The only positive thing about digging, Ronny came to believe, was that it kept him in shape. He would muse to himself late at night, when the food went scarce, the hunger got to be too bad, and he had run out of scrap to tinker with that he would be quite the lady killer had there been any ladies left. Were there any people left? If there were, Ronny did not know. He had not seen another human being in what felt like an eternity.
He felt his thoughts veering to how alone he truly was and stopped digging for a moment, leaning against his shovel which was still embedded in the earth. Ronny shook his head almost violently, like he was physically expelling those thoughts. He did this often as of late, with the intention of clearing his mind until he saw nothing. No images, no sounds even. Just nothing. Once his mind was clear, he would try to think of only useful or happy things.
Ronny wiped the sweat off of his forehead and surveyed his surroundings for his companion. His eyes squinted from the oppressively bright and blistering sun. When he could not see the robot, he began to call out.
“Drillbit! Where are you, buddy? You find anything?”
Almost instantly, he heard the mechanical whirring of his only friend’s movement as the robot made its way over to him. Ronny frowned when he saw the golf club in its hand.
“I thought I told you not to play with this,” Ronny said, pulling the club away from the robot. “Remember? Not for you.”
Drillbit shrugged. “You broke the other shovel last week and I have had no success in locating a new one. I decided to hit a few balls in the meantime. Do not worry, I retrieved every last one.”
Ronny sighed and handed the club back to Drillbit. He rubbed the bridge of his nose in frustration.
Back before the last of the wars, when civilization crumbled and everything became desolate, he had worked as a repairman. However, his real passion was robotics. Ronny would often look at the picture he still kept of himself and his parents on his graduation day, when they were so proud of him and he had been so sure that his brains and his talent would land him a job right away. But a month of searching turned into two. Two months became a year before he knew it, and he then found himself working out of Hank’s Handymen Repair Shop. To help himself stay sharp, and to quell the feelings of inadequacy that came with not being able to work in his field, he began to build a robot. He could never seem to find the time to work on his creation back in those days, though. He had always been too tired from the long hours he toiled. Though once the world came to a screeching halt, he found himself with nothing but time and with debilitating loneliness as his motivation. He could never stay mad at Drillbit for long. It was his only friend.
Ronny returned to digging, and Drillbit cocked its head to the left. He glanced up at the metal man and seemed to sense what it was going to ask. “No,” he responded before the question came, “I didn’t find anything here. But the soil looks good. I think I can plant the seeds you found a little while ago here. They should grow here, I think.” After a moment’s pause, he added, “Just do me a favor and scan for more scrap, OK? Who knows what you’ll find?”
Drillbit nodded and stood at attention. Its head slowly turned a full 360 degrees, surveying the area around them. When its scan was complete, it shook its head as if to right itself and said, “No scrap metal detected. However, there is a large metal contraption heading this way.”
Ronny stopped digging and sharply turned his gaze to Drillbit. “What?!”
“Something large and metal is heading in this direction with great speed. It should arrive in approximately two minutes.”
Ronny’s eyes shifted in thought, his expression awash with concern. “We have to go now. Get your ass in the van, Drillbit.” With shovel in hand, he began running toward his vehicle, robot in tow. As lonely as he had been, his last encounter with any people had not gone well. He was not keen on sticking around to see if these were other wanderers or if they were thieves like the ones he had previously tangled with. He had been lucky then, as the only weapons they had were bats and his only weapon was the golf club. And Drillbit was strong enough to withstand being hit with wood. He knew that he may someday encounter a larger threat with better weapons and he was not going to find out if this was that threat.
By the time they reached the van, he was able to see the car approaching in the distance. Panicking, he yelled at Drillbit to get in as he threw the shovel in the back and hopped in the driver’s seat. He grabbed the keys out of his pocket and fumbled to insert the correct one in the ignition. “C’mon! C’mon!” he berated himself until he finally got it and turned the key.
Just as the engine turned, however, the car sped in front of the van. It was large and looked like the luxury vehicles that some of his clients had had back in the world. The doors all opened at once, and men in black suits stepped out, three of them, and stood between the car and the van, staring at Ronny. They were followed by a woman clad in a tailored, scarlet suit, who got out of the back of the car and walked around to stand in front of the men.
“Mr. Burlew,” she said with a smile, “may I have just a moment of your time?”
Word Count: 1008/300
Jack Mason, 2017