Sameer sat down on the chair and put a hood over his head. He had heard about these machines…. Dream Makers they were called. He closed his eyes and imagined a girl. Her hair was brown and eyes were large, her lips luscious, her body curvy. He squirmed with anticipation, and the technician said, “Sit still, it is nearly ready.” The technician removed the hood. “I need your retina identification.”
Sameer put his eye close to the technician’s hand-held instrument. “It’s ready now. All you need is a name.”
A name? Sameer hadn’t thought of that. What would he call her? A name he considered. “How about Pooja?”
The large oval shaped pod stood in front of him, blue in colour. The door opened to reveal Pooja, just as he’d imagined her.
“You can take her now, Mr. Rangula,” the technician said. She came from the pod, walked towards him, and his eyes met hers, but she did not talk. “Here’s the booklet of instructions for it, Mr. Rangula. If you have any problems, contact us.” Sameer opened the Dream Makers booklet. It had a one paragraph introduction on the first page.
Thank you for collecting your All Time Companion. We hope you’ll be satisfied with this product. It has been developed for your companionship, governed by the Presidential Declaration of 3043.
Sameer’s father had told him of the declaration of 3016, that due to declining numbers of women on the planet in the 30th century. The government had called on the remaining women to donate their eggs. Thousands were forced to do so, and their frozen eggs were used as a way to perpetuate the human race. The women who remained were scarce and were often hunted for marriage as men became more dominant. Men traveled the planet in search of women but were unable to find women.
To protect the remaining women and ensure the continuation of mankind, All Time Companions were introduced. Sameer had seen these surrogate women that were equipped with electronics, but no insight was given young men as to how they were developed. His mother’s upbringing of him was normal. He didn’t think of her as an All Time Companion.
The booklet said: to awaken your All Time Companion shake hands with it. That will activate the required memories, and your genetic structure will stimulate the All Time Companion to want to mate with you.
Sameer was surprised at how simple the process seemed and looked at his All Time Companion. Putting his hand out tentatively, he shook her hand, and she responded. Could he, should he think of her as a she?
“Sameer, how lovely to meet you, I am Pooja, and I’m glad you chose me to be your companion.” Sameer took a step back. How did she talk? And how was it that it sounded just the way he had imagined?
“I didn’t mean to startle you, sorry. I look forward to meeting your friends and parents. You live on Kliverton Street” she said. Sameer didn’t know what to say, how did she know where he lived? He had seen other All Time Companions before, but he had no idea how they worked.
She took his hand and led Sameer down the street to his home. He watched other men with their All Time Companions and children around them. The government decree had stated that selected men were to mate by the age of 28, so when Sameer got the cyber call from Dream Makers he knew he was to collect his companion.
Pooja navigated her way through the streets without any trouble. She was very beautiful, in the way that Sameer had imagined, but when he held her hand he didn’t feel anything. He was tentative about touching it, and its seeming confidence made him feel more uncomfortable. “The shirt you wear will be my favourite. I remember you bought it at Hirocrata’s,” she said. Her ability to recall his memories as they walked towards his home unnerved him.
When they stepped in the door, Pooja kissed him on the cheek.
She was outwardly affectionate, and when she touched him she felt real, but he hadn’t even made a move on her. He had thought he’d like someone who behaved as she did. It was the way he had imagined things would be, but now it struck him as too predictable. Sameer opened the door and his father greeted him as he came in.
“Wow! She is beautiful. So this is your All Time Companion,” his father said nudging his arm and winking.
“Hi, I’m Pooja, thank you for the compliment,” Pooja said.
His father escorted them in and sat down with Pooja, but Sameer didn’t feel comfortable sitting down. The booklet burned his hand, and as he held it, it called out to him, “READ ME.”
Sameer’s father studied Pooja. “I remember when I collected Sameer’s mother from The Dream Makers, Pooja. She was beautiful, just like you, and I was excited to receive my All Time Companion.”
“Have to go brush my teeth,” Sameer blurted. He ran upstairs and opened the booklet to read more:
Once you shake hands with your All Time Companion they will be mated with you for life and remain until you die at the age of 80. If you are unsatisfied with your companion you may replace it with another model, but the government only allow three swaps per person. The All Time companion will automatically adapt for all your pleasures and desires and will produce your children with the eggs donated by the High Degree of Motherhood. Enjoy your companion.
Sameer looked at the two-page booklet with disappointment. He had expected more. He’d heard about the High Degree of Motherhood. It was rumoured that the remaining women and the new ones being born lived separate lives and were required to donate their eggs to save mankind from extinction. Men were permitted two children and required to give their female offspring to the government.
Sameer went back downstairs. He grew concerned that there was nothing spontaneous between him and Pooja. He grew aware that her feelings were programmed, and he would have a lifetime companion with no will, no personality of her own, only what she could read in him. And he was a pawn as well, chosen by the government because his chromosomes were shown to produce a higher percentage of females than others. If he had daughters, they would be taken at puberty. These things considered, he lost all feelings he might have had for Pooja. She wasn’t real, but that was how the system was arranged. Feelings didn’t matter to the government. He was compelled to produce children as laid down by the law.
Entering the living room, Sameer saw his mother sitting down and talking to Pooja. Sameer realized his mother had hair that was brown and eyes that were large, and that she looked the same as Pooja. What had man become? What would become of man? Sameer was startled and shocked.
He felt sick, realizing he had imagined someone exactly the same as his mother. He ran from the living room and started down the street with his dad shouting after him. Sameer ran as fast as he could then sat down at a bench in the nearest park to catch his breath. He had to return Pooja for another companion.
Initially he felt better. But as he looked around, it occurred to him that the All Time Companions were all similar. They’re differences were slight. They had no uniqueness. The men charged with taking the real women away had destroyed diversity and with it the feelings mates had for one another, feelings he wished he could express. What would be the point of exchanging Pooja? It would only be replaced with a companion that looked and acted as those he’d seen. But, more than that, how could he resign himself to live a life that had been mapped and planned for him?
Tavinder Kaur New is primarily a short story writer, who lives in Dagenham Essex. One of her short stories ‘ If I had Known’ has been published in City Lit Adult Education Centre in London in their Between the Lines Magazine in 2010. She has been also chosen to read her poem ‘I Want’ in the Barking and Dagenham Folk Festival in 2015. She has attended many writing courses in City Lit Adult Centre and currently in Barking and Dagenham Adult College. She has a BA honours in English and Cultural Studies and also a Level 3 diploma in Counselling Studies. In addition she has a blog where all of her collection of poems and short stories have been published: http://tavindernew.blogspot.co.uk/.
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