art by Stephen James Kiniry
The Farthest Coast
by Jeremy Lightner
"My life has been good," Vincent said through dry, cracked lips, his eyes looking out his lone bedroom window to the gray desert. "I'm dying, aren't I?"
His lone companion, a peculiar old robot named Jonas, smoothed the blankets that covered Vincent. "Yes," Jonas said.
"It's been a good life," Vincent repeated. He could see a tiny vegetable garden in a corner of his yard, overgrown with brown weeds. He still lived in his childhood home, had never left. His roots dug deep and thick.
Jonas smiled at him, strange metallic curves moving upward as he cleaned up the dishes from Vincent's lunch. Nodding to his owner, he walked out the door.
Vincent mirrored the robot's smile. He pitied Jonas, when he thought about it, for the robot had not led a good life, yet he seemed content to die. Jonas was in a peculiar position. When Vincent died, if he ever did, Jonas would inevitably die as well. He was solar powered, like any robot, and he required a flap on the back of his head to be opened every couple of days so that he could lie in the sun, garnering energy. Jonas was an ancient model, made back before humans truly understood their relationships with robots, and to keep a reasonable control of him, his creators had made sure the panel could only be opened by human hands.
Because the house lingered on the edge of the desert, Jonas had no hope of walking the distance back to a town before running out of energy. If he waited for the old man to die, he would run out of energy and die as well. Although he'd only bought the robot recently, Vincent was saddened by the tragedy of such a death. Jonas had no home, nothing to call his. He had no roots.
"Jonas," Vincent said when the robot brought him dinner, "I don't want you to die here, and I've been thinking. What about that girl that brings me groceries every two weeks? What if we have her take care of me for these final days, or some other person from town? Then you could move on and get on with your life."