Parental Love And Other Terrors (a short story by: GF Willmetts).
I woke with a start. There were some vague memory of walking down the street and then…well…I was here. If I was kidnapped it was a nice kidnap. No immediate threat and a nice room. Nice décor. Good lighting but the curtains covered the windows. I wasn’t even tied. There was even food and a bottle of water on the table. Looks like I was going to be here some time. No clock. Where was my captor?
I kept looking around. There was even a couch and bed linen. Even a small hob and sink. I peaked through the curtains and the windows were bordered up. Obviously the door was locked and there was no handle on the inside. There were separate cubicles for toilet and shower. Everything for my comfort but it was still a prison. So where was my captor?
There were noises next door. I wasn’t alone. I was also hungry but not sure if I trusted the food. I toasted some bread but ate it raw. No butter or spreads. Minimalise any potential poisons. It tasted all right and staved off initial hunger pains. I ate a second piece slowly watching the door. Whoever it was out there had to come in eventually, however they measured time.
I must have drifted off. Standing in front of me was a tall man, looking down at me. He wasn’t touching me. Just looking.
‘I’m sorry I took so long. I did not want you confined to one room.’
‘And you are?’
‘I am Gommer.’
‘Susan Fairchilde. Yes. I knew already.’
He sat down opposite me, obviously aware that his height was off-putting.
‘So why am I here? You have kidnapped me after all. I’m being very calm about this.’
‘In order. It is a secure bode. I do not see this as an abduction, just a means for a conversation in comfort for you. I have no idea how long it will last, so only felt you should have suitable amenities. I agree, you are very calm.’
‘I’m a claim person. So I’m free to leave?’
‘I would rather you didn’t. At least until we discuss my problem.’
‘Er…OK. What’s your problem?’
‘I need a mother?’
‘A mother figure actually. I never had a mother to discuss this with.’
‘I thought I would try with one parent first. Two parents tend to argue or so I’ve read.’
‘What makes you think I would make a good mother figure?’
‘You are a female designate.’
‘There are a lot of…female designates out there. You also talk very technical. Is there a reason for that?’
‘Yes. But I can’t tell you right now.’
‘Something like that.’
‘So why a mother and not a councillor if you have parenting issues?’
‘Councillors advise. They don’t comprehend or express parental concern. There is no affection involved. They depend on a textbook to give them all the answers.’
‘You mean parental love? You got this far without it. Can’t you continue in that state?’
‘That is what I need advice about. I think I need to comprehend parental love to understand the full range of emotions. What does it mean?’
‘That part is easy. It means unreserved love and care for a person and vice versa. It takes exceptional circumstances for that to change.’
‘What exceptional circumstances?’
‘That can vary. A parent will turn any of their children over to the authorities for rape, murder or child molestation. Mostly for their own good and that of the community but that doesn’t mean they stop loving them completely. There some limits, even for parents, as to what is acceptable in society. Does any of that apply to you?’
Hommer paused before continuing. ‘I have thought of the circumstances of murder. Self-defence is classed as manslaughter if I am defending myself or others.’
‘You have done this?’
‘I am considering the circumstances. That would be honourable.’
‘It comes under the order of caring for others. The law signifies with minimum force but that’s a little difficult when facing a knife or a gun and you want to survive or save others. You would have to explain that to a judicial court.’
‘If I did that…manslaughter for you, would you care for me?’
‘I would appreciate not being dead.’ This time Susan had to pause. ‘It would not be the same as parental love. A stranger off the street could do a similar thing in the order of self-sacrifice but it would not mean me giving parental love or even an act of affection for him.’
‘Act of affection?’
‘I would not fall in love with a stranger who just happened to be there at the right time to save me. There are different levels of appreciation. I would be grateful but that would be enough. Do not believe it is as simple as depicted in movies or books. They are conveniences to bring such actions about for the reader. Real life isn’t always like that. People are far more complex.’
‘I am not asking you to fall in love with me in that way.’
‘Of course not. A motherly affection can not be bought that way. It is a form of confidante.’
‘So how does that work with orphans? They have a similar problem.’
‘That’s not always perfect. It takes time for both foster mother and orphan to accept each other and develop a trust by each accepting what they are as much as changing their requirements. You’re an adult, not a child. Even a mother discovering an absent child as an adult would take time to get accustomed to the situation.’
There was a pause.
‘I’m neither of these things to you. Until now, this is the first time we’ve met. You would find this situation with anyone you met…including even a father figure. You were right there. A father figure would be a lot harder. He would insist on me making a decision based off his own prejudices not based on what I was briefed to do.’
