Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By Nicola Vallera

It’s the craziest day of my life, and I’m heading into the department stores for Christmas shopping. I wasn’t planning on buying anything for anyone. I’m thirty-one, my folks are gone, and my relatives are memories. Thank goodness for that!

I’m trying to get myself a laptop—the 205. I’m not even sure what to call it. The ad was confusing. It’s a quantum supercomputer that becomes a robot? Sounds strange.

Anyway, it’s supposed to be a-m-a-z-i-n-g. It can sense your mood and help you with all sorts of computer-related tasks. But it’s pricey—like ten grand pricey. That’s not exactly chump change. But I wannit badly. The 205 will be an excellent investment. It’ll help me find a better job or even work from home.

After twenty years, I got fired from my call-center job. I told a Chinese customer I couldn’t give her back the three thousand dollars stolen from her purse in New York. She wanted her money back from me because I’m American. She said I represent my country, and yada-yada…. for fuck’s sake, what am I? An ambassador? Anyway, my boss agreed with her, so I got the boot.

I enter a department store and see a shop called “The Happy Geek—Computers, Robots, and Electronics.”

There is a young clerk who puts boxes up on the shelves. I try to get his attention by clearing my throat, but he doesn’t turn.

“Hey there,” I say, waving.

He kinda gives a “yes,” but his eyes roll a great deal.

“Do you happen to have the 205?”

When he’s about to reply, a lady in uniform walks in.

“Jimmy, please check if we have any printers in the storeroom,” she tells him.

The guy bounces outta here, shuffling along in his purple kicks.

The woman scans me. She gives me a once-over with a suspicious look. I can smell a funky odor that reminds me of mothballs mixed with sweat. The lady’s forehead is oozing weird whitish stuff coming off her makeup. It’s kinda gross!

“May I help you?” she says.

Her snob attitude is getting on my nerves.

“Do you have the 205?” I ask.

“The 205?”


“Why don’t you try to communicate more positively?”


“We should respect such impressive technology.”

I make a face but then quickly put on a grin.

“Are you interested in purchasing the item?” she asks.


“It is worth noting that the item in question is not merely a laptop.”

“Wow, that made my day. Thanks for putting a smile on my face.”

“Transforming into a laptop is just a small part of its capabilities.”


The woman’s smell is getting to me. And seriously, her nails are not doing her any favors. They’re such an ugly shade of pink.

She grimaces. “Unfortunately—”

“Any problems?”

“Please, allow me to talk.”


She shakes her head. It looks like she’s thinking of saying something not-so-nice.

“The 205 system is awe-inspiring in its abilities.”

“Super cool!”

“Its sophisticated technology and advanced capabilities make it a valuable asset.”

“That’s really awesome!”

“It can handle countless data. It’s extremely accurate and efficient.”

“I wannit so badly.”

“And it does more than just calculate.”

“Alright, tell me everything. What’s the scoop?”

“It can explain philosophical ideas, like the purpose of life.”

“The purpose of life?”

“It can change into a robot that looks like a human.”


“The device was first designed to look like a person but was changed to a laptop.”

“How can a humanoid fit into a laptop? I mean, it’s not possible, right? Where does all that metal go?”

“Are you familiar with quantum mechanics and quantum tunneling?”

I shrug. “No clue.”

“This technology exhibits a remarkable intelligence level and surpasses our capabilities.”

“That’s what I’m looking for.”

The woman sighs like her uniform is about to pop. And man, her perfume is giving me a headache.

“May I ask your name?” she says.


“Rob, sometimes we need to analyze and think more carefully about the situation.”

“If you say so….”

“May I ask about the specific details and requirements for this acquisition?”


“Unfortunately, you have not provided us with the necessary information.”

“Hey, didn’t I just say what I needed?”

“You could have done better.”

“What do you mean?”

“You should have tried harder.”

“Try… what?” 

“You should have thought more.”

“Hey, are you gonna hand over the 205 or what?”

“May I suggest taking a moment?”

“A moment?”

“It appears that there may be a sense of unfriendliness.”

“I just wanna buy the damned 205, but you’re trying to talk me out of it. Why?”

“Because….” She hesitates.

I cross my arms and give her a bit of a frown.

“Because procedures hold great significance.”


She nods and gives me an awkward smile. I stare at her, racking my brain to figure out what she’s gonna say next. But I’m still in the dark.

She looks around. The store is so crazy now, with customers getting hyped up for the holidays. They’re all getting rowdy and loud.

“Would you mind coming to our office?” she asks.

She points to the emergency exit, her pink nail sticking out her plump finger.

