building have numerous SMART applications that the families living within them can choose to use if they wish.

I find my friends congregating, usually on the rooftop, after I have finished my duties for the evening. Its winter at the moment, short days, crowded sunsets and the cold, concrete roof forever feels damp. From our rooftop we can see other groups collecting on the roofs and balconies of other buildings. We guess that they are mostly hologram servants. It’s difficult to tell, as we are too far away to talk or even to really see them that well. I keep promising to go to another building on behalf of my friends and see if everything we’ve guessed is true. But I enjoy the evenings on my own building so much that I’ve never gone. No-one else can go as SMART holograms only work inside their own buildings, I hate to say I feel sorry for them but I do. Sometimes I feel as though I am a little lazy and I could do more for them, but my job keeps me very busy during the day and it’s nice to unwind at night with my friends.

We’ve spent lots of great times up there. You don’t need to talk much when you’re as close as we all are. Once, as we were looking down into the streets far below, I can remember seeing a flock of birds being disturbed. A single grey mass growing larger as it came towards us before splitting into thousands of individual particles as they passed overhead. It was quite beautiful. I tried to identify the birds in Mr and Mrs Devon’s ‘Pears Almanac’. But I didn’t know whether they were pigeons or doves. The next night we found a dead bird lying perfectly on the rooftop. It was a dove. I don’t know if it had been part of the flock we had seen the day before but it looked just as beautiful. Still.

The most beautiful thing I have ever seen appeared just several weeks ago. It was an advertisement placard posted on the side of a building, down Ambrose Avenue, east of ‘Tudor Towers’. At dusk the woman in the picture was exquisitely in bloom. I can remember how much I was taken by her. It came as a surprise to me as I had never been interested in having a wife or family before. As I gazed at her I became more conscious of my self, my swallowing, my feet in my shoes, the cold winter breeze on my right cheek versus the warmth on the left side of my face as the sun disappeared over the horizon. I missed her during the day. I imagined how her hair smelt, what her laugh sounded like, was she as kind as I imagined her to be?

As the advertisement started to slowly weather I became more and more saddened. I was too embarrassed to share my troubles with my friends and I was concerned that they wouldn’t understand my feelings, as they have never had the burden of dealing with such things. Almost immediately however, I found the same advert in one of Mrs Devon’s magazines as I was cleaning the coffee table. I almost wept. I felt solace as I realised I could see her anytime I wished. Only this comfort was short lived. During the day, when I should have been attending to miscellaneous domestic duties, I found myself daydreaming into the piece of glossy paper that I had neatly removed from the magazine. My breathes seemed to become deeper and warmer, my heart engulfed by a heavy fog just by the sight of her hair, her lovely eyes and her smile which I so longed to connect with.

Without the option of expressing myself to my friends, I began to consider that talking with Mr or Mrs Devon may put this ridiculous dilemma to rest. Mr Devon was certainly a very charismatic man but not as loving as his wife. I often saw Mrs Devon coming to hold him as he was reading, or giving him a kiss under his ear after he made a humorous quip. She would smile at him and connect in a special way. That was why I chose to her. She seemed to have a better understanding of affection.

But I found it increasingly difficult to seize the right moment between waking everyone, preparing breakfast, seeing them off to work, receiving them all home, serving dinner, getting the children into bed. My evenings became less enjoyable as my frustration with myself grew and my infatuation with this beautiful woman prevented me from keeping the home up to the standards to which I aspired.

The dinner about which you originally asked me was the same night I had promised myself to finally ask Mrs Devon for a few moments of her time. Over the previous week I had come to notice how inherent her affection was, which only confirmed to me that she would be able to help me with this incessant pain I was now experiencing.

The table was set in front of the large Lakeland stone mantle piece. I had lit the fire hours earlier and it now cast a warm hue over the room, making the cutlery appear molten as it reflected the flames. First course was game bird soup with toasted stale bread croutons. Wisps of steam curled out of the soup bowls, turned golden in the firelight, spiraled towards the ceiling and into darkness. It was an accomplished setting, even if I do say so myself. I felt that my passion for creating a welcoming home had returned to me.

The children screamed as though all their tears were leaving them at once. I heard Mr Devon stand in his study. A pen fell to the wooden floor and rolled. He ran to his children. I heard him cough at a lump in his throat and collapse to the floor sobbing. I met them all in the dining room, next to the fire. A warm glow engulfed Mrs Devon’s face, broken only by occasional shadows as they surrounded her on the floor. The fire collapsed a little and a feather of blackened magazine paper rose up the chimney on a plume of hot air. Even then I thought she looked beautiful as she lay there so perfectly. Still.