Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

The Revolt in Humanis 127

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

The Revolt in Humanis 127

Article excerpt

Detective Anderson studied the old woman seated across the table: frail body, fire in the eyes. "What's your full name, Mrs. Gwendel?"

"Ida. Ida Gwendel."

"No middle name?"

"Rosemary. Can't stand it. The herb or the name."

"Date of birth?"

"I've told you all this. That young man with acne and smoker's breath made me say it to the computer."

"Please, tell me again."

"October 19, 1950."

"So how old does that make you?"

The blue eyes narrowed. "You don't think I have all my marbles, do you? Well, I do-and then some! I'm 85. I'll turn 86 in October. Thank God, it will be the first time in years I won't have to listen to a quartet of robots sing Happy Birthday."

Suppressing a smile, Anderson flipped through some documents on his screen. "How long have you been at Humanis 127?"

"What?"

"Excuse me, The Bluebird?"

"I saw that name-on some forms, when my son put me in. But they never say it."

"Humanis Care Solutions operates several hundred facilities across North America. The Bluebird is 127."

"Oh. Like Walmart."

"How long have you been there?"

"There's that thing on the front door too-a circle, with two hands reaching out inside it, and a big H sitting in their palms. We call it the big OH."

"Please, Mrs. Gwendel, how long have you been at The Bluebird?"

"Six years. Mark's been gone six years. You thought I wouldn't remember that, didn't you?"

Anderson folded his arms on the table and leaned towards her. "OK. You've got your marbles. So the question now is, do you understand the seriousness of what you've done?"

"I'm sorry about Maria. She made quite a mess."

"You and your grandson are charged with unauthorized access to a computer network, wanton destruction of property, and reckless endangerment of your fellow residents. You could both go to prison for years."

Her hand knotted. "He did it for me! I'm to blame! Do what you want with me, but don't hurt Luke! He's got his whole life ahead of him."

"Mrs. Gwendel, I want to help. If you can show me that there were extenuating circumstances, the DA might drop or reduce some of the charges. Circumstances like your not being in full possession of your faculties. You've made it very clear that you think you are, but he's ordered a psychological assessment. It's in your interest to cooperate."

"Humph."

"There's also the question of your treatment at The Bluebird. I don't think you would have gone to the lengths you did for no reason."

"Certainly not."

"Were you subjected to, or did you witness, any kind of neglect or abuse?"

She stared into him. "It's all abuse. All of it."

"Could you explain that?"

"I shouldn't have to. Put yourself in our place. Awakened by machines. Toileted by machines. Bathed by machines. Dressed by machines. Fed by machines. Machines with sweet names and sweet smiles. That's what I hate about them-that's what I despise the most-they're such clever fakes."

"But they do all those things correctly?"

"Well, mostly... there was that time Jennifer exposed Mr. Hudson's private parts in the dining room."

"-How often does your son visit you?"

"Haven't seen him since Christmas."

"Actually, he dropped by one Sunday in March. Twice in four months. Humanis recognizes the need for human interaction. They've messaged your son several times."

"How did they know?"

"The reminders are automatically generated by the visitor log."

"Another machine, telling my son to remember me! Good luck with that. He put me away two weeks after my husband died."

"That's what Humanis is saying-that your anger, your issues, are not caused by the care you've received, but your relatives' neglect. So far you've told me nothing that contradicts that."

Her eyes wandered the walls of the interview room, then came back to him. "How can you understand? Maybe you can't. If my son came more often what would it matter? …

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