‘I will need you here until we form some sort of relationship.’
‘So I am a prisoner.’
Gommer shrugged. ‘You have all the amenities. I will even allow you outside once I have…’
‘Constructed a cage? That still makes me a prisoner.’
‘The sooner you help me, the sooner I can let you go.’
‘I take it you have some sort of an agenda? A timetable?’
‘I am not allowed to talk about that.’
‘So it’s pretty soon. This is what troubles you?’
‘’And you want to talk in non-specifics. Presumably to assess something about how it will affect you? Why a mother figure? You want someone capable of getting inside your head? Why not see a priest?’
‘I have no religion.’
‘They don’t need to know that. They cannot reveal what is told in confession. It’s better than a doctor’s oath.’
‘Nor would they understand my actions. They are not worldly enough for my activities. I looked it up. They would tell me to do a penance that would mean nothing to me and not do it rather than advise whether my actions were worthwhile. Not understanding religion. There are so many. They can’t all be right. So how can they be honest?’
‘All right in what?’
‘Like how can many gods drop down to a single monotheism? Why the change?’
‘Some thought there was only one. It hasn’t changed the entire world. There are several supported big religions with many gods. It’s called faith. A belief in something that isn’t there. Legends are made of such things.’
‘But not everyone believes. Why is that?’
‘They are many people like me who don’t share such a belief. We want something more substantial than just to believe something is there which probably isn’t.’
‘We have that in common.’
Both paused to think at that point.
‘Philosophy has a similar premise.’ Gommer finally said.
‘It considers the meaning of life and everything about it.’
‘Life doesn’t make sense.’
‘It is random until you put some order into it.’
‘This order doesn’t last.’
‘Long enough if you make the right choices. I take it your activity is following an order but you have time to consider your actions?’
Gommer nodded. ‘The action seems so impersonal to do a personal thing to someone else.’
‘That sounds like you have been ordered to do something extreme.’
‘Actually, from my reading, it tends to be an every day occurrence but not done by the majority of people. I wasn’t aware it would give such powerful emotions.’
‘You can’t cope with the emotional aspect?’
‘More a need to understand than enjoy it. Will I feel the same after the event? I have read it gives some people a high but in others they feel unsettled by their actions.’
‘You’re describing euphoria. Some people think of it as a religious experience but people can get a similar effect at a rock music experience. It’s an emotional experience. You think it will turn you on in a non-sexual way or make you, at worse, suicidal?’
‘More than I am before the experience? Would enjoying doing it make it easier to repeat if asked?’
‘Without knowing what, it might just be a comedown. Something you’ll get used to if you do the same job often enough. I presume you’ve been trained for this job?’
‘Simulations. This is my first live assignment.’
‘So you’re nervous. First time nerves.’
‘Is that unusual?’
‘It wouldn’t be called first time nerves if it wasn’t. You’re trying to understand the emotions you’re likely to experience first rather than as they happen when you do whatever you’re asked to do. It’s like bungee jumping.’
Hommer raised an eyebrow.
‘Bungee is having a rubber rope secured to your feet and pushed off a high bridge. There is some apprehension before jumping but when you realise you haven’t been harmed by the sudden long drop, some will do it again because they get an immense kick from the activity.’
She waited for Hommer to answer but he just sat thinking.
‘You’re probably feeling apprehensive. That’s just nerves. Do what you were trained to do and contemplate your emotions afterwards when you are free to do so. Don’t try to do this in front of your bosses. They might not feel you’re up to the job.’
‘That feels like motherly advice,’ Hommer finally said.
He stood up and pulling a gun from behind his back tucked into his belt shot Susan through the head.
The lights darkened and then lit up again.
Susan blinked in the light. In front of her, Hommer had his head down and not moving. No doubt re-living the events in his digital mind.
Susan pulled the disk-link contacts off her head and looked up at the gallery.
‘Which of you smartasses decided to make me the victim?’
There was no comment.
‘There’s always one in every batch. Why do assassin robots get nervous about doing their job?’
She looked up to the gallery. ‘OK, he’s really to go out now. If he can shoot his mother figure, he can shoot anything.’
© GF Willmetts 2023
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One thought on “Parental Love And Other Terrors (a short story by: GF Willmetts).”
That was a well written story, Geoff. I liked the plot twist at the end when it turned out to be a simulation and how the assassin robot showed emotions. A very well written story.