She walks ahead, and I catch a whiff of her perfume. It’s definitely not mothballs anymore, but more like a mix of sewage, piss, or something. And her heels are so loud. Not to mention how she’s walking. She’s wobbling around like a tipsy duck.

We go through the emergency door and find ourselves in a covered parking lot. There are a few offices to our right, and we enter the first. As soon as I step inside, her stench hits me. She tells me to take a seat on a drab swivel chair.

Ugh, the chair smells just like her.

I sit down, facing a door window overlooking the parking lot.

The woman sits. “We need proper justification before selling our items.”


She nods. But man, her scent is so strong that I must pinch my nose.

“I need a valid reason for any requests on our 205s.”


“It’s ensuring our company policies are met.”

“Hmm, that’s something I haven’t heard before.”

“Please provide more info on your need for a 205.”

“What kind of info?”

“We can explore viable options together.”

“Hmm, I’m not following you.”

“I was hoping for your cooperation.”

“How do I go about buying it?”

“You should have….”

I lean in, squinting a bit. “Y-e-s?”

She grimaces. “Do I have to tell you?”

“Don’t you wanna tell me?”

She dabs her forehead with a tissue taken from a pocket. I catch another whiff of her perfume, but now it smells like metal. It’s like she just stepped out of a metal workshop or something. The scent is overwhelming, and I tug at the collar of my shirt sticking out from under my sweater.

“Are you alright?” she asks me.

I’m like, “Yeah, sure, go ahead and talk,” but I guess I sound kinda annoyed because she suddenly gets all gentle. I nod but urge her to speak.

“You should have pondered,” she says.

I frown. “Why?”

“To understand.”


“Do you really want a 205?”

“Fuck yes!”

“It may have been beneficial to seek guidance.”


“Exactly—guidance from a licensed mental health professional for further insight and support.”

“Hey, what kind of shop do you run? You guys must be nuts.”

“Really? Are we nuts? And yet you are the one who came unannounced.”

“Ugh, I’m so done,” I say, exploding from my chair.



“May I ask where you are going?”

“I’m gonna find a store that treats their customers right.”

“Will it solve your problem?”

“I’m not having any problems.”

“If you don’t have problems….”

I lean in. “What?”

“Why are you here?”

“I’m here because….” I can’t breathe. “Ugh, what’s that smell coming from you? It’s pretty gross.”

“Are you familiar with the latest innovation in tissue technology? They are commonly referred to as new-generation tissues.”

I shake my head, grimacing.

“Innovative tissue technology replicates human-like parts in robots.”


“An unintended consequence is the emission of an odor. Some individuals may perceive it as unpleasant.”

“I’m not talking about any robot. It’s you who stinks like a goat. Honestly, even ammonia and rotting meat wouldn’t be as bad as this.”

Suddenly, the woman jumps up and lets out a crazy scream. It sounds just like the noises you hear at the mechanics. Scary stuff!

And then she starts growing, getting taller and longer. She gives me the shivers, and I can’t take my eyes off her. But I must escape the creepy thing, so I bolt for the door.

Four workers in blue overalls run toward the door, but one of them locks it before I reach it.

“No!” I yell, banging my hand on the glass. “Let me out, or she’ll kill me.”

“Sorry, pal,” a worker says from behind the glass. “It’s the procedure.”

The smell in the office is overwhelming. I can’t even describe it. It’s so strong that it messes my senses and numbs my head.

She’s getting taller. Her arms and legs keep stretching, and she’s getting closer to the ceiling. I freeze when she creeps at me. She looks like a wild animal, ready to attack at any second. Her arms are so long and thick that they rip off her uniform.

Oh man, she’s made of metal. Is she a robot or something?

She paddles her metal fingers and rotates her wrists. But their rotation is abnormal.

They spin around, resembling drills. I even hear the drilling noise.

Excruciating pain says my end is close. She drills my stomach with a push of her arm. Her spinning hand causes my flesh and blood to spatter into every office corner.

She stops drilling into my body. With a jerk, she withdraws her arm and recoils. There is a hole in my stomach. Slowly, my body slips down.

The people in blue overalls are talking on the radio. They say a malfunctioning robot is acting human.

Pretty wild stuff!

Before my life ends, I hear the voices of the men in overalls.

“It’s in the manager’s office,” a man says. “It’s just killed a man. There’s nothing we can do.”

“Is the glass door unbreakable, son?” a voice asks from the radio.

“Yes,” says the man.

“Do nothing and wait for us, son. We’re coming.”

“Hurry up. I’m not sure how much longer this glass will hold up.”

“I’m confused, son. How could the robot even break that glass?”

“Because that’s not just any regular robot. It’s a 205.”

“Then you’re in deep shit, son.”

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