M. C. St. John
The Alpha Company likes to keep things simple. Their customers want everything that way. Ordering online is the easiest. Click here to modify colors, shapes, designs. Click here to fill out credit card and shipping information. This is really happening. The date has been confirmed. Alpha has emailed tracking information for kismet.
It arrives on the doorstep on the scheduled afternoon. The cardboard box is one hundred percent post-consumer recyclable, ergonomically designed to transport the most cargo with the least amount of material. The instruction manual is printed with all-natural, plant-based inks sourced from local letterpress shops in the area. There are no written steps, only images that slowly build to a greater whole. The Alpha Company has left no detail unrefined, no thought unimagined. They have have taken care of everything. Everyone loves the Alpha Company for that very reason, which is the only reason that matters.
Following the steps is easy. The parts are all labelled accordingly, and they match the images in the instructions. Most of the connections are classic ball-and-socket joints. There is a series of satisfying clicks as parts lock into place, the neat order and minimal fuss lending an exhilaration to the process. The steps go faster. The individual images in the manual become frames in a film sequence. The rapidity of the flipping pages bring the work to life. Click, click, click. The room grows warm from the effort of building, but it is a focused labor, concerted, honed to a strategic number of moves that require a specific amount of force, torque, and lift.
There must be some effort on the part of the customer. Otherwise, there would be no desire to order in the first place. The Alpha Company has run a multitude of surveys on this very notion, found the bell curve distribution in the data, and implemented specific design calibrations for each and every customer. Product satisfaction reviews mean everything to the Alpha Company. They only want to deliver what their customers demand.
Click, click, click…click. Click. The box is empty. It breaks down into a flat origami flower, like a browned rose found between the pages of an old book. The instruction manual flutters to the floor, its last step completed, the final image matching the finished product.
To avoid scratches and dings, the best place for building is on the sofa. Now completed, it looks peaceful lying on the cushions. The legs are crossed in a comfortable way. One arm is behind the head, while the other rests on the stomach. The eyes are closed, but the lips are slightly parted, as if from shallow breath during a late afternoon nap. The actual sound is a gentle hum from the internal power source, long-lasting and infinitely rechargeable or the Alpha Company will replace it for free. With matters of the heart, the Alpha Company wants to be the first and only name to trust.
Seeing the figure on the sofa proves they have delivered in every way. The specifications in height, skin tone, hair color, and face shape are flawless. It is a dream realized, programmed with the proper temperament, passion, logic, and imagination. Everything has been customized for an instant connection—click. Once the button is pressed behind the right ear, a new life begins. The hum from the battery source rises in anticipation. The face appears to be on the verge of waking up. There is time left to enjoy this afternoon together, and then each one afterward.
With love, sometimes there are no words to express all of the emotions, to press a moment into a handful of carefully chosen words, and this thought leaves your finger poised above the button. There should be joy in this room right now, satisfaction at least, in knowing every move in this courtship is destined to succeed because it is the specific life plan chosen from the dropdown menu. Instead, what comes to mind is a question, one that eludes all of the algorithms and analytics, one that the Alpha Company hopes never gets asked because it is a paradox they have yet to solve.
While perfection lies before you on the sofa, you ask yourself this question and the words echo in your head without answer.
But what will it see in me?
M. C. St. John is a Chicago writer. He has been published in After Hours Press, Aphelion, Chicago Literati, Ink in Thirds, Literary Orphans, Maudlin House, Quail Bell Magazine, Word Branch, and Unbroken Journal. His short story collection Other Music was recently released. He is currently working on his second.