Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different?
“Why do the girls always get to go?” I asked my dad. “What do they do over there?”
“Shh,” he hushed me.
“I don’t want to ‘Shh’,” I protested. “I wanna know what they are doing. Are they havin’ fun? Why can’t we have fun too?” He took my hand and we turned away from the bridge. Headed back east, headed back home. I turned my head to watch as my sisters, Shelly and Annabelle, crossed the trestle to the other side of the river, but it was too late they had already melted into the throng of young women crowding up to the narrow entrance of the bridge, like a funnel. I couldn’t spot them.
“Come on, Richey,” Dad said, “Lets finish up the yard work, and then we can go get some burgers.” I surrendered, I gave up asking. I knew he was never going to tell me. But, like clockwork, every Saturday morning we would walk the girls to the bridge and send them on their way. Then, sometime later that evening they would come back, always smiling and always happy. Curiously, they never told us about their day either.
Then one Saturday night Annabelle didn’t come back. Shelly did though, and she had another girl with her. They told me the new girl was Annabelle but I knew she wasn’t. Her eyes weren’t quite the same and she spoke with a slightly different cadence. No way was this Annabelle. This girl was a little scary.
That night, late, I screwed up my courage and tapped on the door of my sister’s room. Almost immediately the door was pulled open, but just a bit. The girl who was calling herself Annabelle peered out at me. “Richey, what are you still doing up?” she asked, feigning concern.
“What are you doing up?” I countered. “Who are you and, what have you done with my sister?” At that, she came out into the hallway, softly closed the door, grabbed me and hustled me downstairs. We went in the garage and she produced a small, but powerful pen light.
Switching it on she said, “it’s OK Richey, you don’t need to be afraid of me. I’m not going to hurt you. How did you get onto me so fast? I thought I was better than that. Do you think your dad suspects?”
“I know you’re not going to try to hurt me,” I said. “If you tried I could scream and jump on the car. The alarm would wake Dad up and probably half the neighbors too. As for your other questions, you are obviously not Annabelle. You talk funny and your eyes are all wrong. Dad doesn’t have a clue but Shelly probably knows. Why hasn’t she said anything? You still haven’t answered my questions though – who are you and what have you done with my sister?”
“Shelly only knows and does what she is programmed to know and do. We don’t have to worry about her. She’s passive and because of her age, her capabilities are a bit limited. She’s about at the peak of her technology curve.
“My name is Ruby and I sure hope you’re not going to turn me in. I’d be in big trouble if I’m found out. You’re not going to turn me in are you Richey?” I shook my head no, and she continued, “I’m from Concord, a city on the other side of the mountains. I’ve been sent here to take Annabelle’s place until next Saturday so that our engineers can analyze her circuitry and software. I’m sure you know that she’s quite advanced.”
“Our engineers believe that successful modifications were made to her organic CPU’s or supporting circuits during one of her recent weekly upgrades. Our instruments indicate that her AI capabilities skyrocketed. Have you noticed any changes in her behavior over the last six weeks or so?”
“Richey?… Richey? Are you still with me?” She tilted her head and looked into my eyes. Then she reached out and gently pushed my jaw upwards, closing my mouth.
“That’s why the girls go to the west side every weekend?” I whispered to myself.
“Richey, how long have you lived in Stepford ? Don’t you watch movies?”
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